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Life just got easier for makers of ‘clean beauty’ products

Sponsored: BASF pioneers online tool that helps formulators find suitable ingredients for personal-care products.

This article is sponsored by BASF.

Formulators working on cosmetics and related products are operating in a challenging environment today. Thanks to a rise in ingredient transparency fueled by digitization that gives consumers greater access to information, and to influential lifestyle businesses such as Goop, founded by actress Gwyneth Paltrow in 2008, and Honest Company, the billion-dollar business started by fellow entertainer Jessica Alba, consumers are more interested than ever in what makes up their makeup.

Sixty percent of shoppers in beauty retailer Sephora are checking the ingredients of the products they purchase, according to Prerna Chatterjee, marketing manager, sustainability, BASF Care Chemicals in North America.

Users of beauty products aren’t wrong to scrutinize the labels on their shampoos, anti-aging creams and other products. After all, we’ve come a long way since the days when cosmetics contained lead — a "no-no" ingredient today — and "clean beauty" was a foreign concept. A big buzzword in the beauty industry, "clean beauty" is typically defined by products that are mindfully created and produced without any proven or suspected toxic ingredients. It includes products containing ingredients that are ethically sourced and are made with the health of our bodies and the environment in mind.  

Sixty percent of shoppers in beauty retailer Sephora are checking the ingredients of the products they purchase.
The problem for makers of products destined for markets around the world is that there’s rarely a universally accepted definition of what a "no-no" substance is. Moreover, the regulatory environment in the United States market is vastly different from that in the European Union, Canada and other first-world countries.

In fact, last time there was a significant new regulation in the American personal care industry was in 1938. 

In this climate, some nongovernmental organizations, retailers and brands have compiled their own lists of chemicals that should not be used. While these lists don’t carry the force of law, they are an expression of what the market wants today, according to Chatterjee.

According to Nielsen’s February 2018 "Future of Beauty" report, 53 percent of consumers of fast-moving consumer goods (products sold quickly and at relatively low cost) said that the absence of undesirable ingredients in products is more important than the inclusion of beneficial ones.

The result, however, is a patchwork of multiple lists that vary by organizations. What to do if you’re trying to formulate according to Amazon’s chemical policy, the Whole Foods list or the Dirty Dozen, or all three?  

BASF has created a tool that can help.

Called the Ingredient Insider Tool, the online resource allows formulators to pick from any of several lists showing what materials are banned by retailers or consumer groups, and also which of more than 500 BASF products are suitable based on the various lists. 

"The Ingredient Insider Tool helps formulators find all the BASF ingredients that are compliant with the lists they need to abide by when formulating," Chatterjee added.  

The tool even allows formulators to select multiple lists to create a subset of BASF products appropriate for them all, she explained. And soon, the tool will list formulations compliant with the particular list chosen, making it much easier for formulators to identify acceptable substances no matter who the product is intended for. The whole process takes just seconds, instead of the weeks it might take to manually cross-reference ingredients and the various compliance lists — a huge time-saver. 

"This tool is going to be revolutionary, I believe," Chatterjee concluded.

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