Are Cosmetic Products Safe?
This is a very important question. Our appearance is our first impression to the world, so of course, we all want to apply only the very safest products to our skin. In doing so, we expect the end result to be better skin, not skin which is irritated or damaged. To ensure this, most reputable personal care companies perform a barrage of tests prior to launch and Nu Skin is no exception. Despite this assurance, consumers are increasingly concerned about products in the marketplace - both foods and cosmetics - as more information becomes available about what is healthy and what is harmful. While some of this information can be classed as 'misinformation', the use of the web means that it is readily available and it is often difficult to sort out reliable data from bad. This all leads to more confusion over what to choose to provide the best care for skin. At the same time as there is growing array of product choices for today's consumer. This article outlines the Nu Skin philosophy to only develop and sell 'safe' personal care products and discusses some of the hot items getting attention in the press and online.
"All of the good, none of the bad"
As the most basic consumer desire, producing safe, yet effective products is at the heart of Nu Skin's philosophy. In fact, the company was founded on a principle of using "all of the good, none of the bad". This means using only the safest of safe ingredients which prove to be beneficial for skin. In fact the original 13 products were specifically formulated to contain not only skin ingredients known to be beneficial to skin, but also to omit any ingredients that could potentially cause harm to the skin. This philosophy is still followed by all Nu Skin products today.
Original list of ingredients that Nu Skin does not use
Lanolin and Lanolin derivatives
Alcohol (approved as anti-microbial in hand sanitizer)
In today's products, Nu Skin ensures that all ingredients are obtained from reliable suppliers who have thoroughly tested the ingredients and established a good safety profile. Additionally, once formulated in a product, Nu Skin R&D performs a battery of clinical testing which confirms the safety of the final product. This means the products are tested on human volunteers to ensure that the products are safe. Even the slightest report of skin irritation is followed up, thoroughly investigated and understood. In many cases this will result in changes being made to the formulation with more testing until we are convinced that the formulation is safe for consumer use. These tests include, for example, skin irritation, patch testing to ensure the product does not cause allergic reactions and ocular irritation to ensure the product does not cause any eye irritation if the product is applied to the face. These tests do come at a price - many run into thousands of dollars, adding to the cost of product development. Oftentimes, these studies are conducted on a panel of subjects with different ethnic diversity to ensure the products are safe for all skin types.
In recent years there has been an increase in consumer awareness of "green" issues and the "naturalness" of a product for environmental and health reasons. Another trend gathering popularity is consumers wanting health focused, holistic products (which are often also organic) in their lives. This trend parallels the desire to return to the simple life and "get back to basics", and there is increasing consumer demand for plant-based simple, formulations that are mild yet very effective.
Consumers becoming more and more informed on natural trends have generated an increased demand for these natural and organic ingredients in the skin care market. This has resulted in a boom in organic products available, i.e. those grown without pesticides for food categories, and we are seeing this expanding to include cosmetic products. In fact, more organic and/or "all natural" products and cosmetic lines are entering the market at a very rapid rate. It's important to note that there is presently no standardized government controlled definition for a cosmetic product to put 'natural' on its package or in its advertising. Companies make their own definition of natural and often use it liberally as a consumer 'buzzword'. Thus, it's important that consumers understand that "natural" does not ensure safety or the best efficacy. For example, a "natural" facial mask could be cooked, soft mashed carrots blended with a little honey. The consumer would apply, wait and rinse for a rich carotenoid facial. While this is a natural product, it not a very convenient one: it takes time to make and would only be good for one application as bacteria will easily contaminate these 'unpreserved' products. If a product like this was marketed and no preservatives were used, the product would not survive the journey from factory to consumer. By the time it reached the consumer, the microbial growth would be at very harmful levels and this product would be dangerous to apply to the skin. Because of this ambiguity and lack of clear definition surrounding 'natural', Nu Skin feels it is important to educate consumers on its products and provide information on their ingredients, instead of using currently ill-defined, trendy words on the packaging or in advertising claims.
The word "organic" has not been as carefully regulated on personal care products as it is on food. When the "USDA Organic" seal appears on the packaging it indicates that the product contains 95 percent organic ingredients. The USDA started applying organic food standards to personal care products in August 2005. To achieve the USDA seal, the product must contain ingredients from crops grown a certain distance from conventional farms, so there is in theory no chance of cross-contamination and any processing must be done in an organic-exclusive factory and be made almost entirely from organic ingredients. While the USDA certifies organic personal care products, the food standards being leveraged have not been designed to fit the personal care industry.
In March of 2008, Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) launched the first U.S. certification program for personal care products. The founding members from an array of manufacturers felt that the USDA standards were too stringent and did not allow for "green chemistry" commonly found within the industry. OASIS certification is more strict than is presently found in other countries with its "Organic" standard needing 85 percent organic content and "Made with Organic" mandating 70 percent. As this field develops these percentages will likely increase. If the product claims 'organic' without a seal, then some organic ingredients may have been mixed with non-organic ingredients and the organic claim has not been regulated. Similarly, in other countries, a product can be called organic and only contain a few organic ingredients.
Of course, consumers do want products to provide a skin care benefit and natural "treatment" ingredients are being called for more and more. Nu Skin's line of Epoch products is a great answer for this desire. Each of our Epoch products contain ethnobotanical ingredients known to provide a benefit by incorporating them into safe and effective skin care products.
What about parabens?
This philosophy to marketing more "natural" and safe products has led some companies to attempt to find replacements for preservatives. This is in part driven by the growing concern regarding media reports on parabens as being not natural, not safe and potentially harmful. When, in fact, parabens are crucial to provide quality products which do not have contamination from potentially very harmful microbes. All products containing water have the potential to harbor and grow dangerous bacteria. Parabens are among the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products and have a safety record spanning more than fifty years… parabens are even used widely as preservatives in food. Parabens are actually made from modifying naturally occurring chemicals found in plants. Moreover, products which have insufficient preservation are very dangerous and could potentially cause very severe damage to the skin. Due to the rapid microbial growth in the absences of proper preservation, skin can become contaminated by unpreserved products.
Currently there is no substantiated research indicating that topical application of parabens is harmful in any way. While we continue to research and utilize the latest technologies, ingredients and manufacturing processes, we believe some of the best and most proper preservation of cosmetics includes parabens.
In keeping with the Nu Skin philosophy of "all of the good, none of the bad", Nu Skin continues to use ingredients with proven safety information. Final products are tested to ensure they are safe. Additionally, all sources of information including new developments reported in the research literature are constantly assessed and if necessary, Nu Skin will modify its ingredients in line with the latest discoveries.