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Essie Goes Vegan, ‘Eight-Free’

As of the end of 2020, all formulas being produced and distributed by Essie are vegan and "eight-free."

Essie ended 2020 on a high note.

As of the end of last year, the brand is only producing formulas that are vegan and free of eight potentially harmful ingredients traditionally found in nail polish, such as toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl and phosphate. Consumers can reach out to Essie customer care to see whether or not their bottles have the updated formulas.

Essie’s reformulations have been in the works since the beginning of 2018, focusing on its original namesake line, its Gel Couture Longwear franchise, and its Treat Love and Color line. Its most recent launch, the Expressie line, was already vegan and eight-free.

The reformulations were not without the occasional hiccup. “We have consumers that know exactly what our colors look like, so we had to hold ourselves to the highest standards for performance,” said Carolyn Holba, general manager of Essie. “That’s why it’s taken us several years to get here. There was a lot of testing done.”

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Essie’s vegan, eight-free status will be a pillar of the brand’s communications going forward. “Consumers will increasingly see that communication in an in-store environment, digitally and wherever consumers are interacting with the brand,” said Alanna Mcdonald, U.S. president of Essie, Maybelline and Garnier. “It can be quite a confusing environment for consumers, but our point of view is that we will only communicate free-of, when those ingredients have been traditionally included in nail polish. Our commitment is to transparency. Formaldehyde, we’re communicating that it’s not in our nail polishes, but you won’t see us saying we’re gluten-free because those have never historically been used.”

Holba also said new formula claims should inform the consumer, not confuse them. “We know, even as consumers ourselves, that the marketplace can be really confusing,” she said. “We wanted to keep our lists simple and straightforward, and not communicate we were free of ingredients that aren’t normally in nail polish.”

In the U.S. market, McDonald sees growing consumer expectations for clear ingredient lists. “The target consumer is an even younger consumer, and we’re seeing that the expectations on brands and companies to do what we can to be positive forces is extremely high,” she said. “If it’s important to consumers that choose to bring Essie into their homes, then it needs to be important to us.”

The brands’ communications will vary slightly from market to market, given the different regulatory landscapes in each. “In Europe, there are certain requirements for calling out being eight-free. For that, the vegan aspect is extremely important in Europe,” Holba said. “But we, as a global brand, have actually seen a desire from consumers around the world to understand ingredients and marketing claims.”

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