Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) : Part One.

imageIf you are new to the handcrafted bath and body industry in Canada, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about the Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF). I started to write a short post about CNFs, which quickly turned into an encyclopedia, so I have turned it into a two or three part series. Up first, what is a CNF and why do I need one?

Health Canada requires that anyone who sells a cosmetic product in Canada must file a CNF with them within 10 days of first making the product available for sale. Anyone means everyone, from the big name sellers such as L’Oreal or Lush, all the way to your neighbour who sells a few bars to family and friends just to help cover the cost of her raw materials: no exceptions. Aside from reviewing the ingredients in your product to confirm that all of your ingredients are approved for use in cosmetics, the CNF also provides Health Canada with your contact information, which will be used in the event that your product causes an allergic reaction or other issue that is reported to them. They will contact you and ask you to recall the product.

To get you started, here are some commonly asked questions about filing a CNF:

  1. Is my product a cosmetic? Health Canada defines a cosmetic as “”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.” This includes bath bombs, bath salts etc.
  2. What is not considered a cosmetic? If you make any claims that your product has any therapeutic or healing effect, it is no longer a cosmetic. For example, claims that your dandelion balm treats eczema, or that your tea tree oil mask clears up acne will result in your product being regarded as a drug or Natural Health Product, which requires testing and approval. Some products, such as bug spray or sunscreen are automatically excluded from the cosmetics category even if you make no claims about them. Sunscreen is considered a drug, and bug spray is a pesticide, and they must conform to much stricter regulations. Sale of handmade sunscreen is prohibited in Canada, and sale of handmade bug spray is currently under review.
  3. If I file a CNF, can I say that my recipe is approved by Health Canada? No. The only things that are screened by Health Canada when you file a CNF is that the ingredients you are using have been approved for use in cosmetics, and that you are not exceeding the maximum usage rate of any ones that are restricted. 
  4. What happens if I sell product and don’t file a CNF? That depends on how and where you sell your product. If you are that person who is just selling to family and friends, your chances of getting “caught” are pretty slim. However, there is always the chance that your product may cause an allergic reaction in someone, and it may get reported to Health Canada. Fines for non-compliance range from $1,000 to $25,000 per offence. Now you may think, “my friends would never do that to me”, but imagine if your product caused a reaction in their young child? Or, what happens if your friend buys soap from you and gives it as a gift to someone you don’t know? Still feel confident? It is always better to be in full compliance with all regulations. There is no fee to file a CNF. If you sell your products online, in stores, or at a market, your chances of being found non-compliant are increasing every week. Health Canada has staff reviewing websites and attending markets, and you could find yourself under scrutiny at any time.
  5. Okay, I’ve filed my CNF…now what? Once you’ve filed your CNF, one of two things will happen. You may receive an email or phone call from Health Canada indicating a problem with your submission. Respond to their inquiry, and work out the problem. If you aren’t contacted, then at some point you will receive a notice that your CNF has been approved and they will provide you with a number. Keep that number in a safe place. If you ever change the product you will need that number to file an amended CNF. More importantly, this is your proof of compliance which you can show to a Health Canada inspector if one shows up at your market, or contacts you by email requesting to see your CNF.

In Part 2 of this series, we will take a closer look at the actual filing process.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about the CNF, come join our Facebook group, Soapz and Stuffs and post a question. The group is open to everyone, not just HBBG members, and someone is always around to help.


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24 Responses to Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) : Part One.

  1. Megan October 25, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    Thank you for this! I have been racking my brain today as I am trying to fill out my first form. do you know if I need to put my own name as the business name or the business name I will use even through its not the ‘full legal business name’ as stated on the CNF? i plan on selling to family and friends and not to really register a whole business

    • Marg October 26, 2016 at 5:11 am #

      Hi Megan! I’m so glad you found this information helpful to you, and thank you for letting us know.

      Even if you are only selling to family and friends, you are legally required to register your business name, unless you are selling under your own name. (You do not need to incorporate, you can choose to be a sole proprietorship.)

      When you register your business, you will receive a Master Business License, and a Business Number. As a registered busines, you can claim your business expenses on your annual tax return.

      You can find all the information you need to register your business online here:

      If you have any questions about the process (or anything else) you can find help in our Facebook group, Soapz and Stuffs:

  2. Corry April 22, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    Hi Megan, would Anti-aging oil be considered a drug or cosmetic?

    • Marg Peebles April 24, 2017 at 6:39 am #

      Hi Megan An anti-aging treatment would be considered a cosmetic, unless you want to go through the expensive and time consuming process of having it registered as a drug, which is not feasible for most handcrafters. Just be careful with your labeling to avoid making claims that aren’t allowed. Here is a link to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Cosmetic Advertising and Labelling Claims, which gives you very specific examples of what is allowed.

      • Jen November 20, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

        Hey! Are bath bombs, bubble bars and bath truffles a cosmetic?

        • Marg Peebles December 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

          Yes they are all cosmetics.

          • Rhonda Vegso February 4, 2018 at 9:03 am #

            I can’t find anything regarding the use of citric acid in bath bombs. According to the cnf it’s restricted to 10% with a warning label.

