Flawless or fallible? A review of the applicability of the European union's cosmetics directive in relation to nano-cosmetics

Diana M. Bowman, Geert Van Calster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Consumer demand for new products within the cosmetics and toiletries industry has encouraged the industry increasingly to incorporate and experiment with new products and processes, including nanotechnologies. A number of cosmetic products which claim to incorporate engineered nano-materials have already entered the market and include, for instance, anti-ageing creams, make up, hair care products, cleansers and moisturisers. While the use of engineered nano-materials within cosmetics offers a range of benefits, including increased transparency and solubility, there has been increasing debate over the potential risks associated with a number of the nano-materials already found in these products. While such concerns are not unique to the cosmetics sector, due to the direct application of these products onto the human skin, concern has been expressed over the potential health effects of nanotechnology-based cosmetics. This is despite the fact that cosmetic products are subject to regulatory controls within every jurisdiction in which they are sold. With debate over the safety of cosmetics containing nano-materials likely to escalate in line with the number of products entering the marketplace, this article examines the adequacy of the current regulatory framework for cosmetics containing nanoscale materials within one of the world's largest cosmetic's market, the European Union. Two case studies are presented, and the effectiveness of the Cosmetics Directive is examined by reference to these two products. By drawing on this analysis, the article articulates the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory regime, and discusses how these may be addressed under the proposed new regulatory framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalStudies in Ethics, Law, and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmetics
  • European Union
  • Nanotechnologies
  • Regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Law


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