Free From Skincare Awards 2018: The Winners

Kate of Harborist, pictured with Gemma from Award partners Formula Botanica

A seventh Free From Skincare Awards, and a seventh overall winner — huge congratulations to Kate Porter, whose Harborist’s Balm-Gel Cleanser scooped the top prize last Thursday, beating off competition from almost 250 free-from skincare products which were originally submitted into the competition.

Why was it the winner? Well, first there was the terrific feedback from the testers — some of which you can read on the Winners Page, and whose scores for the product averaged 9.7 out of 10 — but it was also jointly our judging panel’s decision. Although there was minimal free from labelling on the product — which was a hotly debated issue at the judges’ table — the consensus was that this fragrance free, food allergen-free and vegan product, suitable for most conceivable ‘free from’ needs and extreme sensitivities, was deserving of the overall prize regardless. It was indeed a worthy winner.

Ben & Vicky Lyons of Lyonsleaf, with Gemma

Winner of the Free From Achievement Award and the Gold Award for Problem Skin was Lyonsleaf’s Zinc and Calendula Cream. The win is a great example of the success of one of our Award aims — if you’ll forgive the temporary indulgence — which is to try to drive product improvement for people with ‘free from’ needs. Vicky and Ben Lyons, the couple behind Lyonsleaf, had entered the product in a previous year, though our testers found some issues with the consistency of the product. That tester feedback was passed on to Lyonsleaf on request, and Vicky changed the formulation, and re-entered it. Coincidentally, we happened to send the product to one of the testers who had previously tested it, and who noted the improvement. It performed just as well with the other testers — and it too became another worthy winner.

We announced the Awards at a special networking and presentation event held at the Pillar Room, Olympia, Kensington, at 5pm Thursday 5th July. Chief organiser extraordinaire was Kirsty, our Administrator. She managed to secure three very interesting speakers for a pre-results debate — Dr Pauline Hili, of Nourish Skincare, Dr Mojgan Moddaressi of Personal Care Regulatory, and Khush Khan, beauty buyer at Wholefoods UK. In one of the discussion segments, they tackled the thorny issue of free from labelling — with Dr Moddaressi firmly in the ‘no’ camp and Dr Hili in the ‘yes’ camp. It may have surprised some that we had free from labelling ‘skeptic’ speaker present, but we feel it is important to bring this subject into open discussion and hear from voices from all sides of the debate.

Panellists Dr Hili, Khush Khan, Dr Moddaressi, and Kirsty chairing

Post-debate it was on to the results, and while Kirsty — assisted by Michelle — delivered the results, I tried to keep pace on Twitter, with the live results stream (hashtag #FFSA18 if you want to catch up), our Instagram manager Isil took pictures, and judge Sarah (Sugarpuffish) stood in for some absent brands, while Cressida — who normally devotes herself entirely to our sibling Awards, the Free From Food Awards — looked after late-arrivers, ably assisted by judge Sue. Thanks to all for lending their hands!

Yours truly at the Mac, trying to keep up with proceedings …

It was a shame some of the larger brands didn’t attend our event, but the enthusiasm and delight of the lesser-known brands made up for it — such as Xristo from Alteya Organics, who won for an incredibly effective Diaper Rash Cream in the Family Skincare category, sponsored by NATorigin, and Emma from Beauty Kubes, whose extraordinary shampoo cubes took Gold in the Hair Care category, sponsored by Formula Botanica … and a personal thank you from me to her for her kind and thoughtful gift to me of Beauty Kubes Hair & Body Wash for Men. I may not have the hair to test it there, but my body is definitely looking forward to the treat!

It was also great to see some of our sponsors attending — Graeme Hume, of Pravera, whose brands Organyc, Lavera and ORGANii sponsored three categories very generously this year, and Michelle Sutton, of perennial free from champions and Awards supporters NATorigin, were both at hand to dish out certificates and congratulate and meet entrants, as were a good number of the lively Formula Botanica crew.

Vicky Lyons, and Helen Taylor of shortlistee Bare Faced Skin

One of the most satisfying things for us was to see all the interaction going on at the event. Social media connections are great — but nothing replaces the face-to-face getting-to-know-you contact which small brands, scattered across the country, are sometimes starved of. There was a sense of camaraderie present and friendships were forged during the evening — aided no doubt by the wine and nibbles which we this year introduced into the proceedings — and seeing those connections firmed up a little later on through — where else? — social media, did bring home how valuable participation was to all attendees, even non-winning ones, who seemed universally pleased for the winners, with no evidence of sour grapes at all! What a community.

And then there was all the happy certificate showing-off — which we spotted on Instagram, and which also cheered us tremendously …

Medallists Paul (Hydranure), Krystyna (Chirp Body), Yelena (Wild Beauty)

We know that some brands will feel disappointment at not having won. It’s the nature of Awards that there are some who win and others who don’t, but we do like to think that there are no ‘losers’ here. We hope that all brands who entered consider their participation worthwhile — that they have benefited from the social media exposure that comes with entering the Awards, that the detailed feedback available from the testers that is available to them is valuable to them, that those shortlisted benefit from the exposure to our influential judges, that those who attended the event last week networked and made some good contacts — and had some fun too.

Running this Award is not easy. The sheer volume of work aside, we also deal with some cosmetic chemists who challenge and dislike ‘free from’ labelling and the idea of an associated award, and from those who feel our impartiality is compromised by our acceptance of sponsors — and we can only ask that you trust us when we assure you that this couldn’t be further from the truth, and hope that our transparency is testament to our sincerity. We’re a small team, we sometimes make mistakes, but we are genuine, and if you like and keep supporting us and our Awards, perhaps we can do it for a few more years yet!

For all the winners, with category winners at the foot, start here.

To see posts on social media, try our Instagram Page, the #FFSA18 Instagram hashtag, or our Facebook page.

For media and blogger coverage of the Awards, click here.

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