The beauty and cosmetic industry provides services and products designed to help us look and feel good. Australian Consumer Law and health legislation provides a legal framework for the operation of the industry, so consumers are safe, and their rights protected.
This page provides information on:
- what are beauty and cosmetic services?
- ingredient labels
- buying beauty products online
- counterfeit products
- your consumer rights
- advice if you have a problem
- advice to be a savvy consumer
What are beauty and cosmetic services?
Beauty and cosmetic services can be delivered at beauty, hair and nail salons, spas and hotels, even at your home. They include:
- haircuts, dying and styling
- makeup application
- face and body spa treatments (including micro-needling, anti-ageing treatments, Botox, dermal fillers, non-surgical breast and hip enhancements, nose-bridge lifts, eyelid suturing)
- manicure and pedicures
- hair removal (including threading, waxing and laser treatments)
- cosmetic tattooing
- false eyelash application.
Some treatments and procedures can include the administration of prescription-only medication (eg Botox, dermal fillers and anaesthetics). This should be carried out by suitably qualified professionals in a hygienic environment.
"Seek advice from a medical practitioner or your GP before you undergo a beauty procedure. They can advise you about potential health or infection risks."
You can ask to see the professional’s qualifications before the treatment and check their registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) online.
Protect yourself from shonky beauty procedures and learn more with our Be a savvy consumer section.
Ingredient labels on cosmetics
Cosmetics sold in Australia are subject to a mandatory standard for ingredient labelling. The standard helps ensure the cosmetics you buy are safe to use. Under the Trade Practices (Consumer Product Information Standards) (Cosmetics) Regulation 1991:
- product ingredient information should be available to consumers at the point of sale
- the listing of product ingredients is required on the container (or on the product itself, if not packed in a container)
- where the container or the product is of a size, shape or nature that prevents ingredient labelling by the methods above, the ingredient information must be displayed in some way to allow consumers to be informed
- when listing ingredients, the ingredients need to appear in descending order calculated by either mass or volume
- alternatively, the ingredients can be listed in the following way:
- ingredients (except colour additives) in concentrations of 1 per cent or more in descending order by volume or mass
- followed by ingredients (except for colour additives) in concentrations of less than 1 per cent in any order
- followed by colour additives in any order.
- the listing of the quantity or percentage of each ingredient is not necessary.
The following goods are exempt from the mandatory information standard:
- therapeutic goods within the meaning of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989
- cosmetics manufactured in Australia for export
- free samples of cosmetic products
- testers of a cosmetic product.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) oversees cosmetic product safety and the enforcement of this safety standard. For more information, visit the ACCC website.
Note: Cosmetics bought from an overseas website may not adhere to this mandatory standard. Find out more below.
Buying beauty products online
"Buying online can be a simple and affordable way to purchase beauty and cosmetic products, however the lack of regulation on goods manufactured and sold overseas can pose a serious risk to your health."
While medicines and medical devices bought in-store are generally subject to regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), cosmetic and beauty products bought online from international sellers may not be subject to TGA regulation.
These items may:
- be counterfeit (see below for more)
- contain the incorrect amount of active ingredient
- be contaminated with toxic chemicals
- contain undisclosed or dangerous ingredients
- be past their use-by-date.
Read more about buying goods online.
Counterfeit medicines and cosmetics
Counterfeit medicines or medical devices are goods that are simulated to appear as genuine ‘brand’ items. They may be falsely manufactured, packaged or advertised.
"While they may be cheaper, counterfeit cosmetics, medicines or medical devices may not work, and in worst cases, can be harmful."
It is the cosmetic and beauty service provider’s responsibility under Australian Consumer Law to guarantee that all products are compliant for use in Australia.
Your consumer rights
Australian Consumer Law guarantees your rights when you buy goods and services.
In fact, most products and services purchased after 1 January 2011 come with an automatic consumer guarantee that the product or service you purchased will work and do what you asked for. This includes beauty and cosmetic services.
When you engage a business to provide a service, you have the right to expect ‘acceptable quality’. Services must be:
- provided with due care or skill (taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage)
- fit for any specified purpose (express or implied)
- provided in a reasonable time (when no time is set).
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the nature of the service, the difficulty of the task and other relevant factors.
Proof of purchase and documentation
You have the right to receive proof of purchase (like an invoice, cash register receipt, handwritten receipt or lay-by agreement). Suppliers must provide proof of purchase for goods and services worth $75 or more (excluding GST).
Some cosmetic and beauty procedures are supplied under a contract. If you are asked to sign a contract, you are entitled to receive written copy (including its terms and conditions). Keep this for your records and in case you need to refer to the contract terms during a dispute. For more information, refer to our Contracts page.
If the service has a warranty, it will give you some extra protection against faults or defects. Warranties generally have terms and conditions attached - it’s your responsibility to be aware of these.
Advertising can be a powerful means of persuasion, so it’s important it is truthful, accurate and easy to understand. Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from deceptive advertising claims and conduct.
Businesses are not allowed to make false or misleading representations about their products or services. This includes advertising for beauty and cosmetic services.
Learn more about advertising standards.
Remedy when things go wrong
You are entitled to an appropriate remedy from the business when the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
This might be a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some cases, reimbursement for damages and consequential loss.
