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Terminology – Cosmetic Regulators Across the World

March 4, 2009

The world of cosmetic science comes with its own language, terms and acronyms which can be incredibly confusing and offputting for people on the outside. We thought that we would outline some of the top ones and give you links to more information where relevant. Over time we will add more to this list AND YOU CAN HELP!

If you come across a pack with some werid accreditation or term please let us know and we will ‘un science’ it for you!

OK here we go:


BP British Pharmacopea .  This is the standard that British medicines and medicinal ingredients comply to.  It is also used in other countries as a recognised standard. You may find things like “Glycerine” are listed as BP grade. This means that the glycerine has been manufactured to meet the BP requirements. BP is strictly regulated and is updated regularly.  When a product is specifies that it is BP grade it should meet current BP regulations. A product specification will have this information. BP grade is a quality that is acceptable for medicinal use.

EP European Pharmacopea. This standard spans the European Union countries and is a harmonised standard that people can adopt. Like British Pharmacopea, EP ingredients and products are classified as safe for medicinal use.

USP – This is the United States Pharmacopea . This is the United states medical ingredient and product standard. Like EP and BP it is continually updated and reviewed to take into consideration new safety concerns and improved product manufacturing methods.

FDAFood and Drug Administration, USA. This is the consumer protection agency in the US. It covers areas such as food, cosmetics, veterinary products, radiological health, drugs and toxicology. The FDA has the rights to enforce laws concerning product safety and is continually monitoring products and services in these sectors to ensure continued safety for consumers.

NICNAS – In Australia we have NICNAS (National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme).  NICNAS sets guidelines concerning what chemicals enter Australia and how much can be imported. Guidelines have been drawn up to protect human health and the environment. NICNAS also works towards sustainable chemical use. NICNAS covers ingredients for cosmetics industrial chemicals and cleaning products. In Australia Vetenary products and food are covered by different agencies.

IFRA – This is the International Fragrance Association and is the industry body that represents the international fragrance manufacturers. IFRA  publish guidelines on health and safety of fragrance blends and ingredients, hold conferences and educational events and provide resources for the global industry. From a consumer point of view IFRA constantly review the safety of fragrances and often work with government organisations to ensure that the industry maintains safe manufacturing practices.


Greenhouse Friendly greenhouse-friendly

This is an Australian standard managed by the Australian Governments Department of Climate Change. It reviews products against a set of parameters to review the products impact on the environment.  Its aim is to highlight products that have a greenhouse neutral status, engage people into the discussion on climate change and provide opportunity for investment into this sector.  There are greenhouse friendly standards for a number of different consumer products including cosmetics.

Soil Association


The Soil Association is the UK’s largest certifying body in the area of organic production. They cover food products and farming methods but also have a standard that cosmetic manufacturers use which was introduced in 2002. A cosmetic product carrying this logo contains at least 95% of organic ingredient  for the cosmetic product to be labelled as Organic. A product containing over 70% of organic ingredients may still use the soil association accreditation but it has to specify “made with X % organic ingredients”



BDIH is a German natural cosmetic standard which has been adopted by companies across the world as being one of the most difficult to comply to. BDIH certifies cosmetics, food suppliments, nutritional foods, medical devices and over the counter medicines. The cosmetic standard was launched in 1996 and advocates the use of natural, organic and sustainable ingredient choices.   BDIH, like other accreditation bodies has an animal testing policy and won’t accept any ingredient or finished good that has been tested on animals since 1/1/98.


Ecocert originated in France and now certifies farming methods and ingredients all over the world.  Ecocert certifies products and ingredients for use in cosmetics, foods and health products.  Like the others it has a created a standard that companies have to comply to in order to display the eco cert logo.  The criteria covers things like ingredient sustainability, organic ingredients and environmental effect.


The USDA is the United States Department of Agreculture and is the regulator of farming practices over there. The USDA also offers organic accreditation through the NOP – National Organic Program which primarily covers food and food ingredients. However, some cosmetic products use these ingredients to make their products and may carry the logo. The National Organic Program has been made accessable to other countries through licence agreements and you may find accreditation boards in your country who state that the product meets USDA standards but is accredited through a local agent.


The Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group was founded in America in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles.  Before setting up the Environmental working group Ken was a political activist and actively lobbied on behalf of the world wildlife fund before concentrating on writing environmental articles.  The environmental working group was originally managed under the Clinton Administration by Al Gore. Richard Wiles joined EWG after leaving the National Acadamy of Science.

Today the EWG concentrates on using the power of public information to protect human health. They have carried out numerous reviews and studies on the safety of different chemicals and products and continue to lobby governments and various companies to improve the safety of their consumer products. One of their most well known campaigns is Skin Deep.

Cosmetic Info

Cosmetic Information Organisation was set up by the cosmetic and toiletry industry to help consumers find information about the ingredients in their cosmetic products.  The site provides consumers with links to scientific studies, background information and education resources to enable consumers to make more informed choices when purchasing cosmetics.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

This is another organisation that looks at the safety of cosmetics from a consumer group perspective. The organisation is backed by the Environmental Working Group, Breast Cancer Fund, Friends of the Earth and many more – they are listed on the page.

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