Fairly Wholesome | alive
How can you choose really clean beauty products? First, do some research on preservatives, packaging, and pigments that may hurt you, then focus on better alternatives.
Whether or not you enjoy wearing cosmetics, you likely use soap, shampoo, some type of skin moisturizer, and deodorant on a regular basis. And while even natural beauties want to smell clean, the ingredients in some of these products can have ugly consequences
Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of what to look for in your personal care products.
Toxins in personal care products are often chemicals that are designed to prevent bacteria from spoiling your purchase. Unfortunately, some of these preservatives have been identified as irritants to the eyes, lungs, and skin. Some are even carcinogenic and have caused DNA damage to sperm. The compromise hardly seems worthwhile.
For example, since formaldehyde is an effective preservative, it’s often found in beauty products like nail polish and treatments, as well as keratin hair straighteners. Formaldehyde is an irritant to the lungs, eyes, nose, throat and skin at best and has been linked to asthma in children. In the worst case, it is a suspected carcinogen. And while you may be very lucky to avoid embalming liquid in your moisturizer, you may not be able to
know that other preservatives slowly release formaldehyde over time.
Some of the most common formaldehyde releasers in personal care products include DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, and imidazolidinyl or diazolidinyl urea. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research suggests these ingredients cause skin hypersensitivity and should not – or should – be used by people with atopic dermatitis
Parabens are another family of chemical preservatives that have toxic effects on our health. Parabens (especially methyl paraben) are found to be intact in the skin, body fat, umbilical cord blood, placenta, breast milk of breastfeeding women, amniotic fluid, seminal fluid, and urine because they are inexpensive and do not cause sensitivity reactions on the skin and in healthy breast and breast tumor tissues. Since they build up in tissues, safe exposure to parabens is not at all.
Maintain your health
While no single natural preservative works as well as its chemical counterparts, combining several of them into one formula can be clean.
Look for beauty and personal care products that take advantage of the natural antimicrobial activity of essential oils. For example, one study showed that essential oils from Lavandula augustifolia (lavender), Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree), and Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) provide better microbial protection than the chemical preservative methylparaben against pathogens. These pathogens include Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that commonly cause skin infections, and E. coli.
Honey is another valuable addition to a formulation as it regulates pH to help prevent infection. This skin softening ingredient also attracts and traps water in the skin. Manuka honey has particularly strong antibacterial activity and inhibits methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains.
Packaging can also help prevent product spoilage – think pumping systems, one-way valve tops, and pipes with narrow openings. For all products that come in jars, use a clean spatula and wash the applicators regularly.
Mimicry is cruel
Xenoestrogens (say, “zeenoestrogens”) are chemicals that mimic some structural parts of estrogen so they can bind to receptor sites and act as or disrupt your body’s natural estrogens. Parabens are xenoestrogens, and there are many others that can be found in personal care products.
Phthalates (such as “thay lates”) used in some plastics and nail polishes are a cause for concern. In animal studies, diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP) has been shown to cause male reproductive and developmental toxicity, as well as female reproductive and liver toxicity. In addition, studies suggest that phthalates can promote obesity. Prenatal exposure is also a problem.
Bisphenol A is another well-known xenoestrogen that is still used in packaging to increase plasticity. So look for BPA-free plastic containers and canned food. Metal estrogens include aluminum, antimony, barium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and others so you should limit your exposure to these as well.
Extracts of Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile), Aloe Vera and Calendula officinalis (marigold) also show antimicrobial activity.
For a one-page guide to the 10 most important toxins to avoid in personal care products, visit Umweltdefence.ca/toxicten.
There are 42 formaldehyde releasers that are used in blush, eye shadow, shampoo, toiletries, and other household products.
The colors of your cosmetics are also worth checking out.
Many pigments are identified on ingredient lists with the letters CI (color index) followed by a number. They can also appear as the letters D&C (drug and cosmetic use) followed by the name of a color and number. Some of these colors have been found to be irritating. Some have been restricted over the decades due to cancer links.
