A little bit of history…
The history of cosmetics is inextricably linked to that of mankind. Mineral paint, made from pigments and fats and dating back to the prehistoric era has been discovered. Cosmetics have continued to be used ever since, with ointments, oils, perfumes and paint being used for spiritual, ritual and medical purposes.
More recently in the 20th century, there was explosion of products and brands. While the agri-food sector experienced a revolution with intensive farming, chemical fertilisers and GMOs, amongst other things, the cosmetics industry was not left behind. In just a few generations, petroleum derivatives, perfumes, silicone and other synthetic products made an appearance.
As a logical consequence of all these changes – for those without a PhD in chemistry – consumers no longer know what to believe and are thus wary of everything they eat, drink, breathe and put on their skin.
What’s more, new trends and demands have appeared, such as veganism, animal welfare and respect and organic products.
Preconceived ideas – natural products, organic products and organic products in cosmetics
Firstly, I would like to point out that I run a cosmetics company. My opinion is therefore not necessarily impartial, some will think so in any case and that is their prerogative. However, I am open, I assume responsibility for my words and I’m not afraid to engage in debate.
In this article, I wish to state the facts and to explain my position and that of our company, Predige SA. So, to start with, here are a few widespread assertions and some comments about them.
Natural products are better !
Yes and no. Sulfuric acid and petroleum occur naturally in nature. However, I would be rather sceptical to say the least, about using them on my skin. Similarly, hemlock and amanita are naturally occurring but lethal nonetheless!
So, I’m inclined to say that nature offers us some wonderful natural products which must however, be selected in order to extract their active ingredients and to use them with care.
More generally speaking, at Predige, we support the use of as many natural active ingredients as possible, without ruling out the use of synthetic products when there is no natural equivalent.
We should eliminate all chemical products !
This statement makes no sense. Everything that surrounds us is composed of chemical products. household soap (saponification) and fried eggs (coagulation) both result from chemical reactions. Just like “natural” products, some “chemical” products are beneficial to us, others are harmful, while some are dangerous. There are good and bad chemical products.
We should eliminate all synthetic products !
This is as foolish as wanting to eliminate all chemical products from cosmetics. A synthetic substance developed in a laboratory can reproduce a molecule which exists in nature, in which case, it will be impossible to tell the natural and synthetic products apart. Just as for chemical products, there are “good” and “bad” synthetic substances.
Conclusion : there are no good natural products and bad chemical or synthetic components. There are just good and bad substances; it’s all a matter of selection, experience, dosage and use.
Article at http://www.vulgarisation-scientifique.com
To start with, contrasting "chemical" and “natural" is pointless because natural products are, themselves, chemical in nature. Instead, we should contrast them with synthetic products, obtained by making one or more chemical reactions on natural compounds, but it would be ridiculous to think that such products are necessarily harmful and that natural products are necessarily good. The main active ingredients in most medicines currently available do not exist in nature and must be produced synthetically, while many plants are lethal, to give just two obvious counter-examples !
Long live organic products, stop GMOs !
I must admit that I have a preference for organic food, tomatoes from my garden, when they are in season and manure from the neighbouring farm, as opposed to chemical fertilisers. As regards GMOs, I’m even more wary. What’s more, I’m appalled that GMOs are not labelled as such on processed goods, such as meat for example.
So, without being dogmatic, I think that we should be moving towards short supply chain agriculture which is free from pesticides, weed killers and chemical fertilisers.
As regards organic products in the cosmetics industry, that’s a whole other issue. First of all, organic cosmetics can by law contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients !
So, let us be clear, the vast majority of organically certified cosmetics are organic in name only.
Conclusion : when choosing between two natural origin ingredients, it is better to choose the organic ingredient, if only to encourage and finance more eco-responsible farming practices.
However, in cosmetics – and I’m only referring to the cosmetics industry – the “organic” label deceives consumers and merely enriches certification bodies which charge a fortune for labels which fail to guarantee the quality of products.
Why do we use synthetic ingredients ?
Apart from the fact that organic certification is deceiving the world and that "natural" products are not necessarily good and harmless, there are three main reasons why we should use synthetic compounds: to reduce the risk of allergy, to improve the texture of products and to prolong their shelf life.
Indeed, plant-based preservatives and texture agents rarely achieve acceptable performance in these domains. Hence the use of synthetic ingredients. Furthermore, synthetic molecules are often used as perfume, to prevent the allergies caused by natural perfumes and essential oils. For example, orange essential oil contains the well-known allergens limonene, linalool and citral (geranial and neral). Apart from the highly inconvenient photo-sensitising effect, orange essential oil is not suitable for hypoallergenic preparations.
