Which cosmetics ingredients are safe?

Which cosmetic ingredients are safe? There's a lot of talk about “clean” and “non-toxic” ingredients in skincare, and we receive a lot of questions on what is safe to use. Which cosmetic ingredients are safe? Here our chemist Jaana runs you through the basics of ingredient safety.

So which cosmetics ingredients are safe to use? The simple answer is: all of them – according to EU law.

Cosmetics in the EU are stringently governed by Regulation (EC) N° 1223/2009, the general piece of EU legislation that makes sure that cosmetics are safe to use before reaching the market. In practice, this means that the manufacturer of a product has to make sure that said product undergoes an expert scientific safety assessment before launched for sale. Safety assessment of cosmetic products in Europe is based on the safety assessment of the composing ingredients and is exposure-driven. For this purpose, a unique Product Information File (PIF) needs to be composed by a qualified safety assessor for each individual cosmetic product hitting the European market.

The EU is strict on what chemicals may be used and there are also strict requirements for the microbial quality and purity of raw materials. In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1300 chemicals. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) also continuously and diligently follows up on any suspicions that new substances may be harmful to humans or the environment, monitoring the need to ban or restrict ingredients. And here, the ECHA errs on the side of caution.

All of the chemicals allowed and also banned or restricted in the EU can be found in CosIng, which is the EU's official database for cosmetic ingredients. You’ll easily find ingredient INCI names or CAS numbers. Finally, with regards to safe ingredients, it is good to remember the cornerstone of toxicology and safety assessment: the dose is key.

The European Union's framework of chemical and cosmetics regulations are binding on all Member States Regulations and are enforced at the national level.

Read more about regulation here and search CosIng for ingredients here.