Formulation Summit 2021 – Key takeaways

Formulation Summit 2021 – Key takeaways

The Formulation Summit 2021 (29-30 November) was a fabulous event which I had the great honour to moderate. It was not just about cosmetic trends, science and regulations, but also about the cosmetic industry’s resilience and the people behind it, from the speakers and the attendees, to the sponsors (CompLife and CLR Berlin) and even the event organizers who managed to pull through despite the challenges. Even though it lasted for just two days, a lot of content was covered, and in this article I will give a summary of what I believe were the key “take aways” of the event. (1)

Consumers have kept on using on cosmetics during the pandemic, especially with a mental health focus. They also expect more out of the beauty products they use, and this makes multifunctional cosmetics very trendy and appealing. Examples of this trend are haircare products with de-stressing benefits, and colour cosmetics with additional skincare properties.

Ironically, the industry has ended up embodying the “making more for less” mind set because of the disruption experienced, from staff to ingredients, packaging etc. The raw materials shortage has also shone a light on supply chains, making local supplies more appealing, even if they are not as cost effective. After all, a reliable supply is a very valuable commodity, and if it comes with transparency it is even more valued, so it can add to the credibility and authenticity of a beauty product in a competitive market place driven by consumers with an increasingly stronger sense of ethics.

Antibacterial hand gels would seem so simple to make; mix together water, alcohol and a gelling agent and off you go. But they are far more complicated than mixing a few ingredients together; from safe manufacturing conditions to product efficacy, compatible packaging and regulatory compliance, all of these are complicating factors. The same formula can also be sold as a drug, a biocide or a cosmetic, depending on the product claims, which in turn will determine the type of testing and regulatory requirements, and these result in different budgets and timelines. So, a few words about a hand gel can have quite a domino effect on the development cost, as well as the time to get it compliant and where it can be sold.

The UK Cosmetic Regulations initially started in sync with the European ones, however there are divergences ahead, especially regarding the approach to raw materials safety evaluation, i.e. UK REACH. This may be a great challenge to the animal testing ban as, at the moment the UK responsible body does not seem keen to purchase the data already available in Europe. As a result of this divergence, DHA will be permitted at levels above 10%, whereas microplastics, D5 and D6 restrictions will not be implemented in the UK work program for 2021/2022 , which will include PFAS instead.

In the coming spring, the UK will also enforce a plastic tax on packaging that contains less than 30 % PCR plastic. This tax will not apply to pharmaceutical products.

A few months ago a new bill, called the Cosmetic Supply Chain Transparency Act of 2021 (2), was published in the US Congress, giving cosmetics manufacturers and beauty brands the power to request more information about residues present in raw materials as well as safety data to make safer products.

The Ecolabel standard has been revised to include stricter rules regarding Palm Oil derivatives sourcing.

Everybody is aware of pollution caused by plastic packaging, however who is responsible for sorting this out and how do we go about it? Some people believe the key culprit is consumer’s bad behaviour which need to be punished in order to change their polluting habits. Other people believe it is an industry problem, being and call for packaging design that allows for easy recycling ,and for new business models that uses plastic waste as a commodity to manufacture other finished products according to a circular model. The packaging challenge is ultimately everyone’s problem, starting with brand owners, involving the packaging designers, environmental regulators, moulders and packaging manufacturers and finally consumers. Everybody needs to get on board if we are to solve this challenge.

A simple movement of our face muscles, like smiling, can induce the release of endorphins, the happy chemicals that make us feel relaxed and even look younger. The skin is the largest sensorial organ and it contains a complex peripheral neuronal system; positive emotions can also be triggered the other way round, by applying cosmetics formulated with hedonistic criteria that can affect the mood. Formulations developed according to this neuro-cosmetic approach can achieve quite interesting results. In fact a fascinating consumers study showed that a product with a good hedonistic profile was favoured over a product with better efficacy data, showing how consumers greatly value the way a cosmetic product makes them feel. This is a relatively new cosmetic frontier, that of neuro-cosmetics, and it carries great innovation potential; but it also has the concomitant danger of being used to mislead consumers in new ways, leading to “neuro-washing”– in order to trick consumers into buying unnecessary products. So, we need to use this new approach wisely.

1. summit/en-gb/programme/ formulation-summit-programme. html#/sessions
2. bill/117th-congress/house[1]bill/5539?s=1&r=18.

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Dr Barbara Olioso, MRSC and MSCS, is the founder of the Green Chemist Consultancy, specialising in green cosmetics development for over 20 years. She was behind the launch of the first organic eau de toilette back in 2005 at Primavera, now owned by Espa International. She loves working with new concepts to drive innovation and value to new brands as well as well established brands. She also trains online on organic certifications and cosmetic preservation with multifunctional ingredients. She has been moderating the Sustainability Corner at in-cosmetics Global since 2018

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