The market in beauty products has grown significantly in the last 25 years but in the last 10 years there has been an increasing interest in the ingredients contained within the lotions, creams, and potions we apply so liberally to our skin - the largest organ of our human bodies.
Many mainstream manufacturers still include a range of not so natural ingredients in their products:
- waste products from the petrochemical industry
- lead and other heavy metals
- products extracted from animal carcasses
Many of these ingredients are given scientific sounding names. While the cynic may say this is a deliberate attempt to confuse the consumer, a more charitable view is that this is done in pursuit of accurate labeling.
As a result of the heightened awareness of health matters and the confusion concerning ingredients and labelling, a new sector of this lucrative market has arisen. The need for natural skin care and cosmetics.
But just how natural is natural?
Many consumers require natural ingredients but are not prepared to accept the necessary compromise in product performance. A classic example is with the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. This is a synthetic detergent derived from coconut oil and it appears in a wide range of shampoos, bath products, toothpastes, and liquid soaps. It is what gives these products the luxurious bubbles and lather to which we have all become accustomed. A number of studies have suggested that this ingredient is harmful, and many consumers now seek products containing an alternative.
Manufacturers then developed Sodium Lauretha Sulphate, which is considered less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. When this was condemned, Ammonium Lauretha Sulphate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate were substituted. Once again these are synthetic detergents developed from coconut oil and they are still considered to be an irritant. Some studies have also suggested they may be carcinogenic.
Unless consumers have a knowledge of bio-chemistry it is almost impossible to discern what ingredients are natural and what are not. The SLS saga is but one example of this confusion.
It is ironic that a number of "natural" manufacturers aggressively promote their products by denigrating the products of competing companies - despite the fact that the ingredients they contain are essentially the same.