Cosmetic Products Legislation

The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2004 came in to force on 11th September 2004. The Regulations consolidate earlier Regulations and implement current European Directives.

What is a cosmetic product?

The Regulations define a cosmetic product as being:

"Any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with any part of the external surfaces of the human body (that is to say, the 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 except where such cleaning, perfuming, protecting, changing, keeping, or correcting is wholly for the purpose of treating or preventing disease."

The last part of this definition means that products used solely as medicines are not covered by these Regulations.

The Regulations further define "cosmetic product intended to come into contact with the mucous membranes" as:

"A cosmetic product intended to be applied in the vicinity of the eyes, on the lips, in the oral cavity or to the external genital organs, and does not include any cosmetic product which is intended to come only into brief contact with the skin."

What about 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, they are governed by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.

Please ask your local Trading Standards Service if you require more guidance on aromatherapy products.

Main Provisions

  • It is an offence to supply cosmetic products that are liable to cause damage to human health when applied under normal conditions of use, or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, taking into account all circumstances such as presentation, labelling, instructions for use and disposal, and any other information provided by the manufacturer, his agent or first supplier in the UK.
  • There are many substances that are either prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetic products. Reference should be made to the legislation itself for detailed information. There are some substances which are not subject to the Regulations, if the product was placed on the market before 24th March 2005 and was supplied before 24th September 2005.
  • There are restrictions on animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients.
  • Certain labelling is required.
  • Certain information is required to be held by "the responsible person", who must also notify the competent authority (the DTI) of the types of product which they are manufacturing or importing into the EC.

Rules on animal testing

The Regulations make it an offence to supply a cosmetic product where the final formulation or any of the ingredients were tested on animals, other than using the authorised alternative method (where such an alternative method exists), after 11th September 2004.

From 11th March 2013, it will be an offence to supply any cosmetic product where the final formulation or ingredients have been tested on animals, other than using the authorised alternative method, where the tests involve repeated dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity or toxicokinetics. For all other tests, the same restriction on supply applies from 11th March 2009.

Where a claim is made that a cosmetic product has not been tested on animals in general, this must be correct but, specifically, for any cosmetic product placed on the market in any Member State from 11th September 2004, the manufacturer or supplier must not have tested or commissioned tests on animals of either the finished product or any ingredients. The cosmetic product must also not contain any ingredients which have been tested on animals by others for the purpose of developing new cosmetic products.


The rules on what may and may not be used as an ingredient, and the rules on restricted use and special precautions, are too detailed to be summarised in a web page such as this. If you require this information, you should make reference to the Schedules to the Regulations or you should seek specialist advice.

Labelling Conditions: Cosmetic Products

For further guidance on the correct and proper labelling for cosmetic products please see our Cosmetic Labelling Conditions section.

Contact us

Business Support Team
Cheshire East Council

0300 123 5015

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