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State of the Cosmetic Industry, Part 1

By: Rachel L. Chapman
Posted: August 21, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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REACH. Consumer alert for ingredients in personal care products has increased dramatically. Some of this concern is due in part to a more educated, yet often misinformed, consumer. In any case, activist groups demand action and regulating bodies are prompted to respond. Thus, as new rules are introduced to the game, the personal care industry has become well-versed in reformulating—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

For example, the European chemicals industry launched its Registration, Evaluation and Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) initiative, requiring that chemicals used in products that are sold in Europe be registered, or that only those chemicals that are registered be used in personal care formulations. Thus, unregistered chemicals may be replaced in a product, sending the formulator back to the bench to start again. The alternative is to formulate a work-around solution. In either case, regulation forces change.

As the REACH legislation has rolled into action in Europe, its global magnitude has begun to be realized. For example, the legislation is written in such a way that it calls into question the basic fabric of the personal care industry, such as: What is a chemical? A polymer? How does one register ingredients that are by-products of reactions, and whose names are designated based on the context of the industry in which they are applied? How much will this cost the industry? By forming consortiums to absorb registration costs, how can companies maintain any confidential product information? Will this regulation affect international trade?

Initially, the REACH regulation was written for the overall chemical industry, but its impact in more specialized market segments, such as personal care, was not explored, nor was an industry expert consulted.

In a statement made during the Ohio Valley Society of Cosmetic Chemist’s (SCC) dinner meeting in February 2006, Eric Abrutyn, chairman of the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) Dictionary committee, commented, “I see the industry changing. Some of it is subtle, but I feel a big change that will affect this [INCI Dictionary] committee.” He added that, in the future, the cosmetic industry needs to “remain diligent and transparent to avoid imposition of government regulations.” The REACH legislation is a prime example of why, during all stages of regulatory review and law-writing processes, it is vital that the appropriate industry experts and representatives participate to ensure that the industry’s interests are protected.