An article from the UK Telegraph reported on a recent survey which found that women typically use up to 13 products on a daily basis, most of which contain more than 20 ingredients, including additives. This statistic is alarming particularly if you consider that many of those chemical have long-term toxicity issues. The article went on to say that the biggest chemical offenders are perfumes which contain an average cocktail of 250 ingredients, with some containing as many as 400.
Another issue is the trend in ‘aluminium free’ deodorants, many of which contain additive ingredients that have been linked to cancer, hormone problems, skin conditions and allergies. I actually discussed this in a recent video blog about deodorant use.
The report also found that lipstick contains on average 33 ingredients, body lotion 32, mascara 29, and the purest product, hand moisturiser, 11. Now it is not to say that all of these chemicals have issues and if they are 100% natural or certified organic, then long term toxicity shouldn’t be an issue at all. But we have certainly come a long way from the basic “wash and go” routine of old. When I counted up what I applied daily it was quite a long list:
In the morning I use: face wash, treatment face serum, moisturiser with SPF 30, eyecream (sometimes), deodorant, body moisturiser with SPF 30, hair wax and if going to work I also add perfume, mineral make up, mascara and lipstick.
In the evening I use: face wash, treatment face serum and eyecream.
Then sometimes I add in: a mask or exfoliant, eye shadow and non-toxic nail polish.
I count 14 products a day as average which surprised me. Fortunately I only use natural and organic products so I feel good about what I put on my skin.
The key thing to consider to remember is that a certain percentage of whatever we put on our skin will be absorbed. It then has to be broken down and detoxified by the body. The body has a harder time processing and eliminating synthetic chemicals than it does natural ones. This is because in the scheme of things, our body’s have only been exposed to synthetic chemicals for the last 60 years or so and this isn’t long enough for us to adapt to this onslaught. Decrease the toxic burden on your body by reducing synthetic chemical use around the home in these ways:
cleaning agents. He made this choice to reduce his exposure to cleaning chemicals and we benefit as a result.
I would love to hear how many products you use every day and if you are happy with your choices. Tell us also the ways you reduce your toxic load. As always, I love to hear from you.Twitter It!
I was talking to my friend Lisa Tristram, who knows more about the state of the Australian Organic skin care industry than anyone I know – and that is saying something! If you have a question, she has the answer – of course I have lots of questions! Lisa has worked in all areas of the skin care industry from the shop floor to formulating to dealing with issues of organic regulation.
Our discussion centered around the topic of “truth in beauty” and we both rued a. the lack of good regulation in the skincare industry and b. the out and out greenwashing that is so common. I think for the consumer, the toughest thing is knowing how to discern between the truth about product claims and what the the marketing says is true. Unfortunately there is often a big gap between them. I have put an article below that Lisa wrote for the Jasmin Skin Care blog. While I have written on this topic before, Lisa is at the coalface of the recent changes in the Australian industry and offers some insight:
If you don’t mean it don’t green it
Author: Lisa Tristram for Jasmin Skincare
Something we get asked about constantly is organic certification – what it means? who really has it? how can you tell? what do the different levels of certification mean? And in an industry awash with “greenwashing” how do I know what is really green and organic??
There is a lot of confusion out there and one of the main reasons for this is the lack of industry standards and regulations that apply consistently to everyone. For example in Australia we have SEVEN organic certifying bodies! I mean come
on how hard is that to regulate ! let alone all the other countries different regulations and standards. AQIS ( Australian Quarantine and Inspection services) govern all the certifying bodies to keep them all in line with overall regulations governing food, agriculture, importation and exportation. But we have never had an Australian standard for certified organic for either food or cosmetics/skincare.
Now things are changing and an Australian Draft standard has been drawn up over the last year, co-authored by many of the larger players in the industry. Many companies such as ours (Jasmin Skincare), who were already doing everything organically, were asked to contribute to the draft to ensure that a standard was accessible across the board and truly defined the terms that go with acheiving certified organic status for skincare. The Standard is expected to be published towards the end of the year and will effectively be policed by the ACCC , in as much as consumers will be able to report companies that seem to be greenwashing or using the term “organic” without reason.
A number of companies have been caught out in the past year greenwashing their products and this has caused quite a stir in the industry. Check out these articles http://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Products-Markets/Australian-authorities-take-action-over-organic-mislabelling and http://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Products-Markets/Cosmetics-awash-with-greenwashing-says-report
Which brings us to what is happening overseas with all the press caused by Dr Bronner (a certified organic soap company with very high ethics) suing a number of companies for using the term “organic” either in marketing or branding without following through on this claim in their products. The whole point being that Dr Bronner felt that a company that has put the hard yards into going organic should be able to use that claim without the fear that someone else is using it fraudulently.
