Do you read your ingredient labels?


This draft has been lying around for a few days as I needed some winding down after reading “No More Dirty Looks” by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt.

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m leaning more towards organic and natural skincare and DIY stuff as conventional products doesn’t seem to work well on my skin. So I went to do a search on the book “Do-It-Gorgeously” on Amazon, which somehow lead me to “No More Dirty Looks”. Anyways, I managed to borrow the book from the library and just wanted to share abit about it.

First, I was overwhelmed after reading the first 2 chapters at the lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry. Hence this post to create more awareness. Coincidentally, last week’s Cover Story on Straits Times Mind Your Body was about products labelled as “Dermatologist tested” and if they were really more superior in terms of their efficacies.

Misleading product labels?

Certain phrases used in product labels are not regulated as long as the cosmetic products meet the safety standards here.

Eg. “Dermatologist-tested”, “hypoallergenic”, “gentle”, “non-irritating”, “herbal”, “natural”, “botanical”, “for sensitive skin”, “scientifically proven”.

(Phrases obtained from “No More Dirty Looks” and “Mind Your Body, July 14 2011, Page 13”)

What’s on my ingredient label?

According to HSA’s Cosmetic Control Unit guidelines, ingredients should be listed in descending order by weight. Ingredients less than 1% in concentration (by weight) can be listed in any order after ingredients with concentrations of more than 1% or more.

Colouring agents are listed in any order after the other ingredients.

Perfume and aromatic compositions may be referred to by the word “perfume”, “fragrance”, “aroma” or other similar terms. Hence, there might be hundreds of ingredients used in making “parfum”, but it would not be disclosed on the ingredient list due to trade-secret laws mentioned in “No More Dirty Looks”.

Impurities in raw materials are not listed as they are not intended ingredients. If you have done chemistry practicals, you would have known that products in 100% purity are difficult to obtain.

Are these safe for use?

Companies would have to obtain notify HSA and receive an acknowledgement before their products can be made available for sale here. However, the acknowledgement is not equivalent to an approval.

According to the HSA website,

cosmetic products are considered to be generally of lower risk compared to other health products. Therefore, cosmetic products are currently not subjected to HSA’s approval before they are placed on the market. The responsibility is on the companies to make sure that their products are safe for use.

BUT, HSA do conduct routine sampling of products  in the market to ensure that they meet safety standards.

Still, we are reminded that no product is 100%  safe.

So, yup. Always read your ingredient labels like how you would scrutinize those nutrition labels on food packagings.

I never checked ingredient lists. I thought anything sold in our markets would have been checked and approved, hence, nothing would go wrong! Well, not until recently, I started to just scan through them and realised that there so many ingredients used in your fav/HG eyecream, night cream, serum, facial cleanser, foundation, sunscreen, etc etc.

I know my chemistry, but some names are just mind-boggling. I knew a little about parabens and SLS being harsh chemicals and that’s about it. I never thought much about them until I read “No More Dirty Looks”. There were many more ingredients discussed and could be potential health hazards! Although the risk stated are debatable but I have to admit that I got a little paranoid after reading the book. Heh.

So, anyways, I decided to check my facial cleanser, which has served me for the past 2 years, and see if it’s CLEAN since it doesn’t irritate my face, and it says “GENTLE CLEANSER” on its label (I learnt not to trust labels now) !

Here’s the ingredient list:

Aqua, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside, Sodium Myreth Sulfate, Panthenol, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Arcrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross-polymer, Polyquaternium-10, PEG-90 Glyceryl Isostearate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Laureth-2, Benzophenone-4, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.”

By the standards of “No More Dirty Looks” and EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, the ingredients in red would have been labelled as DIRTY/Moderate hazards. Limited or no information could be found in the database regarding the safety data of those listed in black.

For a more balanced view, you might wanna head over to Paula Begoun’s Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary to check out the same ingredients and their comments.

Is going organic or natural the way then?

I haven’t ventured much into this yet but I have a few points to make.

Firstly, I want to clarify that chemicals are also present in organic and natural products. Or rather, these products are also made up of chemicals as these ingredients are produced by or used in chemical processes occuring in plants/animals. So, not all chemicals are no good.

Secondly, organic and natural products are not safer either as some might be allergic to the certain ingredients. I have tried a certain Lavera scrub and it irritated my skin too. Moreover, they might not be as effective as conventional products and have shorter shelf-life.

However, these products are definitely cleaner than the conventional products. If it gives you a peace of mind to know that what you’re using is(are) obtained from Mother Nature, the you might wanna give it a try. BEWARE of fake-natural and fake-organic products though! Always look at their ingredient list!

Lastly, I want to end with Siobhan O’connor and Alexandra Spunt’s mantra: “If you can’t be sure a product is safe – and it’s not doing your looks any favours – why bother using it?”


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