13 key insights from cosmetic industry leaders at CEAC 2024

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

European cosmetics formulators are experiencing more limitations on the ingredients they can use due to a 'hazard'-focused regulations approach (Image: Getty)
European cosmetics formulators are experiencing more limitations on the ingredients they can use due to a 'hazard'-focused regulations approach (Image: Getty)

Related tags Cosmetics Personal care products Regulations Eu European union Personal care

A ‘regulation tsunami’; the notion of essentiality, the potential para-cymene ban, and the plight of SMEs were all topics of focus for the opening day of Cosmetics Europe’s Annual Conference (CEAC).

This year’s CEAC kicked off in Brussels with a theme of ‘Visions and Reflections’ and its opening session featured a host of industry leaders that have an impact on the European cosmetics industry and beyond – sharing their views on what’s most poignant and pressing for the beauty and personal care industry right now.

The issue of ever-changing and hard-to-pin-down regulations was high on the agenda in terms of R&D and the concept of ‘essentiality’ and how businesses can convey this topic to regulatory bodies was a focus for many.

For the opening session on 19th​ June, John Chave, director-general at Cosmetics Europe was joined on stage by leading industry decision makers, with video interludes from the heads of some of the world’s biggest beauty and personal care companies – such as Kenvue, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies, and P&G.

Here we’ve summarised some key insights from a host of industry leaders who spoke at the opening session.

Isabelle Martin, President, Cosmetics Europe

In her opening speech, Martin pointed out that in Europe, consumer demand for beauty products has never been higher. “In 2023, cosmetics was a €96bn market in Europe,” (at retail sales price) she shared.

But she also stated that as of 2023, the European cosmetics industry was no longer the world’s biggest cosmetics market, which highlighted the need for various stakeholders from across the industry to work together and put more emphasis on reinstating its competitiveness within the global market.

Birgit Huber, VP at Cosmetics Europe

Hurber spoke passionately the topic of ‘Essentiality’ in terms of why she believes society needs cosmetics.  

“A lot of people tell me they don’t really use cosmetics,” she said. “So, I ask them: do you brush your teeth? Do you wash your hair? Do you use sunscreen?”

“We need these for our protection,” she continued. “I don’t want to live in the Middle Ages where people died at the age of 50 because they didn’t have any hygiene.”

Hurber pointed out that for younger people these products are a source of self-esteem and said: “Maybe we should be noisier about the good our products do.”

“We have to make the regulators aware that we are in a difficult situation, she continued. “The EU market is no longer the biggest market in the world. We are busy running after regulations.”

“I see a gap between what is said by MEPs, who are saying ‘we will help you’ – but nothing is happening,” she continued.

“There is a regulation tsunami and a conflict between what they say and what is actually happening.”

On another pressing issue, sustainability, Hurber referred to a study of German consumers that had recently been undertaken.

“Sustainability was top of mind for them,” she revealed. “But they expected that the industry did this for them. When they buy shampoo, they want the shampoo company to make sure the product is sustainable – to have done this part for them,” she said.

Nicolas Hieronimus, CEO at L’Oréal

In a video interlude, the chief executive at the French multinational put a focus on sustainability in terms of both the planet and its people.

Hieronimus stated that although our industry can be “misunderstood as frivolous and superficial” it is important that we are: “Creating a future where beauty must play a role supporting sustainability from an environmental and social point of view.”

Mark Smith, Director-General, NATRUE

Smith said he believed that sun care and oral care could be promoted more in terms of protecting health. “This needs communication on how this is done; how those ingredients actually work to do this,” he said.  

“We can’t just say this protects your health – we need to say why.”

NATRUE’s leader also noted that SMEs, which he dubbed “the beating heart of the industry”, are essential to the business landscape in Europe.

“We talk about collaboration and integration, he shared. But if SMEs are left behind, we forget about an important part of our industry. I’d like to see this move forward. It’s important to have their voices heard and their pains understood.”

Smith noted that he didn’t want things to become too complex that these companies can no longer function.  

“I believe in the prosperity of Europe to rise again,” he said.

