Labels on cosmetics and beauty products are notoriously difficult to decipher, requiring knowledge of Latin and biochemistry. And not everything has to be listed on the pack; fragrance ingredients (where some of the more dubious chemicals are hidden) don’t have to be specified.
To cut through the blurb, choose only certified organic brands.
Some ingredients are more undesirable than the others, try to avoid the following:
Petroleum-based substances – these are drying for the skin and polluting for the atmosphere.
SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) – this is a harsh detergent that can cause skin and eye irritation and exacerbate dry skin.
Parfum/fragrance – this is a catch-all term for around 100 synthetic ingredients thought to trigger one third if cosmetic allergies; they don’t have to appear on the label.
Phtalates – these hormone-disrupting substances were detected by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the body of every person tested.
Formaldehyde – this irritates the skin and is cancer-inducing.
Parabens – these oestrogen-mimicking preservatives are found in most high-street cosmetics; they are known to accumulate in the body.
DEA-, MEA-, TEA prefixes – these can irritate scalp and eyes; they may also react with impurities and preservatives to create carcinogenic substances.
PEG – these can irritate the scalp