Cosmetics giant Avon ditches triclosan

Cosmetics giant Avon ditches triclosan

As another mass personal care manufacturer reacts to consumer concern, there's an opening for natural brands to use messaging and innovation to set themselves apart in consumers' eyes.

Adding to the growing body of conventional personal care companies reformulating to remove some of the industry’s most concerning chemicals (including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson), Avon has announced that it will phase out triclosan—a harsh antimicrobial used in liquid soaps, body washes and more.

Is Avon cleaning up its act—or saving face?

On Avon’s website, the company says it is committed to consumer safety and, though it believes that triclosan is safe, it’s removing the chemical in response to consumer concern. 

Avon may also be attempting to stay ahead of legislation. The FDA has continued to evaluate this ingredient’s safety and effectiveness (though it first proposed removing triclosan from certain products back in 1978, so progress has been slow, to say the least). Nevertheless, the consistent media spotlight on the ingredient certainly brings it to the top of the no-no chemical list personal care companies should be eliminating from their formulations. 

However, Avon has not yet announced what will replace this ingredient. And, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, there are many more chemicals that Avon and other like companies should be addressing.

“We want Avon to adopt a comprehensive policy that declares chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other adverse health effects to be off limits in cosmetics and to support stricter regulation of the $71 billion cosmetics industry so that everyone is protected," said Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund in a release.

Opportunities for natural brands 

With the growing number of conventional brands such as Avon reformulating but still not eliminating all chemicals of concern, it’s more important than ever for companies excelling in quality, purity and transparency to communicate that message clearly to consumers and the retailers that are referred to as the gatekeepers for safe products.

Though these reformulations in mass market are positive efforts, these companies still can’t compete when it comes to purity with most of most products lining natural retailers’ shelves. Hence such reformulations pose a challenge to but also emphasize a significant point of differentiation for natural brands. 

Another opportunity is for ingredient suppliers to bring high-performance and safe antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredients that can function in products like soaps and cleansers, as well as preservatives to give products shelf life, to the market. Though some natural options continue to be used (essential oils such as thyme and peppermint, vitamin E, and good ol’ alcohol), affordability, quantity and functionality remain barriers.  

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