The Label Detective

Why did I start @thelabeldetective!? In 2016, after suffering with horrendous daily pain, I was finally told I has a condition called Adenomyosis, which is a gynaecological condition...which can have implications for fertility. After doing some research which suggested that my condition could be influenced by hormones (oestrogen in particular) I then found out that many products contain chemicals called Parabens, which mimic the oestrogen hormone.

Firstly, I decided to remove Parabens from my life, and initially I was on the hunt for paraben free products. Whilst researching, I quickly realised just how many other chemicals there are in almost EVERYTHING we use, from our cleaning products, to our make up, hair products, to deodorant. The list was endless! I therefore then decided to go on the hunt for organic, natural, chemical free and toxin free products for my skin, hair, make up and home! And ta-dah the idea for @thelabeldetective was created! 
My aim now is to spread awareness of more natural products with less chemicals and toxins.

 

Product Labels aren’t always the easiest things to figure out, and the only way to know what is in your products and how safe they really are is to understand the labels. Some products contain ingredients which have been shown in research studies to cause irritation, disrupt hormones or even cause harm. My aim is to show you what to look out for in order to make an informed decision on the products you buy. Remember, products are marketed very well in order to get you to buy them! So what appears to be a ‘natural’ product at first glance may actually not be as green as you think if you look more closely. For example, a product may be labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ to imply that the product is made entirely from natural or organic ingredients when in actual fact maybe only one or two of the ingredients are from a natural or organic source.

Therefore my first blog post for you is to share my 5 top tips on reading product labels. I’ll give you my tips on what to look for and what to avoid to try and decipher the misleading labels that are all around us.

1. Save yourself time and take a look at these apps and websites

Apps

www.thinkdirtyapp.com

This app is AMAZING. Plus it may save you so much time. Basically you type in the name of the product you are looking at, and it gives a rating of between 0 (very clean) to 10 (full of chemicals). You can see quickly and easily which brands and products rate highly on there, and then adjust your product buying choices accordingly. You can also scan the bar code of products you already use to check their ratings.

www.ewg.org/apps

Another WONDERfUL app by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This one is similar to the Think Dirty app. You scan a product and review its rating. This one also includes food as well as personal care products. Sometimes its helpful to have both to give yourself more chance of finding the product you are looking for.

Websites - Certified Organic Brand Directories

https://www.kontrollierte-naturkosmetik.de/e/producer_natural_cosmetics.htm  This gives you a link to ALL the brands which have been certified organic by BDIH

http://www.natrue.org/information-for/consumers/brands-directory/ This gives you a link to ALL the brands which have the NATRUE certification

https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/beauty-wellbeing/our-certified-brands/  This gives you a link to ALL of the skincare and make up, health and wellbeing, pregnancy and baby and male grooming brands which are SOIL ASSOCIATION ORGANIC CERTIFIED.

https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/bodycare/links.php This gives you a link to US brands which contain at least one USDA certified product in their range. http://cosmos-standard-rm.org/data/indexcp.php This gives you a link to ALL the COSMOS certified cosmetic products. It is a big list!

https://madesafe.org/certified-products/ MADE SAFE® certify that products are made with safe ingredients not known or suspected to harm human health. MADE SAFE certified products have been screened by scientists for known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, behavioral toxins, flame retardants, heavy metals, high-risk pesticides, insecticides, toxic solvents, and harmful VOCs. Ingredients have been further examined by a chemist for bioaccumulation (builds up in human bodies), persistence (builds up in the environment), ecosystem harm, as well as for general and aquatic toxicity.

2. Check the ingredients list

Not all products are listed on the apps I mentioned, therefore it is helpful to have other places to look for guidance when it comes to reading the ingredients list. It is good to know that for all products, the ingredients list has to go in order from the greatest to the least amount present in the product. It is really helpful to know which ingredients are safer or more potentially harmful than others. Then once you know, you know for future label detecting! For example, some ingredient names SOUND as if they are full of chemicals, when actually they are not, so it is good to know these things.

