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When the “free from” claim first appeared in 2002, it referred to beauty products that did not contain synthetic fragrances or colorants. Since then, the list has expanded to include free from mineral oil, petrochemicals, polyethylene glycol (PEG), sodium laurel sulfate, parabens, genetically modified ingredients, phenoxyethanol and most recently silicone. While there is controversy about how harmful these ingredients actually are, the media, numerous websites and even the beauty brands themselves have promoted “free from synthetic ingredients” as being more natural or greener. Consumers associate this purity with better health.
The “free from” claim picked up the pace in 2005 within skin care, hair care and color cosmetics. It more than doubled in 2006, then increased by about 75% in 2007, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).
This trend closely parallels developments in the food and drink sector, most notably with the growth of “allergen free” labeling. More than half of consumers surveyed in the UK reported a desire to see “free from allergens” printed on product packaging. This is due to greater consumer awareness of allergens such as lactose, gluten or nuts, but it is also linked to an overall trend for healthier eating.
When choosing facial care, one in three US women look for labeling that states “free from artificial fragrance or colorants.” Less common but still indicative is the fact that one in 10 consider “free from parabens” influential in their decision to purchase. The trend is more marked in Europe, especially in France, where twice as many French women consider “paraben-free” important when buying skin care.
The “free from” claim is most prevalent in skin care, but new launches in color cosmetics and hair care are also adopting this approach to formulating.