AllergyAward 17 – The Speakers

AllergyAward17 took place in London in the spring, at The Royal College of Physicians in Regents Park: an appropriate setting for a day that celebrates skin-friendly science.

Royal college of PhysiciansAllergyAward is an annual competition to recognise outstanding skin-friendly products. It is organised by the Danish company AllergyCertified, whose motto is ‘One World, One Label’ and who aim to make it easy for consumers all over the world to recognise products that are scientifically certified as skin-friendly.

The day consists of a series of talks by experts in the fields of allergy, skin health, research and development, toxicology and regulation (and this year, with Millie Kendall of BeautyMART and Brandstand speaking: trends and marketing in the cosmetic industry) followed by the announcement of winners in the various categories of AllergyAward.

Esben Lunde, the Danish Minister of Environment and Agriculture, opened AllergyAward17.

I was raised in England by a working class man from Scotland, and so I am primed, when faced by a politician – or anyone wishing to persuade me of something – to ask (silently, of course): “Why is this bastard lying to me?”  This approach has served me well throughout my life, but sadly, I sense that fewer UK citizens adopt this approach and I offer our current level of political debate in the UK as evidence for this intuition.

Esben Lunde’s opening address hinged on the ‘mystery’ of the causes of allergy. “I’m here to urge that we join forces across countries and territories to solve these mysteries. At least 10% of Danes suffer contact allergy. Contact allergies are caused by chemicals that penetrate the skin. It seems that  some people develop contact allergies easier than others, and this is where the mystery deepens. Once an allergy develops it is for life.” 

Esben Lunde, the Danish Minister of Environment and AgricultureI sensed no mystery behind the minister’s words: no feeling that he was anything other than utterly sincere in his conviction that part of his role as a government minister is to improve the quality of life for those suffering from contact allergy, and to support and encourage work done to lessen the chances of developing life-changing conditions such as these.

Referencing a study that found 82% of consumers wish to see safety information on labels, as opposed to only 1% who would prefer that information disseminated through campaigns, it is clear why the Danish Government value the AllergyCertified initiative. The Minister spoke also of the lead that Denmark has taken in regulating and restricting the use of the preservative MI, and emphasised the importance of co-operation and knowledge sharing.

You might wonder what were the views of Mr. Lunde’s equivalent in the UK parliament? Wonder no more. For this event, Mr Lunde had no direct equivalent in the UK parliament and there was no minister that AllergyCertified could invite to AllergyAward17. For UK citizens, our safety as consumers falls pretty much under the remit of Trading Standards. Perhaps this will change with Brexit. Or – given the idealogical emphasis placed by the UK on deregulation; the tabloid press obsession with ‘health and safety gone mad’; and our fondness for the concept of caveat emptor – it won’t. In which case we will be well advised to up our game as consumers.

Following Mr Lunde’s opening address, we heard Anne Birgitte Simonsen of Denmark’s Aarhus Universitet og Videncenter for Allergi speak about the quality of life for children with skin allergy.

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Atopic dermatitis affects 15-20% of children in western countries. The most common allergen is nickel, found in junk jewellery and hair clips, and allergy to fragrance and ingredients is increasing in children and in adults. Contact allergy in childhood is known to increase the risk of chronic eczema. 

I think I was a fairly typical UK parent until I met AllergyCertified three years ago. We are heavy – and often unthinking – users of fragrance in the UK. When buying baby wipes, I was puzzled that the manufacturer would think I would opt for unscented wipes when the fragranced were the same price! Now, I wince to realise how irrational that response was.

Acting as a judge for AllergyCertified has enabled me to access a range of products that my family can use that are of excellent quality, and safer for the skin. An additional upside that when we do use fragranced product, it’s mindful – we’re using it because we love it, and it doesn’t have to compete with underlying and often clashing scents from other products.

Ewa Daniél is a co-founder of AllergyCertified and a toxicologist. Ewa and Andrea Mitarotonda, the Chief Developer of Neal’s Yard Remedies, gave a presentation on the importance of raw materials. Current legislation requires ‘the full declaration of ingredients arranged in descendent order of weight’, which sounds great, doesn’t it? Lovely and clear, until you realise that certain substances are not considered to be ingredients – and this includes impurities in raw materials. There is a cumulative risk from raw materials added together, which means, as Andrea said, companies must “go beyond what is legally required to ensure safety”. To achieve an AllergyCertified label, companies must commit to this.

Andrea Mitarotonda, the Chief Developer of Neal’s Yard Remedies

Andrea Mitarotonda, Chief Developer of Neal’s Yard Remedies

Dermatologist Sarah Wakelin of St. Mary’s Hospital, London spoke on skin allergy in the UK, and explained that skin allergy means allergic contact dermatitis and excema. Of reactions that start more than four hours after contact and lasts for days or weeks, there are two types: irritant: not an allergic process, and not to do with the immune system – and allergic: where an allergen penetrates the skin and triggers an immune reaction. Exposure leads to allergy, and patch testing is the way to identify the allergen. When a rare allergen is found, ‘co-operation is then needed from the manufacturers – but you don’t always get that’.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge cheerleader for BeautyMart, the shop that revolutionised beauty retail in London, and has kick-started more trends and broken more brands into the UK than I can count.


BeautyMart co-founder Millie Kendall spoke about trends in the UK beauty industry – those products and concepts that are catching the attention of the UK consumer.

The ‘Magical and Mystical‘ trend has seen products containing crystals sell well – despite there being no provable scientific benefit to the use of crystals in skincare. These lines often sit within the concept that Millie’s co-founder, Anna-Marie Solowijc has named the ‘New Natural’ brands – consumers are seeking products that present themselves as uplifting and niche; quite how ‘natural’ they are when you examine the label isn’t as much of a factor as how ‘natural’ they feel.

Other trends to watch out for include:

Mono-tasking – specific, individual and tailored care for different parts of the body.

Probiotics – lines such as Aurelia and Galinee are growing in popularity and a positive response to the anti-bacterial/over-cleansing concept that has dominated for many years

Waterless Beauty – products made with as little water as possible, such as  Mai Couture, who offer foundation and blusher via papier poudre.

Millie expects Sensitivity to become a micro-trend in itself, with an increasing number of customers either developing skin reaction, or – just as importantly – believing themselves to have sensitivities and shopping accordingly. Millie concluded “this is why I think you [AllergyCertified] are so relevant in putting the message out there … the way to educate is via press and via trends; fun, but with a serious underlying message”.

Allergy Award 2107 attendees

Some of the Allergy Award 2107 attendees at the end of the day © Jens Astrup

I’m looking forward to attending AllergyCertified’s upcoming London event: “Cosmetic Count’. This is an opportunity to evaluate just how much product you use in a day – and therefore how many potential allergens you are exposed to. I shall let you know how I score – one thing’s for sure, my exposure has lessened since finding out more about the work of AllergyCertified and seeking out products that earn their distinctive and trusted marks.

AllergyAward17 logo

Find out more about AllergyCertified here

Shop for AllergyCertified skin-friendly products at Zero Allergy

Find the most au courant and ahead of the game products at BeautyMart