‘Skincare’ is defined as “the use of cosmetics to care for the skin“. While ‘skin care’ is defined as “cleansing, massaging, moisturizing, etc., of the skin, especially the face or hands“. Which ever way we spell it, it still means caring for the skin. It is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. From selecting and buying a product to using the product, everything should be considered carefully so that our skin gets the most benefits. And we don’t waste time using nasty products! In this article, I’d like to share 5 tips for choosing safe skincare products.
My Simple History with Skincare
Before that, let me ask you a few questions. Don’t you ever feel overwhelmed by the many skincare products in the market today? How do you decide which product to buy?
I remember the first skincare products that I purchased. I was 21 years old, and didn’t know a thing about skincare, aside from using soaps on my body and face (yes, I believed the Lux brand ambassadors’ tv ads!).
One day, a beauty promoter came to my residential college. She did a skin analysis, and I ended up buying a cleanser, a toner and a moisturiser. But I was a lousy user – didn’t even finished half. I guess I didn’t understand the importance, or perhaps I didn’t notice any difference, or was simply lazy.
A year later, I started using lipsticks and a bit of make-up. Brands didn’t matter at all – it depended on my budget and promos. But I didn’t buy a lot because I wasn’t a frequent user. Plus, I had no idea about expiration dates then. I was blissfully ignorant. Sometimes I wonder, was it my ignorance then that caused my boys their developmental challenges? Or is it in my DNA?
However, I do not rule out conventional products from my skincare regiment because sometimes, I simply can’t find organic products that fit my needs in certain areas, eg mascara, spot corrector, etc. Or oftentimes, the certified organic products are beyond my budget (yes, certified organic products can get very expensive because of the high costs of certified organic ingredients). Organic products cost more because of the stringent processes and high expenditure involved in protecting the crops against pests with natural means, without cheap, mass-produced, pesticides and chemicals.
Furthermore, there are differences of opinion and standards regarding those labels. Therefore, even if the products are certified organic, I would still feel much better making a purchase after going through my simple checklist which consists of merely 5 tips.
Purpose of Skincare Terbaik’s Checklist
Obviously, long-term safety and health are the main reasons. Have you read about the popular baby powder that is found to be hazardous to health? What about skincare products that contain mercury and other dangerous substances?
Like most people, I hope to live a healthy and happy life. But I am an imperfect person. Occasionally I ‘feast’ on unhealthy products. I enjoy sweet cookies, fatty ice creams, etc. Though I love veggies and fruits, don’t smoke nor drink alcohol, and I rarely eat red meat, there are just too many elements that I can’t control. As such, I choose safe and healthy skincare and bodycare items – those are the things that I can control.
Aspiring to live well and healthy beyond 70 years of age, Insya-Allah, I do want to be able to play with my grandkids, have fun with my kids and have a loving relationship with my spouse. And I also hope to look and feel good as well.
5 Tips for Choosing Safe Skincare Products
My process when buying skincare items have evolved over the years . It’s a bit more time consuming, perhaps, but it works for me. Here are my 5 tips for choosing safe skincare products :
Firstly, I would determine what I need and look for products that are within my budget. I would ask myself:
- What is the purpose?
- Do I really need the item?
If it’s not necessary, then I would not buy it, no matter how huge the offer is or even if it’s given for free. For example, I don’t use nail polish nor nail colour, so I will not consider getting one even if it’s on 99% sale.
A few months ago, I was concerned about dark spots or uneven skin tone. So, sunscreen is definitely necessary. However, there are at least hundreds of different brands of sunscreens in the market.
Many sunscreens are made of toxic substances or hormone-disruptors which could affect our health in the long term. And some are too thick and greasy on my skin, making me feel uncomfortable. Those were some of the issues I had to consider when choosing sunscreen – how to ensure that I pick a safe, suitable and effective sunscreen.
Personal care products are not properly tested nor regulated. Evidently, some synthetic chemical ingredients common in many personal care products are associated with a number of serious health problems, including allergies, hormone disruption, development and reproductive problems and even cancer!
Phthalates, for example, poses many horrifying health risks. It can be found in plastics, solvents, adhesives, perfumes, nail polish, etc. Also called Fragrance (Parfum), Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl Phthalate (DEP). Therefore, unknowingly, we may be exposing ourselves and our family to it and numerous other potentially hazardous chemicals daily (please read this article) through our food, cosmetics, skincare, etc.
Although it is not possible to :
- know for sure our skin’s absorption rate of chemicals – each person reacts differently;
- estimate how much of those chemicals will enter our bloodstream;
- ascertain what effects those chemicals have on us once they are in our bloodstream;
we have to acknowledge the fact that:
- as we age, our body’s defence mechanism weakens and we are prone to illness;
- our recovery process decelerates;
- we are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals that are beyond our control – a microscopic amount absorbed daily will accumulate over time.
