Fewer chemicals in the bathroom – that is important to many people when it comes to caring products. But what can natural cosmetics do – for skin, hair and the environment?
The trend is towards “without”: without silicones, without parabens, without mineral oil-based raw materials, without microplastics. Natural cosmetics do without many ingredients that are controversial but often still contained in conventional cosmetics.
“Only what is allowed in real natural cosmetics is that which can be returned to the natural cycle and does not pollute the environment for long,” says Dortmund natural cosmetics expert Elfriede Dambacher. Increasingly more consumers appreciate this. According to the market research institute GfK, around 16 million people bought natural cosmetics in 2017. 1.2 million more than in 2015.
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Even conventional deodorants now often advertise with the label “aluminum-free”. Natural cosmetics have always been done without aluminium salts, says Dambacher. Also on the bacteria killer Triclosan and synthetic fragrances.
- Advantages: Natural cosmetic deodorants are usually offered in glass bottles and do not use propellant gases as atomizers. Both protect the environment. Plant extracts such as sage, lemon balm or lime combat the smell of sweat.
- Disadvantages: You have to say goodbye to the 48-hour fragrance. Natural deodorants cannot do that. Even those who sweat heavily may not be able to cope with the products. “They cannot constrict the sweat glands like aluminum salts. They only inhibit the formation of odors,” explains Hanna Schubert, the pharmacist in Wolfhagen. It often contains alcohol, which can sting sensitive or freshly shaved skin.
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Conventional shower gels foam well thanks to synthetic surfactants, which are often obtained from mineral oil. Natural cosmetic cleaning products rely on surfactants made from renewable raw materials such as sugarbeet, rapeseed or coconut. It doesn’t foam so nicely, but it still cleans thoroughly.
- Advantages: If you tend to have dry skin, you have to ensure that conventional shower gels do not contain any so-called sodium Laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate. “They have a strong degreasing effect and can cause irritation,” says chemist Kerstin Etzenbach-Offers from the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer centre. These substances must not be used in natural cosmetics. Neither are artificial preservatives, microplastics or petroleum-based plastics. People with sensitive or dry skin can benefit from this.
- Disadvantages: “Even plant-based surfactants can dry out the skin if they are used excessively,” explains Christoph Schempp, a dermatologist from the Freiburg University Medical Center. And those who tend to have allergies have to be careful, even with natural cosmetics. “There are 26 potentially allergenic fragrances that have to be declared, including those made from natural essential oils,” says consumer advocate Etzenbach-Offers.
Shampoos are designed to remove oil, sweat and dead skin from your hair. Surfactants are necessary for this. Natural cosmetics use vegetable oil or sugar surfactants. They do not use foam as much, but this does not affect the cleaning performance.
- Advantages: Natural cosmetics do not use artificial fragrances or preservatives. Instead of synthetic silicones, derivatives of natural plant substances are added. In conventional shampoos, silicones make them shine and are easy to comb. Hairdresser Susanne Zaglauer from Munich: “Natural hair is naturally supple and does not need silicone.” A brush with natural bristles can supply the hair with the body’s sebum and give it shine.
- Disadvantages: To protect natural cosmetic shampoos from germs and make them last longer, manufacturers use bio alcohol. Most of the time, it is well-tolerated, says Zaglauer. Those who tend to have a dry scalp can switch to alcohol-free shampoos.
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Hair Colour And Styling
Pure plant colour dyes without synthetic substances, such as henna, indigo and components from flowers, leaves and roots. “The color surrounds the hair and does not penetrate the hair structure,”.
- Advantages: likes to use styling products from natural cosmetics: “They can be combed out easily and do not deposit.” Instead of film-forming plastics, shellac then keeps the hair in shape – obtained from the excretions of the lacquer scale insect. Vegetable oils provide shine. Good for the environment: The products come out of the can without propellant gas.
- Disadvantages: Plant dyes do not lighten the hair. “This requires oxidation colors, which cannot be produced naturally,” explains Zaglauer. Gray cannot be covered as well, either. And the sprays don’t come out of the can that fine. “They are more humid, but can be dosed wonderfully.”
Natural cosmetics variants do not use synthetic additives such as polyethylene glycols (PEG). “Lecithin is often used as a natural emulsifier,” explains dermatologist Schempp. Paraffin (from petroleum) and glycerine (mostly from palm oil) are also not included.
- Advantages: The vegetable oils used, for example, jojoba oil and shea butter, are of higher quality than their artificial counterparts. For anti-ageing effects, there are also substances from nature, such as pomegranate extract or evening primrose oil. And hyaluronic acid or the classic facial care coenzyme Q10 can also be produced naturally.
- Disadvantages: Once opened, the creams only last six to twelve months. Synthetic raw materials such as glycerine or paraffin are also cheaper to produce, which is why natural cosmetic creams usually cost a little more. Urea is usually not used, a disadvantage for people with dehydrated skin.
Natural cosmetic lipsticks consist of natural waxes such as beeswax or wool wax. The colour palette is now significant.
- Advantages: Natural cosmetics manufacturers do without petroleum-based bowls of paraffin and synthetic colours and fragrances. “Theoretically, the lipsticks are therefore edible,” says expert Dambacher.
- Disadvantages: Vegans, in particular, should know: The bright red colour carmine is made from dried cochineal lice. “That is allowed. Only ingredients from dead vertebrates are forbidden in natural cosmetics,” explains consumer advocate Etzenbach-Offers. And: A kiss-proof lipstick that lasts long even without silicone has not yet existed.
Mascara with natural colour pigments and vegetable oils can also be found on natural cosmetics shelves. They are available with different brushes. Mascara can colour, define eyelashes and give volume.
- Advantages: There are no parabens in natural mascara to protect conventional products from germs. Synthetic emulsifiers, which are considered harmful to health, are also not contained in mascara from the natural cosmetics shelf.
- Disadvantages: natural cosmetic mascara is not waterproof. This would require chemical substances such as polymers, which, however, are prohibited in natural cosmetics. Some manufacturers use alcohol for preservation.
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