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Navigating Natural Beauty Claims

Fiona Glen, Head of Projects at The Red Tree has worked in the health and beauty industry for 10 years. Fiona has held various senior buyer positions for the UK’s biggest beauty retailers and managed a huge range of product development projects as well as working on growing existing brands through effective category management.

In this article, Fiona explores natural beauty claims and what they actually mean for both brands and consumers.

It is not new news that the natural beauty market is booming. According to Persistence Market Research, the global natural and organic beauty market is estimated to reach $22bn by 2024. Many of our clients operate in the natural sector in some way, however without an independent and objective agreed upon set of definitions, there is a huge degree of confusion when it comes to the terms being used. We have collated a glossary with the hope of making this clearer.

Clean Beauty – products that are free from synthetic ingredients which are believed to be harmful.  These include parabens, sulphates, silicones, phthalates and synthetic fragrances. It is worth pointing out that some of the research on what is harmful is somewhat subjective and cosmetic regulations play a part in ensuring that all the products on the market are safe. There is a perception that clean beauty products contain ingredients that are only included if they are required for the efficacy of the product however this is not always the case.

Toxic Free Beauty – products that contain no toxic ingredients. There is little difference between this term and clean beauty however clean beauty is intrinsically more subjective in its term. Toxic free is growing in its popularity within the cosmetics area.

Natural Beauty – products made from naturally derived ingredients rather than synthetic ingredients. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean non-toxic however as there are natural ingredients that are toxic, such as poison ivy. Despite this, natural has strong connotations with products that are safer for you. Natural is a completely unregulated term so can be used incorrectly and many products on the market include the word natural yet contain synthetic ingredients.

Organic Beauty – cosmetic products where the formulation uses organically farmed ingredients. These ingredients are grown without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GM), herbicides, synthetic fertilisers and more. Certified organic beauty products go one step further and are approved by the Soil Association (in the UK), there are similar accreditations globally.

Vegan Beauty – do not contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients. This includes, but is not limited to; honey, beeswax, lanolin, collagen, albumen, carmine, cholesterol, gelatin and many others. To many, the term “vegan” also means that a product is free from animal testing however this is not always the case.

Cruelty Free – beauty products that are not tested on animals. It has been illegal to test cosmetic products on animals throughout Europe since 2004 and ingredients tested on animals were banned in 2008 for cosmetic purposes.  Cruelty Free International is an anti animal testing charity. They organise certification of cruelty-free products which are marked with the symbol of a leaping bunny. This provides consumers with instant recognition that the product they are purchasing has not been tested on animals. Countries such as China still retain regulations requiring all cosmetics to be tested on animals. This does not apply to products being manufactured in China to be exported to Europe. For European brands wishing to sell their products in China, online retailers such as TMall or Alibaba allow an opportunity to sell products without having to comply with these regulations given that it is classed as cross border trading.

To conclude, there is a huge level of subjectivity when it comes to the interpretation of what constitutes a natural product. The level of consumers knowledge when it comes to ingredients and the credentials that those ingredients come with is ever increasing despite the subjectivity overall. We advise all our clients to take careful care when labelling or creating marketing material associated with these terms. The introduction of industry wide certification with regards to the terms that have been mentioned is imperative if we are to be able to trust that brands and products are staying true to their packaging claims.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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