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Incorrect Labelling on Skincare - The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations


Reading labels on food and skincare is part of my daily life because there are many ingredients I either need to or chose to avoid. I want to impart some of my knowledge to readers because there are laws in place to protect consumer safety and a small number of cosmetic manufacturers are failing to comply. I currently have four products in my collection with labelling that does not meet the standards set out by The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2008. (website link & PDF link). Obviously, government regulations are lengthy and complex but there are three labelling requirements which I wish to draw your attention to - INCI, allergens in essential oils and best before dates.

You will see from the labels pictured above, these companies fail to comply with regulations because ingredients are listed in English and they should be in INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). For example, water should be listed as Aqua, Jojoba oil as Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil and Shea Butter as Butyrospermum Parkii. When an ingredient cannot be identified in this way then other classifications are used (chemical name, European Pharmacopoeia name, International Non-proprietary name (INN) as recommended by the World Health Organisation, EINECS, ELINCS or CAS identification reference or colour index number). As a side note, ingredients in concentrations of less than 1% may be listed in any order after those in concentrations of more than 1%. If a product is small or an odd shape and labelling it would prove tricky, then ingredients must be shown elsewhere, perhaps on an a leaflet, outer box or a tag.

I approached the companies about lack of INCI and received the following responses. FYI when I shop for products I very rarely give indication that I am a blogger. I do this because I want my shopping experience to be authentic and do not wish to receive special treatment. 

"Yes we are in the process of updating all of our labelling to be in line with the new legislation. As a small family run business that has only recently started selling generally, we do not have the budget of large conglomerates so bare with us as we update the labels."

"And so sorry for a wrong label, not sure how did I get it. I only can guess - As I design, print, cut my labels myself and I normally keep different designs on one product on one sheet of artwork."

"Thanks for the heads up and many apologies, our labels have recently been changed to comply with INCI but an old version must have been stuck on your jar."

Whilst I am willing to give companies the benefit of the doubt, isn't it funny how two of them practically came up with the same "excuse". 

The most alarming part to one response was "I was not aware that allergens for essential oils were a requirement for labels but we will definitely get on the case with that one!" From my own research via Google, I understand that on March 11, 2003, the EU published the 7th Amendment to its Cosmetic Directive 76/768/EEC. Among the changes was the addition of the 26 popular fragrance ingredients to the Annex III. In order to explain what that means for the consumer the following paragraph offers clarification.

"There are 26 fragrance ingredients that are considered more likely to cause reactions in susceptible people. These must be indicated in the list of ingredients, in addition to the word ‘parfum’, if their concentration exceeds 0.001% in leave-on products (e.g. a moisturiser) and 0.01% in rinse-off products (e.g. a shampoo). This way of labelling cosmetics was introduced in 2005 to help people to make informed choices about what they buy, particularly if they have a diagnosed allergy to a specific fragrance ingredient." (source link)

Fragrance allergens are identified at the end of the ingredient lists, you may be familiar with seeing components such as Linalool, Limonene, Geraniol (*further reading).

Lastly, lets address the issue of minimum durability dates which I think is pretty straightforward to understand. The regulation states -

12a) the date of minimum durability
(i)indicated by the words: ‘best used before the end of’ followed by either the date itself, or details of where it appears on the packaging;
(ii)clearly expressed and consisting of either the month and year or the day, month and year in that order
(iii)supplemented, if necessary, by an indication of the conditions which must be satisfied to guarantee the stated durability;
except where the cosmetic product has a minimum durability of more than 30 months, in which case it is not mandatory to indicate the date of durability, but such a product shall have an indication of the period of time after opening for which the product can be used without any harm to the consumer. This information shall be indicated by the symbol given in Part 2 of Schedule 8 followed by the period in months or years or both months and years. (source)

One of the companies I contacted (quoted above) mentioned "new legislation". I can only assume they are referring to Cosmetic Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009, a new directive that came into force July 2013. Rather than bore you with further explanations of recent changes, the infographic below does the job for me.

Two of the products I have in my possession were bought on the basis of reviews I had read. I can not say whether the labels were incorrect for those Bloggers. I love and support cottage industries but can not ignore failures to comply with the law. My most recent cosmetic purchase prompted me to write this blog post because they were the worst offenders. I spent £11 on a cleansing balm that I will not be using. Ingredients are listed in English, which I can forgive but the product contains essential oils and gives no indication of allergens. I worry because this product is from the company that informed me they were not aware allergens had to be listed on the label. As it stands, if the essential oils are above 0.01% (which I have no way of knowing) then this company is breaking the law by not declaring them. Effort has been made to include for a "best before" date as there is a space on label but it hasn't been written in so I have no idea of minimum durability or period for which product is safe after opening. I also spotted lack of a batch code which is required under Regulation 12(1)(d). As a customer with sensitive skin, the risk of allergic reaction is too high.

Countries outside of the EU will comply with different regulations laid out by their governing bodies, however, if they intend to sell to Europe they would be expected to comply with EU laws. If you are not happy with a cosmetic label, I would challenge the company that manufactured the product. If the answer you receive is not satisfactory, you would be within your rights to report your concerns to Trading Standards.

I know this is a lot of information to digest but I am curious, how many of you were aware of the regulations? Are you checking labels in the same way I do? If you find incorrect labels do you raise your concerns with the manufacturer?

Sarah x

*Further reading - www.skinsmatter.com