Chances are you are an advocate for safe cosmetics or are interested in learning how to choose reliable, healthy and safe cosmetics. So, how to get started?
The first step is to understand what antioxidants are, why they are good for the skin, and if you really need them in your skin care products. It is likely that you might not even know what they are; yet you may have heard of this word so often that you might have come to a conclusion already that it must be a good thing, since everybody is mentioning antioxidants for so many times.
But that’s not enough. Everybody should educate themselves about what they put on their skin, because cosmetics products they choose to put on the body can directly influence their health. And before purchasing any cosmetics, you should be clear what it is that you are buying and why you need it.
Step 1: Understand What Antioxidants Are and Why They Are Important in Your Cosmetics Collections
Your body systematically generates reactive oxygen species, or commonly known as “free radicals”, which tend to damage biological structures such as cells. When there is excess production of free radicals that causes internal imbalance, oxidative stress occurs. This then leads to a series of skin issues. Antioxidants come in to relieve oxidative stress and can effectively heal skin conditions such as sun damage, speeding up the skin’s natural repair systems, minimizing appearance of wrinkles, reversing discoloration associated with aging, and many more.
Step 2: Educate Yourself about Behind-the-Scenes of Beauty Industry
After knowing why you need antioxidants in your skin care products, it is important to go behind the scene to understand the current cosmetics industry before you make smart choices and find the right products your face and body will love. Specifically, these are six facts that will help you become a more savvy consumer before you shop.
1) Manufacturers Know You Pretty Well
Manufacturers know that you like pretty packaging and are likely to buy a bottle of face cream just because of the beautiful design on the outside, according to Sandy Alcide, a freelance cosmetic chemist and founder of her own organic skin care line, Motion Medica . When you recall your purchase experience, how many times can you think of when you couldn’t help but buy one (or more) beauty product just because the way it looks?
2) Sometimes Cosmetics Products Labels Show Less than What You Should Know
While FDA does mandate that cosmetics cannot contain harmful ingredients, they do not actually regulate or test different cosmetics products. Therefore, testing is only up to the discretion of the cosmetics manufacturers. It is then likely that a manufactures would mix harmful chemicals with natural ingredients into a product, while claiming it “natural”.
3) A Harmful Ingredient May Seem Invisible in the Labels because It Is Hidden under a Different Name
Sometimes, manufacturers may use a different term to describe one ingredient to make it less scary to consumers like you. For example, you might have heard of this carcinogen called formaldehyde. Yet you might not have heard of the word “methanol”, which describes the same thing and which you can find in different places such as hair-smoothing products and makeup removers.
4) What a Product Claims to Have May Be Different from What It Really Contains Inside
Manufacturers would use beauty buzzwords – such as “rich in antioxidants”, “detoxifying”, “anti-aging” and “renewing” – in the market to appeal to you to buy the their products. However, it can happen that the products themselves may not be able to deliver results as promised or can only deliver only insignificant results they claim to have.
5) The Ingredients Approved Here in the US May Be Banned in Other Countries
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) , a non-profit organization that provides independent research to help consumers live in a healthier environment, there are more than 1,000 ingredients used in beauty products in the US that are banned in the European Union. And the US only prohibits the use of 11 ingredients .
6) The Nature of the Ingredients Will Interact with Other Ingredients
Because one ingredient does not stay in the bottle alone (but rather, it needs to co-exist with other ingredients), there may be interactions among different ingredients. Therefore, the best way to tell skin benefits in a product would be to see how well different ingredients take effects along with the existence of other ingredients. Also active ingredients can be severely diluted and become irrelevant hence focus on the end product as a whole and don’t pay so much attention to “active ingredient” claims.
Step 3: Do Your Homework Before You Shop
By now, you have learned what you want, why you need a product with antioxidant properties without blindly following the crowd or marketing hype, and six market realities. Here comes the most important part – how to take actions and spend money wisely on a product that works most effectively to you. Below are three suggestions for you:
1) Be Wary of the Psychology Games that Are Played Behind the Scenes
As mentioned above, a captivating packaging can easily cause a consumer’s impulsive purchase on the spot. As a consumer, you should stay alert and become more aware of your own irrational shopping behaviors. Instead, while well-designed packaging can also play an important part in your shopping experience, do not forget that your most important task is to investigate on the back labels and see what ingredients are listed there.
2) Understand How to Read Labels
— Do not rely solely on “claims”. As pointed out already, what a product claims to have may be different from what it really has inside the bottle.
— FDA’s labeling act requires every ingredient to be published in descending order on the bottle or the packaging. If you find that water is listed as the first ingredient, and “key ingredients” are listed towards the end of the list, this may suggest that those ingredients only take up an insignificant amount in the bottle, and may not guarantee the benefits this product claims to have.
— Since some manufacturers only tell part of the story (that is, not revealing the complete list of ingredients), you should pay special attention to this especially when you can only see “key ingredients” on the labels . That can be one way cosmetic companies try to highlight “marketable ingredients”. So, make sure you know how to get access to a complete list of all ingredients. For details, you can find more advice from Women’s Voice , a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a healthy environment without toxic chemicals.
— Familiarize yourself with as many ingredients as possible. For ingredients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, you can look for vitamins A, E, C, green tea, willow bark and licorice root. On the other hand, here are some examples of harmful ingredients you should avoid : thimerosol, sodium lauryl sulfate, benzyl alcohol, parabens, and synthetic fragrances, just to name a few.
3) Utilize Scientific Laboratory Testing to Support Your Research
According to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, “a standardized method to compare antioxidant properties is lacking.” Facing this challenge, the Brunswick Labs Certification Program provides a solution to quantify antioxidant potential and compare skin care products on the market with validated scientific methods, giving you broad spectrum antioxidant analysis.
Besides, as there are interactions among different ingredients in the process of making one product, this program can also help test the resulting antioxidant properties of the end product after factoring in the consideration of interactions (as opposed to testing a single ingredient by itself).
Therefore, it is another ideal tactic that you look for the Brunswick Labs Certification Program seal in your interested skin care products while you perform your research or shop in the aisle for reliable and safe cosmetics.
The author: Tracy Huang has a blog on holistic skincare for acne-prone and sensitive skin. In her blog, she shares her research findings and personal tips on making smarter choices on food and cosmetics while maintaining a stress-free lifestyle.