Cosmetics and soaps

A 'cosmetic' is a substance or preparation that is for use on any external part of the human body—or inside the mouth—to change its appearance, cleanse it, keep it in good condition, perfume it or protect it. Cosmetics include soap, shampoo, moisturiser, hair dye, perfume, lipstick, mascara, nail polish, deodorant and many other products.

Nearly all cosmetic ingredients are regulated as industrial chemicals under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (ICNA Act). This includes ingredients described as 'natural', such as oils, extracts and essences of plants.

If you want to import and/or manufacture cosmetic ingredients for commercial purposes you may need to register your business with NICNAS.

Before importing and/or manufacturing a cosmetic you must check the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) to see if all your chemical ingredients are listed and if there are conditions for using those chemicals.

If an ingredient is not listed on AICS—or has a condition of use different to your intended use—it is a new industrial chemical to Australia. Unless an exemption applies, the new industrial chemical will need to be assessed by NICNAS for risks to the environment and human health before it can be imported and/or manufactured. Read more about notifying a new chemical.

Is my product a cosmetic?

Use our questionnaire to determine whether the ingredients in your product are industrial chemicals. Some products, such as sunscreens, skin whiteners and
anti-acne treatments, can be used in a similar way to cosmetics but may be
regulated as therapeutic goods.

Cosmetics and therapeutic goods

Commercial importers and/or manufacturers of cosmetics must comply with NICNAS requirements as well as other laws. View a list of common products that are considered to be cosmetics and learn more about therapeutic goods and therapeutic use.

Naturally-occurring chemicals

Although many cosmetic ingredients are derived from natural sources, they may
still be considered industrial chemicals and subject to NICNAS requirements. It depends on what processes are used to extract the chemical, such as steam
distillation, filtration, precipitation and pressing.

Soaps and soap making

Soaps can be made using cold or hot saponification, or by the melt and pour method. Some processes for making soap involve a chemical reaction, which is defined as manufacturing an industrial chemical. Soap ingredients that are industrial chemicals are subject to NICNAS requirements.

Cosmetics Standard

Some cosmetics must meet special requirements and be presented to consumers in a certain way to distinguish them from similar goods that are for therapeutic use. The Standard applies to products for oral hygiene, dandruff, acne, cosmetics containing sunscreen ingredients, and anti-bacterial skin products.

Labelling cosmetic ingredients

All suppliers of cosmetic products in Australia—including manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers—must comply with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's mandatory standard for cosmetics labelling.

Prohibited or restricted cosmetic chemicals

Restrictions may apply to the use of some chemicals listed on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances. Certain chemicals are also restricted or prohibited by the Poisons Standard and Safe Work Australia's Hazardous Substances Information System.

Tell us what you think
about the NICNAS website

Back to top