Laws and regulation: Top news on cosmetics regulation across the APAC region

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

A round-up of our most-read cosmetics regulation stories of the region. ©GettyImages
A round-up of our most-read cosmetics regulation stories of the region. ©GettyImages

Related tags Regulation Apac Cosmetics

We round-up of our most-read cosmetics regulation stories of the region, featuring HSA’s view on free-from claims, Indonesia’s goal to process more palm oil and a new online web tool to help the halal certification processes.

1 – Education, not regulation: More cosmetic rules not the way to battle ‘free from’ claims – HSA

The Health Science Authority of Singapore has no plans to follow the lead of the European regulators and prevent cosmetic companies from making ‘free from’ claims, preferring to place emphasis on consumer education.

Pang Tit Keong, deputy director of HSA’s cosmetics control unit was at a workshop held by Cosmetics, Toiletries & Fragrance Association of Singapore (CTFAS) this week to discuss the rampant misinformation of cosmetic ingredients and its detrimental effects to the industry.

Pang said that implementing more regulations was not a practical solution as it would not be feasible for HSA to assess every single cosmetic claim.

“We have 200,000 products notified with HSA. It will be overwhelming enough if half of them made natural claims.”

He added HSA was careful not to “over-regulate”​ the cosmetics industry. “We want to be fair to the industry. If the product does not contain certain things, I think it’s fine to want to say so. But that should not be your main emphasis on how to sell the product.”

2 – ASEAN Cosmetics Directive: Decoding the regulation differences within the region

Although the objective of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive is to harmonise regulations across the region, several key differences​ still pose challenges to entering certain markets.

Dr Nicole Ling, Global Product Stewardship, Procter & Gamble, was at a workshop held by the Cosmetics, Toiletries & Fragrance Association of Singapore (CTFAS) to discuss the cosmetic regulatory challenges in ASEAN.

Ling explained that regulations still vary across all ten ASEAN member states because that factors such as time-lag, translation and overlapping regulations inherently create differences.

After all, she said, the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD) was “a directive, not a regulation”.

“This means there's no enforcement and legal binding power until the directive is adopted into the national regulations,”​ said Ling.

Additionally, Article 11 of the ACD allows each member state to decide what they want to adopt into their laws according to the local conditions such as religious or cultural sensitivity and consumer expectations.

3 – ‘Adding value’: Indonesia president vows to process more palm oil for domestic cosmetics growth

Indonesian President Joko Widodo wants to process more palm oil​ at home for goods including cosmetics and personal care items.

This would mean potentially fewer exports overseas, where it is eagerly purchased by India and China, and acquired more reticently by European countries.

"We want crude palm oil to become processed goods. Why not? Or jet fuel or cosmetics, soap​," Jokowi said in an interview earlier this month.

The direction we’re going is we want to build a semi-processed or processed goods industry or downstream industry. No longer raw materials, we want added values​.”

Doing so would help Indonesia get more value from the crop, its second-biggest export, valued at US$18.2bn per year and accounting for almost 10% of its foreign trade.

Though Jokowi has not yet mentioned outlawing exports altogether, doing so is not without precedent.

4 – ‘Time for cosmethics’: Why ISO standards are crucial for organic and natural transparency – CFTAS president

Transparency and ISO implementation are becoming increasingly important​ in the face of the unyielding demand for natural or organic cosmetic products.

Today’s consumers are faced with many choices in the market, with estimates that there are currently over 130,000 cosmetic products in Singapore alone.

While there is increasing interest in natural and organic cosmetics, there is also plenty of misinformation and confusion among consumers.

In this landscape, Dr Alain Khaiat, president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of Singapore (CTFAS), stressed the importance of an ethical approach to cosmetics

“I coined the word ‘cosmethics’ around the late 80s​. For me, this is the most important thing. Companies have to be ethical in what they do. They must be fully responsible for their products. That means the product must be safe and it must bring consumers a benefit that the company can support,” ​he said.

Khaiat lamented the amount of products on shelves that that claimed to be natural or organic despite having a low concentration of natural ingredients.

5 – Halal web tool in Malaysia could cut certification time by months

Cosmetics manufacturers preparing for halal certification will find the process slightly easier with the launch of an online tool that can advise​ them of their level of readiness.

The process to certify a product halal can be tortuous, even before an application is started. Manufacturers must be able to document minute elements of their supply chain to ensure that ingredients have not come from sources that are not permitted or contain pork or alcohol traces.

It can take months to prepare the paperwork needed for an application, and even so companies seeking certification with Jakim, Malaysia’s heavyweight halal authority, might then find that their application does not stand up. This might force them to resubmit their application altogether.

Many choose to pay certification consultants to vet their applications beforehand. While many of these are reputable, there have been cases of so-called consultants working fraudulently, leaving their clients to restart the process from scratch.

A Malaysian state government’s commercial agency hopes to have found a way around the difficulties of preparing for certification by developing a platform that will rate the completeness of an application.

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