This led to a huge shake up, many claiming it had been long overdue in the US Organic industry. The NSF created a National Standard which was adopted late last year in conjunction with NOP (the US National Organic program) which covered standards for those products that are claiming to be “made with certified organic ingredients”. It states that there must be a minimum of 70% overall certified organic ingredients in any skincare product that claims to be organic which has certainly paved the way for more industry regulation. The USDA in the US is still the main certifying body for products claiming 95-100% certified organic ingredients and is becoming a widely recognised logo globally for this.
Note from Ananda: it is my hope that not only “organic” status is defined in the upcoming Australian draft standard but that like Europe, they also define “natural”. There is a lot of confusion about the difference between the two. I will address this issue very soon.
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This is an article that I wrote last year which following on from the “Natural Instinct” article I thought warranted another viewing. It addresses issues of greenwashing and looks at what it really means in the skin care industry.
Walk down the personal care isle of the supermarket isles and you might see 3 or 4 hair products with “organic” or “natural” ingredients or branded with an organic sounding name. Take a closer look at the label and you will soon realize that underneath the feel good name these products are still made of synthetic cleansers, include artificial fragrances and are chock full of preservatives. True to label claim there may be ½ a percent of an organic essential oil or herbal extract but is this what we really expect as consumers when we read “organic” or “natural” on the label of a product? Practices such as these are known as greenwashing. To be more specific, when a company or organization misleads consumers by claiming have green practices or sell green products without actually having any or limited basis for this claim, this is known as greenwashing.
From a consumer perspective, green is the new black. Companies are jumping on the green bandwagon in an effort to appear more ecologically sound and in many instances, those behind the marketing claims really are making an effort to minimize their impact on the environment. However, in other cases, it is all just a marketing ploy to get consumers on side. In skincare, the issue becomes even more blurred and there are many companies taking advantage of an industry-wide lack of clarity. In the skincare industry Greenwashing can occur in a number of different ways.
1. Using a single environmental claim suggesting that the product is greener than it actually is eg. A shampoo that claims to contain no Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) but uses alternative foaming agents such as Ammonium Laurel Sulphate, which have the same risks associated with their use.
2. Having no proof – for example personal care products that claim to that they are “fair trade” without any certification or evidence. Whiel the certificatio nmay not necessarily be on the lable, upon request from the manufacturer or supplier you should receive evidence of fair trade status.
3. Lack of definition – using terms such as “green” or “natural” without actually outlining what that means. Australia has no set guidelines here, so there is alot of confusion as to what is considered “natural skin care”. Again if in doubt, ask the manufacturer or supplier what their guidelines are for making a “natural” label claim.
4. Make “green” claims that are irrelevant. The claim might be truthful, but is also unimportant, eg CFC-free shaving creams. Given that the use of CFC (cholorflurocarbons) has been banned for some time, this claims is considered irrelevant.
5. Outright fibbing about a “green” claim, eg. A product that claims to be “certified organic” when there is no such certification. In many cases the claim isn’t so blatant. eg. A certain well known company offers ‘a truly organic experience’, but also uses SLS, propylene glycol and D&C red dyes in their products, which are not organic. This in not to say that the product doesn’t include some organic ingredients but to the consumer, the assumption is that the product is truly organic. http://www.terrachoice.com
As a consumer how do work your way through the fog of marketing greenwash? Firstly, read the labels and full ingredient listing of the products you choose to determine the products full worth. If you are unsure about an ingredient, ask the supplier or seller. Once you know you can make an informed choice about the products you use.
Secondly look for evidence of certification. In Australia, unlike “natural” status we have strict guidelines about “organic” status. If a product claims to be “certified organic” ensure the appropriate certification logo is on the label eg products bearing the logos of Australian Certified Organic (ACO) or the The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture of Australia (NASAA).
Many skin care manufacturers claim that a product is organic or natural without certification but you want to know that the claim is made with integrity. For example, a manufacturer including water when claiming a product is 99% organic when in fact this is a misleading claim. Water does not contribute to the organic status of a skin care product and so should not be included in the percentage claim. If a product claims to be organic, as opposed to certified organic, ask the supplier or manufacture what this means.
Green marketing is a powerful tool of communication for both buyers and sellers. More and more consumers expect to see evidence of a commitment to the environment from manufacturers and the green dollar spend is increasing as a result. If a product isn’t green, natural or organic, that’s ok but truth in advertising is fundamental to the ongoing growth of the green industry. Without it, consumer cynicism and apathy creep in and we will lose the potential for not just greener products but also a greener earth.
