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Consumer’s Need for Understanding Cosmetic Labels

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The rules and regulations regarding cosmetic labelling are for the safety of the consumer as well as the producer. Since most contain some measure of chemicals, it can be dangerous to not label your products correctly. The label must include information that explains what they are for, how to use them safely, and how to obtain the best result. The EU Cosmetics Regulation requires specific information on the label or packaging.

The name and address of the manufacturer or distributer in the EU is the ‘Responsible Person’ and must be on the label. This is for the consumer in case they have a question or a problem with the product, they are able to contact this person. This is important for customer relations as well as health reasons. A business that will put a contact on their label is looked at by consumers as a responsible company.

The ingredients in a product are especially important to people who have allergies. It is also important to consumers looking for products with fewer chemicals or the absence of certain chemicals. The ingredient list must be displayed on all cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery products. There is a common naming system called the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients, or INCI. The same ingredient names are used in every European country and most countries worldwide. Although the names sometimes appear complicated, this is necessary to precisely identify each ingredient and the name is usually simpler than the chemical or botanical name.

An ingredients list should always use the same conventions and appear in the same format. It should be headed by the word ‘Ingredients’. They should be listed in order of weight in the product, from the largest number to the smallest. Use the names from the INCI naming system and flavours, such as in toothpaste, may be listed as “Aroma”. Colours should follow the Colour Index Number, or CI Number, which is an international naming system.

It can get complicated when labelling cosmetics, such as make-up and lipstick, which come in a range of shades. All of the colours used in the product range are listed together at the end of the list preceded by the “may contain” symbol which is a simple “+/-“. Each particular shaded product will use a selection of the colours listed.

As for a ‘use within or best before’ date, the regulations say that any product that has a lifespan of less than 30 months must show a ‘Best before the end of..” date. You can use an egg timer symbol followed by the date or use the actually words. For products with a lifespan longer than 30 months, cosmetic products must show a “period after opening” time. That is, the time in months when the product will remain in good condition after the consumer has used the product for the first time. A symbol of an open cream jar is usually used instead of words and the time in months can be inside the symbol or alongside it. Obviously, some products will never need this date as they do not deteriorate in normal use. Products such as aerosols, perfumes, and single use packs are examples of products not needed a best before date.

Some of the information will be shown by use of a symbol. Most symbols that are used on cosmetics and personal care labelling are the same across the EU so that they are easy to understand and with the added advantage that they do not require translation for every market. One symbol that you should take note of is the additional information symbol for products that include a leaflet or booklet of information inside the package but separate from the product. If you produce or distribute cosmetics, it will serve you well to be informed on these labelling regulations for your own safety and the safety of your consumers.