And let us recall that synthetic products are neither intrinsically good or bad.
Finally, one might think that the price of an ingredient is an important factor when choosing between a natural and synthetic ingredient. In fact, this is rarely the case, except for low-end products for which every cent of saving is worth considering.
A little common sense ?
Launching a new product is very costly. At Predige, we are lucky enough and have the luxury of being able to make bold decisions and ones which are financially risky.
For example, spray sun creams are the latest trend. However, let it be known that to obtain an evenly spread and homogenous spray, you need to use alcohol as the spray base. How do you feel about spraying alcohol on to your skin in the sun? For those not specialised in skin care, let me tell you that it is a very bad idea.
At Predige, we opted not to ride the wave of this trend and to avoid alcohol. This choice probably means we lost out in terms of sales, but we are proud of our range of sun protection products, which may not be fashionable but which offer effective protection.
Please note : for those of you using milking grease, oil or products with a low sun protection factor, please stop! This is suicide for your skin. Take some free and impartial advice and use a sun cream, not a spray – even from one of our competitors – and a sun protection factor of at least 30 (50 is better). Your skin will thank you for it, you will avoid developing melanomas and you will still get a tan which will be longer lasting. Similarly, never use sun products from one year to the next. Sun cream should only be kept for a few months, or one year in optimum conditions, at a constant temperature. Any sunscreen product which has endured a ski or beach season should be replaced before the following season. The compounds separate, modify and no longer guarantee their protective function. This is no marketing ploy.
Good cosmetic products are expensive
There is no secret: quality ingredients are costly, yet they rarely represent a substantial portion of the final price. Predige never compromises when it comes to the quality of ingredients and only uses the very best.
A cosmetic product on sale in a large store for 3 euros is fairly unlikely to be of a high quality. If you remove the container, the distributer’s mark-up, the development costs, tests, packaging and certification – which all cost a great deal – there remains very little profit margin for the product itself.
However, you will be paying for the marketing, not the quality of a cosmetic which contains caviar, gold or the bath water of the latest big star.
So, yes, some may judge our products to be expensive. That’s the price to pay for quality, technically sophisticated ingredients, years of research and constant improvement testing. They are devised, developed, tested, manufactured and packaged in Switzerland, which ensures full traceability, and that too comes at a price.
What is the right cosmetic product for me ?
Once again, the answer is not simple but here are a few tips :
- Avoid industrial, lower-end products. Consume less but better
- Avoid organic or so-called organic products which are not 100% organic (and even still, this is no guarantee of quality). Opt for a well-known manufacturer which you trust to have respected health regulations and carried out all the legal tests
- Stop thinking that there is a universal cosmetic product. Skin prone to dryness does not have the same needs as oily, acne-prone or sensitive skin, for example. It is better to identify the characteristics of your skin and then use the right cosmetic, you will notice the difference
- Avoid direct sunlight, especially without efficient sun protection
- … and enjoy using high quality cosmetic products adapted to your skin type and your tastes, because this is pleasant for others as much as it is for yourself.
Allergic to hypoallergenic?
A hypoallergenic product is in no way guaranteed to be a product which does not cause allergies. It is simply a product which, in theory, contains few substances considered to be allergenic (but this varies from one person to the next), like some essential oils.
What is the fundamental principle for making a product hypoallergenic? In particular, you substitute the essential oils used for example as perfumes, with synthetic molecules.
Hypoallergenic products and essential oils do not always go hand in hand and using a hypoallergenic product provides no guarantee that an allergic reaction will not occur after use.
Product evaluation applications…
It must be said that it is hard to decide what is good or harmful to health. What’s more, we have seen that there are no simple criteria and that the terms, “natural”, “synthetic” and “organic”, are not adequate when assessing an ingredient’s quality.
Some applications attempt to make sense of it all and to alert users to the presence of undesirable elements. Generally used in the food sector, some have begun analysing cosmetic compounds, with varying degrees of success.
Some consumer organisations, multinationals and companies like Yuka and INCI Beauty have launched similar software.
While not always completely reliable, these applications are turning industrial practices on their heads, and getting consumers thinking – which can only be a good thing.
However, many questions arise.
a. Impartiality. Judging products totally impartially is almost impossible, very simple because carrying out such tests costs money and non-commercial financing is unlikely. So, providers of such applications are either the ones whose products are being assessed, or are subject to influence due to financing, shareholding or advertising.
b. Reliability. In the food sector, there are things everyone agrees on. For example, everyone agrees that too much salt, sugar and fat in a product is undesirable. This selection criterion does not exist however in the cosmetics industry.