The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is:
If the problem is minor and can be fixed, the business can choose how to fix the problem. You cannot cancel and demand a refund immediately. Instead, you must give the business an opportunity to fix the problem. However, if repairs take too long, you can get someone else to fix the problem and ask the business to pay reasonable costs or cancel the service and get a refund.
If the problem is major or cannot be fixed, you can choose to:
- terminate the contract for services and request a full refund
- seek reimbursement for the difference between the value of the services provided compared to the price paid.
Learn more about repairs, replacements and refunds.
A problem is considered ‘major’ when it:
- would have stopped someone from purchasing the service had they known about it
- is substantially unfit for purpose and can’t be fixed in a reasonable timeframe
- creates an unsafe situation
- doesn't meet the specific purpose or achieve the specific result that the consumer requested.
Learn more about repairs, replacements and refunds.
Have a problem?
If you experience any medical complications after a cosmetic procedure, seek medical advice straight away.
If you believe you have purchased a counterfeit product, you may also wish to seek professional medical advice.
If you want to complain about the conduct of a registered health practitioner or the standard of clinical care you received, contact the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).
For issues concerning your consumer rights:
- Contact the business in the first instance and explain the problem. If the matter is complicated and not urgent, you could write an email or letter. We have tips and sample letters to help you.
- If you’re unable to resolve the matter with the business, you can contact us for help on 13 32 20 or make a complaint online.
Be a savvy consumer
Cosmetic procedures and treatments can be complicated and may pose significant risks to your health and wellbeing.
Choosing to have one is a significant decision that should not be made without thorough research into the procedure, the facility, the provider and every aspect of the health risks involved.
Do your research
Before committing to a cosmetic procedure, NSW Fair Trading and NSW Health recommend you undertake the following research as a minimum:
- Seek advice from a health practitioner such as your GP about any health risks that may be involved before deciding to proceed.
- Ask about the qualifications, training and experience of the person who will perform the procedure or treatment. If they claim to be a nurse or doctor, you should check with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and confirm they are registered in Australia.
- Check that the facility is clean and hygienic. Depending on the type of procedure being provided, the premises may need to be registered with the local council or licenced as a private health facility by NSW Health. Private health facilities must display a copy of their licence. Visit the NSW Health website or call them on 9391 9000.
- Check that the provider is complying with any applicable codes of conduct.
- Unregistered health practitioners providing cosmetic health services must comply with the NSW Health code of conduct for unregistered health professionals.
- Registered health practitioners may need to comply with a professional code of conduct, which is regulated by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). Find more information on the code of conduct on the website.
- Once you have quotes for the desired service, keep in mind that dramatically cheaper estimates could indicate that the products are counterfeit or non-registered Australian medicines.
- Download our checklist to help you make your decision.
The 'great deals'
Be aware of special offers, promotions and verbal promises when shopping for beauty and cosmetic products and treatments. Some deals may not be as good as they seem once you read the fine print.
Cheap prices may indicate that the procedure or treatment is being performed by unqualified staff, or that products are counterfeit, or not approved for use in Australia. Before buying a deal, carefully read the terms and conditions to avoid any hidden costs.
Don’t let the offer of a great deal persuade you to pay for something that you might not have otherwise bought.
If you purchase a gift card or voucher from a cosmetic and beauty service provider, check if there are any special conditions. Most gift cards and vouchers sold in NSW should come with a minimum expiry period of three years.
Visit the Ways to shop and pay section for more information.
Sales pitches and the hard sell
Be aware that offers for ‘free’ consultations and makeovers can lead to pressure to purchase products you might not want. While extreme salespeople are in the minority, the use of high-pressure, bullying sales tactics may be more common and include:
- implying your appearance or health will suffer without their products or services
- asking you a series of questions where the answers are obviously ‘yes’ thereby making you feel you need the product
- praising a product for its amazing yet unrealistic benefits
- trying to get your sympathy by claiming that they are one sale short of winning a prize, or will lose their job if they do not meet their quota
- claiming you have wasted their time and money if you listened to their spiel but then said you didn’t want the product
- offering a discount if you sign the contract or buy the product on the day.
Before you make a purchase
Before you make a purchase, find out:
- whether the salon has a refund policy
- how much the total service costs
- how much notice you need to give in case you need to cancel a treatment
- the preferred method of payment and if there is a hidden cost if you pay another way
- whether there is a cooling-off period if you sign up for the deal,
- what happens if you change your mind.
Always read carefully the terms and conditions of any contract and check for hidden costs. Be wary of pre-payment or providing credit card details upfront in case you need to cancel or change your mind.
- NSW Health publishes fact sheets about hygiene and cleanliness standards for beauty salons and spas in English and in other languages from their website.
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products. TGA is also responsible for regulating the supply, import, export manufacturing and advertising of therapeutic goods.
- Check a practitioner is registered with AHPRA.
- Learn more about cosmetics at the Product Safety Australia website.
Checklists, fact sheets and other publications
- ‘Are you thinking of a makeover? Think it over!’ postcard
- ‘Know your rights before you consider a beauty treatment or cosmetic procedure’ checklist
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law?
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.