The fine print in cosmetics often hides harmful ingredients that cause long-term damage

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“The sum and substance of all cosmetics is that the big print gives and the small print takes away,” said Geeta Prakash, founder and CEO of Parama Naturals, during a webinar hosted by Moneylife Foundation.

Most consumers only read a product label to check the expiration date, missing out on vital information hidden in the fine print. Moneylife Foundation had therefore organized a webinar to educate and enlighten consumers on the importance of reading and understanding the labels of cosmetic products.

Geeta used examples of three commonly used products – daily moisturizer, face wash and body oil, analyzing their key ingredients and highlighting which ones should be avoided. She demonstrated through her presentation how the labeling normally appears on cosmetics – “a big front label, with the promise or what they call benefits and the brand name. Then there’s the back label , which is extremely confusing, and then the fine print. Sometimes there are a lot of numbers and complex-sounding chemical names, so it’s actually daunting for you to read them.

In the case of the daily moisturizer, the ads probably say it’s a nourishing cream that’s good for the skin, but perhaps, unsurprisingly, Geeta explained in his presentation that the 3 main ingredients These products are usually – aqua (water), paraffinum liquidum (mineral oil, a petrochemical) and alkane C15-19, which is a solvent. “If you go further down the list, in most products there are over 50 to 60 ingredients that need to be read, whose effects on the skin would be difficult for the common consumer to identify,” he said. -she explains. Although at first glance the addition of water may seem harmless, it is actually used as a filler and the consumer essentially loses the vital ingredients which are again mixed with the chemicals.

The same goes for face creams, as Geeta explained using the example of a well-known brand: “It’s supposed to be a light, brightening moisturizer for everyday use, but the three main ingredients are again water, palmitic acid and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, which even I have trouble pronouncing!Further down the list will be natural sounding ingredients like citronellol or limonene, which are actually chemicals that can be irritating or even toxic to our immune system.

With her third example of a popular body oil, she showed how the main ingredients were, “paraffin liquidum, trilsnonanoin (a penetration enhancer), and the other usual culprits such as retinyl palmitate, which, along with exposure to UV rays from the sun, can lead to toxicity and can become carcinogenic.

The obvious question that arises from these revelations is whether such use and labeling is legal. As Geeta explains, “India’s FDA labeling system allows large print to have the common name, while the rest of the claims made by the product can be obscured in small print. These are depicted on the product in the form of disclaimers, which usually say “based on some studies we’ve observed” or something like that. But it’s still buried in the fine print. Also, when the list is very long, only ingredients that make up more than 1% of the product should be listed in descending order, while those that make up less than 1% can be listed in any order. is a very small size, it may not even be mandatory to register it at all.

The most unwanted ingredients and common culprits that Geeta highlighted in his presentation were phthalates (BBP, DBP, DEP, DiDP, DnHP) which are used in perfumes and lotions, and are known to be harmful to the reproductive system. . While formaldehyde releasers (like urea) are used as preservatives in water-based products (lotions, gels and serums), and are known to be carcinogenic allergens. Retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid, which are common ingredients in skin creams and sunscreens, are also known carcinogens.

Instead, she suggests consumers opt for proven natural skincare ingredients, such as cold press or kachi ghani nut and seed oils (coconut, sesame, and almond), herbal extracts and essential oils that are steam distilled and carbon dioxide extracted, and natural hydrosols (water-based products) such as gel d ‘aloe. Also look for products that have “100% transparent labels with no fillers or hidden ingredients, minimal packaging and ingredients you can understand. Look for products that are 100% natural and time tested to be safe and free of side effects. “, she suggests.

“The only important thing to remember as a consumer is to avoid any product that lists aqua or water as an ingredient. How do you avoid these products? Instead of using such moisturizers, you should apply oil pure on your skin and then apply water separately.So what you’re really doing is applying good oil and water,while keeping all the chemicals out.If you want a little perfume, just add a little rose water,” she explained.

The thrifty consumer might consider doing a cost-per-ml comparison with products, but as Geeta explains, most daily moisturizing lotions are “60-70% water, 25-30% chemicals, and 5 to 10% oil. A more conservative comparison would be the initial cost versus the lifetime cost of worsening health conditions. »

Sucheta Dalal, Founding Trustee of Moneylife Foundation raised an important question about the stigma and public perception that has been created around oils, that of being sticky, and Geeta agreed while presenting an alternative solution to the problem – “C True, there is that negative perception. But a combination of oils at the right time, in the right dosage can make all the difference. Even if you mix it immediately in water, it can be extremely helpful in offering the same benefits as a moisturizer.The other way is to apply oil after a hot bath when your pores are enlarged, then the oil will be quickly absorbed into your skin.

Despite being an electrical engineer by training and leading a busy life as a business management professional for decades, Geeta Prakash found that she had very little time for wellness and that she often used cosmetics from well-known brands for decades. It was only through personal experience that she realized that even cosmetics from trusted and recommended brands contained chemicals that were either allergens causing skin rashes or serious long-term effects such as cancer.

“Being a totally avid follower of a brand, then maybe just moving on to check critical ingredients, then trying to look a little more on the labels, and finally trying to learn how to master them, I embarked on this long journey. which was really confusing. After so many years of trying to figure out what’s in the labels, I think it’s still extremely confusing,” she said of her journey in creating his wellness company Parama Naturals.

The session ended with Geeta Prakash answering questions from attendees on Zoom as well as those watching it live on Moneylife’s YouTube channel.

A video recording of the session is available below:

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