K-beauty rules: Need-to-know updates on South Korea cosmetics regulation for 2021

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Latest need-to-know regulation updates in South Korea. [Getty Images]
Latest need-to-know regulation updates in South Korea. [Getty Images]

Related tags South korea Regulation

Changes to customised cosmetics personnel and wider testing exemptions for functional cosmetics are some of the latest need-to-know regulation updates in South Korea.

Sohn Seong Min, general manager of REACH24 Korea, said cosmetic regulations in South Korea were constantly updated from the beginning of last year and said the industry could expect to see both minor and major changes this year.

Smaller changes included the addition of cosmetic product categories such as beauty soap bars, which were previously categorised as an industrial product, as well as hair removal wax, which was previously considered a quasi-drug.

There was also the addition of black hair power, a product meant to help cover up bald spots or uneven hairlines with a dark pigment. According to Sohn, such products have been gaining popularity in Korea. These category changes came into from Jan 1 this year.

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) also updated its rules about customised cosmetics, specifically in relation to customised cosmetic dispensing managers.

Sohn explains that the role of customised cosmetic dispensing managers was to examine skin conditions and make skin care suggestions or create personalised skin care products for an individual.

Under the new rules, customised cosmetic dispensing managers will be able to broaden the scope of their work and responsibilities.

“The MFDS has decided to expand the scope of its qualification by granting the qualification of a responsible person. So customised cosmetic dispensing managers could also play a role as the responsible person,”​ said Sohn.

Functional cosmetics

The MFDS has also simplified the registration of some functional products such as hair loss, whitening, anti-wrinkle and hair dye products that contain certain ingredients or a combination of ingredients.

Furthermore, it also announced an administrative amendment to expand the scope of functional cosmetics that were exempt from the screening.

“In the case of ingredients and contents registered in Regulation on the Examination of Functional Cosmetics and The Standards and Test Methods of Functional Cosmetics, they can be distributed and sold by submitting data without reviewing. This usually takes 60 days beforehand, but now, can be sold without submitting data. That’s quite a change,” ​said Sohn

Last August, the MFDS banned functional cosmetic products from making any claims on atopic skin.

The category of ‘functional cosmetics helpful in alleviating the skin dryness caused by atopy’​ was amended into ‘functional cosmetics helpful in restoring the skin barrier function to relieve skin itching’.

This was to ensure consumers could not be misled into believing a cosmetic product was a medicine.

“Now this wording, ‘atopic’, can only be used in the pharmaceutical product category. If you want to use the word, you have to go through a clinical trial and efficacy test in Korea, specifically in like a pharmaceutical clinical trial lab,” ​said Sohn.

At the same time, Sohn noted that this new regulation has eased the barriers for anti-itching cosmetic products in terms of clinical tests as they will not be subjected to the same rigorous testing as products for atopic skin

 “Now [anti-itch cosmetics] be tested in any lab in Korea or foreign countries as well.”

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