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The information that must appear on a cosmetic product label is governed by the law.


The following items must be either printed on the label or included in the packaging if the item itself is too small:


  • the FUNCTION of the product, unless it is clear from the presentation of the product;

  • all INGREDIENTS, using their INCI name, in descending order of weight;

  • However, perfumes and aromas don't need to declare their component ingredients;

  • Ingredients that are less than 1% of the weight can be listed in any order;

  • the name and address of the MANUFACTURER;

  • the WEIGHT or volume at the time of packaging;

  • SHELF LIFE - the date of minimum durability;

  • particular PRECAUTIONS to be observed in use;

  • the BATCH NUMBER of manufacture or the reference for identifying the goods.





  • The weight or volume of the product.


  • Green Dot  denotes that the company contributes to European programs for the proper disposal and recycling of all packing components.


  • The recommended number of months within which the product should be used after you've first opened and used it.



  • Internationally recognised scheme  from BUAV that demonstrates that animal testing has been entirely removed from the products and ingredients.


  • Indicates there's more info. about the product in the packaging e.g. in a leaflet, card or tag.

cosmetic safety

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The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008 in all its glory:






Here are the organisations behind some of the symbols found on labels:










If you would like to know more about the ingredients used in cosmetics, there are various dictionaries and other books that discuss and list ingredients, including:


"A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients", Ruth Winter


"Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me", Paula Begoun and Bryan Barron





While legislation is designed to ensure standards in manufacture,  ingredients and the final product, there is also an onus on us in the way we use and treat our cosmetics to keep them safe and free of contamination.

Various laws protect the consumer from harmful substances and to ensure, as much as possible, that the cosmetic products we buy are suitable for using on the body

L e g i s l a t i o n

I n g r e d i e n t s

L a b e l l i n g

S y m b o l s  o n  L a b e l s  

Label - PAO Label - weight Label - Soil Association Label - BUAV Label - more info Label - recycling

8Aqua (Water), Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Almond) oil, Cera alba (Beeswax), Olea europaea (Olive) fruit oil, Alcohol denat., Rosa centifolia (Rose) flower extract, Cetearyl alcohol, Sambucus nigra (Elder) flower extract, Galium aparine (Cleavers) extract, Calendula officinalis (Marigold) flower extract, Cetearyl glucoside, Propolis extract, Lavandula angustifolia

Spray bottle



This is the overall piece of European legislation that regulates the manufacture and placing on the market of cosmetic products. Its main aim is to ensure that cosmetics are not harmful under normal or foreseeable conditions of use.


The Directive also sets out a list of substances which cannot be included in the composition of cosmetic products and a list of substances which cosmetic products may contain only under specified restrictions and conditions.


Adopted by the European Union in 1976, it has since been substantially revised many times.



All cosmetic products supplied in the UK, whether for consumer or professional use, must comply with the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008 (plus amendments).


The Regulations state:

  • all finished cosmetic products must undergo a safety assessment by a suitably qualified person before they can be placed on the market;

  • what substances can and cannot be used  as ingredients in a product;

  • what information has to be included on the product's label and packaging.



The ingredients used in cosmetics come from various natural sources (including plants, minerals and animals) and those that are synthetic.


Most countries have legislation that either restrict or prohibit certain ingredients that can be used in cosmetics. In the UK, there are two main pieces of legislation for cosmetic safety:


  • "Cosmetics Directive" 76/768/EEC


  • The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008


See the next column for more details on these.













All cosmetic products sold in the European Union (EU) must display a complete ingredients list (though there are some exceptions to this - see "Labelling").


The ingredient names used must, by law, comply with European requirements and use the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients  (INCI). Therefore, in whatever European country you buy your cosmetic product, the ingredient names will be the same. The INCI names are also used in many countries worldwide, including  Australia, Japan and USA.


The names are mainly based on scientific names, with other Latin and English words.


Currently, the inventory of INCI-registered ingredients comprises more than 17,000 names - and the list is continuously growing.


Cosmetic bottles