Cosmetics vs Non-Cosmetics Requirements

This is part of the Labeling Basics series in which I am taking labeling back to its most fundamental parts, starting with the legal terms used and then going on to each requirement for soap and cosmetic labels.

Cosmetics are products which are applied to the human body to beautify, promote attractiveness or cleanse.

Non-cosmetic products are ones that aren’t applied to the human body (paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, diswashing detergent, etc.) They may touch the human body, but they aren’t applied with the intent of cleansing, beautifying or promoting attractiveness.

Body/face/hand soap is, by default, a cosmetic because it is applied to the human body to cleanse. However, there is an exemption in the definition of a cosmetic — soap is considered a non-cosmetic IF:

  • the bulk of it is the alkali salt of fatty acids (lye/oil), AND
  • the cleansing comes from the alkali salt of fatty acids (not added detergents), AND
  • it is marketed and sold as “soap”, AND
  • it only claims to clean (no “moisturising” or “exfoliating,” for example)

ALL products have requirements for what must go on the label. However, there are some differences between cosmetics and non-cosmetics. The following table is a quick reference guide which shows what is required:

Cosmetic Non-Cosmetic
Regulated By Food & Drug Administration (federal)
Usually also state agencies
Federal Trade Commission (labeling)
Consumer Product Safety Commission (safety)
Allowable Marketing Statements “Moisturizes” or “exfoliates” or anything that says the product  “beautifies” or “makes attractive” “Cleans”
Product Name Required on Front Panel Required on Front Panel
Ingredient Name in Product Name Prohibited No Restriction
Product Identity
(What it is)
Required on Front Panel Required on Front Panel
Ingredient Name in Product Identity Statement No Restriction Allowed only if ingredient is present
in a functional amount
Net Contents Required on Front Panel Required on Front Panel
Ingredient Declaration Required Not required
Business Name & Address Required Required
Street Address Actual street address required unless address is listed under the business name in a print or online phone or city directory Actual street address required unless address is listed under the business name in a readily accessible, publicly available online resource (website or directory)
Cosmetic Warning Labels Required on some products n/a
Bubble Bath Warning required if not labeled for adult use only n/a
Hazardous Substance Warning Required for products containing
2% or more Bergamot Oil or a
high percentage of alcohol (flammable)
Required for products containing
2% or more Bergamot Oil or a
high percentage of alcohol (flammable)
Children’s Soap No restrictions Must meet safety standards.
testing may be required.
Toys or non-soap embeds in children’s products Must meet safety standards.
Safety testing may be required.
Must meet safety standards.
safety testing may be required.
Color Additives Must be approved for use in cosmetics No restrictions but must be safe
Federal Registration Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (optional) None
State Registration Some states require registration of cosmetic manufacturing facilities and/or products. None

Why is it important?

The regulations and labeling requirements for a cosmetic and a non-cosmetic are different.  It’s important to know what applies to the particular product you are working with otherwise you could end up with a product that is illegally labeled (and thus illegal to sell).


    1. Thank you for this chart which cuts through the legal jargon that can be confusing. I am wondering what would constitute a soap as a children’s soap. Do people assume it’s not for children unless specifically labeled as such?
      Thank you

      1. Author

        This link talks about soap for children:

        And this one gives the definition and some examples of how you determine if a soap (or other product) is specifically for children:–Manufacturing/Business-Education/childrens-products.

        Basically, if it’s really directed at children because of the scent, coloration, embeds, or marketing, it would be a children’s product. It would be something that children would be more likely (or only likely) to use and adults probably wouldn’t.

  1. Love this simple chart. Is a DIY kit considered a cosmetic and not saleable in Florida without a license? (example: bath salts (non-soap) or melt and pour bundle (soap)

    1. Author

      I looked into the Florida statutes and regulations again. What we have defined are:

      “Cosmetic” means an article, with the exception of soap, that is:
      (a) Intended to be rupped, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on; introduced into; or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance; or
      (b) Intended for use as a component of any such article.


      “Manfacturer” means (d) A person who manufactures a device or a cosmetic.

      You’re providing the supplies, and the directions, but the person who buys the product is actually making the cosmetic. And the are not selling the cosmetic, so I don’t think that the “manufacture” part of it applies to the person buying the cosmetic. There are lots of kits like that available in craft stores.

      So I’m thinking that if you create a DIY kit, you aren’t actually manufacturing a cosmetic. BUT – I am not an attorney, and this is my best guess based on the language. If you are actually planning on going into business with a product along those lines, check with the state before getting to far into it, just to be sure.

      1. Hi Marie, I want to make face creams. I’m new to this, I don’t know how I could register a product. Can I make a cream at home? All the ingredients in the cream are orgasmic and the preservative is orgasmic. I need information about all this. Thank you

      2. Author

        Face creams are definitely cosmetics.

        What state and country are you in? In most states, if you are in the US, you don’t need to register cosmetic product(s), and you can make the products at home. Some states that’s not true, though.

        I assume you meant “organic” (not orgasmic) … you can identify which ingredients are organic in the ingredient declaration and give the percentage of organic ingredients. Unless you are certified for making organic products, you can’t say that they PRODUCT is organic, or use the term “Organic” on the front panel of the product.

        You will need to make sure your cosmetic products are correctly labeled – my book, Soap and Cosmetic Labeling, will give you all the details in one place.

  2. Hi Marie, Thank you for this chart. Is it ok for skincare to list that it protects against environmental stressors, soothes or calms, offers blue light protection or helps blemishes. Not sure if these fall into drug claims and if these words are even regulated.

    1. Author

      Yes – those words, which create the intended use of a product result in regulations being applied.

      If something is protecting the skin (sressors, blue light, sun, etc) it is changing the function of the body (according to the FDA) and would be an (unapproved) new drug.

      Something that helps blemishes it treating the body, mitigating “disease” (bacteria), and/or changing the function/structure of the body and would be an unapproved new drug.

      Cosmetics ONLY change the appearance in a superficial, on-the-surface type way.


  3. Hi Marie! So do you have any good examples of perfumes by chance? I use FO and a perfumers base but am struggling to find the right info for correct labeling (as the bottles are small) and shipping etc.. Sounds like they are considered technically a “cosmetic” so I want to get it right. SO far I haven’t found a box that’s the right size but could tag the ingredients on a hang tag on the bag I’m using. Suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Author

      If you are selling the perfume in a bottle, then the bottle must contain the required information. If it’s small, you can use a hangtag (then the size of the hangtag determines the size of the fonts). As with all cosmetic products, you’ll need the name, identity (perfume or whatever it is), and net contents on the front; ingredients and business name and address on the back.

      For the ingredients you’d need to include the component parts of the perfume base and then “fragrance”.

      I think that’s why many perfumers use boxes!

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