The True Story of Cosmetics

Since the advent of petroleum ingredients in the mid 1900’s, chemicals have been proliferated throughout our world. The practice of using some substances with the assumption that it was safe until proven otherwise became routine. Only limited research has been done on many of the chemicals that can be legally used in cosmetics.

There are three types of chemicals that are of particular concern. These are commonly found in skin care products and cosmetics:

  1. chemicals that cause cancer or damage our DNA
  2. endocrine disrupting chemicals or hormone disruptor which interfere with our hormonal systems
  3. persistent organic pollutants that won’t dissipate in our body or the environment and accumulate and cause increased exposure levels over time

There is growing concern that daily exposure to a combination of toxic chemicals found in most cosmetics, skin care and personal care products could result in detrimental long term health effects.

“Personal care products expose children to an average of 60 chemicals every day that they can breathe in or absorb through their skin.” Environmental Working Group

Remember your skin is the largest organ of your body and it absorbs many substances it comes into contact with. Consider carefully what you put on your skin as chemicals applied topically can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and through that, to vital organs.

Do the labelling laws protect you from these chemicals?

Cosmetics and toiletries ingredients are only loosely regulated. Legislation on labelling is not universal.

Current legislation requires cosmetics labels to list ingredients in descending order. As a general rule, the first third of ingredients makes up 90 to 95 per cent; the second third makes up 5 to 8 per cent; and the last third makes up 1 to 3 per cent of the product.

Currently, there is a lack of labelling legislation protecting the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. Often skin care products can be labelled ‘natural’ provided at least one per cent of their ingredients are from natural sources. Manufacturers can claim that a product is ‘organic’ when it contains only one organic ingredient with possibly hundreds of others that are not.

‘Natural’ is a term used widely and loosely in the cosmetics and toiletry industry. Many companies use it to make their products appear ‘green and eco-friendly’ when in fact they contain multiple synthetic chemicals which are anything but ‘natural’.

There are no official definitions for misleading terms commonly used by those in the cosmetics industry such as ‘ hypoallergenic’, ‘low sensitivity’, ‘unscented’, ‘non-comedogenic’ and ‘dermatologist tested and approved’.

Many chemicals will never be listed on the ingredients listing because they are hidden within the generic term of ‘parfum or fragrance’ or they are not actually ingredients, rather a by-product of manufacturing.

The Story of Cosmetics was released on July 21st, 2010. Produced with Free Range Studios and hosted by Annie Leonard, this seven-minute film by The Story of Stuff Project examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo.

You will be shocked with what you find……. the truth the cosmetics industry won’t want you to know.

Here are 7 steps you can take to protect yourself from these chemicals:

1) Educate yourself and learn about these toxic chemicals. For a copy of the “Dirty Dozen” Ingredients investigated in the David Suzuki Foundation survey of chemicals in cosmetics, click here. Dr David Suzuki, the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation is an award-winning scientist, geneticist, environmentalist and a world leader in sustainable ecology.

2) Take small steps. Have a look at all your current skin care and cosmetics products. Decide whether you ready need all of them. We have been constantly bombarded with clever marketing campaigns telling us that we need different products for different parts of our bodies even though the ingredients do not actually differ much between each product.

3) Read the labels. Before you reach for the skin care and cosmetics products that you have always used, take some time to look at the labels and consider whether the ingredients are actually toxic and harmful to your health.

4) Choose products that are free from harmful chemicals such as petrochemicals, artificial fragrances, harsh foaming agents, synthetic additives, colourings and animal ingredients. Look for cruelty-free labelling and buy products that have not been tested on animals.

5) The best option is to always choose certified organic skin care and cosmetics products.

To attain a ‘certified organic’ status, a minimum of 95 per cent of all ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be organic, being sourced from a certified organic supplier.

The remaining 5 per cent non-organic ingredients must be all natural, such as natural minerals and other allowable inputs as defined by the Organic Standard. Synthetic chemicals, genetically modified ingredients and harsh chemical processes such as hydrogenation and sulphuration are not allowed. Animal testing is prohibited.

Products labelled as ‘made with certified organic ingredients’ must contain at least 70 per cent of certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). The remaining ingredients must be all natural such as clay and minerals or non-organically produced agricultural ingredients, with strict processing criteria such as no synthetic chemicals or genetically modified ingredients.

6) If certified organic products are not readily available or affordable, choose those that are mineral-based or made with ingredients such as natural pigments and essential oils from plants grown without pesticides or artificial fertilisers.

7) Always do a patch test first to test for an allergic reaction before using any new skin care products. Always seek professional medical advice prior to using essential oils and herbal extracts as they may interact with certain medications and exacerbate underlying illnesses. Do not use essential oils in pregnancy as they can be harmful. Keep them out of reach of children.

Finally, do your bit for the environment. Choose products with minimal packaging and those made from renewable resources. If possible, buy locally produced cosmetics and skin care products and not those shipped half way around the world.

Say ‘No’ to Toxic Chemicals.

Yours to Natural Beauty,