The natural cosmetics industry unofficially began back in 10,000 BC when Ancient Egyptians would use scented oils and ointments to care for their hair and skin, and mask unpleasant body odours. Natural oils and potions were an integral part of their lifestyle for beauty and health, and had a place within most rituals.
As beauty fads came and went over the centuries, “natural” began to fade away as toxic potions and recipes took over as the standard to meet an ‘ideal’. During the 18th century it was fashionable to feature a pale complexion which was achieved with a lead-based powder known as “ceruse”. Short term it met its objective, but the long term effects were devastating as it slowly poisoned them, destroyed their skin, greyed their hair, gave them excruciating stomach pain and damaged internal organs. Arsenic, mercury and deadly nightshade also had their place as beauty products over the years. You would think that we’ve come a long way from putting toxic concoctions on our skin in the name of beauty, but have we really?
Take a good look at the ingredients listed on the skin, hair and grooming products currently residing in your home. It’s guaranteed most of the mainstream products contain at least one or more of the following: parabens, polyethylene glycol, phthalates, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, sulphates, toluene, mercury, mineral oil, animal oils, plus synthetic colours and fragrances. To just take a closer look at a few:
Parabens, polyethylene glycol and phthalates (used as preserver, emollient and plasticiser) mimic hormones such as estrogen in our body and disrupt the endocrine system which may increase the risk of breast cancer, in addition to causing development, reproductive and neurological damage. Additionally, they can cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis, rosacea, and increase skin ageing and DNA damage through skin reaction with UVB.
Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is used as a preservative in approximately 1 out of 5 cosmetics, and is at its most dangerous when inhaled – think about when you smell your favourite shampoo or spray your deodorant or hairspray, a small amount is released in the air shortly after application. A group named Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) tested children’s shampoos, soaps, lotions and bath products and discovered that more than half of them contain either formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane (another known carcinogen).
Meanwhile synthetic perfumes are often included to mask the smell of chemicals, whilst they themselves usually contain over 200 components, and if they are considered ‘proprietary ingredients’, the company has the right to withhold the ingredients. Many of these ingredients are classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous waste.
Worse still, it is estimated that 80% of the filler ingredients in beauty products are untested. Not only are these products totally unhealthy to the body as a whole, but they could even be exacerbating the problems which they are supposed to be caring for, such as skin problems, ageing, etc, or promoting new ones. Is it any wonder that skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, skin rashes and adult acne are on the increase?
Whilst in small quantities most of these chemicals may be innocuous, the average woman can use a minimum of ten different products daily, perhaps containing 150 chemicals or more! The skin is the body’s largest organ and its main function is to form a protective barrier for the body. However, 60% of the chemicals which we apply topically are absorbed into the body. To put it in context, a study on the umbilical cords of babies conducted by the Environmental Working Group found more than 200 toxic chemicals present. Scary, right? We wouldn’t eat something which we know to be toxic and yet are complacent about what we allow to enter the body through the skin.
More and more people are becoming aware of the importance of healthy eating, limiting their intake of processed synthetic foods and turning to natural, whole foods as Nature intended. Providing the body with all the correct nutrients is important to maintain a healthy body. People are making the choice to take control of what goes into their body. Whereas just a few years ago, people were still seeing the natural cosmetics industry as a “fad”, they are now realising the importance of completely eliminating these dangerous toxins from their lives and opting for a healthier more natural lifestyle in general.
The modern consumer is now demanding more natural, ethical, environmentally friendly and sustainable products. This industry is expected to expand rapidly as more and more people begin to understand the dramatic impact of consciously choosing natural cosmetics:
Natural for better overall health and wellbeing
As we’ve already mentioned, the everyday product contains many harmful chemicals which can majorly disrupt the endocrine system, causing hormone malfunction which controls our mood and metabolism and may lead to birth defects, neurological, reproductive and developmental damage. They can cause cancer, organ toxicity, respiratory difficulties and skin allergies. In the USA, nine beauty products had to be recalled by the FDA (Food and Drug Association) as recently as 2019, as they were found to contain asbestos! Furthermore it’s even been stated by the FDA that around 99% of cosmetic products contain some lead, which is simply horrific. In today’s world we are subjected daily to the harmful effects of petroleum, is there any need to topically apply its derivatives to the skin also?
While the amount of these toxins may be below the safety threshold for each individual product, it all adds up with continued application, plus the use of several products a day. Most of these chemicals are used to act as preservatives, colourants, emollients, plasticiser, etc, but there is a natural counterpart for all of these functions. For instance vitamin E is a natural preservative, but instead of being a toxin and harming the body, it is a strong antioxidant helping to protect the skin against the harmful effect of free radicals, and reducing UV damage, and promoting overall skin health.
Natural is better for our skin
Natural ingredients have been used for millennia for their healing properties, yet they have been sidelined by glitzy advertising for beauty products that promise us the earth. This is most definitely one of those times when the old adage “all that glitters is not gold” should be applied. Despite their promises to prevent ageing, stop acne breakouts, and treat skin conditions, their harsh chemical content is more likely to have the opposite effect, eventually drying out the skin and stripping it of its natural oils, suffocating it with impenetrable barriers, clogging pores, in addition to thinning and sensitising the skin. Rather than protecting the skin this can lead to premature ageing and a host of skin problems. Whilst it would be incorrect to say that natural products will not cause an allergic reaction, it is more unlikely. Plus at least you will know that it is a general reaction to that product in particular and not one of hundreds of additional fillers within the mix.
