Remember this? You’ll probably recognise it from a Daily Mail article (and others) which highlighted the 515+ chemicals we expose ourselves to on a regular basis.

Seriously. Who wants to use a body lotion which seeps into skin cells (and blood) which has an ingredient used in oven cleaners? (Are we mad?) Our skin is our largest living, breathing organ. It absorbs what we put on it (we’re eating our lipsticks!) It sounds simplistic but if we want our skin to look and feel healthy shouldn’t we treat it – and ourselves – with more respect?

1)Vote with your wallet

Surely we’re too intelligent to still be buying products with potentially risky ingredients in them? But a lot of us are. (How mad is that? The problem is lack of information, even if we do read the label half those long names don’t mean a thing – is it a good long name or a chemical?)

We read the other day about this big baby shampoo brand reformulating its ingredients following pressure to remove formaldehyde in its baby shampoo.  Another big brand is still advertising its “natural” range in a number of women’s magazines and sites but when you check the range’s product labels you’re in for a surprise.  Different countries have different legislation about beauty products. It’s all rather complex so let’s get straight to the point. Which is…

2)Read the label

Luckily, there’s a shortcut to the truth – and this applies to food, too – and it’s called “read the label” (even if you have to get your NASA magnifying glass to decipher the small font).

3) The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Last year Beauty Shortlist tested hundreds of products by innumerable brands (I got to the stage where I could almost recite off the top of my head which ones contained what).  There were brands which were astoundingly pure, organic and amazing to use… others which were good… some OK…some which were OK-ish but which we had reservations about. And then there were the products/brands whose labels were…frankly, shocking.

I was more disappointed than shocked, to tell the truth, thinking of the millions of women (and men) paying money for products with nasties in them. Beauty products are one of life’s treats (a necessity, we say!) so how darn disappointing, surely, if you’ve bought a pot lurking with known carcinogens, allergens and other bad boys. (Of course there are plenty of consumers not particularly bothered by this whole circus – we’re all entitled to buy (into) what we believe and free to buy what we want).

4) If you want to play it safe, use a safe brand

If it all sounds too confusing, find a few good brands and stick to them. Brands live by their ethics/ingredients so if a brand is genuinely pure, natural or organic, its products will be too.

5) Does a long ingredient name mean it’s bad?

Nope. Plants have long Latin names (good) and so do other ingredients. You soon get used to the chemical names, though – see the links at the bottom.

Quick quiz! Which is the nasty? Propylene Glycol or Hyaluronic Acid? Answer: Propylene Glycol (skin irritant).

Despite its long name, hyaluronic acid is of natural origin, and occurs naturally in our bodies -in fact, it’s the most powerful moisture-retainer we know of for keeping skin healthy and gorgeous.  Once you’ve tried it you WILL want it in your skincare because few things plump up skin as well as it does. It’s brilliant and it’s safe. (Feature on HA coming soon). It’s in products by OSKIA, PH ADVANTAGE, REN and many other brands these days – it took off big time in beauty about five years ago although it’s still not familiar to many consumers.

OK, where can I find a listing of Safe/Natural/Organic Beauty Brands?

Have a look at the brands listed on our Breast Cancer Beauty Special page, buy from sites that stock natural brands, such as Pravera, LoveLula and Being Content.  Stick to brands like Dr Hauschka, Weleda, REN, Melvita, Neals Yard, Lavera, A’kin, Organic Surge, Pai Skincare, etc. Here are some of the best links with great info:  Natural Beauty Yearbook 2012 – great brands, great brand directory  The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database  Stacy Malkan’s site, committed to making a difference, she’s a safe cosmetics pioneer  Really useful list of ingredients “best avoided” on Suki Skincare – Loads of ingredients, a mixed bunch of good and bad

You might also like:

Dr. Oz on petroleum jelly – and other beauty no-no’s

The Ecologist “Behind The Label” – various beauty brand “red lights”

Part 2 of The Big Beware

Coming next: All baby products are not formulated equally; Petroleum Jelly (the clue is in the name); Beauty Shortlist’s top ten lip balm picks.

6 responses to “THE BIG BEWARE”

  1. Amia Online says:

    Well written. Key points clearly made. A truly compelling read! This is SUCH an important issue.

  2. vicky ewbank says:

    Excellent article, and self education is key. At Live Native we make one of the purest ranges of Living skincare available and can’t stress enough the importance of reading the labels, avoiding petrochemicals and finding out about the ethics of the company. Skincare should be exactly that, and the same care should extend to our environment too.

  3. Nice article. Thank you. Well researched…quite a lot of work I imagine! You have my old old WordPress theme! Seeing it makes me want to go back it!:))xx

  4. Gem Bolton says:

    Such a fab post – important points, beautifully stated! x

  5. LisaLise says:

    I totally agree about reading labels and checking information! It’s best if the places you are going for information are not misinforming though. The Skin Deep database, listed above, has on numerous occasions been exposed for scaremongering; they list and even post warnings for non-existent ingredients (look up ‘polyparaben’. There is no such thing!). I have seen far too many experts point out far too many flaws in their ‘information’ to trust anything I see on their site.

  6. Maeve says:

    Another fabulously well written article! Well done! I am a connoisseur of ingredients & am always amazed at how many ‘natural’ skincare brands use truly nasty ingredients when there are far superior natural alternatives, the truth comes down to economics… Propylene Glycol is way cheaper than vegetable Glycerine, Hyaluronic Acid is far more expensive that artifical Silicones and cold pressed food grade seed oils are 5 times or more expensive than refined, cosmetic grade oils! Don’t be fooled into paying for expensive big brands, your paying for the name on the bottle not for what’s in the bottle! They will tell you it’s natural because they have no moral or ethical problem with lying to get our money. We need to be vigilant and choose who we endorse. M 🙂