Importing cosmetics, know what is in your products

A fancy looking jar of face cream from Germany, seductive perfumes from France, or a glossy lipstick from America. Many cosmetic products come from abroad. Do you want to import cosmetics? Then make sure you find out about the rules and requirements first. Because what is inside the products is even more important than those attractive exteriors.

Cosmetic products must be safe for consumers. This is why European product requirements apply. Do you import branded cosmetic products from countries outside the European Economic Area? Then you need permission from the trademark holder. This article tells you what you need to be aware of if you want to import cosmetics.

Product requirements

You have to meet certain rules to place cosmetics on the market. The European Cosmetics Regulation sets out the requirements that cosmetic products must meet in the European Economic Area (EEA). You are responsible for the safety of cosmetics if you import the products from countries outside the EEA. Are you importing cosmetics from an EEA country? Then the European manufacturer is responsible. Or the importer who first imported the cosmetics from a country outside the EEA. Do you import cosmetics from an EEA country and sell them under your own brand name? Then you are responsible for their safety. 

Safety assessment and product information file

You can prove that cosmetics are safe with a safety assessment performed by an expert, such as a toxicologist. You must also provide a production information file (in Dutch) with relevant information about the products. As the supervisory authority, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) can demand access to this file.

Notification requirement

Cosmetic products that you, as the responsible importer, bring into the EEA market for the first time must be registered. This is called a notification requirement. You register the products in the Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP).
 

Dutch legislation

There is additional Dutch legislation for labelling requirement for cosmetics you put on the Dutch market, the Commodities Act Decree on Cosmetic Products 2011 (in Dutch). Instructions for use, warnings, and special precautions must be in the Dutch language. Precautions apply, for example, to cosmetics that are unsuitable for young children. Or products that you should not apply to irritated skin. The contents, product function, and best-before date must also be stated in Dutch. 

More information and regulations

NVWA has a special page with information about the rules (in Dutch) for cosmetics and labelling requirements (in Dutch).

The Dutch Cosmetics Association (NCV) is the industry body of manufacturers and importers of personal care products. They can provide information on the main elements of the European Cosmetics Regulation, such as product information, product safety, notification, labelling, and cosmetic ingredients. You will also find information on other regulations (in Dutch) you may have to deal with as a cosmetics importer, such as the aerosol regulation for cosmetic products packaged in aerosol cans.

Since 17 October 2023, there has been an EU ban on microplastics. You also have to deal with this ban if you import beauty products. For example, the plastic microbeads, also called grains or granules, in body scrubs and exfoliating creams are no longer allowed. The ban will also apply to shampoo from 17 October 2027. Rules for makeup, lip and nail products will follow in 2035.

Product liability

If you purchase cosmetics outside the EEA, you are deemed, legally speaking, to be the manufacturer. This means that you are responsible for ensuring that the products are safe and meet all requirements. You also carry product liability for injuries or damage caused by a defect in the product, so always have your product evaluated by a safety expert. You are also liable if you import products from an EEA member state and place them on the market under your own brand name.

Branded products and parallel imports

Parallel importing is importing branded products outside the official distribution channels. For example, you buy the branded item from a foreign intermediary and not from the official foreign manufacturer or official importer. Do you want to import an original branded perfume or other cosmetic product via parallel import from a country outside the EEA? This is only allowed if you have permission from the trademark owner. The trademark owner has the right to place a product on the EEA market first. The trademark holder is usually the official manufacturer.

Has the product already been put on the market for the first time within the EEA by the trademark holder? Or with their consent by another person? Then it is freely marketable within the EEA. You may buy the trademarked product in another EEA member state from then on via parallel import

Take note: You are never allowed to import and trade counterfeit products, as this is punishable by law.

Importing goods from another EU country

There is free movement of goods in the EU, so you do not have to pay import duties when importing cosmetics from another member state. You do not have to declare the goods to customs either. Your supplier will usually charge 0% VAT, provided you pass on your VAT identification number to them. If you add Dutch VAT to the purchase and report it in your VAT return, you will usually be allowed to deduct it as input tax in the same return.

Guide to importing

Successful importing starts with a good understanding of the import process. The Guide to importing walks you through the steps in this process. From market research to concluding the contract.

Importing goods from non-EU countries

When you import goods from a non-EU country, you have to file an import declaration with Dutch Customs. Your carrier or customs broker will usually take care of this on your behalf for a fee. They will usually advance any import duties and VAT that may be due. You will also need an EORI number, a mandatory identification number for anyone dealing with Customs.

Import duties

Most cosmetics imported from non-EU countries are subject to a low or 0% import duty. You can find a list of import duties and other duties in the Customs Tariff Manual. To look up the import duty rate for your product, you need a commodity code. The commodity codes for cosmetic products can be found in chapter 33 on the 'nomenclature’ tab).

Income duty, if applicable, has to be paid on the customs value of the products. This is the purchase price plus shipping and any insurance costs up to the border (or port) of entry into the EU. Read more about paying import duties.

VAT

When you import cosmetic products into the Netherlands, you pay Dutch VAT (21%). You are allowed to deduct this VAT as input tax in your VAT return, provided that you are entitled to deduct VAT. If you regularly import goods from non-EU countries, you can apply for an  article 23 permit (in Dutch) from the Netherlands Tax Administration  to avoid having to pay for VAT at the time of import. Instead, you can file the VAT with your VAT return.