Time and again, here @PuraVedaOrganics, we focus on the fact that reading labels is the most critical issue when it comes to choosing the most effective, least toxic, and sustainable beauty products for your skin and hair. And..just as an oily skin care regimen won’t work for dry or sensitive skin (or vice versa), it’s equally important to know whether a product is natural, clean (ie; made with zero synthetic chemicals).
To help you find your most effective personalized beauty regimen, we have decoded 18 of the most commonly utilized terms found on Skin, Hair and Personal Care product labels:
The term “natural” is actually without definition by FDA, USDA or EU. If a product is labeled ‘Natural’ or ‘Made with Natural Ingredients’, the total concentration of ‘actual’ natural ingredients contained in the product can be as low as 5%!!…with the other 95% being synthetic ingredients. The only way to be sure if a product actually contains truly natural ingredients is to check the INGREDIENT LIST to ensure if it indeed ‘100% Natural’.
When a product is labeled ‘Clean’..here is what that means:
- made with ingredients which are suspected to be less harmful or irritating.
- not tested on animals
- ethically sourced
- made with the preservation of our health and environment in mind
There is actually no regulatory authority that categorizes or certifies a product to be ‘Clean’. An EWG (Environmental Working Group) certification is the closest thing the consumer can refer to in order to ascertain whether a product can be identified as ‘Clean’. Just keep in mind that ‘clean’ products can contain both natural and “less-harmful”synthetic ingredients.
Organic (or more correctly USDA certified ‘Organic’) skin care or hair care products are made from specific plants grown under certain government reglations and oversight. We believe this is a step in the right direction, but many family farms and sustainable farmers also use these standards, ie; free from the use of any pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other synthetics, and additives. These growers may not be able to afford the cost of USDA certification, but it is worth scouting out local growers and farm stands for even fresher, more nutritious produce and meat at a less expensive cost which the Whole Foods type fare passes along to us, the consumers. Also many ingredients that are wild sourced from all over the world are still ‘organic’, just not USDA certified. It is always worth it to do your homework!
There are many perks of using organic products on the skin. Organic ingredients are less likely to cause any allergic reaction or inflammations and contain higher levels of vital antioxidants than non-organic plants.
The concentration of active ingredients in organic products can be up to 99%, while in synthetics, this concentration is only about 5-10% of the content. Organic products are gentle on your skin and won’t cause harm, barring any allergic reaction, which is possible with any ingredient.
Non-comedogenic products are those that cause comedones, ie; whiteheads and blackheads – and is a very important term to check for if you have oily or sensitive skin that is prone to acne flares. According to studies, comedogenic ingredients are rated on a scale of 0-5. Those that have a high comedogenicity rating above 2 (like Benzaldehyde, Cetearyl Alcohol, SLS/SLES etc.) are toxic for skin and cause whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Ingredients with a lower comedogenic rating of 0-2 (like Zinc Oxide, Sunflower seed oil, Neem Oil, etc.) is less likely to clog pores. There are other ingredients too with ‘No Comedogenicity’ like Aloe Vera, Papain, Bentonite Clay/French Green Clay, Hemp Seed Oil, etc., and these actual help clear and prevent acne.
Read here about the List of Comedogenic Ingredients That You Should Avoid in Skin Care.
Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. After several decades of its (mis)use in the beauty industry, parabens have now been confirmed as hormone disruptors, and are linked to cancer and reproductive issues.
When beauty products are labeled ‘Paraben-free’, it means the formulation is free from paraben and its various derivatives like methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben and their chemical alternatives.
To increase the shelf-life of products and prevent the growth of bacteria, botanical alternatives to parabens like neem, rosemary, grapefruit seed extract, limonene, thyme, peppermint are excellent natural preservatives.
Another top-priority on your check list to look for is: SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) /SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) free. SLS/SLES are Sulfates that are not only used in shampoos and face wash, but also in industrial detergents and household cleaners! Sulfates create a lathering effect that helps to remove oil and dirt and give us a squeaky clean feeling. Over time though, sulfates can make your skin more oily, and aggravate skin sensitivity and appear to be implicated in long-term serious health risks.
Due to the hype of sulfate-free products, these days, many beauty companies are replacing sulfates with synthetic derivatives like Cocamidopropyl betaine, etc. However, these are equally harmful for the skin.
The only safe and the best-known Natural Cleansers are made with African Black Soap, Castile Soap and Yucca Root.
7. No Artificial Fragrances
Products that contain ‘No Artificial Fragrances’ are formulated with natural botanical isolates/derivatives and essential oils. Some of the best therapeutic grade natural fragrances are made from the essential oils of rose, jasmine, neroli, peppermint, sandalwood, vanilla, etc.
Unknown to natural fragrances, artificial and synthetic fragrances or ‘Parfums’ (French for perfume or fragrance) contain ingredients like acetaldehydes, alcohol, benzophenones, synthetic musk, etc., which cam cause allergy, sensitivity and even serious health concerns such as nervous system disorders and cancers.
8. No Artificial Colors
FDA categorizes color additives and dyes in beauty products as ‘organic’, ‘inorganic’ and the ‘botanical’ group. The Organic group, isn’t at ALL what the name suggests, but instead indicates the presence of carbon atoms in the form of synthetic lakes and dyes. These are toxic as well as potentially carcinogenic, and can cause thyroid malfunctioning and kidney disorders.
The only reliable category is the ‘Botanical Group’ wherein a natural ingredient is used in its raw form and hasn’t been altered to enhance its color. Some examples are: French Green Clay, Papaya, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Honey, etc.
Read more about Color Additives and Dyes – And Why You Should Avoid Them.
9. Broad Spectrum
If you’re looking for a sunscreen, the term ‘Broad Spectrum’ should definitely be at the top of your ingredient wish list. A Broad Spectrum SPF Sunscreen protects you from both UVA (responsible for photoaging and causing wrinkles and fine lines) and UVB (causes hyperpigmentation and burning of skin) sun rays, as well as UVC rays. Too much exposure to any UV rays can also skin cancer.
The best known broad spectrum sun safe ingredient is Zinc Oxide. Unlike chemical blockers, which penetrate deep and are known to damage the skin in the long run, Zinc Oxide works as an excellent physical blocker, which reflects the sun’s rays and protects the skin from both UVA & UVB and C rays without side effects.