Due to the rising
awareness and concern about toxins in the environment, skin care companies are
increasingly promoting green cosmetics. Many are labeling such cosmetics as
organic, natural, green, eco- friendly or biodynamic. It is important to
understand what this means and whether all of them good for our skins.
A natural or eco-
friendly product will usually contain plant based ingredients, e.g. herb oils
etc, but it does not mean that the product is entirely absent of chemical
ingredients. An organic product, on the other hand, should not include at any
point during its manufacturing process, pesticides, artificial fertilizers or
synthetic chemicals. The entire manufacturing process of organic cosmetics is
important, from how the plant materials and other ingredients are grown, harvested,
stored, transported and eventually processed and packaged. Producing organic
cosmetics is a methodology whereby the purest possible products are grown,
harvested and processed.
A popular rule of
thumb when a green or eco-friendly skin care product is considered for
purchase, is whether it is good enough to eat. It is only then that it should
be good enough to be applied to the skin. This is because the skin is the
largest organ of the body and it readily absorbs many ingredients in skin care preparations.
This is both good and potentially harmful. Good, because it means that the skin
can be nourished from the outside with wonderful ingredients, but when skin
care products contain unsafe ingredients that are absorbed into the system,
this may be harmful.
Many skin care
products contain emollients, which prevent dryness by acting as a barrier and
healing agent; humectants which attract and retain water that keep the skin
moist; cleaning agents which are substances capable of dissolving oils so that
they can be rinsed away with water; and preservatives.
In some ways
these ingredients may be bad for the skin when they are of synthetic nature.
emollients are occlusive, coating the skin and preventing respiration (much
like plastic wrap). Apart from causing allergies, many are also not
bio-degradable. Natural emollients nourish the skin and are of edible quality.
in cosmetic products are sourced from animals, e.g. collagen and lanolin. They
are not necessarily harmless, because the animal may have been dipped or
treated with chemical pesticides and the product derived from it may then
contain traces of the pesticides. Manychemical/synthetic humectants also form a
suffocating film on the skin to prevent moisture loss, whereas a natural
ingredient attracts water from the surrounding air and holds it where an
increased level of hydration is needed.
agents in skin cleansers and shampoos often contain potent carcinogens and
strip natural oils.
care products are routinely formulated to have a shelf life in excess of three
This is largely a
function of lengthy distribution channels and market behaviour necessitating
long turn-around times. In order to achieve such substantial shelf lives, these
products often contain large amounts of preservatives to prevent spoilage
and they fall in a group of usually four synthetic parabens, which are cellular
toxins that penetrate the skin and have been shown to cause allergic reactions
and dermatitis. Natural preservatives which are preferable to these parabens
include tea tree essential oil or grapefruit seed extract.
While there is no
single, universally accepted set of guidelines yet for labeling cosmetics as
green, natural or organic, the terms “certified organic” and “certified
natural” are governed by a number of internationally recognized certification
bodies and it would be wise to search for skin care products with the logo of a
certifying body on the label. This is really the only way of being guaranteed
integrity and authenticity in every ingredient in the product.
Charne le Roux