Most people are aware of the dangers of unhealthy eating, but many don’t realize that ingredients put on the skin can be just as dangerous as those that are ingested. According to EWG research, the average adult uses nine personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients. Even low doses of certain chemicals can cause issues like cancer, birth defects, and other not-so-pretty side effects. What’s more, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has almost no authority to regulate skincare and cosmetics. In fact, according to the FDA website, it “does not approve cosmetics, although we do approve color additives used in cosmetics. It is the responsibility of cosmetic manufacturers to ensure, before marketing their products, that the products are safe when used as directed in their label or under customary conditions of use.” That raises the question of what ingredients found in skincare, bodycare, and cosmetics are truly safe. Even some skincare companies that claim to be “green,” “organic,” and “natural” are not completely straightforward with consumers. Unfortunately, that can have lasting effects on a person’s health.
Join The Movement
Clean beauty is defined as products (haircare, skincare, nailcare, and cosmetics) that are free of any proven or possibly toxic ingredients. Products that are considered “clean” contain ethically sourced ingredients that are safe for the body and the environment. “The primary benefit of ‘clean’ beauty is healthier skin,” says Linda Conde, esthetician at Spavia Lincoln Park (Chicago). Because of the outdated laws on safe cosmetic ingredients and the recent research that has revealed some potentially harmful effects of common ingredients found in skincare and cosmetics, there is a Clean Beauty Movement that is generating buzz around the world and expected to continue to grow. The movement aims to raise awareness of the dangers of certain chemicals and help ensure that companies stop using these ingredients in their product formulas. In 2015, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) proposed the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which calls for the annual review of several potentially toxic ingredients. If those ingredients are found to be harmful, companies must stop using them. While bills often take a long time to be passed, this is certainly a step in the right direction.
Fortunately, in today’s tech-savvy society, information is just a click away, so consumers are being alerted to toxic ingredients to avoid and are taking the time to read the ingredient labels on product packages. According to a Green Beauty Barometer survey by Harris Poll on behalf of Kari Gran, 55 percent of adult women read beauty product ingredient labels prior to purchase in order to avoid certain ingredients. “Toxins and the human body don’t mix,” says Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals. “That is why we have a barrier—it protects us from toxins, foreign materials, and bacteria. Toxins, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives tend to irritate the skin, particularly sensitive and acne-prone skins. Clean products deliver nourishing, skin-building, and corrective benefits without introducing any of those elements that may cause skin irritation or inflammation. Clean ingredient decks also help eliminate the worry of potentially causing a negative reaction in a client’s skin, as you’re more likely to understand what each ingredient is and the purity of the formula.”
There are many ingredients on the radar of spa professionals and consumers because of their potentially harmful effects on health. However, it’s important for you to understand and educate consumers on certain ingredients that sound harmful, but are in fact beneficial and safe. “It is very rare to find a skincare or beauty product that is free of synthetic ingredients,” says VB Cosmetics’ Vivian Valenty. “An ingredient may occur in nature, but most likely the version used in commerce is produced via synthetic means. This is done because isolating it from nature is cost prohibitive, and consumers are just not willing to pay the attendant high cost.” An example of this is preservatives, which are added to beauty products to kill harmful microorganisms and to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, yeasts, and molds. At the concentrations and manner in which they are used, they are not toxic to humans, but they are toxic to the microorganisms, she says. Also, she points out that synthetic does not necessarily mean toxic, and toxicity is dose dependent. “Water is natural, ubiquitous, and safe under normal conditions of use,” says Valenty. “But ingested in unusually large amounts, water is toxic. However, water is necessary to sustain microbial growth, and one way to eliminate the use of preservatives that prevent the growth of microorganisms is to eliminate water. Beauty preparations without water are called anhydrous formulations.” One solution? Add essential oils, which have some antimicrobial properties and can be used to minimize the concentration of synthetic preservatives in a water-based product.
One segment of the beauty industry that has seen a lot of positive change in recent years is nailcare. Many of today’s nailcare products are now free of toxic ingredients. While there are typically two levels of non-toxic nailcare (3-Free and 5-Free, depending on how many harmful chemicals have been removed from the product), some companies are taking this “clean” movement a step further to reveal 7-Free and 9-Free formulas, which are even healthier and safer formulas for clients.
- 3-Free: Products in the 3-Free category are free of dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, and toluene.
- 5-Free: 3-Free plus free of camphor and formaldehyde resin.
- 7-Free: 5-Free plus free of ethyl tosylamide and xylene.
- 9-Free: 7-Free plus free of acetone and parabens.
Words of Advice
When offering clean products in your spa, it’s important to not only market the beneficial ingredients that are in the products but also highlight what’s not in the formulas. This will help clients take note of the many benefits of the product as well as assure them that toxic chemicals are not present. If you are considering entering the “clean” beauty category, heed the advice of beauty experts below:
“Do your research, and be knowledgeable about ingredients. Check the California Proposition 65 list of chemicals that are carcinogenic and have reproductive toxicity, and make sure that none of the ingredients in the products are on the list. Work with a reputable supplier, and be willing to pay the higher price for good-quality clean products. A clean product gives the consumer the confidence to use the product and a tacit assurance that the customer will not experience adverse effects by
doing so.”—Vivian Valenty, Ph.D., president, VB Cosmetics
“Spas can promote the use of clean products in all of their messaging—on their website, in email campaigns, on counter cards or posters, and the list goes on. We always like to encourage skincare professionals to get the dialogue going with their clients about the importance of quality ingredients and formulas and how it impacts the skin.”—Rhonda Allison, founder and CEO, Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals
“One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing false terminology like ‘chemical-free.’
Every product has chemicals in it, either natural or synthetic. Saying something is ‘free-of’ also doesn’t speak to what else is in the formula. So don’t forget to talk to your clients about what’s in the products that are truly beneficial to their skin.”—Kristen Arnett, founder, Green Beauty Team