Is global regulatory harmonisation possible for the beauty industry?

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Is global regulatory harmonisation possible for the beauty industry?
In this second part of our exclusive interview with Gerald Renner, Director Technical Regulatory and International Affairs, Cosmetics Europe, we find out whether global regulatory alignment is possible, or even desirable.

Renner will be one of the expert speakers at next month’s Cosmetics Europe Annual Conference, 13-14 June 2018,  is a leading event in the European beauty industry calendar.

Full details of the conference and how you can register can be found here​.

Is global regulatory alignment possible, or desirable? If so, how can we work towards this?

When I joined the cosmetics industry more than twenty years ago, ‘Global Harmonisation of Regulation’ was a big buzzword; and when Europeans used it, they understood it as ‘Global harmonisation with the EU Cosmetics Legislation’.

Over the years I have learned that we cannot and must not ignore that local regulations are rooted in a historical and cultural background.

Even if two regions were to issue exactly the same legal text, these societal roots will influence its interpretation and application.

Unless there is a strong political force to overcome these differences, the same legal text would not mean that companies will be faced with the same requirements in their daily compliance practice.

Cosmetics definition: a key example

Take the ‘cosmetics definition’ as an example. Many countries across the world have copied the wording of the EU definition.

This does not mean, however, that all products considered as cosmetics in the EU are also considered as cosmetics there.

The European Union has overcome such differences because all Member States recognise the benefit of the Internal Market and are willing to truly align their standards and requirements. However, I cannot imagine a similar political will at global level.

Perhaps unnecessary: global harmonisation

Global harmonisation of regulation may also not be necessary.

What is mainly important for companies is to be able to use a similar set of information/data to demonstrate safety and compliance, and consequently get rapid market access, in different regions/countries.

The exact legal text underpinning these national/regional requirements is of secondary relevance. I call this concept ‘Regulatory Compatibility’.

So rather than chasing the ideal of a ‘Global Cosmetics Legislation’, the international industry should be (and is) working on regulatory elements, such as notification, safety assessment, cosmetovigilance, product information etc.

Look to mature legislation

Specific requirements on all of these elements can be found in any ’mature’ cosmetics legislation around the world.

The objective is to describe such regulatory requirements in form of ‘regulatory modules’ that are ‘portable’ between different pieces of legislation.

In other words, whenever a cosmetic legislation requires the compilation of technical product information, the content of this information should be the same, irrespective of whether this information has to be submitted to authorities as part of a registration process or has to be kept at the company premises for in-market control.

The important aspect is that the required information is the same and once a company has compiled it for one region, it can use it to support marketing the product in other regions.

This approach of ‘Regulatory compatibility’ is highly aspirational and requires a lot of work and collaboration at international industry level.

However, its achievement seems more realistic than the ideal of a ‘Global Cosmetics Legislation’.

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