“Unable to find skincare products free from parabens, petroleum derivatives and SLS, our founder decided to create her own!”
I have lost count of the number of press releases we at Skins Matter have received over the years containing variations of the above sentence. Quite often a first-time pregnancy seems to be the life trigger for a new ‘free from’ formulator to get cracking in her natural cosmetic laboratory, but sometimes it’ll be a newly developed skin sensitivity, perhaps in one of her children.
Either way, I’m afraid we’ve rather reached the point of no return with such claims.
If you are unable to find ‘free from’ skincare products in the market, then I’m afraid you can’t possibly have looked very hard. There are countless natural cosmetics producers, both large and small, now in business – we feature hundreds of them in our Skins Matter Directories – and our master mailing list contains 800 brands, these being just from UK and Ireland. Bloggers such as Sugarpuffish uncover new small producers on a weekly if not daily basis, and tend to cast their net wider, including to North America and mainland Europe, where thousands of other brands lie waiting to be discovered. Natural health stores carry shelves groaning with ‘free from’ skincare, and supermarkets such as Waitrose are starting to increasingly stock them.
So why, when launching a new brand, do their founders so often deny that all of the above exists? It was believable perhaps six, seven years ago; but is believable no longer. Manufacturers: honesty is your selling point in this market. Honesty in ingredients, honesty in their derivation, honesty in absent ingredients, honesty in your promise of ethical values. So why risk all that with a spurious claim in your marketing material?
I wonder whether new start-ups make such claims because they don’t want to be seen as following the herd? By denying any bandwagon exists, do they feel protected from accusations of trying to hop on board it?
It would be a pity if this were so, as, although ‘free from’ is expanding hugely, from our experience of running various free from food sites, there is always, always room for an innovative brand for consumers to get excited about. Ilumi is a good recent example: a brand with a wide range of products, including lots of ambient long-life ready meals for the store cupboard, which are free of all key food allergens. Bloggers and food allergics have mainly welcomed them with open arms, and I’ve yet to see any bandwagon accusation levelled at them.
Let’s be clear here: we do want to see more launches, more innovation, more products on the market, more growth in ‘free from’ skincare, as well as more consumer literacy on the subject of cosmetic ingredients. We love ‘free from’ skincare and we care about ingredients. We’re thrilled when a new brand launches, and only wish them well.
But making as if you’re unique for shunning petrochemicals or one of a rare breed for side-stepping parabens is a foolish marketing manoeuvre, which insults clued-up journalists, natural beauty bloggers, ethical consumers and, yes, competitors too.
It’s a big, huge market – embrace that reality and try to find some other reason why your products have arrived. Your sales pitch should concern your brand and your products, not the imagined inadequacy of the competition. Have a strong USP – or even a YouSP, in that it should be about You and Your brand. If you’re claiming your range is so good, that’s great – you have to believe in the products, after all – but tell us why it’s so good. Tell us about those terrific ingredients, those ethical values, those ‘free from’ qualities which will be such a help to those with skincare sensitivities.
Please don’t tell us how supposedly empty or uninspiring the market is, when it quite transparently has never been healthier.