This is the first part of a series on the cosmetics industry and how to empower yourself as a consumer.
Mainstream skincare companies spend more money on marketing than they do on ingredients, or even packaging. These products generate millions of dollars in the space between the retail price, and what they cost to make.
There’s nothing wrong with selling high volumes of popular products, but this does mean that some questionable ingredients find their way into many pots of mainstream skincare products, from basic hand creams to high end moisturising serums. Here are three ways in which cosmetics companies turn a fat profit from low-end ingredients.
Water isn’t bad, right? Keeping your skin hydrated is vital of course. The trouble is that water is used as a filler in most products, to dilute the more expensive ingredients. Just because something contains essential oils or peptides, it doesn’t mean it’s mostly made from that.
Water is not harmful by itself, but introducing water to a product means it will degrade and go off much faster. You don’t want to open a pot of anti-aging cream, to discover it’s got a crop of exotic fungus growing in it. A preservative is needed to keep it stable.
Synthetic preservatives are a lot cheaper than natural ones, and storage and handling for naturally preserved skincare is more complicated, harder to control and expensive than synthetically preserved cosmetics. There is more waste and the products have a much shorter use by date. The profit margin goes down and the companies make less money.
All of this means that instead of 100% active ingredients on your face and body, you’re getting a cocktail of cheaper chemicals in a pot of water, and paying over the odds for the privilege of having a celebrity advertise it to you. Water in skincare is not as wholesome as it sounds.
We don’t use any type of filler, including water, or any synthetic preservatives in any of our products - and we’re up front with our customers about why!
In mainstream skincare, it is rare for the product to smell like the ingredients used. Fragrance is carefully added afterwards, in a very controlled and scientific way.
While making something smell of flowers or coconuts might seem completely innocent, a lot of skincare products have over ten hidden ingredients in the perfume alone, and some of these can trigger allergies, asthma and migraines in sensitive individuals, while others are bio-toxins and harmful to wildlife. They also have zero positive effect on your skin, and add to the ‘filler’ ingredients in a pot of cream, they are far cheaper to manufacture than products that use natural, potent organics instead.
Just as junk food is filled with flavour enhancers, junk cosmetics contain artificial fragrance enhancers. Diethal phthalate or DEP is one such chemical, that has been investigated by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption.
While the jury is out on a lot of the long term effects of synthetic and unnecessary fragrance chemicals in skincare, the only reason that they are added to a pot of moisturiser, is to make you buy them.
Our products smell incredibly beautiful and that is 100% because of the pure fragrance of active ingredients including organic essential oils, rather than an artificial blend with no benefits whatsoever. The natural fragrances work with your body chemistry to become a kind of light perfume on your skin, giving you a gorgeous invisible, all-day glow and eliminating the need to pile on the artificial chemicals and scents.
Technically – and this is really pushing the definition – mineral oil is plant-based. This is because it’s made from petroleum, which is formed from fossilised forests.
By the time it’s millions of years old though, this by-product of fossil fuel is not the best ingredient for your skin!
It’s very cheap to buy, and because it is so heavily refined and processed, it doesn’t smell of anything. This makes it an ideal filler for high-volume cosmetics.
Mineral oil works in a very similar way to petroleum jelly, forming a barrier to keep out drying elements such as wind or salt water, and keeps moisture inside or close to the skin.
It's a very basic, bland ingredient, with no benefits to the skin (although it gives the illusion of instantly softening the skin because it coats the skin like plastic). It can block pores, cause or exacerbate acne and it’s only included in skincare products for bottom-line reasons: it’s cheap, it’s colourless, it takes on perfume very easily and it can be stored for a long time. This has got very little to do with the health of your skin, and everything to do with producing cheap products.
We only use the highest quality, organic botanical oils in our products - never cheap, refined mineral oil that we believe has no place on our skin and on the skin of our children (did you know that mineral oil is the main ingredient in conventional Baby Oil?). All of our ingredients are selected for their effectiveness and synergy, regardless of how expensive they are to buy, or how easy they are to ship or store.
Reading the ingredients
You don’t have to be a scientist to understand the basics of what’s in your moisturiser. Even if you never buy our products, we’d like consumers to be aware of the delusion that occurs when you purchase most mainstream skin products. The words Aqua, Parfum or Fragrance and Mineral Oil on an ingredients label often tell you that profit has been put way ahead of skin benefits, when really you shouldn’t be spending more than a couple of pounds on that product.
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Photo - courtesy of Cheryl at Toulouki & Simone