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Know your cosmetics

What is cosmetic?

A “cosmetic product” is defined as any substance or preparation intended to be placed in contact with various external parts of the human body such as epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to clean, to perfume, to change appearance, to correct body odors and to protect or keep in good condition.

Cosmetic vs. Non- Cosmetic Products

Based on the definition, a product shall be classified as cosmetic when it is intended for external use only and should have either one of the five functions as stated earlier in the definition of cosmetic. Examples of cosmetic products are facial cleansers, moisturisers, nail care products, lipsticks, eye shadows, perfumes, body lotions, oral hygiene products, feminine hygiene wash, shampoos and soaps.

Products to be consumed orally or to be administered via injection for beauty purposes such as to reduce the appearance of facial wrinkles or to moisturise the skin are not classified as cosmetic products because their modes of applications do not comply with the cosmetic definition.

Additionally, products intended for treatment of disease such as skin disease or pain relief and product for sexual purposes are not classified as cosmetic although the product is recommended for external use.

Cosmetic Claims

Claims made to cosmetic products as well as product name and its brand name must comply with the scope of cosmetic and should not mislead the consumers. The uses of medicinal claims are prohibited for cosmetic products. The claims must be supported with sufficient and relevant data. Examples of prohibited cosmetic product names are Slimming Lotion, Sabun Resdung, Eczema Cream, hair growth serum and names which may explicitly or implicitly related to medicinal treatment or sexual purposes.

The table below outlines some examples of unacceptable claims for cosmetics products:

Product Type
Unacceptable claims
Hair care products
  • Eliminates dandruff permanently
  • Restores hair cells
  • Stimulates hair growth
Nail products
  • Reference to growth resulting from nourishment
Skin products
  • Prevents, reduces or reverses the physiological changes and degeneration conditions brought about by aging
  • Removes scars
  • Prevents, heals, treats or stops acne
  • Treatment of cellulite
  • Reduces/controls swelling/oedema
  • Reduce body weight
  • Removes/burns fat
  • Treatment of fungal or viral infection
Oral or dental hygiene products
  • Treatment or prevention of dental abscess, gumboils, inflammation, mouth ulcers, periodontitis or any oral diseases or infections
Perfumes/fragrances/colognes
  • Aphrodisiac or hormonal attraction

Notification of cosmetics and verification of its notification status

Cosmetic products are governed by the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations, 1984 and Guidelines for Control of Cosmetic Products in Malaysia. All cosmetic products marketed in Malaysia must first be notified to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) (formerly known as National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB)), Ministry of Health Malaysia prior to the manufacture, import and sell of cosmetic products.

Cosmetic products that comply with the stipulated guidelines and requirements can be notified and will be given a unique notification number. The notified cosmetic products are subjected to continuous monitoring by NPRA under the Post Market Surveillance Programme to ensure compliance and the products are of good quality and safe.

Public and consumers may check the notification status of a cosmetic product from NPRA’s official website by following the steps below:

  1. Go to NPRA’s official website , http://npra.moh.gov.my
  2. Information of a cosmetic product may be found by using the following search criteria:
    • Notification number
    • Product name
    • Name of the notification holder
    • Name of the product manufacturer

Only information of notified cosmetic products is available.

Figure 1: Display of the NPRA’s website for the search of cosmetic notification.

Be A Wise Consumer

Consumer must carefully read the information printed on the product label before purchasing a cosmetic product. The following information should appear on a product label:

  • Product name
  • Function of the product and its instruction of use, if the product name or presentation is not clear.
  • List of ingredients
  • Country of manufacture (example : Made in Malaysia)
  • Name and address of the product holder
  • The contents of the product (e.g. mg/ml)
  • Batch Number
  • The manufacturing or expiry date of the product
  • Additional information e.g. special precaution/warning or information of the source of the ingredient e.g. bovine or porcine

Consumers are advised to avoid buying products from unreliable premises or retailers e.g. street seller and night market as the quality of the products may be compromised due to improper product storage. In addition, the authenticity of products sold in such places may be questionable.

Consumers are also advised not to easily influence by promotions and promises of cosmetic procedures or products for its immediate desired effects. In most cases, such products are usually contaminated with prohibited substances which can be harmful to the users. It is important for the cosmetics users to understand that under normal circumstances, the desired effects from using cosmetic products may be achieved with regular use and correct applications.

Consumers are encouraged to report to NPRA for any experiences of adverse effects or allergic reactions following the use cosmetic product by email to kosmetik@npra.gov.my or write to:

Cosmetic Section
Centre for Post Registration of Products & Cosmetic Control
National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency
Ministry of Health Malaysia
Lot 36, Jalan Universiti
46730 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Last Reviewed : 25 February 2017
Writer : Khairul Huda bt. Mohamadiah
Translator : Noor Hidayah bt. Mohd Nor
Accreditor : Zuraida bt. Abdullah