What are the Free From Skincare Awards?
The awards were launched in 2012 to celebrate, encourage and reward the manufacture of skincare products that are ‘free from’ some of the allergens, ingredients and fragrances sometimes associated with skin sensitivities and other health concerns, or personal sensibilities and preferences, and which may therefore be useful to several groups of people — those seeking more ‘natural’ cosmetics, those looking to avoid certain ingredients due to ethical, environmental or religious reasons, those who have sensitive or dry skin, or those with allergic or problem skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne.
How do I enter the Awards?
See How to Enter.
What does entry to the Awards cost?
In 2020, these were the fees:
£165 per product, or
£132 per product, for brands with fewer than three people working in the business in total, including owner(s) and international staff
NB. VAT is not charged.
Six samples of each entry in each category are required by the organisers.
What are the key dates of the Awards?
In 2020, as follows; the 2021 dates will be announced shortly.
- 3rd February 2020 — Entry opens
- 22nd March 2020 — Entry closes
- 1st April 2020 — Deadline for submission of six product samples from late entrants
- mid-February to end-April 2020 — Testing period
- early June 2020 — Week-long expert panel judging period
- early June 2020 — Shortlist published
- 21st July — Winners announced online (via Twitter / Instagram)
What will testers be looking for?
A full-sized sample of each entry is sent to four of our experienced testers. Our testers will be using and assessing the products for one month, mainly for performance, functionality, effectiveness, pleasure, and benefits (eg improved skin / hair, easing of problem symptoms etc.).
What will judges be looking for?
For products then shortlisted by our testers, our judges will be considering a large number of different qualities.
1/ These may include innovation, quality of formulation, skin-healthfulness of ingredients, and for products which denote an awareness of consumers with skin problems or allergies, especially with regards to their labelling.
2/ Judges will be keen to see products which meet one or more ‘free from’ requirements (eg vegan, allergen-aware / low-allergen, halal, eco / green, low salicylate, low fragrance / fragrance free, food-allergen free / nut free or others).
3/ Brands will receive credit for transparent ingredient information on their products, for example, in declaring the derivation or sources of their ingredients. Ingredients lists and labelling which are clearly legible and easily visible, with good text size, colour contrast and font choice, optimised to help legibility, will also be credited.
4/ Brands will receive credit for conveying ‘free from’ attributes (including allergens) in a responsible, informative and non-alarmist manner. Due to the guidance and regulation regarding ‘free from’ claims on cosmetics, effective from July 2019, we would like to reassure brands that we will not penalise those who have no ‘free from’ labelling on products. To read more about our policy on ‘free from’ claims, please see this article.
5/ Other issues may also be taken into account, and these include value for money, packaging / presentation, use of sustainable / environmentally friendly, minimally processed or organic ingredients, use of natural preservatives, and modest fragrance allergen / food allergen content.
How many products can I enter and in how many categories?
Entrants can enter as many products as they wish in as many categories.
Entrants entering three or more different products overall automatically qualify for consideration in the Best Free From Brand category.
An individual product may be entered into more than one category, if relevant, but the appropriate entry fees and sample requirements apply to each. For example, a hand & body cream entered into the Men’s Grooming, Face Care (Leave on), and Problem Skin categories will require three entry fees and 18 product samples.
Previously entered products — whether winning or not — may be entered again.
Products do not need to be new launches, but must simply be on the market at the time the Awards close for entry.
Products of the same type but with different fragrance are considered distinct formulations and must be entered separately, with an entry submitted and pair for for each.
Products of the same type but with different colour (eg make-up, hair dye), are not considered distinct formulations.
What benefits are there in entering the awards?
Here are just some:
- Your brand will be welcomed and featured on our popular social media pages — Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps Instagram — which have many thousands of followers, boosting your media profile.
- Your entries will be sent to four experienced testers for month-long assessment, and the detailed feedback we receive from them on every entry will be available to you once the Awards are over in June / July.
- We’ll give you award logos (Entrant, and if applicable Shortlisted, and then later, Winner logos) which you are free to use in your marketing and communications to share your participation in the Awards.
- Shortlisted products will be presented to a distinguished panel of beauty / skincare experts, writers and influencers, who relish the opportunity to discover new brands at our judging sessions, and may then feature them or write about them (See last year’s judging panel here).
