About 12 or so years ago I discovered Dr. Andrew Weil’s book, ‘Eating Well for Optimal Health‘. I learned the importance of reading food labels and what kinds of ingredients to avoid. For example, product packaging advertises ‘Trans Fat’ free labels, yet some of these products still contain hydrogenated oils and you will find this listed on the back of the box in the ingredients. If a product contains less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving, they are considered to be trans-fat free, even though they aren't. The moral of the story is to read your ingredients.
The same can be said for cosmetic labeling. Just because a product claims to be ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, it doesn’t meant it is healthy. The ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ industry is booming, which means there are a plethora of companies out there trying to get a piece of the pie. So please, read the labels of your cosmetics and skin care products. Below are a few common ingredients used in products marked as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ that I believe you should be aware of if you are in the market for a truly natural, organic product.
Coca betaine – a synthetic derived from coconut oil. It sounds so pretty when they tell you in the ingredient list that it’s a coconut extract, but it is synthetic (which is the exact opposite of natural!!), To add insult to injury, it is a known allergen and can cause contact dermatitis.
Fragrance – Synthetic fragrances are comprised of many toxins and chemicals that can be absorbed into the blood stream and are highly allergenic. There is also the possibility that they contain phthalates and/or phenoxyethanol (more on that below).
Grapefruit seed extract – a preservative used for its anti-microbial properties. While GSE in itself is harmless, it is often manufactured by combining methylparaben, triclosan, benzethonium chloride, and glycerin with the seeds and pulp of grapefruit. It is not necessary for these additional ingredients to be disclosed. This creates a problem because you don’t know if you’re getting true grapefruit seed extract or if you’re getting the beefed-up version of GSE. The latter being most likely since it has proven to be more effective.
Emulsifying wax – Most vegetable based emulsifying waxes on the market today contain trace levels of carcinogens. Emulsifying wax is used to hold the oil and water in a lotion or cream together and make it spreadable. It doesn’t add any beneficial nutrition to the product.
Stearic acid – Another emulsifying agent that can be a bad skin irritant. If you must use a product with stearic acid, make sure it’s vegetable based, not animal based. It has been known to be carcinogenic and comedogenic.
Phenoxyethanol – The ingredient label will brag that it’s a “paraben-free preservative”, but it is a synthetic ether alcohol preservative that is made from carcinogenic compounds. It is also a common ingredient in fragrances, even those that say they are “phthalate free”.
Phthalates – This is probably one of the worst… thankfully it is slowly being pulled from products like baby bottles and water bottles. But, sadly it is still a common additive in synthetic fragrances as well as “fragrance free” products (Believe it or not, fragrance chemicals are added to “fragrance-free” products to cover up the natural smell of the ingredients).
Not everyone cares whether their food is cage free or organic, and probably fewer people still are concerned with the types of ingredients in their skin care products. But, for those who are concerned with using clean, honest, natural ingredients, I hope that this has been informative.
Interested in learning more? You can read more here.