When it comes to beauty products, words like “organic” and “natural” are almost meaningless and, unlike foods, there are virtually no regulations regarding the use of the words.

Companies know this and capitalize on the growing concern consumers have about what goes in and on their bodies. With that said not every ingredient that sounds like a chemical is one. Some ingredients, especially plant based, will be listed in their Latin name. If you’re not familiar with some of these terms, it can be tricky to decipher what is organic and natural and what is not. On the other hand, the majority of hard-to-pronounce ingredients are chemicals or chemical derivatives.

Reading the Labels

Not a week goes by without a request from a customer asking us to analyze the label(s) on their beauty products (many of which are advertised as “organic” or “natural) and to decipher the ingredients listed and whether or not they are safe. You, like me, might be surprised at what’s being passed off as organic and/or natural. Let us also remember that almost anything can be organically derived yet arrive at an inorganic end. Take corn syrup, for example. At one point, it came from corn. However, by the time it’s processed and chemically altered, it’s something far from natural. Pharmaceuticals are a similar story.

 

I recently had a client whose scalp was covered with very dry, flaky, itchy skin and red sores. I analyzed the ingredients of her shampoo and conditioner bottles, in hopes of getting to the bottom of her scalp and hair issues. I had a feeling that what she was experiencing was, at least in part, due to her products. The first ingredients I spotted were: sulfates, fragrance and dimethicone (silicone); sulfates being very harsh and drying, synthetic fragrance often causing irritation and silicone coating the hair and follicle, creating the perfect environment for buildup and bacteria. Once she switched to a truly organic/natural product free from these ingredients, along with weekly essential oil therapy, her scalp cleared up.

Sourcing and Pricing

Where you buy your products, and the price point, is often an indicator of the quality of ingredients used to make them. In the business of beauty, when you go organic and/or natural, you generally get what you pay for. Synthetic ingredients such as silicone, plastic, and chemically derived fragrances are cheap to manufacture. They also have a shelf life of a Twinkie. This makes them ideal for mass production and distribution. As a result, nearly all beauty products from the grocery store are going to be full of synthetic and potentially toxic ingredients. Another key factor to what goes into these products is what I call the Feel Factor – how a product feels on the hair and skin. One reason silicone is used is because it creates that “slippery” feeling, and is found in everything from hair conditioners and facial moisturizers to mascara. While it may feel great, it is coating the hair and skin and creating buildup that can cause everything from clogged pores to dull, flat hair and even hair loss.

 

Truly natural products may not coat the hair and skin with silicones or make it feel “slippery” but over time will strengthen and support the hair and skins natural ability to shine and be strong. It may cost a little more now, but will pay off in the long run, keeping your hair and skin beautiful and minimizing toxicity to your body and the environment.