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How to import cosmetics from China to USA
How to import cosmetics from China to USA

Many manufacturers and sellers in the United States ignore Chinese cosmetics when deciding where to buy wholesale products. However, the truth is that in China, you can find a wide variety of products at very favorable prices.


Importing cosmetics and skincare products from China is a lucrative business. However, specific regulations and best practices need to be observed.We'll delve into details covering niche research, FDA approval of cosmetics, tariff rates, and exchange rate compliance.



Choose your niche

When you want to choose a product that is easy to sell and profitable, you need to consider two important factors: choosing between an original Equipment manufacturer (OEM) product and an Original Design manufacturer (ODM) purchase. We will explore this further below.



Whether you choose a manufacturer or a designer, knowing the expected outcome of the procurement process can make the difference between receiving your product on time or having to wait weeks for it to clear through customs.

OEM product

Companies design the products they want to sell and rely on licensed manufacturers to produce the products and their components. The Acme Manufacturing Company, for example, offers custom formulations for cosmetics companies. Acme Manufacturing is the OEM in this scenario.

This approach requires extensive knowledge of product ingredients, adequate funding, and proper documentation for FDA approval by the cosmetic industry. When choosing an OEM, you're basically starting from scratch. Due to strict regulations, this can be extremely challenging for those looking to import cosmetics into the United States.

ODM procurement

This method is also known as "private labeling" and is widely adopted due to its simplicity. Through ODM purchasing, companies can select product designs from the manufacturer's design catalog.

Importers can tailor the product to meet their needs by adding custom brand labels to the packaging and then market it according to their business model. This approach would still need to support FDA cosmetic import approval documents. However, certain private label manufacturers have a list of pre-approved cosmetic formulations waiting for specific companies to market them.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so the choice must be made according to the needs of the company.

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Find a supplier

As a business owner, you don't want a manufacturer that cuts corners. Choosing the right supplier can make or break your business. The manufacturer's production capacity and quality management system must be considered.

While you may want to take the cheaper route, this can be costly for your business. When choosing a vendor, you want to make sure it's done right, not just the fastest way. Ask yourself these questions:

Productive capacity

Does the manufacturer outsource the materials to a third party, or does it design, assemble, and produce its own products?

Is the manufacturer proactive in understanding global market needs and processing requirements?

Do they offer various customization options for the product and its packaging?

Quality management system

These are just a few key factors to be aware of when choosing a cosmetics supplier. Surprisingly, many Chinese manufacturers are not keen on international trade due to the complexity of US import rules and regulations.

So it's a smart move to look for cosmetic suppliers that already export to other businesses in the U.S., primarily large U.S. retailers like Sephora. These suppliers have been vetted and fully certified, eliminating the need to research whether the supplier meets current FDA requirements.


In the United States, there are strict regulations for importing cosmetics. First, no matter what product you import, the United States has a list of basic documents required for international import approval, including:

Commercial invoice

Packing list

Bill of Lading (BOL)

Arrival reminder

Customs bond

These paperwork can be complicated for individuals, so many businesses seek the help of a licensed customs broker. A good customs broker can make sure nothing goes wrong.

In addition, when importing cosmetics from China into the United States, importers must comply with the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C).

FPLA is a federal law in the United States that governs labeling, packaging, and ingredient regulations for cosmetic products. Under the Act, all cosmetic products must carry a label that identifies the product, the net content of the product, the name of the content and details of the manufacturer, packer or distributor.

In addition, the Federal Food and Drug Administration Act of 1938 established quality standards for food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics sold in the United States. The law provides for federal regulation and enforcement of these standards. The Federal Food and Drug Administration Act is the framework for the operation of the Food and Drug Administration.

These federal laws collectively define labeling, packaging, and ingredient regulations for cosmetic products. Companies that violate these laws when importing cosmetics into the United States can be subject to financial penalties, product rejection, and import restrictions.

FDA approval

Most cosmetics imported into the United States do not require direct FDA approval. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The most notable exception is the use of color additives. All color additives must be listed on the list of permitted additives and require immediate FDA approval before being imported into the United States.

The company must also demonstrate that the use of the color additive meets the intended purpose. For example, one cannot use the same additives contained in eyeshadow in lipstick because of the potential harm that could be caused by consumers ingesting the color additives.

