Sunday, 22 May, 2022

Yuka, QuelCosmetic … these apps that are shaking up the cosmetics sector

Panic in the cosmetics department? Apps that promise consumers the decryption of their beauty products are at the heart of heated debates. Yuka, whose success in food products cannot be denied, launched in July in cosmetics (now available on iPhone and in November on Android) and last week, UFC-Que Choisir released the new version of its own app called QuelCosmetic. The response from professionals in the sector was not long in coming. La Febea, the federation of beauty companies, denounced the very next day in a press release “erroneous, obsolete, partial or even inappropriate” information in the apps. And on Tuesday, this same professional union held a press conference focused on five existing apps, a conference to which the co-founder of one of them was invited… Overheated atmosphere.

But why is there such a commotion? Like their colleagues intended to decipher food products, cosmetic applications are on the rise. The promise is simple: to provide clear information on the composition of shampoos, face creams or other lipsticks that inhabit our bathrooms. And consumers are asking for it, if we are to believe Yuka’s millions of downloads or the 800,000 UFC-Que Choisir has claimed since the launch of its own application in March. It must be said that the question of controversial substances, and in particular that of endocrine disruptors – these substances which disrupt hormonal functioning – regularly hits the headlines. Not to mention that the new health notebooks have recommended since April to avoid using cosmetic products in the first months, for the baby but also for the parents, further adding to the climate of mistrust.

What scientific backing?

“The expectation of the consumer is legitimate. He is right to want to know what is in the product”, recognizes Anne Dux, director of scientific and regulatory affairs at Febea. But the union that represents more than 300 cosmetics manufacturers denounces the stigma of ingredients and the “biases” of applications that “fuel controversy and consumer anxiety” even though they do not have access to the concentration of substances in the product. And Anne Dux to ensure that “European cosmetic regulations are the safest in the world” and evolve with the progress of science.

Same line on the side of L’Oréal which ensures that “absolute consumer safety” is one of their “fundamental bases”: “The opinions on these apps (…) do not take into account the concentration of the different ingredients used. The evaluation of the safety of a cosmetic product cannot be based on the sole presence or absence of certain ingredients “, indicates the leader in cosmetics, deeming” capital “that the information on which the applications are based is” scientifically robust ” .

The scientific backing, however, is what put forward the applications in question. Clean Beauty thus prides itself on providing “scientifically documented information on controversial ingredients”. Regarding the QuelCosmetic app, Olivier Andrault, project manager at UFC-Que Choisir, assures us that it is built “exclusively on the basis of the positions of recognized scientific bodies”, such as the International Center for Research on Cancer ( IARC). “Each ingredient analysis is based on scientific and reliable sources,” adds Julie Chapon, one of the founders of Yuka. The app will also display these sources in its next version.

Precautionary principle

“The brands hide behind the fact that these substances are authorized by law. But the fact that the ingredients are authorized in Europe does not mean that they are safe: we know that it takes years and dozens of ‘studies before a controversial substance is banned “, continues Julie Chapon pointing to the” precautionary principle “. “The time is sometimes considerable between the moment when scientific bodies issue an opinion and when the recommendations are implemented”, confirms Olivier Andrault, who indicates that QuelCosmetic aims to “put a boost and encourage manufacturers to change their recipes “.

Precautionary principle on the one hand against the safety of the current regulations on the other: two visions clash. But the Febea points to another weak point of the apps: the reliability of their respective databases. “Scanning a bar code is not the right way to identify a cosmetic product”, according to Anne Dux, who specifies that the bar code does not identify the formula of the product in question. And therefore that the list of ingredients indicated by the app may be different from that on the packaging. Especially since the formulas change regularly. Olivier Andrault and Julie Chapon, whose apps each list more than 100,000 products, nevertheless indicate that manufacturers can also directly communicate information about their products to them …

Challenge for the cosmetics sector

Ultra-easy to use, barcode scanning is the choice of QuelCosmetic, Yuka, INCI Beauty and CosmEthics, four of the apps reviewed by Febea. This is not the case with the fifth app pointed out by the trade union: Clean Beauty. An “amalgam” that does not understand Candice Colin, one of the creators of the app, also general manager of the start-up of natural cosmetics Officine at the origin of the app. It has chosen to identify the ingredients by the photo of the list on the packaging and does not note the products. Apps that are ultimately different and do not necessarily provide the same conclusion on the same product. It is up to the consumer to find out about their operation and therefore their reliability and to make a choice.

“QuelCosmetic also shows the right students, which proves that a change is possible”, underlines Olivier Andrault, who notes “that we are still seeing changes in formulas on the shelves and that the manufacturers are therefore reacting” . The fact remains that the cosmetics industry must respond to this consumer need for – understandable – information. L’Oréal also says it hears “continue and accelerate the provision of qualitative and complete information” on their products and ingredients and Febea has already met, or plans to do so, with the publishers of these applications. A challenge for a cosmetics sector weighing 10 billion euros in France and usually quite secret, and even as Do it yourself is gaining momentum. Isn’t DIY a way to get to the heart of the composition of cosmetics?