Tips for Choosing Natural Cosmetics

Choosing natural cosmetics Centuries ago, cosmetics were made of natural ingredients such as vegetable and essential oils, beeswax, mineral pigments. Synthetic ingredients have made cosmetics more affordable, but many consumers still prefer natural cosmetics made with as few synthetic ingredients as possible. Such products are safe for human health and effective, that is why they are becoming increasingly popular.

Today a lot of cosmetic manufacturers claim that their products are natural or even all-natural. But do they tell the truth? What does the term “natural cosmetics” really mean and how to make sure that you're buying natural cosmetics?

First and foremost, there's a difference between natural and organic cosmetics. According to the ECOCERT standard, a minimum of 95% of the total ingredients in both organic and natural cosmetics must come from natural origin. For the natural cosmetic label, a minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 5% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming (for the organic cosmetic label, then numbers are 95% and 10%, respectively).

But these are just numbers. Can you determine whether a certain product is natural or not judging from its appearance? Natural cosmetics do have some particular qualities. For example, beauty products made with natural ingredients rarely have a bright colour and/or strong scent because they do not contain artificial fragrances or colourants. Their light, natural scent and colour are determined by essential oils and natural pigments.

So, if you come across a cream, lotion, shower gel, shampoo or any other cosmetic product that has an unnaturally bright colour or a strong scent, it is most likely not natural. Check the ingredient list for synthetic perfumes and/or dyes.

Natural cosmetics do not contain artificial thickeners, solvents, foaming agents, or emulsifiers. That is why the texture and properties of natural cosmetics often differ from those of mass-market cosmetics. For example, natural shampoos and shower gels lather less than regular ones because they do not contain SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate), popular synthetic surfactants. But their cleansing properties are just as good!

Natural cosmetics are generally free of petrochemicals such as propylene glycol or mineral oil. Not all petrochemicals are bad for human health, but the petroleum industry in general harms the environment. That is why conscientious consumers choose natural cosmetics that do not contain petroleum-derived ingredients.

There is a whole list of harmful ingredients to avoid when buying personal care products. These ingredients include, but are not limited to, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, hydroquinone, mineral oil, oxybenzone, parabens, phthalates, polyethylene glycol compounds, silicone-derived emollients (or simply silicones), sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES), BHA and BHT, phenoxyethanol. While some of them are simply irritants (unpleasant but not dangerous), others are toxic. It would be better to avoid them altogether.

Some consumers don't see the difference between natural cosmetics and DIY cosmetics. Homemade beauty products have a very short shelf life ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. Natural cosmetics are made in sterile conditions and formulated with natural preservatives such as essential oils and plant-derived acids (benzoic acid, salicylic acid, sorbic acid). Their shelf life is relatively long (usually up to a year). But if a cosmetic product has a very long shelf life, it is probably not all-natural. Natural cosmetics do not contain synthetic preservatives such as methylparaben (E218), propylparaben (E216), ethylparaben (E214) or butylparaben.

These days natural cosmetic products are gaining more and more trust from consumers as they are safe for human health and the environment. Conscientious consumers know the difference between cheap mass-market products and quality yet affordable natural ones. When you choose natural cosmetics, you can be sure that they will do you only good and no harm. So make the right choice!

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