Moreover, unlike in the food sector, cosmetic products do not display the percentage of ingredients in their composition. Obviously, the effect of an ingredient on the body also depends largely on the quantity used. For example, if you put a tiny or huge amount of your favourite chilli pepper in a dish, you will instantly taste the difference! So, everything is a question of quantity.
Analyses by these applications in the cosmetics industry use neither references in terms of types of recommended ingredients, nor quantity indexes in order to provide accurate results. They are based upon a single criterion: the supposed hazardous nature of an ingredient.
I say, “supposed” because this too is a divisive issue. Everyone agrees that petroleum is bad for the body and that there is petroleum in the sea. Should we, therefore, ban swimming in all the world’s seas and oceans? I would say no, but I still wouldn’t swim in a port. Everything is a matter of quantity; a product is a great deal more active if it is ingested that if it is applied to the skin.
Focusing on the “dangerous” nature of an ingredient to purport that it is harmful, when the quantities, exposure time and method of use are unknown is, to say the least, unreliable. However, that is exactly what these applications do.
c. Checking information. Most of these evaluation programmes are based upon data entered by users. Several problems emerge :
o The data entered may contain entry errors or optical character recognition errors
o The information is not automatically updated, for example in the case of product reformulations
o The information may be deliberately false – yes, there are competitors and dishonest customers out there
d. Finally, and this is a more subjective and personal criterion, but I’m rather fed up with people telling me what I should eat or making me feel guilty if I occasionally indulge in a greasy meal..
I’d much prefer to find a sugar-free tomato sauce (sugar shouldn’t be needed if a tomato sauce is made with ripe tomatoes – non-GMO and planted in open ground), cows which eat grass and not animal protein, products with “GMO” displayed in large lettering and edible baguettes..
It is all about common sense and knowing what good products taste like; but the applications cannot evaluate this factor in food and are of even less use in the cosmetics sector.
Conclusion : we should welcome the progress made thanks to these applications, in particular in the food sector. However, they do not possess basic data with which to make an impartial and realistic assessment of the cosmetics industry, they do not meet the basic test criteria and are therefore not reliable.
At Predige, we didn’t wait for these applications to ban all ingredients considered to be harmful and to provide products which are ever more qualitative, safe, ethical and healthy. We go a lot further than the law requires us to.
Legislation and standards have also enormously evolved over the last decade and that is a good thing. Consistency is required however, and we must refuse to certify products as being “organic” when they contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients. We should call into question applications which evaluate products without having the information or expertise required to do so.
I tested 8 products from our ranges using this application. For each one, I found mistakes made by Yuka. In particular, ingredients which do not exist or which have never existed in the compositions. This is clearly reflected in the score given.
Just for the record, percentages of ingredients are not provided in the cosmetics industry – something that I regret.
Yuka decides, in a biased and untransparent manner, whether an ingredient should be classified as good or bad, without taking into account the use, exposure or dosage.
Three counter-examples show how unreliable the approach really is :
- While Yuka categorises a number of synthetic products as posing an allergy risk (thus justifying a low score), the application does not seem to take into account essential oils in its scoring, although many of these are highly allergenic. Doses, exposure times and the intolerances of each person make all the difference
- Let’s take thyme essential oil as an example. Yuka makes no distinction of use for this ingredient and deems that it makes no difference whether it is used pure or diluted on your arm, ingested or as eye drops, (don’t try this at home). I beg to differ.
- Similarly, although chocolate is an endocrine disruptor, I don’t believe that having a bath in a bath tub filled with chocolate will disrupt our metabolism.
- Water scores well. Yet drink 10 litres of it and you will die. I always say that it is the amount which makes the difference.
In a nutshell, Yuka considers in a somewhat simplistic manner that a product is bad if it contains an ingredient assumed to be bad for health. This is done without any consideration of the effect (allergy or poisoning, amongst others) dosage, type of contact (ingestion, inhalation, skin application), or exposure time. This only misleads consumers and helps spread false information and rumours, thus vilifying manufacturers.
Notwithstanding, it is easier and more lucrative to spread false information than to conduct a proper study with analysis of the components and toxicity tests.
