What is Natural about Natural Skincare Cosmetics?

When we began the journey to bring Nerys products back for sale, we became aware that this was a saturated market now, compared to the late 1970s when our skincare range was one of only two ranges in Western Australia at that time. Now, the words natural, organic, vegan, clean, and herbal (or botanical) pop up everywhere, but what does it all mean? 

We knew back in the 1970s what it meant to claim a product was 'natural', and it holds true today that 'natural' conjures images that ingredients are plant-derived rather than synthetic with minimal processing. There aren't any legal parameters around a claim that a product is natural though. 

In digging deeper with our journey to evolve our skincare to meet 21st century needs, we found that some of the former ingredients (which were the darlings of the skincare world in the 1970s and were certainly considered natural back then) are far from that now. 

An example is Ceteareth-20; a common emulsifier and emollient found in many 'natural' moisturisers and other skincare formulations and cosmetics. It's true, Ceteareth-20 begins as coconut oil, but in the chemical processing (or ethoxylation) on its way to becoming an emulsifying wax, a by-product called dioxane is produced.  Dioxane is not found in nature and is now considered both an animal carcinogen and an environmental toxin, particularly in waterways. It is worth noting that Ceteareth-20 is non-toxic and safe if the dioxane is removed before processing the skincare formulas but there's no real way of knowing if this occurs in the products we use. (www.thedermreview.com, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/). 

So how do we know which ingredients are natural with the quagmire of chemical-sounding names on product labels? It is worth understanding that many skincare companies will list the INCI (Institute of Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) compound names on the label to be as accurate as possible and reduce confusion. Once you know exactly what you're reading (and hopefully not just a brand name of the compound), you can easily look it up, and soon you'll know what to look out for. 

We've listed some of the most toxic compounds below with the INCI name :

1. Parabens (INCI - methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben). Parabens act in the body as hormone disruptors and can affect the human reproductive system and functioning, fertility and birth outcome. (www.ewg.org). 

2. DEA - (INCI - Cocamide DEA, Lauramide DEA). "DEA accumulates in the liver and kidney, causing organ toxicity and also possible neurotoxic effects such as tremors. Another study suggests that memory function and brain development in offspring could be permanently affected by mothers' exposure to DEA". (www.safecosmetics.org).

3. PROPYLENE GLYCOL or PEG (This is the INCI name). There's some controversy about the extent of the harm of Propyl Glycol but it is listed (www.ewg.org) as having evidence of skin irritation and organ toxicity.  Let me say this. It's the main (and often only) ingredient in antifreeze. If that doesn't put you off…. well... 

These ingredients are by no means an exhaustive list, and if in your supermarket or chemist aisle wanderings you find yourself unsure, do use the www.ewg.org site for excellent, unbiased easy to read science on most compounds and products on sale. Happy reading!! 

The Nerys. Team

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published