Cosmetics and toiletries

Hair products, soaps and other cosmetics and toiletries can contain hazardous ingredients. We set rules to give you confidence in what you buy.

For more advice call The Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).

If a person is not breathing or is unconscious, call 111 immediately. 

Using cosmetics and toiletries

Before using any cosmetic or toiletry product, read the label to check if there is anything special you should do to keep yourself and others safe. For example, some products will warn you not to get the product in your eyes.

  • Make sure you follow the instructions on the label, and use the product only for what it was made for. It can be dangerous to use products designed for one body area on a different part of the body.
  • It's also a good idea to patch test products. Patch testing is a way of finding out whether a product is likely to irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction when it is applied to a larger area. Patch tests involve applying a small amount of the product to a small area of skin, like the underside of your wrist. If a reaction, such as a red mark or rash appears, then it’s best not to use that product on that person.

Storing cosmetics and toiletries

Cosmetics and toiletries seem like safe products because we use them every day – but they could make a child very sick if they were to eat them. Protect kids in your home by:

  • storing toiletries and cosmetics in a locked or secured cupboard.
  • keeping them up high – aim for at least the shoulder height of an adult.
  • putting toiletries and cosmetics away as soon as you've finished using them.
  • making sure they are the first thing you store when you get home from the supermarket.
  • keeping your hand bag, where cosmetics are often found, off the floor and out of kids reach.

Choosing safe cosmetics and toiletries

New Zealand has strict rules to make sure all cosmetics and toiletries are safe. The rules include children’s ‘toy’ cosmetics and face paint. Most cosmetics made by reputable brands and sold by reputable suppliers know the rules, and stick to them.

Key points to remember

  • Buy cosmetics from retailers you know and trust.
  • If you are in any doubt about the safety of a product, don't buy or use it.
  • If the label isn't in English, doesn't list the ingredients, batch code and NZ importer and manufacturer contact details, the product isn't compliant with the rules.
  • If you have an allergic or other reaction to a cosmetic product, stop using it immediately. If the reaction is severe, get medical help from a doctor.
Triclosan Plus
What is triclosan?

Triclosan is a chemical that is used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It is used in clinical settings and can be found in a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products, cleaning products and paints. It’s used to stop the growth of bacteria, fungus and mildew. It’s also used as a preservative, so can be used in the manufacture of plastic, rubber, textile, leather and paper products to stop the growth of bacteria, fungus and mildew and to prevent odours. ​

What types of products is triclosan used in?

Triclosan is used in personal care products such as soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, body washes and some cosmetics. It’s also an ingredient in some cleaning products, paints, animal and veterinary products, and in some manufactured items. To determine whether a cosmetic product contains triclosan, check the label or contact the manufacturer.​

Is triclosan always listed as an ingredient on the label?

If the concentration of triclosan is below a certain level, it doesn’t need to be listed on the label. Triclosan may also be listed under a number of different names, as the manufacturer can rename it (within certain rules).If you think a product may contain triclosan and it is not listed on the label, contact the manufacturer.    

Is it safe to use?

Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans. The EPA has set maximum limits for triclosan in cosmetics for safe use. Its concentration is restricted to 0.3% in cosmetic products, including toothpaste and mouthwashes. Importers and manufacturers are legally required to comply with these limits. ​

How do I know whether a product contains triclosan?

Labels on cosmetic products must contain a list of hazardous ingredients, using common chemical names. If they are not on the label, the ingredients must be listed on the product itself, packaging, or a leaflet available at the point of sale. This enables consumers to identify and avoid products with ingredients that are of concern to them. Other types of products may contain a list of active ingredients, or a list of ingredients may be available on the manufacturer’s website.

Is triclosan approved for use in New Zealand?

Yes. There are four different types of approval for triclosan under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act. Triclosan is approved as a single chemical, a medicated dog shampoo, a cleaning product and products containing triclosan are approved under a number of group standards. Group standards are approvals used for groups of hazardous substances of a similar nature, type or use. There are group standards for cosmetic products, dental products, cleaning products, veterinary medicines and paints. 

How many products contain triclosan in New Zealand?

Because most products containing triclosan are approved under group standards, it is not possible to specify how many products contain the substance. 

Who has approved the use of triclosan in New Zealand?

All hazardous substances need to be approved under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, before they can be used in New Zealand. The EPA’s role is to oversee applications under the HSNO Act to import and manufacture hazardous substances. The EPA has four approvals for triclosan. It is approved for use as a single chemical, as medicated dog shampoo, as a cleaning product, and products containing triclosan are approved under a number of group standards.

Those products covered under a group standard can include: 

  • cosmetics (triclosan is restricted to a maximum concentration of 0.3%)
  • dental products
  • cleaning products
  • veterinary medicines
  • animal nutritional and animal care products
  • surface coatings and colourants
  • additives, process chemicals and raw materials
  • active ingredients used for the manufacture of agricultural compounds.
Is triclosan banned in other countries?

Triclosan is restricted in some countries and for some uses. Its use in cosmetic products was restricted in the European Union in 2014. Since January this year, it has not been approved for use in the manufacture of soaps, hand washes and disinfectants. It is also prohibited in manufactured products that come into contact with food. However, it can be used in veterinary hygiene products.

Triclosan was withdrawn as a pest control product in Canada in 2014. The Canadian regulators are consulting their public and industry on risk management proposals to reduce the amount of triclosan entering the environment.

From 6 September 2017, over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products containing certain active ingredients, including triclosan, can no longer be marketed in the US. This rule does not affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes, or antibacterial products used in healthcare settings.​

Is triclosan harmful to the environment?

Triclosan can be harmful to the environment. Triclosan rinsed off and washed down the drain – from soaps, toothpastes and other products – can accumulate in waterways and affect plants and animals. New information about the environmental effects of triclosan has been presented to the EPA but more data is needed to determine the impact of this new information. 

The EPA continues to monitor international developments and the latest research about triclosan through a wide range of scientific media, as part of its ongoing monitoring and assessment of this hazardous substance. 

Does triclosan cause antibacterial resistance?

Current international opinion in the European Union and Australia is that there is no clear link between products containing triclosan and increased antibacterial resistance. 

Is triclosan an endocrine disruptor?

Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s hormones. Triclosan has not been established to be an endocrine disruptor. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has requested that further information be generated for triclosan to determine whether or not it is an endocrine disruptor.

Who is responsible for ensuring that products don’t contain triclosan amounts greater than permitted?

The manufacturer or importer is responsible for ensuring the products they sell comply with rules. Triclosan’s concentration is restricted to 0.3% in cosmetic products, including toothpaste and mouthwashes. Importers and manufacturers are legally required to comply with these limits. ​