Brand Break Down: Mustela

Updated: Mar 16

*This feature is not sponsored or paid for in any way by Mustela or any other invested party

There’s probably no skin care line that needs to be the safest it could be more than ones used on babies and expecting mothers. Yes, all skin care products should be safe and effective, but there’s just that extra layer of care that needs to be taken with expecting mums and little bubs. However, the focus on this aspect sometimes means the sustainability of these products isn’t questioned or considered. That’s where B Corp certified brand Mustela differs from the rest.

Marketed as “natural origin skin care, for the whole family, from birth on,” they are the first French dermo-cosmetics brand to achieve B Corp certification. Mustela takes sustainably seriously as they believe that taking care of infants also means protecting the world in which they’ll be living. The company does its best to take every measure they can to tread lightly on the planet and minimise impact. They have “a complete range of expert products for babies and children (with and without fragrance), organic products, skincare for eczema-prone skin and for new and expecting mothers.”


We reached out to a Mustela brand representative to get the lowdown on the brand and they have generously provided us with a lot of information to supplement our research. So, let’s get into it.

OWNERSHIP

Mustela belongs to Expanscience Laboratories, “an independent French pharmaceutical and dermo-cosmetics laboratory that develops and manufactures innovative osteoarthritis and skincare products.”

INGREDIENTS & RAW MATERIALS

Being a brand primarily for expecting and new mothers and their babies, Mustela understands that there are more concerns about the content of their products, as well as the safety of using them. This is why Mustela is one of those rare big brands that offer up a lot of information about their ingredients. On their website, they have information about the main active ingredients they use in their range of products. They also have a “red list” of ingredients that they ban from all of their products - that includes well-known nasties like phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde, among others. They also share their philosophy on choosing their ingredients on their publicly available Ingredient Manifesto.

According to Mustela, they always prioritise ingredients of natural origin in their formulations. Additionally, they use restrictions that are tougher than European regulation when choosing which ingredients to use, which is good news for products that are largely targeted to expectant mothers and babies as European regulations are one of the strictest and safest in the world. What this means for the actual products is that they use 95% natural ingredients in their babies-children range, and 98% in their very sensitive skin range and nappy change products. The remaining ingredients are “texture, stability, and preservative ingredients that are guaranteed high tolerance and have no safe and effective natural counterparts.”

They have also stated that they do their best to avoid endocrine disruption in their products by excluding proven endocrine disruptors from their formulas. They also evaluate endocrine activity in their products on the three main hormonal systems through an independent lab according to current OECD criteria.

Most of their products are also vegan, except for the following which contain beeswax:

  • Mustela Nourishing Cleansing Gel - For Dry Skin

  • Mustela Gentle Soap with Cold Cream - For Dry Skin

  • Mustela Nourishing Face Cream with Cold Cream - For Dry Skin

  • Mustela Nourishing Body Lotion with Cold Cream - For Dry Skin

  • Mustela Hydra Stick with Cold Cream - For Dry Skin

  • Mustela Hydra-Bebe Body Lotion - For Normal Skin

  • Mustela Vitamin Barrier Cream 123 - For Nappy Skin Discomfort

Because of this, they do not hold any vegan certifications.


A representative from Mustela tells us that some but not all of their products are certified organic by EcoCert and Cosmebio according to their referential COSMOS Organic. Among these are some products in their maternity range and baby care range.

SOURCING & PRODUCTION

Mustela sources their active plant ingredients “with respect for biodiversity and human conditions.” They try their best to limit their impact and develop responsible practices while maintaining fair and lasting relationships with their partners in the field.

When Mustela talks about responsibility in their supply chain, they mean that they “aim to best control the traceability of their plant-based active ingredients.” This involves partnerships with all players in the supply chain (farmers, local authorities, agronomists, etc.) from start to finish - from the cultivation of the plants to the incorporation into Mustela products.


For example, one of their flagship ingredients for their baby-children ranges, Avocado Perseose, is sourced from 2 supply chains: one in South Africa (their historical supply chain) and one in Peru (with local partner Deshidratados Tropicales), a relatively new supply chain for Mustela that they are developing based on three essential commitments: respect for the environment and biodiversity, respect for the local population, and creation of local economic value. Their commitment to responsible sourcing means they help protect 1000 hectares of land, enhance the value of avocados that cannot be exported (the ingredient they use comes from inedible avocado co-products), adhere to fair and equitable prices, and respect traditional know-how.

Mustela’s brand representative has told us that they “guarantee quality, safety, and respect for the environment and human conditions.” This commitment is solidified by their membership to the Union for Ethical Biotrade (via Expanscience) since 2011 and B Corp membership since April 2018, which made them the first pharmaceutical and dermo-cosmetic laboratory in the world to join B Corp. Their B Corp membership also mirrors their Better Living Program wherein they commit to:

  • transparency with regard to their stakeholders

  • progressing our ecosystems towards greater responsibility

  • helping society evolve towards greater sharing, equity, and respect

They are also AFAQ 26000 certified at exemplary level, certified ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, and have rated Ecovadis Gold since 2018.


