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Just How Natural Are Natural Cosmetics?

Feb 27, 2008
Organic and natural cosmetics and personal care products are taking off rapidly.

The daily lifestyle for millions of North Americans and Europeans already includes organic food products, so making sure that what they absorb through their skin is equally safe, is a natural progression.

In a woman's lifetime she will ingest some four pounds of lipstick and a similar amount of other products through the skin from personal care products annually. But, the big question, particularly here in North America, is just how natural are they?

In Europe, it's a lot easier to have confidence as regulators have adopted a highly cautionary approach - better safe than sorry. In January 2003, the European Union decided to ban the use of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects. The ban became effective in September 2004 and covers thousands of potential ingredients.

In the US, it's more a "prove it's harmful first approach", so your health safety is very much in your own hands. But, at least, there is now the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) certifying organic content in cosmetics, which is a big step in the right direction. However, it's very early days and it will be many years before there is widespread adoption in personal care products.

The "Truth" Is In The Label (mostly)
No matter how much or how little government regulation is protecting you, or not, there is one step a consumer can do and that is examine labels. Online you can find a group called "SafeCosmetics". On their site you can mug up on the main ingredients to be avoiding, typically two of the biggest are parabens and phthalates, but there are many more.

Labels can, and often are, very difficult to read though for those whose eyesight makes tiny print a blur. Methylparaben is derived from petroleum so it is technically both natural and organic. It is also suspected as a culprit in the rising incidence of breast cancer.

The trouble is there can be substances in the products that are not listed because they are trace amounts. A recent example has been the lead found in many lipsticks. However tiny, no amount of lead should be tolerated as it is a powerful nerve toxin.

Look for Reputable Manufacturers
Look for companies dedicated to producing nothing but truly organic and natural skincare products. Look for mention of the certifying bodies that they claim their product ingredients have been subjected to such as the previously mentioned USDA, and BDIH, ECOCERT (inspects and certifies in over 80 countries) and the Soil Association which are all in Europe.

By examining the philosophies of these companies, you are more likely to be getting not only healthy and beneficial products, but that they are produced in humane and environmentally conscious facilities. After all it defeats the purpose to buy natural cosmetics produced in a factory that dumps toxins into the water.

Smart Consumers Are Healthier Consumers
Take the time to become an educated consumer. The Internet is there to provide you with all the information you could ever want on the safety of personal care products.

Fortunately, aside from the 'Safecosmetics' folks trying to look out for you, there is also a world class American environmental oncologist by the name of Dr. Devra Davis at the University of Pittsburgh.

She and her colleagues have done much to raise awareness of the dangers of ingredients in cosmetics and skin care products, especially those that have estrogenic effects. Their research indicates that African-American women are particularly vulnerable with unnaturally early onsets of puberty and higher rates of breast cancer and earlier onset of the disease in comparison to white Americans.

She is the author of more than 170 scientific publications and the editor of 11 books. Her latest book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, was published in October 2007. In it, Dr. Davis details how we began fighting the wrong war, with the wrong weapons, against the wrong enemies' legacy that persists to this day.

Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry and for those not living in Europe it really means you have to be even more diligent because it is still very much a question of waiting 'til the horse has bolted before regulators move to ban ingredients!
About the Author
Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on natural skin care products and organic skin care, visit http://www.Lavera.com/.
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