Award Criteria and Categories – Sorted!

Although the last few months have been our ‘down’ period in terms of the Free From Skincare Awards calendar, this doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy thinking ahead to 2014!

Much of the work we’ve been doing over the summer and autumn period involved rethinking our criteria and terms.

As we’re a ‘free from’ award, obviously, we need to set some certain minimum standards for what we expect all entrants to live up to. We want these to be set at a level high enough to both reward and acknowledge the most natural and ‘free from’ products on the market and maintain the integrity of the Awards, but not so excessively strict that only a handful of ranges and products ‘make the grade’. After all, not every skincare consumer is concerned about avoiding every single potentially problematic ingredient used in skincare.

For the last two years, products have been required to be free from mineral oil, SLS/SLES, artificial fragrance and many other ingredients, which either trigger reactions, have a health question mark over them, or which some consumers avoid for ethical or environmental concerns. Because at the Matter ‘family’ of sites and awards we are also concerned very deeply with food allergies and intolerances, and because many of our readers have sensitivities to foods as well as non-food skincare ingredients, we also stipulate that products must be free of peanuts, and at least three out of seven other key food allergens – a unique requirement among skincare and beauty awards.

Petrochemicals and their derivatives were also excluded in 2012 and 2013. However, as we have learned while running the awards over recent years, establishing the provenance of all ingredients is not always easy. Skincare manufacturers may have been assured by their raw materials and ingredients suppliers that provenance is natural, but when we probe more deeply, and ask entrants to do likewise, we find that it has not been always possible to confirm this absolutely; often suppliers, or indeed suppliers’ suppliers, cannot always be 100% sure.

Therefore, after much deliberation about what might be best, and at least for this year, we have made the decision for 2014 to permit preservatives which may be petrochemically derived (with the exception of parabens and – newly added to our exclusions for 2014 – triclosan). It seems to be that some – especially ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol and dehydroacetic acid, which cropped up a lot last year – may be either naturally derived or petrochemically derived. We will permit both – providing other petrochemically derived ingredients are not included, and other criteria met. We will also give entrants an opportunity to declare the source and derivation of such ingredients on their application forms.

Note that we will not punish entrants for including these preservatives in their products, but we will give credit to brands which meet COSMOS standards, and also give particular credit to those using entirely natural preservation methods. But this remains just one manner of impressing our judges. There are of course plenty of other ways entrants can earn ‘credit’ – via strong labelling, innovative ingredients, eco packaging, effectiveness, performance, originality, modest fragrance / food allergen content – and many more. Although the awards are called the Free From Skincare Awards, they have never been solely about ‘free from’ concerns. See ‘What will judges be looking for?’ in our Awards’ FAQ for more.

We have made other adjustments, all of which are fairly minor, so do check them out on our site, in the Categories, Criteria and Rules section. In terms of dates, we are opening a little later next year – in mid-January – and our presentation will take place at the Allergy and Free From Show in July.

As far as categories go, we’re delighted to add two new categories, which we have already announced, including a hard soap category, which we hope will be of interest to many small, natural producers of handmade soaps.

If you are a producer and not on our mailing list for the awards, do get in touch, and we will gladly add you, so you receive entry forms in the new year.

If you are a consumer, do spread the word about the awards, perhaps to a small brand whose products you love and who may not know about us, and also let us know what you feel about the ingredients we allow, and those we don’t.

If you are a beauty blogger or journalist, and would like press releases and updates as the awards open, and throughout the Awards period, do let us know too …

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