There Are Many Ways To Go Cruelty-Free, All Are Safe
The beauty industry loves to use buzzwords like “natural,” “chemical-free,” and “non-toxic” when it comes to companies convincing customers that their way is the better way. Here at The Cruelty-Free Face, it is all about cruelty-free beauty, reading the ingredients, and finding what suits your needs best. I love the concept of clean beauty and taking care of ourselves the best way we know how. I also believe there is more than one “better way” when shopping for clean, cruelty-free products.
The grey areas are the terms “natural,” “chemical free” cosmetics as well as “non-toxic” and “preservative-free” cosmetics. I’ve blogged about this before, and I now want to delve a little deeper, so you know more about what you’re buying. You may be surprised to learn what these terms mean in reality.
This writing is intended to be a fact-based, researched, no judgment zone. Personally, my only concern is that products are Cruelty-free. If you like the terms “natural,” “non-toxic” “preservative-free” and “chemical-free” search it out of course, but there are a few things you might want to know about the validity of some claims.
Chemical-free is standard marketing speak these days, especially in the beauty industry. However, the FDA does not use the classification for anything. In truth, chemical-free means absolutely nothing! Everything, I mean everything in nature has chemical building blocks. Water, fruit, vegetables, flowers are all made up of chemicals. If you see “chemical-free,” I say walk away because they should know elementary science if they’re in skin care and make-up. Okay, that was judgy, I admit it.
On the other hand, we can perhaps give the benefit of the doubt and assume that when marketers use the term “Chemical-free,” what they mean is toxic-chemical-free, or “non-toxic.”
What does ‘non-toxic” mean because the FDA does not permit proven, potentially health-harmful ingredients in products? Does non-toxic mean that the plant-based materials haven’t gone through any chemical extraction process? No, because that would be impossible NOT to do. Or, does non-toxic mean that if it’s something found in nature or is plant-based, it’s safer, or less toxic than a product synthesized in a lab? I think the companies would like you to believe this one, but it isn’t necessarily true. In reality, toxicity is determined on the individual compound itself and is independent of the synthetic and natural categories. Just because the ingredient wasn’t lab formulated does not mean it’s less toxic. Also, with so many environmental allergies out there, a product that is plant based could cause problems to allergy sufferers. Some food for thought for consumers.
Are you confused? You’re not alone. Seriously, with no regulation on these terms by the FDA companies can say whatever they want. The bottom line is it’s the fine print of ingredients that matters not the headline. What is safe and non-toxic to you may not be for your friend that has allergies. Many of my Affiliates use “non-toxic” for marketing, and I get where they’re coming from, and I’ll go along with it but always check ingredients if you have allergies or sensitivities. I wish they would use the term “clean beauty” instead, as I believe that describes the products much better without any BS.
What is important to remember, in the non-marketing world “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. There are plenty of natural ingredients that are unsafe like asbestos, lead, arsenic, mercury, botulism and numerous plants (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-natural-products-that-kill-38268113/).
This point is summed up well by researchers in California who studied natural and synthetic chemicals in the human diet in 2001 and wrote, “Among the agents identified as human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research in Cancer 62% occur naturally: 16 are natural chemicals, 11 are mixtures of natural chemicals, and 10 are infectious agents. Thus, the idea that a chemical is “safe” because it is natural, is not correct” https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/natural-vs-synthetic-chemicals-is-a-gray-matter/
I would encourage those of you that are interested in learning more about safe products to visit The Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS), the European Unions group of independent scientists who determine chemical safety. There are plenty of safe elements from nature, but there are also many that are not. There are many safe synthetic elements and ingredients, and there are many that are not.
Although the list is long, the (SCCS) safe list includes:
Vitamin A derivatives retinyl palmitate and retinol
Even Parabens! Methylparaben and ethylparaben are the most commonly used parabens and are deemed safe. Butylparaben and propylparaben were also considered safe to the consumer, as long as the sum of their individual concentrations does not exceed 0.19%. Other less commonly used parabens were not studied.
Formaldehyde is also considered safe in the minute amounts it is used to prevent bacterial growth in personal care products. The SCCS considers formaldehyde safe in personal care products up to 2,000 parts per million whereas products on the market ranges from 54 to 610 parts per million, well below the safe threshold.
