The beauty industry is experiencing explosive growth. In 2017, it was estimated to be a $500-plus-billion industry; that number is expected to reach over $800 billion by 2023. This growth is partly fueled by a more “woke” market that is looking for new brands that are locally made, prettily packaged (for the ‘gram), and eco-friendly. Consumers are now more conscious about the potential effects of harsh chemicals on their skin and health, not to mention the environment. There is thus growing interest in all-natural products.
The Beasts in Your Beauty Products
Many consumers are now more aware of the ingredients they should avoid when it comes to their beauty products. These include:
Parabens. Sure, parabens can help prolong the shelf life of your beauty products but this preservative may be linked to increased breast cancer risk, endocrinal disruption, and skin allergies. Parabens can be found in makeup, bath products, facial cleansers, and deodorants.
Fragrance. There may be something fishy about your favorite perfume or that body wash that leaves you smelling like a field of flowers—after all, “fragrance” doesn’t really say much about the actual ingredients and may be linked with allergies, skin irritation, respiratory problems, and potential effects on the reproductive system.
Phthalates. Found in moisturizers, deodorants, perfumes, and hair sprays, phthalates may be linked to endocrine disruption, increased cancer risk, and even reproductive birth defects.
Sulfates. Who knew bath time could be risky? The sulfates found in shampoo and body wash may be carcinogenic when combined with other chemicals; may irritate your skin, lungs, or eyes; and may also lead to kidney and respiratory issues. Sulfates are also found in mascara and acne treatments (look for sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, and sodium laureth sulfate, or SLES, on the label.)
Formaldehyde. Used as a preservative in many cosmetics like nail polish, eye shadow, and bath products, formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens.
Propylene glycol. This hydrating agent can be found in products like makeup, sunscreen, and moisturizer. While it helps other ingredients penetrate skin, the down side is that it’s a skin irritant.
Toluene. Would you let anything from coal tar sources come near your skin? That’s where toluene comes from and the ingredient can be found in nail polish and hair color products. Pregnant women should be especially wary as the vapors from this paint-dissolving petrochemical may be harmful to the fetus.
Synthetic colors. Lipstick comes in so many exciting shades now but take a look at the labels and you’ll find mysterious ingredients like “D&C Red 22” to indicate the color. Synthetic shades may be a carcinogen and skin irritant. It’s worth noting that the European Union has banned the use of synthetic colors.
The Pros and Cons of Going Natural
Switching to non-toxic makeup brands can limit your exposure to these harmful chemicals. Other benefits to switching to natural makeup are:
It’s gentler on your skin. Apart from harsh chemicals potentially leading to a host of health problems, they can also be harsh on your skin, causing it to dry out or break out. While a little blush can give you a short-lived glow, it can also give you skin problems that will take much longer to resolve. Natural makeup is made of milder ingredients and has the added advantage of being gentle enough for use after a facial treatment. (Just be sure to check with your dermatologist first.)
It’s eco-friendly. Some chemicals used for conventional products may require mining and may be damaging to the environment. Certified-organic makeup is also produced without the use of pesticides and other chemicals that are harmful to the earth.
It’s widely available. Gone are the days when you would have to hunt far and wide to find all-natural makeup brands. Companies are realizing the importance of cutting back on chemicals and thus new makeup brands are becoming more popular and more readily available. Check out Healthy Options for a range of choices.
Organic and natural makeup is not without its disadvantages though, such as:
It has a shorter shelf life. Because it’s made without the usual chemical preservatives, organic and natural makeup expire faster than their more artificial counterparts. Take note of storage instructions (like keeping products away from direct sunlight) to make the most of your natural products.
It has fewer color options. Because it doesn’t use artificial coloring and has to rely on natural sources, non-toxic makeup doesn’t offer as much variety when it comes to shades.
It’s not waterproof. Your waterproof eyeliner and mascara are resistant to running because of all those chemicals so natural makeup doesn’t stay put quite as well.
Also take note that just because a product is natural or organic, it doesn’t mean your skin won’t react to it. No matter how natural a product is, you may still be allergic to it. So, make sure to do a spot test before committing to a natural makeup brand. Also introduce one product at a time instead of all at once so you can more easily trace any causes of irritation.