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The Legal Stuff - What are the rules for selling cosmetics?

There's quite a lot of legislation around selling cosmetics here in the UK so I have put together a list of things you'll need to consider. This list is not exhaustive and I am by no means an authority. Things change and update all the time so please do your own research before selling, this is just intended to be a useful guide.

First of all what is a Cosmetic?

A "cosmetic product" shall mean any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the various 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 and/or correcting body odours and/or protecting them or keeping them in good condition.

As a rough guide, anything that is intended to come into contact with skin - soaps, skin care, bath bombs, body spray etc. should be considered a cosmetic. Be aware that if you make any medical claims (eg. good for eczema) then you're now falling into medical regulations and that's a whole other load of legislation and testing).

I'm only doing this as a hobby/only giving to friends/only donating to charity.

The odd soap to close family is ok (bit of a grey area really) but as soon as you make your cosmetic publicly available then you need to be following cosmetic regulations. You potentially risk hefty fines and/or imprisonment and worse could hurt someone.

I use a ready made base and just add colour/fragrance.

By adding to the base you are changing the product and it now needs to be reassessed and labelled correctly.

So what do I actually need to do?

  • Recipe
  • Collect MSDS/ SDS 
  • Create a PIF
  • CPSR
  • GMP
  • Insurance
  • Labelling
  • Cosmetics Portal

  • Recipe - Ok, step one is test - Make and test your recipe until you are totally happy with it - assessments (i'll cover those in a mo) can be expensive and whilst you can sometimes tweak them its not really cost efficient to do so. When making your recipes you need to take into account any banned or restricted products and ensure you are sticking to any usage rates. Make sure you are weighing everything in the same measurement - don't switch grams and mls, I use grams. You also can't use 'drops' as your measurement. I highly recommend some scales that measure to 0.01g as this will allow you to measure accurately and in turn will also save you money in the long run as you can be precise.
  • Collect MSDS/ SDS - Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets - When buying your ingredients you need to also obtain the MSDS / SDS these are available from any reputable supplier. You may struggle if you buy for example, your olive oil from your local supermarket, they sell that as a food item and therefore are not required to supply MSDS - in this case you can create your own, record the batch numbers and use by dates, basically keep a record of any information you can get from the label.
  • Create a PIF - All those MSDS / SDS need to be collected as part of your PIF - Product Information File. This must be created for every batch of product you make. This file details the batch number you have created to identify this batch, the ingredients you use and the quantities, the batch number of each of those ingredients and then you also file the MSDS and a reference to your CPSR. Basically this is your paper trail. If anything were to ever go wrong you have everything you need to pinpoint what went into it.
  • CPSR - Cosmetic Product Safety Report. Once you are happy with your recipe/ formulation you must get the recipe safety assessed by a cosmetic chemist. There are various cosmetic chemists available, all differing in prices and what they will assess. Note: if you wish to sell into the EU you will need to ensure the cosmetic chemist that you use is also recognised there, selling to the EU has other complications since Brexit which is probably best saved for another blog. A CPSR may sound scary but generally speaking you just write out your recipe, send it off with all the MSDS for the ingredients you are using and then wait. If everything is ok you will get a report back. Keep this safe, you'll need to reference to this in your PIF. You'll need a new one for each new recipe. Remember that the CPSR is only checking if your recipe is safe, it wont confirm if your recipe is good so ensure you've done your testing first :)
  • GMP - Good Manufacturing Practice. This is a "set of guidelines you follow that ensures the reproducibility and the quality of the manufacturing process of your products. It demonstrates you have considered the potential health and safety issues in every stage of the manufacturing of your products. It also outlines in detail all the steps you take to ensure your products are safe and manufactured in a hygienic and professional manner."
  • Insurance - now, insurance, honestly you really wouldn't want to be without it. I use Ian Wallace insurance - super friendly, great price and if you want to amend your policy as you grow your range of products they cover all sorts of crafts. Without insurance you'd come really unstuck if someone made a claim against you - even if their own stupidity caused an issue!
  • Labelling - you need to follow labelling legislation - this covers from how and where your label needs to be to how you write your ingredients out. The Soap Kitchen have a good guide here and the CTPA guide here. Don't stress too much about labelling, a lot of the information will be on your CPSR when that comes back.
  • Cosmetics Portal - The final step before selling is to register your products on the cosmetics portal. Since Brexit there is a UK portal. You'll need to register first and then start notifying any products BEFORE you start to sell them. The portal is there so any professional that requires information quickly about your product can find it. eg. if a Doctor needs to know what substances someone has consumed if they have eaten your soap! 


A couple of notes:

- If you want to sell to the EU you'll need to check new legislation around that.

- Some of the links and articles I have used may have been written before brexit. A lot of the legislation is the same but please do double check - CTPA has some useful Brexit amendments and updates.

- You'll need Trade Approved Scales - you don't need these to make your product but to weigh the finished item. As per labelling guidelines you need a weight and you must used Trade Approved scales. (There is some discussion about whether they are actually needed but my default is 'YES', if you are unsure then contact your local Trading Standards and get their answer). If you're only selling single use items, such as bath bombs, you do not necessarily need Trade Approved Scales. Personally I think it is just best practice. 

- It is worth (but not a legal requirement) getting in touch with your Local Trading standards - say hello, introduce yourself, let them know what you're intending to sell. If nothing else you're opening the lines of communication so if you need help or someone reports you you've already got some sort of rapport.

- Fragrance products, not intended to be used on the skin and therefore don't fall under cosmetic regulations, instead fall under CLP regulations.

- Be aware of the Food Imitation Regulations. Unless you have the money to get bite tests done it is best to just steer clear of anything that looks like food - things like cupcake soaps and bath bombs.


Here's some useful links:

CTPA Resources

Ian Wallace Craft Insurance yes, there are other insurance companies but this is my personal recommendation

Soap Making Magazine article goes into a bit more detail about some of the stuff I've mentioned above

Guild of Craft Soap & Toiletry Makers there's some useful resources and once you have received your CPSR you can join the Guild for free and use their logo on your site. 

A detailed guide on creating your PIF

Cosmetics Portal

If I have missed anything here please do let me know. I'll come back and update it :)


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