Conference insights

Why cosmetics claims in Korea should be less ‘what’ and more ‘why’

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Why cosmetics claims in Korea should be less ‘what’ and more ‘why’
Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science, comments on how Korean brands can navigate domestic regulations to present and handle claims.

Speaking at In-cosmetics Korea 2018, Belinda Carli shared her insights on the key issues in claims, the must-dos, the must-nots, along with how best to interpret evidence and tips on formulations.

This comes as it is vital that “products deliver on their promises”​, Belinda Carli, Director, Institute of Personal Care Science, stated.  

Why are claims so important?

Imagine the scenario: A consumer is in-store trying to decide which product to buy. This decision is not based on packaging, even though this may be what draws their eye initially.

Instead, this decision is based on what the product is going to do for you, in other words, its claims. Today, shelves in cosmetics stores are full of products and so claims are fundamental as part of the customer's decision-making process.

“You can have the best formula in the world, but if you do not market it right, no one's going to know what it's going to do for them and they are not going to buy it when they have all that other choice making those claims too,”​ emphasised Carli.

What are the issues with claims?

The definition of cosmetics states that they are for appearance or odour-based changes. As a result, claims should relate to visible changes, such as ‘alters the appearance of’.

Brands cannot talk about what happens on a physiological level. Therefore, companies are unable to use in-vitro results as consumers cannot see what happens in a test tube or in a dish. Only human trials are relevant as these reveal how products affect the skin.

“Competitors make incorrect claims, and we have to be realistic, this is the environment you're selling in,”​ Carli continued. “There is a lot of competition in the marketplace — this is one of the most competitive industries in the world.”

As a result, companies “not only need to have a strong and unique point of difference but need to market it effectively and compliantly to make sure consumer sees your product stand out from the crowd”,​ Carli explained.

Korean marketplace

The rules are different in Korea, Carli went on to explain. The marketplace today contains products that say what they ‘contain’ but do not offer any information on ‘what it’s going to do’.

This represents “a big gap”​ in the market, but with it comes “a big opportunity”.

In Korea, the country's regulations state that cosmetic brands must have a third party to provide evidence that supports these claims. Companies are unable to conduct this in-house. Datasheets, for example, therefore, must be completed by third parties that are testing for suppliers or the company must get third party testing for the finished product.

The product amount also needs to be placed on packaging. In order to make a specific claim, brands need to hold evidence to show the regulator.

“There is a huge gap where this is not happening in the Korean marketplace and so it’s a small investment to have such a standout difference from all products that say ‘contains’,”​ added Carli.

In addition, often brands do not realise that they are unable to link to websites where the incorrect information is displayed. Any connection to an external website relates to sales and promotions and is considered advertising by regulators. Therefore, it’s important to “not link unless know and can control website”​.

“Instead build a good story for your product on your website, that’s the better approach," ​Carli emphasised. 

Key claims

In addition, brands should consider the below to ensure effective delivery and communication:

  • Ingredients must be used in finished products in the same way as stated in the test results.
  • Refer to trade name/material or conduct finished product testing
  • All evidence must be in-vivo, having been tested on at least 20 people to be deemed statistically significant.
  • Input amounts must be correct.
  • Must consider pH compatibility
  • Consider temperature of addition

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