The Shortlist 2020

To describe a 200-strong roll call of skincare products as a shortlist is perhaps stretching the definition of ‘short’ somewhat, but if you can forgive and overlook that, you’ll find plenty of interesting and innovative cosmetics in the Shortlist for the 2020 Free From Skincare Awards, sponsored by multiple previous medallists Lyonsleaf, which we announced this morning, and which we hope you’ll enjoy looking through.

Here are some highlights …

Particular congratulations to both Codex Beauty (debutants in 2020) and to Tropic Skincare (long-standing participants, who took the Overall Award in 2014) who both have six shortlisted products in the Awards. Close behind, it’s Bloomtown with five, and Eco by Sonya Driver, Green People / Cha Vøhtz and Hemptouch with four each.

There’s a strong mainland European flavour to the list this year. For years we were focused exclusively on British and Irish brands, but since opening up to continental brands from across the Channel a few years ago, we have discovered many new companies formulating high-performance products. This year’s shortlisted brands include representatives from Romania (Nuca Organic, Deplin, Lulu), Spain (Biovène), Cyprus (Venus Rose), Austria (Attune), Slovenia (Hemptouch, Madres), Iceland (Sóley), Greece (Kyklos), Denmark (Karmameju), France (Veracova), Finland (Botanica Nordica, Fiini Naturally), Poland (D’Alchèmy), Czech Republic (Savon de Lisoleil), Lithuania (Uoga Uoga) and Belgium (Roze Mountain).

A particular mention should go to the Hard Soap category this year — simply because it was these products which were perhaps tested the most rigorously of all during the period, with testers (and indeed their families) sometimes washing hands dozens of times daily. It is a testament to how well these products stood up to the rigours of the Covid-busting demands placed on them that there are so many shortlisted soaps. Particular congratulations to Lily & Rabbit and The Kentish Soap Company, pictured left, who each have three on the list.

All this, of course, comes following a long process which began back in February when we opened for entry in this, the ninth awards. Although this year’s unique circumstances added a new layer of difficulty to proceedings, these early stages are always demanding, because entries have to be carefully matched up to our 100-strong team of testers, who each complete detailed questionnaires about their skin and skincare routine when they apply to test.

Imagine it for a second. Shower gels can only be sent to people who take showers. Bath oils to those with baths. Products for dry skin, for combination skin, for oily skin, for any variant of problem skin … each must be carefully matched to the right person. Many of our testers have allergies, or are vegan, so can’t receive products with their allergens, such as fragrances, or containing milk, egg or fish products, or ingredients such as lanolin. Not all testers use all products: plenty of women don’t use certain make-up products, for instance. Some male testers shave; others have beards. It takes weeks to check all the ingredients and final allocations to ensure they are appropriate and balanced.

But that, after almost a decade, we’re used to. What we couldn’t have foreseen was the coronavirus crisis and how it might impact all of us involved …

We had to pause the dispatch of products at one point, and many submissions to us were delayed too. It was difficult for some smaller brands occasionally to source materials, especially from overseas suppliers, and some had to withdraw planned participation due to economic uncertainty.

Some of our testers, meanwhile, work in the health service or as other key workers, and they had particular challenges, given the circumstances. Others took on new roles as carers and home educators, and had to fit testing in around that. And a couple contracted the virus; thankfully, now recovered. They’ve all been magnificent this year — huge thanks to them for taking such care with their work.

And our entrants have been great too. They’ve been incredibly patient with us as we navigated the obstacles thrown our way. We are so glad — and relieved — to have been able to announce this Shortlist at long last.

As always, not everybody can make the cut, and huge commiserations to those who didn’t. We hope you feel your participation in the Awards programme was still worthwhile, and we hope you try again in 2021. Don’t be discouraged — it’s simply the nature of Awards, and in fact, many non-shortlisted products performed quite well, at least with some of our testers.

But well done to those who did reach the ‘final’. You made the Shortlist during difficult circumstances, and your products stood up to new challenges very well indeed. Congratulations!

Winners will be announced hopefully by late July, but if not, very early in August. Stay tuned …

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