Table of Contents
The cosmetics industry is booming, and with plenty of demand for makeup, nail polish, hair care products and more, shipping these products across the nation or around the world has become an everyday occurrence. However, you may not realize that many cosmetics are considered hazardous. That’s right — it isn’t just sticks of dynamite or vats of toxic waste that are regulated as hazardous materials (hazmat). Other seemingly harmless products, like perfume, are as well. As we’ll see, all cosmetics should be shipped with careful consideration to comply with all regulations and get your product safely to its destination.
What Qualifies as Cosmetics?
Cosmetics are personal care products used to alter or enhance a person’s face or body in some way. For example, makeup is used to cover blemishes and enhance facial features, and conditioner is used to soften and hydrate hair. Cosmetics come in many forms, from sprays and creams to powders and more.
The global cosmetics market is valued at well over 532 billion USD and is growing all the time. The largest share of the cosmetics market belongs to skincare products. Other leading product categories include hair care, makeup, perfumes, deodorants and other toiletries and oral cosmetics. Cosmetics can include a wide range of ingredients, including both natural substances and synthetic substances. As we’ll see, some of these ingredients can be considered hazardous.
Are Cosmetics Hazardous?
Cosmetics may seem harmless enough, but many cosmetics are considered hazardous materials. This generally isn’t because they are inherently dangerous but because they pose possible safety risks during transport. Typically, hazardous cosmetics fall into Class 2 Gases or Class 3 Flammable Liquids.
Not all cosmetics are hazardous, so it’s important to pay attention to the specific ingredients and packaging of individual products. Many people might be surprised by how a seemingly harmless cosmetic is actually considered a hazardous material. Let’s look at some common examples of hazardous cosmetics:
- Fragrances: Any alcohol-based perfumes, colognes and aftershaves fall under Hazmat Class 3 since they are flammable liquids. Even natural fragrance products like essential oils are flammable and, therefore, hazardous. Most fragrances belong to Packing Group II or III.
- Aerosol sprays: Any spray in an aerosol can is considered a hazardous material. This can include dry shampoo, hairspray, makeup setting spray and spray deodorants.
- Pressurized foam or cream: As with aerosol spray cans, other cosmetics also pose a threat because they are stored under pressure. Some examples include shaving cream and foam and even some types of foundation.
- Nail polish and remover: Nail polish and nail polish remover are also considered hazardous substances. They fall within Class 3 Flammable Liquids.
Why Are Cosmetics Hazardous?
Cosmetics can be hazardous for different reasons. Because the U.S. beauty industry is mostly unregulated, some cosmetic products are still made with toxic chemicals. The harmful ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products are something for savvy consumers to watch out for, but the toxic chemicals in cosmetics generally aren’t the reason cosmetics may be labeled as hazmat. When it comes to shipping cosmetics, the hazard lies in the way cosmetics could react with their environment.
Many fragrances, nail products and other cosmetics are flammable. A liquid is considered flammable if it has a flashpoint of 199.4 °F (93 °C) or below. If the flashpoint is 141°F or lower, then it is considered a hazardous material. Transporting these products requires some special precautions to avoid the risk of ignition. Other cosmetic products that are stored as gases under pressure are hazardous because, if the storage container were punctured in some way, the stored energy would escape suddenly as thrust. In some cases, these gases are also flammable.
What Are the Rules and Regulations for Shipping Cosmetics?
In the U.S., the Department of Transportation (DOT) sets the rules for how to ship cosmetics and other hazardous materials. The DOT gives the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) the task of writing and updating the specific rules and regulations. These rules are outlined in CFR Title 49 – Transportation.
There are many details and nuances to the regulations, but the main requirements for shipping hazmat are that:
- Anyone offering materials for shipment or transporting the materials must be registered and have paid the appropriate fees to ship hazmat.
- The material’s packaging must clearly be labeled with the applicable hazmat class and description and be in proper condition for shipment.
- The proper paperwork has been filed.
These requirements typically apply to shipping in bulk. However, individuals or companies shipping smaller quantities of hazardous cosmetics may not have to meet the same requirements. The most significant exception to consider is the ORM-D Consumer Commodities class. This exception applies to products that look like what you would see on a retail shelf and are intended for personal care or household use, as opposed to raw materials or industrial products.
Note that this exception only allows for domestic ground shipping. With other types of shipping, you’ll have to use standard hazmat class labeling. This exception is helpful for shipping cosmetics when they are in their final form, packaged for retail. In this state, they do not pose much of a threat, and therefore, they don’t require the paperwork you would normally need to complete. However, they must still be shipped by a qualified individual and must be labeled. In this case, the label should read Consumer Commodities ORM-D, which stands for Other Regulated Materials, packaging group D.
Another relevant exception to the hazmat regulations has to do with shipping perfume or other products that contain limited amounts of ethyl alcohol. Again, this exception is aimed at retail products. As long as the product is 70% or less ethyl alcohol and is either in a glass bottle with 8 ounces or less or another type of container containing 16 fluid ounces or less, then they are excepted from the typical regulations for Class 3 Flammable Liquids.
Finally, another exception that can apply to shipping makeup or other beauty products is the limited quantity exceptions, which is especially helpful for ground shipments. The exceptions for limited quantities will differ depending on how hazardous a substance is, but generally, the shipment must have a gross weight of 66 pounds or under. Depending on the hazard class and packaging group, there will also be limited for the inner packagings, such as 1 kilogram or 5 liters.
If a material is shipped in limited quantities, it must still be shipped carefully with the appropriate packaging, but it won’t require the usual requirements of hazard class labeling, placarding vehicles and filling out paperwork.
