The testing & judging process for the Free From Skincare Awards is in four stages.
Entry forms are checked to ensure that products entered comply with our Criteria.
Once entries are accepted and product samples are received at our offices, a full-size sample of each is then sent for a month’s in-depth testing of its qualities and efficacy to four experienced testers, carefully selected from a panel of around 100, all of whom are passionate about natural beauty and ‘free from’ skincare, and who may also have sensitive/problem skins or specific allergies or ingredient requirements to take into consideration.
Testers put products through their paces for four weeks, assessing how the products do their job, and how they benefit the part of the body on which they are used.
Once the testing period is over, testers complete detailed questionnaires on each of the products, and return them to us, with scores. Their scoring is based on day-to-day performance and month-long efficacy.
From these scores, a list of finalists is drawn up. Broadly speaking, if at least three out of the four testers report positively on the product, it will reach the final.
Products which reach the final go forward to week-long judging sessions, usually held in May.
The judging panels variously consist of beauty writers, skincare professionals, allergy experts, brand owners, beauty bloggers, cosmetic formulators, and consumers with problem skin conditions or an interest in ‘free from’ skincare. Usually, five or six judges sit on each session (fewer during Covid).
The judges are free to open and examine the products, read entry forms, and will hear summaries of testers’ feedback on each product.
Judges will discuss these, and give credit to entries on the basis of many attributes, including:
1/ Innovation, versatility, quality of formulation, skin-healthfulness of ingredients …
2/ Suitability for consumers on various restricted lifestyles (eg vegetarian, vegan, kosher / halal) or those avoiding certain ingredients (eg food allergens, fragrances).
3/ Labelling qualities: transparency in declarations of ingredient sources; consumer suitability; legibility and visibility of ingredients, properties and product instructions. Also: responsible use of any ‘free from’ statements. Due to the guidance regarding ‘free from’ statements on cosmetics, effective from July 2019, we will not penalise those who have no ‘free from’ labelling on products. To read more about our policy on ‘free from’ statements, please see this article.
4/ Value for money, packaging / presentation, eco / green / charitable qualities, etc.
Subsequently, by combining testers’ and judges’ feedback, Bronze, Silver and Gold ‘medals’ will be decided in each category.
Normally, one Gold — but sometimes two Golds — and several Silver and Bronze awards are awarded per category, depending on category size.
Once category winners are decided, a select judging panel will convene and decide on the key special awards — that of Best Free From Brand and Best Overall Free From Skincare Product — as well as the unique and prestigious Free From Achievement Award, and the new Best Labelling Award and Digital Presence Award.
The results will be announced online in June 2024 (date TBC).
2023 judges are listed below. 2024 judges will be announced in May.
NB. Judges participating in the Awards or with relationships or with vested interests in any participating brands are not involved in the judging of those brands’ respective categories or products.
* Galina Achkasova-Portianoi is a journalist, brand consultant, and the writer/editor of Galina’s Curiosity Gap on Substack.
* Sue Campbell is the CEO of plastic-free solid haircare brand Kind2
* Lorraine Dallmeier is a biologist and organic cosmetic formulator, and the director of Formula Botanica — an international online organic cosmetic science school.
* Ruth Holroyd is a writer and blogger, who runs WhatAllergy.
* Vanessa Karikari is the founder of natural skincare brand Ezapé Naturals.
* Karen MacDonald is the founder and owner of Blomma Beauty, an online natural and green beauty retailer
* Kirsty Mawhinney is a beauty brand consultant, and runs her own agency, Skin Insight.
* Stina Mulloo-Cannon is the CEO of Juste Nature.
* Sara Niven is a freelance beauty journalist and editor with BABTAC qualifications.
* Abi Weeds is the co-founder of Odylique (previously Essential Care).
* Emma York is a content creator and the founder of Beauty Folio.
Free From Skincare Awards team 2023:
* Alex Gazzola is the awards co-ordinator and director, deputy editor of SkinsMatter.com and a health writer specialising in allergies and skin health. He is the editor of Allergy Insight.
* Michelle Berriedale-Johnson is editor of FoodsMatter.com, publisher at Curlew Books, and director of all free from awards, including the Free From Food Awards.
Judges who have participated in previous years and whom we hope to welcome back in the future:
* Yanar Alkayat is a writer, digital consultant and web editor, specialising in beauty, health and fitness.
* Alexa Baracaia is an allergy author, Free From Hero 2022 Winner, and Founder of Allergy Hour
* Sarah Coleman is a blogger on natural skincare and free-from living at Sugarpuffish. She has eczema and multiple sensitivities.
* Natasha Dauncey is a cosmetic formulator, and the founder of Apothaka Skincare.
* Judy Johnson is a beauty and skincare journalist, specialising in sensitive skin issues.
* Katja Kokko is a Finnish natural beauty expert, formulator, and make-up artist, who edits the Genuine Beauty Book.
* Marina Kozlova is the CEO of Fais Botanicals.
* Ailish Lucas, The Glow Getter, is a beauty therapist, make-up artist, and award-winning beauty blogger and influencer.
* Sarah Stacey is a beauty expert, consultant and joint-editor of the Beauty Bible books.
* Michelle Sutton of Butterflies Healthcare is a pharmacist, and the UK distributor of long-time former FFSA sponsors, NATorigin.
* Magda Thornton is the founder of LouLouBelle Skincare.