Cosmetic vs Non-Cosmetic Label 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 and consumer commodities are products that are applied to the human body to beautify, promote attractiveness, or cleanse. (See What is a COSMETIC?)

Non-cosmetic consumer commodities are products that aren’t applied to the human body (paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, dishwashing 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 legal definition of a cosmetic. Soap is considered a non-cosmetic IF:

  • the bulk of the soap 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 only as “soap”, AND
  • it only claims to clean (no “moisturizing” or “exfoliating” claims, for example).

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

Regulated ByFood & Drug Administration (federal) and Usually also state agenciesFederal Trade Commission (labeling) Consumer Product Safety Commission (safety) and state agencies
Allowable Marketing Statements“Moisturizes” or “exfoliates” or anything that says the product  “beautifies” or “makes attractive”for SOAP used on the body, only that it “Cleans”.
Otherwise, no specific requirements
Product NameRequired on Front PanelRequired on Front Panel
Ingredient Name in Product NameProhibitedNo Restriction
Product Identity
(What it is)
Required on Front PanelRequired on Front Panel
Ingredient Name in Product Identity StatementNo RestrictionAllowed only if ingredient is present
in a functional amount
Net ContentsRequired on Front PanelRequired on Front Panel
Ingredient DeclarationRequiredNot required
Business Name & AddressRequiredRequired
Street AddressActual street address required unless address is listed under the business name in a print or online phone or city directoryActual street address required unless address is listed under the business name in a readily accessible, publicly available online resource (website or directory)
Cosmetic Warning LabelsRequired on some productsn/a
Bubble BathWarning required if not labeled for adult use onlyn/a
Hazardous Substance WarningRequired 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 SoapNo restrictionsMust meet safety standards.
testing may be required.
Toys or non-soap embeds in children’s productsMust meet safety standards.
Safety testing may be required.
Must meet safety standards.
Safety testing may be required.
Color AdditivesMust be approved for use in cosmeticsNo restrictions but must be safe
Federal RegistrationVoluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (optional)None
State RegistrationSome 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).

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16 responses to “Cosmetic vs Non-Cosmetic Label Requirements”

  1. Bozana

    Hi Marie, I was hoping you could help. So I have a soap I created that uses lye with sunflower, coconut, castor oils with tucuma butter but I wanted to increase the fatty acid of myristic acid and since there is a powder of just myristic acid, I added that into my soap. Now, since my other ingredients already contain myristic and are being saponified along with the extra myristic I add, is this still considered as just a cleansing soap as I state it is? And if I include a list of ingredients, how do add the extra myristic acid in the label or do I omit it? THANK YOU

    1. Marie Gale

      If you are listing what goes INTO the pot, you should put it in the list because you added it as a separate ingredient. If you are listing what comes OUT of the pot, you wouldn’t need to put it in the list because it makes a substance that is already in the soap–although you could add it as sodium myristate and still be correct.

      1. Bozana

        Thank you for answering so quickly ❤ and for the clarification. Much love from Ohio

  2. 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. Marie Gale

      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!

      1. thank you! Very helpful!

  3. Rebecca Gordon

    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. Marie Gale

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

      If something is protecting the skin (fom stressors, 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 is 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 manner.


  4. Vanessa

    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. Marie Gale

      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 rubbed, 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 they are not selling the cosmetic, so I don’t think that the “manufacturer” 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 too far into it, just to be sure.

      1. Snezana

        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. Marie Gale

        Face creams are definitely cosmetics.

        What state and country are you in? If you are in the US, in most of our states you don’t need to register cosmetic product(s), and you can make the products at home. For 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 the 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 of how to do that, in one place.

  5. Teri

    Thank you

    1. Cindy

      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. Marie Gale

        This site talks about soap for children:

        And this page 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 children would be likely) to use, and adults probably wouldn’t use it.

  6. Thank you. I love the clarity of the chart above , and very handy.

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