Costa Rica - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-11-10









Total Market Size 







Total Local Production 







Total Exports 







Total Imports 







Imports from the U.S. 







Exchange Rate: 1 USD 







 Data in millions of US Dollars 

Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports) 

Data Sources: 

Total Local Production: Industry sources 

Total Exports: Costa Rican Customs Directorate 

Total Imports: Costa Rican Customs Directorate 

Imports from U.S.: Costa Rican Customs Directorate 

This market study includes cosmetic products listed in chapters 33 and 34 of the Harmonized System. The products included in this study are the ones listed below: 

Tariff Number                  Description 

3303.00.00.00                      Perfume and Toilet Waters 

3304.10.00.00                      Lip Make-up Preparations 

3304.20.00.00                      Eye Make-up Preparations 

3304.30.00.00                      Manicure or Pedicure Preparations 

3304.91.00.00                      Beauty or Make-up Preparations 

3305.10.00.00            Shampoos

3305.20.00.00                      Permanent Waving or Straightening 

3305.30.00.00                      Hair Lacquers 

3306.10.00.00                      Dentifrices 

3306.20.00.00                      Dental Floss 

3307.10.00.00                      Pre-shave, Shaving or After-shave 

3307.20.00.00                      Deodorants and Antiperspirants 

3307.30.00.00                      Bath Salts and Other Bath Preparations 

3401.11*                                      Soaps 

3304.99.00.00                     Other Make-up Preparations 

3305.90.00.00                     Other Capillary Preparations 

According to Costa Rica’s Ministry of Foreign Trade, imports of cosmetic products have increased in recent years. The consumer habits of Costa Ricans are becoming more complex due to an increased awareness of the aging processes with Costa Ricans investing more in premium products and services. 

It is expected that this sector will continue to grow due to the Costa Rican population’s demand for personal care products. U.S. imports of cosmetic products increased from 2016 to 2019 with a small decrease in 2018 and 2020 with Mexico continuing to dominate the Costa Rican cosmetic market with 26 percent of total imports in 2019. Mexico is followed by the U.S. with 20 percent and Colombia with 17 percent.  Guatemala and Colombia have also become important competitors within the Central American region due to sustained development in the cosmetic sector and free trade agreements.

Within Costa Rica, mass consumption products account for 80 percent of the entire cosmetic product market.  Premium and high-end products account for the other 20 percent of the market. Profit margins for high-end products are between 50 percent - 100 percent for distributors.  Beauty salons’ profit margins often exceed 100 percent for products used in hair treatments such as tints, keratin, etc.  Roughly 70 percent of cosmetic sales are made within the greater San Jose Metropolitan Area. The remainder of cosmetic sales are made in rural areas, of which the top three locations are Guapiles, Perez Zeledon and Puntarenas.  

The distribution channel for professional products includes approximately 4,000 beauty salons in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GMA). Around 200 of these salons sell high-end products while 3,000 are smaller spas that only sell mass consumption products.  There are also approximately 1,000 professional spas of which 100 are premium spas, 200 are small spas, and 700 are independent estheticians.  Professional products can also be found in pharmacies (approximately 1,000 in Costa Rica).  Dermatologists and plastic surgeons recommend the products purchased in pharmacies.  Mass consumption products are distributed in big box stores such as Walmart, PriceSmart, retail stores, discount stores, pharmacies and through catalogs. 

The prices of perfumes vary according to brand.  Premium perfumes such as Jean Paul Gautier and Gucci range from $100-$200.  Mass consumption perfumes and splashes, usually generic brands that are manufactured in China, range from $14-$20. Professional shampoos cost between $40-$80, while mass consumption shampoos cost between $6-$10.  Mass consumption make-up products cost between $5-$30, while high-end and premium make-up products cost between $30-$100. 

Even though Costa Rica has a high demand for cosmetic products, there are some disadvantages in terms of market accessibility.  Costa Rica is a competitive market that is very price sensitive.  Minimum quantities can be an issue due to the proportion of the Costa Rican sector and the market share of other countries’ products.  Product registration has been an obstacle for U.S. companies trying to access the Costa Rican cosmetics market.  The main issue with product registration is the requirement by the Costa Rican Health Ministry to obtain a Certificate of Good Manufacturing Practices or License of Operation, which must be issued to the manufacturer by either the government or a trade association. 

The registration process can be done on the website but it requires a digital signature.  Additionally, requires a power of attorney (in Spanish) to allow a third party to sign in the name of the foreign company, and to specify a person who will be responsible for sanitary registration when importing and selling the product in Costa Rica.  Finally, a clarification letter is required, certifying that the respective company is the manufacturer of the product that will be exported to Costa Rica.  In some cases, the Ministry of Health will accept the Manufacturing License of Operation that is issued by the respective state’s Municipal License emitting office, in place of the Good Manufacturers Practices document. 

Sub-Sector Best Prospects 

The local market has always been very receptive to purchasing from U.S. companies due to their excellent reputation, prestige, and quality guarantee.  Statistics demonstrate how American-made makeup products, perfumes, and soaps have great recognition in the Costa Rican cosmetic market. 

Makeups include eye makeup preparations, lip makeup, compact powders, mascara, and others. Perfumes include splashes and toilet waters.  These categories along with soap are in high demand in the local market with prices depending upon the type of buyer.


Because Costa Rica’s local production is not significant, most of the cosmetic products sold in the country are imported.  Furthermore, the class distribution means that the top 20 percent of the population can afford premium products, whereas 80 percent of the population will only buy mass consumption products.  It follows that 20 percent of the cosmetics market consists of premium products and the other 80 percent is made up of products for mass consumption. 

Actual consumption patterns demonstrate a tendency to acquire a diversity of products such as oils, keratin, and capillary and facial treatments.  This is a market opportunity among high-end products.  This line of products is very attractive to suppliers and distributors due to the large profit margins.  Meanwhile in the mass consumption market, there are opportunities because of the active commercialization of these types of products in Costa Rican discount stores.

Additionally, U.S. companies have an advantage to commercialize in Central America, especially Costa Rica, because of the benefits under the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement with the U.S. Under this agreement almost all cosmetic products import duties have been significantly reduced. 

                                                                                   With CAFTA                           Without CAFTA

Perfumes and Toilet Waters                                            13%                         28%

Make-Up                                                                     13%                        28% 

Soaps                                                                      13%                                28%

Hair Products                                                           43%                            58%