Every new product must undergo a full safety assessment before it is allowed on the shelves and this is a strict requirement under UK cosmetics law, which also provides guidance on how this safety assessment must be carried out. It also specifies that cosmetic products must not damage our health when used normally.
Safety assessments may only be carried out by certain qualified professionals and must cover the finished product, all of the ingredients and how products will be used. The requirements for safety assessors are so stringent that there are only around 400 or so in the whole of the UK. They must be specifically qualified and have appropriate experience to make the assessment.
These assessments may be inspected at any time by the enforcement authorities, usually Trading Standards in the UK, which means companies are accountable for every decision they make. In addition, there is an independent expert scientific committee (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, SCCS) that advises the European authorities on safety assessment and the safety of individual ingredients. Currently, decisions on safety which have been made by the SCCS are incorporated into UK law.
The SCCS has issued factsheets summarising its work.
There are three layers to the safety assurance:
First, there is UK legislation that requires cosmetics to be safe.
Second, there is the professional safety assessor who personally signs to say the cosmetic product is safe.
Third, there is the control by authorities checking on products placed on the market.
In addition, the reputation of the manufacturer built up over many years can be quickly ruined if unsafe products were to be placed on the market.