Natural Cosmetics: Hype or Hope?

No to Natural?

Natural Products Scutinized

"Be an educated consumer because price has nothing to do with quality," Collison says. Know that "all-natural" products have gone through more rigorous regulations to make the claim than products that say "natural."

It took 10 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize its rules on organic products. Products labeled as "made with organic ingredients" must have at least 70 percent organic ingredients. With this percentage, the U.S. rules are now in line with those of Europe.

Beyond either of these "natural" classifications are the "organic" skincare products that might include, among other items, strawberry, rosemary, curled mint, aloe vera, mulberry, lavender oil, ylang ylang and iris.

Susan West Kurz, president of the Dr. Hauschka products in the United States says, "We're beyond natural. We take a holistic approach. "We believe your skin is a perfect cosmetic on its own. It rebuilds. Moisturizes. Protects itself," says Kurz. "We treat skin holistically, not symptomatically."

The Dr. Hauschka line, which used items such as witch hazel and St. John's Wort, relies on "biodynamic" growing methods to create its own ingredients from organic farms in Turkey, Bulgaria and other parts of Europe.

"Skincare is preventative healthcare, not a luxury anymore," adds Kurz. "It should be nurturing, aesthetically pleasing but necessary for your health."

When asked whether artificial and synthetic ingredients really cause harm, Kurz points out: "Often you can't prove a problem until the damage is done.

"There's a place for synthetics, for example if a teenager needs steroids or medicinal treatments for acne because her condition causes psychological problems," Kurz adds, "but not for six years."

Questions You Should Ask About Natural Cosmetics

Consumers should ask these questions, warns Kurz. Where do the ingredients come from? Do they cause environmental damage? Are there short and long-term effects? What are the economics around the product?

Whether you choose natural or synthetic products you can be certain they've been scrutinized by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, a non-profit scientific group and comply with FDA and other regulations.

Most producers are members of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association, which offers a Buyer's Guide to help consumers track the 10,000 ingredients and 40,000 trade names. The site also answers Internet rumors about hazardous products.

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