Know Your Ingredients: What to Look for in Skin Care Products

Every few weeks, it seems like you read about a new ingredient that you should avoid at all costs: a new way your lotion or your shampoo or your soap is poisoning you. All those news stories have lead to a boom in organic and natural beauty products, which is great…but can you trust all those leafy green labels and bold “all natural” titles?

If you’d like to expand your beauty routine and try out some new products, here are a few things to look for…and a few things to avoid!

Labels and Packaging
The package is the first step in determining whether a lotion or cream is something you want on your skin every day. Your first instinct is probably to go straight for the ingredients list, but there’s a few simple steps that can eliminate a product long before you slog through all those ingredients. When you’re checking out a new product, start with:

·         “Natural” or “Organic. These words are always a good sign on the label, especially organic. Yes, they’re marketing buzzwords, but they often indicate a company dedicated to natural health and sustainability. Be wary of natural, all-natural, and nature-derived, though! Accordingto the experts at the Environmental Working Group, none of those terms are regulated: a lotion doesn’t have to meet any standards to slap “natural” on a label. It’s a good sign, but always check those ingredients!

·         The Leaping Bunny logo. Grab your favorite lotion out of the bathroom and take a close look at the bottle. Do you see a little outline of a leaping bunny? If not, it may be time to look for a new moisturizer: that logo means that the product is not tested on animals. Not only is animal testing cruel and painful, modern chemistry has made it totally unnecessary. Check any new buy for the leaping bunny logo, or the label “cruelty free” before you add it to your haul.

·         Fair Trade. The global marketplace has given us some downright magical new beauty products, from argan oil to shea butter to coconut oil. These are wonderful, nutritional, and all-natural ingredients…so of course there’s a catch! Ingredientslike argan and shea often come from small farming communities in third-world countries. While the demand is great for those small farmers, you may pay more for a bottle of lotion than the farmers made for 250 pounds of oil. Fair trade products simply guarantee that the growers were fairly paid for their labor: you’ve probably seen the label on coffee and chocolate, but it’s just as important in beauty and skin care.


The Ingredients List
Now for the fun part – that ingredients list. The common knowledge says “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it,” but plenty of those long, complicated names are entirely safe, and often entirely organic! There are a few red flags to steer clear of, though. Check your ingredients list for some of these warning signs:

·         Parabens and PEGS. Parabens are a class of preservatives that often turn up in products with lots of plant extracts. They prevent natural ingredients from going bad, but they also have some nasty side effects if they build up over time. On labels, they’ll be listed as a number of different chemicals like benzylparaben or methylparaben. As soon as you spot that “paraben” ending, steer clear!

·         SLS. SLS is short for sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, common detergents that make soaps and shampoos foamy. They’re non-toxic, but they can be very drying and irritating, especially to sensitive skin and hair. You don’t need to run screaming from SLS, since they’re often present only in very low concentrations. But if you have sensitive skin, take a minute to look up the SLS concentrations in a new product.

·         Fragrance. Fragrance, which often appears on labels as “parfum,” is a tricky one. It’s a catch-all term that can refer to something as simple as rose oil…or it could be a complex cocktail of toxic ingredients. It’s an easy way for unscrupulous companies to hide dangerous ingredients on the label, so be wary of it. Keep in mind, if a scent comes from something simple and organic, like an essential oil, the label will just list that single ingredient, rather than a vague “fragrance” label.

Do Your Homework!

There are plenty of tips, tricks, and guides to help protect both your skin and your health, but none of these tips are guarantees. The best way to choose the best products is to do your own research, and there are tons of sources available to help you. There are also a range of reputable companies out there that provide healthy, natural organic skin care with clear, easy-to-find ingredient lists: HonestCompany’s beauty line is a great example. Don’t let yourself be misled or overwhelmed by sneaky labeling and false advertising: your best resource for finding safe, healthy organic skin products is right between your ears!


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I Monae said...

Reading the label takes a little more time; yet, I find the time to be well worth it.

Tim Priest said...

I just don't understand why there are companies that still use animal testing when it's not even necessary anymore. Surely it's not cheaper when you have to raise and care for the animals you test on? And if it's not cheaper than what's the benefit?

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