From 1 July 2019, the provisions of the Technical Document on Cosmetic Claims of the European Commission (Annex III and IV) has become applicable. The Technical Document was approved in 2014, but formally it came into force only now. It was created to describe good practices in the application of the Regulation 655/2013, and also as a tool for control authorities.
What are the consequences of implementing the Technical Document? Particular emphasis will be placed on “free from” (Annex III) and “hypoallergenic” (Annex IV) declarations. Look at the Annex III – “Free from claims”. It prohibits the use of declarations such as “free from”, “does not contain”, “without”, which denigrates legally used ingredients. Examples?
- “Without parabens” – a flagship example of deprecating allowed preservatives. Although parabens have been thoroughly tested for their safety in cosmetics and are legally used preservatives, this claim has been commonly used so far, suggesting to consumers that they are harmful ingredients. In this case, the honesty principle of Regulation 655/2013 is violated.
- “Free from allergens” – this claim should also not be used due to the fact that in practice it is not possible to guarantee the absence of allergens in the cosmetic. Why? Because allergic reactions are such individual, thus, we can never be sure if any of the ingredients will not cause allergies in a particular person. Therefore, such a claim misleads the consumer and violates the principle of the fairness.
- “Does not contain formaldehyde” – here, in turn, we have a contradiction with the principle of the legal compliance. According to the latest changes in Regulation 1223/2009 (https://www.cosmeticscare.eu/en/amendments-to-the-regulation-1223-2009/), formaldehyde is currently on the list of prohibited ingredients. Therefore, the use of the claim “does not contain” in relation to prohibited substances is unlawful.
Another issue is the need to adapt marketing communication to the Annex IV of the Technical Document – “Hypoallergenic claim”. In this annex, we find the criteria to be met to name a cosmetic product as hypoallergenic. Therefore, such products must not contain known and potential allergens, in particular substances or mixtures: recognized as sensitizing by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), classified as sensitizing category 1 (1A, 1B) according to the criteria of the Regulation No. 1272/2008 / WE (CLP), or considered to be sensitizing according to scientific literature. The hypoallergenic declaration should be supported by appropriate evidence (e.g. dermatological tests on a group of volunteers with allergy-prone skin). It should be remembered that the term “hypoallergenic” does not guarantee complete lack of possibility of allergic reaction, so it can not be suggested in marketing communication.
Products placed on the market after 1st July 2019 should therefore comply with the requirements of the Technical Document of the European Commission. It is worth emphasizing that the cosmetics market should adapt to these changes not only in the area of claims used on product labels, but also in marketing communication as a whole (e.g. advertising, descriptions on websites).
So what about the most controversial “free from” claims? In general, the cosmetics sector should stop using such declarations, including for legally used ingredients. Because such claims have been used extensively on cosmetic labels, the question arises: what to replace them with? How to encourage the consumer to buy a cosmetic towards such restrictions? Or maybe just focus on WHAT DOES OUR COSMETIC CONTAIN, instead of what it does not contain? Emphasize the ingredients that make the product stand out instead of looking for what it lacks. Let’s change what’s negative for positive. The declaration “contains” always has a more positive effect than the claim “does not contain”.
Link to the website with the Technical Document on Cosmetic Claims: https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/24847