The cost of reformulation

The vote by French deputies of a bill of law that would prohibit, the use in consumer products, of certain families of substances classified as endocrine disrupters really stunned the cosmetics industry. Indeed, after a quick inventory of their formulas, many brands have realized, with serious concerns, that the cost of possible ban of phthalates, parabens and alkylphenols would be astronomical.

For most companies, parabens are obviously the core of the problem: actually this family of preservatives is widely used in many products. But “the reformulation of products currently preserved with parabens and the use of new solutions imply to recreate entirely new formulas that to be re-assessed both in terms of stability and safety," highlighted COSMED, the association of French SMEs in the cosmetics industry. "The financial and human resources to devote to this mutation are considerable,” added COSMED.

Consumer choice

However, in the minds of consumers, this “penalizing media burst", as COSMED called it, almost completely destroyed, to the deep regret of the French Federation of beauty companies (FEBEA), "the presumption of innocence" of which these substances continue yet to benefit from a large number of scientists.

Actually, scientific studies indicating possible health effects of parabens, as well as the vote of French deputies, benefitted from a huge media response that is strongly orienting the market. The rationality of consumers is not the as scientists. Indeed, it is virtually impossible for consumers to quantify the actual risk without relying upon experts whose credibility has been badly affected by the succession of health scandals. So, as soon as a risk exists, however small it seems, and as soon as there is an alternative offer, purchases are "naturally" reoriented ... the only limit being the substitutability of products.

What are the alternatives?

Eventually, manufacturers are trapped by a demand that is growing faster than alternative technical solutions.

Certainly, many ingredient suppliers have marketed new substances, or cocktails of substances, in order to replace parabens. But the price of these ingredients is often much higher than that of parabens and, most importantly, they cannot just replace parabens. Indeed, the entire balance of the formulation needs to be reviewed and, sometimes, its is necessary to consider packaging change or even to modify the manufacturing process, for example by opening clean rooms.

In order to clarify all these issues, Premium Beauty News has proposed to key players iof the cosmetics industry (expert formulators, ingredient suppliers, toxicologists, consultants and brand owners) to share their solutions and exchange on their experiences during a conference day that will be held on the 6th of July in Paris. Among the topics that will be discussed by the panel of experts gathered on this occasion: formulation challenges, protection from the packaging, new available ingredients, new safety issues, etc.

The full program and registration details are available here below:

Paraben free formulations