According to recent reports, future growth of the European natural and organic cosmetics sector will primarily take place in pharmacy and parapharmacies. In fact, the pharmacy distribution channel in Spain experienced a notable growth of +6.3% in 2022; affirming the increasing significance of these trusted hubs for health and wellness. Meanwhile, pharmacies have become the primary sales outlets in the Middle Eastern market, highlighting their pivotal role in the global natural cosmetics landscape.

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In recent years, the surge in demand for natural cosmetics has correlated with consumers increasingly prioritising products that align with their health, wellness, and ethical goals. Pharmacies, as trusted sources of healthcare information, are well-positioned to attend this growing trend. In this comprehensive guide, NATRUE explores the realm of natural cosmetics, providing insights and advice to pharmacists on how to guide and assist their customers in making informed choices.

1. Understanding natural cosmetics

Natural cosmetics appeal to consumers seeking alternatives for their skincare, body, and hair routines focused on a harmonious balance between beauty and nature. These products often feature essential oils, herbal extracts, and plant-based compounds; however, the lack of an official definition for the product claims ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ poses a challenge for consumers by making it increasingly difficult to recognise when a cosmetic can truly meet their expectations of ‘naturalness’.

This confusion can arise if predominately conventional or nature-inspired products employ marketing tactics that include claims focused on specific natural ingredients (e.g., “made with pure olive oil”); or use images, graphics and other forms of advertising that can draw attention to a limited number of natural ingredients rather than the product as a whole. While it is true that such ingredients may be present in the cosmetic product, it may not reflect the entire product. Voluntary standards that independently set label criteria that is verified by third-party certification, such as NATRUE’s own, sets strict requirements for the ingredients and formulation of natural and organic cosmetics, and can help consumers navigate their way through misleading claims and ensure product authenticity.

2. Educating consumers

Distinguishing between genuine natural cosmetics and greenwashing requires a deeper understanding of product information. Since pharmacists play a key role in advising and educating customers about natural cosmetics, it is crucial for them to be able to provide detailed information on product labels, certifications and industry standards that can empower consumers to make informed choices that align with both their values and ethical concerns.

For example, the NATRUE Label sets high benchmarks guaranteeing consumers maximum levels of natural and organic content in certified cosmetics. Through its rigorous criteria, which includes requirements not only linked to the formulation of the products but also to the protection of the environment, sustainability, and packaging, the NATRUE Label actively contributes to combatting greenwashing and providing consumers with a trustworthy indicator of product authenticity. With the NATRUE logo on pack, consumers can be sure that their product meet their expectations of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’.

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3. Staying Informed about Regulatory Standards

Like all cosmetics, natural cosmetics are subject to mandatory regulatory requirements in law, and is it imperative for pharmacists to remain well-informed about these guidelines. In the EU, Regulation (EC) Nº 1223/2009 is the main regulatory framework for finished cosmetic products. This legislation is accompanied by Regulation (EC) No. 655/2013, which establishes common criteria for the justification of cosmetic product claims. Apart from these sectoral requirements, additional EU legislation applies such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Familiarity with certifications, can also assist pharmacists in guiding customers towards products that meet stringent quality and sustainability criteria. In fact, recent reports indicate that 45% of professionals said their company plans to invest in certifications to avoid greenwashing in the next five years.

4. Curating a Thoughtful Product Selection

Curating a thoughtful selection of natural cosmetics involves a nuanced understanding of consumer preferences and staying ahead of industry trends. Pharmacists should actively seek out brands that prioritise transparency with an ability to substantiate verifiable natural product characteristics like ingredient selection, content, and sustainability. By collaborating with such brands, pharmacies can offer customers a diverse range of product categories that serve various skin types, concerns, and ethical considerations.

5. Addressing Customer Concerns

Customers may have reservations or questions regarding the efficacy of natural cosmetics compared to their conventional counterparts. Firstly, it is necessary to keep in mind that by law any cosmetic product placed on the EU market, whether conventional and natural or organic, must be safe for use. In addition, by law product claims, like efficacy, must also be supported. Pharmacists can equally address concerns by explaining the science behind natural ingredients.

Fortunately, besides on-pack labels validated by third-party certification pharmacists have some essential tools in-hand that can also be offered as guides to consumers. A recent example is the Sustainable Beauty Coalition’s Planet Positive Beauty Guide, an easy-to-digest tool to help consumers make greener beauty choices and keep greenwashed products off the shelves. Providing evidence-based information fosters trust and confidence in the products offered.

6. Advising on Skin Conditions

Pharmacists are well-equipped to advise customers dealing with specific skin conditions. Certified natural and organic cosmetics formulations include actives from various plants with functional properties whether conditioning the skin to maintain its good condition (e.g. calendula or aloe vera extracts and avocado oil), relaxing scents (e.g. cedarwood oil), as an emollient acting as a lubricant on the skin surface providing the skin with a soft and smooth appearance (e.g. argan oils), or functional derivates for cleansing (e.g. Sodium Coco-Sulfate). Knowing them is essential in order to give the right advice; and understanding the unique needs of customers and recommending products that align with their skin concerns can significantly enhance the pharmacy’s reputation as a reliable source of skincare solutions.

A recent study of 23,000 beauty shoppers revealed that almost half (48%) are looking for more information and clarity about brands’ values and commitments to the environment. Ingredients, recyclability of packaging, and animal welfare were amongst the most frequently searched topics. Making ethical beauty choices can be difficult. In fact, 61% of us struggle to tell if hair and skincare products are ethical from the packaging.

As the demand for natural cosmetics continues to grow, pharmacists have a unique opportunity to position themselves as trusted advisors in the realm of skincare and beauty. By staying informed, curating a diverse product selection, and providing tailored advice, pharmacists can contribute to the well-being of their customers while fostering a positive and informed shopping experience in the evolving landscape of natural cosmetics.

Autores: Mark Smith, Director de NATRUE; y Paula Gómez de Tejada,  Directora de Comunicación de NATRUE

Article Originally Published in INFARMA 2024 El Botiquín Natural Especial Edition

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