Cosmetics info & recommendations

The term cosmetic products covers a very large, diverse and varied group of products and is precisely defined by law in the Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 as amended. Thus, natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics are not the same. There are also significant differences in peeling products. In the following sections you will find information on animal testing as well as recommendations and tips on how to make your cosmetics last longer and how to recognize certified natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics.

Cosmetic products are regularly tested as part of the official food inspection. In 2021, out of 701 samples assessed, 202 (29%) were objected to(Food Safety Report 2021). The majority of the complaints were due to labeling deficiencies and/or misleading information. 3 samples were harmful to health.

In addition, focus campaigns on various topics are carried out on an ongoing basis. Certain product groups of cosmetic products are specifically searched for on the market and examined and assessed for certain aspects. More information on the results of the investigations can be found here.

Natural Cosmetics & Organic Cosmetics

Natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics are not the same thing. At the European level, there are no uniform, legal definitions of the terms natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics. There are various natural cosmetics and organic quality labels that are based on private law guidelines. The underlying criteria vary, so that these products do not meet a uniform standard. This situation is confusing for both consumers and manufacturers.

Natural cosmetics

In principle, the following applies: Natural cosmetics are products made from natural raw materials of plant, animal and mineral origin.

According to the Austrian Food Codex (Codex Alimentarius Austriacus), however, it is not sufficient for the starting material to be a natural raw material; the further treatment and processing steps are also precisely regulated: Only physical, microbiological or enzymatic methods are to be used for the extraction and further processing of these natural substances. Chemical extraction or processing steps are not permitted. The only exceptions to this are preservatives (these may also be used in nature-identical quality, i.e. they can also be produced by chemical processes from non-natural starting materials) and emulsifiers or surfactants (may simply be chemically processed from natural substances). Emulsifiers or surfactants are used in cosmetics to mix two immiscible liquids (oil-water mixture).

Only cosmetics that meet these criteria may be labeled "natural cosmetics" or the same, although it should be noted that "eco/organic cosmetics" are not to be considered the same.

On natural cosmetic products, references to organic production of individual ingredients or organic ingredients may be made, but this is specified as follows (see point 1.3.4 References to organic production):

  • The labeling of ingredients from controlled organic agriculture, such as the designation "from organic agriculture" or "from organic cultivation" or the abbreviations "Bio" or "Öko" or the same, must be made in the list of ingredients in connection with the ingredient in the same color, size and typeface as the other information.
  • However, the designations from "organic farming", "from organic farming", "Bio" or "Öko" must not appear in the product name or in the same field of vision as the product name.

This is intended to prevent eye-catching organic labels and various organic claims on natural cosmetic products from misleading consumers. On the other hand, indications such as "with natural lime blossom extract" or illustrations of plants on the packaging do not make the cosmetic product a natural cosmetic. What counts is the overall impression that the cosmetic product conveys to the informed, attentive and reasonable consumer.

Further information on natural cosmetics can be found here


  • The sale in specific stores such as health food stores is not a guarantee that the products are natural cosmetics.
  • A careful reading and checking of the list of ingredients will help to classify whether it is really a natural product.
  • There are many private seals in the field of natural cosmetics. The consumer is well advised to look at which seal a product is advertised as a natural cosmetic and which criteria are hidden behind it. However, the criteria of these private seals may differ from the requirements of the generally stricter Austrian Food Codex.
  • However, the ban on the use of parabens or synthetic UV filters as well as mineral oils are common to almost all natural cosmetics definitions.

In Austria, the Codex with the subchapter on natural cosmetics applies in principle to cosmetics advertised as natural cosmetics and cosmetics advertised in the same way; exceptions to this are certifications under private law: if

  • this certification is visible on the product
  • its criteria are publicly available or can be viewed by the consumer, and
  • compliance with the criteria is verified by an independent body.

