He may have swopped his white lab coat for a crisp white shirt, but Chris Flower still keeps his desk forensically tidy. Chris is the Director-General of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA), which is the industry body representing all types of companies involved in making, supplying and selling cosmetic and personal care products.
The work of the CTPA may not be very well known by those on the salon frontline, but they represent the manufacturers and distributors of the products that are used every day in every salon.
Currently top of Chris Flower’s tidy in-tray, as it has been for some time, is the European Cosmetics Directive, or rather the Regulations that came into force in July implementing the Directive. He’s spent a great deal of time alerting manufacturers to the implications of the Regulations. Even though the details have been available since 2009, he says there are still some in the industry for whom the Regulations have come as a surprise: “Some companies still ask me ‘When did all this happen?’, and I reply, ‘Actually you’ve had years to get ready for this!’”
One of the main aims of the Regulations is to protect public health by restricting the ingredients that can be used in cosmetics products. “It also focuses on the claims made for what products can do,” says Chris. Claims on cosmetic products have to conform to what are called ‘common criteria’ to ensure a fair and honest marketplace. There are six of these criteria: legal compliance, truthfulness, evidential support, honesty, fairness and informed decision-making. Chris Flower’s view on the criteria is clear:” They shouldn’t cause manufacturers and distributors any problem provided they abide by all the advertising codes already in place.”
Chris was a scientist with Beechams for 25 years, and gained his MSc and PhD, and became a Chartered Biologist, while he was there. He worked in a variety of areas: toxicology, moisturisers and fluoride toothpaste: “We found out some fascinating things about chalk”, he recalls, still with the enthusiasm of a research scientist.
He joined the CTPA 18 years ago, and has been Director-General since 2003. In that time the organisation has changed hugely, particularly in its dealing with the public and the media. “We work with the media, key stakeholders and opinion formers to show how cosmetics have a positive role in society”, Chris says.
The CTPA’s website www.thefactsabout.co.uk, communicates information about the science behind products, explaining about safety assessments, ingredient issues and the rules governing the safety of such products as toothpaste, hair colorants and sun protection.
There has also been a sea-change in dealings with the media, with regular briefings for journalists and an open culture of responding to requests for information and statements quickly. “It used to take weeks, if not months, for us to issue a statement about an issue of concern. That was because we had to consult with so many interested parties. Now we can respond in minutes,” says Chris.
The CTPA has to ensure it properly represents the interests of the many manufacturers in the industry, who are always looking to bring new products to market and build their market share. It also needs to work with regulators and consumer organisations in the UK and Europe not just to ensure that the industry’s interests are properly understood, but also that the industry understands and responds to the work of those responsible for managing the safety and interests of consumers.
One continually contentious issue is the debate about what is a cosmetic and what is a medicine, and how new ingredients and technologies are blurring the distinction. “We spend a lot of time behind the scenes, informing, discussing, thrashing out issues with the many parties involved”, says Chris, “it’s important work, and it’s very satisfying when we come to an understanding and agreement, especially when there was little common ground when we started.”
As he looks ahead to the next challenge in his in-tray, Chris can’t suppress his old scientific researcher’s enthusiasm for new discoveries. He believes new materials and new manufacturing processes, including nano-technology, could have a huge impact on the future of the industry: “These are some very exciting prospects in the pipeline, and I just hope that the regulators and legislators keep pace with these developments and don’t deny us the opportunities for innovation and success that are within our grasp.”