Regulations in the UK Cosmetics Industry

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

19th February 2020

The UK cosmetics industry is such an overwhelmingly prominent market, specialising in lotions and potions we apply directly to our skin, hair, and teeth, that regulations have to be solid and governing bodies are faced with the need to constantly review and sharpen up the rules.

Cosmetics Industry Market Share

When we first wrote this post back in 2013, the UK cosmetics industry was worth £8,438 million and was one of the top five largest markets in the EU. Fast forward a few years and the latest stats show that in 2018, the UK cosmetics industry is worth £9,681 million and is the third-largest market in the EU. 

People have been developing beauty products all over the world for thousands of years. The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) provides some interesting uses of beauty products over history. Did you know, for example, that in 600 BCE people combined gum, egg whites, gelatine, and beeswax to create nail varnish? Not only that, but the Ancient Romans discovered a trick to create waves in their hair by utilising soil, water, and the sun!

Governing the UK Cosmetics Industry

The UK's market share in the cosmetics industry

There have been concerns voiced by campaigning groups about the safety of cosmetics, but the UK cosmetics industry is led by scientists who are in charge of researching and developing new formulations, as well as monitoring the safety of products. If there is the slightest chance that a cosmetic product poses a threat to our safety, it will be scientifically studied and evaluated, and then removed from the market.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) is the organisation that regulates chemical substances in general, but as the cosmetics industry is a specialist industry with often more stringent legislation, there are other governing bodies in place. For example, the EC Cosmetics Directive monitors the safety of cosmetics in Europe.

How Brexit Will Affect the UK Cosmetics Industry

Brexit has clear consequences for the cosmetics industry. The EC Cosmetics Regulation, which the UK had to comply with until Brexit and which is the main framework for finished cosmetic products, no longer applies. There are five main effects of this on the UK cosmetics industry are:

  1. Responsible Persons, who ensure product conformity for the European market, have to be located in the EU, not the UK.
  2. These RPs must notify the cosmetic products to the Cosmetics Products Notifications Portal (CPNP) before they go on the EU market.
  3. The Product Information File, which contains all the information about the finished product, has to be available at the RP’s address and must comply with relevant language requirements.
  4. Every cosmetic product manufactured in the UK must specify its country of origin on the label.
  5. Safety Assessors who qualified in the UK but who don’t have an equivalent qualification recognized by an EU Member State are no longer entitled to issue Safety Assessments for the EU.

Manufacturing Cosmetics


Class 7 cleanroom suitable for the packing of cosmetics

Cosmetic products are manufactured under controlled conditions such as in a cleanroom. Our class 7 cleanroom provides a contaminant-free environment to safely pack and repack cosmetic products. Many of the ingredients used in cosmetic products are technical-grade; meaning strict regulations are in place for the process of manufacturing and supplying the ingredients.

Once packaged, all cosmetic products must be clearly labelled with the following accurate information:

  • List of ingredients
  • Name and address of manufacturer or supplier
  • Country of origin
  • Best before date
  • Warning statements and precautionary information
  • Batch number or lot code
  • Product function, where appropriate

Strict Rules in the UK Cosmetics Industry

Regulations got an overhaul in 2012, sprouting concern for the industry’s ability to innovate – if there were so many rules, how would companies have room to experiment and grow? Luckily, brands seemed to adapt to the regulations which are important for our safety and that of the environment.

The safety of all cosmetics products that go on sale has to be assessed by a professional, specifically a person with qualifications in toxicology. The assessment will be documented in an information pack to provide details such as the specification and composition of ingredients, methods of manufacture and effects on human health.

Materials in products must be disclosed and there exists a list of banned ingredients that absolutely cannot be used in the UK cosmetics industry.

All negative reactions to products must be reported to the authorities in the country the reaction occurs in and this data should be made public. All of these rules have been implemented as a public assurance that your beauty products are not a toxic threat.

Striving for Improvement

Of course, as time has progressed, changes have been made to the rule book to eliminate bad practices and improve the cosmetics industry.

Now, companies must be able to present data to support any claims they make about a product. This is an effective way of putting an end to inaccurate claims such as “chemical-free shampoo” and “not tested on animals”.

The good news is that animal testing has largely been banned. The testing of finished cosmetic products and ingredients on animals has been stopped and The Cosmetics Directive is aiming to also eliminate safety testing on animals. However, it will still be permitted in certain circumstances that are subject to pre-approval.

In 2014, the exfoliating microbeads you find in some face washes and toothpaste were banned in certain US areas due to their effect on the environment. The beads are actually plastic, so researchers discovered that they weren’t biodegradable and were too small to be filtered out by wastewater materials. Not only this, but they were being eaten by fish that couldn’t digest them and ultimately ending up in the human food chain.

Major cosmetics companies such as Unilever and L’Oreal have agreed to phase out the microbeads. There are currently no restrictions on microbeads in the UK cosmetics industry, but campaigners are working to convince the big brands to phase out the particles on a global scale.




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