Selling handmade cosmetics to the public: What you need to know

This weeks guest blog post is by London Local team member Helen from RepcillinPure. Helen developed a range of natural skin care products which sold under the Repcillin brand on Etsy, Amazon, and retail stores worldwide. She will be guiding you through the ins and outs of selling cosmetics to the public and gives an insight on just how complex it can be!

Hi Everyone, I’m Helen from RepcillinPure! Making your own skincare or cosmetic products is a hugely enjoyable process. You know exactly what goes into your products and you can really customise them to your liking by adding different textures, your favourite smells, and creating bespoke packaging. You can also give your products as presents to your friends and family – and there is nothing more rewarding than hearing back how much they love what you made and asking you to make more. At this point many start thinking about the possibility of starting their own cosmetic business and selling their products to the public (this is how Jo Malone started her famous brand). However, in order to sell crafted skincare, toiletries or cosmetics within the European Union to the public, your products must meet legislative guidelines and you must abide by the law regardless of whether you are selling these products in a shop, a market stall or online (your own website, Etsy, etc). The reason for this is public safety. We have legislations to make sure toys are safe, cars are safe, electrical goods are safe, food is safe. The same applies to cosmetics. It is only sensible to ensure that any cosmetic product that is available for purchase is safe to use.

So if you are serious about selling your cosmetic products then you should be aware of the following:

What is classed as a Cosmetic Product?

Firstly, you need to determine if your products are even considered to be cosmetics in the EU. This may not be as simple as it seems, especially for so called borderline products. Some products are classified as cosmetics in the EU, but aren’t elsewhere and vice versa (sunscreens and foods are just some examples).

Classification also often depends on the product’s claims. EU regulations provide the following definition of a cosmetic product; ‘cosmetic product means any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity, with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance, protecting them, keeping them in a good condition or correcting body odours’.

What are the rules for selling cosmetic products?

On 11 July 2013 the new Cosmetics Regulation (EC 1223/2009) fully replaced the Cosmetic Directive (76/768/EEC). Overall, the legislation is simplified and harmonized, with one single rule applying to all EU Member States.

Who is responsible for following the legislation?

As a product maker, the responsibility falls on you.

Who checks that you are doing it right?

The Trading Standards Officers are the authority to enforce regulations.  Each local council has a Trading Standards department.

So what do I have to do?

Before you can place your cosmetic product on the EU market you will need to start and maintain the following:

  • Have a Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR) produced by a qualified professional

The Regulation states that any safety assessors must be ‘in possession of a diploma or other evidence of formal qualifications awarded on completion of a university course of theoretical and practical study in pharmacy, toxicology, medicine or a similar discipline, or a course recognised as equivalent by a Member State’.

The safety assessor will look at the formulation, ingredients and confirm that the product is safe to use.  You will need to provide as much information as you can about your product/formulation/ingredients to the assessor in order for them to complete the Safety Report.  This includes the product description, product formula, perfume allergens (found on the MSDS information), manufacturing procedure (how do you make your product), labelling information, claim substantiation (if you are making claims about your product – how are you substantiating these claims).  The more information you provide, the quicker the process should be. Besides that every cosmetic/skincare product needs to go through the Microbiological Preservative Efficacy Test (PET) (Challenge Testing) and/or the Cosmetic Product Stability Test (to assess the chemical, microbiological, physical stability of a product).

  • Keep a detailed and up to date Product Information File (PIF)

As a minimum, the PIF should contain the following information:

  • The CPSR – much of the information required for the PIF will be included in the CPSR
  • A description of the cosmetic product along with the formula or recipe with percentage of each ingredient
  • Safety Data Sheets for each ingredient, product specifications, and certificates of analysis (if relevant)
  • File on any undesirable effects on human health resulting from the use of the product
  • If effects are being claimed (for example anti-wrinkle) you need to keep proof of that effect in the file or reference the source (research data, etc).
  • Suppliers of raw materials
  • Details of packaging or containers and any artwork, labels
  • Details of manufacturing process and a statement on compliance with good manufacturing practice

The Product Information File can be kept in any format you wish and it doesn’t have to all be in one place. However, it has to be available for inspection at one address when asked for by the competent authorities and must be kept for a period of ten years following the date that last batch was placed on the market.

  • Label products correctly with appropriate warnings if relevant

The container and the outer packaging of cosmetic products have to bear the following information in indelible, easily legible and visible lettering: the name and address of the product maker; nominal content of the product at the time of packaging, given by weight or volume; date of minimum durability or period after opening; precautions for use; batch number; function of the cosmetic product; list of ingredients (using INCI names) in descending order of weight or volume.

  • Comply with Good Manufacturing Practice

It is a requirement to produce your cosmetic products according to Good Manufacturing Practice. The law doesn’t require you to be GMP certified, only to state that you are complying with a recognised industry standard.

  • Register your product on the Cosmetic Product Notification Portal (CPNP) 

The final pre-market requirement is to notify your products to the CPNP. The CPNP is an EU-wide online portal, where the maker uploads certain information about the product, such as the product name, its formula, product category, label, photo of the packaging, etc. More information on this can be found here; CPNP FAQ

A last word of advice…

You must not make any misleading claims and any claims made must be fair, true and have evidence to back them up. You may see products with claims such as “no nasties in our soap” – this claim is unfair and misleading and implies that other soaps are made with “nasty” ingredients. So unless you can prove your claims with scientific evidence it is best not to make them.

All of the above steps are finished? Congratulations! You can start selling your products and enjoy the benefits of your hard work! Here at Repcillinpure we usually celebrate the official ‘birthday’ of every product by opening a bottle of Bollinger champagne and by having a celebratory dinner party : )

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog entry and please do not hesitate to post any questions/comments you might have – I will reply to all of them. And if you need more information on a subject or need my advice please feel free to ask. I am here for you.

– Helen Lebedeva from Repcillinpure

BusinessLondon Local Team