Criteria & Rules

Products entered for the FreeFrom Skincare Awards must meet the following criteria:


Products must meet our definition of skincare / cosmetic product, namely that of a preparation applied to the skin, hair or body for the purposes of cleaning or fragrancing, or to improve its health, condition or appearance.

More precisely, according to Article 2.1 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009, a cosmetic product is “… any substance or mixture intended to be placed in contact with the external parts of the human body (epidermis, hair system, nails, lips and external genital organs) or with the teeth and the mucous membranes of the oral cavity with a view exclusively or mainly to cleaning them, perfuming them, changing their appearance, protecting them, keeping them in good condition or correcting body odours.”

We define a ‘free from’ skincare product as one which is free from at least one ingredient which may ordinarily be present in a mainstream / high-street version of the product — such as an SLS-free shower gel, MI-free shampoo, or PPD-free hair colour.


Excluded Ingredients
We know that on one level, all cosmetics can be considered ‘free from’ something, and not all such products can be free from all the many ingredients cosmetics users avoid. But it is our aim, in limiting some of those ingredients we permit in the Awards, that we highlight products by brands who are perhaps offering something ‘different’, using alternative ingredients which are likelier to be appropriate for many more people who live ‘free from’ lives, for whom mainstream cosmetics are often unsuitable.

In selecting excluded ingredients, it is important we strike a workable balance of principle and pragmatism — the Awards must have meaning and some degree of exclusivity, but equally, they cannot be so exclusive that they excessively limit participation of products which would be appropriate to many consumers.

No such list of ingredients can be ‘definitive’ and an ingredient’s exclusion (or preferred exclusion) does not mean we determine it to be deserving of criticism or denigration. These ingredients merely represent some of the main ones many ‘free from’ consumers, to the best of our experience, look to avoid — be it for allergy reasons (formaldehyde, MI, PPD etc), health reasons (eg SLS in eczema), or for environmental, ethical or religious values they wish to uphold, or even just due to personal preference and taste.

Products that include any of the following ingredients are not eligible:

* Formaldehyde and its releasers (eg imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15)
* Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI)
* Microbeads / microspheres (plastic)
* Palm oil (or derivatives of) from non-certified sources
* Para-phenylenediamine (PPD)
* Peanut / peanut-derived ingredients (see also Food allergens, below)
* Petroleum (petrolatum) or mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum)
* Phthalates (eg diethyl phthalate)
* Propylene glycol
* Sodium lauryl / laureth sulphate (SLS/SLES)
* Synthetic silicones / siloxanes and derivatives (eg dimethicone)
* Toluene / toluene-2,5-diamine (TD)
* Triclosan


Permitted Ingredients
The following ingredients are permitted, but additional credit may be given to brands / products which avoid them:

* Alcohol
* Ethanolamine compounds and salts (eg MEA, TEA, DEA and derivatives)
* Ethoxylated ingredients (eg PEGs, ammonium laureth sulphate)
* Other PEGs / glycols (eg butylene glycol)
* Palm oil (or derivatives of) from certified sources
* Parabens (butyl-, ethyl- or methylparaben)
* Petroleum-derived non-preservative ingredients
* Synthetic colours (in make-up / hair dyes only)

We appreciate that preservation is a complex area of cosmetic science. Although we allow synthetically derived preservatives, products will receive credit for using wholly natural or COSMOS-approved preservation systems (eg benzoic, dehydroacetic, sorbic, salicylic acids and their salts, and benzyl alcohol, plant enzymes/acids, essential oils).

Food allergens
Only products that exclude three or more of the following are eligible — cereals containing gluten, milk, sesame, nuts, soya and egg. Peanut oils are not permitted.

Non-vegan ingredients
We gladly accept non-vegan products into the Awards, but may give credit to brands which use vegan ingredients in typically non-vegan products — eg beeswax/lanolin-free lip balms.

We accept products with up to eight fragrance allergens maximum — although prefer six or fewer — provided derived from natural ingredients. We accept products with artificial fragrances, provided they are free from all 26 declarable fragrance allergens.

Cosmetics containing nanoparticles must adhere to EU rules on usage and labelling. Find guidance here and here.


All products entered must be available for purchase from the UK, Ireland or other EU nation via usual outlets (chemists, health stores, high street shops) or by online order from British, Irish or EU-nation stores or distributors, at the closing date of the Awards, 26th April 2019.

Products available exclusively to European consumers via overseas shipping from outside Europe into Europe are not eligible.


Ineligible cosmetics and products
The following may not be entered:

* sun cream / block / aftersun (which we cannot test outside summer) (products with incidental SPF, such as lip balms / face creams are accepted)
* seasonal products (eg Christmas-themed products)
* gift sets / multi-packs
* muscle / pain-relief / sleep aid products applied to the skin;
* insect repellents applied to the skin;
* hairstyling, make-up, cleaning or grooming tools, such as brushes, combs, razors etc;
* any electrical equipment, such as facial saunas / shavers;
* beauty supplements, foods or tonics for oral consumption;
* dry face cloths, sponges, exfoliating mittens, loofahs etc.
* tampons / sanitary towels.



  • Products must comply with EU Cosmetic Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 as they apply on 26th April 2019, and also meet our Criteria (above).
  • Product entry samples must be received within one week of acceptance, and must be production products on sale to the public, in the packaging in which they are sold, and in the elected size specified on the Product Entry Form. Pre-production or ‘tester’ samples are NOT acceptable.
  • Generally, six units are required per product per entered category. However, for some products, for instance bath bombs and other one-time-use products, more samples may be required for our testers to adequately test.
  • The organisers reserve the right to change organisational details without prior notice.
  • The organisers reserve the right to accept or reject entries.
  • The decisions of the judging panel are final and Free From Skincare Awards are not obliged to enter into any correspondence about them.
  • Entrants agree not to make attempts to directly and knowingly contact either testers or judges participating in the Awards, in order to influence, appeal or query any results or decisions made.
  • It is a condition of entry that all entrants agree to be bound by these rules.


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