Feeling rather cheeky today, I went on Yuka and changed the composition of one of our products and that of another partner company into vinaigrette! It’s very simple, I copied the ingredients (vinegar, olive oil and salt - VINEGAR EXTRACT, OLIVE OIL AND SODIUM CHLORIDE) on to a Word document which I scanned using Yuka. Without any hurdles, I managed to replace the ingredients of our product, for all users to see; so now we sell vinaigrette dressing!
That means that in just a few minutes, I can modify the composition of any product and change its score. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about the seriousness, reliability and security of this application.
The fact that Yuka also recommends alternative and so-called “healthier” products without “any bias”, makes me hugely sceptical.
Another subject which is frequently discussed, but seldom with sound arguments.
Endocrine disruptors are natural or synthetic substances which disrupt our hormonal system, often in a harmful way.
Firstly, all substances which impact our hormonal system are not necessarily harmful, even though the term “disruptor” generally has this connotation. Secondly, a number of natural products affect our hormones and can be considered to be endocrine disruptors. For example, coffee, chocolate, beer, soja, wheat germ, some mushrooms, etc.
Finally, endocrine disruptors can be found in water, the air, and generally speaking, all over the place. We cannot escape them but obviously the doses to which we are exposed, as well as the exposure time and type of use (ingestion, inhalation or skin contact) play a vital role as to the impact of these substances on the body.
It all boils down to common sense: 12 coffees a day are too many. In the same way, you should cut out synthetic and natural products which have a proven adverse effect on health, also taking into account their recommended use, dosage and maximum exposure time. All of these parameters are ignored by applications like Yuka.
Simply saying, “a product is bad because it contains an (alleged) endocrine disruptor”, is not adequate. Like allergens and just about everything on Earth, everything is a question of common sense and moderation.
We ban presumed endocrine disruptors from our products, except one: factor 50 sun cream, because no one to my knowledge, knows how to obtain such a high protection factor without a chemical filter. All sun creams with this SPF contain them – or require such a thick layer of white and sticky mineral filter that you’d be better keeping out of the sun altogether. We will substitute chemical UV filters in factor 50 sun cream as soon as possible, and in the meantime, you have to choose between skin cancer, totally avoiding sun exposure and accepting chemical UV filters.
Let’s eliminate :
- All non-vegan products
- Coffee, chocolate, beer, soja, mushrooms, chemical UV filters and all other endocrine disruptors
- Alcohol in all its forms and aspirin, which is also a presumed endocrine disruptor. However, by eliminating alcohol, we also eliminate a major cause of taking aspirin, don’t we?
- All kinds of polluting energy forms, i.e., all of them, including solar energy
- Water and air, and vegetables because they are contaminated by the water and air
What do we have left? The precautionary principle and immediate suicide due to hunger strikes, overdoses of endocrine disruptor mushrooms and depression.
The chemical industry has developed greatly over the past half century and has created many frankly ghastly products. However, while everyone is critical of them, few of us are ready to give up our cars, telephones and toothpaste, and return to how life was two hundred years ago, with a greatly reduced life expectancy and living conditions and black teeth.
What has this got to do with the cosmetics industry? Everything. We must stop saying that chemical products (I prefer, “synthetic” products), endocrine disruptors, alcohol, fat and sugar are intrinsically bad. It all depends on their use, dosage and exposure. What matters is to strive for improvement and healthier products which are more respectful, safer and less polluting. Once again, it is all a question of common sense.
Please note : I maintain that chemical filters are not perfect. That said, for the time being, they are the best option we have for preventing skin cancer. Until there is a major breakthrough in this area, enabling us to replace them, they are the safest solution, apart from totally avoiding sun exposure.
Making cosmetics products at home is the latest trend. Why not…if you want to have fun and perhaps get the children involved, it’s a good idea. However, there are certain rules which must be observed. Firstly, you should never touch the ingredients with your hands to avoid contaminating the product with bacteria and once the product is finished, it must be placed directly into the refrigerator and used quickly.
What’s more, selling home-made products is forbidden. Developing, testing and certifying a cosmetic product requires a team of specialised chemists, takes months of research and safety tests, 3 months of stability testing, approximately 6 months of certification and often years of improvements and thousands of euros. It also requires an administrative dossier, qualitative testing and certification in each country in which the product is sold. We are talking several thousand euros per product. This is the price to pay so that your cosmetic product can be removed from the refrigerator and to ensure consumers don’t buy rubbish.
Without casting doubt on the utility of home-made cosmetics, but while taking into account the time and financial investment needed to market a product, once might reasonably ask whether a product manufactured in a laboratory isn’t more efficient and safer than recipes available online…it’s a fair question.
