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Wash and go green

After tourism and food, France’s cosmetics industry is the latest to take the ‘slow’ lane to success

We have had slow food and slow tourism – now the latest ‘slow’ is in cosmetics, which is beginning to influence a change in the type of products to be seen on our bathroom shelves.

More people are turning to solid shampoo in soap form, and recyclable bamboo toothbrushes.

Even the big companies are in a quest to be seen to be greener. In October 2018, L’Oréal launched its organic La Provençale range based on olive oil and sold in 100% recyclable packaging.

An association, called Slow Cosmétique, launched in Belgium in 2013. It has rapidly spread through Europe and is most active in France, where its spokesperson is Constance Sycinski: “In the past six years we have grown so that now we have more than 100,000 who are committed to our movement.

“There is a lot of coverage in the media and more and more people want to use products that are natural, good for the environment and good for our health.”

The association of volunteers campaigning for eco-friendly change in the bathroom was created after a Belgian, Julien Kaibeck, published a book called Adoptez la Slow Cosmétique: “Every day we use on average 10 different lotions and creams and cleaning agents on our bodies,” said Mrs Sycinski.

“Around 80% of those contain petrol derivatives, which is not good for the planet and not good for our health.”

Every year the association awards a Slow Cosmétique label to companies that adhere to its principles.

This does not only include the ingredients but also the type of packaging, which must be minimal and recyclable, and its marketing strategy so it is sold as locally as possible. L’Oréal’s new range will not be included: “It is no doubt organic and a step in the right direction,” said Mrs Sycinski. “But this is only a small part of a huge company using synthetic materials which are gathered from all over the world, so does not comply with our guidelines.”

In 2019, they warn people to be aware of another new addition to the language, “greenwashing”, where products with pictures of flowers or fruit seem to be green, but the list of ingredients would not be passed by Slow Cosmétique.

When they started, they gave the award to 13 brands. In 2019, that has risen to 188 and 90% of those are in France. To help the companies market their products they can be bought on the association’s website, slow-cosmetique.com.

One is Comme Avant, a family firm based in Marseille and which makes soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and face cream, using a maximum of four natural ingredients, without fragrance or dye.

It started just two years ago when Sophie Lauret and Nil Parra wanted to find a soap which would not irritate the  skin of their baby, who suffered from eczema.

“Even organic, off-the-shelf products did not work so I found a recipe and made my own soap and it worked,” said Nil Parra. “Word got around, I started making more and developed other products. Now we are a team of five, we have taken 50,000 orders, we hope to open a small shop and we are looking for a sixth member of staff. I believe the public want to understand what is in the products they are using and know that the ingredients are good for them and good for the planet. I really think this is a growing trend which is here to stay, and not just a buzz.

“We are taking ingredients our grandparents used and making products adapted to a 21st-century clientele and are learning all the time,” said Mr Parra.

“When you use our shampoo your hair has to evacuate the silicones in classic shampoos and it might take a month or two to get really shiny hair with our product.”

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