When it comes to ‘free from’, many in the industry believe it hinders the market as it can suggest that some chemicals used in products are unsafe, when they are; however, another view is that while this may be the case in some situations, it does not speak for all free from claims.
“I understand that the industry is upset by certain brands claiming that their products are safer because of what they don’t contain,” Dallmeier tells CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.
“However, there are legitimate cases where a manufacturer might want to label their products as free from animal-derived ingredients, free from alcohol, free from fragrance, for instance.”
This can also be the case for halal, vegan, or fragrance-free cosmetics - claims based on ethical, religious or allergy grounds - and want to clearly advertise this to consumers.
Speaking with Alex Gazzola, co-founder of the FreeFrom Skincare Awards, he tells us: “It's foolish and short-sighted to attack 'free from' labelling terminology across the board as it helps those with allergies to botanicals, fragrances or preservatives, or with ethical, religious and environmental sensibilities, so much.”
“Without free from labelling, these consumers have to trawl through lengthy and often impenetrable ingredients lists, and often have to call up cosmetics companies to check their products are suitable or safe for them. This is very frustrating for them.”
Dallmeier adds that although the EU cosmetics regulations on the justification of claims specifically states they do not allow ‘free from’ claims that denigrate competitors, when a customer is specifically looking for a product that doesn’t contain alcohol or pork-derived products, for example ethical reasons, then this doesn’t relate to the overall chemical safety of a product.
“Free from claims that do not denigrate competitors, nor create confusion with the product of a competitor, should be permissible,” she continues.
“In these cases, brands are simply providing a consumer with an informed choice about an ingredient they may be seeking to avoid. However, these types of claims should still be applied sensibly – you might for instance want to claim that your perfume is alcohol-free, but you wouldn’t want to make an alcohol-free claim for a lipstick. “
It seems that the debate stems from confusion over the claims and why they are used. Formulators usually highlight the positives of formulations, but with the proliferation of ‘free-from’, there is pressure from marketing to highlight the negatives, according to an industry panel who were speaking at the in-cosmetics summit.
However, Gazzola states that sometimes it is nothing to do with fear and that for some consumers, what is NOT in a product is the first consideration for purchase, whether this is for ethical or allergy reasons.
“It may well have beautiful essential oils, but if it has alcohol, and the consumer avoids alcohol, then that's the information they need from the off - that's their first consideration,” he says.
Dallmeier adds that she also thinks there is still a polarising ‘us’ against ‘them’ feeling between mainstream industry and green beauty brands which can affect the situation too.
“[Green beauty brands] most frequently make the type of free from claim that does create confusion with the product of a competitor. Formula Botanica is trying to bridge these two worlds by teaching organic cosmetic formulators how to create professional natural products and comply with the law,” she says.