'Animal byproducts are less expensive'

The cosmetics industry prefers to use animal fats in their products because replacing those materials with vegetable oils would lead to a steep increase in product cost, making them unaffordable for majority of Indians.

“Animal fats are inexpensive as they are available as byproduct. While it is technically possible to replace them with vegetable oils, it would lead to an increase in product cost,” Swaminathan Sivaram, former director of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, told Deccan Herald. Besides oils and fats, some pigments too are extracted from animal sources. 

An international debate is on whether companies manufacturing soaps, shampoos and other beauty products should disclose all their ingredients on the products.

 “The companies argue that if they have to disclose every raw material, then they will lose their unique selling propositions. Then anybody can copy and come out with a product,” Sivaram explained. In the US, the  regulators are yet to take a decision.

Some of the European nations, on the other hand, make completely vegan beauty products. But those are high-end and found only in expensive boutiques, said the former NCL director. 

Even if the companies make completely vegetarian soaps or shampoos, regulatory agencies would have to depend on the firms only to know the status of a product as it is almost impossible to determine the source of a raw material from the final product.The only way is to have a self-certificate from the companies with the hope that they would act responsibly for the sake of their brand name. It is possible for the companies to have a “green dot” system for costly vegan products, even without disclosing their entire list of ingredients, said the veteran chemical scientist.

Growing at 20 pc

The Rs 60,000 crore Indian beauty product industry is growing roughly at 20 per cent. As per a 2012 estimate, prepared by Indian Beauty and Hygiene Association, personal care products account for half of the industry and translates to Rs 35,000 crore. The next big contributor is toilet soap products to the tune of Rs 13,000 crore followed by oral care and skin care products. 

The industry is regulated under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the rules (frames under this act) in 1945, though there is no pre-market approval system all over the world including India. Also, the list of regulated ingredients should be based on scientific evidence.

The common worldwide principles for cosmetics legislation include a company's responsibility for safety and compliance with regulation. The companies would be positive to notifications when required by the authorities, said Claudio Pari, an internationally known authority on cosmetics regulation associated with L'Oreal. Going by that logic, the Indian beauty products industry should follow the notification, issued by the department of consumer affairs under the Legal Metrology Act, 2009.
 “The entire industry felt that the notification was issued without any prior consultation and without due consideration of the feasibility for the implementation of the same. Also, the subject matter of the notification is not within the purview of the Legal Metrology law,” said Malathi Narayanan, secretary general of IBHA.

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