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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