If certain cosmetic products are marketed to prevent, treat, or cure any current disease or condition of the purchaser, the FDA will label them as drug products.

This includes shampoo to remove dandruff, sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer, or eye cream to prevent wrinkles.

If you label a cosmetic product as a food or drug, it will require FDA approval before it is imported, and cosmetics containing prohibited ingredients will be completely banned in the United States.

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When importing cosmetics into the United States, don't ignore product labels. If the content on the label is wrong, it is difficult to correct the mistake after the goods arrive at customs. The correctness of the information on the label is crucial.

To keep the public safe, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 prohibits false information on product labels to keep the public safe.

If any part of the cosmetics label contains misleading, false or confusing information, then your shipment will not be allowed through customs until you make the appropriate changes.

Be sure to check that the product label is clear and correct to avoid any problems during the import process. When making labels for cosmetics, you need to include the following:

Product safety instructions

Intended use of the product


The name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor

A list of ingredients arranged by weight

The net content of the contents of the container, expressed as weight, size, or quantity

Under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), any product that contains an ingredient that has not yet been approved for safety must carry a warning label. Otherwise, the FDA will consider the product to be mislabeled.


Deliver goods

There are two ways to import cosmetics from China to the United States: by sea and by air. Both have advantages and disadvantages in terms of arrival time and cost effectiveness.

Air freight

Air freight can reach its destination within a day; However, air freight is the most costly option of the two.

Let's say a customer is waiting for you to restock. In such cases, it may be worthwhile to import products by air to improve customer satisfaction and prevent potential future revenue loss.

For products with low production costs or small transport volumes, air transport is the preferred mode of transport.

How does the air freight process operate?

Air Freight vs, Sea Freight: Which One Is Better?

Sea freight

Cargo ship transport is the preferred method of importing goods from overseas, especially for those who import goods several times in a year.

There are two types of sea freight: full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL), for larger volumes you can load a full container, or for smaller volumes you can share parts of a container with others.

Due to weight restrictions, the larger the cargo, the cheaper the shipping costs. But shipping is the slowest way to bring goods from China to the United States.

Cargo ships can take weeks or even months to reach U.S. points of entry, and product safety is not guaranteed. If you are shipping a small or moderate amount of cosmetics and transit time is not an issue, then sea shipping is a better option.

 Shipping From China Sea Freight

What is Sea Freight and Why Use It?

Freight forwarder

Choosing a freight forwarder is as important as choosing the right supplier. Freight forwarders can offer a wide range of services and features to your business, saving you time and money

The ideal freight forwarder should be able to provide you with:

Assist with import documentation, tax and customs clearance

Product insurance

Multiple transportation options

Assist with labeling and packaging

Fair interest rate

Latest technology

Last mile delivery

Excellent customer service

Freight forwarders meet your transportation needs by streamlining the import process. It's important to do your research beforehand to make sure the price is reasonable.At Winsail, our mission is to provide a smoother shipping experience. We offer free quotes for shipments, an easy-to-use website, and free consultations with our logistics experts.

By using our services, you can compare, book, and manage your shipments all in one place. With rates far cheaper than the leading competitor, your products are guaranteed to arrive from factory to warehouse quickly, cheaply, and safely.


Work with customs brokers

Agencies such as the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all have their own rules and regulations governing the importation of cosmetics from China into the US.

The changing political environment and free trade agreements can complicate the import process, making it difficult for businesses and individuals to cope. Licensed customs brokers are experienced professionals who can assist with the entire import process. Customs brokers can help you with the following:

File with CBP

Determine which regulations apply to your shipment

If your imported goods are detained by the customs, please claim release

Classify your shipment correctly

To keep you from making costly mistakes

You should carefully and intently prioritize each shipment. If you want to import cosmetics quickly and smoothly, consider how working with a customs broker can benefit your business. By now you should have all the information you need to import cosmetics from China to the United States.

This guide can help you find the right manufacturer, distributor, mode of shipping, and appropriate supporting documentation. In light of the above, importing cosmetics from China to the United States may seem daunting. If in doubt, consult a professional for more detailed questions. In this way, the whole process can become faster, more efficient and, of course, more cost effective.

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