How to complete a Cosmetic Notification form

This guidance document will help you to fill in the online Cosmetic Notification form.

It contains information on some requirements of the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and the Cosmetic Regulations (CR).

It is not intended to substitute for or limit the requirements under the Food and Drugs Act or the Cosmetic Regulations. In case of any difference between this document and the legislation, the legislation will prevail.

Who this guide is for

  • manufacturers of cosmetics
  • Canadian importers of cosmetics
  • a notifier acting on behalf of a manufacturer or Canadian importer

In this guide

When completing a Cosmetic Notification form

Notify each unique product separately

Manufacturers and importers must submit a Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) for each product unless:

  • you’ve already submitted a CNF for the same product in a different sized container
  • you are submitting a CNF which covers multiple products and you meet the requirements for a single notification of multiple products

Single notification of multiple products

You may submit one CNF to cover multiple products only when all of the following are true:

  • the same basic product name or trademark applies to all individual products listed in the CNF
  • the product base remains unchanged in composition from one product to another, except for slight changes in the ingredients for:
    • colouring
    • fragrance
    • flavouring
  • all the information in the CNF other than composition is the same for each product in the product line, including the cosmetic’s:
    • form
    • function
    • manufacturer
    • distributor

If the number of products in the product line changes slightly due to adding or removing a few products, an amendment to the CNF is not required.

Submit all required documents at the time of notification

You may need to submit additional documents for some products (section 30(1) (b) of the Cosmetic Regulations).

For example, you must submit labels for products presenting an avoidable hazard.

If your product contains ingredients that present an avoidable hazard (many of these are listed as restricted ingredients on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist), you must submit a label to demonstrate that appropriate cautionary statements are present.

Attach these documents to your CNF (For assistance, review Section 6 – Additional documents and pictures).

How to complete a Cosmetic Notification Form

The CNF has nine sections. Follow the instructions for each section.
All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required. You must fill out all required fields to be able to submit the CNF.

Section 1 - Notification Type

You must select a notification type from the drop down list:

  • New
    • select “new” if this is the first time you are sending a CNF for the product
      • you must notify Health Canada within 10 days after you first sell the cosmetic product in Canada   
  • Amendment
    • select “amendment” if you have already sent a CNF for the product and you need to change some of the information:
      • you must notify Health Canada of this within 10 days of the change  
      • make sure to add the Cosmetic Number to your form before submitting
      • instructions on how to find and upload your previous CNF can be found in Section 9
  • Discontinue sale:
    • select “discontinue sale” if you have stopped selling the product on the Canadian market:
      • you must notify Health Canada of this within 10 days of the change
      • make sure to add the Cosmetic Number to your form before submitting
      • instructions on how to find and upload your previous CNF can be found in section 9

Section 2 - Product

Notifier's reference

You may use this field for names or numbers that you use for the product for your own purposes, such as a formula code used by contract manufacturers.

Primary product brand and name

You must enter the primary brand and name of the cosmetic, as it appears on the product label.

This name must be different from all other products that you market.

For example, if a product called “Gentle Lavender Shampoo” is marketed by a company called "Cosmetic Brand" the primary brand and name of the product would be "Cosmetic Brand – Gentle Lavender Shampoo". Product names such as "Shampoo" are not enough to identify the product.

Date of first sale in Canada, actual or predicted

You may enter the exact date or the estimated date at which the product will be available for sale in Canada.

Other product names

You may enter other language translations or names for the product.

If you are submitting one CNF for multiple products with the same base formulation (but different shade/colour, scent/fragrance or aroma/flavour variations), you should list them here. 

Product description

You may use this field to describe the product's purpose. For example: this is a shine serum for hair.

You may also use this field to identify cosmetic products that are packaged together. Give the name and cosmetic number of the other product(s) in the package.

For example, a gift basket or "combo pack" containing soap and shampoo. Such products are not considered "kits" (find more details in  Appendix I) and therefore each component must be notified separately.

The fact that these products are packaged together can be indicated here.

Area of application

The table below describes the area(s) of application of the product - choose the most appropriate.
Area of application Description
Body Applied externally to the human body. Does not include the eyes or the oral cavity.
Eyes Primarily applied to the area of the eyes. In other words, the area bounded by the supraorbital and infraorbital ridges, including the eyebrows.
Face Primarily applied to the skin of the face.
Genitals Primarily applied to the genital area.
Hair Primarily applied to the body or facial hair, except eyelashes and eyebrows.
Lips Primarily applied to the lips.
Nails Applied to the nails only.
Oral Cavity Applied to the teeth or the mucous membrane of the oral cavity (mouth) only.

