How To Find Out What You’re Putting On Your Body
This is the fourth post in a series on ingredients in body care products in Australia where I give you some resources to research ingredients in the products you use on your body. So you can make informed choices for yourself and your family and manage your exposure to toxic chemicals.
- In the first post I talked about the importance of making sure you’re informed so you can make the best choices for your family.
- The second post is about regulation in Australia and how some products do not need to list all the ingredients on the label.
- In the third post I talk about the confusion caused by the several different naming conventions for ingredients so you can learn to make accurate comparisons between products.
So now you know whether your product lists all the ingredients on the label, and what ingredient naming convention it uses. But where can you learn about what ingredients actually are and any potential issues with them?
Unfortunately there isn’t a single source of information to research cosmetic ingredients in Australia. It is often a bit of a detective hunt to figure out what an ingredient is, what it is used for and any potential health or environmental issues it may have associated with it.
Here are some good places to start.
PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS COUNCIL
My favourite online source of general ingredient information is the Personal Care Products Council’s cosmeticsinfo.org website. It outlines what the ingredient is, what it is used for in cosmetic products, includes safety info according to both EU and US and lists it’s resources.
Another good online source of information in plain language is the ingredient dictionary on Paula’s Choice. This gives a short description and simple rating. You need to browse through the alphabetical list, rather than searching.
ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP (EWG) SKIN DEEP DATABASE
One well-promoted source of ingredient information is US non-profit EWG. Created in the early 90s in response to poor regulation of cosmetic ingredients in the US, the EWG
“provides information on personal care product ingredients from the published scientific literature, to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government”.
The EWG created their Skin Deep Database as a resource on the safety of cosmetic ingredients. Now also including products, it helps you “choose products and foods that are free of toxic ingredients, safe for your children and environmentally friendly”.
You can search for ingredients and compare them to different products on the market. It provides a ‘hazard rating’ to make it easy to determine what to avoid.
However, you should know the EWG comes under some criticism from chemists and professional product formulators. Some claim there are flaws in the information, inconsistencies in the rating system and a lack of scientific documentation behind some of their recommendations. So use additional sources before you make up your mind.
Written in 2001 for Australian consumers, the original Chemical Maze book aimed to make it easier to recognise potentially irritating food additives and cosmetic ingredients. This is now out of print.
A bookshelf companion updated with information on household cleaners was later introduced and is still available from the Chemical Maze Website.
The “Chemical Maze Shopping Companion” smartphone app came out in 2011. It allows you to search both food additives and cosmetic ingredients. Results include a risk level, function and uses of the ingredient along with potential negative effects, symptoms and ailments. It’s great to be able to whip out your phone to check an ingredient or food additive while you’re shopping.
- Cosing database – The EU cos(metic) ing(redients) database holds information on cosmetic ingredients in the EEC “Cosmetics Directive”. It includes scientific evaluation on chemical substances including toxocological evaluation.
- For more detail on INCI ingredients the Special Chem Cosmetics Ingredients Database provides information of cosmetic ingredient products and suppliers along with their datasheets showing the INCI name that should be used for each product. You can filter the results in many ways. Including by INCI, application, end user benefit, physical form and supplier or trade name.
- You can search for Approved Australian Names as used in therapeutic products on the TGA website. Just select ‘Public Information’ and then ‘Ingredients’ from the menu on the left hand side. The results will usually list the other names for the ingredient you’re searching. They will also list the INCI and Cos Number, which you can then use to look up other sources. You can also look up both registered (AUST R) and listed (AUST L) therapeutic products by their number on the Australia Register of Therapeutic Goods. To find out if a product is listed or registered with the TGA, try searching by product name or brand.
How to decide what is best?
Once you know what is in your body care products, how do you decide what is okay?
Ultimately it is up to the you as a consumer to decide what is best for you and your family.
You might want to avoid synthetic ingredients. Or use products only containing only vegan ones. Or if you’re like me, you avoid ingredients you already know can cause issues for you or your family. I also prefer to avoid ingredients that are not planet friendly. But the important thing is that you can find the information you need to make an informed choice.
For my family I choose natural lifestyle-based solutions over body care products where possible for the benefit of our overall health.
- Eating a nutritionally dense diet, free of unnecessary additional chemicals.
- Growing our own produce when we can, and choosing local and organic where it makes sense and fits the budget.
- Limiting exposure to damaging UV rays by covering up, seeking shade in the heat of the day, and using cosmetic sun protection containing natural and nourishing ingredients.
- Maintaining healthy immune systems with natural vitamin D by enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin in the mornings and evenings when UV strength is low.
- Avoiding mosquitos and other biting insects by keeping doors and windows screened. We stay inside when they’re most active. When outside, we keep our skin covered with clothing and use natural deterrents on any exposed skin
This is not to say I would never use a high SPF product or insecticide-based solution. It’s just that I limit use to when it is necessary in addition to our normal choices. In this way our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals is only on those occasions, instead of being a regular thing.
Green Foot Mama
For the record, Green Foot Mama holistic multi-use balms are cosmetics and labelled with both INCI and Common Names. They contain only organic food grade ingredients and natural beeswax along with pure essential oils and botanical extracts. (Did you even know there was such a thing as synthetic beeswax?).
Our Organic Sun is a SPF15 moisturiser using non-nano uncoated zinc as the active ingredient. Organic Defence is a outdoor moisturiser that leaves a light barrier on your skin to protect you from small insects. It smells amazing and is scented with pure essential oils associated with deterring biting insects.