Expert's Opinion

Natural Skin Care Beauty Myths

June 25, 2013

Suki Kramer takes on the topic of greenwashing.

By Suki Kramer
Suki Skin Care

As more and more people seek out natural skin care products, the competition out there has grown by leaps and bounds. In turn, it’s become incredibly confusing to anyone shopping for skin care in the aisles of a natural foods store or boutique to decide what to buy. While I’m not complaining here, don’t get me wrong…it’s amazing to have seen how this industry has changed and grown over the years…there is a strong and thriving market for healthy, natural skin care products due to an ever-increasing consumer awareness and desire for better products (meaning, to me, pure and effective).

But, are all these choices really better for us? Truly natural? I mean, fact is, without real regulatory oversight, skin care products can be labeled “natural” when they are anything but (and I’m not even getting into the hidden ingredients inside ingredients or touching the synthetic product industry which is ohhh so scary).

Some of this is slowly, ever so slowly, changing, but we are really on our own out there in a sea of meaningless “natural” claims and marketing slang (not to mention product efficacy). And, because of my own many years of work in this arena on my own brand, I know firsthand what is possible and what is a lie, which is why I’m always encouraging people to really read product packaging, not simply trust the front panel of a product or a product or brand name and leave it at that. A carrot or a strawberry on the bottle does NOT mean the ingredients are necessarily good for you, nor that the brand is entirely natural, even if the CEO goes around pretending the brand is…yup, people lie.

Surely, one would think that if a product is labeled natural, you could trust it will not actually contain any synthetic ingredients (and in my humble opinion, will not contain ingredients produced with or obtained by using synthetic or harmful ingredients). Not so. Truth is one brand can contain an essential oil or other plant-derived ingredient (and a whole lot of synthetic chemicals), another can be “inspired by nature” that evokes the idea of nature, but created with a host of synthetic fillers, dyers and fragrances, and yet another brand labeled natural is just that: 100% pure and synthetic-free. There is no single standard out there. So, “know your beauty,” and in this case, “know your ingredients.” You absolutely must read the small print to know what’s inside the bottle.

Why is there such a range of what “natural” means? Because as manufacturers of natural products, we largely govern ourselves. For now, there is a voluntary process where companies can submit information to the FDA about their products and ingredients, rather than being required to report to the FDA. But, as I said, there are changes afoot in Congress, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens. The USA so far though, hasn’t shown itself to be as toxin-free as other countries let’s say (many ingredients pass here that are banned in others for instance…can big pharma or food take any responsibility for influencing the FDA perhaps? Hmmm…), so taking our health and well-being into our own hands is always the best option. If you really are seeking 100% pure skin care, it means digging a little deeper, and spending the time to educate yourself.

Here are some helpful guidelines for anyone shopping for natural skin care:
  • Avoid dyes, petrochemicals, dioxane and fragrances.
  • The “dye” words to look for are listed as FD&C, aluminum, lake colors
  • The “fragrance” terms are “parfum” or “parfume”
  • The petrochemicals, avoid urea ingredients, phthalates, parabens and phynoxyethanol
  • Dioxane: avoiding anything with these in them: “butyl,” “peg,” “dea,”or “ethyl” is a good rule of thumb
There is no regulatory requirement to reveal the ingredients in “parfum,” (synthetic scents), and that goes for the term “fragrance-free” which means inserting fragrance chemicals into a product to neutralize the smell of the ingredients inside. There can be a minimum of 500-2000 synthetic ingredients in one aroma blend, and these can often be the source for allergies, chemical sensitivities, respiratory issues and skin irritations. And really, does anyone really NEED purple bath gel?

Expect results. Just as conventional skincare products tout clinically measured results, you should expect the same from natural skincare brands. Nature and science really do go hand in hand, and the better skincare brands deliver clinically- proven results. I believe we should respect science but not at the expense of our health, to achieve great health (and skin too).

Do a little homework. It’s not necessary to be chemist, but it helps to be educated about synthetic or toxic ingredients. Synthetic ingredients are cheap and easy to work with, and that’s why so many manufacturers use them in so many products. And, don’t buy that argument “we only use a tiny amount in our products!” That is because the law (yes at least we have some regulatory!) won’t allow more than a tiny amount because they are so toxic! There is a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid on my website.

Don’t expect perfection from yourself. But at least try J. Look, we all have our favorite products and hey, maybe they aren’t exactly 100% synthetic-free. That’s ok. Women are famous for “shoulding” all over themselves so don’t go to the extreme here. What I’m talking about is making conscious choices, not making yourself feel guilty for using things that make you feel special. Skin care is that little affordable ritual we give ourselves. Ideally the products we use support great health as well. I happen to know that 100% pure well-formulated and highly efficacious products actually do create better skin than generally people know they can have.
The best “anti-naturals” to use are rinse off products. As far as health concerns, what worries me most about synthetics is what gets into our bloodstream so rinse off products are the least costly to our health. Leave on products do exactly that, and absorb in (ideally). So avoiding moisturizers and makeups whenever possible is a good choice.

Reading labels helps navigate a clearer path to healthier choices and that’s a fabulous first step. Since 60% of what we put on our skin goes right into our bloodstream, and then out into the rivers and oceans, it really is worth paying close attention to what natural really means to each of us.
About the author
Suki Kramer is the founder, president and formulator of suki, inc. skin care as well as a skin care expert for assorted media.

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