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Cosmetic Ingredient Labelling

Cosmetic Ingredient Labelling

Once a decision has been made on how the information will be printed on the container (screen print or label) it is necessary to establish exactly what information must be included on the label. (You will by now have developed your company and brand name and the product inside.)

The marketing story will give the consumer a idea what the product is about and how to use it. For example “Tea Tree was used in Aboriginal times. When scratches and wounds were cleaned in the pools of water in which tea tree grew in, the wounds  healed much quicker rather than just leaving the wounds untreated. Tea Tree is called as such because tea was hard to come by in the early colonial days so settlers improvised by boiling the leaves of the tea tree fronds.

Next write a short description for application and how to use the product. For example “place a small amount on affected areas and spread on the skin followed by gentle tapping into the skin for maximum absorption”. It would be beneficial to associate this product with other products you may have in your range. For example “After cleansing your face with “my brand” face cleanser you should use this “my brand” toner followed by “my brand” moisturiser.

Creating the information to be displayed

Cosmetic Ingredient labelling falls under the Australian Trade Practices Regulations and was introduced in 1991 with the last amendment in 2008. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is responsible for this legislation.

Full details of the regulation can be found at: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2008C00244

The basic requirement is for all ingredients to be listed on the product label in descending order of concentration. Ingredient names should use International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) system of defining names for Cosmetic Ingredients or their English name. In order to cover all markets in the world it would be safest to give both:- the common name (which is most necessary in the US market) as well as the INCI name (most necessary in the EU market). Trade names may not be used. Ingredients in concentration of 1% or more must be listed in descending order by volume. Followed by ingredients of less than 1% that may be listed in any order.

Alternative naming systems are not permitted although provision of additional information is allowed. For example, naming an ingredient as “coconut derived surfactant” on its own does not comply with the requirements, however listing the ingredient as Sodium Cocoate (coconut derived surfactant) would be acceptable. The purpose of ingredient labelling is to provide public information of all the chemicals included in a product. Inaccurate or non-specific ingredient identification may be considered deceptive and lead to action from the ACCC.

Some examples

  • Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil.
  • In the case of herbal extracts the common and Latin names as well as where it is extracted from e.g. Chamomila Matricaria (Chamomile) flower extract

A contact address and/or a website must be included along with the name of your business. Writing PO Box as the contact is not acceptable and can lead to difficulties with the authorities especially when the public wish to make inquiries or complaints.  Imported products must also carry an Australian street address. This may be achieved either through repackaging or over-labelling with the local distributor’s detail

The front of the label should clearly show “Your Brand”, what it is (e.g. Super Hydrating Face Moisturiser) and all products must indicate the quantity, volume, mass or number, contained within the pack.

A National standard for quantity marking was implemented in July 2010 in Australia, where one can choose to comply with either the AQS standards or the UTML standards. See this Guide to Average Quantity System for full details

Different categories of products are measured and labelled in different ways. Solid products, semi-solids and powders are measured by ‘mass’ (weight).  Whereas liquids are measured by ‘volume’.  Products measured by mass are labelled using kilograms (kg), grams (g) or milligrams (mg). Grams are suitable when the nett weight is less than one kilogram and milligrams are suitable when weight is less than one gram. Products measured by volume are labelled in litres (L) or millilitres (mL). Millilitres are used when the product is less than one litre. In both cases, these measurements are exclusive of the packaging.  It is often beneficial to write several options as not all products have the same properties. For example use a weight such 50 g/mL, and/or 4.5 fl oz (when distributing to the American market).

In order for a product to be labelled “Product of Australia”, it must include 100% Australian content. This means that every ingredient must be from Australia. Whereas, the label claim of “Made in Australia” can be utilised when the product has undergone significant alteration and the majority of the manufacturing costs have occurred in Australia. Of the two, the latter is more achievable as many ingredients are often sourced internationally.

Labelling Claims

Next is what you can “claim” your product does. Product labels and the claims made for products must be carefully considered to ensure consumers are not deceived or mislead. Be careful not to make therapeutic claims such as healing, antiseptic, scar removing, disinfectant, etc as this may incur the wrath of authorities such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) or other Administrations.  Claims made for a product can also result in a product being therapeutic rather than cosmetic, irrespective of the ingredients. If a product was to claim that it “smooths the appearance of wrinkles” this would be cosmetic but if the claim was "eliminates wrinkles" then this would not be an allowed cosmetic claim. Cosmetic claims should be carefully considered to ensure that therapeutic claims are not being made. Any claims must be supported by verifiable test protocols. Guidance on acceptable claims can be found on the TGA website. The authorities may either force you to withdraw the product or prove that the product was made in a proper authorised facility. They may even force you to have to do double blind tests to prove the validity of your claims. This can be extremely costly.

Packaging and Labelling of Cosmetics in Australia can be a complex task to ensure that all Regulatory, Compatibility and Environmental requirements are met. Marketers must be aware of all these requirements and where you don't have that expertise in-house then external expertise should be sought. Your contract manufacturer can usually help you to word your descriptions so that you will not cross that fine line into the therapeutic world.



FAIS Handbook
FAIS Handbook

Guide to Labelling Drugs and Poisons

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Cosmetics and Toiletries – Ingredient Labelling (December 2000)

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act (February 2008)

Therapeutic Goods Administration, Cosmetic Claims Guidelines

Comm law for latest Australian Government Regulations

Australian Made

Cosmetic Ingredient Labelling

CosIng Website (Searchable EU cosmetic INCI names)
updated Oct 2016

Product Safety Australia


Who and What is NICNAS

NICNAS soap and cosmetics information


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