Recently Johnson & Johnson, under pressure from The Campaign for Safer Cosmetics, agreed to reformulate their line of baby skincare – to remove some common ingredients which are known toxins.
When a big brand like this makes such a drastic change, it really highlights the fact that these chemicals are a real concern. I know that a lot of us are looking to natural and safe products, but sometimes it’s hard to know which are actually the real deal!
To help clear things up, I went straight to the expert and asked Delphinia of 4 Cow Farm, a line of natural skincare for babies, to lend us her expertise.
Read Delphinia’s top 5 tips on how to choose safe skincare:
Tip 1: Know which claims are regulated (and which are not)
‘Hypoallergenic’, ‘dermatologically tested’, ‘no-tears formula’,‘for sensitive skin’, ‘fragrance-free’, ‘natural’ – many of the claims on the lotions and washes we buy are just that, claims. Claims which aren’t regulated, investigated or substantiated by governments or regulatory authorities.
Even the term ‘organic’ is regulated in its use only in certain countries and its application (according to each country’s laws) often allows for loopholes and gaps in a product’s ingredients, which can allow suspicious chemicals and synthetic ingredients in. So your best bet? The ingredients list – the only thing that (almost) never lies!
Tip 2: Learn to identify the most commonly used petroleum-derived ingredients
Many commercial brands contain petroleum derivatives. Yes, you read that right – petroleum derivatives, i.e. from crude oil. Some of the more common ones are:
Mineral Oil a.k.a. Parafﬁnum Liquidum,
Petrolatum a.k.a. Petroleum Jelly,
Propylene Glycol, PEGs (Polyethylene Glycol),
Polysorbates (usually followed by a number) and DEA/MEA/TEA.
The reason they’re used? They’re cheap, abundant and can last pretty much forever on the shelf. The downside? At best, they’re at risk of being contaminated with carcinogens during manufacturing and are linked to the rise in allergies. At worse, they are themselves carcinogens and are known toxins which are applied direct to the skin on a daily basis. And if that’s not enough, they’re terrible for the earth!
Tip 3: Be concerned about the preservatives used
Preservatives are necessary to extend a product’s shelf life but there is a huge spectrum of preservatives used – from natural to synthetic – and some have come under a cloud of suspicion in recent years.
Parabens (such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben) have been linked to tumours in the breast and skin, and a possible role as ‘endocrine disruptors’ in mimicking hormones.
Phenoxyethanol – a preservative commonly used in natural and organic products – is known to depress the central nervous system.
Benzyl Alcohol – another commonly used preservative in mainstream and natural products – has been associated with contact allergy.
Tip 4: Avoid unnecessary fragrances
Let’s begin with synthetic fragrances – which make up most of the fragrance ingredients in skincare products. The vast majority are synthetic compounds derived from – you guessed it – petroleum, as well as coal tar. These include VOCs (volatile organic compounds) linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders
and allergic reactions.
Research has shown that these airborne chemicals have direct access to the brain and
our internal systems through the nasal passages. Essential oils, used in many natural
products for their fragrance, have been shown to emit similar chemicals when over-used. The worst thing? Fragrances are protected as ‘trade secrets’ so manufacturers aren’t required to list what goes into them in the ﬁrst place.
Tip 5: Start reading labels and choose ingredients you recognise
A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t sound like something you’d like to put in your mouth, it’s probably better off not on your or your little one’s skin. We apply lotions, washes and creams to our skin (our single largest organ!) every single day and these often contain ingredients that are questionable at best.
Even some naturally-derived ingredients are less beneﬁcial than they appear.
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate and cocamidopropyl betaine, both derived from coconut oil, are known to irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions.
Cocamide DEA/MEA are known skin irritants and potential carcinogens.
Lauryl glucoside and decyl glucoside (both derived from vegetable sources) have yet to be tested for safety.