Understanding your cosmetics

Cosmetics include products that help us to keep clean, maintain healthy skin and teeth and to smell nice. They help build our self-esteem and make us feel good daily. Throughout our lives we use products such as antiperspirants, fragrances, make-up, shampoos, soaps, sunscreens and toothpastes. That why it’s important to understand them and have confidence in their safety.

This page covers how cosmetics’ safety is assured by EU law, gives an overview of topics such as allergy and allergens in cosmetics and informs you about important ingredient groups.

How are cosmetics kept safe in Europe?

Strict laws make sure that cosmetics and personal care products sold in the European Union are safe for people to use. Companies, national and European regulatory authorities share the responsibility of keeping cosmetic products safe.

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What should I know about endocrine disruptors?

Some ingredients used in cosmetic products have been claimed to be ‘endocrine disruptors’ because they have the potential to mimic some of the properties of our hormones. Just because something has the potential to mimic a hormone does not mean it will disrupt our endocrine system. Many substances, including natural ones, mimic hormones but very few, and these are mostly potent medicines, have ever been shown to cause disruption of the endocrine system. The rigorous product safety assessments by qualified, scientific experts that companies are legally obliged to carry out cover all potential risks, including potential endocrine disruption.

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Are cosmetics tested on animals? No!

In the European Union, testing cosmetics on animals has been fully banned since 2013. Over the last 30 years, long before a ban was in place, the cosmetics and personal care industry has invested in research and development to pioneer alternatives to animal testing tools to assess the safety of cosmetics ingredients and products.

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What about allergens in cosmetics?

Many substances, natural or man-made, have the potential to cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to substances that are harmless to most people. A substance that causes an allergic reaction is called an allergen. Cosmetics and personal care products may contain ingredients that can be allergenic for some people. This does not mean that the product is not safe for others to use.

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What makes sunscreen work?

Two main types of UV rays from the sun damage our skin: UVA and UVB. They contribute to skin ageing and cause sunburn. Enough skin damage built up over time can lead to skin cancer. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself against both types of UV rays. You can protect your skin from the sun by staying in the shade, covering your skin with clothing and using sunscreen products. Essential sunscreen ingredients called UV filters help reduce the UV rays reaching the skin.

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Why do cosmetics need preservatives?

Preservatives are natural or synthetic ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products to prevent them from deteriorating and becoming contaminated by microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts and mould. Without preservatives many cosmetics and personal care products would have to be refrigerated and even then they would have a short shelf life – similar to perishable food.

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What should I know about microplastics?

Microplastics are man-made, very small particles that are insoluble and resist degradation. Intentionally added microplastics from cosmetics and personal care products represent an extremely small contribution to overall microplastics emissions. Under the EU chemicals regulation, intentionally added microplastics in many types of products are being currently phased out, which also applies to their use in cosmetics.

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Cosmetics matter to people and play an important role in our everyday life. On average European consumers use over seven different cosmetics daily. You too? It’s only natural that you want to know more about the ingredients in those products.

In the digital world we live in, there’s a deluge of information on cosmetics. However, it can be difficult to know which sources are reliable. COSMILE Europe is a European cosmetic ingredient database that offers reliable, verified and scientifically supported information on almost 30,000 ingredients used in cosmetics.

This database will help you understand why certain ingredients are in your cosmetic products; which properties they have and much more. The database is currently available in fourteen languages with more to come.

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Why our information is reliable

​All information in the COSMILE Europe database comes from verified sources and is based on independent expert knowledge.

The INCI list of ingredients which is also used by the European Commission within their CosIng database, an official source of information on cosmetic substances and ingredients, is provided by the Personal Care Product Council. The information on the function of ingredients is sourced from the CosIng database. More detailed information on ingredient properties, whether they are man-made and/or of natural origin, in which types of products the ingredients can be found, etc… comes from independent experts and scientific assessments published by European and national expert bodies.