Choosing Wisely

There are many reasons why we buy a particular product – some of our reasons are conscious, some are unconscious.

Why do we choose to buy a particular product? What are our reasons for selecting product ‘A’ instead of product ‘B’? This is the marketeers dream question, and one that big businesses want to know the answer to!

We are influenced by many factors. For example, we might want to be proactive in changing our behaviour to be more ‘green’ and ethically-driven. So, we look for products that fit in with our idea of how we want to live. Researchers call this “ethical obligation,” showing that it informs our attitudes, and what we end up buying7.

Sometimes, though, we make choices that are unconscious. In other words, we might not be consciously aware of why we are making the decision to buy something.  For example, we might make decisions that are led by the marketing and branding of products. This is particularly true if they are endorsed by a celebrity we admire 8. So how can we make wise choices about which skincare products to buy? How do we know which skincare ingredients we should avoid?

How do we choose wisely and not be misled by clever marketing?

To be a savvy consumer, we can start by checking the labels on our beauty and skincare products. We can look to see if they contain any of the ingredients that the Soil Association suggest to avoid. You can find this list on our What is Greenwashing? page.

The Soil Association9 itemises the skincare ingredients we should avoid, explaining why they might be used, and why they believe we shouldn’t use products that contain them.

Healthy environment, healthy bees, healthy planet.

Ingredients to avoid


Parabens are made from a petrochemical, and shown on the label as methylparaben, ethylparaben or propylparaben. In fact, anything that ends in paraben. Research shows that they can disrupt hormones52 , which is of concern because many of us use lots of different products. This means that we are absorbing a cocktail of different hormone disrupting chemicals.

According to the Soil Association, “It has been estimated that more than 90% of non-organic cosmetic products contain some form of paraben.”

So why do so many products contain parabens? They are used to prolong the shelf life of the product. The products we buy might therefore have been manufactured years before we buy them.

MI, MIT, or MCI:

This chemical has been highlighted several times. It is labelled on skincare products such as cream cleansers, facial and baby wipes as methylisothiazolinone, or methylchloroisothiazolinone.

In 2013, The Telegraph ran an article citing this chemical in a headline:

“A chemical found in everyday cosmetics and household cleaning products may be responsible for an ‘epidemic’ of painful skin allergies, doctors have warned10.” 

This news item followed the publication of a research paper, which highlighted the problem in 2010.  Researchers found that patients using facial wipes and intimate hygiene wipes that contained methylisothiazolinone, became sensitised to the chemical. Many of these patients later developed contact dermatitis whenever they used the wipes11. In addition, prolonged exposure to low levels may damage the developing nervous system12. This is a problem because it is also found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners.

Non-natural propylene glycol:

Non-natural propylene glycol is found on the label as PG or Propanediol. It is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture, so it is widely used as a moisturiser in creams, moisturisers, and lotions. However, it is associated with skin irritation, as well as health conditions such as organ toxicity.


Phthalates are added to personal care products such as perfumes, nail polishes, and hair sprays, to prolong fragrances. They can be difficult to identify as there are many variations. They always end in ‘P’, and commonly found on the label as DEPDBP, DEHP, BBzP, DMP, or MEP.

Phthalates mimic the sex hormone oestrogen, and pass into the environment causing infertility, and sex change in animals. They are also associated with many serious health problems, such as breast cancer47.


When we add water to a product, microbes can begin to grow and multiply. To prevent the growth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, we need to add some form of antimicrobial agent. Dimethylol is used as an antimicrobial agent, identified on the label as Dimethylol urea, dimethylol dimethyl hydanton or DMDM hydanton. It can be found in shampoos, conditioners, moisturisers, bath products, make up bases, and foundations.

We recognise that for safety, we need to add antimicrobials to water-based products. However, there are several natural or nature identical preservatives available, which are much better alternatives.

The principles of organic skincare are holistic

The principles of organic skincare go further than the ingredient list. It encompasses all aspects of the manufacturing process, from manufacturing through to packaging of the final product.

So, when choosing wisely, we also need to look at the packaging. Is it all or mostly recyclable? Is it made from recycled materials? We are all aware of the need to reduce our use of single-use plastic. We could, though, go much further in reducing the use of unnecessary packaging.

Why choose organic?

Organic standards mean that skincare ingredients we should avoid include:

  1. Those tested on animals;
  2. Genetically Modified (GM) derived ingredients;
  3. Controversial chemicals;
  4. Parabens and phthalates;
  5. Synthetic colours, dyes, or fragrances;
  6. Nano particles.

In addition, organic skincare products have higher levels of antioxidants13, the ingredients are biodegradable, and are sustainably sourced.  They also use the least amount of packaging, without compromising the safety of the product, which has maximum recycled content. All this enables us to make informed choices to help protect wildlife and biodiversity. So, do you need any more convincing to choose organic?

Small and lovingly designed

At Purely Skincare, we follow the COSMOS ideals for organic products, with 100% organic ingredients where they are available. We always use their guidelines for skincare ingredients we should avoid, when developing new products.

You can trust us to never use ingredients  in our products that are banned by the Soil Association, and to make them in the eco-friendliest way that we can. As new environmentally-friendly packaging options become available, we will incorporate them into our range, replacing our current containers.

Sources >