Are these the 5 most 'toxic' ingredients in beauty?

Published: 17-May-2017

Consumers are often aware that certain cosmetics ingredients could be harmful to their health, but they might struggle to name them. Here the Soil Association reveals the Top 5 cosmetics ingredients it believes pose the biggest risk to human health today

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Jen Collins is the Beauty Campaign Manager at the Soil Association.

Here she talks to Cosmetic Business about the potentially toxic ingredients consumers are using everyday, especially in organic beauty products.

Jen Collins

Jen Collins

"Greenwashing is rife in the health and beauty industry. Our Campaign for Clarity calls for brands to ‘Come Clean About Beauty’ and use the terms organic or natural responsibly or not at all.

Our new investigation has produced a league table of products which say organic on the label, yet contain ingredients which would not be permitted in a certified organic product.

We looked at the ingredients in some of these products and worked with Emeritus Professor Vyvyan Howard of the University of Ulster to find ten which have been shown to cause harm to human health or the environment in wider use – I’ve included five of the worst below.

Many of the brands exposed in our Campaign for Clarity have been quick to reassure us that the use of these ingredients in health and beauty products is safe and legal.

We have not questioned their safety, we are simply pointing out that it’s not right to use the word organic on labels of products which contain ingredients that wouldn’t be permitted in a certified organic product.

Consumers agreed with us – when they were shown some similar labels in an independent survey, most people (76%) said they felt they had been misled when they found out the product was not organic and contained ingredients that would not be permitted in a certified organic product.

Brands are exploiting the trust and reassurance that consumers get from the word organic

There’s currently no legislation over the use of the term organic for cosmetics as there is for food and drink. Knowing this, we think brands are exploiting the trust and reassurance that consumers get from seeing the word organic on pack.

The majority of consumers (75%) said they’d feel more positively about the brand if it was certified organic – which should give uncertified brands something to think about.

The ingredients listed here are just five of the ten worst that we found in products which say organic on the label. Two of them are sunscreens and we appreciate that this is an important and difficult area – but there are some really good organic sunscreen brands out there who have innovated to make formulations which consumers like.

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