EPA Bans 'Forever Chemicals’ In Cosmetic Products
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has banned the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in cosmetic products from 31 December 2026.
New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to take this step on PFAS - often described as ‘forever chemicals’ - to further protect consumers and the environment.
PFAS are sometimes used in products such as nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick, and mascara. They are added to smooth the skin, or to make cosmetic products more durable, spreadable and water resistant.
"We know these chemicals don’t easily break down, they can build up in our bodies, and some can be toxic at high levels," says Dr Shaun Presow, Hazardous Substances Reassessments Manager.
"International research suggests PFAS are only found in a small number of products, but we take a precautionary approach to potential risks from PFAS. Banning these chemicals in cosmetics is part of our ongoing response, which includes phasing out all PFAS-firefighting foams and testing for background levels of PFAS in the New Zealand environment."
The decision on PFAS is one of a number of updates that have been made to the Cosmetic Products Group Standard, to ensure cosmetic products are safe and the rules better align with international developments.
"We’ve also strengthened the regulations so non-hazardous cosmetic products that contain a hazardous ingredient are now regulated," says Dr Presow.
"This makes it easier for us to enforce the rules around banned and restricted ingredients that may be found in these products."
The EPA publicly consulted on the rule changes in 2023 and received 20 submissions, including 14 from the cosmetics industry.
"The feedback from our consultation was particularly important for us to better understand how widespread PFAS use is in cosmetics, and was supportive of the changes," says Dr Presow.
"We will continue to engage with industry to manage the transition before PFAS are banned and the other changes take effect."
- Dates for changes to rules on PFAS in cosmetic products: - From 31 December 2026, cosmetic products containing PFAS are banned from being imported or manufactured in New Zealand. - From 31 Dec 2027, cosmetic products containing PFAS are no longer allowed to be sold or supplied in New Zealand. - By 30 June 2028, all cosmetic products containing PFAS must be disposed of.
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of about 10,000 synthetic chemicals used for their non-stick and detergent properties.
- The EPA defines PFAS as a class of fluorinated organic compounds containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom, excluding those that also contain degradable groups. All PFAS that fit this definition are included in the ban.
- The USA state of California was the first major jurisdiction to ban all PFAS in cosmetics, in September 2022, with a transitional period for enforcement after 1 January 2025.
- There are 25 changes that have been made to the Cosmetic Products Group Standard 2020, which details how the EPA regulates cosmetic products.
- Certain PFAS are already banned in New Zealand.
- The EPA has placed progressively tighter restrictions on PFAS in firefighting foam, which will be completely banned from December 2025.
- The EPA commissioned tests for PFAS in groundwater in 2022, releasing a report on the findings in 2023.