What are the FDA requirements for cosmetics?

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is one of the most important bodies that controls how beauty products are designed and manufactured.

The FDA provides a framework that goes beyond the legalities—it's a guide to creating products that prioritize safety, transparency, and consumer well-being.

What Does The FDA Define as Cosmetics?

According to the FDA, cosmetics encompass items intended for cleansing, beautifying, enhancing attractiveness, or modifying appearance.

This includes things like nail polishes, lipsticks, perfume, foundations, but not soap.

How Do You Decide If Your Products Are Cosmetics?

The main difference between cosmetics and drugs is it’s purpose. If your product cleanses, enhances, or alters the appearance of your customer, it will be considered a cosmetic product.

A drug is a product that aims to influence bodily functions, treat diseases, or prevent health issues.

FDA Works to Protect Imports

The FDA is the governing body in the US, but this doesn’t mean that it’s the same worldwide – cosmetics regulations are very different in places like Europe or Australia.

The FDA collaborates closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure the integrity of imported cosmetics that are coming in from other countries. Their aim is to prevent misbranded or unsafe products from reaching consumers.

Gaining FDA Approval For Your Products

Unlike drugs, cosmetic companies don’t have to get FDA permission for ingredient use before market release.

However, this flexibility comes with responsibility. Companies must ensure product safety and labeling adherence before it gets into the hands of consumers. It’s important to also think about whether your product does straddle the line between cosmetics and drugs – if the difference is small, you may need premarket approval before you can start selling it.

Voluntary Registration on The VCRP

The FDA has the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP), an online platform where brands can register their business and ingredient information. It’s not mandatory, but we’d recommend brands to participate as it shows your commitment to transparency and consumer well-being.

Be Thoughtful When Labelling Products

Cosmetic labeling requirements, governed by the FD&C Act and FPLA, demand precision and transparency. The principal display panel must clearly identify the product, its net quantity, and ingredient lists.

Compliance extends to warnings when necessary, all presented in English. Claims and advertising must be truthful, ensuring consumers make informed choices.

You also need to think about the terms you use, for example, the terms "natural" and "organic" are not legal definitions for products so any claims around these terms are completely subjective.