A good way to check is to go on the Environmental Working Group- Skin Deep website which has so much valuable information on there. It tells you all about each ingredient, how harmful it may be, any concerns and things like that. This is the website: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep Another useful website is the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics website. Specifically, you should take a look at http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chem-of-concern/ where you can learn about the top ingredients and contaminants to avoid based on research, and the types of products they’re found in.

3. Check the label for the following symbols

The table below contains some of the main certification symbols from around the world. If the product label contains these symbols this is a really good sign as it means the ingredients have been certified by an independent organisation. After the certification symbols, I then list some of the other symbols to look out for on packaging labels such as cruelty free, recyclable packaging, vegan and so on.

Certification Name, Country and Symbol

What they do

COSMOS (Cosmetic Organic

Standard)

A new combination of individual European countries have formed a

Harmonised standard for organic and natural cosmetics.

The countries involved are: Germany (BDIH), France (Cosmebio), France (Ecocert), Italy (ICEA), UK (Soil Association)

 

Products with the COSMOS certification have

  •  No Animal testing
  •  No GM ingredients
  •  No Controversial chemicals
  •  No Parabens and Phthalates
  •  No Synthetic colours, dyes or fragrance
COSMOS Organic: 
  •   95% of the physically made ingredients must be organic.
  •    Ingredients from organic farming, wildlife friendly, environmentally sustainable farming systems, no toxic pesticides, no artificial fertilisers.

COSMOS Natural: 

  •   Products which may or may not contain organic ingredients.

COSMOS Certified:

  •   Bulk ingredients with some organic content. For example a shampoo base with organic ingredients or a blend of organic essential oils.

 

  • UK - Soil Association Certified

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The UK’s main organic certification body
 The Soil Association is the British standard for natural and/or organic cosmetics
 The Soil Association provide an independent and rigorous process of certification.
 They look at the entire maufacturing process including the source of ingredients, formulation procedures and premesis, packaging, energy and water useage information, environmental waste management plans for the companies, review marketing messages for consumer clarity
 They carry out annual inspections to ensure certified products still meet the standards.

 

France - Ecocert

 

 

 

 

 Aligned with COSMOS.                                                                                         Ecocert is an independent and accredited certification body.                               Ecocert inspects products on the basis of this specification and issues organic certification.

 

France - Cosmebio

 

 

 

 The French standard for organic and/or natural cosmetics
 Aligned with COSMOS.
 The Cosmebio label requires 95% minimum of natural ingredients and 95% minimum of organic ingredients

 

USA - USDA

 

 USA standard for organic products.
 The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), which regulates organic claims for foods and offers a seal/logo to those who meet its requirements.

Australia Certified Organic

 

  Australian standard for organic products
  Free range
  Cruelty free
  Pasture Fed
  Socially responsible
  Grown free of synthetic pesticides, GM hormones and antibiotics

 

Germany - BDIH

German standard for natural and/or organic cosmetics.
Natural raw materials such as plant oils, fats and waxes, herbal extracts and essential oils and aromatic materials from controlled biological cultivation or controlled biological wild collection.
In addition to the careful selection of raw materials, the ecological impact of each product plays an important role.

Belgium - Natrue

Belgian standard for natural and/or organic cosmetics
The NATRUE Label helps consumers identify products that are compliant with a reliable certification process by independent certification

Italy - ICEA

 

ICEA, Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale (Environmental and Ethical Certification Institute). 
ICEA together with BIOL Italia organizes Prizes, Events and Campaigns to raise awareness to spread and share culture, knowledge and values linked to Organic topics.

 

Other useful symbols to look out for

 

 

Symbol

Description

Best before end or expiry date

            
  •   Its a good idea to check this. Some organic products have a shorter expiry date simply because they don’t use chemicals to prolong their shelf life. This is OK, as long as you know how long you have to use it!  Sometimes instead of a date, there will be the symbol of a jar with a number inside it, this is how long you have to use the product once opened 

Recycle

 

             

 

  •   This symbol means you can recycle the packaging

 

 

 

Vegan USA

 
  •   US-based organization certifying vegan products.

 

Vegan UK

   
  •   UK-based organization certifying vegan products.

Cruelty Free - International Symbol for the Leaping Bunny Program

              
  •   CCIC (Cruelty Free International)is a US-based organization that certifies products that have not been tested on animals nor contain ingredients tested on animals.

PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Symbol

 
  •   US-based organization that certifies products that have not been tested on animals, nor contain ingredients tested on animals.

 

Fairtrade

        
  •   UK-based organization certifying Fairtrade products.

 

 

 

Choose Cruelty Free

 

 

 

         
  •   Australian organization that certifies products that have not been tested on animal nor contain ingredients tested on animals.

 

4. Know which ingredients to avoid

If you have found products with the certified organic symbols, you hopefully should not find the following ingredients on the labels. However, if you are unable to access certified organic products and want to choose the best from the options you have, here is a list of ingredients that you really should try to avoid if possible.

This brochure from EWG is a great start https://s3.lightboxcdn.com/vendors/a3241e66-5c6a-4d48-8161-225ef2c02084/uploads/6daea884-cd47-4cbb-bf58-57ea67db0188/QuickTipsforChoosingSaferPesonalCareProductsmin.pdf

  •   Parabens (Methyl/Ethyl/Propyl/Butylparabens)

Parabens can be identified on the label quite easily because their names all end in ‘paraben’. For example ethylparaben, or methylparaben. Parabens are made from petrochemicals and have been shown to disrupt hormones and therefore interfere with human natures delicate endocrine balance. It is better to reduce the number of products contains parabens in order to minimise hormone disruption. For me personally, parabens were the first thing I looked out for on labels and cut out from my life because they mimic the oestrogen hormone which I believe had a strong influence on my adenomyosis (a gynaecological condition which can impact fertility). Parabens are used in cosmetic products to lengthen their shelf life.

What to look for - ‘PARABEN FREE’ on the label.

  •   Phthalates (Often hidden under Fragrance/Parfum)

Phthalates are oestrogen mimicking chemicals which can influence health and also fertility issues. They are used to make fragrances in products last for longer, and can be found in many scented products such as nail varnish, perfume , candles, air freshners and hair sprays. On the label you may see acronyms ending in ‘P’ such as MEP, DMP, DEHP, DBP, DEP. Usually, if a product is phthalate free it means that it hasn’t been chemically fragranced, which is a good sign!

What to look for - ‘PHTHALATE FREE’ on the label. 

  •   Fragrance/Parfum

These are known as ‘trade secrets’ which means that companies don’t have to disclose what is in them. Potentially this means that there could be hundreds of chemicals used to make up the fragrance which doesn’t need to be disclosed. Best avoided unless clearly stated that the fragrance is from organic essential oils.

  •   Any petrochemical derived ingredients or mineral oil (propylene glycol, PEG, petolatum, mineral oil, PPG, petrolum jelly, parrafin wax)

Well because..Petrol? Near our skin? No thank you!

  •   Sulphates (SLS/SLES)

Sulfates are referred to as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) on the ingredients label. They are surfactants, which means they attract oil and water and are therefore found in things that foam such as shampoos, cleansers, hand soaps, household cleaning products etc. SLS is known to be a skin irritant, plus it is toxic to fish.

  •   Synthetic colourants and fragrances (look out for FD&C +Name and Number, e.g FD&C Red No 40) 

5. Make your own using things from your kitchen cupboards!

There is nothing wrong with utilising the products you have in your kitchen for your own beauty regime!

Organic cold pressed, raw, coconut oil is one of my favourite things to use because it is so versatile! It can be used as:

  •   Eye make up remover
  •   Hair mask
  •   Cuticle oil
  •   Body and face moisturiser
  •   Massage oil
  •   Body scrub
  •   Shaving balm
  •   Baby nappy cream/moisturiser
  •   Baby cradle cap treatment

Avocado

I love using avocado as a face mask/moisturiser. Simply scoop out the leftovers before you throw away and rub over your face. Leave on for 5-10 minutes then wash off with warm water and your skin will feel lovely and soft.

Banana

Like the avocado, I also sometimes rub the inside of the banana skin over my face and leave it for 5-10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. This also leaves your skin super soft!

Coffee granules

You can mix coffee granules with olive oil/coconut oil and rub on to the skin as an exfoliator - lovely but messy!

I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog post. Check out my Instagram page @thelabeldetective for more.

PS…Always read the label! x