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Do cosmetic products have the same formulas around the world?

Kenna’s question…This is a weird question, but are formulas the same across the world? For example, if I purchased Maybelline baby lips lip balm in Japan, would it have the same ingredients, or do some companies change their formula for foreign markets?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Kenna, that is NOT a weird question. In fact, it’s a very strategic question which the larger multi-national beauty companies frequently struggle with. It’s certainly easier to just use one formula as products are rolled out around the world. Changing a formula causes a lot of administrative head aches in terms of registration, tracking numbers and so forth. Even worse, changes can trigger additional stability and efficacy testing which is expensive and time consuming.   So, when ever possible companies don’t make any changes at all. But some times companies have to tweak things a little bit to make a product global. There are three basic factors that drive these formula changes:

3 reasons that formulas may change around the world

  • Consumer preference (such as a different fragrance or color choice.)
  • Regulatory issues (for example an ingredient used in one country may not be allowed in another country. This happens a lot with preservatives.)
  • Supply-chain differences (in other words it may be difficult or more expensive to buy certain ingredients in certain countries.)

Sometimes these changes are significant and can impact how the formula feels or how it works. Other times the change is so small that it’s essentially invisible to the consumer.  The changes may nor may not be obvious by comparing ingredient lists so it’s hard for your to tell just by reading the back of the bottle.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Weronika January 3, 2014, 2:40 am

    What if cosmetics have different names? For example L’Oreal Elvive and Elseve both for hair, but different line name.

    • Randy Schueller January 3, 2014, 6:45 am

      Weronika: Elsève is the original brand name of this product like but it is sold in some countries as Elvive, Elvital or Vive. The product name may change because of translation issues or even problems with the trademark.

  • Christina Patrice January 3, 2014, 2:42 am

    This was an awesome question. I recently had an online chat with a customer rep for Jane Carter Solution because I was concerned about a formula change in one of their products. At first they told me the formula hadn’t changed, but with a little more prodding, they revealed some small changes to the formula had been made. They also told me the ingredient list had to be changed in light of their expansion in the EU. Thanks for this article. Awesome post!

    • admin January 4, 2014, 2:36 pm

      You’re welcome Christine! I hope a lot of our readers enjoy this peek behind the curtain of the cosmetic industry.

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