Monday, September 29, 2008

Your cosmetics: free-from parabens etc... but do they actually work?


I was just perusing this month's issue of our industry magazine SPC (Soap, Perfumery & Cosmetics should you be interested!), and was taken by editor Clare Henderson's editorial in which she makes the point that surely what is important is not what cosmetic products don't have in them but whether they work or not.

She asks "Are we a free-from culture?' and goes on to say that while 'free-from' used to be the preserve of products developed for sensitive skin, it's very much equated today with the naturals sector. She says that Mintel has been tracking fragrance-free and alcohol-free products for a number of years but recently began tracking paraben-free and found it is now way ahead of the other two.'

Says Henderson:'And now there's a whole slew of ingredients that are being given the free-from treatment.......In addition to parabens....sulfates, PEG products, mineral oil, petrolatum, silicones, DEA, TEA, glycols, phthalates, synthetic fragrance and synthetic colours are often on the free from list. It's not quite the same as a claim to efficacy."

She goes on: "Some products seem to be pretty much without everything which, as Mintel points out, begs the question: "What's left? What's in it?" In some cases the answer is that the product is basically made of essential oils."

Henderson concludes: "I suppose that's fine if that's what people want but, with all the advances in cosmetic science coupled with high consumer expectations I'm guessing that what most people want is products that are going to work, whatever they have or haven't got in them."

As Henderson says, free-from did use to be the preserve of sensitive skin products. The Queen range, for example, is free from perfume and other ingredients which are traditionally known to be irritants. In addition, we try to keep formulations as simple as possible while still producing products which do actually do what they say they do. We wouldn't still be going after more than 80 years if our creams and lotions didn't work.

Now that so many ingredients have been demonised (I won't bang on about this again - do read our previous post about parabens here) it is these that are associated with causing irritation to sensitive skin. I appreciate that all sensitive skin is different but our creams are no less suitable for sensitive skin now than they have been for the last eighty years i.e. for all the years before this nonsense about chemical ingredients and natural-being-better-for-you started.

If you do a search on Google or another search engine for a 'cream for sensitive skin', the sponsored links on the right-hand side are dominated by ranges which jump on the free-from/naturals bandwagon. 'Toxins in your skincare!' screams one, 'Natural Organic Skincare' clamours another. It's all a bit misleading for the consumer.

An email we've just received underlines this point:

'I wonder if you could send me some samples for my skin type,' writes a woman from Derbyshire. 'I have oily skin and have been diagnosed with acne rosacea. I have quite red skin and would like something that will not affect it, I have tried (she mentions here a whole host of brands) and most tea-tree products.'

The assumption she is making is that because tea tree is an essential oil and it has an antiseptic quality, it must be ok for her. As I am always saying, essential oils are some of the most irritant ingredients around.

I suppose I'm also a bit confused as to where this leaves Queen. If we say perfume-free or fragrance-free, we could be accused of jumping on the free-from bandwagon. And, given every other company is advertising that they are suitable for sensitive skin, we are not left with much else to differentiate ourselves. Apart from, of course, that our products do work and don't make ludicrous marketing claims! That's not very glamorous or compelling though as a marketing or advertising strap line. 'Buy Queen because our products work and  we don't make ridiculous claims' doesn't really work.

I think we are perhaps always destined to be understated and a bit of an 'undiscovered secret'.   This certainly seems to fit well with our existing clientele. A letter we received enclosed with an order today is typical of our customers:

"I would be most grateful if you could send me two more pots of your Queen Skin Cream as I have always found it most beneficial."

Most beneficial! How's that for a strapline? Queen - it's most beneficial. It says it drama or free-from needed!

Have a good week.


Vanessa said...

I think the issue is that if customers don't want parabens or other chemicals in their skin care products, then producers such as yourself can either replace them or give market share to other companies that do.

The problem with Parabens is that no-one really knows whether they cause harm or not - they aren't just in your products but in hundreds and they may combine with other chemicals in other products to do all sorts of harm...or maybe not!

As a consumer, I want to minimise risk, and so long as the products work, I would prefer a Soil Assocation approved product that doesn't contain chemical preservatives like Parabens.

Unilever uses Formaldehyde as a preservative in its products. It claims that while it is a carcinogen, it is at a safe level.

Again - if EVERY product used Formaldehyde as a preservative, what are the chances that your daily exposure would quickly go above the safe level?

It appears to me that companies which use Parabens have a vested interest in assuring consumers they are safe, whereas you don't really know one way or another.

Liz Earle makes the same argument...even going so far as to say that any product WITHOUT parabens is dangerous!

So who do we believe? The people with a vested interest in assuring us that Parabens are safe? The media who love a good scare story? Your competitors who have a similar interest in assuring us that Parabens are dangerous?

No idea - so as a precaution I won't buy a product with Parabens, Formaldehyde or Sodium Laurel Sulphate on the ingredients list.

Airbrush Makeup said...

no one knows what is the parabens thats why they are using it freely. do you have any idea where can i find the Airbrush Makeup.