“Speak up now!” Could hazard-based EU regulations hold back beauty innovation?

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Natural ingredients are in the spotlight, and paracymene, which is present in thyme oil, faces a potential ban in cosmetics formulations despite being present in various foods that are eaten on an everyday basis (Image: Getty)
Natural ingredients are in the spotlight, and paracymene, which is present in thyme oil, faces a potential ban in cosmetics formulations despite being present in various foods that are eaten on an everyday basis (Image: Getty)

Related tags Regulations Eu Cosmetics Personal care products European union

As ever-changing EU regulations impact businesses that produce beauty and personal care ingredients and formulations, how will this affect the industry now and in the future?

The European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability​ aims to create a “toxic-free environment” for all, and is an important part of the EU’s Zero Pollution ambition – a key commitment of the European Green Deal (EGD).

With the EGD end-goal in mind, many regulations are currently being revised and the European cosmetics industry is currently in a period of ever-adapting regulations.

Indeed, with regards to these changes, a major concern of the cosmetics industry is that some of the newly created policies being considered may not necessarily follow time-tested science and data, and that these decisions could in turn, leave EU-based cosmetics companies at a competitive disadvantage globally.   

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) – the global representative of the fragrance industry – has been vocal on this matter and published a series of recommendations​ for the EU mandate. One of these points asks that policymakers “follow the science” and “base decisions on time-tested science and data – preserving an exposure-based risk assessment approach.”

What is the European Commission regulation on cosmetics?

At the 2024 Cosmetics Europe Annual Conference, which took place in Brussels on 19 – 20th​ June 2024, expert panellists took to the stage to review and discuss the regulations that currently impact the cosmetics industry outside of the 'main' regulations: the Cosmetics Product Regulation (CPR), and a major observation was that the classification and labelling of chemicals is having a huge and unexpected impact on future NPD.

Speaking on the topic of key learnings from the conference, Cosmetics Europe’s director-general John Chave said that while there had been plenty of positive messages about the industry’s contribution to sustainability, its capacity for innovation, and the potential of new technology, many of the sessions had spoken about several challenges the industry faces, particularly on the regulatory front.

Chave said that the cosmetics industry usually concentrates on its ‘core legislation’ the CRP, but a significant change in recent years is “how much we are being affected by regulations outside of ours.”

He pointed out that the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemical substances) was now a big focus and that a panellist had made the remark that although this was originally about labelling, it’s now about hazardous substances.

Chave observed that “the capacity for the classification of hazardous substances to impact our ingredients palette is now, I think, quite significant.”

“The atmosphere with ingredients continues to be challenging,” he continued. “At Cosmetics Europe over the past year we have been discussing challenges around natural complex substances. Many fragrances use natural complex substances and defending ingredients within this context doesn’t really fit into the current regulatory paradigm that we have.”

“You can’t simply look at the CPR, you have to look at the whole regulatory to understand the exact position of the industry, particular around CLP,” he explained. 

He stated that while the industry is constantly trying to innovate, there is a "threat hanging over ingredients", which in turn means "you can’t plan for innovation and investment, and I think that will be something that causes significant issues,” he said. 

“We spend so much time defending current ingredients that we are diverting investment away from what we need to create new ingredients and that is a significant challenge.”

This issue in not only being faced in the EU cosmetics market. In the neighbouring UK market, industry body the Cosmetics Toiletries and Perfumery Association (the CTPA) recently launched its first-ever manifesto​ to present to the next government, which also flagged up this issue.

“Basing regulation on intrinsic hazard properties runs the risk of removing safe and beneficial ingredients from the market,” stated the CTPA’s director-general Dr Emma Meredith in the manifesto.  

Anticipate more of this to come & get ready to innovate

At the CEAC conference, during a talk on ‘Weaponising hazard: regulating ingredients outside of the CPR,’ Meglena Mihova, an expert in chemical regulation and managing partner at EPPA (a specialist management consultancy that manages alignment between business and EU institutions and governments) said that all of these regulatory changes have taken the cosmetics sector "outside of its comfort zone."

Mihova noted that the bigger focus of the new rules is on 'environmental' and in the light of this, the industry “can anticipate more of this to come”.

Her advice was: “do more research on neurotoxicity and endocrine disruptors, and also on environment."

“You have to speak up and have a say in the design of this now,” she urged. “We have to promote the scientific research that is done. Look beyond what you know from the cosmetics products regulation system and look outside, as this is much more impactful.”

A paradigm shift from risk to hazard

Mihova noted that a potential ‘way out’ of this looming challenge is the essential use ‘argument’: the point being that many cosmetic products, such as sunscreen and toothpaste, are necessary to prevent future health issues. And she advised businesses to focus on functionality and performance.

However, she also acknowledged the fact that essentiality cannot really be recognised in terms of ‘luxury goods’. “Who can judge what is a luxury good? Is a cosmetic product a luxury good?,” she questioned.

Mihova said that beauty and personal care brands and ingredients companies will need to “explain the dynamics of their supply chains” as there will be aspects of this that legislators don’t understand or don't know about.

She explained that “we cannot isolate ingredients in terms of making green claims now” because the regulations are examining so many aspects, for example, whether a company is omitting hazardous chemicals into the water supply.

She advised companies to focus on environmental-related innovation and said: “Don’t be defensive – participate actively in the process.”

“With the political cycle changing the time is now to go outside of your comfort zone and engage. You need to explain what you do. Take the time to educate or we will be in firefighting mode,” she said.  

