Original Release Date: March 24, 2018
To read the full article, check out this Modern Soapmaking post.
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.
I'll break it down for you here...
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.
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 I think 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 bossbabe (or bossman) and this little snag won't be stopping you!
Tip #1: Research & Learn
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 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."
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, my 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.
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.
And 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 labels as well, so it's time well spent!!
If you need more help, join our signature Sell Your Skincare class where we go through each piece of the form step by step!
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!
Tip #4: Submit and Save it
Once you have completed the form and have submitted it, make sure to save it using the instructions on the bottom of the form. This will allow you to make amendments later if needed, and to review the information you entered at a later date.
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 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! You may not hear back for several weeks or up to several months, but as long as you've submitted the form, you are OK to start gifting and selling your cosmetics.
Need more help prepping for your CNFs? Download our free CNF Help workbook now for help organizing all your data and info in one easy place so submitting your CNF's will be a breeze!