Environmental aspects of cosmetics: ingredients to finished products

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Environmental aspects of cosmetics: ingredients to finished products
Communication between the industry and the scientific community is crucial if the beauty and personal care industry is to meet demand for sustainability.

This was the theme of a session at the recent Cosmetics Europe Annual Conference (CEAC), run by the trade association of the European cosmetics industry based in Brussels.

Details of the session: environmental impact

The session aimed at discussing the current activities of the cosmetics industry regarding environmental safety assessment (with an overview of the current REACH Environmental Risk Assessment approach which covers environmental assessment of cosmetics), from an individual ingredients perspective (with a clear example of the science aspects involving the topic of microplastics), to the activities regarding moving towards a more sustainable future (in terms of the different cosmetic products).

The session also included an overview of the current environmental topics the cosmetics industry is facing and future challenges where the industry needs to work on.

Discussions during the session covered topics such as dedicated exposure models for cosmetics, how to communicate better with the scientific community on the work of the cosmetics industry regarding environmental aspects of cosmetics and where to improve.

Environmental demands

We spoke to Gerald Renner, Director Technical Regulatory and International Affairs, Cosmetics Europe, about this topic.

He predicts that there will be “more spill-over of environmental issues from a ‘chemicals debate’ to a ‘cosmetics debate’.”

One can argue that the environmental impact of substances is best addressed horizontally i.e. looking at the combined environmental load from all products using the substance, rather than by studying each sector separately,”​ he explains, with the full interview available here​.

“However, any regulatory risk management measures may need to be taken on a sector-by -sector basis.”

The regulatory expert notes that REACH puts pressure on the industry to meet demands around environmental impact.

“The REACH Regulation allows to regulate cosmetic ingredients for environmental reasons (and has done so in the past).

“It is interesting to see that cosmetics have become a poster child for some environmental issues, such as microplastics and endocrine disruptors.

“Although the REACH mechanisms continue to be the best regulatory tool to address these types of environmental issues, I am sure that there will be pressure for opening up the Cosmetics Regulation to environmental requirements.”

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