- Testers and judges regularly become new customers of products they test and judge.
- You may be featured in ongoing press coverage related to our Awards. (For a selection of previous coverage, click here).
- A selection of winning products will be showcased at our stand at the Allergy & FreeFrom Show held at London Olympia annually* (Covid-19 situation permitting).
- And, of course, you have the chance to win a Gold, Silver or Bronze ‘medal’ in any one of 15 product categories — as well as the prestigious Overall Winner of Best Free From Skincare Product 2020, and other major awards — and capitalise on all the potential benefits that comes with recognition in a major cosmetic and skincare award.
How many entries are Shortlisted?
We aim to Shortlist all products which we consider perform well enough with testers, and which are legally compliant with cosmetic regulations.
We do not have a set number or percentage of entries which are to be shortlisted, and each individual product is assessed on its own merit — generally speaking, if the product performs positively with at least three out of the four assessors during month-long testing, it will be shortlisted.
On average, around 70–80% of entries are Shortlisted each year.
How many medals are Awarded?
Again, this varies each year, and according to product performance and judging panels’ assessments.
Generally, only one Gold is awarded in each product category each year — although occasionally two Golds are awarded when judges and testers have been unable to separate and consider both products are deserving.
Typically, several Silvers and several Bronzes are awarded in each category, again according to merit. The smaller categories are likely to have fewer than the larger categories.
On average, around 40–50% of Shortlisted products win a medal, but it can vary by category.
There are additional awards for free from achievement and free from brand — as well as the overall prize — and we hope to introduce additional bonus awards in future. (Suggestions for these are most welcome.)
What makes your Awards stand out?
We are transparent in what we do — many other Awards do not reveal details on how products are assessed, how decisions are made, or how many awards are given out.
We give equal weight to consumer testing as we do to judges’ expert input — it is vital that we rigorously assess how well products perform with the ‘ordinary’ woman (and man) who buys cosmetics, as well as seek the views of formulators and others from the beauty industry on matters concerning ingredients, formulation, compliance and more.
We do not have any voting — we think public voting is deeply unfair to smaller brands who have a far more limited social media following than larger brands whose products may be far more widely distributed, and who can reach a wider base. Being bigger and louder does not necessarily mean better or more deserving.
There are no hidden costs — The entry fee is all you pay. We do not try to sell you advertising, we don’t charge for logo use, we don’t reward brands who spend more with us. All brands are treated equally at all stages of the Awards — the only arguable exception being the discount on their entry fee offered to smaller brands.
We don’t ‘dish out’ Awards — It would be easy to award a high percentage of entries in order to encourage further participation, but this would demean the awards industry and patronise entrants, which we consider unacceptable. Awards should not be too easy to win; neither should they be unattainably difficult. We aim to strike a fair, achievable balance, to give the top awards to the most deserving, which both encourages and supports brands and helps the consumer to choose the most suitable products.
We see ourselves more as a skincare award than a beauty award — although ‘beauty’ is important, the health of the skin (and hair) is to us even more so, and that underpins our approach in what we do.
Why do you have Sponsors?
We sometimes have sponsors, but they do not influence the outcome of the Awards unless a member of the sponsoring brand sits on the judging panel, in which case they will not be involved in judging a category in which they are also an entrant or have a vested interest. (2020 sponsors Lyonsleaf did not participate in the Awards.)
Sponsors offer us moral and financial support, the latter of which helps us keep costs down, and therefore making us more accessible to the small brands we hope to encourage to participate.
We do not consider sponsorship a ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ thing — what matters is the integrity of the sponsor (we only accept Sponsors who share our values), and the integrity of the Award protocols, as described above.
Who runs the awards?
Alex Gazzola, Awards Co-ordinator and Co-founder
Alex is a writer specialising in allergies, food intolerances and sensitivities. He is the editor of Allergy Insight and MI Free, and the author of ten books.
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, Free From Awards Director
Michelle is editor of the FoodsMatter.com website and founder-organiser of the hugely successful Free From Food Awards, now in their thirteenth year, and the author of many recipe books.
Who should I contact with an enquiry about the Awards?
See our Contact page.