A FRESH APPROACH: PRESERVATIVE-FREE
Byline: James Fallon, with contributions from Tsukasa Furukawa, Tokyo
LONDON — The Body Shop and Origins Natural Resources may have jump-started the natural beauty sector, but now other companies are looking to take the concept a step further with fresh, completely preservative-free products.
According to industry experts, the force driving the growth of preservative-free lines is consumers’ burgeoning interest in finding the ultimate natural beauty product — along with concern about allergies.
Some 60 percent of women in Europe say they have sensitive skin, according to a recent poll by the French market research firm Secodip, and of that number, 15 to 20 percent claim they have ultrasensitive skin.
Making moves to capitalize on the demand for preservative-free goods are such brands as newcomer Lush in the UK and mail-order veteran Fancl Corp. in Japan.
Founded in September 1994 by longtime cosmetics contractor Mark Constantine, Lush opened its first store a year ago in Poole, England, and in the last two months has added units in Covent Garden and King’s Road in London.
With annual sales of more than $1.59 million (£1 million), Constantine now is looking to add at least four more stores in London alone.
The Lush boutiques, which range from about 500 square feet in Covent Garden to 1,000 square feet in Poole, are decorated to look like grocery stores. The centerpiece is “The Cosmetic Grocer” — a chilled counter with fresh cosmetics in plastic tubs. Preservative-free cosmetics must be refrigerated or they will spoil.
The range includes Enzynamite, a three-week papaya cleansing treatment, and More Than Mortal pineapple body treatment. Prices range from about $1.60 (£1) for a soap to $31.60 (£20) for a fragrance.
Constantine, the original manufacturer of Body Shop’s popular Peppermint Foot Bath, said Lush makes the fresh products to have a six-week life, but instructs customers to use products within three weeks so there is margin for error.
“We run it like any fresh salad bar or deli operation,” he said.
Constantine noted he’s considering franchising or forming partnerships to open shops outside London and even abroad. He also wants to expand his mail order.
Mail order has proved fruitful for Fancl, based in Yokohama, Japan. The firm has been peddling preservative-free products since 1980, when the Japanese government passed strict rules for cosmetics additives. Today the company receives more than 15,000 orders daily for its skin care, makeup, hair care, baby care products and fragrances.
Fancl’s strategy combines direct sales and small bottles, which it promotes via monthly catalogs and TV and print ads. “If we receive an order in the morning, the merchandise will be delivered the day after tomorrow,” said Shinsuke Fukagawa, general manager of cosmetics operations.
Of particular logistical importance, Fukagawa said, is a system of mailing shipments in boxes less than 3 cm. thick — so they can be treated as “letters,” not “parcels.”
In Japan, letters are left in mailboxes, but parcels must be picked up at the post office if the recipient is not at home to accept delivery.
The Fancl range is based on three-step skin care — cleansing, toning and moisturizing — and a 28-day regimen costs about $38 (3,800 yen).
Sales this year are expected to reach $270 million (27 billion yen), up 12 percent over last year. Fancl says its customer database includes 1.7 million individuals, a number it hopes to increase with its new pilot shops on Okinawa and in Shizuoka.
While Fancl and Lush are stepping into the spotlight, many of the world’s largest beauty companies, including L’Oreal and Estee Lauder, are working to develop preservative-free lines that do not require cold storage.
Lauder plans to launch a completely preservative-free skin cream within 18 months, according to Daniel Maes, vice president of research and development. Already, packaging innovations such as airless pumps have permitted brands to reduce preservatives, although the pumps are too costly for cleansing products or most mass market lines.
Elizabeth Arden and Pond’s have used gel capsules to launch some preservative-free formulas, such as Arden’s Ceramide Time Complex Capsules. The Lauder product, however, eliminates the need for preservatives with its formulation, not its packaging, Maes explained.
The new cream’s formulation is based on a simple finding: Bacteria can grow in water only. If the water in the formulation is isolated, bacteria are eliminated, according to Maes.
L’Oreal’s Vichy pharmacy brand launched Sensium, a line for ultrasensitive skin, in April. Instead of a significant dose of a single preservative, the products contain minidoses of two or three preservatives.
According to a spokeswoman, Vichy plans to extend the line soon with some completely preservative-free products, including a skin cream.