Can you sell your homemade cosmetics in Europe?

[Versione italiana]

While surfing the Internet and in particular Instagram and Facebook I constantly find people who clearly sell their homemade cosmetic products. The people I refer to are mostly Italians, because I’m much more involved in the Italian DIY community than in the rest of Europe, but maybe there are people doing it also in other countries. 

Speaking for Italians, people who do this are typically people who wouldn’t even have the qualification to do so. Indeed, pharmacists and chemists, who would have the qualification to produce cosmetics as a job in Italy, typically don’t do it or if they do it, they are very careful to keep it secret, because they risk to lose their entitlement. In Italy we have the system of the “Albo professionale” which is a sort of “register” for each profession: there is the register for chemists, for pharmacists, for doctors, and so on. If you are member of this register as pharmacist, for example, and you produce and sell cosmetics illegally, you will be banned from the register and won’t be allowed to work as a pharmacist anymore. I know there are similar systems also in Europe, for example in Germany there is the Apothekerkammer, but I don’t know if the rules are the same. 

Anyway, did I say illegal? Yes, because selling homemade cosmetics in Europe is illegal. 

To be sold in Europe, a cosmetic product must comply to the EC Regulation 1223/2009. This Regulation includes a long series of requisites, among which also the production under certain conditions (i.e. production facility). Having the right production facility means that the local authority (typically the health authority) must certify that your lab is OK for cosmetic production according to GMP (good manufacturing practice). Getting the OK can be a long and expensive procedure and it is known that for example in Italy it is extremely time consuming. 

As mentioned, here I’m talking only about Europe. In non-EU states the situation can be different, because cosmetics, drugs and food are controlled by different authorities (such as the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, in the US). It is well known that Europe has a very strict regulation concerning cosmetics compared to US, for example, and this is why if you browse the American Etsy you may find homemade cosmetic products in the shops. 

Back to Europe, with this article I don’t plan to tell you how to do to set up your brand and sell your cosmetics legally: if this is your objective, I suggest you to take a specific course for wannabe entrepreneurs, like the ones offered by Formula Botanica or School of Natural Skincare. Here, I want to make you understand why you CANNOT sell homemade cosmetics. 

As mentioned, although the Regulation is the same for all EU, some details can vary from country to country depending on where your business is. For example, in Italy:

  • You must have a lab that has received the OK by the local health authority (the ASL). This step is typically very long and expensive, if not exhausting. The existence of the lab and its activity must also be notified to the Ministry of Health. 
  • You must have the “partita IVA”, which means you must be registered in the tax system for independent workers
  • You must have a qualified responsible person, who is someone registered in the chemists’ or pharmacists’ register, if you cannot do it yourself. 

Such requisites are the same also in other countries of Europe, what can change is the local authority that gives the OK to the production facility and the tax system for entrepreneurs. 

But it’s not over. Even if you have the production facility, you are registered as entrepreneur and you have or are a technical qualified person, your cosmetic product must satisfy all the other requirements of the EC Regulation. For example:

  • It must be produced according to GMP
  • It must have the Product Information File (PIF), that comprises a long series of documents, among which the safety assessment. The safety assessment is a document released by a qualified lab (that typically is not you) and that ensures the safety of the formula. This means that every formula you produce (even identical formula that differ from only one ingredient) must be tested by such lab. 

Once you have all the documents, your product must be notified to the European Commission and the notification must include a series of documents and descriptions of the product with a certain formality. 

One should note that the information contained in the notification not only refer to the cosmetic formula, but also to the cosmetic in its whole, including packaging and label. This means that the authorization to sell a cosmetic product refer to the cosmetic product in a specific packaging and with a specific label. If you take an autorized product and you change the label or transfer it into another jar, you cannot sell it again. 

So, in summary, you cannot sell your homemade cosmetics and soaps.

You can DIY as much as you want. If making cosmetics at home would be illegal, the ingredient suppliers could not sell stuff to you. You can make them for yourself and for your family, in the same way you offer to your household a cake you just baked. But you cannot sell them, not even if you believe they are better than the commercial ones. Not even if you are a chemist or a pharmacist: the title and/or being registered are not sufficient to sell your own cosmetics. But if you are a chemist or pharmacist you probably know this very well: who sells cosmetics illegally doesn’t have this kind of formation, typically.

The temptation to sell homemade cosmetics typically rises as soon as people start to be confident with DIY cosmetics: they finally understand how to make a cream, they managed to make a few and liked them, they made their family try them, and they realised that making a cream at home costs less than 1€ per piece. So, why not selling them? Because you can’t! You don’t have the right production facility, you don’t have the safety assessment, you cannot know how a “customer” will react to your product, of which among others you don’t even know the microbiological stability and the PAO. 

It’s exactly the same as with food: if you are very good at baking cakes and biscuits, you can bake as much as you want at home, you can offer them to your family, you can even gift a packet of biscuits to a friend. But you cannot sell them, because you don’t produce them in a bakery. 

References and useful links

EC Regulation 1223/2009

Lucy’s Soap Kitchen, Behind the scenes – what’s involved if you want to sell your handmade soaps & cosmetics?

Soap Making Magazine – How to sell your products legally

School of Natural Skincare – Selling homemade cosmetics: A guide to cosmetic product testing and safety assessments

Ecomundo, How to sell your cosmetic products online

Sono bio a modo mio, Come aprire un laboratorio per vendere i miei cosmetici fatti in casa


One thought on “Can you sell your homemade cosmetics in Europe?

  1. Thanks again for your detailed text. You totally rock! 🙂 Some people close to me (sometimes on internet as well) don’t understand that I don’t want to sell stuff. I could allmost say that never. And esspecially when I say that no way, I don’t want it, their opinion about me changes (no more support) and I feel like I should excuse myself. I love learning, experimenting and DIY’ying, I prefer keeping this as my hobby. I value my freedom over anything. Sorry for long message, it made me thinking. Many Thanks, Johanna


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