Fashion

UK supplies of fake tan threatened by shortage of key ingredient


The perma-tan is under threat this winter after cosmetics producers reported shortages of an ingredient used in a wide range of fake tan ranges, skin creams and beauty products.

A UK-based self-tan producer, a chemical distribution company and pharmacists have been unable to source their usual supplies of the widely used solvent ethoxydiglycol, which is used to improve the texture of skincare products and to help them spread on the skin.

The ingredient is imported from abroad and used extensively in many high street and high-end skincare products, including face creams, makeup, deodorants and hair dyes.

Sunjunkie, which manufactures its own brand of self-tanning products, as well as under the label of high street retailers, has been struggling to source the ingredient because of disruption in the global supply chain.

“It’s a total nightmare,” said Diane Higham, the director of Stockport-based Sunjunkie.

Diane Higham
Sunjunkie’s Diane Higham discovered supply difficulties after the peak summer sales season. Photograph: Sunjunkie

“It’s a product that goes into a lot of things and you just don’t think that you’re suddenly not going to be able to obtain it anywhere.”

Higham first discovered supply difficulties when looking to restock vital ingredients for her products after the peak summer sales season.

A string of her suppliers in the UK and EU do not have any ethoxydiglycol in stock, and do not know when they will be able to source it. Some experts have raised the rapid growth of the beauty industry in China as a possible reason for the UK shortage.

Other raw materials are also proving difficult to obtain. Higham is concerned about the future availability – and cost – of other essential components including DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and erythrulose, the ingredients that give a tanned colour to skin.

“You can just see the product line suddenly coming to a halt if we haven’t got these major ingredients,” Higham said. She has enough raw materials to keep production going until Christmas but is worried about being able to fulfil orders in the new year.

The UK online pharmacy Medicine Direct looked into the shortage of the product and found it had rocketed in price from £12 to £103 a kilogram.

Nitin Sethi, the managing director of the chemical distribution firm Ascot International, which sources and supplies raw ingredients for the personal care industry, said many items were in short supply.

Ascot imports ethoxydiglycol from the US and India, and Sethi said the price had risen by 30%, while he had been able to source it only “in dribs and drabs” and not in the volume required.

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Sethi found the main ingredients of self-tanning products were in short supply and the prices have gone up by 30-40%. He added: “A month ago I placed an order for 10 metric tonnes of DHA and I only got four tonnes between now and the end of the year.

“Our turnover is down because we are not able to sell what we need to sell because of lack of stock, and the price is high and some people are not willing to pay the price.”

Even though ethoxydiglycol is not used in large quantities in fake tan and other cosmetics, it will not be possible to make the products that include it without requiring costly and time-consuming reformulation.

The high street pharmacy chain Boots said its suppliers had not raised any concerns about the future supply of products containing ethoxydiglycol, while the retailer Superdrug declined to comment on the shortage, and whether it could lead to lack of availability of fake tan and other products.



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