For decades in the U.S. some of the most common chemicals contained in mainstream, commercial skin and hair care products and cosmetics have been parabens, synthetic colors, and phthalates. But the tide has been changing as public education campaigns continue to beat the drum about the potential dangers these chemicals of concern hold for the body and brain of both children and adults; consumers are now voting with their dollars and letting the beauty industry know that they have had enough. For those who thought this was just another passing fad and that if they waited long enough the American public would eventually get over their latest obsession, the economic realities are beginning to tell a different story…
A growing number of consumers are rejecting chemical-filled cosmetics for pricey, plant-based alternatives. It’s a thriving sector—one that some experts think could change the beauty industry for good.
Consumer Awareness and Demand for Chemical-Free Products
…the booming organic and natural beauty market, whose value is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018… Brands with a natural and/or botanically derived clinical orientation now represent the largest combined share of prestige skin care sales. Last year, they accounted for all gains in the category.
“The space for cleaner, safer, better beauty has grown and is only continuing to grow. In fact, natural and safer brands are outselling their traditional competitors by two to threefold.”
— Gregg Renfrew, founder of Beautycounter*, a cosmetics and skin care e-retailer that tries to educate consumers about the potential toxicity of some makeup.
*Beautycounter developed a rigorous ingredient selection process, listing 1,500 questionable or harmful ingredients it vows never to include in its formulations. Roughly 1,400 of those chemical ingredients are already banned or restricted in personal care products by the European Union.
Late last year, the research firm Kline & Company reached a similar conclusion, predicting that the synthetic cosmetics sector will decline in the next two years, while the natural skin care segment will grow. Already, the firm found, naturals have grown by 7% in the U.S., compared to a 2% rise in the overall beauty market in 2015.
Synthetic Products Linked with Health Problems
Parabens and phthalates… have been found to be endocrine disruptors linked to increased risk of breast cancer. A recent study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed how a short break from certain shampoos and lotions made with chemical ingredients can result in a significant drop in levels of people’s hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Late last year, Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California, introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bill to strengthen regulation of ingredients in personal care products.
“Our skin is our largest organ, and many ingredients contained in these products–whether it be lotion, shampoo, or deodorant–are quickly absorbed by the skin. There is increasing evidence that certain ingredients in personal care products are linked to a range of health concerns, ranging from reproductive issues, such as fertility problems and miscarriage, to cancer.”
–Senator Dianne Feinstein
Retailers are responding to consumer demands for clean beauty products
…now that these [natural] products have become so mainstream, you don’t have to go rummaging through your local health food store to find your organic jasmine-infused eyeshadow. Sephora has sold botanical, chemical-free cosmetics for years and now offers a “Naturals” landing page showcasing hundreds of items. Nordstrom is opening dedicated natural beauty sections in 46 of its locations. Target announced plans to expands its natural beauty selection, thanks to a double-digit percentage lift in sales last year. And, reacting to customer feedback, CVS recently promised to remove chemical ingredients such as parabens and phthalates from approximately 600 of its in-house brands’ personal care products. Natural is available everywhere.
The organic beauty boom is part of the larger shift in consumer awareness about health and wellness. Thanks to a growing number of beauty blogs and social media accounts dedicated to the benefits of going chemical-free, consumers have access to more information than ever before.
Will the trend for clean beauty continue?
“It’s still early, still a bit niche. But I don’t think this is something that will disappear. It’s a way of life.”
–Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst for the market research firm the NPD Group
Romain Gaillard, founder of The Detox Market, the green beauty e-commerce shop, predicts this group of conscious consumers will remain faithful to the cause, like newly health-conscious eaters who never return to McDonald’s.
“Once the curtain is pulled away and consumers know the truth, they won’t revert back to ‘unhealthy’ behavior.”
The Environmental Defense Fund reviewed 16 widely used cosmetic preservatives and concluded that half are skin sensitizers, 11 can cause eye irritation, and 12 are toxic to aquatic organisms. Preservatives it studied include benzyl alcohol, caprylyl glycol, methylisothiazolinone, and propylparaben.
Source: Chemical and Engineering News