Beliefs and Perspectives on the ingredients that constitute ‘natural cosmetic’ products can be drastically discrepant. In the hunt for the perfect appearance, media channels have consistently prescribed the use of cosmetics, regardless of the harmful substances they may be comprised of.
A quick google search for the definition of cosmetics reads ‘Something superficial that is used to cover a deficiency or defect’ A definition that is ironic in its applicability. In that the largest cosmetic companies have often been found guilty of concealing their own environmental footprint.
A Toxic Affair
With the global cosmetics industry valued at around the £150 billion mark it is also clear as to how certain large corporations may have justified the use of non-biodegradable ingredients. A substance that has recently gained notoriety for its devastating impact on our ecosystems is the microbead, a spherical bead of plastic you may find in your toothpaste or shower gel.
A single tube of exfoliant can contain up to 360,000 of these millimetric plastic beads. Meaning once we have finished washing our face we unknowingly unleash thousands of these miniature wrecking-balls into our ecosystems where they go on to 'gently exfoliate' the insides of seabirds and marine life.
The worst part? The microbead is only one of many substances threatening to cause irreparable damage to the environment, with U.S reports discovering that 12.5% of the 82,000 (10,250) ingredients used in cosmetics are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, parabens, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors.
With brands such as L'Oreal and Avon boasting a ubiquitous influence in society it is perhaps unsurprising that so many consumers have been blinded from these truths.
Joining the Bandwagon
More and more cosmetics companies have begun to falsely claim 'organic' status, desperate to cash in by adding a shiny 'green veneer' to their products.
A number of high-profile companies have been found guilty of this greenwashing trend. It is therefore, high time to familiarise yourself with them to avoid being slapped by a paraben backhand.
- Research conducted by the Soil Association - the UK's leading food and organic certification body, uncovered that both "Nivea pure" and "Nivea natural" hand cream falsely claimed to be 95% natural. As both products were found to contain Methylisothiazolinone, a preservative with potentially carcinogenic properties.
- The Origins brand owned by the more familiar cosmetic giant Estee Lauder claims that their skincare products are formulated with 'organic' ingredients. However one of the top 3 constituent ingredients in the "Perfect World SPF 25 Age Defence Moisturiser" is octocrylene. A substance that can damage DNA when skin is exposed to sunlight.
The Good Guys
Thankfully, beyond these hedonistic influencers a new awareness is growing. An awareness that has led customers to pause, reflect and question the innocence of products before buying.
Owing to this shift in awareness, a number of websites now provide databases of safe and unsafe skincare ingredients, saving you from the hassle of googling nineteen syllable substances. Paraphenylenediamine, anyone?
- The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database lists ingredients for over 76,000 products with in- house scientists cross-checking the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.
- Safecosmetics.org Categorises the dangers of ingredients into respective lists of severity. Product categories include: shampoo, conditioner, creams, sunscreen, colour cosmetics, hair colour and skin lighteners.
- BDIH Certification: BDIH is a German association that outlines guidelines for certified natural cosmetics throughout Europe, BDIH defines natural products as those with high-quality plant-based ingredients and no synthetic colours or fragrances, silicones, paraffin, or petroleum based products.
The Byron Way
With this awareness a number of product ranges entirely transparent in their approach to producing natural cosmetics have come to light. Research strongly indicates these smaller niche companies actually combine to service a large part of the market giving consumers a choice to 'go natural'. So next time you need to replenish your cosmetic arsenal, read the labels, know your 'bad' ingredients and support the companies that give back!