The in­gre­di­ents lists on beauty prod­ucts aren’t as scary as you think. Suzanne Wang­mann of­fers a guide

Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul - - BEAUTY -

What’s a girl to do? All you want to know is what is in your beauty prod­ucts and the in­gre­di­ents list looks like a for­eign lan­guage.

And, in a sense, it is. Most chem­i­cal names are based on Latin, Greek or French, which makes them hard to pro­nounce let alone re­mem­ber (you try say­ing ph­tha­late).

The car­bon-based mol­e­cules that make up many of the in­gre­di­ents make it even trick­ier. Those are the chem­i­cals that start with “meth” (for one), “eth” (two), “prop” (three), “but” (four), “pent” (five) and “hex” (six). This is to de­scribe how many car­bon atoms are in the mol­e­cule.

It’s hard to get your head around, but it’s im­por­tant to know about the car­bon, be­cause it tells you that a mol­e­cule came from a liv­ing source, such as a plant, be­cause all liv­ing things con­tain car­bon atoms. But then again, so do the min­eral oils, be­cause they come from coal – and coal was once a plant too.

There is a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­in­for­ma­tion when it comes to cos­metic in­gre­di­ents. Cos­met­ics com­pa­nies will al­ways try to put the best spin on their in­gre­di­ents. They are, af­ter all, in the busi­ness of mak­ing money.

Some man­u­fac­tur­ers will make their for­mu­la­tions sound green and nat­u­ral and gloss over the fact that some in­gre­di­ents in their for­mu­la­tions are syn­thetic.

Min­eral powders are a per­fect ex­am­ple. The word “min­eral” makes you think they are 100 per cent nat­u­ral, but many con­tain bis­muth oxy­chlo­ride, which adds a shim­mer syn­thetic, as well as dan­ger­ous, when in fact they’re com­pletely nat­u­ral and good for your skin.

The al­co­hol myth

Al­co­hol in skin­care has had a bad rap over the past few decades. Many of us re­mem­ber ap­ply­ing sting­ing as­trin­gents to pim­ples, so when­ever we see a chem­i­cal with the word “al­co­hol” in it we think it will be harsh and ir­ri­tat­ing.

In fact, the op­po­site is of­ten true. Cetearyl al­co­hol is a good ex­am­ple. It’s a com­mon in­gre­di­ent in skin­care but it’s ac­tu­ally a wax, made from plant oils and nat­u­ral waxes (usu­ally co­conut or palm ker­nel), and it’s used in skin­care prod­ucts as an emol­lient and a thick­ener.

Not all al­co­hols are the same. In chem­istry, an al­co­hol is any mol­e­cule where a car­bon is joined to a group of atoms called hy­drox­yls.

When al­co­hol as we know it is used, it is usu­ally called ethanol. There are dif­fer­ent types of ethanol, such as phe­noxyethanol, which has a rose aroma but is used as a preser­va­tive and is usu­ally syn­thetic.

What we think of as al­co­hol is used in cos­met­ics but it is “de­na­tured”. This means it has had a sub­stance added to make it un­drink­able.

Mak­ing it eas­ier

All this makes you won­der why cos­metic com­pa­nies don’t try to make read­ing their in­gre­di­ents lists eas­ier. Well, some have.

Aus­tralia’s Pod Pu­raceu­ti­cals lists all the in­gre­di­ents and their sources on its prod­ucts. Even the preser­va­tives and fra­grances

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