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If you are about to bring out a new skincare product range, chances are you have already invested significant time, effort and creativity into its development. The last thing you want is for this to go to waste because of improper labelling and lack of compliance with consumer laws. Skincare and cosmetic products are highly regulated in Australia. Therefore, you should familiarise yourself with the mandatory standards for labelling and packaging your products before commencing production. This article will highlight some of the key things to keep in mind regarding skincare regulations. However, we recommend that you speak to a regulatory lawyer with experience in this field to avoid hefty penalties.

Cosmetic Product Standards

In Australia, the Consumer Goods (Cosmetics) Information Standard (‘the Standard’) regulates the labelling of ‘cosmetic products’. Further, this mandatory standard makes it compulsory to identify ingredients that may cause allergies or sensitivities. The intention here is to be able to reduce the risk:

  • that consumers will unintentionally expose themselves to products containing ingredients that may react badly on their skin; and
  • of these products causing harm. 

The Standard was introduced in 1991 and updated in November 2020 to include additional requirements for cosmetic hand sanitiser labels, following the rapid increase in new hand sanitiser lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Primarily, the purpose behind the Standard is to protect consumers. Additionally, as a manufacturer or supplier of cosmetic products, you are strictly liable for loss or injuries arising from defective goods. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure you are compliant with all relevant regulations. 

Do My Products Classify as ‘Cosmetic Products’?

For the purposes of the Standard, ‘cosmetic products’ include any products that are intended to be placed on the external part of the human body, including the mouth and teeth, with the aim to have the following effects on the body:

  • change odours; 
  • change appearance; 
  • cleanse it; 
  • maintain in good condition; 
  • perfume it; or
  • protect it. 

The Standard applies to cosmetic products that are either:

  • manufactured in Australia; or
  • imported into Australia.

Therefore, packaging your products overseas will not preclude you from complying with the Standard if you intend to sell your products in Australia. 

Excluded Goods

The Standard identifies some notable exceptions to the definition of ‘cosmetic products’, including:

Tip: If your business is involved in importing or manufacturing cosmetic products, you will need to check whether the ingredients within your products are listed on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances. You may also need to register your business with the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme. It is important to obtain legal guidance about your obligations in this respect. 

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Labelling Requirements

Designing the packaging of your skincare line is not only important from a marketing and public relations perspective, but also to comply with regulations. You will likely want it to be aesthetically attractive and attention-grabbing in the ever-growing beauty market. But crucially, you will need to make sure that you clearly list your product’s ingredients at the point of sale. 

Suppose your products’ packaging is in a container. In that case, the list of ingredients must be on the container or box it is in. However, if you sell the product by itself, you must place the list on the product itself. Additionally, the ingredients should appear in descending order of mass or volume, with some exceptions. For example, you can place ingredients with a concentration of less than 1% or colour additives in any order. The quantity or percentage of each ingredient is not a requirement

The key takeaway here is that you need to inform the consumer about what your product contains before (or at the time of) purchasing. Therefore, even if your product has a unique size, shape or nature that restricts your ability to place a list of ingredients on its label, you should ensure the ingredients are shown in another way. 

Consumer Guarantees Under Australian Consumer Law

In addition to the Standard, you should be aware of your wider obligations under Australian Consumer Law (‘the ACL’). Some key consumer guarantees to be aware of are that your products:

  • must be of an acceptable quality, including being safe and fit for purpose; 
  • have an accurate description and match any samples; 
  • match representations made by the salesperson, the packaging, the labels, and any claims made in advertising or promotions; 
  • satisfy express warranties; and
  • meet any promises made about condition, quality and performance. 

Further, information provided on the labelling of your products should not mislead or deceive and should not make false representations about what your products will do. 

Ongoing Compliance

As a seller or manufacturer of cosmetic products, you have an obligation to make sure you are continuing to comply with both the ACL and the Standard. It is worthwhile to engage a regulatory lawyer to help you stay on top of this and keep up to date with changes in regulations. Some other practical measures you can take are to:

  • implement a compliance program either in-house or sourced externally, with expertise in this industry; and
  • source your products sensibly and from reputable suppliers who follow their own compliance systems.

Key Takeaways 

Launching a new skincare line is an exciting achievement. However, to ensure you give yourself every possible chance of your new line succeeding, make sure you comply with relevant labelling laws in Australia. It is likely that your skincare products can be classified as ‘cosmetic products’ for the purposes of the mandatory Standard regulations for cosmetic labelling in Australia. Additionally, there is a high burden of responsibility on the seller and manufacturer of skincare and cosmetic products to ensure you are supplying the consumer with sufficient information to make their purchase decision. You must clearly list ingredients at the point of sale to limit the risk of product harm due to allergies or sensitivities. The ACL consumer guarantees also confer strict liability on the supplier of cosmetic products because of the high risk to consumers if products are incorrectly or inappropriately labelled. 

If you need help understanding the regulations you need to comply with for your skincare label, our experienced regulatory lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What standard or regulations do I need to comply with to sell skincare products?

The Consumer Goods (Cosmetics) Information Standard sets out the key requirements for labelling your cosmetic products for sale in Australia. In addition, you must ensure you satisfy the consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law. 

What counts as a ‘cosmetic product’?

‘Cosmetic products’ include any products that are intended to be placed on the external part of the human body, including the mouth and teeth, which alter the smell, appearance or quality of the body. 

What information do I need to include on my labels?

All ingredients within your products should be included on the label, in descending order of volume/composition. Compounds with less than 1% concentration or colour additives should also be included to ensure maxim consumer transparency. 

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