Going Green: A Closer Look at Cosmetic Product Sustainability by Eurofins

Published: 28-Nov-2023

In recent years there has been an increasing awareness and prioritisation towards ethical and sustainable consumption. Sometimes referred to as the green transition, consumers have developed a greater understanding and sense of responsibility towards environmental issues, and the cosmetics industry is no exception to this

The environmental impact of cosmetic and personal care products, raw materials, ingredients, and their packaging has gained considerable attention. This has presented a transformative challenge for the cosmetics market, with key players implementing new strategies to navigate a pathway toward sustainability.

Not only do cosmetics companies need to keep up with ever-increasing consumer demands, but making transparent commitments to improve product sustainability and reduce their environmental impact is critical.

The surge in demand for sustainability efforts has led to an increase in false and exaggerated environmental claims, a phenomenon widely known as Greenwashing. Being fully transparent with your sustainability activities and substantiating your environmental claims is increasingly important. The movement towards sustainability is not just a trend, it has also become mandatory under many international cosmetic regulations. Regulations pertaining to labelling and product claims mean there are additional requirements regarding a products sustainability. For example, factors such as ecotoxicity and biodegradability are criteria in regulations such as REACH and the European Ecolabel, in line with OECD or ISO guidelines.

A key priority within the industry is the use of biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable packaging and ingredients. It must be noted that it may not be possible for all cosmetics products to be recyclable or reusable, but there are a variety of other factors that can be considered to improve the sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of cosmetic products.

Key Sustainability Factors for Cosmetic Products, Raw Materials and Packaging

Ecotoxicity

Ecotoxicity is the measure of the impact of substances on living organisms in various ecosystems, such as fresh water, sea water, and terrestrial environments.

Understanding the ecological impact of your cosmetic products is important in ensuring products meet environmental safety standards, with ecotoxicity often serving as criteria in regulations and eco-friendly label requirements.

Biodegradability

Biodegradability is the capacity of a material to decompose over time as a result of biological activity into smaller molecules. Cosmetic formulations and packaging that readily break down after disposal are in increasing demand in the movement towards sustainability in the cosmetics market.Biodegradability tests on finished products and raw materials provide valuable insights into the environmental impact of cosmetic and personal care products.

Compostability

Composability is another aspect often considered by consumers when evaluating a product’s environmental impact. The assessment of compostability involves analyses simulating the biological degradation process of materials, determining whether a product or package can be safely composted after undergoing several months of testing.

Life cycle assessments

Recent years have seen a growing interest in Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for products in many industries. LCAs ensure a holistic approach to sustainability, tracking a product's environmental impact at every stage of its life, from raw ingredient sourcing to finished product packaging disposal.

These assessments can provide detailed insight into a product’s sustainability credentials, enabling companies to identify specific issues and implement improvements for reduced environmental impact.

Microplastics

Microplastics, composed of polymers and functional additives, have recently come under intense scrutiny. They can form unintentionally or be deliberately added to products for specific purposes, posing harm to the environment. Testing for microplastics is essential for compliance with regulatory frameworks and ensuring compliant products enter the market.

PFAS

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances are a large family of substances that do not easily degrade in the environment. Although they do not pose any risk to human safety, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their presence due to their environmental risk.

These substances can be deliberately added as ingredients in some cosmetics products or may be present as unintended degradation products or impurities resulting from the production of PFAS precursors used in certain products.

Many countries are taking steps to eliminate PFAS from cosmetics and packaging products, leading to expanding testing requirements for these contaminants.

Vegan Verification

The environmental impact of animal byproducts is widely acknowledged in recent media. Driven by growing consumer awareness and demand for vegan-certified products, vegan-friendly beauty care could become the standard for cosmetic product consumption.

In partnership with the vegan society, Eurofins has developed a robust Vegan Verification Programme. This innovative methodology provides a complete solution which establishes whether any animal products or by-products have been used in their manufacturing and development process.

Rinsability

Measuring the rinsability of your skin and hair care products is a valuable way to assess their water-usage properties. With consumers increasingly considering water usage as a factor in sustainable lifestyles, having products that require less rinsing without compromising product performance will
provide a greater variety of sustainable options.

Eurofins offers a triple testing approach to water-smart products, involving instrumental testing, clinical testing and consumer testing. Combining these tests allows rinsability claims to be made about a wide range of cosmetics and personal care products.

Packaging

Packaging has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement in the cosmetics and personal care industry, with consumers predominantly considering recyclability, biodegradability, composability, and reliability of packaging in their cosmetic purchase decisions. A variety of tests can be performed across the entire lifecycle of a product’s packaging. Eurofins can provide support with quality control and risk management, regulatory and safety assessment, analytical testing including performance, stability, sustainability, physical, release of heavy metals, among many others.

The beauty industry's transformation towards sustainability is not just a trend, it's a necessity under modern day regulation. At Eurofins Cosmetics and Personal Care, we can act as a partner for brands looking to test a variety of sustainability factors of their cosmetic products. For more information on our testing capabilities, please contact us at Cosmetics@eurofins.com.

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