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Looking for Alternatives

Imogen Matthews

Many consumers look to avoid artificial additives in the food they eat, and believe the same criteria should apply when choosing cosmetics and toiletries. Media scare stories have fueled consumer concerns, and many people now try to avoid parabens, for example, even if they do not fully understand their safety profile or purpose in a cosmetics formulation. Some brands are picking up on consumer ignorance, and incorporate “free from” messages on their product labeling, knowing that this is an attractive selling point.

The “Free From” Trend

The “free from” trend means that brands are looking to offer an alternative, although this may not always be straightforward. “We are seeing more natural preservatives, emulsifiers, etc. However, the challenge is to ensure the performance matches conventional products and [that] product prices remain competitive,” explains Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor.* He points out that large chemical and cosmetic ingredient companies are investing in developing cosmetic ingredients that replace potentially harmful synthetic chemicals. “Important companies that are investing in this sector include Cognis, Crodarom and DSM Nutritional Products. As R&D investment steps up, we expect to see more natural replacements, as well as more novel ingredients being used in the natural and organic sector.”

Organic skin care brand Organic Apoteke, which is expanding distribution in U.S. department stores, uses an organic preservative made from a proprietary blend of grapefruit seed extract and potassium sorbate from organic bananas. “Parabens [and petrochemicals] are toxic to the human body and the environment,” asserts Nitasha Buldeo, founder, Organic Apoteke.* “Parabens mimic estrogen in the human body, and are therefore linked to many estrogen dependent cancers. The ingredients are also able to get into the bloodstream from skin application.” Organic Apoteke’s natural formulations have been tested against mainstream products in terms of efficacy and found to offer similar performance benefits.

Circaroma* is another organic skin care range that avoids the use of chemicals in its formulations. Founder Barbara Scott maintains that many synthetic ingredients may irritate the skin and cause skin allergies to develop. “The research jury is still out on the potential harm of the use of a cocktail of chemicals being absorbed into the body system, especially given the increase in personal care products being used,” she states. Circaroma’s focus at present is to try to source its ingredients closer to home for environmental reasons, and source its organic chamomile and lavender from U.K. suppliers.


Novel Ingredients from Nature

In tune with the natural and organic trend, pure ingredients from unpolluted and unspoiled environments are gaining popularity, especially ones of Nordic and Alpine origin, and a number of ingredient suppliers are offering ranges sourced in these regions. “Their purity, provenance and results are what eco-conscious consumers crave today,” says Nica Lewis, head of cosmetics research, Mintel International Group. “Iceland’s untouched landscape, pristine glacial waters and potent herbs are inspiring a host of beauty products. Whether they spring from family traditions, years of scientific research or simply use Icelandic ingredients in a new context, these skin care ranges are part of a growing trend.”

Taer Icelandic is an Icelandic natural skin care range with a long family tradition of producing specialized herbal creams and remedies. The ingredients contain certified organic herbs grown on Hvammur Farm—a natural area in northwest Iceland—and include yarrow, the main herbal extract in the range, which is both paraben- and lanolin-free. Another Taer Icelandic product is Moa green balm, a multipurpose skin care product that is 100% natural with organic herbs and contains no chemicals, perfume, alcohol or parabens.

U.S. brand Skyn Iceland also draws on the purity of Iceland for its formulations, which contain a “biospheric” complex of nutrients from Iceland—including glacial water, arctic berries, butterfly bush and thyme extracts. The products are said to reinforce the direct link between the senses and the skin.

Hungary is also gaining a reputation for purity-made claims in toiletries, fueled by its popularity as a spa destination. For example, Omorovicza skin care products are formulated with the Pannon Complex, derived from the historical name for the region west of the Danube called Pannonia. The premium range includes a cleansing milk, exfoliating cleanser, day and night moisturizers and an eye cream. There is also a Deep Cleansing Mask containing mineral-infused mud from Lake Héviz and Queen of Hungary Mist—which contains rosemary, sage and lavender and was originally created in the 14th century for Elisabeth of Hungary,

Dr. Harnik Skincare, named after the late Hungarian dermatologist Helena Harnik, includes Anti-Ageing Intense Duo, formulated with Cova B trox, a muscle relaxing antiwrinkle complex that contains active marine magnesium, algae extract and polysaccharides. The Anti-Ageing Moisturiser SPF 15 contains algisium C (a versatile seaweed-based antiaging active), licorice and mulberry extracts.

The Luxury of Gemstones

In cosmetics formulations, gemstones can add light reflective properties, and their mineral content is said to be beneficial to the skin. “They enable brands to target the premium or even super-premium segment with rare, indulgent ingredients that lend brands an air of exclusivity,” says Euromonitor International* analyst Diana Dodson. “In skin care and color cosmetics, gemstones also have the added benefit consumers want for their skin, i.e. luminescence.”

Aveda’s Tourmaline was one of the first gemstone-based skin care ranges, claiming to have an energizing formula that imparts radiance to the skin. Armani’s Crème Nera uses obsidian, which is technically not a gemstone but naturally occurring glass (highly prized in pre-Greco-Roman times). “[There are] claims [that it has] powerful positive energy due to its volcanic origins, so the company uses this concept to enhance the product performance,” says Mintel’s Lewis.

“Diamonds [too] are both beautiful and the hardest known natural material, which makes them perfect as abrasives in exfoliators and microdermabrasion,” adds Dodson. Other beauty products formulated with precious gemstones and metals include La Prairie Pure Gold (containing 24-carat gold microparticles), Nivea Pearl & Beauty Deodorant and Borba Firming Spandex Fibre Body Polish, containing diamond powder.

Pure, natural and luxurious products are taking hold, and the combination of these qualities and buy-in of marketers and suppliers will likely ensure that these will be trends for the longer term.

nic Monitor, Euromonitor, Mintel, Circaroma and Organic Apoteke will participate in the marketing trends presentations at the 2008 in-cosmetics show, held April 15–17 in Amsterdam. For further information, visit


Imogen Matthews is a consultant to in-cosmetics. For more information, contact

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