The Guild of Craft Soap and Toiletry Makers (GCSTM) is a non-commercial organisation which provides information and guidelines about handmade soap crafting and the EU legislation that regulates the cosmetics and toiletries industry. GCSTM is run by volunteers who give their time freely for the benefit of both our members and the profession as a whole. The Guild operates an open admissions policy and membership is FREE to any soap or toiletry maker who holds safety assessments for their product range.
The Guild has two very specific aims:
- To raise awareness of the legislative standards that are in place that apply to craft soap and toiletry products
- To register as members of the Guild crafters who work in compliance with this legislation and who hold relevant public liability insurance
About Cosmetics and Toiletries Legislation
It is not generally known that in order to legally sell a crafted soap or toiletry product within the European Union that it must meet legislative guidelines. The reason for this is public safety. The same legislative standards applies to imported products.
The legislation in question is the Cosmetics Products (Safety) Regulations and it is legislation in force within the European Union. Different countries may interpret and implement it differently.
Current membership countries of the European Union (EU) are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Applications from any of these countries is welcome. A major reason for the existence of the Guild is to raise awareness of the Cosmetics Products (Safety) Regulations. Because of this we are not currently accepting applications from crafters in areas where the legislation is not in force. This is a practical policy decision only and should not be viewed as a reflection on the quality of crafts produced by manufacturers outside the European Union.
The legislation sets standards. It aims to ensure that every ingredient in handcrafted soap and toiletry products is safe to use. Some ingredients are banned because they’ve been found by scientific testing to be potentially harmful. Other products are banned or restricted because they are potential allergens. The aim of the legislation is to protect the general public and the craft soap and toiletry maker.
Who Can Join the Guild?
The Guild is free to join and is open to any EU based craft soap and toiletry maker who can demonstrate that their products have been safety assessed and approved for sale by a chartered chemist in line with the Cosmetics Products (Safety) Regulations. Read more >>
Insurance for Crafters
NB: Inclusion of a resource on this page is for information only and is not an endorsement. You must ensure that any insurance policy you take out meets your needs. The Guild cannot offer advice in this area.
Insurance is a specialist subject, and under legislative guidelines only qualified persons are allowed to offer advice. You need to speak to an insurance broker, the Association of British Insurers should be able to provide details of brokers/insurance companies that can help you. We list some insurance brokers below that we know offer insurance to craft soap and toiletry makers, however it is your responsibility to be certain that your insurance cover meets your needs. Check that your insurance provider is authorised and regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority.
The following companies provide insurance cover for craft soap and toiletry makers:
Ian W Wallace: An insurance scheme designed specifically for Crafts People (Individuals / Partnerships/ Companies etc.) and Craft Groups and Clubs in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The scheme is Underwritten by the Aviva Insurance Limited t/a Norwich Union.
Combined Market Traders Insurance Association: Claims to be one of the largest providers of public and product liability insurance for market traders all over the UK.
National Market Traders Federation: Information and advice for market traders on retail markets throughout the UK. Access to business insurance. Membership details, and markets database.
News from Department of Business, Innovation and Skills
These documents were just released by BIS (March 2013) and although one has draft in the title we’ve been informed that they are the final published version – other updates may follow however after feedback from the market to BIS. PDF format:
We are awaiting feedback from a chartered chemist and other professional working in the field and will post further information as it becomes available…
Helen Williams, Chair – Founder of Fresholi
Helen has helped guide the Guild from its early days. She founded and runs Fresholi, which is a major website for handmade soap & lotion makers where information & inspiration is shared freely. Whether just looking to find a maker of handmade soaps and lotions, tinkering with the idea of making it yourself, a budding crafter or a fully fledged expert, Fresholi aim to offer something for everyone. www.fresholi.co.uk
Michael O’Sullivan, Registrar – Founder of GCSTM and College of Integrated Therapies Ltd
Mike has been making soap for personal use for many years and and also teaches the art of soap making. He became interested in the idea of raising public awareness of quality after purchasing an untested bar of soap at a market, and after using it having a bad reaction which took several hours to calm down. After the bar of soap was checked by an experienced soapmaker it was deemed to have been cheaply produced and scented using far too much fragrance or essential oils.
Scott Grainger CSci CChem MRSC, Safety Assessor – Founder of Cosmetic Safety Assessments and Consultancy
Scott is a chartered chemist and has earned a reputation for being helpful, professional and approachable. Scott advises the Guild on issues related to Cosmetics Products (Safety) Regulations. www.cosmeticsafetyassessment.com
Webitseo Web Development, Site Designer and Web Strategy Consultant
Webitseo has been helping small and homegrown businesses with their website design and internet marketing strategies since 2001. www.webitseo.com
- How do I apply to join the Guild?
- How seriously will people take a Guild that is free to join?
- Have you ever refused an application to join the Guild?
- Is there a list of approved suppliers?
- How do I get permission to make and sell soaps and toiletries?