“Raise the challenges and put forward constructive recommendations.”

Secretary general at ERIF (European Regulation and Innovation Forum), Jan Ahlskog, also took part in the panel and dubbed the current state of affairs: “a paradigm shift from risk to hazard.”

For Ahlskog, the “essential use” argument in defence of this was “useless” because “the world is complex”.

However, he also noted that in the light of recent EU election results, “we are likely to see a shift to the right at the EU”, which he believed would then result in more focus on competitiveness.

Ahlskog also highlighted the point that “the Member States cannot cope with this speed of change.”

‘Many inconstancies’ and ‘extremely perceptional’

Meanwhile, partner at international corporate law firm Mayer Brown, Pavlina Chopova-Lepretre, also said that CLP​ has “become central to cosmetics industry regulation.”

“There was once chemical labelling and there was cosmetics, but now there is more crossover,” she shared.

She explained that potential hazards can now include everything from endocrine disruptors to respiratory disruptors, to chemicals that are harmful to ozone layers, and the first criteria these are judged on is whether the substance is harmful to the environment or society.

The second criteria is whether there is an “acceptable alternative” that can be used as a substitute, which she stated is: “extremely perceptional.”

“Big groups of substances can be taken together and classified,” she explained. “But there is very little guidance on this, and how you can be sure that the science you’re referring to is the correct one is debateable.”

On stage, Chopova-Lepretre examined some of the wording from a legal perspective and pointed out that you can “see so many classifications for so many substances and therefore you can find different answers to the same question.”

She noted how one specific ingredient is still allowed to be used in places where: “A high level of disinfection is required eg in a hospital or other similar places” and asked: "what constitutes ‘other similar' places? Can this be a beauty salon for example?” 

“Will toothpaste be considered ‘a luxury?’ she continued. “How this will be decided is a mystery.”  

"And will they have capacity to assess every use?” she asked.

“From a practical standpoint – this is a question mark,” she continued. “The way it is drafted right now is not sufficient for me”.

Chopova-Lepretre also noted the “danger” that Member States will directly draw inspiration from this and interpret it in different ways.

“It’s loose and not well drafted – it will take lawyers time,” she continued.

“I have questions from clients asking if something can be considered ‘essential’ and I often don’t know the answer. I can argue that it is, but this is not good for consistency,” she concluded. 

A "move away from science"?

“It’s not just moving away towards a hazard-based approach, we are moving out of science,” said the director for global regulatory affairs at IFRA, Cristina Arregui Garcia.

From her perspective, this ‘science dilution’ was a challenge and she noted that while the hazard is a starting point for any regulatory decision, “the industry is now facing less opportunities to have a discussion on this”.

“CSS is focused on accelerating these decisions and this acceleration is having a big impact on the cosmetics industry,” she continued.

She berated the “lack of dialogue” and “not listening to industry”, noting that now a “more precautionary approach” is being taken and that certain chemicals are being grouped together.

“The fragrance industry is facing the defence of certain flower ingredients, and we don’t have time to discuss our feedback – there is no dialogue. It is impossible to have a scientific discussion about this,” she said.

“This is going to restrict the industry a lot and it’s happening now.”

Potential paracymene ban in cosmetics formulations

Arregui Garcia also mentioned the upcoming potential ban on use of paracymene in cosmetic products.

“The discussion will happen in two weeks’ time and a final decision will be made in September – the clock is ticking,” she said.

“Paracymene is present in thyme oil and it’s approved in higher usage levels for consumption,” she explained

Arregui Garcia said that this issue was “not only with paracymene” and stated that “this issue with naturals has to be resolved now.”

“The impact into downstream is high and we cannot accelerate things in this way,” she said. “Classification is about hazard – the use is not taken into account.”

So what is the outlook for the future of formulating cosmetics in the EU?

While Chave agreed that there are certainly challenges that do need to be addressed in some areas, he was still optimistic about the future.

“The industry has always been dynamic and adaptive. It’s never been a better time to deploy that aspect,” he said.

“We look at the industry growth over the past year and it was positive; it exceeded growth in recent years. This shows that our consumers need and value our products,” he continued.

“Keep engaged, realise the speed of the industry, and be prepared to adapt,” he concluded. 

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Calendula Cellular Elixir: Alchemy in a cell

Calendula Cellular Elixir: Alchemy in a cell

Content provided by Naolys | 24-Apr-2024 | Product Brochure

Get ready to experience a cellular evolution in skincare with InnerLift Calendula's advanced Plant Cell biotechnology.

See our latest innovations in personal care

See our latest innovations in personal care

Content provided by Covation Bio™ PDO | 02-Apr-2024 | White Paper

At CovationBio PDO, we’re helping the world achieve its sustainability goals by enabling better performing, better-for-the planet products across a range...

Collagen Reimagined, Discover Biodesigned Type XXI

Collagen Reimagined, Discover Biodesigned Type XXI

Content provided by Geltor | 20-Mar-2024 | Product Brochure

Collagen is the body’s most abundant protein and a mainstream ingredient for beauty. Type XXI collagen transcends a common protein into a powerful bioactive

Empowering natural barrier function for future-proof skin

Empowering natural barrier function for future-proof skin

Content provided by Lucas Meyer Cosmetics | 14-Mar-2024 | White Paper

Corneopeptyl™ is a new patented peptide biomimetic to the LCE6A protein, obtained by green chemistry-based synthesis. By mimicking the LCE6A protein activity,...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more



Beauty 4.0 Podcast