Skincare: Clean or Conventional?

in Opinion by
In a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, EWG, the average woman uses an average of 12 products a day –– nearly 200 chemicals. (Graphic/Emily Anderson)

With celebrity endorsed skin care and beauty ads popping up all over the internet, consumers feel compelled to buy these products as well. According to CNN, the global beauty industry valued just over $300 billion in 2018. 

People care about their skin, leading many of them to search for products that would be beneficial to their health. Due to this, consumers look to “natural” skincare brands to take better care of their skin. However, many skincare brands that market themselves as “natural” may not be as natural as people think.

According to Shape, the criteria that a product must have to achieve the status as “natural” consists of ingredients that are formulated without synthetics and are nature-derived. This, however, does not ensure that the product is completely free of harmful ingredients. For example, the popular “natural” skin care brand Burt’s Bees labels their products as “99% natural” but still has potentially dangerous chemicals like potassium sorbate and limonene. Potassium sorbate scores a 3 on EWG’s Skin Deep Database as a human skin toxicant or allergen, while limonene scores a 3-6 for possible human system toxicity and allergies. Although both of these ingredients are natural, limonene coming from the rind of a citrus fruit (only considered toxic when exposed to sunlight) and potassium sorbate, a potassium salt of sorbic acid, marketing a product as “natural” does not ensure it is free of any harmful ingredients. 

Makeup marketed as conventional is not any better either. In an article written in Well Being Journal, the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) listed 113 agents as a Group 1 human carcinogens. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reports that at least 11 of the 113 have been or are currently used in personal care products. The carcinogens include formaldehyde, phenacetin, coal tar, benzene, mineral oils, methylene glycol, ethylene oxide, chromium, cadmium, arsenic and crystalline silica or quartz. Coal tar exists in hair dyes, shampoos and dandruff/scalp treatments. Methylene glycol ,can be found in nail polishes, while bubble baths, shampoos and conditioners, moisturizers and other products contain phenacetin. 

If these cosmetics have ingredients that are harmful and some products marketed as “natural” also have ingredients that could cause irritation, then doing research on a product is the best option. Inspecting the ingredients on a skincare database would allow for the safest option for one’s skin and overall health.

Some examples of skincare brands with products that have the stamp of EWG verification include: Conscious Skincare, Lowen’s Natural Skincare, Soap for Goodness Sake  and Just the Goods.

As a junior at Heritage, Emily is trying to face high school as best as she can. At school, Emily can be found playing violin in the orchestra, attempting to recruit members into Dead Poets Society, and frantically sprinting from the 9000 to get to her class on the other side of campus. Outside of school, Emily enjoys writing poetry, repeatedly watching the same movies, and partially succeeding in her goal of reading five books a week.


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