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Brussels, 28th August

What’s in and what are the undesirable effects of your cosmetic product? From now on you can ask to the manufacturer

Some cosmetic products may have undesirable effects and can, for example, cause allergic reactions. This is why the Commission has issued guidelines established together with Member States and stakeholders to allow more access to information for the public. According to European Commission guidelines published today consumers have now the choice between writing to the company at the address mentioned on the package, to phone them or to post a question on their website. In order to facilitate public access to the relevant product information, industry has created a central public directory of companies placing cosmetic products on the EU market. Producers are obliged to inform customers upon their request on undesirable effects that may have been reported to them regarding their products. A second obligation for producers is to inform consumers on quantitative and qualitative composition of cosmetic products. Member States have to ensure that companies fulfil those obligations.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “This guidance on information makes life easier for consumers and industry. Consumers can have access to full information on composition and on undesirable effects of cosmetics. This transparency helps them to make their choice in the large range of products present in the internal market.”

What information needs to be made accessible to the public?

1. General guidelines

  • Information concerning the composition of cosmetic products and undesirable effects that may have been reported to companies regarding products they produce should be available to the public.
  • This information has to be disclosed without prejudice to the protection, in particular, of commercial secrecy and of intellectual property rights.
  • In order to help the consumer to find contact details for companies, Colipa (the European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association), has set up a central public directory of companies placing cosmetic products on the EU market (see below).

2. Better access to information on undesirable effects related to the product

An “undesirable effect” is an adverse effect on human health that occurs from the normal or reasonably foreseeable use of a cosmetic product. Undesirable effects do not include, for example, those resulting from abuse or misuse of the product and those related to associated items, such as the packaging. Examples of undesirable effects are: irritant and allergic effects, cosmetic acne, phototoxic effects, photosensitivity, anaphylactic shock and itching.

The cosmetic manufacturer or the person responsible for placing an imported cosmetic product on the market must provide:

  • Appropriate information on the frequency and nature of undesirable effects linked to the product.
  • All undesirable effects reported to the companies should be included when the company gives information to the public.
  • The companies have the possibility when informing the public to additionally compute a value for the number of undesirable effects per 1,000,000 units of the product placed on the market.

3. Information on quantitative composition of cosmetic products

The list of ingredients is labelled on cosmetic products in descending order of weight at the time they are added. On request, the quantitative information on those substances which are classified as ‘dangerous’ under the provisions of Directive 67/548/EEC will have to be disclosed. A substance is classified as ‘dangerous’ when it can be explosive, oxidizing, easily flammable, toxic, harmful, corrosive or irritant.

However, in order to not compromise commercial secrecy or intellectual property rights, the value can be rounded up and indicated as “<x %” or, alternatively, concentration ranges can be used (x-y%).

The guidelines are the result of the work of a working group – set up by the Commission - composed of representatives of Member States and stakeholders.
The guidelines on the web
Website link European Directory for public access:

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