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Au Naturel?

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Au Naturel?

There's nothing more refreshing than the nighttime ritual of removing the grime, stale makeup, and leftover traces of the day from your face and body. Your bid to freshen up, however, could leave you with more than dirt on your skin if your cleansing products aren't natural.

There’s nothing more refreshing than the nighttime ritual of removing the grime, stale makeup, and leftover traces of the day from your face and body. Your bid to freshen up, however, could leave you with more than dirt on your skin if your cleansing products aren’t natural.

In Canada, more than 10,000 different ingredients are used in cosmetics and body care products. While some are safe, others are known to cause immediate sensitivity reactions, and still others could be downright toxic to our bodies. Several studies show, for example, that preservative parabens–used because they often don’t cause skin reactions–are linked to certain cancers of the reproductive system. More frightening is that many of the chemicals we use on our bodies haven’t been tested at all; in Canada and the US, they don’t have to be.

As a result, many of us are opting for natural ingredients. But even this decision presents challenges: what if the oat farmer who supplies the manufacturer of your favourite oatmeal facial mask used toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides to grow his crop? These chemicals aren’t good for your body, whether you eat them or apply them to your skin. A better option is to buy organic skin products. Good thing there are so many to choose from.

Just as controversy raged over the use of the word “natural” in personal care products, the meaning of the term “organic” is being stretched on product labels as marketers take
advantage of the interest in healthy living. Be suspicious of a brand that broadcasts the word “organic” but contains non-organic synthetic ingredients such as propyl paraben and cocamidopropyl betaine. An organic brand created with integrity will contain only natural and familiar plant parts and essential oils.

Remember that what you put on your skin can get under your skin. It pays to be careful about what we use to lather up, rinse off, and moisturize.

Look for These Organic Ingredients

Avena sativa (oatmeal): Traditionally used as a facial mask.

Borago officinalis (borage seed oil): Excellent topical treatment for dry skin and eczema.

Cera alba (beeswax): Used as an emollient, softening agent, thickener, and emulsifier.

Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil): Used to kill bacteria that cause blemishes; also used in therapeutic masks.

Saponaria officinalis (soapwort): This perennial herb lathers well in water and is used for cleansing.

Label Lesson

While Canada has not set organic labelling requirements for personal care products, in the US the Organic Consumers Association and its Coming Clean campaign (organicconsumers.org) endorses organic body care standards that align with organic food standards. These standards stipulate that only products containing at least 70 percent nonwater and nonsalt agricultural organic content qualify for a “Made with Organic Ingredients” label claim. Many US brands use the USDA organic seal to help you identify the best products.

As of November 15, 2006 Health Canada now requires ingredient lists to appear on all cosmetic product labels. Ingredients must be listed as named in the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients system.

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