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Polishing Up On Cosmetics Law

First, we apologize for the title.  We just can’t help ourselves with the puns.  Dad humour runs deep in our veins.  Now. on to the serious stuff: cosmetics law. 

  1. Overview of Governing Framework

Health Canada governs cosmetics, personal care products and drugs.  Cosmetics are defined as “any substance used to clean, improve or change the complexion of the skin, hair, nails or teeth”.  Cosmetics includes makeup., beauty treatments, personal care products and grooming aids.  Skin care products fall under the definition of cosmetics. 

Not all cosmetics are treated the same by Health Canada and, as such, cosmetics can be classified differently.  The regulatory treatment of the different classes of cosmetics varies according to their classification.  The different classification will depend on:

  1. The product claims associated with the products;
  2. The types of ingredients included in the products;
  3. How the product is consumed (i.e. topical or ingested).

Health Canada is governed by and enforces the Food and Drugs Act, as well as the Cosmetics Regulations.  If your company’s products contain natural ingredients, they are categorized as natural health products. 

  1. Classifying the Product

A critical point is determining whether the product is classified as a drug or a cosmetic.  A personal care product can be classified as a drug if it contains certain ingredients and/or certain product claims.  For example, does the product claim to modify the body’s state or prevent/treat a disease?  If yes, it would be classified as a drug, as opposed to a cosmetic.  If the product is classified as a drug, this brings with it more regulatory requirements.  For example, the product must obtain a specific Drug Identification Number. 

  1. Baseline Requirements for Cosmetics

All cosmetics sold in Canada must, at the least:

  1. Be free from contamination and harmful substances;
  2. Not include any banned, as set out in the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist;
  3. Abide by any ingredient limitations, as set out in the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist;
  4. Be manufactured, prepared, preserved, packed and stored under clean conditions;
  5. Use manufacturers that adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices;
  6. Declare the product ingredients to Health Canada.
  1. Advertising your Product

Given that classification of your product depends, to some extent, on the product claims associated with the products, advertising claims are very important.  The product claims must be accurate.  Care must be taken if the product claims suggest a change to the body, as this will lend the product to classification as a drug.  Examples include tightening the skin (drug product claim), as opposed to moisturizing the skin (cosmetic product claim).  Care must also be taken with claims where the product treats or prevents disease.  An example would be that the skin care treats eczema (drug claim).  Marketing practices are also governed by the Competition Bureau, under the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act.  Common marketing terms relevant to the personal care products industry that are governed by the Competition Bureau include fragrance free, hypoallergenic, preservative free, dermatologist tested, not tested on animals, organic, made in Canada, product of Canada, etc.

  1. Labelling your Product

Labelling of your products is governed by the Foods and Drug Act, the Cosmetics Regulations and also the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, and related Regulations.   Cosmetic labels must include, at the least, the following in both English and French