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Truth in organic beauty

Manufacturers will reassure the consumer time and time again that their product is 'natural', 'pure' and buzzword de jour 'organic' but how do the products hold up under investigation?

Market researcher Mintel estimate that around 2000 new beauty products have hit the shelves within the last two years. Organic goods feature heavily in the statistics as consumers become more health and environmentally conscious. However, unlike the food industry, which has strict regulations governing what they may call organic, the beauty industry has no such set measures.

How do I find out what is really organic?
There are three simple ways to find out which of your beauty products are organic. The first is to check which products are listed under the British Soil Association's guide. These products must show evidence of fulfilling criteria that insists on at least 70% organic ingredients and bans preservatives such as parabens, petrochemicals and genetically modified produce.

A second route is to look for the Ecocert label. Ecocert's guidelines require 95% to plant (flora or vegetable) extract ingredients to be organic.

The third way is to check the label of your product. If it has a sell by date then it has a high count of perishable ingredients, which means a low count of chemical preservatives. You can also gain an idea of the chemical-organic balance by looking at the ingredients. The highest quantity of item is generally listed first so if you are faced with a bewildering array of chemicals then your product is not organic – no matter what the label may claim.

Beware of harmful ingredients
Scare stories abound as to the nasty ingredients that are put into products and unfortunately a lot of these stories are true. The biggest problems these days are Parabens – this preservative has been found in cancerous breast tissue and whilst scientists insist there isn't a direct correlation many researchers warn against the use of parabens.
Phthalates – often used in perfumes and creams, this ingredient in high doses is said to be responsible for reproductive difficulties in both sexes. The EU has banned two phthalates (DEHP and DBP) but many others are still widely used. The Women's Environmental Network found DEP, linked to birth defects, in every perfume they tested during a survey.
Formaldehyde – yes, that's the stuff they preserve dead bodies with but it is also used in products ranging from foam baths to lipstick. It's bad for asthmatics and is also carcinogenic.
Petroleum – widely used in perfume and as cosmetic colouring so it is hardly surprising that synthetic fragrances are amongst the most common skin sensitisers.

Who should I trust?
For a list of companies who follow organic guidelines visit:

Top products
www.avalonorganics.com – Avalon Organics - I return to this brand time and time again for it's excellent range.
www.nealsyardremedies.com - Neal's Yard Remedies – Fantastic bath and cosmetic products for the whole family
www.beauty-republic.com - Mysa - is a range of new products made with a delicious coconut oil base and 100% natural oils.
Drhauschka.co.uk – Celeb favourites, Dr Haushka have a well earned following with their gentle and refreshing products.
www.thebodyshop.com The Body Shop – Will always hold a warm place in our hearts for their services to ethical beauty.

[Camilla Chafer]

May 8, 2006 in Health & beauty | Permalink


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