A very small selection of the 200+ products that were entered into this year’s FreeFrom Skincare Awards – and which we spent two very long, balm-filled and fragrant days judging last week. By the end of day two my right arm had been ‘polished’ (with the aid of salt, sugar and nut shells) to within an inch of its life, while my left arm was luxuriating in enough oils, serums, butters and elixirs to stock a beauty parlour! However, do not be fooled into thinking that we were just luxuriating in a free, luxury make-over – far from it. The judging process for the FreeFrom Skincare Awards does seriously make judging the FreeFrom Food Awards feel like a walk in the park.
First all the products are assessed by two of our expert judges to see whether they genuinely do exclude all of the allergens and synthetic ingredients excluded by out entry criteria. They also mark up the entry sheets with their own comments on the products.
Then we have the next judging session (the one that happened last week) when we have six judges (including some with sensitive or problem skins) in which we assess the products in the light of our assessors’ comments. (For the full judging panels see here on the awards site.) In these sessions we look carefully at the ingredients, the packaging and, above all, the labeling of the products – as important for freefrom skincare products as it is for freefrom food products.
Unfortunately, as yet, awareness of food allergens is quite low within the skincare community although allergens (nut oils, wheat etc) are widely used. This makes locating ‘safe’ skin care products really difficult if you have a serious allergy. We are very anxious therefore to raise awareness of food allergy within the skincare world – not because we want them to exclude food allergens from their products (many ‘allergens’ have very positive skincare benefits if you are not allergic to them), but so that they label them clearly and comprehensively in a way that enables food allergic people know where they stand.
(The jury is still out on whether many food allergens will actually cause reactions when applied topically, and whether the refining to which many of them are subject will have effectively destroyed their allergenicity, but, if you are very sensitive, you will probably – and wisely – not wish to take the risk. Comprehensive labeling is therefore essential if you are to make an informed decision. However…. this is not always as easy as it sounds as, although the actual ingredients may be fairly clear, the sources of some – vitamin E for example – may be quite unclear, and may not be known even by the manufacturer.)
However…. to return to the judging. At these sessions we also try the products (hence the scrubbed-raw and the pampered and buttered arms) to assess how easy they are to use, how well they go on, are absorbed etc. On the basis of all the above, we choose products to commend (very good, well made products which sit well within freefrom skincare, but not quite award winning), and products to shortlist.
The shortlisted products then go off to selected Beauty Bible testers for a month’s rigorous testing. The testers fill in comprehensive questionnaires covering the efficacy, ease of use and value for money of the products and we then use this information, along with our judges’ and assessors’ comments to choose the winners. So, watch this space – the winners will be announced at the Allergy and FreeFrom Show in June.