Differences in cosmetic regulations between the EU and U.S


The European Union has banned the use of more than 1,300 different cosmetic ingredients, while the United States has only banned 11. The EU has also placed restrictions on the use of several hundred other ingredients. So, what are the differences in cosmetic ingredient regulations, between the EU and U.S? The most common banned ingredients are those that have been shown to be harmful to human health, such as certain metals and pesticides. The EU has also banned ingredients that may cause allergies, such as certain fragrances and preservatives. Additionally, the EU has banned the use of animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics.


The EU’s ban on certain ingredients has led to the development of more safe and effective cosmetic products. For example, the EU’s ban on mercury in cosmetics has led to the development of mercury-free mascara. The EU’s ban on animal-derived ingredients has also led to the development of vegan cosmetics. So, if you’re looking for the safest and most effective cosmetics, look for products that are manufactured in the EU.


What are Cosmetic Ingredients?

Cosmetic ingredients are the substances or materials that are used in the manufacture of cosmetic and hygiene products, such as soap, shampoo, perfumes and makeup. Cosmetic products are defined as products that are intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions.


In the U.S, ingredients that have been determined to be safe and effective and are included in the “Final List of Safe and Effective Cosmetic Ingredients” can be used without approval from the FDA. However, many ingredients used in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by the FDA. The safety of these ingredients is determined by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an independent, scientific panel of experts that evaluates the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics. In the EU, if you are producing or selling into the market, the manufacturer is responsible for the safety of their products, and must ensure that they undergo an expert scientific safety assessment before they are sold.


There are three main types of cosmetic ingredients:

Actives: ingredients that have a physiological effect on the skin, such as sunscreen ingredients

Inactives: ingredients that do not have a physiological effect on the skin

Fragrance: ingredients used to give a product a desired scent


There are also two types of cosmetics:

General cosmetics: products that are not intended for use on the lips or around the eyes

Specialized cosmetics: products that are intended for use on the lips or around the eyes


In the European Union, cosmetic ingredients are regulated by the Cosmetics Directive, which was last revised in 2003. The Directive prohibits the use of certain ingredients in cosmetics, and requires that all ingredients be listed on the product label. The Directive also requires that all cosmetics be manufactured in accordance with good manufacturing practices, are not tested on animals and that they be safe for consumers when used as intended.


Banned Cosmetic Ingredients in the EU

The following nine ingredients are banned from use in cosmetics in the European Union but still allowed in U.S:


  1. Formaldehyde
  2. Hydroquinone
  3. Triclosan
  4. Lead
  5. Parabens
  6. Petroleum Distillates
  7. Phthalates
  8. Selenium Sulfide
  9. Quaternium-15


These ingredients are banned because they have been shown to be harmful to human health.


How are Cosmetic Ingredients Regulated in the EU?

Cosmetic ingredients are regulated by the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union. The Commission is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, and representing the EU in international negotiations. The Commission has established a team of experts known as the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety.


Why are some Cosmetic Ingredients banned?

Certain cosmetic ingredients are banned in the EU for a variety of reasons. One reason is that they may be harmful to human health. For example, some banned substances can cause cancer or birth defects. Additionally, some ingredients are banned because they are not considered to be safe for use in cosmetics. This includes substances that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.


Another reason why some cosmetic ingredients are banned in the EU is because they are not considered to be sustainable. This means that they may be derived from endangered plant or animal species, or they may be harmful to the environment. For example, some banned ingredients come from rainforests or other sensitive ecosystems. Additionally, some ingredients may be made from non-renewable resources, such as petroleum.


Finally, some ingredients are banned in the EU because they are not considered to be ethically produced. This includes ingredients that are tested on animals or that are made from animal products. For example, some banned substances are made from whale oil or from the feathers of birds that have been plucked alive.


Cosmetic ingredients are subject to strict regulation in the EU in order to protect consumers and the environment. Banned substances are constantly being reviewed, and new bans may be put in place at any time. It is important to check the ingredients labels on all cosmetics products to make sure that they do not contain any banned substances. The European Union has some of the strictest cosmetic regulations in the world. They are constantly evaluating ingredients and assessing the risks they pose to consumers. As a result, the list of banned ingredients is constantly evolving. It is important to stay up-to-date on the latest information to ensure that you are using safe cosmetics.


What Cosmetic Ingredients are banned in the US?

As of March 2020, there are only eleven ingredients that have been banned for use in cosmetics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These ingredients are:

  1. Bithionol: The use of bithionol is prohibited because it may cause photocontact sensitization.
  2. Chlorofluorocarbon propellants: The use of chlorofluorocarbon propellants in cosmetic aerosol products intended for domestic consumption is prohibited.
  3. Chloroform: The use of chloroform in cosmetic products is prohibited because it causes cancer in animals and is likely to be harmful to human health, too.
  4. Halogenated salicylanilides: These are prohibited in cosmetic products because they may cause serious skin disorders.
  5. Hexachlorophene: Because of its toxic effect and ability to penetrate human skin, hexachlorophene (HCP) may be used only when no other preservative has been shown to be as effective.
  6. Mercury compounds: Mercury compounds are readily absorbed through the skin on topical application and tend to accumulate in the body. They may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxic problems.
  7. Methylene chloride: It causes cancer in animals and is likely to be harmful to human health.
  8. Prohibited cattle materials: To protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease,” cosmetics may not be manufactured from, processed with, or otherwise contain, prohibited cattle materials.
  9. Vinyl chloride: The use of vinyl chloride is prohibited as an ingredient of aerosol products, because it causes cancer and other health problems.
  10. Zirconium-containing complexes: The use of zirconium-containing complexes in aerosol cosmetic products is prohibited because of their toxic effect on lungs of animals, as well as the formation of granulomas in human skin.
  11. Sunscreens in cosmetics: Use of the term “sunscreen” or similar sun protection wording in a product’s labelling generally causes the product to be subject to regulation as a drug.


While these eleven ingredients are currently the only ones that are outright banned in the U.S., there are several others that are regulated by the FDA. For instance, lead is heavily regulated due to its potential for causing serious health problems, but it is not outright banned. The same is true for mercury and other heavy metals. In general, the FDA takes a much more hands-off approach to regulating cosmetics than the European Union. The EU has banned or severely restricted the use of over 1,300 ingredients in cosmetics, while the FDA has only banned eleven. This difference is largely due to the different ways that the two organizations approach regulation.


This stricter approach to banning ingredients in cosmetics is reflective of the EU’s overall approach to regulating products. The EU takes a precautionary approach to regulation, which means that it bans substances that might be harmful, even if there is no definitive proof that they are harmful. The US, on the other hand, takes a more laissez-faire approach, only banning substances that have been proven to be harmful. While the FDA does not currently require companies to list all of the ingredients in their cosmetics on the label, the EU does. This requirement has led to greater transparency about what is in cosmetics in the EU than in the U.S.


Regulations around Cosmetic Ingredients are difficult to navigate because they’re constantly changing. Contact us today if you want access to an international network that can source and deliver the products you need.

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