I’m really pleased to join Weleda’s #CleanerBeauty campaign which aims to help consumers define what clean beauty means to them. It’s not to just about removing ‘nasties’ from skincare products but, most importantly, about a holistic approach to wellbeing and the importance of ethical values and working practices. In essence, it’s about being clean by name and being clean by nature.
If you find that the amount of skincare products and brands on the market these days can be really confusing, then I’d like you to stop for a second and reflect on why you’re so overwhelmed and who’s making you feel that way…
Personally, I used to find it so tricky to navigate around all the shelves loaded with products that promised to achieve this or that for my skin. I stood there reading all the descriptions and never actually knew which product was right for me. All the marketing jargon didn’t help either – every day I saw magazine or TV ads trying to convince me that one product was better for my skin than the other. Does this sound familiar to you too?
One more thing that’s worth mentioning is mass production. Let’s not kid ourselves – in this day and age it’s all about mass production & a “throwaway culture” wherever you look – clothing and food industries are notorious for this. Conventional skincare industry isn’t any different though. Of course, mass production has its pros and cons. Undoubtedly, producing at a large scale helps brands achieve better economies of scale and, as a result, cheaper prices. On the flip side though, cheaper prices can mean compromised quality of products. That’s obviously a massive generalisation but quite often big brands use cheaper alternatives to quality ingredients as this enables them to maintain competitive prices. Take an average body cream as an example – many brands use mineral oil as the base of their lotions instead of more expensive and skin-nourishing plant-based oils and butters, such as jojoba oil or shea butter. (Mineral oil is also shown in ingredient lists as paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum or paraffin oil and is a by-product of the petroleum industry – yes, you heard that right!) Mass production also means products need to be made so they can sit on shelves for months and months (sometimes even years!) – this means that strong preservatives are used to prevent the products from going off.
There’s currently a lot of hype about natural skincare ingredients, such as coconut oil or shea butter. Many brands are cottoning onto the fact that there are many more conscious buyers out there who want their products to be ‘cleaner’ and ‘safer’. However, just because you see ‘coconut oil’, ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ on the label or within the ingredient list, it may not necessarily mean what you think it means. This “greenwashing” marketing technique is making things even more difficult for those of us who are already confused about which products to choose.
So how can you not fall prey to “greenwashing”?
My three top tips to cut through the marketing jargon are:
- Check ingredient lists and learn to spot which ones to avoid.
- Don’t take a product label/ description at a face value – question why a brand says ‘SLS-free’ or ‘paraben-free’ but is still laden with other harmful ingredients.
- Choose products that come with a respected natural/ organic certification, such as Soil Association, ECO-CERT or NATRUE.
You may also find it helpful to read my blog posts: 6 golden rules for deciphering skincare labels and ingredient lists and Organic skincare and beauty: Why should I choose it?
Put your skincare knowledge to the test
Have a look at the following ingredients in two different products and see for yourself how easy it can be to spot a few of those potentially harmful ingredients:
Here’s an ingredient list is for a body lotion from a very popular brand, Vaseline:
INCI: Water, Petrolatum, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Isopropyl Palmitate, Glycol Stearate, Dimethicone,Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Dihydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Carbomer, Fragrance, Stearamide Amp, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, DMDM Hydantoin, Disodium EDTA, Caramel, Titanium Dioxide
And here’s an ingredient list for a shampoo from Dr. Organic (a brand widely available through Holland & Barrett stores) that claims (very clearly on the label) their product contains organic argan oil when, in fact, it doesn’t:
INCI: Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Aqua, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, Coco glucoside, Glyceryl oleate, Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride, Glycerin, Caprylyl/Capryl glucoside, Argania spinosa (Argan) oil, Citrus aurantium dulcis, Eugenia caryophyllus (Clove) leaf oil, Pelargonium graveolens (Geranium) oil, Citrus limon peel oil, Pogostemon cablin (Patchouli) oil, Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Cinnamon) leaf oil, Aniba rosaeodora (Rosewood) oil, Mentha arvensis herb oil, Citrus nobilis (Mandarin) peel oil, Vanilla planifolia (Vanilla) fruit extract, Mentha spicata herb oil, Kigelia Africana fruit extract, Hibiscus sabdariffa flower extract, Adansonia digitata fruit extract, Sorbitan sesquicaprylate, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate, Benzyl alcohol, Dehydroacetic acid, Citric acid, Limonene, Eugenol, Linalool.
According to Soil Association, this product wouldn’t conform to their organic standards because:
- Argania spinosa (Argan) oil and Citrus Limon peel oil would have to be organic; and
- Two ingredients: Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate and palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride would not be permitted in a certied organic or natural product.
You can find out more about other brands who mislead consumers by using similar marketing tactics in Soil Association’s Come Clean About Beauty Report.
And now, as a comparison, here’s an ingredients list for a natural body lotion from Weleda, certified by NATRUE:
INCI: Water (Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Alcohol, Glycerin, Squalane, Behenyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) Extract, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid, Fragrance* (*from natural essential oils)
Can you clearly see the difference in the number of ingredients and lack of potentially harmful ingredients? Can you now distinguish from false claims made by brands?
I’d really like to know what #CleanerBeauty means to you? How do you navigate through all the marketing jargon?
Key to ingredient lists:
- Ingredients known to have positive benefits
- Ingredients that may cause irritation (especially to sensitive skin)
- Ingredients considered potentially harmful/ toxic