If you get confused when you look at the ingredients of skincare products, you’re not alone! Almost all cosmetics claim to feature natural ingredients – but how do you know if the formulations are 100% natural and don’t contain any nasties?
What goes on to our body goes into our body, so understandably more and more people want to know if their skincare products are safe for them and the environment.
Whether you have sensitive skin, allergies or simply want to follow a clean beauty routine, these are the ingredients to look out for and avoid:
To prolong shelf life, cosmetics companies use parabens in their formulations to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea, given many of us leave cosmetics lurking in our bathroom cabinets for months on end – even years! However, whilst these preserve your products for longer, they’ve actually been found to cause hormone and reproductive problems in men and women.
Whilst natural cosmetics do come with a shorter shelf-life, you can rest assured they only contain pure ingredients that are kind to your skin.
These are derived from coal tar sources, which let’s face it, doesn’t sound like something you’d want to apply to your skin. They’ve been found to irritate the skin, so in our opinion, are best left out of skincare products!
Believe it or not, this can even be found in products marked ‘unscented’. The term ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on a product label can actually be hiding lots of toxic chemicals that aren’t listed and haven’t been tested for toxicity. As the term ‘fragrance’ is used to protect a company’s secret formula, manufacturers are not obliged to include the ingredients on their label. These unlisted ingredients can include skin irritants that trigger allergies or asthma – which isn’t what you want to happen when you’re spraying your favourite scent!
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
This can be found in products that are foaming (think shower gels, bubble bath, face washes) and can irritate the skin, lungs and eyes. Foaming products can actually leave your skin feeling dry, particularly if you have sensitive skin to start with. If you suffer with this, try a natural cream-based cleanser instead – it may not foam but it will leave your skin feeling super soft, nourished and healthy.
Ever accidentally rubbed shampoo in your eye? Yup, we’ve all been there! Foaming products like shampoo and bubble bath can contain a chemical called DEA, which has been found to be a skin and eye irritant that can cause contact dermatitis. There are lots of natural alternatives out there that are much kinder to your skin, and still work just as effectively, if not better!
OK, so we’re not talking about what’s in your morning brew here! TEA (or Triethanolamine) can be found in products like soaps, make-up and perfume. It’s a fragrance ingredient, pH adjuster and surfactant and has been found to cause mild-moderate skin irritation. It’s harmful to fish and other wildlife too, which isn’t ideal if, like us, you want to minimise your impact on the environment.
Also known as ‘Polyethylene Glycol’, PEG is used as an emulsifier to allow oil to be mixed with water-based ingredients in products like facial cleansers. However, PEG has been found to upset the moisture balance of the skin and even accelerate ageing (which is something your skincare regime should most certainly not do!)
This is particularly harmful to your body when poorly refined and can be found in cosmetics like lip balms, oils and lotions. It’s actually a byproduct of petroleum that can clog pores and interfere with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Our advice is to stick to products that allow your skin to breathe. Mineral oil can help your skin to hold onto moisture, but it prevents it from absorbing moisture too!
Did you know that some cosmetic brands add small bits of plastic called ‘microbeads’ to their exfoliators that wreak havoc with our waterways? These polluting beads end up in our oceans and food chain, and are regularly eaten by marine life and birds! Not sure if your scrub contains microbeads? If it does, the ingredients list will include polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethylmethacrylate, PET, PTFE or PMMA. Whilst products containing microbeads are still currently available to buy, the UK government has pledged to ban the use of them in cosmetics in 2017 – hooray!
If you’re ever in doubt when it comes to skincare ingredients, our advice is to opt for brands that state their skincare is 100% natural. And remember, if a product’s packaging states it contains a natural ingredient, that doesn’t always mean all of the ingredients are natural.