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‘Clean beauty’ and new regulations: the future for cosmetics and personal care testing

man using face cream


On the face of it, the outlook for the cosmetics and personal care industry has never been so good.


Although initially rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global market bounced back strongly, and was worth an estimated $564 billion in 2022. It is also expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of almost five per cent until 2026, with more than a quarter of total revenue coming from internet sales – a phenomenon known as “Bringing the Beauty Counter Online”.


Other major contributors to growth include partnerships with social media influencers, and male grooming products, but some of the biggest sales increases have come in the so-called ‘clean beauty’ sector. According to one industry analyst, “Clean beauty refers to cosmetics, skincare, and personal care products devoid of harmful chemicals like propylparaben and butylparaben”. But the trend also taps into a broader consumer and industry reset following the pandemic, when the sense of ecological danger surrounding COVID-19 intensified demand for goods that do not harm the planet. “The growing interest in non-toxic or cruelty-free products suggest that consumers will look for… products that align with their individual values,” the industry analyst adds. “Therefore, in line with these consumer behaviors, clean beauty products are expected to be a main driver across the Beauty & Personal Care industry.” The post-pandemic mindset may also have removed a significant obstacle to the growth of clean beauty brands – their higher prices compared to mass-produced ranges. For example, the vegan premium skincare company Aesop grew at an average rate of 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, and was this month sold to industry giant L’Oréal in a deal worth $2.5 billion. Although the deal represented L’Oréal’s biggest-ever acquisition, its CEO, Nicolas Hieronimus, justified the price paid by stating that “Aesop taps into all of today’s ascending currents,” and had “massive growth potential”.


Concerns over ingredients finally fuel US regulatory change


The post-pandemic surge in demand for safe and sustainable beauty also pooled with a deeper reservoir of concern about potentially toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. This is particularly the case in the US, where activist groups pointed to “outdated and dangerous” regulation compared to markets such as the European Union - prompting politicians to introduce their own safety bills at state level and in Congress.


In the US, as elsewhere, the main compounds of concern include nitrosamines and dioxins – carcinogenic by-products of the cosmetic production process that can also spread to, or persist in, the wider environment. Some common ingredients in beauty and personal care products can also cause damage – from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in coal tar shampoos that are that are toxic to aquatic life and birds, to Volatile Organic Compounds used as solvents which harm the human liver, kidneys and central nervous system. Meanwhile, despite the growing pressure for change, some ingredients that are banned in Europe on safety grounds – such as cadmium, and several parabens – are still permitted as ingredients in US cosmetics.


In January of this year President Biden responded – at least in part - by signing into law the first major reform of cosmetics regulation in America since the tail end of the Great Depression, known as the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act. Widely referred to as ‘MoCRA’, the new Act places additional safety and testing requirements on the US cosmetics industry, while also significantly expanding the regulatory powers of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under MoCRA, manufacturers must now ensure that a product is safe, and keep records “adequately substantiating” the product’s safety, as well as identifying any fragrance allergens on product labels. Meanwhile the FDA has been given authority to recall cosmetic products it suspects are adulterated or misbranded, and “could cause serious adverse health consequences or death.” It may also suspend a manufacturing facility’s registration if it believes products made there may be dangerous. The FDA has further been ordered to draw up Good Manufacturing Practice rules for the US industry that are “consistent with national and international standards”, while “cosmetic products manufactured or processed under conditions that do not meet (those) regulations may be considered adulterated.” Cosmetics Business warned manufacturers and their testing laboratories to preparenot only for a more active FDA, which will have increased records access and enhanced administrative enforcement tools, but also for required reporting and record keeping responsibility for serious and non-serious adverse events of product use.”


Dr Ehrenstorfer: for cosmetics and personal care reference materials you can rely on


For almost 50 years, Dr Ehrenstorfer has designed high-quality reference materials that analytical laboratories around the world trust to find food and environmental contaminants.


Our range of almost 300 ISO 17034- and ISO 17025- accredited reference materials for cosmetics and personal care products  is designed specifically to support your journey from concept to production – underpinning your analytical, microbiological, clinical testing and regulatory compliance throughout.


Whether you’re testing body lotions or toothpastes, lipsticks or sunscreens, our standards support your analysis of all the main prohibited and restricted substances globally - as well as helping you stay up to date with the latest regulations, including MoCRA.


What’s more, our broader Dr Ehrenstorfer portfolio of more than 3,000 reference materials can also be relied upon to enhance your analysis of dyes, flavours, and allergens in products throughout the personal care industry.



Our proud history of innovation means that we also think beyond regulations and never stand still in our efforts to improve your testing efficiency – with different pack sizes, mixtures, and isotope-labelled standards all now available to save you time and minimise waste, plus new additions constantly coming online.



Discover LGC’s cosmetic and personal care product range


As part of the LGC group, we can supply you with a wide choice of complementary testing products to add still more value to your cosmetics testing – including reference materials for heavy metals from VHG, toxicology tests from TRC, plus physical property analysis standards from Paragon Scientific. 


LGC AXIO Proficiency Testing, meanwhile offers a broad portfolio of PT samples for cosmetics and personal care professionals, including: Allergens in Cosmetics, Trace Elements in Powdered Cosmetics, Physicochemical Analyses in Liquid Cosmetics, Chemical Analysis of Soap, and more.



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