"Free From" Formulations

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.

In the UK, new organic brand Forest Secrets launched iRejuvenate Lifting Pro-Youth Face Oil. This hydrating and firming oil is described as “an extraordinary selection of the purest and most potent natural oils, sourced from around the world.” It is formulated with antiaging lady thistle oil, argan oil, organic apricot oil, organic Chilean rosehip oil, fair trade marula oil and patented lupin seed extract. All Forest Secrets products reportedly are biodegradable and packaged using sustainable materials. They are free from parabens, synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, PEGs, genetically modified organisms, allergens, petrochemicals, silicones and animal by-products.

Minimizing ingredients can facilitate green formulating. A'kin Pure Radiance Rosehip Oil contains certified organic Rosa canina seed extract, said to reduce the appearance of age spots, fine lines and wrinkles. All A'kin products are said to be free from sulfates, ethoxylates, parabens, propylene glycol, petrochemical cleansers, silicones, phthalates, mineral oil, diethanolamine and artificial colors. The brand also claims to be vegan and is committed to meeting high levels of environmental practice both in the production of products and in the day-to-day running of the business.

In France, Themis Protocole Aqua-Balance Restorative Serum is an organic product formulated with Fairtrade mango and melon oil. The dermatologically tested product has a 100% natural fragrance and is free from parabens, phenoxyethanol and artificial colorings. The formula is not tested on animals. The pack displays the Cosmebio logo, which guarantees that the production methods respect health and the environment.

Organic Luxury Company is a new French organic brand available at Le Bon Marche. The OLC Expertise Botanique Daily Moisturizing Cream is formulated with a polysaccharide, echinacea extract, arnica and calendula oils, hamamelis floral water and vitamin E. The product is said to leave a long-lasting sensation of suppleness and to have anti-wrinkle qualities. Its ingredients are said to be 98% natural and 14% are organic. It was tested under dermatological control. OLC products display the Cosmebio logo certifying that production methods respect health and the environment and that products are free from paraben, phenoxyethanol, silicone, synthetic fragrances and genetically modified ingredients. They come in recyclable packaging and are not tested on animals.

The “free from” claim is not limited to organic and natural products. NovExpert is a French cosmeceutical brand available in parapharmacies. The Regeneration Mask contains Novaxyline, a patented active ingredient said to fight UV radiation. It also contains extracts of rosemary, star anise, orange blossom, shea and kokurn butters, sunflower and ximenia oils, hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. The product is free from preservatives including parabens and phenoxyethanol, fragrance, mineral oils and artificial colorings. It is guaranteed to be hypoallergenic and is tested under dermatological control. The brand is said to be committed to the protection of fauna, flora and the air.

In color cosmetics, the “free from” claim focuses on fragrance-free, talc-free and alcohol-free formulas. However preservative- and paraben-free products are starting to appear.

Bare Escentuals bareVitamins Prime Time Eyelid Primer is designed for use with the bareMinerals line of products. This silky eyelid primer’s gentle formula contains antiaging vitamins and is claimed to minimize the risk of potential hazards, having been allergy-, ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested. It is free from oil, preservatives and fragrances.

Becca Beach Tint is a cream stain for cheeks and lips suitable for all skin types. Said to be kiss-proof and water-resistant, it dries to a streak-free, non-greasy finish. Each shade is named after its scent, and the latest seasonal addition is peach. The antioxidant-enriched formula features vitamin E and is free from parabens and other preservatives.

Health Couture is the Tarte's new Spring 2008 collection. It features products formulated with t5 Super Fruit Complex, a proprietary blend containing extracts of five active superfruits: antiaging açai, goji berry, maracuja, acerola and redness and wrinkle-reducing pomegranate. The Double Dose Berry Boost & Gloss is formulated with antioxidant vitamin C and shea butter. The cruelty-free product contains natural peppermint fragrance and is free from paraben, preservative, phthalate, and mineral oil. The company is against animal testing and supports the Sambazon's Sustainable Acai Project, a member of the Organic Trade Association and the Fair Trade Federation. The purchase of every Tarte Double Dose Berry Boost Gloss is said to help preserve the Amazon rainforest through forest conservation, improved living conditions and educational opportunities for communities in Brazil.

Recent hair care launches also demonstrate this “free from” trend. However, the ingredients eliminated in this category are slightly different.

Surya Henna Brasil Coloração Natural e Tratamento Capilar em Pó (Coloring & Hair Treatment) is 100% natural and vegetal. The product is formulated with honey and claims to be free from hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, heavy metals, paraphenylene-diamine, resorcinol and parabens. It is hypoallergenic and has been dermatologically tested.

In the UK, Naked Boost Nourishing Vitamins Hair Treatment is 97% natural and, like all products from the brand, is free from sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens and petrochemicals. The product, which is formulated with ethically sourced marula oil together with provitamin B5 and A, is said to replenish, soften and improve the manageability of hair. The company is against animal testing and all its products are suitable for vegetarians.

CTonics Pulse Organic Shampoo is a rejuvenating and invigorating cleansing tonic formulated with blue-green algae and exotic ocean vegetation to enliven, oxygenate, alkalize and nourish the hair and scalp. This organic formula blends marine elements with hair proteins and pure essential oils of jasmine, geranium and pink grapefruit that cleanse, awaken and energize the scalp while delivering nutrients to promote growth and strengthen hair. This shampoo is suitable for normal to dry hair. This product is free from sulfates, petrochemicals and artificial colors. All products are formulated without animal ingredients or animal testing.

Consumer education is key to communicating the benefits of this all-natural, non-synthetic path of cosmetic formulating. Mintel research shows that 20% of US women “wish product labels had more information about how ingredients work,” yet only 13% of them try to find out more about ingredients they do not know. Clearer labeling and transparency in formulas may be necessary to reach these health-conscious consumers.

-Nica Lewis, Mintel

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