Archive for the ‘Skin Care Trends’ Category

Beeswax has been used as a cosmetic ingredient for hundreds, in not thousands of years. Its emollient and protective properties make it a very useful ingredient in moisturisers and lip gloss. A study by German scientists compared four products – two barrier creams and two moisturisers and found the moisturiser containing beeswax to be the most effective in protecting the hands of dental technicians handling irritating substances in their lab work.

Beswax never goes off – the one found in ancient Egyptian tombs is still usable today! It is sustainably produced and harvested without causing harm to bees. It seems and ideal cosmetic ingredient. But not everyone agrees. Over the last decades a vegan trend has developed. According to vegans beeswax is an unacceptable ingredient because it is of course of animal origin.

This trend puts some pressure on cosmetic companies and some have replaced beeswax with waxes of vegetal origin like carnauba or candelilla wax, or with hydrogenated vegetal oils. Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of weeks back I had an exchange of comments with a fellow blogger about preservatives. She was optimistic that developments in science will soon produce safer preservatives for the cosmetic industry. This started me thinking about preserving methods currently in use and where new developments may come from.

There are three broad methods of preservation in use by the cosmetic industry today:

1.      Going water free

This is the most straightforward preservation method – where there is no water there is no life. Simple.

This is how granny used to make her ointments. Today we are benefiting from a much wider choice of vegetal oils and butters than granny ever had, so it is possible to make combinations that feel lighter and quicker to absorb into the skin.

There is no guarantee that a water-free product will be also free from preservatives. Some manufacturers add preservatives anyway, in case the product gets mixed with water during use. But if you check the labels you will be able to find oils, balms and ointments with no added preservatives.

Over the last few years, consumers have been gradually getting more used to water-free, oil-based cleansers and moisturisers and it possible these products may continue to increase in popularity. Read the rest of this entry »


Mineral Make-up – What’s in a Name?

Posted by Luca Willington

When “mineral make-up” first appeared on the market, that phrase meant 100%  mineral and water-free foundation, blusher or eye-shadow. Mineral make-up products were innovative in leaving out potentially harmful conventional ingredients like preservatives, mineral oils, chemical dyes and perfumes, thus offering consumers a genuine healthy alternative.

Sadly, as the term “mineral make-up” has become more popular, manufacturers have started to apply it to more conventional products, many of them containing the less-desirable ingredients that mineral make-up originally left out.  These days, simply buying an item labelled “mineral make-up” doesn’t guarantee you will get the kind of new generation product you might expect. The good news is  that there are ways to tell a genuine new generation product from a re-labelled old one. Here’s what to look out for:

  • 100% mineral make up is a a loose powder, not a liquid or a compact powder.
  • The ingredient list of 100% mineral make-up tends to be short. For example: “Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Iron Oxides, Ultramarine Blue” might be the full ingredient list of a 100% mineral foundation. When the ingredient list runs into ten or more items, then you’re probably looking at a re-labelled conventional product.

You can also look for particular tell-tale words in the ingredient list:

  • If you see “Aqua” or “Aloe Barbadensis” (i.e. Aloe Vera, which has a high water content), this means the product contains water, and therefore also preservatives
  • If you find words ending in “paraben” (like methylparaben or propylparaben) – these are all names of preservatives
  • You might see ”Mineral Oil” listed as an ingredient, or you might also see the same additive listed as ”Paraffinum Liquidum”
  • You may see perfume additives listed as “Fragrance” or “Parfum”

These buzz words have been around for years now, but market research after market research shows many of us are not all that clear about their meaning. So here are some clues for the curious.

Natural” seems to be the easiest to define, as most people would agree that it applies to a substance taken from nature i.e. not-man-made. We trust natural because the human species had plenty of time to figure out what is safe and what is not in the natural world, what is edible and what is poisonous, what is good for us and what harms us. Not the sort of thing somebody creates in a lab, puts on the market with great advertising fuss and then years later we may find out it has undesirable side effects. Plant extracts and naturally occurring minerals are substances most of use would consider natural.
But what do cosmetic manufacturers mean by “natural”? Well, the answer to that question is a lot less straightforward. “Natural“ being so popular a concept with consumers, cosmetic companies often take liberties with the word. In marketing jargon, natural can mean “natural-derived-processed”, “partly natural” or “almost natural”.

Natural-derived-processed” – a bit of a mouthful, so  it’s understandable that the word “processed” is often left behind. It means a substance originating in nature has been modified in a chemical process. One example most of us are familiar with is hydrogenated oil. Liquid natural oils – e.g. olive oil – go through a chemical process that adds a few hydrogen atoms to their molecules, thus turning the oils into solid, butter-like substances. At the end of the process you have a different substance, with a different chemical formula than what you had at the beginning. Is the end substance still natural?

Organic” can be more than “natural”, but interestingly, it can be less.
The Soil Association’s criteria for organic skin care products are rather lengthy – not the kind of information you can summarise on a product’s package. Neither are they the sort of pleasant reading you would want to have with your cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon. That is why I will venture to say that – of all the natural-related buzz-words, “organic “is the least likely to be understood by the general public.
In the context of “100% natural and organic”, the organic certification is a step towards safe and healthy. But if you compare a product that is 100% natural with a product that is certified organic you will often find the  100% natural one is the closest to nature. Because the organic standards allow a number of preservatives and emulsifies, even though they are synthetic, on the grounds that there are no natural alternatives to them.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing like reading the ingredient list for yourself. The rule of thumb is: If every single ingredient in the list sounds natural, then chances are the product is natural. But if the end tail of the ingredient list reminds you of the chemistry book, then the natural claims of that brand would be better taken with a pinch of salt.

“Free from un-necessary chemicals”  – that is what naturally-minded skin care companies say in support of  their “natural” claims. it’s not a very enlightening statement – “How many synthetic chemicals are there in the product?“ we may rightly ask, but I do like its honesty. These companies are basically telling us “we have tried hard to bring down the amounts of synthetic additives in our products and this is as far as we could go. The artificial additives that are still there are necessary.”

Which brings us to this question: Necessary for what? For the health of our skin? Well, no. Not at all. These additives are used to produce the oil and water emulsions we got used to buying as moisturisers. But they are not all motherhood and apple pie. Far from it. Read the rest of this entry »


Oil-Based Products – the Future of Natural Skin Care?

Posted by Luca Willington

The latest issue of Women’s Health features an article with the title “Don’t be Scared of Oil Based Products”. Fifteen years ago this was unthinkable. But I’m not going to claim I’ve spotted a new  trend here – far too late for that since the story is already out for all to hear.

Instead I’m going to ask: How big is the oil based cosmetics market going to get? I for one will venture to place a bet on this answer: “really big” and this is why: The oil and water emulsion, which has been our typical moisturiser for many decades now, relies on emulsifiers (how else can you get the oils and water to mix?) and on preservatives to stop the emulsion becoming a paradise for all kinds of bacteria, moulds and fungi. To date, the cosmetic industry has not managed to find a functional natural emulsifiers or preservative – unless you count the “vegetal derived, processed”. More than that, there are some basic issues with these two groups of substances: Read the rest of this entry »