Fads come and go, but the “green” theme is proving very sustainable – from organic eating to eco-friendly lifestyles, we are no longer satisfied with just being a “green thumb”.
Not only are we looking for healthy alternatives to what we put in our body, but also what we put on our skin and how it affects the environment.
With media storms over environmental nasties such as micro beads and carcinogenic products, it’s not surprising that we are seeing a rise in the “conscious consumer” and a huge increase in natural and organic products.
Natural and organic products are one of the fastest growing trends globally. Lisa Wilson, International Communications Manager for Trilogy, says that in the 12 months to March 2016, pharmacy data shows the natural/organic skincare segment grew 21.4 per cent in New Zealand and 26.7 per cent in Australia; this is compared to total skincare, which grew 13 per cent and 14.5 per cent respectively.
According to an American-based not-for-profit environmental organisation, EWG (The Environmental Working Group), which aims to educate consumers on health and wellbeing by reporting and analysing on such trends, the global market for organic personal care products was valued at more than $7 billion (US Dollars) in 2012.
It’s big business, which has steered many large multi-national companies to take note and re-evaluate their products.
Malcolm Rands (aka the Ecoman), New Zealand’s own organic activist who has produced a line of eco-friendly cleaning and bodycare products, has seen that big corporations are having to take notice of the consumer demand for a more holistic and environmentally friendly approach to skincare, and are consequently aiming to “clean up” their products.
“Multi-nationals are having to question what they’re putting in their products, as the conscious consumer becomes more vocal,” he says. “Consumers are asking, where do you get your ingredients from? What happens when they are washed down the drain? What are you doing to protect the environment? Who are you testing these products on?
“The best way for them to answer those questions is to change their habits.”
Listening to the conscious consumer
We still have a long way to go, but synthetic substances such as micro beads are one example of how big corporations are listening to consumers who are concerned about their environmental footprint as well as their health, and want to see change. Johnson & Johnson, for instance, have agreed to phase out these tiny plastic particles from their products by 2017.
Microscopic in size, micro beads are capable of passing through our treatment systems, and then find their way into our natural water and into our food chain via the birds and fish that we consume. Another example is that leading personal care companies, including Avon, Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble, have agreed to remove triclosan from their products. Triclosan is often used in hand soaps and body washes to reduce bacterial growth, but may be harmful to the human body.
These actions show large corporations have made a start towards safer products, but many natural and organic companies have been fighting the cause for some time and proving that natural products are just as good, if not better than, chemical-based ones.
Lisa Wilson from Trilogy can attest to the developments of natural skincare.
“Innovation in natural and organic ingredients and technology has moved so rapidly in recent years that you can get the same, or indeed better, results without resorting to synthetics,” she explains.
“There are some incredibly effective botanical ingredients, which are backed up with strong clinical data, that simply weren’t available a few years ago. The growing global demand for truly natural skincare is evidence that people are seeing good results from these products for themselves.”
Back to nature
Brigit Blair, founder of Linden Leaves, agrees and has seen great developments and results over 20 years in the business. After struggling to care for her two children, who suffered from severe allergies and eczema, and tired of constantly being prescribed steroids by doctors, she felt there had to be a better way.
“I looked at ancient rituals and believed that what we put into our bodies, we can put on our bodies – it’s about working in harmony with your skin and getting it back into balance. To me, I just couldn’t see why natural ingredients wouldn’t be just as effective as any chemical product, as they are not full of the junk that chemicals have.”
Within her range she uses natural products such as organic white tea, avocado oil and chia seeds to replenish, moisturise and protect the skin and wild daisy extract to lighten and brighten the complexion.
Natural products, however, don’t come cheap and their shelf life is significantly less than chemical-based products.
“Natural skincare is generally made in small batches, has a shorter expiry date and it’s not easy to formulate,” Brigit continues, “and when you are dealing with natural ingredients they can vary in colour from batch to batch.” (A bigger company would even all that out with synthetics and fillers, making it cheaper and longer lasting on the shelves.) But natural products, as Brigit puts it, are a labour of love.
“It’s part of the whole wellness realm – eating and drinking well, exercise, sleep, managing stress – if you can have that wellness approach, then you’ll get the best results with your skincare.”
Going au naturale
If you are contemplating switching to a natural product, expect some adjustments.
“Since your skin is so used to being bombarded with chemicals, it’s not surprising that it gets confused when natural products are used,” says Stephanie Evans, Creator of Oasis Beauty. “Switching to natural skincare does require some perseverance. Some will see breakouts and others may experience dryness instead, or as well.”
Stephanie recommends incorporating one or two products at first into your skincare routine and give it at least 30 days to see the beneficial changes, as this is how long it takes for the skin cells to renew.
“It’s similar to cutting out refined sugar from your diet. For a while, you may get headaches and your skin may worsen, but when the body has detoxed all the nasties, you start to see a positive difference.”
Top 8 nasties to avoid
The higher up on the ingredients list, the higher the percentage used. To ensure products are more natural than others, check they have little or none of these ingredients.
1 Parabens and Phenoxyethanol Parabens are often listed as methyl, butyl, propyl and ethyl parabens, and are the most commonly used preservatives. Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative, which is commonly used in “paraben-free” products.
2 Petroleum By-Products/Petrochemicals These are derived from the same substance as motor oil! Examples include petrolatum, paraffin, glycol, butylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, polybutene, triclosan, polyethylene and mineral oil.
3 DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine) These chemicals are what make the suds – best to avoid.
4 Synthetic Colours and Fragrances Sometimes labelled as “FD & C” followed by a number. Some synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which can cause skin sensitivity.
5 Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Chemicals used to thicken products; they can cause dry skin and rashes.
6 UREA (Imidazolidinyl) and DMDM Hydantoin These release formaldehyde, which is known to cause headaches.
7 SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulphate) Used to make products foam, they can often cause rashes.
8 Carbomer Made from acrylic acid, this is a gelling agent – safer, more natural gelling agents are xanthan, guar and sclerotium gums.
Did you know
Products labelled “organic” or “natural” can still contain some nasties, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 per cent organic ingredients – it’s advised to do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you have...
Avoid: Alcohol-based products – common in toners especially.
Try: Products containing hydrosols (floral waters).
Avoid: ‘Active’ products.
Try: Vitamin C. It can be beneficial in some forms but can also aggravate the skin.
Avoid: Mineral oils, as they have no nutritional value to the skin.
Try: Oils such as rosehip or primrose, which hydrate without clogging pores.
Avoid: Alcohols and petrochemicals, which are often found in anti-ageing products.
Try: Rosehip oil to hydrate skin and hyaluronic acid to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Words: Claudia Renford