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Consumer trends come and go, but the global enthusiasm for clean eating and healthy living looks set to establish a new paradigm, not just for the food industry but crossing over into the beauty industry as well. Greater emphasis on healthy eating-for-living has spilled over into a desire for healthy cosmetics and beauty products; clean-and-natural has become the new yardstick against which all products will be measured.
The effects can be seen already in packaging design, that emphasises the natural look, and the more transparent ingredients list.
Superfoods now regularly feature in cosmetics’ ingredients lists; Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and kale are common ingredients. Aveda promotes its Mega Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Treatment Lotion, formulated with a cocktail of superfood ingredients including Reishi Mushroom, Sea Buckthorn and Fermented Chaga, to consumers, claiming to calm and soothe the complexion.
But the marketing term ‘superfood’ lacks any formal definition by regulatory authorities and suggests benefits through implication. Lacking any scientific evidence to support any claims of benefit, the term has been criticised by some as being misleading. The marketing of products described as “superfoods” was banned in the EU in 2007 unless any health claims were supported by credible scientific research.
Just as the words “organic” and “natural” are open to interpretation. Natural does not always mean non-toxic and does not ensure cruelty-free.
The ‘clean’ movement continues to grow and the increasing belief that what we eat is a key source of health is driving change.
Cancers, obesity, diabetes and allergies are on the rise. The use of hormones in meat, GMO, E=numbers and factory farming contribute to a consumer desire to return to basics, and that means natural organic food.
Consumers now realise that the skin is the body’s largest organ and it makes sense to take as much care when choosing products for the skin as it does for consumption. It’s no longer just fashion, it’s about health. While fear of toxicity is an issue and customers can be seen poring over a product’s list of ingredients, consumer requirements for healthy products doesn’t stop there. Non -allergenic, vegan and halal are also high on the list.
But how much information can the label really give us? The term non-toxic does not mean cruelty-free and natural doesn’t always mean environmentally friendly. Consumers are increasingly more educated on the up-the-line and down-the line implications of the products they choose to buy and, as they have become more discerning, some brands are having to modify or re-formulate their products in light of environmental or animal welfare concerns. Something as commonplace and seemingly innocuous as sunscreen is resulting in damage to coral reefs as tons of the product gets washed into the sea every year. In January of this year the UK banned the use of microbeads over concerns that the common cosmetics ingredient was entering the seas and having a serious effect on sea life. The ban had been well flagged in advance and most manufacturers had already ceased to use microbeads in their products. But this is surely just a foretaste of further restrictions in the future.
Regulation of products in the beauty industry has been historically light-touch; in the US cosmetic ingredients do not require FDA premarket approval, with the exception of colour additives. This hands the responsibility back to brands and manufacturers to reassure consumers that their products are clean, safe and effective and environmentally friendly.
In the absence of any global regulatory body some brands turn to existing agencies for the stamp of approval and to back up their claims. 100% Pure on its website says “100 Pure uses a Natural Definition Process (NDP), adopted from the USDA process for identifying natural vs. synthetic ingredients. The process has proven successful in defining “natural” vs. “synthetic” ingredients”. Others endeavour to set their own standards; Goop claims to create a new ‘Clean’ standard for beauty. “Clean, for us, is quite intense: It means a non-toxic product that is made without a long, ever-evolving list of ingredients linked to harmful health effects from hormone disruption, to cancer, to plain-old skin irritation”.
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The food industry already has a number of measures in place to alert consumers on ingredients and sources but no comparable global standardised system exists for cosmetics.
The idea of global harmonization of regulation has been around for some time but has never truly gained support. And it’s not hard to see why. Even the term ‘cosmetics’ is open to interpretation. Many countries across the world have copied the EU definition and yet do not consider some products as cosmetics although they are classed as such in the EU. The EU has overcome these difficulties because of the common desire for a single market, which requires common standards.
Regulatory diversity represents a serious hurdle for exporters, particularly SMEs, who find themselves having to divert resources to understanding other countries’ regulations and reformulating or adapting products in order to conform. It also has a detrimental effect on global online trade.
July 2018 saw the annual meeting of ICCR, the International Cooperation on Cosmetics Regulation, in Tokyo, where regulators from the EU, US, Canada Brazil and Japan met to provide a forum for discussion on alignment of cosmetics regulation within the various jurisdictions in order to maintain the highest level of consumer protection while minimising the impact on international trade.
Developing workable, partnership-based solutions, such as regulatory compatibility, could be a step towards ensuring the best for the consumer while making trade a little less difficult for brands and manufacturers in these challenging times.