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Definition of a cosmetic product

Definition and Legislation

Pursuant to Article 2 of European Cosmetics Regulation (EC) N° 1223/2009 and of the Council [sic] of 30 November 2009, a single definition of the cosmetic product applies in all Member States of the European Union.
In France, this definition is transcribed in the Code of Public Health (Article L.5131-1), modified by law N° 2011-12 of 5 January 2011

Art. 8 “A cosmetic product is a substance or mixture intended to come into contact with the superficial parts of the human body (the epidermis, the hair and hair systems, nails, the lips and the external genitalia) or with the teeth and the oral mucous membranes, with a view, exclusively or mainly, to clean them, to perfume them, to modify their appearance, to protect them, to keep them in good condition or to correct bodily odors”.

Which products are officially considered cosmetic products?

For the skin

  • Creams, emulsions, lotions, gels and oils for the skin
  • Beauty masks, with the exception of chemical peeling products
  • Anti-wrinkle products
  • Foundations
  • Make-up and make-up remover for the face and eyes
  • Makeup powders, powders for after-bath use and for personal hygiene as well as other miscellaneous powders
  • Lip products
  • Shaving products
  • Sun products
  • Sunless tanning products
  • Skin whitening products

Personal hygiene products

  • Toilet soaps, deodorant soaps, and other soaps
  • Baths and shower products
  • External intimate hygiene products
  • Perfumes, eaux de toilettes, and colognes
  • Deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Depilatories
  • Nail care products, nail varnish
  • Certain dental and oral hygiene products

Hair care products

    • Hair dyes and hair dye removers
    • Hair waving, curling straightening, setting, styling and shaping products
    • Shampoos and haircare products (lotions, powders, creams, shampoos, oils, hairsprays, pomades etc.)

What cannot be a cosmetic product?

Medications are not cosmetic products
A cosmetic product cannot be presented for treating or preventing human disease, the product being, then, a medicine after the term of the L. 5111-1 of the Public Health Code (CSP). Furthermore, a cosmetic product cannot under any circumstances claim to have any curative or preventive properties. Cosmetic industry stakeholders must therefore be vigilant in this regard.
Food products are not cosmetic products
Ingestible products intended to improve the appearance of the skin and phanera (hair and nails) are not cosmetic products. They are food products and should never be referred to as “oral cosmetics”.
It must be a product that cannot be inhaled, injected, or implanted into the body
Even if a cosmetic product claims to act on the skin, teeth, oral mucosa, or even the hair and nails (phanera), it cannot be administered otherwise than by external application.
Furthermore, all tattoo related skin breakage products are not considered cosmetic products. All tattoo-related products have their own specific regulations.
Wash solutions are not cosmetic products
All wash solutions, whether ocular, auricular, or nasal, are considered medical devices and not cosmetic products.

Definition of the main parties in the cosmetics industry

The Responsible Person

(see question 2).

The Distributor

A distributor is part of the supply chain and is responsible for making the product available on the market: they are neither manufacturer nor importer.

The Manufacturer

Any natural or legal person who manufactures a cosmetic product or has such a product designed or manufactured, and who markets that cosmetic product under their name or brand.

The Importer

Any natural or legal person established within the European Union who places a cosmetic product from a non-Member State on the European market.

The End User

End users are either consumers or professionals who will use the cosmetic product.


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