Ecological and natural cosmetics is the fastest growing niche of beauty products in Spain. To take advantage of this market niche, large companies such as L’Oréal have set out to create their own brands. The French giant, after launching an organic range of its classic Garnier, has launched its own brand La Provençale, its first ‘native bio’ brand.To talk about the advantages of this type of cosmetic, the products they use or what benefits they have, we spoke with Cristina Biurrun Espinosa, Scientific Director of L’Oréal Spain, and André Albarrán, director of Garnier in Spain.

L’Oréal, one of the most important beauty companies in the world, has decided to bet on Bio cosmetics, both with Garnier and La Provençale. Is this market niche growing so much?

André Albarrán: In recent years this market niche has been gaining strength in Spain, in fact, it is in the beauty sector with the highest growth in our country. To give you an idea of ​​its potential, the market for certified organic and natural cosmetics accounted for almost 30 million euros in Spain in the first half of 2020 – in 2019 the market reached 55 million, 15% more than the previous year-, according to Ekimetrics. At the L’Oréal Group, we want to make sure that our consumers have this democratizing option, as they are innovative and sustainable products, but at the same time, accessible.

André albarrán

  • Director of Garnier in Spain
L’Oréal Group Spain

What do they blame for the success of this type of cosmetic?

André Albarrán: The society in which we live is changing and the figures make it clear that the sustainability factor is already part of the purchasing decisions of consumers. According to the latest AECOC sustainability report, 44% of them have stopped buying brands that they consider unsustainable. It is not a passing fad, but a change in behavior and awareness that increasingly takes into account respect for the environment. Companies must anticipate these behaviors to offer them products that are in line with their values ​​and set an example to be part of the necessary change towards a more sustainable and respectful world with our environment. It is likely that it will continue to grow over the next few years, becoming one more option for the consumer.

Is it possible to obtain ecological products that are effective and, at the same time, accessible to the general public?

Cristina Biurrun: Ecological products, effective and also at an affordable price is not an easy task at all. The fact that a cosmetic product has an ecological certificate considerably limits the palette of ingredients among which formulators can choose to achieve effective products, a fundamental objective and, on the other hand, that these ingredients of natural origin are of quality logically entails a cost. For these reasons we are proud of the result of La Provençale Bio, made with certified organic products and scientifically proven efficacy.

“To make sure that a product is ecological, we have to look for the Cosmos Organic seal of Ecocert”

Within organic cosmetics there is also a lot of fraud, since products are often sold as eco that in reality they are not. What should you look for in a product to make sure it is?

Cristina Biurrun: The presence of a seal that guarantees the certification of the products, specifically Cosmos Organic by Ecocert. This seal is the guarantee that an independent body has verified that the requirements of the ecological standard are met. In addition, it provides transparency for the consumer, who at all times can verify even in the products themselves what the content of organic or natural ingredients is, information that is endorsed by the certifying body.

When we buy a cosmetic product, there is an endless list of ingredients that practically nobody understands, many of them, harmful in large quantities. Could these labels be made more accessible, as is also requested in the food industry?

Cristina Biurrun: Everyone is wondering why these complicated names that only experts understand are used in ingredient listings, and no wonder. The purpose of this list of ingredients is that people allergic to a specific ingredient can identify it before buying the product and thus avoid it. As in many cases an ingredient could be described by different names and in different languages, the regulation requires that it be in an international nomenclature called INCI and that it defines the ingredient without ambiguity. Therefore, we must ask our dermatologist or allergist what the name of the ingredient to which we are allergic in said nomenclature.

That said, I would like to clarify that any substance can be harmful to health depending on the amount in which it is used. We all know that we can die from dehydration if we don’t drink enough water, but we can have the same result if we drink 8 liters of water in 2 hours. As Paracelsus said: “Everything is poison and nothing is poison, only the dose makes the poison.” For this reason, I would like to reassure our consumers that their safety is our absolute priority and we use the ingredients in the right amounts so that their safety is guaranteed. We invite you to consult our website “Inside our products”, where you will find information on how we carry out this security assessment, among other very interesting information.

They talk about parabens as if they were the devil. Is it better to avoid them?

Cristina Biurrun: Parabens are preservatives used in some cosmetics to preserve the quality of products and ensure consumer safety by preventing the proliferation of microorganisms. The most widely used are the so-called “short chain” (ethylparaben and methylparaben) whose safety has been confirmed on several occasions by the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety of the European Commission. We use them in an optimal concentration in order to ensure that our products are well protected against microbes and that they are safe for the consumer. As with all of our products, those containing parabens undergo a strict quality and safety assessment by internal experts and third parties prior to marketing.

“A product is considered natural when it has between 80% -100% natural ingredients. Organic when it has 20% organic ingredients and 95% natural”

Is an ecological product better for our skin?

Cristina Biurrum: The simple fact that a product has an organic certification does not guarantee its effectiveness, since this type of certification requires a series of requirements regarding the origin of the ingredients and the sustainability of the processes and formulas, but it does not verify their effectiveness. For this reason, it is important to buy products from trusted brands, which evaluate the effectiveness of their products by independent experts through instrumental and cosmetoclinical tests, effectiveness that is also perceived by consumers.

It is said that the skin tolerates and absorbs natural ingredients better, is this correct?

Cristina Biurrun: In nature there are ingredients that are beneficial for the skin, but there are also substances that, for example, are stinging and, therefore, harmful. In other words, the fact that an ingredient is natural is not a guarantee of a benefit for the skin. This is why within natural cosmetics, the role of formulators is fundamental, since they must choose the appropriate ingredients of natural origin, rigorously select suppliers to guarantee the quality of the ingredients, and include them in the formulas in the precise quantities. so that the products are effective and safe.

How does buying organic products help the environment?

Cristina Biurrun: That La Provençale products, for example, have organic certification implies, not only the guarantee of a high percentage of ingredients of natural and organic origin, but also that the resulting formulas have a high percentage of biodegradability and whose packaging has been made with recyclable materials, among many other requirements.

If they are better for the environment and health. What do we give up?

Cristina Biurrun: With the products of the La Provençale brand we do not renounce anything, since in addition to having high percentages of ingredients of natural origin, in quality, safe and effective formulas, the sensoriality of the products has not been renounced, so that they have with smooth textures, fluxes and very pleasant fragrances that regular consumers of organic products value highly.

Biological, organic, ecological and natural. What is the difference between them?

Cristina Biurrun: The first three concepts refer to the same thing: the terms organic and biological come from the literal translations of these terms in English (organic) and in French (biologique). An organic ingredient is an ingredient that has been grown following the principles of organic farming. For example, among other requirements, it has been grown without pesticides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. On the other hand, the natural concept refers to those ingredients that have a vegetable, animal or mineral origin, and have been obtained through processes that have not altered their chemical composition. They don’t have to be green.

It is considered natural / certified natural when it has 80% -100% natural ingredients. On the other hand, it is considered organic when it is certified with 20% organic ingredients and 95% natural ingredients.