Having been a dedicated user of natural products for years, the Channel 4 special How Toxic Are You, didn't really surprise me all that much. It didn't surprise me that most of the claims made by powerful cosmetic companies are pretty much empty promises, or that most of the high street products, including so called 'natural' ones are pretty toxic. It did bring up some important thoughts and points though, and if you didn't see the show, I'll highlight a few here. For me it always pays to read the labels.
Generally I don't tend to buy a skin care product if it has too many ingredients, especially ones that I can't readily identify. I haven't been quite as diligent though when it comes to shampoos and hand creams. I have used Aveda products for 20 years and was still surprised when they featured their Rosemary shampoo on the show, and that it had many man-made chemicals in it. I have also been guilty of assuming that if a product has alot of natural ingredients at the beginning of the list, then its ok. NOT entirely true.. those parabens sneak in at the end. I am dismayed to know that I have a bottle of Original Source Almond & Coconut bath foam, which I know is not an organic product, but does list many essential oils etc. But then, at the end there are the parabens. And this one: Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer. What?? is that like polystyrene? I couldn't find a suitable definition for this in cosmetics, but acrylate copolymer is listed on a hazardous materials database. Well, it doesn't sound good does it??
I have researched ingredients in the past and A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter is one book I have used. Another book worth seeking out is Milady's Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary by Natalie Michalun which gives a basic education about the skin as well as getting into the ingredients in cosmetics.
Having promoted my fav products on here before, some of which featured on the show (Pure Nuff Stuff!!), I can recommend Olive Organic, run by Pauline Savory as a good online place to pick up many different, highly original brands, including lots of small regional ones. I like the fact that she always offers free samples which allow you to try out different things.
The channel 4 show continues next week with a focus on children's products.
Three major nasties came up in the show this week, which are used in a variety of products from food to cleaners. The first being Parabens, which are preservatives. Ethyl, Methyl, Butyl, Propyl have been linked to breast cancer, as traces of these chemicals were found in breast cancer tissue in a recent British study. The interesting thing for me about the channel 4 show was the blood testing they did on the two women volunteers, before and after changing their products. They had considerably more chemicals in their blood before switching to natural and organic products. Now not all products are created equal, and I have to say I have been disappointed to find out that some 'natural' products that I have purchased recently still have some nasties in them.
The second nasty ingredient to try and avoid is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) which is what makes our shampoo and cleansers foam. It is used in industrial applications as a degreaser. It has many dangerous effects on health which you can read more about by clicking the link. The third nasty to avoid would be Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA) used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and foaming agents. This is by no means exhaustive and I found that Aubrey Organics offers a top ten list of the worst offenders to avoid on their website.
The idea is that most of these nasty ingredients are used in small, relatively harmless proportions, which is why they are allowed to be used at all. What we aren't told is that they build up, are cumulatively toxic and should especially be avoided for young children. We wonder where our cancers come from, and I think we are starting to realise the impact our chemical world is having on us..at least I hope we are. More next week..