The effects of the covid-19 pandemic have been felt across all sectors, and have strongly influenced consumer habits. Natural and organic cosmetics are becoming the choice of more and more consumers not only because of the product qualities, but because of the deeper holistic principles and values that the sector represents.

Natural and organic cosmetics: how will the market further develop in 2021

Natural and organic cosmetics: sustainable consumption

Consumers are calling for change, demanding waste reduction and greater transparency, promoting a more ethical and sustainable consumption, and an altogether healthier lifestyle paradigm. Recently European regulators have adapted these demands in proposals that put digitalisation, sustainability, fairness and green agendas on the table. In the years to come, environmental awareness, new consumer habits and demands and developing regulation at European and international level will continue to boost innovation within the natural and organic cosmetic sector.

Covid-19: Market impact and regulatory clarifications

While the sales of skin care, deodorants and shower gels have resisted the pandemic, the demand for makeup and shampoos has heavily declined. Simultaneously, the crisis has forced many companies to accelerate their digital transformation to expand their online sales. In some product categories, the increase of e-commerce reported by some companies was more than 50% compared with 2019.

The high demand for soaps and leave-on hydro-alcoholic gels worldwide has led in the EU to requests for improved guidance to assist cosmetic compliance. The EU Commission provided in March 2020 guidance clarifying the distinction between cosmetic and biocide products, jointly with informative examples of misleading product claims for cosmetic hand gels.

Several coordinated initiatives will take place in 2021 to accelerate the green and digital transitions

China: Animal Testing

On 1st January 2021, China’s new Cosmetic Supervision and Administration Regulation (CSAR) will be implemented. A significant change for the cosmetic industry centres around the future of animal testing – a subject integral to the natural and organic cosmetic sector’s values. The CSAR infers that imported ‘general use’ cosmetics (like shampoos) may not require animal testing. In order to grant an animal testing exemption, producers must also meet certain preconditions (e.g. GMP certification, confirmed product safety assessment, etc.). However, despite this big step, animal testing could still take place in China via in-market control or on certain products for which there are no exemptions (for example, those intended to be used by children).

Green claims, sustainable products

In response to the covid-19 crisis, and as part of the European Green Deal growth strategy, several coordinated initiatives will take place in 2021 to accelerate the green and digital transitions. These initiatives cover environmental claims and performance of products, minimum requirements for sustainability labels and greenwashing prevention. From the closely related food sector, the EU Commission has proposed targets to increase organic farming in the EU to 25% by 2030 within their Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, which could lead to new innovation streams for organic grade raw materials used in cosmetic formulation.

These initiatives cover environmental claims and performance of products, minimum requirements for sustainability labels and greenwashing prevention

Ingredients regulation

2021 will also bring further developments that might impact the use of certain ingredients in the formulation of cosmetics. At European level, submissions on the natural substances Benzyl salicylate, Genistein and Daidzein will be made to the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS). Further steps will also be taken to discuss the labelling of 61 additional fragrance allergens, including natural ones. Finally, a potential update of the definition of nanomaterials might be included in the next review of the EU Cosmetic Regulation.

New trends in 2021

Buying in bulk and refilling are no longer a trend exclusively associated to food products. As part of their commitment to reduce packaging and offer an eco-friendlier purchase experience to consumers, many natural and organic cosmetic brands are exploring options to offer their products (particularly, shampoos, shower gels and liquid soaps) in refilling stations available in specialized natural and organic shops and supermarkets. Refilling options are increasingly popular as they meet consumer demand for sustainable products, contribute to reducing the use of packaging and promote the reuse of materials in line with circular economy values. Innovative product formats are also key to reduce or eliminate packaging: deodorant creams, solid soaps and shampoos and toothpaste tablets are some examples of products that are contributing to drastically reducing cosmetic packaging.

Many natural and organic cosmetic brands are exploring options to offer their products in refilling stations

Zero waste is also a key aspect for many consumers looking for sustainable natural and organic cosmetics. Cosmetic packaging is increasingly being redesigned to reduce or completely avoid waste. Smart packaging that help consumers to completely empty the bottle or tub and smaller packaging that allow to easily finish the product before their “use by” date are some of the solutions that brands are opting for to reduce product waste.

Consumers have traditionally looked for singularity in the function and effects of the products they purchase, but multifunctionality is increasingly valued for those who want to reduce their consumption by using the same product for different purposes. A common example of multifunctional cosmetics are shampoo + shower gels, but some brands are going further in their quest for multifunctionality. For instance, some natural and organic cosmetic brands have recently launched masks that can be used both for face and skin care.

Authors: Mark Smith, Director of Natrue and Ana Ledesma, Director of Communication of Natrue –

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