With the extensive beauty market in front of us, with thousands of brands to choose from, numerous tempting advertisements and increasing concerns about skincare and beauty, we are often faced with the question of whether to use natural products or chemical products. The beauty industry is overflowing with products claiming to do miracles for our skin and hair, but how can we be sure of that? Studies show that can average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body everyday, thanks to beauty products. And 60% of what we put onto our skin is absorbed by our body.
First let’s learn about what is natural, ayurvedic, herbal and organic products.
Natural Products are the products that are made from ingredients derived from the nature, they are not man made. However, chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers can be used to enhance their growth. Natural products are free of synthetic fibres, fragrances and other chemicals, but that does not mean they are completely safe for human use.
Herbal Products are made from herb extracts used for its scent, flavor, or therapeutic properties. People believe that these products are good for them. These too can be grown with the use to pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides. However, herbs like chandan, kesar, aloe, turmeric, kumkumadi etc are good for your skin, but your skin might be allergic to any of them.
Ayurveda Products, ayurveda is medicinal science which includes use of herbs as well as heavy metals like gold, silver, copper, tin etc. Ayurvedic products may contain toxic levels of metals.
Organic products are also made out of natural ingredients but they are grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Organic products are produced through approved methods. They are generally environment friendly, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic products do not contain adulterated or genetically modified ingredients or petrochemicals. They do not undergo animal testing.
Points to remember while purchasing natural products:
1. Natural is not always organic. To make sure you are buying an organic product, check the label. Agencies like Natrue, EcoCert, NSF/ANSI 350 conduct regular research to certify brands that match the levels of USDA, OASIS, India organic, EU organic etc. The products will have a label of 100% or 95% certification status.
2. In India, unfortunately, there are not many brands that can boast the 100% organic stamp. But there is growing development in this field, brands that source from farms that meet the organic standard, certified by agencies. All these are mentioned on the stamp. Products showing 70% organic indicates that at least 70% ingredients are certified organic.
3. Preservatives are essential in products. If they are not added, the products which we use will generally not last as it will become a breeding ground for bacteria, which is why organic brands rely on natural preservatives like honey, lemon, essential oils, etc. There are few safe synthetic preservatives certified by agencies.
Chemical-based cosmetics are pretty self-explanatory. These products contain man-made physical contents that are generally considered harsh and harmful for human use. But the industry has given a valid place to them.
There are certain chemicals of concern:
1. Phthalates- These are plasticisers and solvents. They have endocrine disruption effects, which cause reproductive abnormalities in girls and reduced fertility in boys.
2. Parabens- These are preservatives put into cosmetics. They also have endocrine disruption effects. Although methyl paraben and ethyl paraben are still safe to use in cosmetics.
3. Talc- The fact that talcum powder causes cancer has been drawn many years ago. But it also clog pores and are not a desirable ingredient to be used in cosmetics.
4. Nanoparticles- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide contain nanoparticles which leads to damage to DNA. Absorbed into the skin, they have other hazards as well.
5. Formaldehyde- Causes irritation to skin, nose and can also cause cancer to who are most exposed.
Other harmful chemicals are lead, fragrances, SLS/SLES, triclosan, toluene, BHA, UV filters.
However, there are some good chemicals as well:
1. Salicylic acid: Best known for its anti-acne treatments. This agent is used for allowing new cell growth by opening clogged pores, killing bacteria, etc. It is also used for dandruff treatment.
2. Zinc oxide- Protects from the UVA and UVB radiations, often used in sunscreens. Also controls inflammation and relieves skin against irritations and rashes.
3. Retinol- Form of Vitamin A. Generates new cells underneath the skin and improves skin texture.
4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids- AHAs are fruit acids. Most generally used AHAs are Glycolic acid, Lactic acid and Citric acid. They smooth out the skin surface by reducing fine lines and wrinkles, acne, clears out pores, exfoliates the skin to reveal the newer skin cells from underneath the upper layer.
People concerned often opt for natural products over chemical products. However, that is not always a good idea. What suits others might not suit you and vice versa. Checking the labels and the ingredient list is your best bet. Look for organic products and products containing safe chemicals. Trying and testing is the key to find products that will be best for you.