European Skincare Secrets
Standards are subjective—so when it comes to the ingredients used in cosmetics, the bar can wobble drastically in every country! The reason European skin care tends to be safer is because Europe bans thousands of unsafe ingredients, many of which are allowed in North America and still get a sparkling stamp of clean-beauty approval. The great news is that if any ingredient is used in European skincare, chances are there are credible safety and efficacy studies to back product claims. So when we learn skincare wisdom from our friends across Europe, we get very excited! First, let's review why European skincare sets the gold standard for safety & efficacy, and then dive into some beauty wisdom gems.
European Cosmetics Regulations
In Europe, the standards of a legally sellable cosmetic are STRICT! To paint a quick picture, Europe has separate standards for virtually every criteria you can imagine: the EU Cosmetics Regulation, the EU Labeling Guidelines, the EU Cosmetic Claims Guidelines—and on and on it goes! No wonder there are currently around 1600 ingredients that are banned in Europe.
In addition to these rigid requirements, individual countries may have even longer checklists of their own, as explained by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC). Before taking a product to market, here are just a few hoops through which a company must jump:
- Companies must create a super-detailed technical dossier on their cosmetic product, which must always be accessible in case the local authorities need to sneak a peek. This file includes an extensive report on the product’s formula, manufacturing methods, safety assessment, label, and so much more.
- Companies must submit a study proving their product can work, and there’s no room for fudging results here!
- Companies must document the experiences of anyone who’s experienced adverse reactions to their product. This log must be viewable for inspection by the authorities 24/7.
- Companies are outlawed from hiding certain allergens in their label by blanketing it with words like “flavor” or “fragrance.” If a component of the scent in question is found in the EU’s index of allergens, then it must be listed on the label.
Although there are waaaaaay more black holes of endless requirements, you get the general idea. When a brand like Nuria adheres to the EU requirements for cosmetic products, you know that they are following all of the requirements listed above and more!
Popular Cosmetic Ingredients in Europe
Since we can easily Google-search banned ingredients in Europe, let’s focus on the less-obvious: the good ingredients!
Europe is obsessed with retinol for a simple reason: it works! No wonder the entire world follows suit. This antioxidant is a vitamin A derivative that works to speed up cellular turnover, causing each dermal cell to have a faster lifecycle. And the more frequently our skin resurfaces, the more often it stays looking polished, radiant, and glass-like! Your skin can't tolerate retinol? No problem, try our carrot seed oil alternative to get the benefits of retinol without the irritation!
An oldie but goodie, this plant sludge will never go out of style! Packed with nutrients all over the spectrum, including A,C and E, plus hydrating and exfoliating properties, aloe deserves its standing ovation of Euro approval!
Some people keep an aloe vera plant at home to extract the juice as a DIY overnight mask. But if your green thumb is lacking, opt for Nuria’s Hydrate Refreshing Micellar Water! It’s formulated with aloe juice and minerals to saturate your skin with water, as well as sage and chamomile, which combat free radicals and signs of photoaging. Together, this incredible trio are must-use staples in Europe!
Able to soften even the scaliest skin, shea butter is one of the most popular cosmetic ingredients in Europe. It’s essentially the fat extract from the nut of the African shea tree, and is so effective that it has become a staple in skin care rituals across North & South America as well.
Thick and creamy, its rich texture feels just like butter, making it an ideal remedy for cracked, sensitive skin and eczema. Meanwhile, this hard-working ingredient also has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, making it the Rolls Royce of moisturizers.
As more global skincare brands recognize shea as one of the highest performing skin-hydrators, we’re seeing more products like the Calm Daily Moisturizer becoming a staple in North American skin care.
There’s a reason why squalane is the base ingredient for countless skin products. This fatty extract is obtained from olives, producing the same silky-goop texture as our own sebum!
Rich in Omega 2 and Vitamin E, along with hydrating minerals, squalane is excellent for helping support the dermal matrix, leaving it smooth, plump, and clean. And finally, as a bonus, it’s also non-comedogenic. Despite being an oil, squalane is lightweight and won't clog your pores, making it a key ingredient in Nuria’s Hydrate Replenishing Serum.
A favorite in Scandinavian culture, bilberry is both an anti-inflammatory and skin-brightener! Its calming effects make it an ideal alternative to aggressive spot treatments, which can irritate and flake the skin surface.
Bilberry works to protect the skin barrier with natural fatty acids, moisturizing the dermal surface for a radiant sheen, while also warding away acne-causing bacteria. That’s why Nuria’s Hydrate Revitalizing Jelly Night Treatment is packed with bilberry, along with the antioxidant effects of safflower and gardenia.
Notice how all these ingredients are basic? Just. BASIC. That’s the key with European skincare! It’s less concerned with flashy-pink packaging or some random “breakthrough” ingredient. Instead, European's tend to stick to good ol’ familiars that are clinically proven to work. Why complicate a sure thing?
About the author, Naomi Furgiuele
Naomi is the founder of Nuria and a self-professed nerd with a love for all things science and skin care. She’s had a hand in product development for some of the biggest global beauty brands in the business, gets some of her best ideas while out on a run, and loves her exfoliator almost as much as her awesome family.