Acne is most commonly caused by the overproduction of oil which clogs the pores. Remedies tend to be extremely harsh and strip the skin of its natural oils which, whilst it may have an immediate effect in unblocking the pores and reducing oil, invariably sends the skin’s oil production into overdrive in order to replenish the lost oil and counteract the dryness, thus exasperating the problem. There are natural oils which can literally flush out the pores and actively regulate sebum production, whilst having antibacterial properties to battle infection. A natural product like charcoal can act as a magnet to dirt and impurities stuck in the pores.
Dermatitis and other skin allergies can be a reaction to a common ingredient in products. Such ingredients may also be a trigger factor to conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. There are many products especially marketed to soothe these conditions where they may in fact be a root cause of the inflammation. Many of the natural oils have superb anti-inflammatory properties, and can soothe and calm the affected areas, omitting redness, and adding nourishment. Furthermore, many promote wound healing and skin regeneration, thus helping to heal the skin and diminish scarring.
As the skin ages it invariably starts to lose its ability to completely re-nourish itself, loses elasticity, and collagen production reduces. Again, natural oils can help to bridge the deficiency and promote skin regeneration, whilst offering natural antioxidant protection to protect the skin further.
Natural oils and herbs are generally suitable for all skin types and ages. With natural products you know that 100% of the product is working to nourish and protect the skin and hair and bring it back to optimum health. It should also be noted that most oils do offer some UV protection which is another notch in their favour. Whilst we are not advocating that they can be used for prolonged periods of sun exposure, they will at least afford some protection for incidental exposure. For instance almond oil has an SPF of 5 and shea butter 3-6.
Just a quick note on the smell. Natural products have a far superior smell to synthetic scents. As already mentioned, the perfume can have hundreds of components, untested and often unlisted. In addition to its dangerous impact on the body, the synthetic scent can also cause headaches, nausea, rashes and irritate the nasal and congestive tracts. There is a very good reason why most products for sensitive skin are fragrance-free, since the perfume is often the source of irritation. A natural scent just can’t be beaten, and whatsmore the addition of a particular herb or oil for scent, will just magnify the benefits.
With natural “less is more”
Many people presume that in order to work the product needs to be full of harsh chemicals, whereas in the long run they are doing more harm than good. The good thing about natural products is that they are all active ingredients, all focused on nourishing, protecting and healing the skin. There are no added “fillers” to bulk up the content, the natural ingredients are concentrated and highly potent. In many cases, a little goes a long way. With most synthetic products the active ingredients only make up about 10% of the product, and that’s only because they are legally restrained from adding more chemicals.
On average most women use between 9 and 16 personal care products daily. Is it really necessary to have a different product for each application? Take jojoba oil for instance – it can be utilised as a make-up remover, toner, moisturiser, lash and brow treatment, fine line and wrinkle reducer, sebum balancer, under eye dark circle diminisher, hand, foot and nail treatment (it’ll even help with fungal infections), deep conditioning treatment for the hair and scalp, frizz and split end treatment, and a whole host more. With natural products, you only need a handful of products suited to your exact requirements, and which you can mix and match.
It’s a case of quality over quantity when it comes to ingredients. But be careful to check the ingredients before buying a “natural” product. There is no regulation for the term “natural” in the beauty industry, and it could indicate the use of one or two natural ingredients, with fillers of synthetic chemicals. It should be noted that the Cambridge Dictionary defines natural as “found in nature and not involving anything made or done by people: a natural substance”; “Natural food or drink is pure and has no chemical substances added to it and is therefore thought to be healthy”. Unfortunately the correct term for natural does not seem to be applied, since it would seem clear that adding chemical substances should be taboo. We would suggest that it is better to look for the words 100% pure to be doubly sure. And check the INCI labelling to understand the exact composition.
Natural is environmentally friendly
The use of dangerous chemicals in commercial beauty products does not just affect your health, it also has a severe impact on the environment. All of these products that are washed down the drain, also end up in local waterways or soil, impacting on the surrounding plants and wildlife. Then there’s the mining and production of these chemicals – depleting resources, displacing wildlife, increasing landfill and polluting the earth’s atmosphere.
The raw materials used within natural products are sourced from nature, such as plants and minerals, and from sustainable sources. They go through minimal processing in order to retain the integrity and purity of the product, and have minimal impact on the environment.
Save animal lives with natural products
With the use of natural ingredients, there is no need for cruel and unnecessary animal testing. The products are pure and their benefits are well known, with no known side effects. There is no need to blind or poison an animal with a chemical or toxin which they don’t need or want. Whilst many companies using these chemicals may claim to be cruelty-free, they are still using these products and benefitting from these tests and, as such are indirectly endorsing the testing. Additionally, there is no impact on the environment or wildlife when natural products are washed down the drain. Moreover, the naturally grown products actively encourage wildlife in order to protect the delicate ecosystem.
Natural manufacturers care about their products
Many of the 100% natural products are produced by small businesses who know exactly how the product is grown, extracted and packaged. In short, it is their entire livelihood, often supporting the local community, and therefore they make sure to control every aspect and ensure the integrity of their products. Just one unhappy customer can be an expensive mistake, so they need to ensure that the product they produce is of the highest quality. These businesses also make sure that there is minimal disruption to the environment, as their products need to be sustainable. When you buy natural products you are invariably supporting a local business and their community and not a large conglomerate that is only interested in the profit line.
Ready to change to natural products?
So now you know the basics about the difference between chemically derived and natural products. For the sake of your overall health and wellbeing (which is your number one asset) and the environment, isn’t it time to go back to basics and repair years of damage? After all, natural ingredients have been used for this purpose forever, and herbal remedies relating to skincare have stood the test of time. No one does it better than Mother Nature herself.