Cosmetic products

This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. Please note that some of the advice we provide to businesses is chargeable.



The Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013 enforce Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products.

The Regulations apply to all cosmetic products that are made available on the EU market after 11 July 2013.

It is an offence to supply cosmetic products which may cause damage to human health when applied under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.

Cosmetic products

The EC Regulation defines a 'cosmetic product' as being:

"any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance, protecting them, keeping them in good condition or correcting body odours".

Responsible person

The responsible person is:

  • the manufacturer
  • manufacturer's agent
  • person for whom the manufacturer is making the product
  • the first importer into a European Community Member State
  • a distributor who places a cosmetic product on the market under his name or trade mark or modifies a product already placed on the market where this affects compliance
Aromatherapy products

These can be medicines, cosmetic products or neither of these, depending on their intended use. If they are not medicines or cosmetic products, then they are controlled by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005


The use of certain substances in cosmetic products is either prohibited or restricted - eg some fragrances, colouring agents, preservatives and UV filters. The use of 'specified risk material' (eg products derived from certain animals that may carry a risk of BSE) as an ingredient is prohibited.

The rules are too detailed to be summarised here, therefore reference will need to be made to the EC regulation.


The container and packaging must state the following information in indelible, easily legible and visible lettering.

Name and address details

The name and address of the responsible person is required. It may be abbreviated if those details enable the responsible person to be contacted. The address must be sufficient for the normal postal service to deliver a letter to that address. Consider setting up a PO Box address, if you only have a residential address.

If several addresses are indicated, the one where the responsible person makes readily available the product information file should be highlighted, for example, underlined.

The country of origin needs to be specified for imported cosmetic products.

Nominal content

The nominal content at the time of packaging needs to be given by weight or volume. Exemptions are; packaging containing less than five grams or five millilitres, free samples and single-application packs.

Packaged goods - average quantity (Business Companion)


Any precautions required to keep the product in a satisfactory condition need to be stated (e.g. store in a cool dry place).

The Date of minimum durability symbol as specified in Annex VII (3) of the EC Regulation should precede the date itself or details of where it appears on the packaging.

Cosmetic durability

If the product is likely to either become unsafe or not fulfil its intended purpose within 30 months of manufacture, it should carry the words "Best used before the end of ..." followed by day/month/year or month/year format on which it is likely to cease to perform satisfactorily.

If the product is likely to either become unsafe or not fulfil its intended purpose more than 30 months after manufacture, it should carry the Period-after-opening symbol as specified in Annex VII (2) of the EC Regulation.

An indication of the period after opening when the above conditions will occur should also be stated, followed by month or month/year format. The use of 'M' to represent months is acceptable.



Any information from the Schedules to the EC Regulation regarding restricted ingredients must be included in the labelling. Any particular precautions for professional use (especially in hairdressing products) must be stated.

Batch/reference identification

A batch or reference number for sufficient identification and traceability is required.

Product function

If it is not obvious from the presentation of the product, its function needs to be stated (e.g. "conditioning shampoo").


A list of ingredients must be indicated on the packaging alone, preceded by the word 'ingredients, in descending order of weight. The weights are determined at the time the ingredients are added to the product.

Where ingredients constitute less than 1% of the product, they may be listed in any order after those that constitute 1% or more.

An ingredient must be identified by its common name, as listed in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI). This list can be obtained from the Stationery Office or online at the Europa Website

In the absence of an INCI name, any of the following may be used:

  • chemical name
  • European Pharmacopoeia name
  • International Non-proprietary name (INN) as recommended by the World Health Organisation
  • EINECS, IUPAC or CAS identification reference
  • colour index number

Certain fragrance compounds have been found to be allergens that can produce allergic reactions to individuals sensitive to these compounds. The presence of any of these listed fragrances exceeding 0.001% (leave-on products) or 0.01% (rinse-off products) must be declared in the main part of the ingredients list. (eg. the presence of linalool in lavender.)

Colouring agents can be listed in any order after the other ingredients.

Some items are not regarded as cosmetic ingredients, e.g. impurities, solvents, carriers (but the latter two only if used in quantities that are strictly necessary for their purpose), and these do not have to be listed.

The date of minimum durability, particular precautions to be observed in use and the function of the product should be in English.

Labelling placement

Non pre-packaged products

Packaged at the point of sale at the purchaser's request.

The information must appear on the container in which the product is exposed for supply or a notice in immediate proximity to that container.

Pre-packed for immediate sale

The information must appear on an attached label, tag, tape or card, or in an enclosed leaflet. Where this is impossible for practical reasons this information must appear on a notice in immediate proximity to the container in which the cosmetic product is exposed for sale.

The 'Hand and book' symbol is specified in Annex V II (1) of the EC Regulation. This symbol can be used to refer users to enclosed or attached information.


Product Information File

The responsible person must keep and make a Product Information File (PIF) readily accessible in electronic or other format, at the address indicated on the label, to the competent authority (eg the UK 'Home/Primary' Trading Standards Service).

The Product Information File is required to be kept for a period of ten years following the date on which the last batch of the cosmetic product was placed on the market.

The Product Information File requires the following information / data and needs to be updated as necessary and should be available in a language which can be easily understood by the competent authority:

  • a description of the cosmetic product which enables the product information file to be clearly attributed to it
  • the Cosmetic Product Safety Report, which is a safety assessment of the ingredients and how the product will be used. Each cosmetic product must be the subject of a safety assessment performed by a duly qualified professional (generally a Chartered Chemist) before it is placed on the market.
  • a description of the method of manufacturing and a statement on compliance with good manufacturing practice
  • where justified by the nature or effect of the cosmetic product, proof of the effect claimed
  • data on any animal testing performed by the manufacturer, his agents or suppliers, relating to the development or safety assessment of the cosmetic product or its ingredients, including any animal testing performed to meet the legislative or regulatory requirements of third countries
Trade secrecy

If the responsible person does not wish to list all the ingredients of a product, so that it's full composition remains a secret, they can make a request for confidentiality to BIS. The responsible person may be allowed to omit certain ingredients from the list. These omitted ingredient(s) can be listed as a registration number instead of a name.

For more detailed advice on the manufacture and supply of cosmetic products, please contact your local Trading Standards Service.

Notification portal

Manufacturers of cosmetic products, have a duty to notify the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP) in detail about all the products marketed by them.

This requires economic operators to first register with the European Commission Authentication Service (ECAS) to obtain a unique login. Then to notify details of all products via the CPNP, including images of the packaging and details of labelling and formulations.

Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP)

Reporting undesirable effects

All Serious Undesirable Effects (SUEs) reports made by a responsible person or distributer, in accordance with Article 23 of the Cosmetics Regulation 1223/2009/EU (Communication of Serious Undesirable Effects), should be verified by their local Trading Standards Service.

'Serious Undesirable Effect' means an undesirable effect which results in temporary or permanent functional incapacity, disability, hospitalisation, congenital anomalies or an immediate vital risk or death.

'Undesirable Effect' means an adverse reaction for human health attributable to the normal or reasonably foreseeable use of a cosmetic product.

The forms and guidance on SUEs can be found on the European Commission's website.