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REACH & EU Cosmetics Directive

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was right to order a company to carry out animal tests on substances used only in cosmetics, its Board of Appeal has said.

The appeal was brought by German company Symrise AG, along with PETA UK, and argued that, under the EU’s Cosmetics Regulation, ECHA could not require studies on vertebrate animals for human health endpoints on two substances which are used exclusively as ingredients in cosmetic products.

The ECHA judgement means that, in the interests of worker safety, it doesn’t matter whether an ingredient is intended for use solely in a cosmetic, it still needs environmental and human safety assessments under REACH, the EU’s pan-industry chemicals regulation, and in the absence of alternatives, animal data is required.

The EU’s Cosmetics Regulation contains restrictions for vertebrate animal testing on ingredients for makeup and personal care products, but these restrictions do not prevent the carrying out of tests in order to comply with the information requirements of REACH.

Andrew Fasey, Technically Qualified Member of the Board of Appeal and rapporteur for the cases, said: “The two decisions published today are among the most important taken by the Board of Appeal to date. The relationship between the information requirements in REACH and the marketing and testing ‘bans’ in the Cosmetics Regulation have been an issue for many years with several different interpretations. The two decisions adopted today are based on a rigorous analysis of the wording and objectives of the two pieces of legislation.”

Speaking to Cosmetics Business, Dr Julia Baines, adviser to PETA said: “The will of the public and the European Parliament is that tests on animals not be required in order to bring a cosmetics product to market.

"Relying on animal tests – albeit conducted under REACH rather than the Cosmetics Regulation – undermines the purpose of the testing and marketing bans, which are meant to ensure that only non-animal methods are relied upon to bring a cosmetics product to market.”

This may now mean that cosmetics consumers will find it difficult to know if their product is ‘cruelty-free’, or includes ingredients that have recently been animal-tested as a result of this ruling.

EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: "PETA noted that if animal testing is needed to ensure a cosmetic ingredient meets the requirements of REACH, then it should not be used in cosmetics at all. EARA would agree that this seems like a sensible way forward in future for cosmetic manufacturers."

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The implications of REACH and the EU Cosmetics Directive resonate strongly in the cosmetic industry, shaping regulations and standards. As a digital marketing agency, understanding and adapting to these directives is crucial for brands aiming to navigate the complex landscape of compliance. Crafting digital marketing strategies that align with these regulatory frameworks ensures not only legal adherence but also fosters consumer trust. Navigating the intricate balance between creativity and compliance, a digital marketing agency can assist cosmetic brands in effectively communicating their offerings while upholding the highest standards mandated by REACH and the EU Cosmetics Directive.

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