'Clean Beauty' is a term used to describe cosmetics that don't contain ingredients that are suspected of being 'toxic'. It can also be used to label products that are the result of sustainable and/or ethical business practices. While 'clean beauty' is doing amazing things for the cosmetic industry such as paving the way for improvements and helping consumers to become more informed, the use of the term does imply that any brand not touting the 'clean beauty' label is toxic and unethical... and this is causing widespread panic among buyers.
But never fear! We are here to put your mind at ease. With an increasing number of brands adopting a 'clean beauty' profile, we feel that now is a good time to debunk some of the myths about cosmetic ingredients and give you the tools to do your own research.
MYTH #1: 'Clean beauty' brands are vegan friendly and only made from natural and organic ingredients.
Many clean beauty brands are vegan friendly, all natural and made from organic sources. But so are many of the ingredients that they actively avoid. Parabens, talc, palm oil etc: are naturally occurring products derived from earth and plants. It is how they are obtained, how they are used and in what concentration that will determine whether it is good or bad. Products that try to avoid natural ingredients tend to use synthetic alternatives. For example, you may have a product that advertises as being 'all natural' which uses Cera Alba (Bees Wax), and you may have a product that is advertised as 'vegan' using a synthetic wax. Both or neither could be considered 'clean', depending on your definition of the term and the other ingredients used. So if you feel strongly about whether the products you use are vegan or natural, preservative free etc: it will be in your interest to read the ingredients.
MYTH #2: Avoid all sulphates (SLS).
Some substances have very similar names and it is easy to get confused. To use an example, we can look at sodium laureth sulphate vs sodium lauryl sulphate.
Sodium laureth sulphate is a mild cleansing agent often derived from coconuts. It is often found in facial cleansers and shampoos to create a lather or foam. Sodium lauryl sulphate is a surfactant and sometimes even small amounts can be sensitising to skin and more likely to cause a reaction. So if some sulphates can be beneficial, it is not necessary to discount all sulphates. If you have sensitive skin and are wanting to avoid a particular ingredient, ensure that you are looking for the correct ingredient as you may be confusing it with something else!
MYTH #3: PEGS / glycols irritate skin.
Glycols, particularly propylene glycol and butylene glycol, are ingredients commonly found in cosmetics. They are often derived from things like vegetable glycerine and are used as texture enhancers. They also help with hydration and stabilising a product so that they are less likely to melt or freeze in varying weather conditions. The hysteria surrounding glycols comes from interpretations of the Medical Safety Data Sheet.
Every substance has a public Medical Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that will list potential health hazards and side effects, and some of these can be horrifying to read! But it is important to note that the MSDS will often refer to a substance in a high concentration, sometimes 100%, and that often the amount of a substance used in cosmetics is sometimes less than 1%. Just the same as drinking one glass of red wine every few days has positive health effects for your gut, and drinking 3 bottles in one evening has negative health effects; the difference in concentration is what determines whether the product has positive health effects or negative health effects.
Some websites have labelled glycols as 'antifreeze' and claim that they are sensitising. Almost every substance is sensitising to your skin when used in large amounts, including plain old salt water (saline) which lists some alarming health effects in the MSDS! So before you completely write off glycols, investigate how much is being used, how it is being manufactured, and whether this is a concern for you.
MYTH #4: Talc is carcinogenic.
In it's purest form, talc is a mineral composed of magnesium, hydrogen, oxygen and silicone and anhydrous (no water) magnesium silicate. It is often used as the main ingredient of cosmetic powders and is effective at absorbing moisture, as is safe for this use. But when it is mined, talc is found in close proximity to asbestos (another naturally occurring mineral) which is a known carcinogen, and so it can become contaminated.
Cosmetic regulations require screening of talc to ensure there is no presence of asbestos, however you can still take precautions. You can prevent it from entering the body by using it only on the skins surface (not where skin is compromised) and not in the form of loose powders that could be inhaled etc. But if you choose to use products that do not contain talc, alternatives include corn starch, rice powder, mica, silica, boron nitride, nylon-12.
MYTH #5: Parabens and preservatives cause cancer.
Parabens are naturally found in berries, vegetables and plants as a defence against mould and harmful bacteria. As a result they have been used in cosmetics as natural preservatives. Products that avoid the use of parabens may use other natural or synthetic preservatives.
Studies have shown that parabens contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and people have been very cautious of parabens since. However, these results were based on high concentrations of parabens being consumed, which is not equivalent to the less than 1% applied topically in cosmetics. It is comparable to the benefits of using a small amount of lavender oil outside the body, and the health risks of consuming a large quantity of lavender oil internally. How a product is used changes its efficacy. Humans currently consume more parabens in their food than in any other form, and many of those foods are found to be effective at preventing cancer and promoted by health professionals.
Parabens are now the most tested form of preservative in the cosmetic industry and are considered safe for this use. Whether or not you choose to avoid parabens is your personal choice.
So here is a summary of our top tips to conducting your own research into cosmetic ingredients:
1) Make sure that your spelling of the ingredient is correct to ensure you are not confusing it with a different ingredient.
2) Take into account that different concentrations can completely change a product.
3) Read the instructions and use as directed.
Transparency is key.
A good brand will explain why an ingredient is being used in a particular product. At Satori Minerals, we endeavour to provide you with as much product information as possible through our website and social media channels; but if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!