The Breakdown: Importing Cosmetics Into Canada |

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The Breakdown: Importing Cosmetics Into Canada

Getting into the business of importing cosmetics can be extremely profitable, as the margins are quite generous. Like with any other type of product imports, there are certain specifications for imports that must be complied with. 

As per a study by retail tech company, Vend HQ: “Beverage manufacturers, jewelry stores, and cosmetics had some of the highest profit margins, with 65.74%, 62.53%, and 58.14%, respectively.” 

So, it’s certainly worthwhile to learn more about how you can successfully move cosmetics into Canada and sell them without issue.

We would be remiss not to warn you up front about hopping into any type of import business: failure to comply can be disastrous — extra fines, huge delays, and even seizures of the shipment are possible. Which can potentially result in huge setbacks for your business goals.

“Compliance is a subset of governance, not the other way around.” – Pearl Zhu.

Firstly, what is considered to be a “cosmetic”? 

As stipulated by the Food & Drugs Act of Canada, cosmetics are substances or mixtures that are manufactured, sold, and/or represented for cleansing, improving complexion, skin, hair, teeth — including items like deodorant and perfume.

In the instance that you’re unsure as to whether or not your desired imported goods falls into a “cosmetic”, you can refer directly to the Government of Canada’s Cosmetic-Drug Interface. They also cover the full regulatory criteria. 

imported cosmetics

What does Health Canada need to know before selling in Canada? 

As you may have noted within the regulations for cosmetics as stated by the Food and Drug Act, you must report that this new product is intended for sale within 10 days. Okay, how do you do this exactly?

The handy, dandy: Cosmetics Notification Form (CNF)! Yay! — Alright, it’s not that exciting. But it is essential for your success as a cosmetics business. And that’s kind of exciting, right?

If your cosmetic product is:

  • A new product
  • Modified formula
  • Change of product name
  • Change of company name, address, or contact info
  • Discontinuation of a product

As you may have guessed, the Cosmetics Notification Form must be submitted before any imported goods arrive in Canada. The bad news? Simply just filing the CNF does not actually guarantee that your product will be approved for sale in Canada. 

Compliance with the Food and Drug Act and the Cosmetic Regulations is critical for your product’s approval.

cosmetics product development

Next, let’s make sure we’re being thoughtful about Cosmetic Labeling!

We recently published a piece that covers the difference between Labeling and Marking, two very important elements for the import of commercial goods.

You can take a look at that piece here: The difference between labeling and marking for imported goods

Specifically for cosmetics, here are a few things to think about. The cosmetic’s product labeling needs to include:

  • Information about the manufacturer (name and address)
  • The name and purpose of the product
  • Ingredient list (must be accurate!) 
  • Any other relevant product information
  • Applicable hazards and cautions 

Not sure if you need to include something? You can check out Canada’s guide for the labeling of cosmetics. 


Cosmetics is quite an exciting industry to do business in! Beyond the profit margins, there’s a lot of room for creativity in terms of marketing, packaging, supplying, etc. The important thing to remember is that cutting corners in terms of importing and compliance can really hurt your business!

If you’re unsure about certain elements of the regulations, it is ideal to partner with a customs broker that can guide you through the process. And in many cases act on your behalf! (Read: more time to get back to the fun parts of your business)!

If you’re interested in starting a no-commitment conversation, click here