Ultimate Guide to Submitting Cosmetic Notification Forms (CNF) in Canada

Jul 30, 2019
submitting cnf in canada


Take a deep breath.

If you've spent any time looking at the Health Canada website or listening to other soapmakers going through the same process, you might be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of filling out your CNF, but it's not impossible.

Once you have developed your product line and know which ingredients you will be using, you should think about submitting your CNF, or Cosmetic Notification Forms, to Health Canada.


Do you need more help prepping for your CNF's? Download our FREE CNF Help workbook to easily organize all of your data and info in one convenient place. It makes submitting your CNF's a breeze!

If you make cosmetics and are selling them, this is something you cannot skip.

You can fill out your forms up to 10 days after your first sale, but in most cases it makes sense to submit them before you are in the busy selling phase.

I've been through the process myself, so I know where you're at. But we all know you're a boss and this little snag won't be stopping you!

CNF Tip #1: Research & Learn

First, grab our free CNF Ebook + workbook to walk you through the process.

Read the Health Canada website and familiarize yourself with the form. There is a wealth of information on the website itself including a guide, links to the Food and Drug Act and Cosmetics Regulation, examples of what a 'cosmetic' is, and more.

In Canada, Under the Food and Drugs Act, a cosmetic includes "any substance or mixture of substances, manufactured, sold or represented for use in cleansing, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth and includes deodorants and perfumes."

Some examples are "beauty preparations (perfume, skin cream, nail polish, make-up) and grooming aids (soap, shampoo, shaving cream, deodorant)."

And don't think that just because you are a small operation making products in your kitchen and only selling at farmers markets that you are excluded. Health Canada specifically mentions that a cosmetic includes "handmade" cosmetics sold at craft sales or home-based businesses." Melt and Pour soaps are also included here.

Health Canada also keeps up to date a Hotlist of ingredients that are either restricted or prohibited from use in Cosmetics. Make sure to check this list in your formulating phase so you don't get to the forms and realize you are using a prohibited ingredient!

If you do end up using a restricted ingredient, refer to the hotlist for any warnings you should display on your labels.

If you don't understand something, ask questions! There is a contact email address on the HC website, our website, and loads of Canada focused cosmetics groups on Facebook. Chances are, someone has been through the same issue as you, and there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

The more you know, the less overwhelmed you will be. Make sure you understand the basics of the form before continuing.

CNF Tip #2: Get organized!

Before starting to fill out the form, make sure you have all the information you will need including business or contact info, recipes, INCI names, etc. Check out the form before you sit down to submit it and compile all of the info you'll need beforehand.

Health Canada requires we submit our ingredients in INCI format (that's the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). It's a naming convention based on Latin and English words that are recognized around the world.

Essential oils will each have an INCI name, but fragrance oils can all be lumped under the term 'parfum'. Most suppliers will have the INCI names of each ingredient on their website. If you have a base recipe that you use and add different colors and fragrances to it to make different products, use the 'May contain' check box on the form!

You will also need the percentage of each ingredient used in the recipe. Make sure you have all the amounts of your ingredients handy and calculate the percentage of each ingredient in your final product.

If you are making soap, you should be entering the final product ingredients. Ie. the 'out-of-the-pot' ingredients'. Make sure to exclude the lye, calculate the amount of glycerin produced, and account for any water that may have evaporated during the cure.

This can be time-consuming, but you'll also use all these ingredients on your product labels as well, so it's time well spent!! Speaking of labels, make sure you check out the Health Canada Hotlist for restricted and prohibited ingredients, as well as label cautions you need to include.


Feeling overwhelmed? If you need more help, we invite you to join our signature Sell Your Skincare class where we'll review each piece of the form step by step!


CNF Tip #3: Fill out the online form

Set a block of time aside to fill out the form. If you have taken the time to prepare before you tackle the online web form, it should only take you 30-60 minutes or so.

Pro tip: If you have one base recipe that you make all of your bars from, you only need to fill out one CNF. Enter your base oils, water, and glycerin, then add every single ingredient you use in each variation and set those as "May contain".

You are able to save the form and return to it later, but once you get in a groove, it will be easier to just get it all done at once. Have all of your information handy and a cup of coffee, and you are good to go!

CNF Tip #4: Save It, Then Submit It

Make sure to use the instructions on the bottom of the form to save the form to your computer before you submit it (instructions will be different for PC and Mac). This will allow you to make amendments later if needed, and to review the information you entered at a later date.

This is the only way to review the form or make amendments - so don't forget to save the file to your computer and save it in a safe place!


Bonus: Check it twice

Learn from me. The first time I filled out the form I forgot poppyseeds and water! Make sure you have entered all the ingredients and percentages correctly and that your contact information is correct.

If you would prefer having someone walk you step by step through the form via recorded videos, check out our Sell Your Skincare program.

If you have already submitted the form and realize you have made a mistake, just upload the saved web form, make your changes, and then resubmit it! 


And that's it! Effective February 5, 2022, new cosmetic notifications that do not contain restricted or prohibited ingredients will be processed immediately by Health Canadas automated system. All other cosmetic notifications will continue to be processed by a Health Canada Officer. Good luck!



PSSSST! Do you need more help prepping for your CNF's? Download our FREE CNF Help workbook to easily organize all of your data and info in one convenient place. It makes submitting your CNF's a breeze!

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