If you, yourself, are not a producer of natural or organic products, you’re very likely a person who relies on ingredient labeling to tell you what you’re putting into, or onto, your body.

But did you know that virtually anyone, or any company, can call their products “natural” without actually offering natural ingredients? And worse, have you ever taken a close look at the labels of “organic” products, only to find out that they contain only one or two organic ingredients, while some of the remaining ingredients could actually be considered harmful?

Unfortunately, these violations of what I call “labeling ethics” are real and happen regularly, from small producers of handmade products, on up to major corporations. Everyone seems to want a piece of the “natural pie.”

While I could soap-box all day on this issue — and I’m sure many of our readers would agree and chime in — here is the long and short of it:

If you want to buy truly natural products, read your labels carefully. Here are some ingredients to look out for:

1. Sulphates. Sodium laurel and sodium laureth sulphates are in nearly every foaming product on the market (including toothpaste!) Sulphates are reported to contain carcinogens and are hazardous to our health! There are lots of new products on the market that do not contain sulphates and do a fine job of lathering with natural soap or saponified organic oils, so check your labels carefully!

2. Parabens. These chemical preservatives actually have been banned in some countries! Look for products that offer “paraben-free” ingredients. Parabens often are listed as “methyl-” or “propylparaben.” Alternatives for parabens include rosemary extract, potassium sorbate, vitamin E oil, and citric acid. (Just remember that the product’s shelf life is shorter!)

3. Phthalates. Many of us adore deliciously fragrant products! At Valley Green Naturals, we love producing fragrant (but safe) shampoos, lotions and soaps. Here’s what you need to look out for: fragrance oils usually contain phthalates. These synthetics have been banned in some countries and are not safe ingredients. However, ingredient testing would find them regularly in “natural” products! And here’s the rub: the FDA does not require that phthalates are listed on labels. You can surmise that a product contains phthalates if a label lists the word, “fragrance.”

Look for products that list their fragrance oils as “phthalate-free.” Many companies and labs are beginning in earnest to produce fragrance oils that are phthalate-free, but usually it’s the smaller soap and personal care producers that will take the time, and spend the money, to purchase these fragrance oils. If you find products with “pure essential oils,” that’s great! Be aware, however, that some essential oils can actually be toxic. Check out the safety of those oils on the Environmental Working Group’s web site: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com And never use essential oils on animals (particularly, cats).

4. Chemically extracted oils. Always check to see how a product’s natural oils are obtained. Are they distilled? Expeller-pressed? Chemically extracted? If you want a true natural product, without chemical extractions, look for products that offer oils that are “expeller-pressed.” Your best bet is to purchase products that list each oil or ingredient as organic.

There is a whole world of “natural” and “organic” products out there for consumer consumption. Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate personal care products or cosmetics as closely as they should when it comes to labeling. In this world, there are lies of “admission” and lies of “ommission.” Unfortunately, in the matter of product labeling, much of what consumers need to know is ommitted from ingredient labels.

Just be an informed consumer… read labels carefully; know what to look for, and know what you’re really getting! If you shop on Etsy, Abe’s Market, or other small-producer web sites, contact the seller and ask questions about their ingredients! Most of these people are very happy to discuss their products and ingredients with you.

The Environmental Working Group offers a fantastic web site to check out the safety of thousands of ingredients. Just type in either the common or chemical name of the ingredient in the search box, and read about its hazard level; industry uses, and any studies that have been conducted. The web site is: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.

Have a naturally wonderful day!

Cindy

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