As you can see, every shipping situation calls for its own specific rules and regulations. We’ve only touched on some of the highlights here. That’s why it’s essential for shippers of cosmetics to be aware of all the rules that may apply in certain situations and to have the necessary training for shipping hazmat.
How Do You Package Cosmetics for Shipping?
Whether your cosmetics are hazardous or not, they should be packaged carefully for safe shipping. In the case of hazardous materials, insufficient packaging could spell disaster, but even when materials aren’t hazardous, insufficient packaging can compromise the quality of the product, leading to unsellable products or, in the case of direct shipping to consumers, products that get returned and upset customers.
Let’s look at how to ship makeup, perfume and other fragile beauty products safely, using reliable packaging methods. First, make sure the product packaging itself is made from materials that can protect the contents from environmental factors like moisture, oxygen and contaminants so it stays fresh.Some packaging options include foil barrier packaging and some types of metallized and clear barriers.
Beyond the product packaging, you also need to provide other levels of protection for shipping. To satisfy the DOT’s requirements, you’ll at least need a strong outer packaging to protect upright, leak-proof inner packagings. The inner packagings should be kept in place with plenty of cushioning. Here are some more specific tips to help you package your cosmetics safely:
- Wrap each item separately in bubble wrap, layering the wrap at least four times.
- Tape the bubble wrap in place so it remains tightly wrapped around the item.
- For flammable liquids, place them inside a leak-proof container, standing upright.
- Fill a sturdy, rigid box up halfway with packing peanuts, and then place wrapped items or containers inside.
- Fill remaining space with packing peanuts or other cushioning materials.
- Seal closed package with plenty of packing tape.
- Use arrows to show how to handle the package and keep it upright.
- Add the appropriate label, including any necessary hazmat labels.
Can You Mail Cosmetics?
Cosmetics companies may have their own logistics partners to distribute their products all over the country or the world. However, some companies or individuals shipping cosmetics may wonder if they can send their shipments through the mail, either through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or through a leading courier delivery service. If cosmetics aren’t hazardous, you can mail them just as you would any other item, though you’ll want to be careful to package them securely and provide any necessary temperature control measures.
If cosmetics do present a hazard, then you’ll have to pay careful attention to the rules, which differ from courier to courier. Let’s look at some of the rules to watch out for, whether you’re mailing through USPS, FedEx or the United Parcel Service (UPS).
The USPS has rules on what can and cannot be shipped and how it should be shipped. Here are some of the rules that apply to cosmetics:
- You cannot ship perfumes containing alcohol by airmail, but you can mail them domestically by ground.
- Flammable nail polish that is considered a consumer commodity can be sent in the mail, though some may be restricted to ground transportation.
- Hairspray and other aerosols that are consumer commodities can be shipped by surface mail as long as they are packaged properly.
- Liquids must be properly sealed in a waterproof container.
- Packages containing liquid should have arrows indicating which direction is upright.
- For liquids exceeding 4 ounces, wrap the original container in padding, place that inside a leak-proof sealable container and place the container inside a box.
FedEx is another option to consider, but there are rules to know here as well. Fortunately, FedEx observes all the exceptions we looked at, so for limited quantities of consumer goods, you won’t have too much paperwork or labeling to do. You still want to make sure that:
- Liquids are contained in waterproof containers sealed with a lid. The lid should be wrapped with packing material.
- If you’re shipping more than one bottle of liquid product, all bottles should be individually wrapped with a padded material.
- Inner packaging should be absorbent when shipping liquids.
- In addition to the outer box, products should be contained inside a leak-proof sealed container.
UPS is not as forthright regarding their shipping restrictions. They provide a Dangerous Good Acceptance Tool online to guide shippers in determining whether they can ship something via UPS and what regulations they must follow. Generally, UPS abides by the same rules as USPS and FedEx, so you can ship aerosol cans by UPS ground, for example. As always, be sure to follow careful packaging procedures to ensure the safety of others and your product, as well.
Can You Ship Cosmetics Overseas?
The cosmetics industry has certainly gone global, so it’s no wonder that companies and individuals want to know whether they can ship cosmetics internationally. The answer is typically yes, though certain regulations apply. The requirements for overseas shipments tend to be more stringent than for domestic ground shipping, especially when it comes to shipping by air.
We looked at some helpful exceptions that make shipping hazardous cosmetics by ground a simpler process than it might otherwise be, considering the potential danger they pose. One such exception is the Consumer Commodity category, but this category only applies to domestic shipments in the U.S. and not to international shipments.
The U.S. DOT sets regulations for the United States, but when shipments involve other countries, you’ll need to pay attention to all relevant regulations. The Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods of the United Nations Economic and Social Council is responsible for publishing Model Regulations on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods. Different countries can set their own rules, but most rules align fairly well with the U.N.’s standards.
Some other regulations to consider when shipping hazmat internationally come from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Maritime Organization.
The rules you follow will depend on factors such as:
- What you are shipping
- What quantities you are shipping
- What transportation method you are using
- Where you are sending the goods
For example, if you’re shipping aerosols anywhere with an aggregate weight of over 150 kg, you cannot ship them via a passenger aircraft.
Get Qualified to Ship Cosmetics With Hazmat School
When it comes to shipping hazmat, there are many regulations to know. We’ve just scratched the surface with this post. If you want to become qualified to ship hazmat, whether it’s minimally hazardous materials like cosmetics or seriously hazardous materials like explosives, you need the proper training. Hazmat School makes it easy by providing training courses online. You can learn more about proper packaging, labeling and shipping so you can handle and transport products safely. Contact us today to learn more.
Manages Hazmat School’s E-Learning courses and blog. Kirstie has extensive experience in the online training and education industry. Kirstie has worked with courses that offer a variety of safety and environmental certifications that satisfy OSHA, EPA and DOT requirements.