BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 27 Oct '17

High street cosmetics can contain cheap (and nasty) ingredients – here’s how to avoid them

This article appears in the autumn issue of MyGreenPod.com Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 27 October 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online

We’ve been putting poison on our skin since the Elizabethan era; today we know a lot more about chemistry and biology, so why do we still do it? ‘Unless we develop a problem, many of us trust cosmetics brands and just don’t think about it’, says pharmacist Michelle Sutton, who founded Butterflies Healthcare with her optician husband, James.

Earlier this year, a study by Groupon revealed British women spend on average £70,294 on their appearance in their lifetime – with £33,615 of that going on the face alone. You’d think we’d be getting premium products for that kind of money – wouldn’t you?

‘High street cosmetics are branded as aspirational so we feel good when that’s reflected in our bathrooms’, Michelle says. ‘The best explanation I have read is to think about the cost of advertising, packaging, beauty counters and consultants and where the money comes from to pay for them. Profit margins have to be high, so cheaper ingredients are often included to lower the cost price.’

Those cheaper ingredients include anything from the chemical fixers that give makeup its staying power to parabens, nickel, chrome, alcohol, SLS and MI. ‘The complete list is long’, Michelle tells us.

In the short term some of these ingredients can cause an intolerance, leading to sore, watery eyes or red, blotchy skin. As well as completely ruining an evening out, the long-term risks include hormonal imbalances.

‘Paraben preservatives seem to cause a problem for many women and are known hormone disruptors’, Michelle says. ‘Nickel allergy is becoming more common, too. Cosmetics labels have to conform to INCI standards so these are easy to spot on the labels.’

The skin has natural defences to sensitivity; while mainstream cosmetics gradually strip them away, increasing the risk of reactions, natural beauty products can actually boost them.

GOING NATURAL

According to Michelle, everyone can benefit from natural and allergy-friendly makeup: it prevents reactions developing in the future and improves skin condition in the meantime. ‘It can take a few weeks for any previous skin blotches to calm down, but reduced mascara sensitivity is immediately noticeable’, Michelle says. ‘Within a month, many women notice small imperfections fading and see their complexion generally improve, meaning they can use less makeup!’

Natural and organic cosmetics were created to respect and preserve the environment, not to protect our skin or eyes. NATorigin is the first range of natural cosmetics created to do both: it’s kind to the environment and even the most sensitive skin and eyes.

‘NATorigin cosmetics are formulated and tested by pharmacists, dermatologists and ophthalmologists using a unique process called bio-inertia’, Michelle tells us. ‘They leave no adverse effects on the skin or in the eyes or contact lenses – and their Allergy UK approval also sets them apart.’

Click here to find out why NATorigin Lengthening Mascara is a MyGreenPod.com Hero

NAToriginBio-inertia avoids known irritants and gently mills the cosmetics particles into tiny spheres.

Compared with the large, jagged particles normally found in cosmetics, these spheres are less likely to cause a reaction.

Known irritants are avoided and replaced with gentler alternatives, so sensitised women can try wearing makeup again.

WHEN ‘NATURAL’ ISN’T ‘GOOD’

The most obvious way to avoid irritation and protect sensitive skin is to go for chemical-free cosmetics, but some brands that are marketed as ‘natural’ are in fact anything but.

‘Greenwashing is rife’, Michelle tells us. ‘Usually a few natural ingredients are mixed with lots of others, yet the end product is labelled ‘natural’. There isn’t enough industry regulation so consumers need to check the labels carefully.’

But it’s not that simple: even some genuinely natural products can cause problems for sensitive skin. ‘Natural doesn’t always mean good’, Michelle explains. ‘Some natural ingredients, such as talc, have been linked to ovarian cancer and others, such as palm oil, are not always sourced responsibly. Some essential oils can irritate sensitive skin, too – meaning even natural fragrances can cause reactions.’

For Michelle, it’s sometimes better to use a very small amount of an eff ective chemical product than a lot of an ineffective natural one. ‘A small amount of synthetic perfume has been added to the NATorigin eye makeup remover and hand and nail cream, to avoid a higher amount of a natural fragrance’, she explains.

ARE WE COMPLICIT?

Many of us are aware of the risks of blind trust in beauty brands, but Michelle is concerned about younger girls wearing eyeliner, and fears they’ll become sensitive much earlier because limited budgets lead them to the cheaper, more potentially irritating brands.

There are plenty of natural brands available now, though you’ll rarely see them in high street retailers. Step into an independent health shop and it’s a different story – you’ll get recommendations from knowledgeable staff who aren’t paid to sell you a lie. ‘Education helps’, Michelle says, ‘but many of us are loathe to give up the big brands. There’s still a long way to go!’