To address any safety concerns, Mustela goes hard on safety testing. They carry out more than 450 measurements and tests on each product’s quality, safety, and efficacy before bringing it to market. They perform “in vitro tests on models of baby skin of different ages (a patented worldwide exclusive called Stelaskin®) to validate the tolerance of its formulas before testing them in real conditions of use on infants under 1 month old.“ They also voluntarily submit security assessments to independent toxicology experts to evaluate their products’ safety for use by infants and pregnant women. Said experts may oppose any product’s introduction to the market at any time. They also have a unique, customised assessment process for skin, eye, and euro-sensory tolerance that has “11 evaluation steps primarily conducted by authorised, independent institutions.” This process also assesses tolerance when applied to a reconstructed infant epidermis and actual use conditions on infants and babies. Finally, they test their products’ efficacy for pregnant women and babies under independent medical supervision.


Like we said, a LOT of testing.


They do not test on animals in compliance with European regulation, however, we have reservations about outright calling them cruelty-free as they do sell their products in mainland China.


Mustela’s ISO 14002 certified manufacturing site is located in Epernon (Eure et Loir) in France. Since 2018, Mustela has been buying 100% green electricity from renewable energy sources. They are also reducing their overall energy consumption, having consumed -23% electricity, -30% gas, and -33% water in 2017 compared to 2010.



PACKAGING & RECYCLING OPTIONS

All of Mustela’s products are eco-designed. All of their bottles are recyclable according to French recycling standards, their boxes are made from cardboard and from sustainably managed forests and are also recyclable, and all of their washing formulas are biodegradable (according to the OECD 302B method). They also use lightweight packaging that only contains the minimum amount of material needed. Since 2010, Mustela has reduced the amount of plastic they use for their bottles by 120 metric tons and the amount of cardboard they use for boxes by 65 metric tons. Additionally, all boxes for Mustela’s baby-child products are printed with inks made from vegetable oils.

Mustela does not have a regular recycling or refilling program. However, in Australia, they offer discounts to consumers who bring back empty Mustela products at Australian Baby Expos. Mustela then recycles these themselves.

GIVING BACK & ADVOCACY

Over the years Mustela has strengthened their commitment to the health and wellbeing of parents, children, and healthcare professionals. Mustela supports various projects around the world either through its own foundation or otherwise.


The Mustela Foundation has been supporting research in various areas for more than 35 years. They award scholarships in the following fields of study every year: psychology, psychiatry, pediatrics, neurology, sociology, and history. They also award a number of prizes like the Maieutics Prize, which marks its commitment to midwives in France and Europe, and the annual Social Pediatrics Prize, which recognises projects that benefit children and their families.


They also support various charitable organisations and projects around the world. In Portugal, they support mothers in socio-economic difficulty and have supported the renovation of a youth center in Istanbul. In France, they have funded Paro, a therapeutic robot plush seal that is used to help ease the anxiety of children in a hospital pediatric ward, and support the La Chrysalide project, a shelter for young mothers and their children. In Australia, they support the St. Kilda Mums Association.


With B Corp, Mustela also strengthens its 4 pillars of commitment:

• The guarantee of naturalness and safety of its products; • Respect for the environment with 100% eco-designed products and 100% responsible plant supply chains; • Investment in Dermatological research for almost 70 years; and • Proximity and support for young parents to contribute to the proper development of their children and their relationships

DIVERSITY & INCLUSIVITY

Mustela’s brand representative has expressed to us that Mustela is “convinced that employee diversity is a source of wealth for the company.” They are proud of the fact that they have scored 99/100 on the Gender Equality Index created by the French Ministere du Travail.

Their parent company Expanscience is also “committed to the integration and continued employment of people with disabilities” and has made job offers disabled-friendly. As of the time of correspondence with their representative (September 2020), employees with disabilities make up 4.7% of Expanscience’s workforce, which is 1.5% more than the average for the derma-cosmetics and beauty industry. They also continue to make progress in this area, with the support of the Handiem and Arpejeh associations.

They have also signed the Parental Rights Charter which provides, among other things, working time and leave arrangements, particularly in the event of sickness/hospitalization of children, and a subscription a childcare and tutoring solutions platform. They also offer expecting mothers priority access to home working, working time arrangements in the event of Assisted Reproductive Treatment, salary continuance regardless of seniority and a systematic increase (based on the category average increase on return from maternity leave), and a Maternity Welcome Pack (includes manuals on pregnancy and Mustela maternity products).

There’s a lot to love about the brand, not least of which is the effort and care they put into making sure you won’t have to compromise on quality and safety for sustainability and vice versa. It’s rare to find brands as big as Mustela trying as hard as they do to make sure they are sustainable on all fronts - from their ingredients to their labour practices and inclusivity. It’s refreshing to see. So if you’re an expecting mum looking for skin care products for you, your little bubba, and the rest of the family, or have a baby and want to be sure you’re using safe products that tread lightly on Mother Earth, consider giving Mustela products a try. It just might be the safe, effective, and sustainable range you’ve been looking for.

Mustela is available in worldwide through pharmacies and its online retail partners.