Natural option for skincare

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COMPANIES manufacturing cosmetics, food and pharmaceutical products are mandated by law to be registered and certified by the relevant government agencies. They also need to provide a list of ingredients for product notification, approval and other regulatory exigencies.

Basically, ingredients deemed to be harmful to humans or the environment are not allowed. The list of banned substances, including scheduled poisons, is updated as needed.

Mechanisms have also been put in place for reporting any contraindication, allergy, adverse event or reactions to cosmetics, food and pharmaceutical products to ensure that quality, safety, efficacy (especially for pharmaceutical products), labelling and packaging are strictly monitored.

Cases of infractions are also dealt with appropriately. Thus, there have been instances where products that had been previously approved are no longer allowed to be imported, manufactured, distributed or sold.

An ugly secret of the beauty industry is that most skincare products contain potentially harmful chemicals that could not only harm consumers’ health but also make ageing worse. Some skincare products may be able to deliver short-term benefits but could also carry dangerous toxins that age the skin quickly, disrupt body hormones and expose consumers to cancer-causing chemicals. This has culminated in the rise of natural and organic skincare.

Organic ingredients are unique by being produced without the use of as many artificial pesticides, fertilisers or other synthetic chemicals as conventional beauty ingredients.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that organic beauty ingredients haven’t been treated with pesticides at all. Rather, it means that they have been produced using generally “natural” pesticides.

Basically, all cosmetic ingredients (natural or synthetic) are chemicals. According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, women put an average of 168 chemicals daily on their body through their skincare routine.

Consumers deserve the best value for their money, thus the onus is on the manufacturers to produce quality and safe products. On the other hand, consumers must also make it their responsibility to know the chemicals in their skincare products that should be avoided at all cost. Read the labels carefully and don’t be fooled by exaggerated claims and unpronounceable ingredients.

Some names to watch out for are betamethasone 17-valerate; BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene); formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives; hydroquinone; mercury; oxybenzone; parabens (butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben); phthalates; polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds; polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) aka Teflon; retinol and retinyl palmitate/acetate; siloxanes and cyclomethicone; sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate; toluene; tretinoin and triclosan.

Some of these “suspected to be harmful” ingredients are capable of destroying the natural skin lipid barrier, disrupting the endocrine system, causing reproductive issues, stomach and liver damage, or are linked to cancer and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the origin, nature and safety of those active chemicals should be crystal clear.

Natural and organic products, to a large extent, remain a strong and reliable foundation to keep the skin safe and healthy.


Research fellow

Centre for Natural Products Research and Drug Discovery

Universiti Malaya

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