Manufacturing cosmetics, Australian law

There are laws for how manufacturing cosmetics should be be carried out, but no strict laws as to how cosmetics are made. The responsibility is on the product owner to ensure that the product is safe for use by consumers. Importing cosmetics & ingredients is completely different, laws apply, importers are required to be registed with NICNAS.

Basic guidelines exist, such as the need to sanitise manufacturing areas & consider the storing of cosmetic ingredients as well as the finished products . This is typically below below 30 degrees. There is however, no 'certificate' of inspection required to make products in a lab or kitchen, not like for commercial cooking where the physical structure of the kitchen must pass an annual inspection along with the overall hygiene of the premises & suitability for the manufacturing purpose - this is mainly due to the products not being manufactured for consumption. The view that what we put on our bodies can potentially impact our health has only just been realised & accepted.

Only this year, have scientists confirmed a direct link between our skin-flora & artificial chemicals that are applied topically to the skin - proof that how we treat the skin impacts our overall health. What comes next will be most interesting as science confirms the suitability of individual ingredients to help protect our skin & health or how certain ingredients can damage our skin & health. This study on skin-flora is ground breaking in that scientists can now measure the health of our skin by the number of skin-flora present.

“My background is in nutritional medicine, as we all know, fresh & healthy produce is essential to maintaining our health. I have no doubt that the same rule will apply to cosmetic ingredients. But, I am expecting a few surprises along the way, there is always a balance required, even too much water applied topically can cause skin irritation for some people so there are a lot of questions that will be answered over the next decade.” - Amina Kitching, Founder of Safe Cosmetics Australia.

Cosmetics can be manfuactured safely by following basic hygiene procedures. Temperature control & hygiene are the two main factors to consider along with air quality because air-born germs & foreign particles can make their way into formulations during manufacturing. Keeping the air regulated at a steady temperature & free-from dust, pollution & other contaminants is essential to producing safe & healthy products.

When products are exposed to heat over 25-30 degrees, this can trigger bacteria growth. All cosmetic packaging should also be steralised as instructed by the manufacturer of the packaging, they would of course advise this so that they are not held responsible, ultimately the manufacturer of the product is always responsible for consumer health & safety. Which is where cosmetic manufacturers have to be very careful, they have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their product formulations, that the directions for use provide enough information for the user.

Directions for use form a key factor in protecting manufacturers from adverse health issues. Most people know the phrase 'discontinue use if irritation occurs’ this statement is typically found on almost every product label, it protects the manufacturer & the consumer. But, if the user continues to use the product & the irritation becomes worse then it is not the fault of the manufacturer that the consumer disregarded their directions for use.

Product labels must provide sufficient directions for use. Consumers must be able to use the product safely. If the user follows the directions for use, yet suffers an adverse effect, then it is questionable that either the user has an allergy to the product or a particular ingredient, or that the product directions for use are not adequate or that the formula may not be safe for use, such was the case when imported kohl eyeliner products caused lead poisoning in young children playing with their mum’s makeup.

99.9% of the time, issues are typically resolved during the development of a product formulation, prior to sale, every reputable manufacturer takes the necessary precautions to ensure that their product is safe for use. The only issue is that cosmetic ingredients have largely not been tested for health & safety in the first place. This is why Safe Cosmetics Australia was established, to provide manufacturing guidelines, a non-toxic standard to abide by, this is especially important for start ups & for those who do not have experience in cosmetic manufacturing.

The type of products being manufactured are also a key point to consider. If you are making oil-in-water formulations (basically any cream, lotion, spray etc) then the risk of contamination is to be expected. Water harbors bacteria which turns a product ransid in as little as 48 hours, in fact the first 24 hours after making the product is the time when the formulation is most active, when the ingredients first interact with each other, is when the highest rate of microbial activity is seen.

By comparison, making a balm or a cream that is free-from water is unlikely to harbor bacteria just from manufacturing alone (provided everything is steralised) . This is because bacteria cannot grow in oil without access is oxygen & water. However that said, oils do turn ransid, over time they spoil, some oils have a short shelf life of only 6 months whereas other oils have a long shelf life up to 2 years or more. So it depends on the ingredients being used, as to how likely contamination is going to be an issue. For example, olive oil by itself with nothing added to it is routinely sealed into unsterilised bottles without any ill effect.

For more information on cosmetic laws in Australia, visit NICNAS, Australia’s government authority on manufacturing cosmetics or email us with any questions that you may have:

Amina Kitching