As the public demands fewer chemicals and more good-for-you ingredients in personal care products, many companies have responded by incorporating more plant-based ingredients in their formulations, some going as far as to be sure those ingredients are organic. But does that mean the products are safe to use, particularly if you’ve survived cancer, or if you have compromised skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis?
In today’s market, “organic” and “natural” just aren’t good enough. A product may have organic ingredients, but still contribute to dry skin. It may have natural ingredients, but cause allergic reactions. It may be organic and natural, and still contain hormone-altering ingredients. So how can you tell what’s safe and what’s not?
Here are a few key things to watch for.
Ingredients used. This is probably the most important thing when it comes to safety in personal care products. What ingredients are used? Are there any that could be potential hormone-disruptors, like phthalates and preservatives? Have any been connected with other health hazards? Are some of them harsh on the skin, like sulfates, or actually drying to the skin, like petroleum products? If you’re looking for products with safe ingredients, take my Ingredients to Avoid list with you when you go shopping. I’ve made it easy for you!
Potential for reactions. Some ingredients, though they may be generally safe, have a higher potential for causing allergic reactions than others. Some essential oils, for example, may actually be harsh on the skin, or cause allergic reactions in some people. Some preservatives, like ureas, are well established as encouraging the development of contact dermatitis, while others, like parabens, are often reported to cause rashes. Sodium lauryl sulfate can cause eye irritations and allergic reactions. Avoiding these ingredients, particularly if you’re sensitive, is key to staying safe.
Type of preservatives used. There’s no doubt that personal care products need some kind of preservatives. Otherwise they become contaminated with microorganisms, and that’s definitely not safe. But what type of preservatives are used? Ureas (which can form formaldehyde), parabens, and some other types have been linked with health problems, but still they’re used in a wide variety of products. Safer options are those approved by organizations that set high standards for safety, like ECOCERT, NaTrue and the Soil Association.
Thoroughness of the testing. Manufacturers of personal care products don’t have to gain FDA approval before they put their products on the market. That means that their safety testing is totally up to them. Do they actually test the product before they sell it? How extensive is that testing? Do they test it in the lab to be sure it remains free of microorganisms and that it remains stable over time? Do they conduct consumer testing to see if the product is satisfactory to users? A program of rigorous testing helps ensure a safe and effective product.
If you’re curious about how “safe” your products are, try these few tips:
- Buy from reputable brands known for their safety, like Kahina Giving Beauty, Jurlique, RMS Beauty, Waleda, Sophyto, Marie Veronique Organics, and others.
- Read labels, always, read labels!
- Organic is a good start, but just because it says organic or natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. Look a little deeper.
- Know yourself-what are you allergic to? Do you have sensitive skin? Use my Ingredients to Avoid list, and be extra cautious with harsh ingredients.
- Check out the website of the company you’re buying from for more information on their policies.
- Check your favorite products against the Safe Cosmetics database.
- Shop at locations known for carrying safer products.
Are you seeking safe personal care products? Do you have suggestions?
Photo courtesy calignosus via Flickr.com.