How to know which ingredients are safe?
I am not an expert. Neither do I know much about which ingredients are safe, what they can do, their beneficial properties, and so forth. Hence, I turn to experts such as Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The Environmental Working Group is an American activist group that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants and corporate accountability.
Their website, Skin Deep is an online Cosmetics Database guide with safety ratings for more than 78,000 cosmetics and other personal care products, and more than 2,500 brands. Through Skin Deep you could easily find out whether certain ingredients are safe to use or not, because ingredients are given proper ratings. Have a look at Skin Deep and find the ratings of the ingredients in your favourite skincare products. It’s really easy!
Granted, not all chemicals are bad. Some of us are allergic to natural ingredients such as lemon balm. Occasionally, we have concerns that can’t be addressed using natural products alone. Hence, we turn to beauty skin care brands loved and trusted by generations of users or millions of women. For example, Olay (previously Oil of Ulan), Clarins, Clinique, SK-II, etc. Nonetheless, it is best to be informed before making a decision.
Certification is verification received by a product after it has gone through certain processes. There are many types of certifications out there. Each has different significance. For example:
- Certified Organic – such as USDA Organic, ACO, Ecocert, etc
- Certified Natural – Ecocert, Natrue, Cosmos Natural, etc
If you prefer to use products that contain 100% organic ingredients, then you need to know whether they are genuinely organic. One of the best ways to find out is to look for the organic certification logos. Each logo or label has different meanings.
USDA Labels Definitions
Here are some USDA labels definitions:
- 100% Organic: The product has been made using pure organic ingredients. The manufacturer has also processed, packed, handled and transported the product in full compliance with the USDA standards for organic agriculture.
- Organic: The product contains at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water or salt). It is eligible for the organic label provided the remaining 5% of the ingredients are not commercially available in organic form, and not produced using specifically prohibited methods (i.e. irradiation).
- Made with Organic Ingredients: The product must contain between 70% – 95% organic ingredients, excluding water and salt. As many as three of the organic ingredients in the content may be listed on the front of the package
- Product with less than 70% organic ingredients: The label on this product will be allowed to list the organic items in the “ingredients” panel only, and the term “organic” may not be used anywhere else on the package.
Merely having the word “Organic” on product labels, does not guarantee that the product is organic. However, just because a product is not certified organic, doesn’t mean that it is not organic. For example, skincare items from Claire Organic, Human Nature and Annmarie Skin Care are not certified organic but they contain mostly organic ingredients. That’s why we need to read the label and look at the list of ingredients.
This may seem unimportant but it is vital to me, particularly if the products are stated to contain organic ingredients but is not certified organic. I would probably skip the research if I only buy 1 item. But I’d definitely look into the company if I am interested to buy more because that would require trust. For me to trust a company, I need to have some knowledge about its founders, history, principles and other people’s opinion about them and their products.
Not a problem for those with unlimited budget. But for me, I will not buy something that is beyond my budget. Of course, I have my ‘Blow Money’ (as suggested by Dave Ramsey) but I also have expensive hobbies. So, I’d like to be extra careful and consider all the above before I commit to buy any skincare product.
Among the problems with certified organic products are:
- Limited Shelf Life : Natural and organic skincare items do not use synthetic preservatives, so they don’t last long. As such, many stores are not willing to carry natural and organic skin care items due to the limited shelf life. So, it is not surprising that they would cost more since:
- the ingredients are not easily obtainable
- they are not mass produced because of the shorter shelf life
- they are usually available in limited quantity
- Pricey : Honestly, I would love to use certified organic skin care all the time. Unfortunately, certified organic skin care products are usually very pricey. That’s understandable because:
- getting certified can be very expensive;
- certified organic ingredients are not easy to source, hence, also costly;
- sustainable and organic farming is more difficult and time-consuming;
- even if the products aren’t pricey, then the postage cost to Malaysia surely is.
Here is a summary of my simple ‘5 Tips for Choosing Safe Skincare Products’:
Basically, my process (I sometimes call it ‘my skin care due diligence’) would usually go like this:
- I have a skin concern or need a skincare item. So, if I think it is necessary, I will identify the product that I require to address my skincare issue.
- After identifying the product that may fit the above, I read the labels. I would zoom into the first few ingredients used to make the product. If most of the ingredients seem too alien, I’ll move on to another brand.
- If the ingredients are ok, I’ll read reviews about the product. If there’s a label/certification, identify the significance of the label.
- Then, I’d read some reviews. If mostly positive reviews, but the product is quite expensive or I don’t know the company, I’ll read some info about the company – e.g. their philosophy and values. And if I have questions, I’ll contact the company. This is an important factor too – their swift response.
- Once everything is satisfactory, and my budget allows it, then I’ll make a purchase.
Do you have any particular process before buying skincare items? Do share ya, I’d love to read about it.