The truth about claims

The truth about claims

When shopping for a cosmetic product, everybody looks at the advertisements. They make a product look more enticing or encourage us to try it. Given two identical products, product claims can make one more attractive than the other and beat it in terms of marketing.

Commission Regulation No. 665/2013 sets out common criteria applicable to claims made for cosmetic products, and puts limits on the claims we can use to make our product a marketing superstar. The Regulation provides guidelines regarding points to take into account when making claims for a cosmetic product. Compliance with Regulation No. 1223/2009 on cosmetic products is obligatory for all products, and therefore does not need to be restated. Neither should it be claimed that that a product does not contain ingredients which are not permitted, as they are prohibited and the product could not pass the safety assessment process.

Veracity is another important point, as if a product claims that it contains an ingredient then it must be included in the formula. For example, for the claim “Contains Lavender” the product must include the lavender plant as an extract, oil or a specific part of the plant like leaves, not a perfume that imitates the smell of lavender. Likewise, if a product says that it lasts for 24 hours then there must have been a study that confirmed this is true. Doing otherwise is to mislead the consumer.

Another guideline to take into account is that the data must support these marketing tools. In other words, explicit or implicit claims must be justified by tests that demonstrate the truth of what is stated. The previously mentioned claim “lasts for 24 hours” is an example. The Responsible Person must make sure that all claims are proven. With the tests out of the way, claims should focus on the effects of the product, and go no further than that. This point relates to honesty regarding the product and competitors.

The next point is impartiality, that is to say that claims should be objective and not go against similar products of other brands on the market. It is not impartial to denigrate the use of ingredients by other manufacturers when these are permitted on the market. Examples are “parabens free”, “alcohol free”, “free of silcones”, “free of preservatives”, “free of colourants”.

Finally, consumers should be presented with claims that are clear, and comprehensible, and that cannot be misunderstood. They should not be mislead into believing that the product has properties or effects that it does not.

At Cosmeservice, we recommend thinking about claims at the very beginning of producing a formula. Raw materials, with their bibliography, can be another tool for justifying a claim. The labelling should be designed as the product is being developed, and cannot be finalised until the Safety Assessment has been carried out.


Ana María Hernández


Are parabens safe?

Are parabens safe?

Lately, products free of parabens can be found in any shop that sells cosmetics. Society has a poor view of parabens, as everyone has heard that they are bad for the skin, can cause cancer, can affect growth hormones, etc. To better understand them, we will look at their origins.

These preservatives were discovered in 1924, and were immediately used in all kinds of cosmetic products. The concentrations used varied from enormous to tiny quantities. They were not regulated and everybody used them. There was no risk in using them.

Parabens are used topically and orally. Several studies found that ingested parabens are absorbed well by the intestines and fully removed through urine, but when applied topically their metabolisation is not as simple and quick.

From the beginning, parabens were known to be an anti-fungal and work as a preservative for products. They are widely used in all kinds of cosmetics to preserve and protect the safety of products. They are usually employed as a combination of different parabens with other anti-microbial agents, aiming to achieve a synergistic effect. One of the main advantages, compared to other preservatives that only work in acid conditions, is that they work in neutral conditions (pH 7) and are also cheap to produce.

Around 1940 the first irritation and sensitisation reactions began to appear in the population, but it was not until the 60s that the first cases of serious and long-term eczema were seen. In 1984 it was decided that their use was safe up to 25%.

Based on these facts countless studies have been carried out to test the toxicity or non-toxicity of parabens in cosmetic products. Alarm bells started ringing when, in 2004, a study found a relationship between breast cancer and traces of parabens found in tissue. Later studies have tried to produce conclusive evidence regarding this finding, but nothing has been proven.

Even so, the alarm had been sounded, and based on these studies the case for the safety of parabens was re-opened, and new limits  were established. This was not so good for all the manufacturers that had developed a large number products that included them. Now, as well as having to reformulate existing products, they would have to find new preservatives that were as effective and cheap as parabens.

Currently, parabens are allowed to be used as long as this is within the permitted concentration (0.4%  for methyl and ethyl paraben, and 0.14% for propyl and butyl paraben, and the mixture of various parabens cannot exceed 0.8%), which is established in European Regulation 1223/2009 on cosmetic products. These ingredients are not bad, they are needed in order to preserve products.


Ana María Herández