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Can we claim a skincare product to be chemical free?


I find natural and organic skincare fascinating, a never ending journey of discovery and education. In my eyes, mainstream beauty (the stuff normally found in Boots/Superdrug) was never this exciting. Bloggers and brands show great passion in their aim of living a "greener" lifestyle. I am always learning and my opinions are forever changing and evolving. When I first started trawling the internet looking at ingredients and natural skincare, I noticed it was popular to advertise products as "chemical free or non toxic". It was (and still is) a blanket term referring to cutting out SLS, parabens, petrochemicals and similar ingredients that raise concerns. I always felt that unless you are following a holistic lifestyle this phrase probably means very little. It requires you to have an understanding of certain ingredients.

I recently questioned Human & Kind (on Twitter) on their use of the term "chemical free". You can see the conversation we had below.

Can we claim a skincare product to be chemical free?

I appreciate the limitations of twitter and 140 characters is restrictive but Human & Kind also use the term on their website (it's right there on their home page). Of course, they are not the only ones doing this but for the purpose of this post they drew the short straw as my example. I'm sure that will come back to haunt me. I could spend all day picking apart their ingredients. Yes, products do contain ingredients of natural origins, like aloe vera or shea butter but can you really claim "chemical free" when I spy ingredients like Butylphenyl methylpropional (a synthetic liquid with a floral aroma) or Parfum? Lets not forget water is a chemical.

I am aware that the environment around us and our bodies are made up of chemicals. Ingredients that are derived from natural sources can often go through laboratory processes. One example is Cocamidopropyl betaine which is derived from coconut but classed as a synthetic surfactant. 

As for “toxic free or non toxic”, Alex from Skinsmatter.com, made an interesting point in a recent article, “What too many appear to forget or ignore is that toxicity is not a characteristic of a chemical, but of a chemical at a specific dose.” That sentence pretty much sums up why I think marketing non toxic is a grey area. Even natural ingredients can pose health risks, not all mushrooms are safe to eat and sunlight can cause cancer.

I would like to see companies drop the tag lines "chemical free and non toxic". I would rather we turn our attentions to ingredients that matter, the ones that benefit our skin and are better for the environment. I am perfectly happy for companies to mention that products are free from synthetic ingredients and identify which ones they avoid. You'll often see me referring to "undesirable ingredients" not sure if that works for marketing but I am comfortable it is suitable for blog posts.

Can we claim a skincare product to be chemical free? For me the answer is no. I will leave you with this food for thought. 
ingredients of all natural blueberries