By  on December 12, 2006

L'Oréal's purchase of natural beauty maker and retailer The Body Shop in March and — to a lesser degree — its takeover of the Sanoflore organic brand in October heralded what is considered by industry watchers as a seismic industry shift toward green cosmetics.

"If the number-one manufacturer of beauty products is investing heavily in natural and organic, then this is a trend that we can expect to see permeate the mass market through 2007," said Alexandra Richmond, beauty market specialist at Mintel International tracking firm, in London. "This is a movement that has been established throughout 2006, with one in five U.K. cosmetics and toiletries launches boasting botanical and herbal product claims."

Already, natural and organic beauty products have been making noise on specialty retailers' shelves.

"In the coming years, this [green] trend should get even bigger, as many players in the beauty business are working on more environmental and ethical product ranges," said Alexis Kryceve, managing director of Alter Eco fair trade brand, in Paris. "Taking care of oneself can now be achieved by also taking care of small producers and future generations."

Organic brands and products based on sustainable resources have become one of the fastest-growing segments in beauty. And, while still a nascent category, some major beauty manufacturers recently tested its waters in the prestige realm and in alternative channels. Gucci Group-owned YSL Beauté recently unveiled an organic treatment line by designer Stella McCartney, and Groupe Clarins took a minority stake in natural brand Kibio, to name a couple.

In producing green products, manufacturers are largely responding to a burgeoning consumer demand.

"[People] are concerned about what they put in their bodies, and they know a lot of ingredients [in topical creams] enter the bloodstream," said Jonathan Stallick, co-founder of Brighton, England-based Barefoot Botanicals, which introduced part of its organic line into the Waitrose supermarket chain last year.

He called the green beauty trend of today "just the tip of the iceberg."

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