There is a need for legislation on international regulations in the field of cosmetics

HM&P Law Firm
    There is a need for legislation on international regulations in the field of cosmetics
    Posted on: 06/05/2024

    In this article, our Managing Partner, Nguyen Van Phuc will analyze the regulations related to regulations banning cosmetic testing on animals, as well as the emergence of new regulations on product labeling and its impact on the cosmetics industry in Vietnam. This article was part of HM&P's series of articles about cosmetics, published in The Saigon Times No. 17-2024, dated on April 25, 2024. Below is the English version:

    In the context of globalization, which today has a profound impact on business activities in all industries, the cosmetics industry is not exempt from this trend, especially in terms of harmonizing with international laws in the face of fluctuations in the cosmetics business. Globalization promotes innovation and diversification of business activities and influences the creation and modification of legal regulations related to the cosmetics business. Typical of this trend is the fact that countries around the world are establishing regulations banning cosmetic testing on animals, as well as the enactment of new regulations on product labeling, which is unfamiliar in Vietnam. How do these regulations affect the cosmetics industry in Vietnam and what should Vietnam do to integrate into the international playground soon? 

    (Source: The Saigon Times)

    Appearance new requirements

    One of the biggest changes in the global cosmetics industry over the years has been the fact that many progressive countries have adopted policies banning cosmetic testing on animals. This is a direction towards sustainable development and humanitarian spirit. In particular, the United Kingdom has led this trend by eliminating the use of animals in cosmetic testing since 1998, replacing them with more advanced alternatives, through a government policy initiated. Several other countries have followed suit, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. For example, Canada is in the process of passing Bill C-47 to amend the Food and Drug Act (FDA), while Australia will officially ban animal testing as of July 1, 2020, under the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, this ban came into effect in May 2015 through the Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No. 2) 2015[1]. According to the above regulations, countries are gradually moving towards the goal of unifying laws to establish a safe and sustainable cosmetics market. Therefore, these regulations will push cosmetic manufacturers to look for more advanced testing methods to replace animal testing.

    However, there are currently no regulations in Vietnam regarding the prohibition of testing cosmetics on animals for domestic cosmetics and imported/exported cosmetics. Cosmetics-related regulations in Vietnam are referenced and applied similarly to the general ASEAN policy on cosmetics management. Accordingly, the Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetics Regulatory Scheme, which has been signed since 2003, has not been amended, supplemented or issued relevant guidelines to regulate the testing of products before they are placed on the market. Not only that, the management of cosmetics in ASEAN in general and Vietnam in particular is applied according to the post-sale inspection and supervision mechanism, all standards and regulations applied in the production and announcement of cosmetic products are responsible by individuals and organizations bringing cosmetic products to the market, based on ASEAN guidelines[2]. Therefore, for enterprises with domestically produced or imported cosmetic products, these enterprises have not been significantly affected by the regulation on the prohibition of cosmetic testing on animals. However, importers of cosmetics will be slightly affected by the higher prices of cosmetics that have not been tested on animals.

    Meanwhile, for companies exporting cosmetics to countries that already have regulations banning cosmetic testing on animals, this is indeed the problem that needs to be addressed. Article 32 of Circular 06/2011/TT-BYT only stipulates that cosmetic exporters are responsible for complying with the requirements of the importing country, while the Law on Cosmetics in our country does not recognize regulations banning the testing of products on animals as some countries in the world, and there is no mechanism to control input cosmetic products or before introducing to circulate in the Vietnamese market in terms of cosmetic testing. Therefore, cosmetic exporters may face many difficulties when selling cosmetics to advanced markets around the world. 