I get asked all the time if product lines are “natural.” I usually tell them that the term is meaningless because the FDA doesn’t regulate the terms “Natural” and “Non-toxic.” I want cruelty-free shoppers (who still use the “natural” term) to be able to find the type of products they are looking for, so I will use “Natural” on my site if I have verified that the products are comprised mainly of only fruit or plant-derived ingredients.
I do my best to find you products that work and are safe, but I always encourage customers to check ingredients and be aware of potential allergens.
Preservatives are put in products to prevent bacteria and mould growth, not something to mess around with excluding. Honest Beauty, Juice Beauty and Beautycounter have all had recalls in the past due to contamination caused by under-preservation. A hospital in Saudi Arabia (2009) infected babies with Serratia marcescens from contaminated shampoo and in Barcelona (2006), a contaminated lotion made hospital patients critically ill with blood infections, urinary tract and respiratory tract infections.
Preservatives are essential to the shelf life of a product and therefore crucial to the health of consumers. The most common preservative in the past, Paraben, has been deemed a carcinogen, even though the science is a little sketchy. The SCCS considers it safe in small concentrations. I’m entirely on board with those that want Paraben free, but it’s important to know what the replacement is.
Since Parabens are no longer a popular preservative for cosmetics and skin care in the “natural” cosmetic world a common preservative replacer is Grapefruit Seed extract. Sounds good and healthy right? I love the idea, but consumers need to be aware that the Grapefruit seed extract is a common allergen and is required in large amounts to act as an effective preservative. It works as long as the concentration is high enough, you use the product timely, and you don’t have an allergy to it. You will find many Paraben free products on my site, and they are using preservative replacements, again, check ingredients for what works best for you.
Yes, this is what I’m passionate about sharing. What cruelty-free means is there were no animals used for testing in any stage of product development. Ingredients are variable and can contain animal-derived ingredients such as milk, lanolin, honey, royal jelly or carmine. Products can also contain cosmetic and OTC ingredients. Ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid, Retinol, Retinal, Vitamin C, Peptides and Hydroxy Acids yield fantastic skin changing results. When Cruelty-Free, they’ve been tested by alternate methods or by human trial. For more detail on the alternative testing, please refer to the Helping You Find The Best Cruelty-Free Make-Up blog post.
PETA and Leaping Bunny are two certification organizations for Cruelty-Free. Companies require certification, a statement of assurance and then pay for the license to display the cruelty-free logo. This is why many companies are Cruelty-Free but do not have the certification logo. You have to pay for it!
Cruelty-free can fall under a variety of different umbrellas like Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Non-toxic, Organic, Non-GMO or just simply cruelty-free. Again, it depends on the ingredients used but the companies I Affiliate with are transparent about their ingredients so it’s easy to check.
My priority is providing access to cruelty-free products for everyone. The products can be synthetic or plant-based, gluten-free or vegan. All products are safe to use!
Product ingredients, no matter what you purchase have to comply with safety standards. The FDA does regulate this!
The FDA does not regulate the terms “natural,” “non-toxic” and “chemical-free.” In fact, “chemical-free” is a term that doesn’t make scientific sense, so ignore it. I understand the consumer desire for “natural” products so I do my very best to find you the products with effective plant-based ingredients. I prefer the term “clean beauty” for plant-based products.
Just because marketers sell a product as “safe,” it does not mean that everyone else is producing unsafe products. What is toxic and hazardous to a celiac may be fine for someone else. Those allergic to dairy or citrus may consider opting out of products with those derivatives toxic to them.
Products void of preservatives like parabens can contain fruit seed extract-based preservative that may be an allergen. Some of my affiliate companies do indeed use grapefruit seed extract as a preservative. Read the ingredients list carefully if you may be susceptible to allergic reactions. Wanting to avoid parabens is excellent but keep in mind the science vilifying it can be a little inconclusive and having preservative is critical in keeping you and your products healthy.
Decide what’s best for you if you have allergies and sensitivities to consider or if you’re Vegan or Vegetarian. Pick the skin care and cosmetic products that fit your budget and will give you the results you desire. If like me you hate the idea of animal testing then look for Cruelty-Free products first and foremost, and save the needless suffering of innocent animals. Ethical shopping is a beautiful thing!
Let me know in the comments if your priority is cruelty-free or clean beauty products or both I’d love to hear from you!