Form of product

The table below describes the form(s) of the product - choose the most appropriate. The form of the cosmetic is the state of the final packaged product ready for sale.
Form of product Description
Aerosol A suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas.
Foam A suspension of gas in a liquid.
Liquid oil A substance which is not miscible with water, and is generally slippery, viscous and liquid at room temperatures (for example mineral oil).
Liquid non-oily A non-oil based, low viscosity fluid form that can be poured. For example, solutions and milky lotions.
Liquid suspension A solid suspended in a liquid. For example, some moisturizers and some skin cleansers.
Semi-solid cream A viscous liquid or semi-solid emulsion. For example, some hair grooming products and makeup.
Semi-solid gel A viscous, usually clear, jelly-like semi-solid. For example, some hair grooming products and dentifrices.
Semi-solid lotion A liquid emulsion that is usually applied to the skin. For example, some moisturizers and makeup.
Semi-solid ointment/balm A thick, viscous preparation based on a fatty material. For example, lanolin.
Solid - Cake A solid mixture. For example, soap, bath bar or eyeliner stick.
Solid granules A small particle or grain that is usually dissolved or dispersed in water or another liquid. For example, bath salts, crystals and pearls.
Solid powder - Loose A loose mixture of dry, finely divided particles. For example, dusting powder, makeup and talcum.
Solid powder - Pressed A compressed mixture of dry, finely divided ingredients usually applied to the skin. For example, blush and eye shadow.
Kit Two or more components that must be mixed together in order to create the final product. Indicate the form of each component on one CNF. Where the products are not mixed together, for example gift baskets, notify each product separately (separate CNFs).

Function of product

The table below describes the function(s) of the product - choose the most appropriate.
Function of product Description
Adhesive Product that binds opposite surfaces to each other, such as an artificial nail with a natural nail.
Adhesive remover Product which is intended to remove glue from body parts, for example, from the nails or hair.
Antiperspirant/deodorant Product which masks, reduces or prevents the development of body odours.
Bath product Product added to bath water. For example, bath oils, tablets, salts or bubble bath.
Bleach Product which bleaches the hair. Excludes hair lighteners with colours.
Breath freshener Product that is used in the oral cavity to mask or reduce mouth odours. Includes breath freshening drops, sprays and strips. Excludes lozenges and gum.
Cleanser Product which cleanses the skin. Includes soap and astringents.
Conditioner Non-shampoo product which increases the suppleness or body of the hair or facilitates combing.
Depilatory Product which facilitates the removal of hair by chemical means.
Douche Product used for vaginal irrigation.
Epilator Product which facilitates the removal of hair by mechanical means, such as hair removal wax.
Exfoliant - Chemical Product that chemically removes dead cells from the surface of the skin, such as a facial peel.
Exfoliant - Mechanical Product that mechanically removes dead cells from the surface of the skin, such as a body scrub.
Fragrance product Product for imparting a scent. Includes perfume, cologne, "eau de toilette" and talcum powder.
Hair colour - Permanent Product which changes the colour of the hair.
Hair colour - Temporary Product which applies colour to the hair and washes or wears off.
Hair removal after-care Product applied to the skin after hair removal to soften or maintain skin suppleness.
Lubricant (personal, non-spermicidal) Product used to lubricate the genital area.
Makeup (non-permanent) Product applied to colour and/or beautify the skin. Includes eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, blush, face powder, foundation, rouge and makeup fixatives.
Makeup (permanent/tattoo ink) Product injected in the upper layers of the dermis for the purpose of decoration. Also includes semi-permanent inks.
Makeup remover Product applied to the skin to remove makeup.
Massage product Product used for massaging purposes.
Moisturizer Product applied to the skin to soften or maintain skin suppleness by reducing water loss or increasing the water content of the skin. Includes emollients and humectants.
Mouth wash Product to freshen or deodorize the mouth and breath. Usually a liquid that is swished in the mouth and spat out (not swallowed).
Nail product Product applied to the nails. Includes nail polish, nail cream, nail lotion, cuticle softener and nail hardener.
Nail polish remover Product used to remove nail polish.
Shampoo Product which cleanses the hair.
Shaving product Product used to care for the hair or skin during and after shaving. Includes shaving cream, pre-shave lotion, after shave lotion, beard softener and shaving soap.
Straightening, waving and curling products (permanent/semi-permanent) Product which chemically softens the hair to facilitate straightening or curling. This is generally followed by a neutralization step.
Styling product Product which is used to shape or style the hair. Includes mousse, gel, pomade and spray.
Sunless tanning product (non-SPF) Product which is used to give the appearance of a tan. Excludes products which protect the skin from sun damage or enhance or accelerate the tanning process.
Toothpaste - Non-fluoridated Product which cleans and/or polishes the teeth.
Tooth whitener Product used to whiten teeth.

