12 products with more than 168 chemicals in them every day. This is what the average woman is using as part of her daily skincare routine (1).
Research shows that some of these chemical ingredients have hormone disrupting and toxic effects. They’ve been linked to infertility, obesity, diabetes, thyroid imbalance, and certain types of cancers. Our skin is our largest organ and because it is porous, many hormone disrupting ingredients in skincare are quickly absorbed into it.
The skincare industry is highly unregulated so it can also be really difficult to distinguish at first glance what’s safe and what’s not. Terms such as natural, organic, organic certified, wild harvested, hypoallergenic and green are commonly used by brands, but they have no set definition. And without a set standard or benchmark, they can be open to misuse and greenwashing.
A case in point: 66% of New Zealanders expect skincare products to be 100% natural if they are advertised this way (2). But the reality is that this is often not the case. Many brands that claim to be natural actually have only a few ‘hero’ natural ingredients, or they hide synthetic ingredients such as the controversial preservative phenoxyethanol.
No wonder women find it so overwhelming when faced with the plethora of skincare choices. Terms like “natural” and “organic” have lost their meaning.
In response, a new standard of clean skincare has emerged.
So what is clean beauty? Some people see it as being natural or plant-based, but it’s more than this. It’s linked to your health – it means skincare that is devoid of ingredients that are synthetic, toxic and have been demonstrably linked to harmful health effects. Clean beauty goes much further than natural skincare, by ensuring that it’s truly 100% naturally derived and clean of any proven or suspected harmful/toxic ingredients, effective and is ethical and mindfully made.
Emma Lewisham products have been uncompromising in this approach from day one, with only those who are clean, safe, effective and ethical making the final cut. We’re transparent about what’s in our products, open about our ethics and sustainability, and conscious of our impact.
Our driving force is consumers like you, who scrutinise what is in the products they put on their skin as much as they pay attention to ingredients in the food they eat. After all, the skin is simple another organ that you’re feeding. There’s a growing awareness that some of these ingredients aren’t good for us at all.
Even more confusing is that how “toxic” or “bad for you” an ingredient is, depends on where you are. The European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients from cosmetics, while in the USA around 30 are banned. Some ingredients such as hydroquinone (sometimes called the ‘gold standard’ in treating hyperpigmentation, but which is toxic to cells) are banned in certain countries, but available by prescription in others. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rank hydroquinone as a 9 in their Skin Deep database with concern around organ toxicity, allergies, cancer, reproductive toxicity and ecotoxicology.
Clean skincare is free from the likes of parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), synthetic colours, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, triclosan, PEGS (polyethylene glycols) and petrochemical products, petrolatum, DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine) and phenoxyethanol.
Amongst these varying standards, the growing clean beauty industry has formed its own rules.
Are your skincare products clean? Some tips for putting them under the microscope
The safest way is to examine the ingredients list. Look out for controversial ingredients such as phenoxyethanol, as these should not be in a truly ‘clean’ brand. Emma Lewisham uses a fully natural and safe preservative.
Be skeptical of claims such as “natural” and “organic” – brands can and will claim these when they only have a few ingredients which meet these criteria, creating the impression that they are fully natural and organic.
Avoid products with too much water. It’s used in large quantities to pad out formulations because it’s cheap, but it has a tendency to grow bacteria very easily and requires substantial preservatives. This is why Emma Lewisham products use nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera, with only as minimal water as is required.
Check ingredients against the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database. This is a non-profit website where EWG cross-references skincare ingredients information found in more than 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. EWG then provides a 1-10 safety rating for ingredients (all Emma Lewisham ingredients rank 1 “low hazard”) and links to any studies which have proven possible links to carcinogenic effects, reproductive problems, and organ toxicity.