For more than two decades, cosmetics sold in China have been subject to different regulatory requirements depending on their classification as "cosmetics for special use(s)" or "cosmetics for non-special use(s)" (the "Current Classification"). This may change with the publication of the Draft Rules on the Classification of Cosmetics (the "Draft Classification") by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) on 17 January 2018.

The Draft Classification is available for public consultation until 30 January 2018. The full text of the Draft Classification (available in Chinese only) can be found at


The CFDA realised that, the two-decade old Current Classification neither reflects the development of the cosmetics industry nor meets its regulatory needs. The CFDA thus drafted the new classification rules to provide a more detailed classification of cosmetics.

Key Requirements

According to the Draft Classification and its Explanatory Note, the Current Classification would remain effective. In addition, detailed classifications (represented by digital codes) would apply for the purposes of "filling, registration, administration and statistics of cosmetics". The Draft Classification, however, does not specify how the new detailed classifications would affect the processes of "filling, registration, administration and statistics of cosmetics" in China.

Each cosmetic product would be identified by a digital code to reflect its detailed classification. A digital code consists of four parts, which represent: 1) the function of the cosmetic, 2) the relevant body part, 3) the form of the cosmetic, and 4) the target population. The Draft Classification then provides for:

  • 25 categories of function (e.g., hair dye, hydrating, aromatic, etc.);
  • 26 categories of body part (e.g., hair, skin, eyes, lips, etc.);
  • 17 categories of form (e.g., cream, lotion, powder, capsule, etc.); and
  • six categories of target population (e.g., general population, pregnant women, children, men, etc.)

Each category is represented by two digits. For example, the digital code for a sunscreen cream for children would be 09-03-01-04.

Impact on the industry

Cosmetic companies selling products in China are advised to check if the categories provided by the Draft Classification are appropriate and to provide comments to the CFDA before 30 January 2018.

While the Draft Classification does not modify the legal framework currently applicable to cosmetics, changes to concrete legal requirements might be introduced by the CFDA based on the Draft Classification. For example, the CFDA might want the digital code to be included on the product label and provide transitional measures for the cosmetics that have already been registered or filled. These are not specified in the Draft Classification, but might be specified in future CFDA regulations. Hence, publication of further draft regulations based on future new classifications should be closely monitored.