Excessive packaging ?
“Eco-responsibility” calls for products which are healthier for consumers and for nature, with less packaging and more recyclable materials, as well as more energy-efficient production processes.
Healthier products : We constantly reformulate our products, obviously in order to conform to legislation, but also in order to use healthier ingredients, which are less harmful for nature and more efficient. For example, if an essential oil or a dye pose an allergy risk, we try to use a different ingredient with the same qualities but less potential to cause an allergic reaction.
In the next two years, we plan to modify 80% of our formulas, often just making small changes.
Greener packaging : it is very difficult to make packaging greener and the reasons for this are often overlooked by consumers.
For example, by law we must print legal notices, such as the INCI ingredients list on packaging. This is not possible on small containers such as pots or pump dispensers, hence the need for a cardboard box. Believe me, we’d like to do away with them!
Furthermore, consumers have certain safety and storage concerns; selling products in a loose format isn’t always feasible (risk of breakage or accidental opening).
Therefore, we seek the best compromise, while respecting standards and technical constraints, and ensuring our products remain readily usable :
- We try to use cardboard as much as possible and recyclable glass pots when there is no risk that they will break and present a hazard during use
- We are legally required to add some cardboard boxes and notices even though it would be possible to sell the product loose
- We don’t have the technical know-how to replace certain containers with glass equivalents (or biodegradable plastic versions). Glass syringes or shower gel bottles would be too fragile and dangerous for example. Similarly, we do not have a technical solution to substitute plastic pump dispensers which are practical, hygienic and which do not pose a cutting risk
If you know of any solutions which are technically and legally viable, we would love to hear from you.
More energy-efficient production : we strive for improvement. For example, we are currently replacing approximately 300 neon lights in our production workshop and offices with LED tubes which consume 60% less energy. This might not necessarily make a big difference to global warming but I think that we are headed in the right direction.
It is undeniably difficult to grapple with organic, natural, synthetic, chemical, hypo-allergenic and vegan products.
Our position is quite clear and can be summed up as follows: as a manufacturer, we are constantly evolving towards the best possible products in terms of ethics, quality and safety.
This commitment to excellence, respect for customers and quality is encapsulated in a “black list”, based on more than 40 years of experience, and setting out all the ingredients we refuse to use in our products – as well, of course, as those which are banned. It is more restrictive and selective than the vast majority of products on the market, whether they claim to be organic or not.
This includes :
- Using selected and organically produced natural substances wherever possible
- Eliminating all petroleum-based and animal substances. Our products are all vegan
- Ruling out animal testing
- Eliminating parabens, PEG, etc. and any other substances we consider to be harmful, even if they are authorised
We hear nothing but praise for household soap (I’m not referring to the outrageous imitations you find on the market). Personally, I don’t like the smell or format, or the fact that it dries skin. If it were so wonderful everyone would be using it, wouldn’t they? I must admit that I much prefer using high-quality shower gels, which are practical, smell good and cleanse gently.
In conclusion, I think that some preconceived ideas should be replaced by common sense. 100% “organic” products (not organic certifications in cosmetics), are often better, but are not a guarantee of quality. “Natural”, “chemical”, “synthetic” and “allergenic” products can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, according to their use and based on informed judgement.
As for product evaluation applications, these should be taken with a pinch of salt as they mislead consumers in the field of cosmetics.
As part of our eco-responsible approach, we try to use recyclable materials. These attempts often have mixed results…
1. I’m sure you have seen some products covered with plastic film. The film is seemingly largely useless and many customers asked us to eliminate it. We obliged, and consequently got rid of the machine used to wrap the products in film. This year, China decided that for hygiene reasons due to Covid, all imported products would need to be “protected” with this kind of film… ☹
2. Excessive packaging: what is the point of putting products in a bottle, with cellophane film wrapping and a cardboard box which is promptly tossed in the bin, and with an information notice that no one reads? simply because it is a legal obligation ! ☹
3. Glass is recyclable! We use glass containers for a number of our products. However, customers complain about the risk of breaking their sink if the glass pot slips out of their hands… ☹
4. We created an excellent serum with 15% vitamin C. Customers complain that the product turns brown after opening … ☹
Dear customers, a serum which is this concentrated, will inevitably oxidise after 9-12 months. Products like this should be used within 3 months of opening.
At Predige, we strive each day to design better high-technology products which are healthier, more efficient, more ethical, more eco-responsible and – ultimately – which bring you pleasure and beauty. A big thank you to our loyal customers, as well as to our cosmeticians.
CEO & President