No one could dispute the merit of increased safety vigilance around cosmetics products, and the authorities’ attempts to control what goes into them.
In the beauty industry, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the potential adverse effects of products they are applying to their skin and those of their loved ones, so those bodies overseeing them have little choice but to respond.
But as the rules keep changing, manufacturers have a lot of adjustments to make to stay the right side of the requirements.
One of the latest rulings in Europe affects Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a preservative that has been associated with an above-average quota of skin reactions, which the EU deems to be excessive in proportion to the ingredient’s role in keeping particular microorganisms at bay and maintaining a product’s shelf life.
The latest requirement is that manufacturers of ‘rinse-off’ cosmetic products can no longer use MIT above a revised permitted level of 0.0015%, down from 0.01%.
From January 27, 2018, only cosmetic products that comply with the Regulation can be placed on the market in the EU; after April 27, non-compliant products must no longer be sold in EU countries.
For the products affected, the work involved in meeting new demands like this is substantial. It is not as simple as replacing one preservative system with another; it is a careful balancing act – swapping one ingredient for another could introduce new risks depending on the product and target use, or have an impact on the entire formula, requiring cycles of reformulation.
Although the growing impetus around cosmetovigilance is forcing the big brands to be more systematic and standardised in the way that they record and track products and their ingredients, companies are not all the way there yet. So the task of tracking down every affected item, quantifying the work involved, and managing and monitoring the changes, is a huge undertaking.
It is one of the driving factors behind brands rationalising their products, and reducing the range of ingredients that go into them – because managing so much change across so many individual lines, with so many constituents, is prohibitively costly.
Given that scrutiny over what goes into products is only going to grow, brands are trying to pre-empt future clampdowns by reviewing ingredients upfront.
Safety as a differentiator
Another motivator for product simplification is the tougher line being taken over cosmetics marketing claims: for instance, by redefining when terms such as ‘natural’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ can be used.
These are qualities with increasing appeal to consumers, so if cosmetics companies want to retain their associated credentials, they need to think ahead to additional controls that may be coming down the line.
On the plus side, a product’s superior safety is becoming a marketable differentiator, something the pharmaceutical industry is witnessing at the moment. So if cosmetics companies are being forced to review, reformulate and simplify their products, this could be a position worth pursuing.
Diaraf Yaradou is a consultant with ProductLife Group