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Looking for Alternatives

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: March 6, 2008, from the March 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Many consumers look to avoid artificial additives in the food they eat, and believe the same criteria should apply when choosing cosmetics and toiletries. Media scare stories have fueled consumer concerns, and many people now try to avoid parabens, for example, even if they do not fully understand their safety profile or purpose in a cosmetics formulation. Some brands are picking up on consumer ignorance, and incorporate “free from” messages on their product labeling, knowing that this is an attractive selling point.

The “Free From” Trend

The “free from” trend means that brands are looking to offer an alternative, although this may not always be straightforward. “We are seeing more natural preservatives, emulsifiers, etc. However, the challenge is to ensure the performance matches conventional products and [that] product prices remain competitive,” explains Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor.* He points out that large chemical and cosmetic ingredient companies are investing in developing cosmetic ingredients that replace potentially harmful synthetic chemicals. “Important companies that are investing in this sector include Cognis, Crodarom and DSM Nutritional Products. As R&D investment steps up, we expect to see more natural replacements, as well as more novel ingredients being used in the natural and organic sector.”

Organic skin care brand Organic Apoteke, which is expanding distribution in U.S. department stores, uses an organic preservative made from a proprietary blend of grapefruit seed extract and potassium sorbate from organic bananas. “Parabens [and petrochemicals] are toxic to the human body and the environment,” asserts Nitasha Buldeo, founder, Organic Apoteke.* “Parabens mimic estrogen in the human body, and are therefore linked to many estrogen dependent cancers. The ingredients are also able to get into the bloodstream from skin application.” Organic Apoteke’s natural formulations have been tested against mainstream products in terms of efficacy and found to offer similar performance benefits.

Circaroma* is another organic skin care range that avoids the use of chemicals in its formulations. Founder Barbara Scott maintains that many synthetic ingredients may irritate the skin and cause skin allergies to develop. “The research jury is still out on the potential harm of the use of a cocktail of chemicals being absorbed into the body system, especially given the increase in personal care products being used,” she states. Circaroma’s focus at present is to try to source its ingredients closer to home for environmental reasons, and source its organic chamomile and lavender from U.K. suppliers.


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