A couple of days ago Margaret (alias Mum) and I got to enjoy a rare day out of the office. We took the train to Coventry to the Society of Cosmetic Chemists' "Formulate" exhibition, where raw material suppliers gather to display the latest developments in cosmetic ingredients. It's not a huge event, but pools together a varied cross-section of the formulator's potential tool kit from across the globe.
A few years ago Margaret likened this annual event to going to a sweet shop with her hands tied behind her back. We would approach the stands and ask if the supplier had any natural ingredients. We were met with either a roll of eyes or the feeling that the person wanted to pat us on the head, particularly if, goodness gracious, we asked if the ingredient had an organic certificate.
How things have changed.
The 'menu' of healthy cosmetic ingredients has grown enormously. There are exciting actives made from a wide range of plants, some of which are grown organically. And the choice of natural functional ingredients (like emulsifiers and stabilisers) is steadily improving too. Most exciting of all is that companies creating plant extracts understand the need for science to back up efficacy claims. So more research is being done on just how beneficial plants can be, with good test data (on humans not animals of course) on how the plants help heal the skin or prevent premature ageing.
The cosmetics ingredients market is not a natural utopia by any stretch of the imagination. There are still suppliers whose posters proclaiming the most advanced 'lake' colours, nano particles or silicones send us spinning in the opposite direction. And while there is a surge in natural ingredients, reflecting just how much the big cosmetic companies are trying to "green up" (or perhaps "clean up") in recent years*, some extraction processes are still questionable, and certified organic ingredients are still very much in the minority. But at least they exist. No patting on the head anymore.
It's always been one of our missions to 'push the envelope' in organic skincare and cosmetics, both in their performance and sustainability. (We're very proud of being the first company to launch a shampoo and a number of makeup products certified to Soil Association organic standards.) So it is with renewed vigour that we go forward. Expect exciting new (and of course healthy) things, coming your way soon.
*Next spring there is even a new conference at the Royal College of Physicians entitled 'Naturals in Cosmetic Science' where Margaret and I have been asked to speak.