    In addition to the above regulation, a new requirement has now been applied by many countries/company in the world considering management/ trading of cosmetics, which is that cosmetic companies must label and package cosmetics in Braille for the visually impaired. The typical country applying this policy to cosmetic production is South Korea[3], which has applied mandatory labeling and use of packaging with Braille printed on cosmetic products for all types of consumers. Some other major countries and regions of the world, although they have not established this regulation for cosmetics, have also applied it in pharmaceutical management. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's (MHRA) guidance on drug name information requires the name to be displayed in braille on drug labels from June 2019[4]. Meanwhile, last year, the EU introduced a requirement for pharmaceutical packaging to be presented in Braille through the EC's guidelines on packaging information of medicinal products for human use authorized by the Union[5]. Notably, well-known brands such as La Roche Posay and L'Occitane have adopted and implemented this by using packaging and product labels with Braille symbols, which applies not only to pharmaceuticals but also to cosmetics.

    What countries like South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have in common is that they all require Braille labeling and packaging for all products, whether domestically produced or imported. Obviously, the reference and application of Braille regulations on product packaging from the pharmaceutical industry to other industries such as cosmetics is not only a global trend, but also a positive change in respecting and protecting consumer rights in all aspects. In Vietnam, there is currently no regulation requiring Braille on labels and packaging, and very few cosmetics manufacturers prioritize this element. This can also be a limitation for domestic cosmetics companies when they want to export cosmetics to foreign markets.

    Change for integration


    (Source: Cocoon Vietnam)

    In Vietnam, the current regulations on cosmetics such as Decree 93/2016/ND-CP and Circular 06/2011/TT-BYT have internalized the contents of the Agreement on the ASEAN Harmonized Cosmetics Regulatory Scheme and its annexes. However, in order to promote the development and integration opportunities of domestic cosmetic enterprises in the international market, Vietnam needs to consider amending and supplementing regulations in accordance with the policy prohibiting cosmetic testing on animals and cosmetic labeling and packaging in Braille. This will not only help Vietnamese cosmetic products to comply with international legal regulations when exporting to more advanced markets, but also enhance the competitiveness and reputation of the Vietnamese cosmetic industry.

    With regard to the regulation banning the testing of cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients on animals, it is probably more appropriate to approach this regulation with initial guidelines for companies wishing to export cosmetics. At present, the ban on cosmetic testing on animals is still unknown in Vietnam and ASEAN countries in general. In the long run, Vietnam can apply higher standards in cosmetics management in geographically and culturally close countries such as Korea and Japan to adapt and catch up with the development trend of cosmetics industry in these countries, including banning cosmetic testing activities on animals according to a certain route fix.

    Meanwhile, regarding the regulations on cosmetic labeling and Braille packaging, the early application of this regulation will show the harmonization of Vietnamese law with international legal trends, while reflecting Vietnam's commitment to protecting the interests of consumers, including the visually impaired community. From the model adopted by some countries, such as South Korea or the EU, where product labeling standards place special emphasis on optimizing space and reading for people with visual impairments, Vietnam could seek solutions through the selection and prioritization of essential information that must be displayed on packaging based on Article 18 of Circular 06/2011/TT-BYT as the current regulations. This amendment helps visually impaired consumers to access complete and accurate product information, while maintaining the aesthetics and convenience of the product.

    In practice, some enterprises in Vietnam have embraced new trends in the world, such as Nature Story - a company focused on developing vegan cosmetics, does not use ingredients of animal origin and does not test on animals, owns the cosmetic brand Cocoon. However, the number of similar companies is still limited. In today's globalization picture, grasping and updating international laws on cosmetics is not only a strategic step to promote the development of domestic cosmetic enterprises, but also a way to create a healthy competitive environment and minimize pressure from international competitor.



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    [1] Section 84A of New Zealand's Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No. 2) 2015.

    [2] Annex No. 03-MP, ASEAN’s instruction of the cosmetic product feature proclamation.

    [3] Clause 3 Article 10 of the South Korea Cosmetics Act, amended on March 13, 2018.

    [4] Article 20, 21 and 22 of the MHRA Guideline for the Naming of Medicinal Products and Braille Requirements for Name on Label at the body part of the requirement to write drug names in Braille on product labels.

    [5] Article 7 Section A of Guidance on Packaging Information of Pharmaceutical Products for Human Use is authorized by the European Union in September 2023: Blind and partially-sighted patients.