At Emma Lewisham, we believe our customers should be able to understand – and make informed decisions about – what goes on their skin, which is the body’s largest organ.
We also believe in transparency and cutting through unnecessary jargon. We believe that people should not have to be scientists to be able to decipher what is in their beauty products.
Many ingredients used in the beauty industry can be sensitising and irritating, or even harmful. Here are the key things you should watch out for when reading a beauty product label.
- Watch out for natural claims: Just because a brand says it’s natural, this doesn’t mean that 100% of the ingredients are natural. For instance, many natural brands use a synthetic preservative called “phenoxyethanol” which is swapped into the formulation in place of parabens and allows the brand to make a paraben-free claim. Phenoxyethanol has also been linked to adverse health effects. Emma Lewisham doesn’t use this preservative, we have a 100% natural preservative that took our green chemists six months to crack.
Look for brands that promote fragrance transparency: Currently there is no legal requirement anywhere in the world that requires labels to describe the ingredients in the fragrances. And yet many brands use this term to disguise potentially harmful synthetic ingredients. That is why the EWG gives the term ‘parfum’ a default rating of 8 out of 10 (high hazard). Emma Lewisham only uses natural fragrances, derived from botanicals.
It’s about quality and quantity: Many brands use only one or two ‘hero’ active ingredients with a lot of other fillers, some of which may not be good for your skin. At Emma Lewisham, we use a high number of active ingredients with no fillers and we use concentrations that are in line with scientific recommendations.
Check the order of ingredients: Ingredients are typically listed in order of their concentration. The higher up the ingredients list, the higher the concentration. So if a product is heavily marketed as containing one or two ‘star’ ingredients that are far down the list, it may mean that it is less effective. In saying that, some ingredients can be effective in smaller quantities so if you are unsure, always read up on the ingredient. We recommend starting with the EWG Skin Deep database.
Get to know your ingredients: Don’t be put off if an ingredient name is in Latin or may be hard to pronounce.
Some Latin names have simple meanings (e.g. Rubus idaeus is the Latin name for raspberry). Here at Emma Lewisham, we show the more commonly known name in brackets so they are easier to identify.
Some ingredients have convoluted, chemical-sounding names; it is easy to think they are unsafe but plenty are safe and natural, and have an important function in the product. For example, Coco-caprylate, used as a natural alternative to silicones, is derived from coconut, and gives a silky, smooth, luxury feel. Other examples include Tocopherol, a vitamin E that it protects the product from going rancid, and Xanthan gum, a naturally derived gum that thickens the product.
- Be critical of marketing claims and ask questions: watch out for marketing claims that are easy to say but hard to prove. For example, “dermatologist tested” can be quite vague in what it actually means. It is also doesn’t mean that it is “dermatologist endorsed”. Flip it the other way and it is just as problematic, “dermatologist endorsed” doesn’t mean that it is “dermatologist tested”.