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The Beauty Clash: Trendy Cosmetic Ingredients with Different Restrictions in China versus Europe/UK

Co-authored by The Cosmetic Experts and ZMUni


Cosmetic products have long been a fascinating realm of innovation and creativity, with trendy ingredients continuously making headlines in the beauty industry. However, not all beauty trends are universally embraced. One interesting aspect lies in the divergent regulations surrounding cosmetic ingredients between China and Europe/UK. In this article, we'll explore some of the trendiest cosmetic ingredients that face different restrictions in these two influential markets.


Hyaluronic Acid: The Hydration Hero

Hyaluronic acid has become a superstar in skincare, celebrated for its exceptional hydrating properties. It's widely used in Europe/UK for various cosmetic formulations like serums and moisturizers, and generally it is of the same situation in China.

In China, hyaluronic acid is not included in the restricted or prohibited ingredient lists for cosmetics. Therefore, there are no specific restrictions on using hyaluronic acid, as long as cosmetic companies can substantiate the safety of their products.

For safety substantiation, it often refers to limits established by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. CIR has assessed hyaluronic acid to be safe in cosmetic formulations at concentrations up to 0.3% in leave-on products and up to 0.83% in rinse-off products.

Summary

​Hyaluronic acid is permitted in cosmetics marketed in the EU/UK and China, provided they comply with general safety requirements. To export products containing this ingredient to China, it is recommended to follow CIR concentration limits.


Retinol: The Anti-Aging Icon

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, has earned its reputation as a powerful anti-aging ingredient. In Europe/UK, it's commonly found in anti-wrinkle creams and serums.

Based on the latest update by Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety (SCCS), regulations in Europe for retinol, retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) are about to see these ingredients to be added to Annex III of the Cosmetic Product Regulations (CPR) and therefore be restricted for use at 0.05% retinol equivalent in body lotions, and 0.3 % retinol equivalent in other leave-on and rinse-off products.

Products will have to have this warning on the label ‘Contains Vitamin A-related compounds, which contribute to your daily intake of Vitamin A’.

Once entered into force, these provisions will apply in the EU and Northern Ireland. They will not apply in Great Britain as yet.

In China, retinol use in cosmetics primarily follows concentration limits established by CIR for safety. The maximum levels are 1.97% in leave-on products and 1.0% in rinse-off products - higher than EU/UK limits. Meanwhile, it is not mandatory, in China, to have a warning statement for products containing retinol.

As it is shown above, the permitted maximum concentration of retinol is higher in China than the EU/UK. Cosmetic products that already comply with EU regulations do not require formula changes to enter the China market, as the usage levels allowed are higher in China.

However, Chinese-compliant products wishing to export to the EU or UK may need to reformulate to lower retinol content to meet the more restrictive EU limits.

Additionally, the EU broadly mandates on-pack warning statement, while this labeling is not compulsory in China or the UK under their respective regulations.

Summary

China allows higher levels of retinol versus the EU, and appropriate formula adjustments and compliance with each market's labelling requirements are needed to successfully commercialize products across these regions.


Arbutin (beta): The Brightening Luminary

Arbutin (beta) is a popular ingredient known for its skin brightening effects and ability to fade dark spots. European and UK cosmetic brands often feature arbutin in various skincare products. European regulations are about to limit the use of this ingredient. It will be added to Annex III of the CPR and therefore be restricted for use at 7% in face creams. This provision will apply in the EU and Northern Ireland. It will not apply in Great Britain as yet.

Arbutin (beta) is also permitted in cosmetics in China up to specified limits, which aligns with the restriction set by EU SCCS. Therefore, products compliant with EU regulations on arbutin (beta) do not require reformulation for the Chinese market and vice versa.

Summary

Arbutin (beta) is allowed in cosmetic products in the EU, UK and China up to specified concentration limits. The safety assessments and restrictions published by the EU's SCCS are followed by these markets, except Great Britain.


Niacinamide: The Multi-Benefit Wonder

Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is celebrated for its multifaceted benefits, including sebum regulation and skin barrier enhancement. In Europe/UK and China, niacinamide is a sought-after ingredient found in various skincare products.

In China, the use of niacinamide in cosmetics primarily follows safety restrictions established by the CIR panel. CIR permits niacinamide up to concentrations of 3% in cosmetic products.

Summary

Niacinamide is a sought-after cosmetic ingredient globally. China permits it in line with CIR safety assessments up to 3% in cosmetic products.


As the global beauty industry continues to flourish, navigating the diverse landscape of cosmetic ingredient regulations becomes crucial for brands seeking to expand their markets. Trendy cosmetic ingredients may encounter different restrictions in China and Europe/UK, making formulation adaptations necessary for market compliance.


Understanding these variations allows brands to tailor their products and cater to the unique demands of each region while ensuring safety and efficacy. Moreover, consumers in both China and Europe/UK can make more informed choices and appreciate the nuances behind their favourite skincare and beauty essentials. In this ever-evolving beauty landscape, it's essential to keep an eye on the ongoing dialogue between regulations, trends, and the pursuit of timeless beauty.

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