Applicable legislation

Cosmetics sold in Canada are regulated by Health Canada, which monitors production and distribution in several sectors. Cosmetic products placed on the Canadian market must comply with the Food and Drugs Act, with the Cosmetic Regulation as well as the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.

What type of products are cosmetics?

The Food and Drugs Act provides a definition of a cosmetic product in Canada. Cosmetic products include “any substance or mixture of substances, manufactured, sold or represented for use in cleansing, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth and includes deodorants and perfumes”. This includes cosmetics used by professional aesthetic services, bulk-bought institutional products (for example, hand soap in schools) and handmade cosmetics sold at craft sales or from home-based businesses.

As in most countries, the classification of the product can often depend on the claims made about its performance and function.

Requirements

The most important requirement is that cosmetic products sold in Canada are manufactured, prepared, preserved, packed and stored under sanitary conditions and are, therefore, safe for use by the consumers.

When used as intended, a cosmetic product must not pose a risk to consumers. The safety of the product must be determined but the legislation does not specifically prescribe how the safety of the product is proven and demonstrated; that is the responsibility of the product manufacturer.

Health Canada maintains quite an extensive list of ingredients that cosmetic products should not contain, can contain only up to a certain maximum concentration or can contain under certain conditions along with the warnings that have to be displayed about the use of such ingredients. This list is referred to as the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist. However, this list contains only ingredients used intentionally, it does not include unintentional ingredients.

Cosmetic product labels must conform to the specific requirements for labelling that can be found in the Food and Drugs Act, the Cosmetic Regulation, Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Hazardous Product Act. Special attention must be paid to the language used on the labels as in most cases at least some parts of the label also have to be written in French.

There is no pre-market registration for cosmetics that would lead to an official approval for sales in Canada but all cosmetic products placed on the Canadian market, whether manufactured in Canada or abroad, have to be notified to Health Canada using the Cosmetic Notification Form (CFN) within 10 days of being placed on the market. Failure to do so may result in a product being denied entry into Canada or being removed from sale. The information that needs to be provided on the CFN includes, among other things, the product identity, the product function, labelling for certain types of products, a list of ingredients and their concentrations, the product category, the name and address of the manufacturer and the distributor, etc.

  • Product classification
  • Formula review to ensure compliance with the Health Canada regulations
  • Labelling review
  • Label translation into French
  • Toxicological risk assessment
  • Cosmetic Notification Form preparation and submission

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