Green Tea Lotion and Cream Alert
When Is Organic Not Natural?

Green tea lotion and cream that have been labeled as natural and organic may not be safe for long term use.



In recent years, people have become increasingly concerned about synthetic chemicals. According to the Environmental Working Group, almost 50% of cosmetics and personal care products on the market have at least one chemical that has been linked to reproductive issues or cancer.

The problem is that in the United States, cosmetics companies do not have to prove that their products are safe for long-term use. Therefore, they can and often do use cheap synthetic chemicals.

Now cosmetic companies claim they have found an answer to these concerns: Products that are made using "natural, organic, healthy plant extracts". Most green tea lotion and cream products are promoted in this manner - as a natural alternative to chemical-laden face creams.

Surely a product labeled natural and organic is a safe bet, right? Unfortunately, when it comes to cosmetics, those words actually mean very little.

What's Organic?

The FDA, which regulates cosmetics, does not require cosmetic manufacturers to do anything special in order to designate their products as "natural" and "organic."

The USDA does regulate the use of the word "organic" for agricultural products, and it is possible for cosmetic manufacturers to get a seal of approval from them. These are what the USDA regulations say:

  • Products that advertise themselves as "100% organic" can be made from only organic ingredients.

  • Products that advertise themselves as "organic" have to use 95% organic ingredients.

  • Products that use the words "made from organic ingredients" on their packaging must be made from 70% organic ingredients.

However, there is no rule that requires cosmetic companies to apply for a USDA organic stamp to use the word "organic" on the packaging.

Basically, the words "natural" and "organic" mean whatever the company that makes the product wants it to mean, which could be anything from "Made from plant-derived ingredients with no petroleum products" to "synthetic chemicals with a plant-like fragrance."

Read The Label

So, how do you know a green tea lotion or cream really lives up to the promises on the label?

The easiest way is to turn the product over and read the ingredients on the back.If you are not familiar with the chemical names you see (and you probably won’t be), you may have to do a little bit of research.

To get you started, here is the chemicals to avoid like the plague: parabens. According to the Environmental Working Group, parabens have been linked to hormone disruptions that could lead to tumours, phthalates.

Also, you should avoid anything made using ethyloxylation, which produces a carcinogenic byproduct.

Online Database

If memorizing chemical names sounds too much like studying for a chemistry degree, you can use an online database to check the safety of the products.

The Environmental Working Group has a website called Skin Deep which can be used to look up different ingredients, products and brands. A similar website is run by the Personal Care Product Council (PCPC), an organization that represents the cosmetics industry.

One thing to be aware of is that the ingredients that are rated as "safe" or "dangerous" are different on each site.

For example, the PCPC's website states that "based on the weight of current scientific evidence, there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetic and personal care products containing Parabens." (http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/HBI/9). Skin Deep, on the other hand, says that parabens have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, hormone disruptions, and other health issues.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that synthetic ingredients are not always harmful. However, many of the ingredients commonly used in cosmetics today do pose health concerns.

Also, if consumers want "natural" or "organic" products, that is what they should get. The unfortunate truth is that you can't trust marketing buzzwords to tell you what is really in the products. Doing your own research is essential to when buying green tea lotion skin care products.

References

Environmental Working Group (May 04, 2008). Site Warns Of Toxins In Beauty Products. http://www.ewg.org/node/26494.

Environmental Working Group (April 27, 2008). http://A Natural Question. www.ewg.org/node/26460.

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