Over the past decade, “greenwashing” has become more prevalent in both the household products and beauty industries. With this positive trend has come a lot of confusion.
A quick search online will result in thousands of articles all arguing something different, revealing product ‘scams’ and a host of product lines claiming to be genuinely organic, natural or green.
The fact that there is no official regulatory body in Canada and United States monitoring these products and setting guidelines for what makes something “organic” makes things even more confusing to consumers faced with a wall of beauty products to choose from, all claiming to be free of preservatives, organic or natural.
So, you decide you’re going to be pro-active and research the various ingredients included in a product you’re interested in buying before making the purchase. Did you know that Canadian regulations state that not all ingredients need to be included on product labels? Where does this leave you as a consumer? Confused, overwhelmed, misinformed and disappointed.
The first thing you need to know about products that claim to be organic is that no product can be 100% organic. It’s impossible. Why? Because any product that contains water, especially, creams, gels and serums need preservatives. These wet products in air-tight containers are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. Without a preservative mold, yeasts and fungi grow causing rashes and infections. While synthetic preservatives protect the product, parabens, a common ingredient in some synthetic preservatives, has been believed to cause cancer.
The solution seems simple, right? Find what is safe in both natural and synthetic preservatives and use that. Easier said than done. There are many complications with replacing synthetic preservatives with a natural alternative.
The issue with creating an organic or natural preservative is that there are many organic ingredients that can prevent the growth of mold, yeast or fungi however, they are not safe for consumer’s skin and will result in a strange smelling product. Using a smaller dosage means it’s not effective as a preservative and the product will have a very short shelf-life, something that is not ideal for suppliers, retailers and customers.
A universal organic preservative is also difficult to achieve because it needs to fit into a company’s pre-existing, specific working product formula. Determining how this works from company to company varies, and within the company itself, requires trial and error, which can be very expensive and time-consuming.
There is however, a light at the end of the tunnel.
The good news is that the big players in the beauty industry are willing to dedicate the time and money towards adequately testing products and working towards developing a more organic preservative.
This means two things. First, that with the emergence of more organic and natural products will hopefully come a regulatory body in Canada and United States. Secondly, this means that these organic products will eventually come to have lower price-points as they become less trendy and more mainstream.
In the meantime, here are some ingredients that are commonly confused as natural preservatives:
1) Vitamin E – While it is an antioxidant and does prolong product’s shelf-life it will not prevent the growth of mold, yeasts and fungi in any products that contain water
2) Grapefruit Seed Extract – This ingredient often has to be chemically-altered to the point of no longing being natural. While it does have some antimicrobial characteristics, it is not a good natural preservative.
3) CO2 Extract (AKA; Rosemary Oil) – This ingredient is an antioxidant and can be used to extend the life of oil-based products; however, it is not an effective preservative in water-based products.
Want to know which organic product line we trust and personally use? Stay tuned for next week’s blog entry!