Greenwashing is an issue we now commonly face as consumers however, a little curiosity and some well asked questions will help you to work your way through the marketing maze. Another useful resource is http://www.safecosmetics.org
1. Darbre, P. D., Aljarrah, A., Miller, W. R., Coldham, N. G., Sauer, M. J., and Pope, G. S., “Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors,” Journal of Applied Toxicology, Jan 2004: (24): 5-13.
I have been using fluoride-free toothpaste since I was 15 years old and have been really happy with that choice. Why fluoride-free? Apart from being a personal choice, I believe that just because a little is good for teeth doesn’t mean that more is better. There is some quite contentious research out there about fluoride and you can click on this link for more information on the potential issues with fluoride in toothpaste.
Back to my blog – so about 7 or 8 years ago I picked up my tube of fluoride-free toothpaste and read the other ingredients on the label which among other things included sodium laurel sulphate (for big bubbles), artificial sweetener (for taste) and mineral oil (for goodness knows what). That tube went straight in the bin! I wondered why I had never thought to look at the label beforehand and once again realised that in the land of marketing all is not what it seems. There is always aspect of inference in marketing. In my case because the product was fluoride free I had assumed it contained no other nasty chemicals. Other examples might be a flower or herb on the label inferring that the product is natural or organic. Or the brand name could include the words “natural”, “organic” or “eco” thereby inferring the product is all of those things. Well at that moment, I wizened up a bit and started reading labels obsessively again. And it was quite hard to find a synthetic free, flouride free, all natural, all good toothpaste that didn’t taste like chalk or make me want to gag!
Fortunately, since then things have improved and there are some great toothpastes available that use natural ingredients, taste good and are good for teeth and gums. Riddles Creek Organic toothpaste is one of those but there are others and when choosing a toothpaste for you look for some of the following ingredients:
Calcium carbonate – a polishing agent and gentle abrasive
Stevia – a natural plant sweetener almost as sweet as sugar without the negative effects on teeth. In fact, studies show that chewing gum with stevia can help reduce dental cavities!
Soapwort – a natural plant based surfactant (foaming agent)
Baking Soda – a natural whitening and mouth freshening agent
Essential oils such as peppermint, spearmint or clove – for there breath freshening qualities
Sea Salt – a gentle abrasive to polish teeth
Sillica – gum strengthening and tooth whitening
Aloe Vera – a gel base that has soothing qualities for gums
Tea tree oil – an antibacterial agent
There are also ingredients to avoid (as mentioned above):
Fluoride – if you drink fluoridated water, adding it to toothpaste can be overkill
Sodium laurel sulphate – can irritate the gum lining
Mineral oil – an unnecessary petrochemical based ingredient
Artificial sweeteners – come with a raft of issues and generally should be avoided particularly children as they tend to swallow toothpaste.
So, what’s in your toothpaste? And do you think fluoride should be included? Let us know what you think.
View a product review about Riddell’s Creek Organic Toothpaste:Twitter It!
I was shocked and dismayed to read on Clean Life blog (one of my favorites) recently that a popular Australian brand has been found out to be a complete greenwash. Well actually I can go further because Natural Instincts was completely misleading the public about the ingredients in their products. I had a moment when I considered whether or not to write about this topic at all as I don’t like to “run down” other brands, however, I cannot bring myself to hold back about this deception as it affects the whole industry.
An except from the Clean Life Blog: “The company has been found to guilty of deliberately failing to list all ingredients on the on the ingredients lists such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate, listing some chemicals by incorrect names, and claiming that some products are “made from 100% pure oils and certified organic herbs” when in fact, only a very minor proportion of the product uses these. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told it to publish corrective notices in newspapers & magazine.”
For specifics about the ACCC notice click here: ACCC Notice
One of the points made in the Clean Life blog is that it is up to us to stay informed about what is in our products. I will also add that you should be able to trust the suppliers of your favorite brands to be transparent with the products they sell and manufacture. To look at Vitale’s product guarantee click here. In addition, Clean Life has come up with some great resources to arm yourself with knowledge about labelling:
What you can do to protect your family:
1) Learn to read labels, our labelling legislation in Australia is incredibly weak, read more about it here;
2) Learn which chemicals need to be avoided and clean out your bathroom cupboard now
3) Choose products from reputable companies, like those on the CleanLife directory
4) Ensure that you seek the full refund for any products you have purchased that many have been affected.
993300;">To compensate customers who purchased Natural Instinct products and believe they have been misled, Natural Instinct is offering a refund for the full purchase price of affected products. For more information about claims for refunds contact Edwina Pearce of Natural Instinct on 1800 771 063 or at customerservice@natural instinct.com.au by 6 June 2009.
And I second Clean Life when I say – please forward this information on to as many people as you can.
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