The European Commission has adopted new European Union Ecolabel criteria for cosmetics and animal-care products. As a consequence, all cosmetic products, as defined under the EU Cosmetic Regulation, can now apply for the label. Previous requirements for cosmetics to be awarded the EU Ecolabel covered a limited range of so-called ‘rinse-off’ products such as body wash, shampoo and conditioner. The updated rules include ‘leave-on’ cosmetics such as creams, oils, skin-care lotions, deodorants and anti-perspirants, sunscreens, as well as hairstyling and make-up products.

EU Ecolabel criteria for cosmetic products - Commission Decision (EU) 2021/1870

The purpose of the EU Ecolabel is to help to reduce the environmental impact of products on water, soil and biodiversity, contributing to "a clean and circular economy and a toxic-free environment."

Prohibited substances

As far as cosmetic products are concerned, the ecolabel criteria promote products that have limited impacts in terms of eco-toxicity and biodegradability, and that use less packaging, which can be easily recycled. The use of recycled material and refillable packaging is promoted. There are also sustainable sourcing requirements for some ingredients such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and their derivatives

The new requirements set a total ban on substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction, on substances of very high concern, nanomaterials, those identified or suspected of having endocrine disrupting properties, phthalates, and perfluorinated and polyfluorinated substances, as well as on microplastics.

The EU Ecolabel also sets rules to guarantee that packaging is minimised and/or easy-to-recycle.

I encourage companies to apply for the EU Ecolabel and profit from its established reputation. The EU Ecolabel helps guide concerned consumers towards reliable, certified green products and supports the transition to a clean and circular economy,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

Awarded after assessment by an independent organisation, this label could perhaps give substance to clean beauty, which remains a vague notion for many consumers.

According to the European Environment Bureau, the expansion of the eco-label to new categories could help fight greenwashing which, according to the NGO, is proliferating in the cosmetics industry, with “three out of four products in the EU displaying an environmental claim or label.