Safely importing cosmetics to Europe

Be aware: Importing cosmetics from outside of Europe is only possible if you have accurate information of your manufacturer. Do you have the correct information?

Starting your own cosmetics brand

Starting your own cosmetics brand, that’s your dream. And you’ve already found a factory that can produce beautiful products. But can you then just import cosmetics and start selling?

Just like you need a driver’s license to drive a car, cosmetics can only be sold when they have a cosmetics dossier. In this cosmetics dossier, you can demonstrate that your products comply with the law. But what is this cosmetics law exactly and how do you comply with it?


How the cosmetics law works

How the cosmetics law works The cosmetic law is included within the European legislation (EC 1223/2009). This means that if a product is approved in the Netherlands, it can also be sold in other European countries such as Belgium, Germany, and Sweden.

The most important point of the cosmetics law is that you can prove that your products are safe. To do this, a cosmetics dossier consists of several mandatory components:

  1. Product Information File, this states what the product entails, who made it, and other useful information
  2. Cosmetic Product Safety Report, which demonstrates the safety of the product
  3. Cosmetic Product Notification, a notification of the product in the EU web portal (CPNP)

When all components described above are complete, you are allowed to start selling your product.

This is needed to approve your cosmetics

What is needed to approve your cosmetics Sounds good right? But how do you fix these components?

You can imagine that a lot of product information is needed. Like the product formula, which states which ingredients are used in the product and in what concentration.

But also a lot of details about the individual ingredients must be included: where do they come from, how pure are they, and are they allowed to be used in cosmetics? Because the last thing you want is that they put motor oil in your face cream (we’ve really seen this happen, yuck!)

A lot of this information comes from your manufacturer. Eventually, they know which ingredients they put in your products. However, we see that not all factories are equally well informed about EU cosmetics legislation. This is logical if the factory is outside the EU. But that is why it is so important that your products comply with EU law.

Documentation is often a problem

When manufacturers outside of the EU sell cosmetics, they quickly give you a set of documents. The factory indicates that this is ‘all the information you need’. However, in a lot of cases, they provide the documents for the country where the factory is located, which is not enough for the European legislation.

This is what we often see:

  • An MSDS (safety data sheet) of the final product
  • A GMP certificate from the manufacturer
  • An analysis certificate of the final product

And it’s true that these are all useful documents. But as you read above, much more information is needed, such as the raw materials and packaging material.

Unfortunately, not every factory is able to provide this information. This can be due to a number of reasons. The most common reasons we hear are:

  • Wanting to keep their suppliers or recipe secret
  • Not having their administration in order, so they don’t have the information and cannot get it
  • Not being used to providing this information, even if they already have previous customers in the EU

Wanting to keep information secret

Wanting to keep information secret sounds very logical, because the last thing a manufacturer wants is that a customer takes their recipe to another factory. That’s why it’s logical that they want to be careful with their recipes. Instead of just not sharing information, it’s easier to sign a non-disclosure agreement with a factory. Many factories have this included in their contract.

Not having their administration in order

Well, based on this you should wonder if you would want to work with such a factory. After all, you trust that your manufacturer makes safe products. But if their administration is a mess, how sure can you be about the safety of your products? Because ultimately, according to EU law, you are legally responsible for your cosmetics.

Not being used to providing this information

This can happen, especially if the country where the factory is located has different rules. Often they don’t have an expert in-house on EU legislation. What we find remarkable is that some of these factories say that they have been supplying customers in the EU for years and have never had to provide this information before.

That is often not the fault of the factory, but of their previous customers who do not know that there is a cosmetics law in the EU (and therefore do not ask for documentation). There’s a good chance that you also only found out that you have to comply with the EU law since the beginning of this blog đŸ˜‰

Each of these reasons can be quite tricky, because it means that you have to ‘teach’ the factory how to send the right information. And that can be a shame, especially if you already have a launch date in mind for your cosmetics brand that is quickly approaching.

The fastest plan to import safe cosmetics

Okay, but where do I start, and is my factory okay? Those are very valid questions. That’s why we’ve created a step-by-step plan that allows you to quickly check if your factory is good enough.

Top secret disclaimer: this step-by-step plan may result in you finding out that you are working with the wrong factory. Not very nice of course, but better to find out before you launch your products on the EU market – with all the consequences for your brand and the safety of your customers.

If this happens and you really have to meet your launch date, check out our partner manufacturers whom we’ve been working with for years. We don’t get a referral fee for this, so we are sure that these factories prioritize safety.

Step 1: the checklist

Allereerst is het goed om te weten dat je sommige documentatie zelf kan maken.

Step 1: the checklist First of all, it’s good to know that you can create some documentation yourself.

You can do this yourself:

  • Label (+ any other marketing such as a website). We can help you with this!
  • Complaints protocol (use our template)
  • CPNP notification (do-it-yourself, or we’ll do it for you)

De rest van de informatie moet dus van de fabrikant komen. Het gaat om de volgende informatie:

  1. GMP certificate and other factory information
  2. Product formulas
  3. Raw material information
  4. Packaging materials
  5. Product tests such as shelf life tests

You can download this checklist here.

Step 2: share the checklist with your factory

Dear Sir/Madam,

As discussed before, I would like to sell my cosmetic products on the European market.

To comply with EU law, I need documentation regarding the product and the used raw materials. A list of required files can be attached to this email.

I need a lot of documents to comply with the EU Regulation. Just a GMP certificate and product MSDS are not enough to sell my products.

It would be great if you could deliver me these documents. This way I can safely sell my products in Europe!

Step 3: check the shared documents

If your factory is organised properly and is willing to share the necessary information, you will receive an email or WeTransfer with a number of documents (and often the message “This is all you need!”).

But don’t fool yourself to easily, read below how you can check if you have enough information:


  • Did the factory sent a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certificate, and is this certificate still valid?

Product formulas

  • Did the manufacturer share a clear list of raw materials with percentages per product?
  • Are the ingredients named with their raw material name and supplier? So for example ‘Water, Vitens, 70%’, ‘Ethanol, BASF, 20%’

Raw materials

  • Did the factory share the documentation for each raw material?
  • Does each raw material have more than 2 documents?
  • If there is a perfume in the product, is there an ‘IFRA conformity certificate’ with this raw material?

Packaging materials

  • Is it clear who the packaging supplier is? This cannot be the manufacturer itself
  • Is it clear from which materials your packaging is made? Such as glass, or PET?
  • Did the packaging supplier draw up a declaration clearly indicating that this packaging is suitable for cosmetics, food, or pharmaceuticals?

Shelf life tests

  • Have the stability tests been conducted lasting at least 3 months?
  • Does the stability test describe something about the packaging, and whether it remains stable? Or has the manufacturer done a separate ‘compatibility’ test?

If you can answer all questions with ‘yes’, you probably have a good factory to deal with. If you answered ‘no’ once or more, ask the factory for more information on those items.

If you still can’t request the right information, it often indicates that the factory is unable to provide the right information to bring your products safely to the EU market. At this moment, it is wise to quickly look for a factory that does understand what they need to provide.