What is the Toxic Impact of our Skin Care?

There are thousands of ingredients used in personal care products, and many of them have negative environmental impacts and health effects ranging from skin irritation to carcinogenicity. Let us look closer at how we can avoid the Toxic impact of our skin care.

There are thousands of chemicals being used that may or may not be harmful to our health. And there’s no real way of knowing if we’re applying chemicals that may be harmful. Most commercial and even some “natural” cosmetic brands contain harmful ingredients that just don’t belong in or on our bodies.

Ingredients such as parabens, formaldehyde, and carbon black — which are unfortunately found in many of our cosmetic products today — have been linked to some pretty serious health concerns such as cancer, hormonal imbalances (endocrine disruptors), and respiratory issues, just to name a few.

Let’s explore the extent of the toxic impact.

On average, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients.

That’s a lot of ingredients to be applying to our skin every day. And that doesn’t even take into account the other chemicals we’re likely being exposed to throughout the day, such as pesticides, flame retardants, and air fresheners.

Just think about it: your morning routine alone maybe consists of at least six different personal care products — toothpaste, face wash, toner, moisturizer, mascara, foundation, lotion, deodorant, and maybe a spritz of perfume. It is easy to see how we can create a toxic impact with our skin care.

Terms like ‘natural’ or ‘naturally-derived’ are often found on health and beauty products, leading to claims of greenwashing.

So what ethical labels can you trust in the sector?

The health and beauty sector faces a wide range of ethical issues from animal testing to toxic ingredients. Certifications can be an important way to identify products that are produced to more ethical standards.

Many common terms used in the cosmetics sector do not have a legal definition. Phrases like ‘natural’ or ‘naturally-derived’  have little meaning, and can be used as a marketing ploy.

So when you start to commit to a Yogic Lifestyle and start to reduce your impact on your health and the health of the environment, then look out for the following labels to avoid being ‘marketed to and greenwashing.

Vegan Society logo

This logo from the Vegan Society indicates that a product is free of animal testing and animal ingredients. At a product level, it is arguably the most holistic label when it comes to animal rights. However, there is one big drawback. It does not apply to a whole company or brand.

Under its certification, companies must not test ingredients on animals – but only for that specific product. Technically, that does mean that a brand’s supplier could have tested the ingredient on animals for another brand or purpose, which could then end up in a Vegan Society certified product.

Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny is the leading certification when it comes to finding cruelty-free products.

Under the label, an entire brand must have a ‘fixed-cut-off date’ to ensure animal testing of ingredients is not taking place. (See ‘What is a fixed cut-off date? in our introduction to animal testing policies).

Both raw materials and ingredients suppliers must be checked annually. The brands are then audited every 2-3 years by Leaping Bunny to make sure these processes are taking place.

Unfortunately, animal testing is sometimes required by law, something which Leaping Bunny permits under its standard. But it does try to minimise the risk that brands are using this as a convenient caveat, something no other label explicitly does.

Vegans might want to be aware that a Leaping Bunny symbol does not mean the product is vegan, as it is only concerned with animal testing, not the inclusion of animal ingredients.

Soil Association Organic

Unlike in the food industry, cosmetics companies can say that a product is ‘organic’ without getting independent certification. This means that the term may be open to some dodgy claims and weak enforcement.

If you want to ensure that your cosmetics meet organic standards (i.e. without synthetics pesticides and fertilisers, or genetically modified seeds), look for either Soil Association or COSMOS organic labels.

To qualify for Soil Association Organic, at least 95% of agricultural ingredients in a product must have been produced under organic conditions.

COSMOS ORGANICCOSMOS Organic ensures that at least 95% of the processed agricultural ingredients in a product are produced under organic conditions. For leave-on products, 20% of the total must be organic, and for rinse-off products, it must be at least 10%.

The label also shows:

  • no genetically modified (GM) materials
  • no nanoparticles
  • no ingredients tested on animals

In the UK, Soil Association certifies products on behalf of COSMOS, so look out for its label with COSMOS underneath to distinguish from the organisation’s own organic certification.

COSMOS NATURALCOSMOS NATURAL shows that at least 95% of ingredients were naturally sourced rather than synthetic. It does not ensure they were organically grown.

Like COSMOS’ organic label, it shows that there are no animal testing ingredients, no GM ingredients and no parabens or phthalates (toxic chemicals often found in health and beauty products).

NATRUENATRUE has two standards for cosmetics, one focused on ‘natural’ ingredients, the other on organic.

For its organic label, at least 95% of the natural or naturally-derived ingredients must have come from certified organic farming. For its natural label, between 40 and 100% of ingredients must be natural or naturally derived, depending on the type of cosmetic product.

NATRUE also ensures products are free from genetically modified ingredients, microplastics and parabens. In order for a product to carry the label, at least 75% of the products from that brand or sub-brand must also be NATRUE approved.



Blog based on an article by Clare Carlile from Ethical Consumer