Free From!

Claims by cosmetic manufacturers must be more accurate

The EU has spent some time working on "free from" claims and on the presentation of cosmetic products in general. This has been a work in progress since 2017 and was most recently updated in July 2019. If you wish to view the working paper, it is available here.

For example, the term "hypoallergenic" is often used in advertising or in product write-ups. What the EU say, is that if the term is used, then the product must be able to demonstrate through "scientifically robust" reliable data that the product has a very lo allergenic potential. That is not to say it has no risk whatever on any skin type, just that there must be enough evidence to back up that claim. Pretty obvious, one would have thought.

What about some other claims? Let's look, for example, at legal basics. Things like "this product complies with EU cosmetics legislation". No, you cannot say that as if the product didn't comply, it would not be allowed for sale in the EU. A product must not emphasis that it uses a specific ingredient, if that ingredient no longer does its job in the finished product. For example, a product may say it contains, say, "mositurising Aloe Vera" with a nice picture, however if the finished product has no mositurising affect, irrespective of what is in that product, the claim cannot be made.

Claims about how a product works must be based on actual useage out in the big wide world and not just in a laboratory test. Claims that are made (unless the claim is clearly hyperbolic - for example "use this perfume and you will be able to fly to the moon") must be verifiable using the best practice available. Evidence should be verifiable and any studies must be shown to be relevant to the product and should contain evidence from end users.

Believe it or not, the EU is saying that any claim must be honest. This may appear as a shock to some. For example, if a product says "one million users prefer this product" is not allowed if the actual sales was only one million. Products cannot claim to be "free from preservatives" if the product is, say perfume where there is a very high alcohol content and therefore, preservatives are not required in the first place.

And so the list goes on. This may appear to be all obvious stuff, but what the EU seeks to do, is to defend consumers against the manipulation of information, essentially by marketing and advertising, unless the claims are true and verifiable. This does mean that many manufacturers will need to move away from their popular "free from parabens" statements and start moving towards genuine statements more closely linked to actual efficacy.

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