- How does the Guild set standards?
- How do I find out more about the legislation?
- I reported someone to you who is breaking the law – why won’t you take any action?
- My safety certificates show details of my formulas and product recipes, do I need to show you this information?
- Does it matter where I trained or learned to make my products?
- Can you offer advice on insurance?
To join the Guild all that we require are the following:
- We’d like to see copies of the product safety certificates issued by your chemist, a sample of certificates will suffice if you have a large product range OR a letter from your chemist confirming that they have safety checked your products and how many.
- You agree to hold suitable liability/product insurance to cover your trading activities. This is a condition of membership but we do not require to see copies of your insurance certificates. Note: Such insurance may not be available in every EU country, each application will be judged on its merits, but generally in cases where such insurance cover may not be available an assurance that the crafter is working legally in line with local legislation will be requested.
In most instances, documents can be submitted electronically. If you prefer to post your documents, please send copies, NOT originals.
You shouldn’t confuse ‘free to join’ with ‘easy to join’! Only crafters who can prove that they conform to legislation will be able to join us. This involves a certain effort on the part of the Crafter. Their products have to be submitted for testing, they have to source their raw materials from reliable and reputable suppliers and ensure that each step of their procurement and production process is documented. Crafters joining the Guild also have to show evidence that they hold public liability insurance.
Applications are rarely turned down as our joining criteria is self-explanatory – there is no point attempting to join unless you can provide copies of the required safety assessments or a letter from your safety assessor stating that they have been issued to you. Several applications have been withdrawn or not been proceeded with after we asked for additional information or queried details on the application. Several callers decided not to carry their initial contact any further after it became clear that they did not meet our membership criteria.
We have heard mention of ‘approved suppliers’ being used in relation to soap and toiletry making. There is no list of approved suppliers as such. An approved supply line is one where the chemist who is testing the end product is satisfied that the manufacturer or producer of the raw material being used has produced a safe product. The tester is happy for it to be used in the final product. This is usually ascertained by the paper trail from producer to point of supply. Basically an approved supplier is any producer or manufacturer that satisfies the requirements of the person testing the product. Testing Chemists may have different views about different products and suppliers.
You don’t need permission to become a crafter, you do however need to comply with the legislation which relates to the end product. This basically means that you cannot sell any products to the public until they have been tested and certified safe by a chemist who has undergone specialist training. Before beginning selling you also have to register with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), formerly the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) – (BERR, was formerly the DTI). In short anyone can make and sell craft soap and toiletry items as long as they conform to the legislation. The legislation only relates to selling the product, it does not for example prevent you from making soaps and toiletries for personal use.
The Guild exists to raise awareness of existing standards. The Guild does not set standards, these have already been put in place by Government. Neither does the Guild involve itself in approving suppliers of raw materials and products. As raw materials used in craft products must be safety tested and certified before the end product can be legally sold, standards in the area of supply are maintained by those who test the products. Testing is carried out by chemists who have undergone specialist training.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, guidance note on the Cosmetic Regulations can be viewed at:
Consumer Product Recall – A guide to good practice issued by the BIS
Trading Standards – Cosmetic products safety, composition and labelling
A database of International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) names is available on the Europa website.
A guild is an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal and membership is voluntary. The cosmetics products safety regulations and Food Imitations (Safety) Regulations are both enforced by your local Training Standards office. You should report any concerns directly to your local office.
No. Safety certificates do not follow a standard format and some show more information than others. If this information is included on your documents please feel free to blank it out, we only need to see those parts of the certificate that state ‘product safe’ and chemists details. Details about how you make your products are commercially sensitive and we do not require them. If your chemist is happy that they are safe that meets our criteria. In any case only the registrar sees these certificates, and strict confidentiality is maintained at all times. At no time will an active crafter be shown commercially sensitive information relating to your product range.
No. We do not ask for this information. As long as your products meet the standards required for certification, and you hold appropriate insurance or satisfy local trading requirements where such insurance may not be available, then you meet our membership requirements
In a word: no. Insurance is a specialist subject, and under legislative guidelines only qualified persons are allowed to offer advice. You need to speak to an insurance broker, the Association of British Insurers should be able to provide details of brokers/insurance companies that can help you. We also list some insurance brokers that we know offer insurance to craft soap and toiletry makers. However it is your responsibility to be certain that your insurance cover meets your needs.
This information leaflet was designed for market and outlet managers to bring the requirements of the cosmetic safety regulations to their attention when renting space for craft soap and toiletry makers to sell their products. It is also suitable for distribution to the general public. The leaflet is freely available, you do not have to be a member of the Guild to use it subject to abiding by the copyright agreement and disclaimer…
- Soap Craft by Diana Peacock
- Make Your Own Skincare Products by Sally Hornsey
- Make Your Own Perfume by Sally Hornsey
- Natural Soap by Melinda Coss
Soap, Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Health-Related Articles
Guild members in the news
Featured in the Daily Mail
Featured on the BBC