Understanding What You Are Purchasing

If you been a frequent reader of my blog, you know that I like to encourage natural beauty products and regiments. I like to give tips on how you can make your own products at home and highlight the benefits of ingredients that I use on myself. I encourage readers to take time out of their very busy schedule to indulge, relax and luxuriate. For those who don't take the time out to make their own home beauty remedies but instead opt to buy natural & organic personal care products such as lotions, creams, lip balms and hair products, deciphering what's natural or organic can be confusing. Reading labels can be daunting and unless you're an expert in the field then you don't quite know what is what. For example, what does natural or organic really mean? What are parabens or petroleum by-products? If you've pondered over those same questions while standing in the personal care aisle at your local Wholefoods or local natural food store, then ponder no more. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this two part series you'll have better insight on what you're purchasing.


Unfortunately, there isn't any definite rule in the personal care industry that defines what can be considered natural. On the other hand, the USDA has laid our definitive rules for what products can be label organic. In order to be labeled 100% organic a product must have 100% organic ingredients including added water and salt. You may also sometimes see labels that says "organic" or "made with organic ingredients" and those usually have 70% or 95% organic ingredients respectively. Regarding the term "natural," well, don't be fool. The term "natural" can be applied to almost anything. Typically, manufacturers will have a small percentage of a natural ingredient in a product with the remaining amount containing synthetic ingredients.


Parabens--methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl are the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetics and personal care products. The US Environment Protection Agency has reported that these chemicals displayed estrogenic activity in several test. In plain English, these chemicals mimic your body´s own hormones and can have endocrine-disrupting action when they are rubbed into your body or washed down the drain into your drinking water. These disruptors interfere with your body´s endocrine system: your hypothalamus, your ovaries, your thyroid—virtually every system in your body. The EPA also stated that "continual introduction of these benzoates (parabens) into sewage treatment systems and directly to recreational waters from the skin leads to the question of risk to aquatic organisms." Scientists in Europe found other endocrine-disrupting body care chemicals in the bodies of fish that humans are eating, and in human breast milk. Hmm, considering that your skin absorbs 60% of what you put on it, this information sound less than appealing.

Petroleum by-products and mineral oils are prized ingredients in the personal care industry, it acts like a great emollient in lotions and creams. It is the by-product of crude oil and it's cheap and readily available. When applied to the skin petroleum, mineral oil create a barrier on the skin that prevents the skin to eliminate toxins out of the body and over time can clog pores. I know some of us have been brought up on thE ever so popular jar of Vaseline but sorry to say but that also falls into the category of petroleum-by products.

Rules to Remember

  1. Just because a product line says it's natural or organic on the front doesn't really mean it is, flip it over and read the ingredient list.
  2. Look for products that says it's paraben and petroleum free.
  3. Parabens names are usually come with the following prefixes methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl (ex. propylparabens)
  4. Look for products that contain plant based essential oils instead of "parfum," which are usually made up of hundred sometimes thousands of blended chemicals
  5. If you don't know what a particular ingredient is, don't be afraid to look it up on the internet

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