cosmetic notification form

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.


48 replies
  1. Megan
    Megan says:

    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
      Marg says:

      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:

      • Alex
        Alex says:

        Hello Marg, we have a homemade hair oil, which is purely natural. Is an ayurvedic hair oil. We would like to sell it amazon or to our friends. Can you help us telling where to start? I read your post. It is informative. But still have many doubts as we have never done anything of this sorts. Do we need to have a office address to register the business? And do you have any idea how much would it cost for all the process? Thanks in advance

  2. sandra
    sandra says:

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

    • Marg Peebles
      Marg Peebles says:

      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:

  3. Nathan Watson
    Nathan Watson says:

    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
      Marg Peebles says:

      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.

  4. Nathan Watson
    Nathan Watson says:

    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
      Marg Peebles says:

      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.

  5. Mary-Lynn Martin
    Mary-Lynn Martin says:

    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.

  6. Sharon Rose
    Sharon Rose says:

    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.

  7. Lee
    Lee says:

    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!!

  8. Marg Peebles
    Marg Peebles says:

    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!


  9. baremountain
    baremountain says:

    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
      Marg Peebles says:

      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.

  10. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    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?

  11. Gillian
    Gillian says:

    Hi! This article really cleared certain things up for me. I’m still a bit iffy about my labeling.
    I make an herbal spray good for reliving itches of bites and stings, as well as salves for cuts/scrapes, sunburn, pain, etc. How can I label these in a way that I can convey what they’re good for without making “claims” and having them considered a NHP? Any input would be much appreciated!

    • Katja
      Katja says:

      Following. I have the exact same issue. How do you properly label a ”body spray” or a salve that relieves itching? If I want to sell DIY body products do they have to be Health Canada approved? TIA

  12. Kim
    Kim says:

    Thx for all info provided.. Im intrtested in making and selling balms and slaves. Coconut oil infused with various plants… Where does thay fall? Cosmetic or medicinal? What rules testing do i follow?

  13. Stacey Gray
    Stacey Gray says:


    I had no idea I had to register all our products! We have been selling for much longer than 10 days, i’m beginning to register everything but worry about the 10 day obligation that I was very unaware of.. help?

    • Louise Vargas
      Louise Vargas says:

      Hi Stacey,
      As long as the forms have been submitted to Health Canada, then you are free to sell it. It might take months to hear back from them with your case number.

  14. Pam
    Pam says:

    Thank you so much for the article and also the discussion that ensued. Very helpful. Answer 95% of my questions in one read. AWESOME!

  15. Heather
    Heather says:

    In reading thru the legislation I dont see why bathbombs would be considered a cosmetic. The dont clense or moisturiz, and they are not a perfume. Are you saying they are a cosmetic because of certain ingredients used in making them ?

  16. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hello Marg, we have a homemade hair oil, which is purely natural. Is an ayurvedic hair oil. We would like to sell it amazon or to our friends. Can you help us telling where to start? I read your post. It is informative. But still have many doubts as we have never done anything of this sorts. Do we need to have a office address to register the business? And do you have any idea how much would it cost for all the process? Thanks in advance

  17. Lidia
    Lidia says:


    A quick question. If I manufacture different bath bombs with the same composition but different fragrances do I need to submit a CNF for every scent? For example, a CNF for roses one for mangos, one for oat,milk and honey?

    Thank you for your answer.

  18. Ritzen
    Ritzen says:

    Hi there,

    I am making a small batch of cream and lotion and try to sell it to friends. Do I have to go through microbial and stability testing? I can’t seem to find it in the regulation.

  19. Jackie Toews
    Jackie Toews says:

    I make candles, but they’re not considered cosmetics, right? Mine aren’t massage candles, they’re just your standard scented candle.

  20. Erika
    Erika says:

    Good Morning!
    I have just opened a bath bomb and soap business out of my house. I am in the process of filling out the CNF, should I be registering my business as well or wait to see if it makes a revenue of at least $30,000/year?

  21. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    Hi there, wondering if someone could please point me in the direction for tracking down the CI (color) numbers? It seems overwhelming and even going to my suppliers ingredient list, I am unable to track down. Thank you for any help.

  22. Mel
    Mel says:

    Hello how would I list soy wax for candles and wax melts on a Canadian CNF? I cannot find the name of the ingredient in the database.

  23. Brenda Schmold
    Brenda Schmold says:


    I’m almost ready to submit my CNF form. Can anyone tell me if I need to list each and every fragrance oil blend and each and every colors used? I’m about to send and have the info handy – but won’t if I am not required? HELP!

  24. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    Hello, Thank you for this site. It is very helpful!
    I am interested in selling a salve that contains St.John’s Wort.
    Would that be considered a cosmetic or an NHP?


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