1.3.16

My thoughts on defending free from skincare labelling

My thoughts on defending free from skincare labelling
I am very passionate about "free from" skincare because I have allergies and sensitivities to foods and cosmetic ingredients. I recently commented on the skinsmatter.com site in which they were defending “free from” labelling on skincare. Their first article was initially in response to a report headline from Cosmetic Design Europe "Free-from claims are based on fear and should stop". They have since written another article defending it again (click here to view). Then coincidently I also found myself drawn into a similar discussion after Sarita Coren who published "Six terms green beauty brands should stop using now”. Sarita raised some valid points but we differ in our opinions on the use of “free from”. 

I continually review products that promote “free from” awareness, whether that is for gluten or nuts or SLS and parabens. Rachael of Myroo summed up perfectly why I shop for Free From skincare.

"The average woman uses 168 different ingredients across 12 products, so getting to the bottom of a cosmetic allergy trigger can be difficult. This is where free from cosmetics come in. We believe it is really important for those with skin allergies, sensitivities or other personal considerations to be able to quickly and easily locate products that don’t contain ingredients they avoid. Labelling products ‘free from’ signals to customers that the products have been formulated with allergies and sensitivities in mind, just like it does for food products." 

I think of free from labelling as a unique selling point and it enables me to make purchasing decisions but I have been criticised for thinking this way. Apparently it’s simply clever marketing. I’m the most cynical person ever over product claims and I certainly don’t fall for product hype. Every product we pick up is marketed to us. They all have short tag lines which lead us to make a purchasing decision. A cream that claims to target wrinkles, a shampoo that protects against frizz or a toothpaste that whitens teeth, so why shouldn’t a free from claim be a similar statement? Of course I am aware that sometimes cosmetic labelling is flawed, for instance, I don't approve of "free from chemicals" and I recently critic a range which claimed “preservative free” but I encourage the term when focusing on a specific ingredient. 

Sarita mentioned she didn't like the use of "free from parabens" especially when a product contains other preservatives or ingredients which were not any better. My counter argument to this would be if a product is genuinely free of that ingredient then the statement is not wrong. As Bloggers we must think outside of their online community as not everyone has the same ingredient standards. There will be consumers who actively chose to avoid parabens but are not fazed by other preservatives. I suggest that what Sarita is referring to falls under the umbrella of "Greenwashing" and that an entirely different debate. Without regulations we currently can’t stop manufacturers for misleading but we can help raise awareness and educate.

A couple of comments on Skinsmatter’s article also brought up the issue with Parabens and felt that free from labels promotes scaremongering of this particular ingredient. Brands are not daft they will use this to their advantage but is catering to a consumer who is worried about this ingredient really scaremongering? Surely, it is only scaremongering if a product said “we don’t include parabens because they cause cancer” Some Scientists would have you believe parabens are safe but aren’t I entitled to make up my own mind about what I use on my body?

For those of you who are anti-free from labelling let us not forget the fear of allergic reactions is genuine and the concerns are very real and legitimate. Free from labelling is important for food and I believe it should be the same for skincare. I would hate to see the disappearance of "free from" just because some brands are using the term incorrectly. For those that dislike it what would you like to see instead? Think about how you would feel if you had an allergy to a particular ingredient, how would you advertise a safe product if the term “free from” wasn’t allowed?

If you are a reader that relies on free from labels I would love to get your thoughts on this topic.

Sarah x

8 comments:

  1. Thanks Sarah, for referencing my articles on SkinsMatter.com.

    As co-founder of the FreeFrom Skincare Awards I feel very strongly that free from labelling should be maintained, but also that terms such as 'free from nasties' and 'no toxins' should be strictly avoided - and this goes not only for products, but for marketing / websites too.

    During the whole recent flurry of discussion around free from labelling, the attitude of some chemists really brought home to me how angry some of them are about 'free from' - something I still find bizarre. Their lack of understanding for those who live 'free from' lives is something I'm finding increasingly difficult to forgive. I think they need to ask themselves why they feel this way, rather than criticise 'free from' labelling and its consumers.

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    1. There are certainly some free from labels that need to go as you mention here. I found it difficult to remain calm against the chemist for the reasons you say, it was like they couldn't see outside their own world which is very black & white.

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  2. We as a family are really only just in the middle of our transformation into a more healthy and natural lifestyle, so we have only over the last few years been paying more attention to labeling and at first free from was very appealing but since having my 1 year old who has very bad eczema and allergies like her dad things of changed for us, we would of been those peolple who would see free from and not really bothered about what else was in it but now after discovering my little girl is allergic to preservatives and researched for ourselves information about other bad ingredients the only thing thats good for her and my husband is to make our own. The creams from doctors, chemists all made it worse because of the things that are in them, but the doctor wont have an opinion on that or even prescribe anything close to suitable because it doesnt exsist as far as they are concerned because it wont make them money.
    So i agree with keeping free from labels for those concerned about or allergic to certain ingredients its a step in the right direction and i certainly dont think its scaremongering people,as a recent independant distrubutor of natural products we are allowed to say what the products dont contain but not to make any other claims especially scaremongering im assuming its the same all, but for me personally for skincare its either homemade or has to say natural and organic and be able to prove it. I have to buy my skincare with kids and working from home i just dont have the time to make everything, so i definatly agree with everyone has an ingredient standard and thats mine. Thank you for a great article and for sharing. I found the link on twitter. Marie ☺

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    1. Thank you for your comment Marie. I do think you touch on something important in that prior to changes in your family needs you overlooked free from labels, it wasn't relevant. Some of the people who expressed dislike to these labels admitted to not experiencing allergies so I feel they don't fully understand their importance to people like us.

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  3. Great article, and really interesting comments. As a skincare producer, I am passionate about free from labelling on skincare. I think it is vital for those who need to be careful about what they put on their skin. Long may it continue.

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    1. Thank you for your input Joanna, I do hope it can continue and I appreciate brands like yours that understand these customer needs.

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  4. I think it is very true that people who do not have personal experience/contact with allergies or irritations look at these things completely differently. A year ago I was the person who had a few allergies but nothing towards skincare/beauty. For the best of 2016 though I battled with a horrible flareup on my face, that I now know was caused by MI. It took me more than half a year to figure out it's allergy in the first place and the healing process has been slow. I had to do zero tolerance to everything that contains MI (including shampoo that only my boyfriend used, which gave me a reaction like the next day...) and I know that I will have to read labels of all products very carefully for the rest of my life. It's also a good thing though and made me make a switch to natural beauty.

    I guess what I'm trying to say that I think people who have not gone through these pains (that includes scientists and whonot) should from human point of view have a bit more empathy. Try to understand? I can't say I wish anyone to go through the feeling of wanting to scratch your own face off because it's so painful and itchy or staying in for months in a row because you know you look like a monster.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I too have a sensitivity to MI and I agree with you about empathy, that was the part that I struggled most with regarding the comments on other articles, everyone seemed set in their ways without thinking outside of the box, to put themselves in our shoes.

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