There is no way to talk about the use of any kind of cannabis in Europe without running into a mouthful of long, number-delineated if not hyphenated directives. Cannabis Sativa L is, ultimately, a plant with many uses by humans. Every one of those applications, but particularly consumables, carries its own rules. 

The cosmetics space is no exception. 

There is good news though. Critical pieces of such regulation have now been changed over the last several months in the EU, and it will have a huge impact on the development of the vertical across the region.

The Changes Now In Effect In The EU – By The Book

Here is the official version of what just happened. Up until February 3, 2021, natural cannabidiol (CBD) was banned from use in cosmetics under the European Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009  per section 306 – Narcotics, natural and synthetic of Annex II. This is also known colloquially as the “CosIng Index” which requires products to contain a list of ingredients under their common names on the packaging label.

The first natural CBD listing in CosIng has now been added. 

What is the impact on the burgeoning cosmetics industry in Europe if not elsewhere, likely to be? Especially in light of the European Commission decision in December, 2020, that CBD was also not a narcotic, as well as the lawsuit last fall at the European Court of Justice about the legality of the French ban on CBD extracted products in particular?

CBD Cosmetics and Skin Care In Europe

The reality is that this entire vertical crosses over into both a recreational discussion as well as a medical one. CBD is now being added to skincare products for various reasons, including its claimed efficacy on conditions like acne, eczema, and wrinkles. But how many of these claims can actually be proven?

Further, the guidelines and dosage, as well as possible interactions with other medicine are an area mostly off the table so far because of the prohibition on using cannabis, at all, in any form, and in any vertical.

There are, of course, many bootleg products on the market here, just as there are in the U.S. This is as true of cosmetics as it is of food. However, by bringing clearer definition to the industry by allowing existing regulations to be applied, the industry will now have a set of rules and guidelines to follow that are designed to protect consumers.

For those who are in that part of the industry, this is only a good thing.

It Will Give The Cosmetics Space Room To Breath

The first thing this change does, according to Joanna Weaver-Pélissier, co-founder and CEO of Be Cann, a firm that develops and produces cosmetics located in Ardèche, France, is that “it will give the industry a better grounding in a regulated, certifiable space. That has been very hard to do until now,” she said. “This ruling gives us something that is definable and incorporable into formal cosmetic industry and processes required for the same, which is far more formal here in Europe than North America. It takes us about ten months to get into the market with any cosmetic product we produce – and all of that has to be performed via a series of highly defined periods of development. It will really allow the CBD cosmetics field to become a more sophisticated space.”

According to many, (not just Weaver-Pélissier) one of the larger problems in terms of developing products in this market is the bad name so far created for the entire space by uncertified products – in other words those produced beyond the regulated process.

Now that there are specific rules to follow, such products who fail to meet such standards will fall out of the marketplace quickly. Further, for those products with potential medical efficacy, “We can now actually do clinical trials to put substance behind some of the claims we would like to make,” she said. “For example, I think we are going to see products that will be able to treat skin conditions like acne – if not eliminate the need for formal “make-up” for the skin at all. However to do this you must engage in a formulation and testing process that normally takes between 10 months to a year, plus clinical trials, which take several months each.”

Here is another reason this development is important. Commercial cosmetic production in the CBD space, unlike many forms of food and edibles, does not use whole plant extracts but rather isolates. This is for several reasons, including at Be Cann, because they believe that terpenes, for example, are only to be used at precise and consistent doses because of potential allergies and reactions.

“We certainly need more education throughout this space about what is good for the body and what is good for the skin,” said Weaver-Pélissier. “This new space created by these interlocking cannabis regulations will allow us, finally, to do that. Including via marketing channels.”

Formalizing GMP Processes Into More Than Pharmaceuticals

One of the other reasons the change in the regulatory climate is going to be good for not only the cosmetic industry but the supply chain that is now being created to support the entire industry, is that cosmetic producers are also required to use GMP (or pharmaceutical grade) lab services.

This means that the development of the CBD cosmetic space will also help build an infrastructure for the medical cannabis space beyond it. It also means that issues like labelling will become easier to interpret in ways that are both scientific and that average users can understand. 

“For example,” said Weaver-Pélissier, “A lot of people think that the more CBD you have in a product, the better. That is not true for the active ingredients in cosmetics. The high quality of ingredients and regulated processes matter far more.”

Bottom line for the industry? A better new day. Not to mention as Weaver-Pélissier said, “I look forward to working with bigger clients.”

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