Section 3 - Notifier

The notifier can be the manufacturer, a Canadian importer or a person responsible on their behalf.

All correspondence will be sent to the notifier. Therefore, indicate the full legal business name, complete mailing address and contact information, including the telephone number and e-mail address of the company submitting the CNF.

Section 4 - Manufacturing and Distribution

You must enter the manufacturer or Canadian importer contact information as it appears on the product label.

If the cosmetic was not manufactured or formulated by the person whose name appears on the label, provide the contact information for any additional manufacturers.

You must provide contact information for at least one manufacturer or importer located in Canada (in either section 3 or 4).

You may also list Canadian distributors in this section.

Check the "Same as Notifier" box if the notifier is also the manufacturer or importer.

You must select "Contact Type" and indicate if the contact is a distributor, importer or manufacturer. If the contact has multiple roles, select the role that is the highest in the distribution chain for the product.  For example, if the contact is both importer and distributor, choose importer.

Section 5 - Product Ingredients

Definition of an ingredient

A cosmetic ingredient is any substance or component that is added to the formulation on purpose and remains in the final product. Ingredients usually have a function and give a certain physical property to the final product. Examples are conditioning agents, fragrances, colouring agents, preservatives and flavours. 

Impurities or substances consumed during the manufacturing process are not considered cosmetic ingredients and do not need to be included on the notification form.

You must list all of the product ingredients and their concentrations by entering one ingredient per line on the CNF.

Use the "Add Ingredient" and "Remove Ingredient" buttons to add or remove ingredients.

The list of ingredients on the CNF must be the same as the ingredients listed on the product label.

To avoid delays in notification processing:

  • List only one ingredient on each ingredient entry line
  • Enter each ingredient contained within a proprietary blend/base formulation separately
  • Use International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) names where possible
  • List botanical ingredients by their full INCI name or, at a minimum, the genus and species portions of the full INCI name
  • Ensure spelling of the ingredient is correct
  • Verify that the dashes and spaces in the ingredient name are in the correct location
  • For colouring ingredients, use the Colour Index (CI) number or colour name (not both).

An attached list of ingredients (for example, in a Certificate of Analysis, material safety data sheet, etc.) is not an acceptable alternative to filling out this section of the CNF.

Ingredient name

You must list each ingredient separately, preferably using the INCI system.
If there is no INCI name for the ingredient, list the ingredient name using one of the naming systems listed below in order of preference:

  • Chemical Abstract Service number (CAS #)
  • Chemical name such as the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) name, or an International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) name
  • "Trade" name from the Merck Index (current edition) (Published by Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA)
  • Latin name (the scientific binomial name, including the genus and species)
  • International Non-Proprietary name (INN)
  • European or U.S. Pharmacopoeia Name (EP, USP)
  • Common name

Ingredient search

After entering the ingredient name, press the "Search Ingredient" button to validate the entry. It will also show any important information related to the use of this ingredient in cosmetics in Canada.

The results from the ingredient search will show in the "Ingredient Status" field. There are 4 possibilities:

  • Known: The ingredient is not prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics
  • Restricted: The ingredient is restricted for use in cosmetics. The details of the restriction will be provided in the "Condition of use" field. In order to speed up the processing of your cosmetic notification submission, please give the necessary information:
    • If the ingredient has a concentration restriction, please provide the exact concentration used in the product
    • If the ingredient requires warning statements, please provide a copy of the product label
  • Prohibited: The ingredient is prohibited for use in cosmetics.  Therefore, the product cannot be sold in Canada as a cosmetic.
  • Unknown/Not found: The ingredient is not recognized or not known to be used in cosmetics. Check that the ingredient is spelled correctly and is entered as per the naming conventions listed above. Also check spaces and punctuation. You may add information in Section 6 to help identify unknown ingredients (for example, Material Safety Data Sheets or Certificates of Analysis). This may trigger further review by Health Canada.

The Hotlist should be consulted each time a CNF is submitted. If you are unsure about the acceptability of an ingredient, please contact your nearest Product Safety Office.

Concentration of ingredients

You can provide the concentration of an ingredient as:

  • Exact concentration: enter the same value for both the lower and upper concentrations. Please enter the exact concentration for an ingredient with a concentration restriction.
  • Concentration range: enter the lower and upper concentrations or select one of seven set concentration ranges/range codes.
The table below lists the concentration ranges corresponding to the seven range codes as described in the Cosmetic Regulations – choose the most appropriate.
Concentration range Range code
More than 30 % up to 100 % 1
More than 10 % but not more than 30 % 2
More than 3 % but not more than 10 % 3
More than 1 % but not more than 3 % 4
More than 0.3 % but not more than 1 % 5
More than 0.1 % but not more than 0.3 % 6
More than 0 % but not more than 0.1 % 7

A detailed explanation of how to calculate "concentration" can be found in Appendix I .

