Do natural and organic brands have a point?

Hi Beauty Brains,

So I’ve been really into natural and organic cosmetics but have been listening to your podcast recently and am starting to re-think it a bit.

I get it that every natural ingredient is also a chemical (though not necessarily a “synthetic chemical”). And I also get that beauty companies aren’t allowed to put harmful things in beauty products (synthetic or otherwise). But are there some shades of grey here?

It seems like some synthetic chemicals are less time tested and could later be found to have unforeseen risks (a bit like how people back in the 50s thought smoking was safe… but later found it quite harmful).

Acceptable levels of Retinol are maybe one example (thinking about RandyS’s earlier September 5 comment on that subject .

Maybe also parabens? I would be super keen to get your thoughts on the NIH research referenced and points made by BreastCancer UK for example.

Is that all just bunk or do they have a point? It seems to me that a certified 100% natural product would carry less of this sort of risk than some synthetic chemical products and hence would be potentially worth some amount of premium.

Maybe I’m just self rationalizing my own preferences but would be very interested in your and the groups' thoughts.

Thanks so much Randy and Perry!

Warm regards,

Le

P.S. Still keen to get your thoughts on the best type of aloe ingredients from my earlier question! :smile:
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Comments

  • Great questions.

    I would say that natural cosmetic brands are mostly bunk. Or at least their marketing is bunk.

    The thing is that cosmetics are not natural. There is no such thing as a lipstick bush or a shampoo tree. So, every cosmetic goes through some type of processing to make it.

    Parabens are a good example. First, they are found in nature. (http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/paraben-information) But more importantly, the safety of them have been examined by an independent group of scientists the SCCS in the EU. They found that there is no safety concern about using parabens as used in cosmetics.

    http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_132.pdf

    People who claim that they do not have parabens and imply that their products are more safe are liars. Their products are not more safe.

    There is zero evidence that a 100% certified natural product is more safe than a synthetic product. In fact, since there is less contamination in the synthetic product, they are probably more safe. There is also no such thing as a 100% natural cosmetic product.

    Anyway, I'm sure any product you can buy will be safe whether synthetic or "natural". The natural ones probably won't be as effective but you may have a perfectly fine experience using it. I'm of the opinion that if you spend more money on it, you're wasting money but others might disagree.

    Hope that helps

    Perry, 44
  • Also just because something is natural doesn't mean it isn't harmful. Arsenic is natural...
  • Got it! Have to say, I agree about a lot of the marketing. Also, seems like a lot of cosmetics brands are just trying to sell us women a fountain of youth!

    But at the same time, I need moisturizer and want to be an informed consumer..

    So what is your take on the Breast Cancer UK / NIH research?

    http://www.breastcanceruk.org.uk/science-and-research/parabens/

    I get it when people are trying to sell me something that they may be stretching the truth (saying that silicone is dangerous or something when it's in almost everything), but I find the above link a bit concerning...

    Or is that research something that's just a one-off reference more like Prop 65 with Aloe? Thanks Perry!
  • Thanks for the question. It's understandable you might find information unsettling. But science is not settled on single studies. It is the bulk of studies and the consensus of experts that is best followed when making decisions about these things.

    My take is that I'm not a toxicology expert and I will defer my opinion to what the consensus of toxicology experts have to say.

    Right now, the consensus is that parabens as used in cosmetics are safe to use.

    It's the conclusion of the SCCS (http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consumer_safety/docs/sccs_o_132.pdf)
    the FDA (https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128042.htm)

    Health Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/cosmetics/labelling/safety-ingredients.html#a4.7

    And more.

    If the consensus toxicology experts were saying there is a problem, I'd agree with them. They aren't.

    An organization like Breast Cancer UK is not made up of scientists. It is made up of people with experience in running political campaigns. They would not be the first place I would go to for information about the carcinogenicity of ingredients.
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