The following FAQs represent some of the most common questions we are asked.
For entry fees, samples requirements, and a full explanation of the awards process, see How to Enter.
What exactly are the Free From Skincare Awards?
The awards were launched in 2012 to celebrate, encourage and reward the manufacture of cosmetics 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.
What are the key dates of the Awards?
Some remain uncertain due to Covid-19, but will be roughly as follows:
- 1st February 2021 — Entry opens
- 21st March 2021 — Entry closes
- mid-February until end-April 2021 — Testing period
- mid May 2021 — List of Finalists published
- late May / early June 2021 — Judging week
- June 2021 — Winners announced online (via Twitter / Instagram)
What will testers and judges be looking for?
This is explained on our Judging page.
How many products can I enter and in how many categories?
Entrants can enter as many products as they wish in as many categories.
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 both the Body Care (Leave on) and Hand & Foot categories will require two entry fees and 12 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 paid for in each case.
Products of the same type but with different colour (eg make-up, hair dye), are not generally considered distinct formulations.
To see the various categories, click here.
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 — at least two of Twitter, Facebook, and 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 Finalist, 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, and share recommendations with family, friends, readers etc.
- You may be featured in ongoing press coverage related to our Awards. (For a selection of previous coverage, click here).
- All medal winners in all categories are featured here on our website, with extracts of tester reviews, and links to points of sale / brand websites — and these remain online indefinitely.
- 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 16 product categories — as well as the prestigious Overall Winner of Best Free From Skincare Product, 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 make the Final?
We aim to shortlist all products for the Final 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 testers during month-long testing, it will be make the Final shortlist.
On average, around 70–80% of entries are finalists each year, but it varies.
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 two products and consider both products are deserving, or when a category is particularly large.
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 the products who reach the final 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 Best Free From Product prize for the Overall Champion — and we hope to introduce additional bonus awards in future. (Suggestions for these are 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 the 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 for them.
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 as entrants.)
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-director
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 fourteenth year, and the author of many recipe books.
Who should I contact with an enquiry about the Awards?
See our Contact page. If you wish to set up a call with Alex or Michelle, contact us by email. We are always happy to talk.