Buyer Beware! Read the ingredient list before buying
When shopping, please remember to read the ingredient list on any personal care product prior to purchase.
Really think about whether the ingredients are substances you wish to apply to your skin or the skin of your loved ones.
Unfortunately, the labels ‘natural’, ‘organic’, and ‘pure’ are used indiscriminately and may not accurately reflect what is in the bottle.
Terms such as ‘fragrance’ and the French word ‘parfum’ are used as a stand-alone ingredient on many a label across a range of products – perfume, cologne, bubble bath, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, chapstick, bath salts, soaps (liquid & bars) etc.
‘Fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ are not ingredients in and of themselves. A manufacturer may be trying to disguise synthetic, laboratory-created scent ingredients added to a product.
If you are purchasing for someone who has said they have allergies to fragrances or scents, ask if they have experienced the difference between synthetic, man-made fragrances versus those derived from nature – or ‘plant-made’.
Also, many commercial products bought off the shelf have been made with ingredients that are added as a preservative, emulsifier or fixative. Check for these on the ingredient list as well.
Read more about David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen cosmetic chemicals to avoid.
Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of a product. Some are nature-derived – such as vitamin E, grapefruit seed extract, rosemary extract. Nature-derived preservatives slow down the oxidation process which extends shelf-life, but not indefinitely.
An emulsifier forces water and oil to blend. Used in shampoos, conditioners, face, hand, body creams etc. Whenever someone tries to combine water & oil to make a cream, an emulsifier and preservative is required.
I do not work with emulsifiers. All my water-based products and eau fraîches must be shaken prior to each use. And my skin moisturizers are blended in a base of botanical oils.
A fixative makes a scent last as long as possible. The use of a fixative with a synthetic fragrance, in my opinion, is a troublesome combination. I have memories of testing a department store perfume only to have it linger on my clothing until said clothing was washed.
My perfumes are blended with essential oils in a base of jojoba and fractionated coconut oils and will last up to 2 hours on the skin, gradually releasing the various scent notes of the blend.
Keep in mind, that even with essential oils that are derived from nature, too much of nature can still cause a dermal reaction or a headache if you are diffusing say ylang ylang for example.
And not all essential oils or natural ingredients are of equal quality.
Here is a quick reminder of particularly toxic ingredients I wrote about in another article. Click here for the full article.
- Synthetic Fragrances: Listed broadly as ‘fragrance’ on labels. May cause skin irritation and headaches. Choose instead fragrance-free products or those that list only essential oils, not fragrance.
- Parabens: Found in toothpaste, shampoo, makeup and moisturizers – any ingredients with methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-, listed as well as isobutylparaben. Animal studies reveal that these have estrogenic effects.
- Petroleum distillates: Often listed as liquid paraffin or petroleum. The European Union has restricted or banned these ingredients because of their association with cancer.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate: Harsh ingredient found in face & body cleansers.
- Phthalates: Are plasticized chemicals that are suspected endocrine disrupters. Listed as DBP or phthalates on nail polish, shampoo, and fragrance labels.
- Diethanolamine: Listed as DEA on shampoo labels. Intended to increase lather, it has been shown to increase liver tumors in lab animals.
- Hydroquinone: Skin-lightening agent in skin creams and under-eye treatments – evidence linking this ingredient to cancer in lab animals.
- Formaldehyde: May still be found in nail polish & hair-straightening salon treatments even though it is known as a skin and respiratory system irritant and considered a carcinogen by health agencies.
- Phenylenediamine: Ingredient found in hair dyes – PPD – may cause irritation to the lungs and nervous system.
- Talc: a suspected carcinogen found in body powder and makeup. Look for cornstarch-based or talc-free formulas instead.
Reference: Martha Stewart, Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others, 2013 (p. 240).