There are no uniformly binding regulations on natural cosmetics throughout the EU. However, the demand for natural cosmetics in the EU is increasing and consumers would like to have cosmetics that are made from natural raw materials and processed as little as possible.

In Austria, the consumer can on the one hand trust that natural cosmetics purchased in Austria comply with the Codex and on the other hand, if a natural cosmetics seal is on it, they can at least inform themselves about these criteria and trust that they are independently verified and certified.

For natural cosmetics, there is an English ISO standard 16128 entitled "Guidelines on Technical Definitions and Criteria for Natural & Organic Cosmetic Ingredients and Products" consisting of 2 parts:

  • The first part (16128:1) defines what is meant by natural and organic cosmetic ingredients, as well as their derivatives (these are processed substances whose starting materials are natural or organic raw materials) natural substances, organic raw materials and nature-based substances.
  • The second part (16128:2) provides the technical guidance for calculating what proportion of natural substances or bio-substances is in the ingredients on the one hand and in the finished product on the other.

Advertising claims and labeling, human safety, environmental safety, and socioeconomic considerations (e.g., fair trade) are not within the scope of this ISO standard. In addition, the properties of packaging materials are also not included in the guidelines.

Organic cosmetics

In principle, the same criteria apply to organic cosmetics as to natural cosmetics and, in addition, principles have been taken over from the requirements for organic food.

In the guideline - Agricultural products from organic production and derived products, the requirements for organic cosmetics are defined. This chapter deals with the production, calculation of the organic content, labeling and presentation, as well as the advertising of organic cosmetics and the control system for organic cosmetics.

According to this directive, a product may use designations such as "organic", "ecological" and diminutive forms such as "bio-" and "eco-", as well as the designations "organic", "eco" alone or in combination only if the product and its ingredients meet the requirements of the directive.

Further information on organic cosmetics can be found here.

Cosmetics shelf life

Cosmetic products can also spoil. Within the EU, every cosmetic product must be labeled with either a use-by date after opening or a best-before date:

  • Cosmetic products that have a shelf life of up to 30 months must be labeled with a best before date.
  • Cosmetic products that have a shelf life of longer than 30 months must indicate on the packaging the period of time for which the product is safe to use after it has been opened for the first time. This can be recognized by the symbol of an opened cream jar and the indication of months (M) or years (J), e.g. 6M for 6 months.

Products that have a shelf life of more than 30 months and are not opened (spray cans), are completely used up immediately (single-use packs) or do not spoil at all do not need this labeling. These indications are supplemented, if necessary, by storage conditions that must be met to ensure the indicated shelf life.


Products often have a longer shelf life

Until the end of the best-before date, the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a cosmetic product still has its original properties and function: Manufacturers carry out stress tests (preservation stress test or challenge testing) to show whether the product is not spoiled by external contamination with germs, such as also occurs during application (e.g. touching a cream jar with the fingers). After the expiration of this period, the cosmetic product is not automatically harmful or ineffective (e.g. UV protection in the case of sunscreen). The best-before date is not an expiration date! However, cosmetic products, just like food, can spoil or they change their nature or their original function.

The deterioration is not always easy to determine, but if a visual change can be observed (the components of a cream or shower gel separate) or if the contents no longer smell good, the product should no longer be used. Some products are riskier than others because of their composition, packaging and/or use.

Water content The higher the water content, the more likely germs can multiply. Therefore, especially water-containing cosmetic products usually need to be preserved. Water-free products generally have a longer shelf life. High alcohol contents or other organic solvents, such as in nail polish, contribute to the shelf life.
Packaging A large opening, such as in cream jars, makes products more susceptible to external contamination. With dispensers or sprays, there is hardly any contact.
Use Some products are applied directly from the packaging to the skin, such as deodorant rollers or lipsticks. Germs can also be introduced into a cosmetic product (e.g. make-up) via aids such as sponges and brushes.

Further information on shelf life can be found under Labeling of cosmetic products and Microbiological requirements.

How to keep cosmetics longer

Closed: Always store tubes, jars and bottles sealed after use.

