Learning to find products that are good for you, good for the environment, and have the positive effects you want for your hair & skin can be a little daunting at first. You pick up an innocent-looking bottle of cleanser or moisturizer to read the ingredients and find yourself faced with all kinds of long, impossible-to-pronounce words instead. Some of these crazy words are perfectly innocent, like Simmondsia Chinensis which is actually just good old jojoba oil, but there are others that can be a little more sinister.
How do you decipher between good and bad ingredients? How can you stay away from harmful ingredients? How do you even make sense of the labels on your favorite beauty products? Here is a quick guide on ingredients to look out for when choosing your products and how to read your label. We’ve decided to make it as easy as possible for you, because taking care of your body, your health and the environment shouldn’t be so difficult!
KNOW HOW TO IDENTIFY HARMFUL INGREDIENTS
First of all, you must be able to identify the harmful ingredients in products. Here are 3 main chemicals to stay away from.
Did you know that most cosmetics are 80% water? Initially you might think this is a good sign because water is good for us, right? The problem with this amount of water is that these products would only have a shelf life of a week. To prolong the shelf life of products, cosmetics brands turn to Parabens, a chemical compound that’s used as a preservative. What you may not know is that Parabens is contain the chemicals methyl, propyl and butyl, which can interfere with the endocrine system, accelerate aging, and can even increase risks of breast cancer.
If you’re interested in natural cosmetics and skincare products, you probably know by now that Sulfates are one of the skincare industries most debated ingredients. Despite having been declared safe by multiple regulatory bodies, some still claim that Sulfates, which are used as a foaming agent, increase risks of cancer while others are concerned with its reputation as an irritant. Regardless of these issues, we believe in steering free of Sulfates simply because the big, luxurious bubbles that they create don’t contribute to healthy skin or hair. In fact, Sulfates tend to strip hair & skin completely of their natural oils, leading to dryness, flakiness and discomfort.
Where sulfates make bubbles, silicones are used to give products that luxurious, silky feeling that many have come to know and love in their skincare products. While not particularly dangerous, they’re not particularly good for your skin either. Silicones are able to fill any tiny crevices in your skin more or less immediately, giving your skin an instantly smoother appearance. While some say that silicone residue acts as a protectant against outside pollution, in reality the effect is the opposite. Silicone residues will actually trap any debris or dirt against your skin, clogging your pores, creating acne and congestion – not to mention their probable environmental risk as silicones appear to need 400-500 years to decompose.
Tools like this cosmetics database can also help identify ingredients in your product bottles and jars as well as provide a safety rating of the products you purchase.
KNOW GOOD SUBSTITUTES YOU SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR
It’s all well and good to declare which chemicals are good and which are bad, but how do you use this information to make the right choices for you and your skin? We believe the first step is easy: understand what’s in your product. To start, silicones tend to end with –cone or –siloxane, sulfates are usually straight up labelled with the word sulfate, while parabens may be disguised as ethyl, butyl, methyl or propyl. These are all ingredients to avoid. Now, what should you look for in their place?
Here at Leaf Juice, we try to find a balance by choosing the best ingredients we can source whilst also making sense of science and we’ve found that the best replacement for silicones, for example, is Glycerin. Glycerin works as a humectant, which attracts water instead of repelling it and so does a much better job of hydrating your skin, plus it’s a natural product derived from sugar! We especially love it in our Hand & Body Lotions, Body Wash gels, and Hair Creams. However, too much glycerin can also leave the skin feeling sticky and uncomfortable so we find the best ratio is no more than 4% and always stick to this with our products.
As for preservatives, look out for natural preservatives like Potassium Sorbate. Potassium Sorbate is made from Sorbic Acid which is found naturally in berries from the Mountain Ash Tree and used regularly as a food preservative so there’s no need to worry about any lurking side effects. By reducing the water content of our products and replacing it with hydrosols and concentrated plant extracts (aka leaf juice), the amount of preservative needed is also reduced. There are some cases where the use of preservatives isn’t necessary at all! Products made 100% from oils and fats, like our Golden Face Serum Dry Oil and lip balms, don’t consist of any preservatives and vitamin E, a natural moisturizer, is used as a stabilizer.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING NATURAL PRODUCTS: READ YOUR LABEL
Now that you know which chemicals to avoid and which natural ingredients to look out for instead, how do you distinguish the quality of all the products out there that claim to be “natural” or “organic”. Natural products don’t always mean good products of high quality, so how do you understand what’s really in the bottle you’re about to buy? Well, you have to read the labels! Specifically, make note of which ingredients are listed first as these are what have been used in the highest quantity. For example, if your product claims to have been made from hyaluronic acid (like our Eye Serum and Botanical Cleansing Face Gel), make sure “hyaluronic acid” is listed as one of the first few ingredients on the label. It is also important to note that normally, anything listed after the preservative will make up less than 1% of the product and will offer you minimal benefits.
Whilst this is not an exhaustive list by any means, you should now feel more confident to take on your cosmetic choices, armed with the knowledge of which ingredients to avoid and how to read your label. Of course, it’s also handy to search for products by brand – find one you love and trust and keep on going back!