Understanding Cosmetic Product Labelling

March 6th, 2017

Product labels what does it all mean?

Product labels can seem very reassuring that you are doing something right and that your purchase will be good for you. But what do all these statements really mean.

The EU European Cosmetic Regulations and the FDA have strict criteria that manufactures must follow to label their products.

Legally you will be able to find the following information on your product label.  

  • List of ingredients
  • Name and address of manufacturer or supplier
  • Date of minimum durability (“best before date”) or a “Period After Opening” (PAO)
  • Warning statements and precautionary advice
  • Batch number or lot code
  • Product function (when appropriate if use is not obvious)
  • The amount of contents (weight or volume)

Product labeling in the EU is regulated by law under the EU Cosmetics Regulations (1223/2009).

The EU European Cosmetic Regulation stipulates that the claims made on product labels must conform to the following six criteria

1. Legal compliance

 2. Truthfulness

 3. Evidential support

4. Honesty

5. Fairness

6. Informed decision-making

Common facts found on labels and what they mean

Allergen Free

Unfortunately this does not mean you will not get an allergic reaction to the product this just means known allergens are not likely to be contained.

There are 26 recognised allergens that could be used in your skin care mainly fragrances and preservatives.

The EU and the FDA have no legal definition of what this means


There is no legal definition for organic cosmetic products within the EU. A product can be labeled organic if 1% of the ingredients are organically produced


Another penned term with little meaning as stated by the FDA “The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean”. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA.

Dermatologically tested

The EU European regulations state that the claim "dermatologically tested implies that the product was tested on humans under the supervision of a dermatologist” 2013

Not tested on animals

If this is particular concern look for the ‘little bunny rabbit’ these products have been thoroughly assessed to ensure your product is not tested on animals. If a product state not tested on animals without the bunny it merely means they haven’t tested the final product on animals. The individual ingredients may have been tested on animals.

Paraben free

Paraben’s are widely used preservatives in personal care products. These have been vilified in recent years due to a U.K study in 2004 that found traces of parabens in women with breast tumors. It must be stressed that this study did not prove that parabens cause cancer.

Parabens are used because they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in your favourite creams and makeup.

In 2014 the EU commission banned five parabens from use in cosmetics products due to the lack of data required for reassessment.

In 2015 The EU commission limited the concentration of two further parabens and banned them from use on leave on nappy products.

In a nutshell parabens that have cause for concern  have been removed under the strict guidelines of the EU 

As a facialist I have noticed that the two following preservatives are causing greater allergies than products containing other preservatives.


Methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI)

Mineral oil free

Mineral oil is a by- product of crude oil refining process. This is usually used in products as filler and widely used in make-up including blushers, lipsticks and contained in creams especially for eczema and dermatitis.  Mineral oil is thought to interfere with the skins ability to eliminate toxins. It is believed that the film it leaves over the surface of the skin, will not allow air to the skin and bacteria develops in the pores causing more congestion and spots.

Despite this association mineral oil is a natural product, once it becomes pharmaceutical grade mineral oil it is far removed from its origins. Mineral oil is widely used in all types of creams as it is one of the least irritant ingredients available.

The EU European Cosmetic Regulations provides an internationally recognised regime which ensures product safety

When making choices for personal care toiletries it is always best to check the ingredients for any known allergies you have.  Note that the ingredients are listed in order of quantity, those with the smallest amount are labeled at the bottom. Preservatives and fragrance ingredients will normally be found towards the end of the list. 


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Understanding Cosmetic Product Labelling

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