Clean: Use products with clean hands or operating aids (sponges, brushes, spatulas). Sponges and brushes with which cosmetic products (e.g. make-up) are applied must also be cleaned or replaced regularly.

Cool: Cosmetics do not need to be stored in the refrigerator, but avoid excessive heating. For example, sunscreen should not be exposed to high heat for days in the car or other sun-exposed areas. Manufacturers' recommendations on the correct storage temperature should also be observed.

Dry: Cosmetics are often used in the bathroom. Ensure dry storage, especially for products stored near wet areas (shower, sink).

Preservation - what substances are allowed

Preservatives, colorants and UV filters used in cosmetic products must be approved throughout the EU and thus safe for human health. Nevertheless, some cosmetics manufacturers - especially natural cosmetics manufacturers - refrain from using these classic preservatives. However, since these products must also be microbiologically safe, multifunctional substances with secondary antimicrobial (germ-reducing) properties are often used to reduce the multiplication of germs. For example, the solvent alcohol or essential oils also have germ-reducing properties. In natural cosmetics, the selection of permitted classic preservatives is limited to those approved preservatives that also occur in nature. For economic reasons, these are usually also produced synthetically by a chemical process and are therefore referred to as "nature-identical substances" because they are chemically identical to the substance of plant or animal origin.

Complaint for adverse effects

Cosmetic products can also cause adverse effects. This can have many causes:

  • Individual intolerance (e.g. allergies to certain ingredients)
  • incorrect application
  • too high concentration of an ingredient
  • contaminated or spoiled product
  • illegal remedy
  • and much more

What can you do?

Here you can find the contacts of the responsible food supervisory authority in your federal state, where you can report an undesirable effect caused by cosmetics by means of the notification form AT and, if possible, also hand in the respective cosmetic product including packaging for inspection.

In case of (serious) adverse effects, please consult a physician and bring the medical confirmation with you.

You can find more information about adverse effects here

Animal testing and cosmetics

Since 1999, all cosmetics manufactured in Austria have been subject to a general ban on the performance of animal experiments on the finished cosmetic product, regulated by the Austrian Animal Protection Act (BGBl.Nr. 501/1989 as amended in 1999 BGBl. Nr. 169/1999). The European Union enacted this ban in 2004. In addition, since 2004, the marketing of cosmetic products has been prohibited if the cosmetic product or one of its ingredients has been tested on animals, although an alternative method already recognized at that time is available.

The ban on animal testing was implemented in several stages: After 2009, the performance of animal tests on ingredients within the Community market is prohibited. Furthermore, the marketing of cosmetic products is also prohibited in principle if the product or one of its ingredients has been tested on animals. Until March 2013, cosmetic products could still be placed on the market if the ingredients were tested on animals in connection with reproductive toxicity, repeated-dose toxicity or toxicokinetics.

Since March 2013, the general ban on the marketing of cosmetic products came into force if these or several ingredients have been tested on animals.

European Commission Recommendation of June 7, 2006 (2006/406/EC): to establish guidelines for the use of claims stating that no animal testing has been carried out in accordance with Council Directive 76/768/EEC.

This means that all cosmetic products on the market in Austria and the EU must not have animal testing performed on the final product. It is therefore inadmissible advertising with self-evidence if cosmetic products advertise that their cosmetic product has not been tested on animals.

General claims such as "Free from animal testing" or "Without animal testing" mean that neither the end product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals either by the manufacturer, its suppliers or by third parties for the purpose of developing new cosmetic products.

The burden of proof is on the responsible person. He or she must prove that he or she has not used any ingredients for which, for example, data are available in the scientific literature derived from animal tests conducted by third parties for the purpose of developing a new cosmetic product. Since animal testing was conducted for the purpose of health evaluation prior to these regulations, it is impossible to claim a general absence of animal testing when some ingredients/active ingredients are used. Examples are UV filters.

Last updated: 28.09.2023

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