Given that the decision last year to launch a new Lip Balms category for the 2017 Awards was, we thought, a little risky and experimental, it came as a surprise even to us that it transpired that the new category’s inaugural Gold winner also walked off with the Overall Best Free From Skincare Product at our sixth Free From Skincare Awards, which we announced a week last Friday, on 7th July, at the Love Natural Love You show, Olympia.
That winner was Benecos’ Classic Lip Balm. It not only beat off around 25 other products entered into its category, which was kindly sponsored by Green People, but around 270 products entered into the Awards overall.
Why did judges consider it the overall winner? Well, obviously, it performed very well with our testers, four of whom used the product rigorously for one month, and then completed detailed questionnaires on it – as our testers did for all entered products. But it was only when the product went before a panel of judges that its category win was confirmed, and later before another panel of judges who whittled down all the category winners to just one – to just that terrific and unassuming Benecos product to take the winner’s trophy.
Firstly, it was a vegan balm. Vegan lip balms are a relative novelty in the sphere of ‘natural’ skincare, as so many – including many which performed well in the lip balm category – contain beeswax. Second, it was fragrance free. While natural fragrances and essential oils can be an absolute delight, those who are sensitive to them, or simply want to avoid them in certain products, appreciate products which are fragrance free. Third, it was free of food allergens. The simple ingredients – plant waxes, cocoa butter, sea butter, sunflower oil, sea buckthorn oil – are highly unlikely to be reactive to anyone. And fourth – it was a great price – under £2.50! While we had dear, non-vegan, fragranced and allergen-containing winners both in other categories and in past years – and certainly will again – this year, judges just felt this product stood out and was particularly deserving of its Free From win.
Special mention here must also go the winner of the Free From Achievement Award – Honesty’s Protect Nourishing Cleanse Balm – which was also free of most ingredients some have problems with, with the sole exception of oat, a very occasional food allergen – and winners of Best Brand, Bloomtown Botanicals, a first time entrant who made the journey from Cornwall, and also walked away with a category Gold in Body Care (Take Off) for their Sweet Almond and Shea Sugar Scrub. Quite an achievement to bag best brand with the likes of Neal’s Yard Remedies in the competition.
It was great to see a full Pillar Room for the presentation, and we are grateful to the many brands who came along to attend, and in some cases, to collect their awards and certificates.
The winners were wonderfully diverse. A men’s face oil (men’s oils barely existed a few years ago) took the Grooming prize – well done Rosalena, a first time entrant. A Tattoo Balm by Mrs Frisbee’s took the top gong in the Problem Skin category: we’d been asking for more unusual skin products (for chaffing, for sport, for urticaria and yes, for tattoos) for some time in that category, and hope to get more next year! And yet another small brand took the popular Family Skincare category – Siskyn’s Rosehip & Tamanu Scars & Stretchmark Body Oil really worked well for so many women, and deserved its recognition.
Not all could be winners, but we are grateful to those who, despite not winning a ‘gong’ still took their ‘defeat’ in good grace – such as Fairfield Gardens and, with a joint table-topping four shortlisted products, Feisc, whose tweets both caught our eye. Yes, Lilian, you are right: it really was an achievement to get shortlisted, as the standard was so high this year, and a lot of products which performed really well just missed out on medals. Brands will see this from their feedback, which we provide to all who ask.
Growing interest in free from skincare
As well as announce the results at the LNLY Show, we also exhibit there for three days.
Every year, we showcase the winners on our stand and, faithfully, visitors come to examine the winners’ list – often, we see the same visitors who come, make a note of the top performing products, snap the list on their smartphones, and vow to buy them! We also have tester samples of products entered into the awards by brands who – for reasons financial or geographical – cannot make it to the show themselves – and these always prove popular (pictured left, Rosi’s Skinfood, PHB Aloe Vera Gel, Egyptian Magic, Neantog Moisturiser and others). Finally, we have samples and information from our sponsors, which this year also included new online natural store Bare & Beyond, multiple previous Award medallists Beauty Kitchen, as well as sponsoring stalwarts NATorigin, who have been with us since 2012.
Of great value to us when manning the stand is all the feedback and information that visitors give us. Many are looking for products suitable for their problem skins – often psoriasis, which seems one of those intractable problems that even medicine finds difficult to handle. But, curiously, many people know that they have sensitivities to skincare ingredients – but few have undergone patch testing to discover what these are. Perhaps it’s lack of availability, reluctance to approach their doctors, or perhaps a reticence to learn that there are yet more ingredients to avoid and more labels to scrutinise at the shops – the thought of which, especially if you have food allergies already, can further weaken and stress the allergic consumer.
It’s hard to know what to recommend in these circumstances, but simple formulations without fragrance or food allergens tend to be our go-to. We really hope the FreeFrom Skincare Awards encourage new hypoallergenic formulations and boost options, as well as increase options of natural products for the non-sensitive who like to avoid certain ingredients for environmental, religious or ethical reasons.
We know, again by talking to visitors at our stand, that many would like to use more make-up, but sadly react to it. Our Make-up category this year was fairly modest – with Jane Iredale deserving Gold winners nonetheless – and we’d like to see both more entries and more make-up exhibitors at the LNLY / Allergy & FreeFrom Shows too. Where are you, hypoallergenic make-up brands?
Let’s hope we see more next year – as well as another huge selection of fantastic products, just as we had this year. Testers and judges alike had a hard job this year in choosing the winners, so it may be perverse to hope that our job is even harder next year – but if it is, what it would mean is that free from skincare is getting better and better. It’s more accessible, more affordable, more diverse and more innovative. Long may that continue …
To see winners and links to category winners in the FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2017, click here.
To read our previous blog on Testing and Judging of the FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2017, click here.
To find out about sponsoring a category in the FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2018, click here.
To be added to the mailing list for the FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2018, contact us here.