“We have to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” he said, and to “translate initiatives so they are digestible by the average consumer.”

Thomas Myers, President and CEO, Personal Care Products Council, PCPC

Myers said he believed the industry needed more free trade and that it needed to be “fairer free trade.”  

He highlighted the economic benefits such as market entry, resource allocation, increased competition to foster innovation, lower business costs and lower prices for consumers, job creation and stable economy all stem from free trade.

“Trade associations offer critical benefits for advancing our industry: crisis management, sharing good practice,” he said.

“There is power in numbers – trade associations can bring companies together. We can build trust across consumers, policy makers, regulators. We do that by combatting misinformation.”

He continued: “We know our products and ingredients best. We should be the ones to educate consumers on this. So much good comes out of our industry – we should be proud to be associated with it.”

Andrea Maltagliati, Secretary-General, The European Federation for Cosmetic Ingredients, EFfCI

“Today regulatory boundaries are stronger than trade boundaries,” stated Maltagliati.

“Industry is driven by the market, which is fast, and it can be hard for regulatory entities to achieve the same speed of market.”

He highlighted that the cosmetics industry has always adapted to whatever challenges are thrown its way, but that it is currently: “Surfing a stormy ocean without a compass.”

Maltagliati said that while ingredients producers welcomed alternatives, companies are currently forced to “divert investment away from innovation and money is spent on defending what we already have.”

He said he believed that there were fewer true innovations at this year’s InCosmetics show, as  “Most of the money is spent on existing portfolios” and “updating these green regulations rather than creating new ingredients.”

He also spoke about the elephant in the room: the REACH chemical regulations. “We are producing chemicals, which means we have to work with REACH, which means animal testing,” he explained. “This is a big question mark and challenge for the industry.”

For Maltagliati, collaboration is now needed in every element of the supply chain. But he was optimistic about the future.

“Humans like hopes and dreams, he said. “We have to remember that we are the industry of beauty.”

Thibaut Mongon, CEO, Kenvue

“In 2020 more than 100,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma cancer,” said Mongon. “These are treatable and preventable. Products like sun care and mouthwash for oral health, for example, can have a big impact on someone’s health.”

“We must continue to invest in science-based innovations putting human health and health of the planet at the centre,” he concluded.

Dr Sharon McGuinness, Executive Director, The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA

In her video interlude, McGuiness referred to the CLP regulations as well as the “new hazards on endocrine disruptors” and stated that “the industry will need to adapt.”

She added: “I’m confident that the industry will once again adapt to deliver safe and sustainable products in the future.”

Jiangying Yan, Chairwoman, the China Association of Fragrance Flavour and Cosmetic Industries, CAFFCI

Yan shared that China was favouring a highly collaborative working partnership with other beauty markets and said that it would “continue to work openly with the rest of the world.”

“The sea accommodates all rivers,” she said in her video interlude.

William Lauder, Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies

William Lauder at ELC was optimistic about the future of our ever-resilient industry.  “Technology will accelerate out industry’s development to meet consumer needs in the future” he stated.

Alex Keith, CEO Beauty at P&G

P&G’s beauty leader Keith shared her one wish: “keeping Europe competitive, so it remains a key region to launch a new product.”

Marco Mensink, Director-General, European Chemical Industry Council

Mensink shared that “we mistook the speed of the transformation” and his words of advice were “plan your conclusions and then double the speed because of how fast everything has moved.”

He referenced the Antwerp Declaration​ for a European industrial deal and said: “We would like the commission to follow up with a regulatory framework that stabilises and gives a clear outlook for the future.

“We want ‘Made in Europe’ to be a mark of quality,” he continued. “We want the premium of sustainable products to be shared in the value chain.”

He also highlighted the “Need to focus more on competitiveness and supply chain collaboration.”

Elżbieta Łukacijewska, Member of the European Parliament

MEP Łukacijewska shared that she believed “Cosmetics products are essential for our wellbeing and protection” and also acknowledged that “we have to address climate change quickly.”

She revealed that going forward, her aim was to look for coalitions based around science and noted that “We must be aware of conditions for SMEs” as “we have 9,000 of these in the EU.”

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