The skincare industry is a global phenomenon, with products often crossing borders before landing on our shelves. However, what many consumers may not realise is how international laws and regulations significantly shape the skincare products available in different countries. In this blog, we delve into the complex world of global skincare regulations and how they impact the products you use daily.
The Diverse Landscape of Skincare Regulations
Skincare products are subject to a variety of regulations that differ significantly from country to country. These regulations can influence everything from the ingredients used in formulations to how products are marketed and labelled.
Australia: A Balanced Approach to Skincare Regulation
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) oversees skincare regulation, striking a balance between safety and innovation. Australian regulations focus on consumer safety, with a comprehensive list of prohibited and restricted ingredients, though not as extensive as the EU. A unique aspect of Australian skincare regulation is the rigorous standards for sunscreens, reflecting the country’s high UV exposure and awareness of skin cancer risks. Additionally, products claiming to be natural or organic must meet specific guidelines, catering to an environmentally conscious market. This balanced approach ensures Australian consumers have access to a wide range of safe and innovative skincare products, with a particular emphasis on effective sun protection.
The European Union: Setting High Standards
The EU is known for having some of the strictest cosmetic regulations in the world. The European Commission prohibits over 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics — a stark contrast to the United States, where the FDA has only banned or restricted 11. This means that many products available in the US may not meet the EU’s safety standards. The EU’s approach is precautionary; if there’s doubt about the safety of an ingredient, it’s less likely to be approved.
The United States: A More Laissez-Faire Approach
The FDA’s regulations for skincare and cosmetics are less stringent compared to the EU. The approval process for new ingredients is less rigorous, and the emphasis is often on post-market regulation. This approach allows a wider variety of products and ingredients to be available in the market, but it also places the onus on consumers to be more vigilant about the products they use.
Asian Markets: Innovations and Unique Standards
Countries like South Korea and Japan are renowned for their innovative skincare products. These countries have their own set of regulations, often focusing on cutting-edge ingredients and technologies. For instance, South Korea has a fast-track approval process for certain new ingredients, which has contributed to its reputation as a leader in skincare innovation.
How International Regulations Affect Consumers
1. Ingredient Availability
One of the most direct ways international laws impact consumers is through the availability of certain ingredients. For example, while chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone are common in the US, they are banned in countries like Palau and Hawaii due to their harmful effects on coral reefs. Similarly, skincare products containing CBD oil are widely available in some countries but remain illegal in others.
2. Product Safety and Efficacy
Different regulatory standards mean that the safety and efficacy of products can vary. Products in the EU may exclude certain ingredients deemed unsafe, while those same ingredients might be found in products in other regions. This discrepancy can affect consumer trust and perceptions of product safety.
3. Innovation and Trends
Regulatory environments can either foster or hinder innovation. In countries with stringent regulations, like the EU, there’s a higher barrier to entry for new ingredients, which can slow down innovation. Conversely, in markets with more relaxed regulations, there’s often a surge in innovative products and trends.
4. Labelling and Marketing
Global regulations also dictate how products are labelled and marketed. For instance, terms like “natural” and “organic” have different definitions and standards in different countries. This can lead to confusion among consumers who may not be aware of these differences.
Navigating International Skincare Regulations as a Consumer
1. Educate Yourself on Ingredients
Understanding the ingredients in your skincare products is crucial. Familiarise yourself with common ingredients and their effects, and be aware of any that are banned or restricted in your country.
2. Be Aware of Regional Differences
Recognise that a product available in one country may not be available, or may have a different formulation, in another due to regulatory differences.
3. Read Labels Carefully
Pay close attention to product labels and marketing claims. Remember that terms like “dermatologist-tested” or “clinically proven” can have different meanings in different regulatory contexts.
4. Stay Informed About Changes in Regulations
Regulations can change, and these changes can affect the products you use. Stay informed about any significant regulatory shifts in your country or in countries where you purchase skincare products.
5. When in Doubt, Consult a Professional
If you’re unsure about a product or an ingredient, consult a dermatologist or a skincare professional. They can provide guidance tailored to your skin’s needs and help you navigate the complex world of skincare ingredients and products.
The world of international skincare regulations is complex and ever-changing. These laws and standards play a significant role in determining the safety, efficacy, and availability of the skincare products on your shelf. As a consumer, staying informed and understanding these regulations can help you make better choices for your skin’s health and ensure that you are using products that align with your values and needs. Remember, the most suitable skincare product is not just about the brand or the latest trend; it’s about understanding what works best for your skin within the context of the global regulatory landscape.