Regulating beauty: The ESPR and the future of cosmetics 


by Henrikke Sylte

The cosmetics, beauty and personal care industry faces a host of regulations that vary by geography. And the future of cosmetics depends on brands adhering closely to regulations that safeguard consumer safety and product efficacy. But the future of regulation in cosmetics extends beyond what’s in the bottle, tube or box. In fact, imminent regulation on beauty products will focus on the packaging itself.

The cosmetics and beauty industry plays a significant role in consumers’ daily lives and will continue to do so. Revenue projections for cosmetics brands are 3 to 4% growth in 2023 in both the United States and Europe. Prestige “clean” or natural cosmetics are on pace to grow 6-7%.

The current trend, as more consumers focus on everything from ingredient sourcing to the “premiumization” of ingredients, leads to greater scrutiny of the entire cosmetics value chain. On one hand, consumers are thinking about what ingredients make up their makeup, and brands respond. And at the same time, demographic data indicate that consumers care about the environmental impact of their cosmetics purchases. With everything from the freedom from animal testing to reusable packaging, consumers demand natural, cruelty-free and sustainable beauty.

On the other hand, regulators face new challenges in monitoring clean and green claims. Ensuring the safety and efficacy of cosmetic products is complex, and new claims about “natural” and “environmentally friendly” cosmetics arise all the time. Add to this the new emphasis on packaging.

To address the regulatory challenges, existing personal care as well as upcoming regulations in the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) pave the way for the future of cosmetics. 

What are the implications of the ESPR for the cosmetics industry?

As part of the ESPR, cosmetics products would be obliged to comply with and implement ecodesign requirements. For global cosmetics businesses, the regulation would apply regardless of the location of the company. If seeking access to the European market, compliance becomes mandatory. By aligning standards and requirements, the ESPR enables global commerce while maintaining consumer and environmental protection. 

The next step in regulating cosmetics

The European Union has already established the Cosmetic Products Regulation (CPR), which outlines requirements for the labeling and traceability of cosmetic products. The regulation requires that all cosmetic products placed on the EU market be labeled with a unique product identification code, the name and address of the responsible person, and the country of origin.

The CPR also requires that cosmetic products be traceable throughout the supply chain from the manufacturer to the end user. This requires that companies keep accurate records of all the ingredients used in their products, as well as information on the suppliers and customers involved in the production and distribution process. The regulation helps to ensure that brands have the relevant data on hand to rapidly issue product recalls of unsafe products, which requires a traceability system that retains data about product batches, distribution channels, adverse events associated with their products, and more. 

The goal of the CPR is to ensure the safety and quality of cosmetic products to protect the health and safety of consumers. 

The Ecodesign Regulation and cosmetics

The ESPR is a broader regulatory proposal that covers multiple industries and products. Its primary aim is to reduce the environmental impact of products. Cosmetics and beauty products are just one among many product groups under consideration. 

The specific requirements for beauty and cosmetics products under the Ecodesign Regulation are focused on reducing the environmental impact of the product’s packaging. This includes requirements for the amount of packaging used, the use of recycled materials, and the recyclability of the packaging.

In addition to packaging requirements, the Ecodesign Regulation also requires manufacturers to consider the environmental impact of the product itself. This includes requirements for the use of sustainable materials and reducing the overall environmental impact of the product’s life cycle, from production to disposal.

Overall, the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation is another important regulatory step toward promoting sustainability in the beauty and cosmetics industry and reducing the environmental impact of these products. 

But it’s not the only step. Compliance yields a number of other benefits by tapping into the traceability that is already collected (according to CPR requirements, and potentially as part of the ESPR, if it should come into force) as part of the reporting process for cosmetics products. 

Traceability for cosmetics beyond regulatory compliance

Reducing environmental footprint

The cosmetics industry has historically been associated with packaging waste, plastic pollution, and unsustainable sourcing of ingredients. The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation addresses these issues by encouraging manufacturers to adopt more eco-friendly practices. This includes using recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials, reducing the amount of packaging used, and implementing sustainable sourcing strategies for raw materials. By doing so, the industry can significantly reduce its environmental footprint and contribute to a greener future. This will also resonate with increasingly environmentally conscious consumers.

Promoting a circular economy

The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation emphasizes the concept of a circular economy within the cosmetics industry. Circularity can be baked into cosmetics products from as early as the design phase. Designing products that can be reused, recycled or repurposed minimizes waste generation and encourages innovative packaging that can be refilled or easily recycled.

Consumer Awareness and Empowerment

A key aspect of the European Union’s regulatory push for sustainability is consumer education and empowerment. The Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation not only influences manufacturers but also empowers consumers to make more sustainable choices. By implementing clear and standardized labeling requirements, consumers can easily identify cosmetics that comply with the regulation’s eco-friendly criteria. This enables informed decision-making and encourages consumers to support brands that prioritize sustainability. 

Implications for cosmetics’ future

Implementing sustainable practices in the cosmetics industry comes with its fair share of challenges. Balancing environmental concerns with consumer demands for quality and performance requires careful consideration and innovation. Additionally, the industry must address the complexities of global supply chains and work toward harmonizing sustainability standards globally. The ESPR is one step in that direction. 

With compliance, beauty brands get market access. But adopting traceability technology that enables compliance and connected products, they get closer to sustainability, closer to consumers, and gain detailed visibility into their supply chains as they create a safer, more transparent and interactive future for the cosmetics and beauty industry.

Discover how traceability technology solves the cosmetics and personal care industry’s biggest challenges by downloading the new E-Book “The Beauty Behind Traceability”.

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