The total concentration should add up to 100% unless the formulation includes ingredients that are variable. For example, the "May contain" box has been checked.

Additional information

"May contain" box

In the case of a single CNF for multiple products:

  1. list all the variable colour, fragrance or flavour ingredients used in the product line
  2. indicate the concentration range
  3. check the "May contain" box for each one

Aerosol container propellants

If the product is packaged in an aerosol container you must list the propellant ingredient and its concentration on the CNF and the product label.

Incidental ingredients

Ingredients present in the final product must be declared in the cosmetic notification. However, any incidental ingredients do not need to be listed, such as any processing aids that are either:

  • added and removed
  • converted to a declared ingredient

Fragrance and flavouring agents

You may list flavouring ingredients individually or together using the term "flavour" or “aroma”. You may list fragrance ingredients individually or together using the term "fragrance" or "parfum". 

Requests for information from Health Canada

If we have questions or concerns about a CNF, product or about any other issue concerning the submitted form, we may contact the notifier. For example, depending on the issue, we might ask you to:

  • provide more information to demonstrate the safety of the product
  • provide labels
  • re-label the product
  • reformulate the product
  • remove the product from sale
  • recall the product
  • submit a product license application to a different Health Canada program such as the Health Products and Food Branch or the Pest Management Regulatory Agency

To avoid common deficiencies and delays in processing your CNF, consult the list found in Appendix I.

Section 6 - Additional documents and pictures 

When a cosmetic presents an avoidable hazard as described in the Cosmetic Regulations or on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist, you must provide copies of labels and inserts with your CNF.

An example of this is a cosmetic containing an ingredient which requires warning statements in order to be used safely. If not provided at the time of notification, we may request that you submit a label or other documents.

To attach a document to the CNF, follow these steps:

  1. Click the "Choose Files/Browse" button and select the document to be attached
  2. Add a title to each document and select a document type from the drop-down list menu: the most common selection will be "Label - Text" for a text only label, or "Label - Marketplace" for a label including graphics or a printer's proof
  3. Use the "Choose Files/Browse" button each time another document needs to be attached, or use the "Remove Document #X" button to remove an attached document

If your completed form including attached digital files is larger than 70 MB you will see an error message and be unable to submit.  If this happens to you, follow these steps:

  1. Submit as many attached digital files as you can on your first form
  2. Make sure you note the case number you receive when you submit that form
  3. Go to the “Additional Information” web form and attach the additional digital files (those that put you over 70 MBs in total). Enter the case number
  4. You can’t submit executable files (for example, programs and .exe files) or compressed files (for example .ZIP files).

Section 7 - How to submit your Cosmetic Notification Form

Click the "Proceed to Submit" button to submit the CNF. A confirmation will be displayed if the CNF has been successfully submitted, along with the Case and Submission numbers.

Take note of your Case and Submission numbers. Always include them when communicating with us about a specific product.

If you have problems submitting the CNF, review the Help on Forms page.

Section 8 - How to save your Cosmetic Notification Form

Once you have submitted the CNF successfully, save the file for your records.

Choose a location that will be easy to find and use a name that includes the Case number and Submission number. It’s also a good idea to include the product name.

Saving a copy of the information from the form will make it quicker and easier to submit an amendment or discontinuation of sale in the future.

To save your online form on your computer:

  1. Right click on “Save my form”
  2. From the pop-up menu presented, left click on the option “Save as…”
  3. Using the “Save as” pop-up window presented, choose where your online form information can be saved on your computer. The file extension used is “.hcxs”.

Note that in a file with the extension format “.hcxs” only the text entered in the online CNF will be saved. The form itself will not appear.

The information related to your CNF can be saved at any point while filling in the online form.

Section 9 - How to view/edit your previous Cosmetic Notification Form

Open the CNF webpage and go to Section 9. Then:

  1. Select the information file you previously saved on your computer, using the "Choose File/Browse" button
  2. The file name of the selected file will be displayed to the right of the "Choose File" button
  3. Click on the "Upload Information" button
  4. The information previously saved will be presented in the online form
  5. If you edit the information and you wish to submit it, please refer to Section 7 - How to submit you Cosmetic Notification Form for more details.

