For a cosmetic brand, claiming to be natural, “green” or plant-derived can be tricky waters to navigate without being guilty of greenwashing. Brands are increasingly influenced to be more natural from their dedicated consumers or their target consumers. As a result, formulators are encouraged by their marketing departments to use more natural ingredients. This leads to two major questions: how do you choose “truly” natural ingredients and how do you then make the correct claims associated with the naturality of your formulation.
Consumer Expectations Have Evolved
Consumer-desired claims regarding ingredients and quality in beauty care have evolved over the years not only as the technology in the industry developed but also as the consumer became more sophisticated. Using 3rd party seals and certifications has long been a way for brands to communicate elements of their products beyond the intended benefit. In the early 20th century, there was no obvious way to differentiate a “good” product from an average one, or even an ineffective one. Consumers demanded efficacy and trusted the brands that met their quality expectations. This yielded two main ways for a beauty brand to communicate that they have a good product: (1) 3rd party seals of approval and (2) value demonstrated intrinsically through the brand’s reputation. Two prominent industry seals validating quality or consumer approval emerged: The Good Housekeeping Seal, which was started in 1909, and more recently, Allure’s Best of Beauty which started in the mid-1990s. Towards the end of the 21st century, efficacy was no longer a desire; it was the expectation. Consumers won’t lose this expectation or desire lower efficacy. Rather, the customer adds this expectation to the next desired claim creating a cumulative list of “must-haves” that keep them engaged with a brand.
Health & Safety Emerges as Key Theme to Communicate
The next phase of the consumer’s expectation that emerged in the 1970's centered on the questions of health and safety. We witnessed this movement evolve in part from mothers and parents blogging and reading blogs about personal care and safety. Through the internet boom and the rise of the amateur blogger and researcher, the consumer was introduced to the concern for the impact of ingredients on mothers-to-be and on baby. One of the first results of this movement was seen in the rejection of parabens because of a potential for endocrine disruption. Unsurprisingly, a label claim that has come into popularity is paraben-free. Another example is the introduction and acceptance of EWG (Environmental Working Group) scoring for ingredient safety. This non-governmental organization scores ingredients for overall hazard potential. The EWG scoring system has also been made into a verification method and infiltrates consumer shopping habits around the world. Specifically, in Korea, where a majority of consumers use an app that scores a product based on the EWG ratings of ingredients, has product reviews, and advises shoppers on the safest and most efficacious products.
Natural and Sustainable Claims Come Front & Center
As we saw with the seals assuring the quality of the product, this claim of safety has become an expectation. The next level of consumer desired claims is again building the cumulative list of “must-haves” that keep consumers engaged with a brand: environmental health and safety. Environmental health and safety, like the other two categories of claims, cannot be summed up with one certification or one label. Some concerns may be the state of the palm industry which has been criticized for unsustainable practices and deforestation. Another concern is the environmental impact of producing animal goods yielding a desire for vegan and cruelty-free claims. Products derived from petroleum or synthetic building blocks are also becoming less desirable because they may be non-renewable, non-biodegradable, or otherwise less sustainable than other technologies on the market. This is contributing to the multitude of factors encouraging the naturals movement to further root itself in cosmetics, and for natural and sustainable to be the current evolution of consumer-desired claims. Some 3rd party certifications in the category of natural include COSMOS, NSF/ANSI 305, NATRUE, and the USDA BioPreferred® Program.
Choosing a Verified Claim for Your Brand
With so many standards of 3rd party natural certifications of ingredients and finished goods, how do you decide what is right for your brand? Understanding the different certifications is a crucial first step to selecting ingredients that support the consumer-desired claims your brand values and to be transparent and knowledgeable about the entirety of your product. Learn about different certifications in Part 1 of our 3 part Edu-Series: GOODBYE GREENWASHING.
For all claims upheld by INOLEX, visit our Standards & Certifications page.
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