Cosmetic products – EU regulation enhances product safety

Only safe cosmetic products may be placed on the EU market. The EU Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 lays down relevant provisions to ensure a high level of health protection with regard to cosmetic products. These rules are constantly being adapted to reflect the latest progress made in the technical and scientific sector.

One example of this is the communications system concerning the formulation of cosmetic products which has been established and which is binding throughout the EU. Mandatory requirements regarding the safety assessment of cosmetic products are laid down and rules for the labelling of cosmetic products are established. Allergenic substances must be labelled as such more clearly.

Central notification system for ingredients

Pursuant to the EU Cosmetics Regulation, manufacturers and importers of cosmetic products must provide certain data, e.g. on the product composition, through a central notification system prior to placing the product on the market. This information is important for the competent authorities in order to allow for prompt and effective medical treatment should cosmetic products have an adverse effect on health.

The use of nanotechnologies must be clearly identified

According to the EU Cosmetics Regulations, the use of nanoparticles in cosmetic products must be identified by adding the indication “nano” in the list of ingredients on the packaging. Furthermore, the Regulation places particular focus on product claims regarding cosmetics with a view to protecting consumers from deception.

Allergenic substances in cosmetic products

Cosmetic products can cause allergic reactions in consumers. Such an intolerance is often accompanied by symptoms such as reddening of the skin and itching.

The materials that trigger allergies most frequently include perfumes, colouring agents for hair dye and preservatives. An allergy to perfumes is the second most common allergy after a nickel allergy. Certain perfumes that are known to be potentially allergenic must be indicated in the list of ingredients using the name of the respective substance.

If consumers show allergic reactions to a specific substance, the list of ingredients on the packaging helps them avoid this substance. Consumers who suspect that they may be allergic to cosmetic products should consult a doctor and have themselves tested. In such cases, it may be helpful to present the packaging of the product to the doctor to help the doctor find out what substance has triggered the allergy or irritation. If consumers know what substance they react to, they can avoid products containing that substance and thus prevent allergic reactions.

The company indicated on the packaging should also be informed about any complaints. It must document such observations in its records. In the event of severe health problems, manufacturers, importers and distributors are obliged to report these problems to the competent authority once they have been informed of them. The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety has compiled further information as well as a check list for consumers and doctors on its website.

Ban on animal testing for the development of cosmetic products

Germany implemented a ban on animal testing for the development of cosmetic products as early as in 1998 by adopting the Animal Welfare Act. In 2003, comprehensive regulations banning the use of animals to test cosmetic products were enacted at EU level. Pursuant to these regulations, finished cosmetic products may no longer be tested on animals within the EU. Testing the ingredients of cosmetic products on animals has also been prohibited since 11 March 2009. Furthermore, cosmetic products containing ingredients that have been tested on animals after this date may no longer be placed on the market.

In addition to a ban on animal testing for cosmetic products, the development of alternative methods to animal testing remains an important goal. Germany strongly advocates the rapid development of alternative methods to animal testing both in the field of cosmetic products and generally. Germany is making an outstanding contribution to research into such methods within the European Union. Germany is in favour of a rapid acceptance of alternative methods to animal testing at European as well as international level.

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