France issues new rules on cosmetic advertising

Posted on January 14th, 2010 by Michelle

Americans have long taken beauty and fashion advice from the French, and again it is a body in gay Paris that is catching our attention.

The non-governmental agency in France that oversees and regulates advertising, recently introduced a strict new code regarding what cosmetics and beauty companies can and can’t say about their products. New rules from the Autorité de regulation professionnelle de la publicité (ARPP) target numerical presentation claims, terms like “without” and “free from” and claims about a product’s natural or organic composition.

The numerical presentation refers to products that claim to make a difference in a certain amount of time, such as eliminating crow’s feet in six weeks.  Describing a product as natural and/or organic – well, we talk about that here in the States all the time. According to Cosmetic Design, ARPP’s new requirement is that

“cosmetic product(s) can only be described as natural if the complete product contains a minimum of 95% ingredients that are either natural or of natural origin. Meanwhile, a product can only be described as organic if 100% of its ingredients are derived from certified organic farming, if it has been certified organic by a certification body or if it can be proved that it was made according to a specification equivalent to those of acknowledged certification bodies.”

No such specificity has been granted to the two governmental agencies that focus on cosmetics here in the US – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The FDA prohibits misleading labels and missing information, but the term “natural” is nowhere defined. The USDA can certified pure organic products, but grants no other “seal of approval”.

Most interesting in the ARPP’s requirements, is the limiting of the phrases “without parabens” and/or “free from phlatates.”  ARPP says “Non!” these words cannot be used because they imply that things such as parabens and phlatates, encourages consumer suspicion…,” writes Cosmetics Design, when in fact, the latest word from Europe, which has much tougher testing standards for its cosmetics and personal care products than we do, is that parabens and phthalates, at cosmetic level doses, might not be so bad after all.

In contrast again, the “paraben and phlatates- free” movement is just catching on here.

When it comes to regulation and standards in the cosmetics industry, France and the United Kingdom have long been on the cutting edge.  In December, Britain banned an ad for Olay featuring an airbrushed picture of Twiggy. That may have been a no-brainer in terms of a product making questionable claims about its results (airbrushing! C’mon), but it was also clear that someone was watching. That’s not always the case on this side of the pond.

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