Distributing cosmetics to Japan

In keeping with the mandate set forth by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law (PAL), the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) in Japan regulates cosmetic production, importation, exportation, and use.  In legal parlance, beauty products are classified as quasi-drugs and cosmetics.

What is cosmetics?

The law states that cosmetics are “articles with mild action on the human body, which are intended to be applied to the human body through rubbing, sprinkling or another method, aiming to clean, beautify and increase the attractiveness, alter the appearance or to keep the skin or hair in good condition.”

Cosmetics: Japanese market categories

  1.    Perfume and eau de cologne
  2.    Makeup cosmetics
  3.    Skin care cosmetics
  4.    Hair care products
  5.    Special-purpose cosmetics (sunscreen, shaving cream, and others)
  6.    Cosmetic soaps

What to do if you want to sell cosmetics in Japan

If you have plans of selling cosmetic products in a Japanese environment, you must make sure that the products you are selling are within the ambit of Japanese laws and are thus, considered legal in Japan. This is done through assessing product samples that are contracted or owned by the importer in “testing and inspection facilities” created by the MHLW. In this step, all the listed ingredients in the cosmetic product are tested and analyzed to ensure it is in consonance with PAL provisions.

The law strictly regulates specific labeling and advertising of cosmetics. Items that cannot be seen on the face of the label will automatically constitute a violation and as a result, it becomes classified as improperly labeled. When this happens, selling thereof is also automatically prohibited. Furthermore, it is imperative for the cosmetic importer to get a “cosmetics manufacturing and sales license” first prior to actual importation and distribution of cosmetics. Pre-approval cannot be waived in quasi-drugs as they may have active components that need further approval by the MHLW.

Tariff Duties on Cosmetics

  • Perfumes and toilet waters- duties range from 5.8 to 6.6 percent.
  • Hair Preparations- 5.8 percent tariff duty rate is imposed.
  • Shaving and bath preparations- 5.8- 6.7 percent is imposed for general duty and 3.9-4.8 percent for the World Trade Center
  • Soap products- A 5.5- 5.8 percent tariff duty is imposed.

Foreign entities wanting to export cosmetics in Japan needs to strictly comply with the requirements set forth by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law (PAL) to avoid getting your products banned or prohibited in the country. Having a local representative in Japan is highly recommended.

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