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Know Better, Do Better: ChemFORWARD Seeks Chemical Clarification in Cosmetics

Published June 8, 2023
Published June 8, 2023
Julia Koblitz via Unsplash

Ingredient safety has often been at the forefront of beauty conversations. With a mass of products launched daily in the $91 billion US cosmetics market, many unique chemicals are used to create skincare, haircare, and makeup products. According to science-backed organization ChemFORWARD, in 2022, 50% of the in-market ingredients analyzed were specified as "unknown" due to chemical hazard data being either minimal or entirely unavailable. This is also reflected through consumption of products, with 72% of consumers stating they need clarification on the scientific ingredients used in their beauty products. This occurs so often because chemicals are not required to have hazard data to enter the US cosmetics industry. Hoping to create some clarification surrounding chemicals in cosmetics, ChemFORWARD has announced Know Better, Do Better, a collaboration between industry leaders including Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Credo, Beautycounter, The Honest Company, ingredient designer Inolex, and the global nonprofit organization Environmental Defense Fund.

Know Better, Do Better aims to ensure that high-hazard chemicals are eliminated from products while quantifying the use of verified, safer ingredients. When hazard data does not exist for an ingredient, the collective will invest in filling these data gaps using tools created by ChemFORWARD. These include ChemFORWARD's Ingredient Intelligence Reports, providing data and analytics on the volume and frequency of ingredients used, as well as a shared chemical hazard repository and harmonized hazard bands to assign a rating to each ingredient—providing insight into what is known and unknown about hazards.

Each company participating in the collaborative will provide ingredient information from their current databases, invest in chemical hazard assessments to fill data gaps, and engage their supply chain, encouraging them to do the same. Year-over-year analytics will also be created using aggregated data, allowing the collective to track the industry's progress while providing companies with personal insights to set goals and strategies.

"Access to sound scientific safety data is a baseline responsibility for all of us in the personal care industry. ChemFORWARD's Know Better, Do Better collaborative is a powerful accelerator to create pull-through in the supply chain. Together with like-minded pilot partners, we're helping fill data gaps and bring transparency of chemical safety information to the forefront for everyone," says Lisa Gandolfi, PhD, VP of Marketing at Inolex.

While the industry has made progress towards safer ingredients in cosmetics, much of this progress has focused on reducing and eliminating potential concerning ingredients, which are then identified by individual companies and often added to restricted ingredient lists, as done by Clean at Sephora and Clean Beauty at Walmart, among others. However, each retailer has differentiating standards and strictness, which can often make it confusing for brands and consumers alike to know what is actually safe as opposed to just being marketed as so. The ChemFORWARD collective aims to help these individual initiatives be further empowered by allowing everyone to have access to the research conducted, which would ideally leave every retailer, brand, and business following the same guidelines.

"Democratizing hazard data is critical for accessibility to safer, more sustainable products. This joint work supports Honest's thoughtful formulation choices while also helping to ensure the entire industry is making more informed, science-backed decisions," adds Steve Winchell, EVP of Supply Chain and R&D at The Honest Company.

Know Better, Do Better gets its name from poet Maya Angelou, who once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better." The collective of industry leaders hope to champion this message through their research, encouraging ingredient suppliers to verify their trade names within the collective, so that companies and consumers alike can make informed, safer choices. A unique data-sharing model and digital platform will be given to those involved in the collective to enable broad access and the opportunity for continuous improvement.

"While the Know Better, Do Better Collaborative is a supply chain initiative, we're hopeful that a harmonized approach among brands, retailers, and suppliers will help to advance the safety, regulation, and consistency of ingredients found in beauty products. For our Ulta Beauty guests, we believe that we have a responsibility to provide greater transparency and choice, empowering beauty enthusiasts to discover products that align with their personal values, wants, and needs. Conscious Beauty both simplifies the shopping experience while encouraging guests to make more informed decisions across categories. We're excited to take part in the collaborative efforts of this initiative and believe partnership is critical to enact meaningful change across the industry," Ame Igharo, Senior Director of Sustainability Strategy at Ulta Beauty, tells BeautyMatter.

While the collaborative has recently launched, businesses wishing to join, including suppliers, brands, and retailers, are encouraged to contact ChemFORWARD to assess their suitability. Through Know Better, Do Better, companies and brands alike will now be able to access comprehensive chemical hazard data, which will hopefully lead to a clearer definition of clean beauty for all, settling debates and creating a more united beauty industry.


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