Know your nasties

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Know your nastiesElma Rivera, product developer and co-owner of Meadowsweet, offers her tips on how consumers can ensure they avoid the ‘nasties’ and purchase only the healthiest products.

Take your time

It’s important, when shopping, to take your time. You need to have the time to carefully consider each product you plan on buying – from the ingredients to the way it is made to its benefits. Careful investigation is required to determine whether a product is good for you as a whole.

Try to avoid parabens

Look out for products with an ingredient that ends in ‘-paraben’, including methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben. Paraben is a chemical preservative that some research has suggested is linked to breast cancer. That said, there isn’t any conclusive evidence, but it’s always good to take stock of what you’re applying to your skin.

Scrutinise your soap

Most soaps and shampoos contain sodium laureth sulphate (SLS). Experts are concerned that due to the miniscule size of SLS molecules, the chemical can easily be absorbed by the skin. While trace amounts of SLS is harmless, it has been noted as a carcinogenic. It’s therefore best to use shampoos, body washes and soaps with ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS) – this substance’s molecules are so large that it’s very difficult for the skin to absorb them, rendering them harmless especially in a wash and rinse situation.

‘Natural’ may not mean ‘nice’

Some natural ingredients are as beneficial to your health as they make themselves out to be. Some brands claim organic as a product benefit when only a small percentage of the actual product is organic. When buying organic products, always look for certification by credible international bodies such as ECOCERT, LEAF or the Dutch/German-based Control Union.

Investigate your ingredients

The ingredients on cosmetics products are listed in order of volume – you’ll usually see aqua (water) as the first ingredient listed, because most products are water-based. The three ingredients you’re most likely to see listed just after water are glyceryl stearate, cetyl alcohol, and stearic acid. While all three are safe to use in volumes of less than 3%, it’s best to avoid products where they are listed at the top of the ingredients.

Image: lightpoet/

Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
Megan on Google+

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  1. Cupcake

    So difficult to buy a product if you have to look at every ingredient just to make sure its not bad for the skin.

    5 years ago •

  1. fourieliandi

    yes very interesting. I never look at ingredients.

    6 years ago •

  1. Pannack

    This was a great read! I have being try to avoid soaps and prodcuts with SLS as I do have sensitive skin

    6 years ago •

  1. Nuuh

    Great tips I am usually in such a hurry when buying beauty products but ill will now take time and read the ingredients properly

    6 years ago •

  1. foreverGLAM

    These are really interesting facts.

    6 years ago •

  1. Hima

    The word “Natural” on products is so deceiving,..once has to be real careful while picking up products

    7 years ago •

  1. BeautyBloggess

    To be honest, I’d rather buy products that contain parabens. The evidence that started the hype has been retracted by the company who published it. Parabens have been used for around 70 years and I’d much rather known my products are using a tried and tested preservative than some of the new ones who’ve only been on the market a few months…my two cents!

    7 years ago •

  1. Mpbutterfly

    Never knew about the parabens nasties so thank you for educating me.

    7 years ago •

  1. Williamson

    very helpful – now can you ask them to print the info a bit bigger

    7 years ago •

  1. Lady-T

    OMG!! So much I didn’t know? Thank you

    7 years ago •

  1. Alberts

    In my opinion the best option to choose is natural or organic products. Don’t settle for lower percentages of the bad stuff. There are plenty of products and brands available that don’t compromise on quality or effectiveness, and are free from dangerous chemicals.

    The best thing to do is to verse yourself on the most common baddies and a general rule of thumb is: if you cant pronounce it or know what it is, it’s probably not natural.

    If you like to find out a bit more, here’s another good article on the subject

    7 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    I always read labels, and I take especially note of the expiry date!

    7 years ago •

  1. Debsie

    Love the article. Very helpful. My son got eczema and I had to double check his bath products since birth.

    7 years ago •

  1. CarolynMcM

    I’ve recently started reading labels, trying to understand what are all the nasty goodies one should avoid. Products I thought were good, actually contain the bad stuff. Even started to look what is in baby products as I don’t want to be rubbing bad nasties into my little girls skin.

    7 years ago •

  1. Charne

    Okay…OMW! This is a great article!

    7 years ago •

  1. Chicara

    I always check the ingredients. But even some ‘natural’ ingredients have caused a bad reaction on my skin.

    7 years ago •

  1. ricebunny

    Good to know but unfortunately the leading brands makeup all contain parebens

    7 years ago •

  1. Botes

    Definitely be looking at the back of my products from now on, I think I take for grated the fact that I just trust certain brands…….thanks for this informative piece.

    7 years ago •

  1. kunene

    very informative, i often do not scrutinize the ingredients on my products, i buy mainly because of the brand and sometimes; but not too often the price. i will definitely remember —-paraben and take more time when i make these purchases.

    7 years ago •

  1. Le Noir Pearl

    #strutinising the bathroom cabinet

    7 years ago •

  1. landman

    Phew to investigate everything will really be a headache, so in the long run rather go for natural or organic products.

    7 years ago •

  1. Becs

    It is scary to see what some products contain. Best to stick to natural certified organic products

    7 years ago •

  1. Anita

    Very informative article. Thank you

    7 years ago •

  1. Charles

    Actually quite scary :( I never really take note of what exactly is in my beauty products. I should really start paying attention!

    7 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    It will take for ever to scrutinise every product you buy when you are shopping, how ever its good to know these things, nice article.

    7 years ago •

  1. Clarad

    I’m all for natural products free of parabens and other nasties and all I see in commercials and magazines are products full of harmful unpronounceable ingredients …

    7 years ago •

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