Proposal to Amend the Cosmetic Regulations

Proposal to Amend the Cosmetic Regulations

What is a Cosmetic?

Under Section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act, a cosmetic is defined as “any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold or represented for use in cleaning, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth, and includes deodorants and perfumes.”. This is different from a drug or natural health product, even though they are all regulated under the Food and Drug Act

The classification of a product depends on its function, purpose, and representation for use (such as claims that are made for the product on the product label). Ingredients in the formula may also help determine the classification. For example, in Canada, ingredients like corticosteroids can only be licensed as drugs whereas green tea leaf extract may be licensed as a cosmetic product or natural health product.

What is the proposal on?

Currently, stakeholders can use the word “perfume” in the Cosmetic Notification Form and on cosmetic labels to represent the overall fragrance ingredients that are used to produce or mask a particular odour. Alternatively, they can list each fragrance ingredient individually under the ingredient list. On July 16, 2021, Health Canada opened a consultation and proposed to amend the Cosmetic Regulations to eliminate the use of “perfume” so that the industry must list individual fragrance ingredients.

This purpose of this change is to disclose allergens and give consumers more detailed information, allowing them to make better decisions when purchasing cosmetic products. Other amendments to the regulations include administrative updates and improving cosmetics oversight including terminology clarification for risk management purposes and enhancing cosmetic compliance (e.g. one’s responsibility on Health Canada’s safety evidence request).

The Importance of Cosmetic Safety

Even though most cosmetic products are generally safe for use, some of them may still cause health problems such as allergic reactions and skin irritation. To use cosmetics safely, you should always read safety information on the label, especially hazard symbols. If there are directions of use present on the label, you should follow carefully to avoid misuse, which may result in rashes, burns, or eye damage. 

Cosmetics should be kept out of reach of children, as they may be poisonous if swallowed. If swallowed, you should contact a Poison Control Centre or call 411. If it is a spray product, do not spray near a flame or source of heat, which may cause fires and explosions. Although some cosmetics have preservatives, you should still keep them clean to avoid bacteria growing. You can do so by washing your hands before using makeup, not sharing makeup, not adding water to dilute makeup, and keeping your cosmetics stored in a dry, dark area.

If there are changes in colour, smell, or texture of the product, do not use it. Hypoallergenic cosmetics are less likely to cause allergic reactions, but still could do so. If any allergic reaction occurs, stop use, and consult a healthcare practitioner. For certain products such as hair dyes, you may be asked to do a patch test prior to use to ensure cosmetic safety. You could also report cosmetic incidents by submitting a Consumer Product Incident Report on Health Canada’s website.

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About the author

Andrew Lau
Andrew Lau


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