The safety of these pigments is currently being researched. For example, a recent laboratory study found that dyes, which are commonly used in products like face creams, foundations, lipsticks, and even sunscreen products (CI 45410, CI 45380, and CI 75810), are activated by sunlight to produce free radicals, phototoxic effects, and DNA damage . It was found that CI 45410 may cause genetic mutations even without exposure to sunlight.
The metal estrogens copper and aluminum are also used as pigments in personal care products.
Of course, many synthetic paints seem safe, but why take a risk? Opt for personal care products that use herbal and natural pigments. Natural and mineral makeup has come a long way over the past decade. We no longer have to choose between muddy, flat shades of orange-brown. Look for creams and powders in the textures and colors you expect from high fashion brands.
Many clean makeups use iron oxides as a pigment. These chemical compounds are made up of iron and oxygen and come as yellow, red, black, or brown powder. Mica is a typically cream-colored, shimmering mineral that is often used as the basis for lighter pigments in eye shadow and blush. White titanium dioxide can be added to pigments to create color tones.
Vibrant red is the most difficult color to create naturally. Carmine, for example, is a red pigment made by cooking cochineal insects. Cruelty-free lines do not contain crimson.
You can also find ingredients like curcumin made from the spiced turmeric to offer yellow-orange hues for skin care products. Annatto comes from the seeds of the achiote tree and is another natural yellow-orange dye.
Natural hair colors provide a fresh note of henna with combinations of fruit and flower oils that provide a semi-permanent finish.
The bottom line in choosing personal care and beauty products is that you need to be an informed consumer. Contact your local natural health retailer’s experts for assistance. Many stores have strict guidelines about what ingredients are allowed on their shelves. You probably won’t find any ugly surprises there!
What is clean beauty?
> Non-toxic ingredients: ingredients can be natural or synthetic, but not toxic.
> Honest and transparent labels: All ingredients are listed and not grouped under an umbrella term such as “fragrance”.
> Simple formulas: less is more.
What is green beauty?
> Environmentally friendly
> Cruelty free
> Plant derived
> Sustainably sourced
When adding collagen, which has been linked to reduced signs of aging and increased skin hydration, be careful about how your collagen was obtained.
When shopping for collagen from farm animals such as beef (bovine) or pork collagen (pig collagen), choose a supplement that is certified organic. As with choosing other organic animal products, this will help minimize your potential exposure to toxins. If you want to try marine collagen, look for a sustainably sourced seafood product. It is expected that a growing number of sustainable marine collagen supplements will hit shelves as studies and supply chains expand.
Here are some other tips for buying collagen.
> Choose hydrolyzed collagen. This is collagen that has been broken down into smaller segments (called “peptides”). It’s easier to absorb.
> Consider combination products. You can get additional benefits by choosing products that combine collagen with other skin-loving nutrients like vitamin C.
> Know your priorities. Do you want to ingest collagen quickly with minimal effort? A liquid supplement might be your best bet. Prefer not to try your collagen? Opt for a powder that can be mixed into food or beverages.
seal of approval
In both Canada and the United States, you may see seals or statements indicating that a personal care product is organic or contains organic ingredients.
For example, you can often find USDA (US Department of Agriculture) personal care products at your local natural health dealer. This means that all or some of the ingredients were grown without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or harsh pesticides and that soil health and organic farming practices were a priority.
Here’s how to decode these USDA seals and instructions so you know exactly what you’re getting.
|USDA organic certification||What it means|
|“100 Percent Organic” (usually accompanied by USDA Orgainc Seal)||The gold standard: Contains 100 percent certified organic ingredients|
|“Bio” (usually accompanied by
USDA organic seal)
|> contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients
> The remaining 5 percent must be ingredients
> All agricultural ingredients in the product must be organic if they are not available
|“Made from organic _____” (up to three specific ingredients)||> contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients
> The remaining 30 percent must be ingredients
Products that are made with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can only mention certain organic ingredients in the list of ingredients – not elsewhere on the packaging.