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Be Mindful of Skin Care Products Claimed to be Organic or Natural - CHOICE # 407

  • 2010.09.15

Skin care products marketed as "natural" or "organic" are attracting more and more users for different reasons - avoiding skin allergy, being friendlier to the environment - just to name a few.

But just exactly how organic or natural these skin care products are?

The Consumer Council is on hand to offer tips for consumers to make the right choice.

Firstly, check if the product comes with certifications for being natural or organic. There are a number of international certification systems for cosmetic products. Some of the certifications are sub-divided into different categories according to the required percentage of product ingredients originated from natural origin and/or organic agriculture.

Secondly, read the list of ingredients carefully. In general, cosmetic ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance. The list might throw light on whether the product contains any certified organic ingredients and their predominance. Some products may also contain petro-chemicals and synthetic preservatives and may not be as natural as one expects.

Thirdly, pay attention to other information shown on the packaging. Some products are labelled with the percentage of ingredients from natural origin and/or organic agriculture. While this may give a good indication of the percentage of natural or organic ingredients the product contains, but it may not serve as a basis for direct comparison of products certified under different certification systems due to the difference in their percentage requirements and calculation methods.

Some products may claim to be free of certain chemicals such as synthetic fragrances and colorants. But such claim cannot be taken to mean that the products meet organic standards or contain organic ingredients.

More importantly, consumers should choose skin care products according to one's skin type, skin problems, seasonal changes and personal expectation. Here are some advices from dermatologists:

  • Natural and organic ingredients can equally cause allergy. Some natural fragrances (benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, citral, citronellol, eugenol, geraniol, limonene and linalool, etc) are common contact allergens.
  • Some essential oils (bergamot, grapefruit and lemon) may increase the risk of sunburn and pigmentation. Consumers should avoid sunbathing after applying cosmetics containing these ingredients.
  • Some products may also contain α-hydroxy acids (AHAs) which may increase the possibility of sunburn, adequate sun screening measures should be taken after using AHAs-containing cosmetics.

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