Make sure the online form you are using is empty (does not contain information from another CNF) BEFORE you upload your information file. Also, for others to view or edit the content of your CNF, they must first:

  1. open the online form on the Health Canada website (on their browser)
  2. upload the information file you forwarded to them

Amendments and discontinuations

Submit amendments whenever a change to the product needs to be made, such as:

  • product brand and name
  • contact information
  • ingredient list

To amend or discontinue a product, open the CNF webpage and scroll to Section 9. Then proceed using these steps:

  1. Use the “Choose file/Browse” button to select the file containing the information; the file will have the extension “.hcxs”
  2. Use the “Upload information” button to upload the information. The information previously saved will populate the CNF
  3. For an amendment, select “Amendment” as the Notification Type in Section 1 of the CNF and add the Cosmetic Number
  4. Make any necessary changes and click the “Proceed to submit” button to submit online
  5. Remember to save a copy of any changes to your CNF information for your own records (refer to the Saving your Cosmetic Notification information section for more details)
  6. For a discontinuation, follow the same process, but select “Discontinue Sale” as the Notification Type in Section 1 of the CNF rather than “Amendment”

Reference numbers associated with CNF

Cosmetic Number (CN): The CN is a 7-digit unique identifier assigned by Health Canada. Once the CNF is processed, a CN will be assigned and sent to the notifier via email. For amendments or discontinuation of sale, enter the CN to speed processing.

This CN should also be used in any correspondence with Health Canada related to a product. This is equivalent to the "CNF number" used before 2013.

Case and Submission numbers: The Case and Submission numbers are internal tracking numbers for submitted CNFs. The numbers are assigned and inserted directly into the CNF when submitted online. Including the Case and Submission numbers in correspondence with Health Canada regarding the CNF improves our ability to identify the product(s) in question.

Appendix I: Common issues with CNF submissions

We sometimes request additional information or clarification. Missing or incomplete information may result in the CNF not being processed.

Failure to respond to an information request within the specified time may result in compliance and enforcement action.

This section lists common issues that occur most often in CNFs submitted to us. These issues can lead to inaccurate data and time delays in processing of the CNF.

The cosmetic contains an ingredient found on the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist

If a cosmetic contains an ingredient which appears on the Hotlist, the notifier could be contacted by Health Canada for additional information and may be subject to compliance action.

The cosmetic contains ingredients that affect the classification of the product

The notifier will be redirected to another program area of Health Canada.

Therapeutic representation of the product in the product's name, label or website

Cosmetic products cannot have therapeutic claims associated with them.  Such claims may result in the product being classified as a drug or natural health product under the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations. This includes claims within the name of the product, on the product label or in advertisements for the product as may be found on company websites.

Incorrect calculations of ingredient concentrations

The concentration of an ingredient is calculated as the percentage of the ingredient within the total composition of the product.

To calculate the concentration, ensure that all quantities are in the same units of weight or volume (grams, millilitres, kilograms and litres). For example, when using weight in grams as the units, first add the weight of all the ingredients present in the formulation to get the total weight of the product. Then, divide the weight of each of the ingredients by the total weight of the product and multiply the result by 100 to obtain the concentration of the product in percent.

Concentration (in %) = (Quantity of ingredient / Quantity of all ingredients contained in the product) × 100

Example: A product contains

  • 60 g ingredient X
  • 13 g ingredient Y
  • 2 g ingredient Z
  • Total weight of product: 60 g + 13 g + 2 g = 75 g
  • Concentration of ingredient X: (60 g / 75 g) × 100 = 80.00% (concentration range "1")
  • Concentration of ingredient Y: (13 g / 75 g) × 100 = 17.33% (concentration range "2")
  • Concentration of ingredient Z: (2 g / 75 g) × 100 = 2.67% (concentration range "4")

The name of the cosmetic or list of ingredients on the form is not consistent with the submitted label

The information given in the CNF must reflect the information found on the cosmetic product label. For example, the name of cosmetic and list of ingredients. If the name or ingredients in the CNF differ from the label, we will request clarification and processing of the CNF will be delayed.

Amendments are required if changes are made to information in a previously submitted CNF

CNFs are tracked according to product name and Cosmetic Number. When submitting a notification amendment, please include the Cosmetic Number. At a minimum, the product name in the amendment must match the name on the CNF previously submitted for the same product.

Completing a "kit" notification

A cosmetic product "kit" is sold with two or more different components, which are meant to be mixed together before the product is to be used (for example: a hair dye product).

List all kit components on the same CNF and indicate "kit" in the section "Form of product".

Note that the list of ingredients on the CNF should represent the finished product (once the “kit” has been mixed together) and should also be the same list that is on the product label.

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