            Someone told me the baking soda reacts with the citric acid to correct the ph. I understand that, but the cnf form is pretty specific about the single ingredient citric acid. Is there another inci name for the reacted mixture that eliminates the need for the warning label and allows concentrations above 10%?

          • Marg Peebles February 4, 2018 at 2:09 pm #

            Hi Rhonda

            Here is a link to the Health Canada Hotlist of Restricted and Prohibited Ingredients. If you check Citric Acid, you’ll see the following:

            “d) Products intended to be diluted in bath water may contain levels of citric acid exceeding 10%.”

            Even though the CNF form displays the warning that the ingredient is Restricted, it will allow you to enter it. Any products that are not diluted in water must be at 10% or lower.

            Rgds Marg


  3. sandra May 23, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for your info.
    Can you direct me to where or who to contact about currently selling a home made bug spray?

    • Marg Peebles May 26, 2017 at 4:18 am #

      Hi Sandra

      Bug sprays are classified as insecticides, and are regulated by the Pest Control Products Act. Samples must be submitted to the Health Canada for approval and will be issued a Pest Control Product Number, which is required to legally sell it in Canada.

      This is an expensive process, because currently products must go through a testing process to proven that they are effective.

      There are some changes coming to the cosmetic regulations which may allow “traditional use” as proof of effectiveness, but no definite timetable for when changes will take place, and no guarantee that Health Canada will take the same approach for bug sprays.

      Here is a link to the relevant Canada page:

  4. Nathan Watson June 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    Hello, I was wondering how long you need to wait before Health Canada sends you your number? I am looking to purchase insurance that I can sell my product but feel uneasy about this until I get that number. Any thoughts?

    • Marg Peebles June 11, 2017 at 5:50 am #

      Hi Nathan The length of time between filing a CNF and receiving your a product number back from Health Canada depends on how many other people filed at the same time. You could get it back in a couple of weeks, or it could be a couple of months. You do not need to wait for the product number to begin selling that product. The legal requirement is that you must file within 10 days of the first sale.

  5. Nathan Watson June 11, 2017 at 7:12 am #

    Hi Marg,
    Thank you for your response. My concern is selling my product without insurance. I recently purchased a membership here at Handcrafted Bath & Body Guild and would like to purchase the insurance as well. Unfortunately according to the website the insurance only covers those products which have received a CNF number. That being said I am left marking time until Health Canada provides me with a number for the two forms I sent in. Is there a way to check on the status of my form? It is unfortunate as I have a number of people who would like to purchase but without insurance I am not sure if I should begin marketing my products.

    • Marg Peebles June 13, 2017 at 8:04 am #

      Hi Nathan Although you can legally begin selling your product before you receive your Product Number back from Health Canada, only products that have an approved Product Number will be covered by your insurance policy. I just tested the Cosmetic Notification Form to see if it prevented submission of a form containing a restricted ingredient that exceeded the maximum allowed by Health Canada, but unfortunately it does not, which leaves us waiting for Product Numbers for insurance coverage. If you wish to follow up on your submission, the email address for questions is I’m not sure if their system allows for status updates, but its worth a try.

  6. Mary-Lynn Martin June 27, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    I am a certified aromatherpist and am looking to make products to sell. Natural more rather then treatments. I do have insurance based on my certification but am concerned about the CNF. Do I have to have a number for each product? I have not sold any product yet. Thank you so much for your information.

  7. Kaida July 14, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    Is there a number I can call to talk to someone verbally about bath bombs ?

  8. Sharon Rose December 30, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you for the helpful info!
    I am a small commercial cleaning company and I want to make cleaning supplies such as floor cleaners, furniture polish and general surface cleaning formulas.
    My ingredients will be organic and will include essential oils.
    I will be selling my products online and Canada only for starters.
    Do I need to conform to the above regulations or do I fall under different ones?
    Thank you for your help.

  9. Lee December 31, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    Hey there!

    Do you know roughly how much it would cost to get a skin oil approved under Natural Health Products. We’ll be using claims like “calms inflammation”, do you think we could get it listed under the Cosmetics Act?

    Thank you!!

  10. Marg Peebles January 3, 2018 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Lee Any references to calming or inflammation would require approval as a Natural Health Product, not a Cosmetic. Unfortunately I don’t have any information regarding the costs for that. You might try asking the question in our Facebook group Soapz and Stuffs to see if anyone there has gone through the process, or contact Health Canada. Good luck!


  11. baremountain January 17, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

    OK, so I know if I use something like say, foaming bath butter in a product I need to still list all its ingredients etc in my CNF but my question/is then do I need to then list two manufacturers, me and the company that made the bath butter or just me? I assume listing both would be safer legally but maybe I am wrong…..

    • Marg Peebles January 18, 2018 at 6:20 am #

      On the CNF, they are looking for the manufacturer of the finished product, not the manufacturer of ingredients within the product.

      If you think about it, each ingredient that you use is manufactured by someone, and entering aĺl of them would not be practical.

  12. Courtney March 29, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

    When filling out the cnf using either a melt and pour additive or something of the kind how do we know what % the ingredients are?

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