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The Beauty Brains Book.indb 182 2/6/2008 12:14:34 PM Appendix B Useful Resources It is our hope that reading the Beauty Brains will make everyone a smarter consumer who makes informed decisions when purchasing beauty products.
Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org/cro/health-fittness/beauty-personal-care) This is the online version of the magazine. It features information about a variety of beauty and personal care products including reserached reports on sunscreens, wrinkle creams, anti-aging products and more. They have good information and get many things right.
Quack Watch (http://quackwatch.com) While this site is dedicated to primarily health related topics, it provides an excellent foundation for critical thinking and evaluation of the claims, demos and bunk used to sell cosmetics and beauty products. You can find a number of articles about how to protect yourself from quackery you’ll see all around you.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-toc.html) Contrary to what some sources claim, the FDA does provide regulatory guidelines for the cosmetic industry. At this website you can find information about a number of cosmetic issues such as ingredient and product descriptions, labeling requirements, recall information and even a quiz to test how smart you are about cosmetics.
Personal Care Products Council - Cosmetics Info (www.cosmeticsinfo.org) This website is run by the cosmetic industry oversite council who is responsible for ensuring that cosmetics in the U.S. comply with accepted standards. They provide good scientific information, but it is not completely unbiased since it’s run by cosmetic manufacturers.
Society of Cosmetic Chemists (www.scconline.org/website/news/ask_the_expert.shtml) If you want to know more about cosmetics and you’re not getting a response quick enough from the Beauty Brains (we get swamped with questions) try the SCC’s Ask the Expert page. Simply fill out their form and send in your question. It will be answered by a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Of course, it won’t be as clever as the Beauty Brains’ response, but you’ll get good information.
In the United States, cosmetic manufacturers are compelled by the governing industry trade organization known as the Personal Care Products Council (formerly the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association) to include a list of ingredients on their labels. They maintain a book known as the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook which the names of nearly all the ingredients used in cosmetic products worldwide. It’s quite a tome that makes groovy bedtime reading.
Of course, that assumes you know what any of the chemicals are, which for most consumers is not the case. Fortunately, with the internet you can simply look up chemical names using a search engine to get more information about the compounds. Be careful however, there are plenty of sites loaded with misinformation about perfectly safe chemicals. Compounds like propylene glycol, mineral oil, and sodium lauryl sulfate have been slandered by biased sources all over the internet. Read all things on the internet with a skeptical eye. We reject gurus and encourage everyone to become their own experts.
What does the label mean?
When properly written, the labels can provide you with a lot of useful information. In the United States, any chemical above 1% by weight in the formula is required to be listed in order of concentration. Below 1% the order can be anything they like. Typically, preservatives, fragrances, and colors are listed at the end. Let’s look at an example of a skin moisturizer.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Ceteareth 20, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Dilaurate, Erythrulose, Persea Gratissima Fruit Extract (Avocado), Avena Sativa Meal Extract (Oat), Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Extract (Jojoba), Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Olea Europaea Fruit Oil (Olive), Tocopherol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearic Acid, Acrylates/C10 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, DMDM Hydantoin, BHT, Fragrance, Caramel, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Dihydroxyacetone The first ingredient is water which means this formula is mostly water. Based on this Brain’s knowledge of lotions, it is about 80% water. Glycerin is the next most abundant ingredient probably in there at about 5%. The next few Now, when you get to a “natural” sounding ingredient like Persea Gratissima Fruit Extract you know you’ve dropped below the magic 1% level. This is where manufacturers can start to make things look different. Generally, natural ingredients are so expensive and less effective that only a very small amount is in there.
Most manufacturers like to put lots of these “feature” ingredients in the formula just so they have something to talk about and to show their formula are different. The truth is the real functional work of the product is done by the ingredients above this 1% line. This isn’t strictly true as there are many ingredients that give quite good benefits below the 1% level, but generally it’s true. The more abundant a material, the more function it will have.
Ingredient lists are included on your cosmetics to give you useful information about the products you use everyday. They are put together following specific rules and if you know these, you can learn a lot about a product. The next time you’re thinking of spending $25 on that upscale hair conditioner, compare the ingredient list to the $3 bottle. You might be surprised by the striking similarities. And if the chemicals are the same, you can bet they’ll work similiarly.
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