Photo courtesy of B4BC Team Rider Courtney Conlogue
How do you choose between the delicious lavender body lotion and the mango-vanilla skin salve? Or the cherry lip gloss and the peppermint lip balm? We are here to help! American women put an average of 168 chemicals on their bodies each day through personal care and beauty products, isn’t that crazy?! Living non-toxic is one of our 8 Steps to Stomp Out Breast Cancer, meaning we think it’s SUPER important to understand what exactly we’re putting on our precious skin.
For some, looking on the back of a bottle at the ingredients list can help the process. But for most, the ingredients list is a confusing myriad of hard-to-read, harder-to-pronounce words that don’t give us any real idea of what’s inside, even when we are using “green” products. At the end of the day, despite the fact that translating an ingredients list is no easy feat, it’s imperative we get a handle on it because it does in fact affect our health.
We’ve got a go-to guide for helping you understand on those big words on the back of the bottle! Don’t get us wrong, it’s still extremely complicated, but we’ve got to start somewhere right? When it comes to breaking down an ingredients list, it’s best to keep it simple. For starters, when it comes to where the ingredients in your beauty products are sourced, there are four key categories every ingredient falls into. (Now remember, these are green products, so these babies are all pretty dang good for you, but it’s just as good for you to know the specifics)
- Minerals: Mica, Zinc Oxide, Clay, Iron Oxide Magnesium, Oligo Minerals
- Petroleum: Non-botanical oils
- Plants: Palm, Aloe, Periwinkle, Rosehip, Vitamin C
- Animals: Elastin, Collagen, Beeswax, Keratin, Silk, Royal Jelly
To note, there are botanical versions of many animal derived ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and stearic acid, so please consult with the product’s company if you wish to learn more about its origin.
Next, it’s important to know that every ingredient takes on certain traits, much like a person. Each of these “traits” allows a product to perform in a certain way, either as an alcohol, acid, ester, or polymer, allowing the product to do a variety of things, such as foam, thicken, stabilize, emulsify, and preserve. It’s what makes your shampoo suds up and your face cream sit on your vanity for months without spoiling.
To identify a trait, look for the following:
- Alcohols: Known by an -ol or -yl ending
- Acids: Known by their -ic ending
- Esters: Known by their -yl or -ate endings
- Polymers: Known by their amino acid or protein name
Now that you have that down, let the translating begin! Depending on an ingredient’s source, you’ll find certain prefixes and suffixes that show you where the ingredient is derived.
Animal source identifiers are any ingredients with these endings or beginnings:
- Gly- (e.g., glycerine)
- Stear- (e.g., stearic acid)
The most common plant source identifiers are:
The most common mineral identifiers are:
- -cone (e.g., silicone)
Lastly, the most common petroleum identifiers are:
- Paragen PPG
- Mineral oil
So, next time you see STEARYL ALCOHOL or ASCORBIC ACID or PROPYLENE GLYCOL, you’ve got all the tools to know where it’s sourced from and what it’s meant to do. Before long, you’ll be able to break down each ingredient as you would a math problem. Without proper FDA regulation helping us pick through the icky stuff in our products, it becomes our responsibility to find and use products that promote health and overall well-being.
Still a bit confused? It’s okay, we totally understand.. This stuff is confusing! Check out our friends over at Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to get more info and find out what’s in all of your products.
Source: Mind Body Green