Grown Alchemist – Skincare Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

The number of brands cashing in on the supposedly harmful effects of chemicals continues to grow.  Australian organic skincare company is one of many, and it goes to the trouble of explaining its philosophy in some detail on its website.  They make the claim that they are not only natural but are more effective than conventional products.   They put this as stridently as possible, saying it is “FINALLY POSSIBLE, TO ACHIEVE REAL BEAUTY RESULTS WITHOUT HARMFUL CHEMICALS.”

Like most cosmetic chemists I’ll have to take their word on that.  I have never tried formulating with harmful chemicals.  Even if I had I would have found it difficult to assess the products because nobody would want to try something made with harmful chemicals, and of course it would be impossible to put them on the market without breaking the law.  So this claim is a fairly reasonable one, though by putting the word ‘finally’ in there it does suggest that they aren’t particularly quick on the uptake.

But while Grown Alchemist’s commitment to avoiding harmful chemicals is no more than the same legal requirement that all other companies also comply with, they do make a rather more specific claim.

“IT’S A NONE-TOO AMUSING IRONY THAT MANY CHEMICAL-BASED BEAUTY PRODUCTS, BRIMMING WITH SYNTHETIC ACTIVE INGREDIENTS AND PRESERVATIVES, COULD IN FACT BE CONTRIBUTING TO THE AGING PROCESS.”

I’ll pass over the fact that all products are made of chemicals.  That point has been made so often that even marketing executives have probably got it by now.  The suggestion here is that other products are not just not very effective, but they are actually promoting ageing.  The argument is made that because unnatural ingredients are rejected by the body this has the effect of accelerating the ageing process.   I would have been interested in more detail of how this process is supposed to work, but couldn’t really identify the mechanism they are proposing.   But they do say that by using certified organic ingredients they overcome the problem.

So lets have a look at just how different their products are. Here are the ingredients they declare on their website for their intensive hand cream.

ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) LEAF EXTRACT, AQUA (PURIFIED WATER), CAMELLIA OLEIFERA (CAMELLIA) SEED OIL, CETEARYL OLIVATE (AND) SORBITAN OLIVATE (PLANT), CETYL ALCOHOL (PLANT), DAUCUS CAROTA SATIVA (CARROT) ROOT EXTRACT, GLYCERYL CAPRYLATE (PLANT), CITRUS SINENSIS (SWEET ORANGE) PEEL OIL EXPRESSED, SODIUM DEHYDROACETATE (ORGANIC LISTED), XANTHAN GUM (NATURAL), LACTIC ACID (PLANT), CANANGA ODORATA (YLANG YLANG) FLOWER OIL, MYROXYLON PEREIRAE (PERU BALSAM) OIL, TOCOPHEROL (PLANT), ROSA DAMASCENA (ROSE) FLOWER WATER, POGOSTEMON CABLIN (PATCHOULI) LEAF OIL, SANTALUM SPICATA (SANDALWOOD) WOOD OIL, CALOPHYLLUM INOPHYLLUM (TAMANU) SEED OIL, ARGANIA SPINOSA (ARGAN) KERNEL OIL, VITIS VINIFERA (GRAPE) SEED OIL, SODIUM HYALURONATE (PLANT), PUNICA GRANATUM (POMEGRANATE) SEED OIL, LINALOOL (PLANT), LIMONENE (PLANT), BENZYL SALICYLATE (PLANT), FARNESOL (PLANT), BENZYL BENZOATE (PLANT), BENZYL ALCOHOL (PLANT), BENZYL CINNAMATE (PLANT).

I have to say first off that I disapprove of adding superfluous information to ingredient lists.  As I have said in my post on ingredient lists the habit of packing the list with extra information such as the origin or organic status of ingredients is confusing to the people the list is there for.  The ingredient list is a public health matter intended to allow those with allergies to identify which products they should avoid.  As it happens, there is an ingredient in this one that large numbers of people would probably want to avoid.  Peru Balsam is notorious for provoking allergies – though it is of course perfectly safe for the majority of us who don’t react to it.  There are 17 unnecessary words on this list making it much harder to spot ingredients you might need to avoid.  I imagine that someone who was allergic to limonene – which is one of the allergens from essential oils that the EU requires to be listed – would be cautious enough to avoid it even if it has the word PLANT in brackets afterwards.  But just to be absolutely clear, if you are allergic to limonene you are allergic to all forms of limonene whether or not it is plant derived.

Limonene is actually most often plant derived.  Sodium dehydroacetate on the other hand is generally sourced from the petrochemical industry.  This is one of the preservatives that are approved of by certifying bodies like the Soil Association.   This approval does not make it any less synthetic.  So by the logic of the brand, this ingredient must contribute to ageing.

Having said all that, this looks like quite a reasonable moisturiser.  It has a very high number of natural ingredients which presumably translates to a fairly high actual level of them.  If you like natural oils, as I do, you will probably find this a pleasant enough cream to use assuming it has been formulated by somebody with a bit more scientific knowledge than whoever wrote the copy on the website.  The emulsifier system is one I have used myself and which can give good results.

Its price of £17 for 65ml is a little steep but not outrageously so.  It might be one to avoid if you have sensitive skin, as the large variety of natural ingredients increases the chances that there will be something in there that your immune system will take exception to.  But for the vast majority, this won’t be a problem.

It is just a shame they have such a silly scaremongering philosophy.

http://www.grownalchemist.com/philosophy

7 thoughts on “Grown Alchemist – Skincare Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

  1. Sam Farmer

    Colin, I LOVE you for posting this. So bored of brands having to resort to this type of marketing in order to sell. We are all doing what we think is best, let the customer decide without the inaccurate and unscientific nonsense.

  2. Alex Gazzola

    Agree with you about scaremongering, and about misusing the word ‘chemical’, and indeed about the repetition of all those parenthesised ‘plant’s. But I do feel that ingredients lists are there for people other than those with skin sensitivities – no matter what the original motivation behind their introduction was. Those with religious or ethical sensibilities – e.g. vegans – for example. Some don’t like to use petrochem derivatives, so presume that’s why ‘organic’ appears after sodium dihydroxyacetate. I support transparency and provision of factual information, but where to draw the line between too much and not enough is difficult …

  3. Colin Post author

    If you believe that your deity takes an interest in your skincare you are probably better off pushing for an accreditation system. These already exist for kosher and halal cosmetics. There are very good schemes in place for vegetarians and vegans. All you need is to remember the appropriate label. But people with allergies already find ingredient lists hard work, so if you are serious about helping them keeping the lists as short and clear as possible is the optimum.

  4. Alex Gazzola

    Not all brands can afford accreditation – though naturally it’s not always needed to simply convey a fact. A ‘vegan’ claim can easily be made on a product – with or without the Vegan Society’s seal of approval. New food allergen law recently introduced specifies that allergens must be highlighted (e.g. in bold) on ingredients. Wonder whether similar approach could be helpful in cosmetics? If the number of fragrance allergens is increased, as has been proposed, the ingredients lists could get extremely long – so surely some alternative solution will need to be considered, do you think?

  5. Colin Post author

    I don’t think ingredient labelling has been much of a success at all. I certainly don’t think adding a few score more supposed allergens is going to help much at all. I’d favour colour coding to an agreed system to give people a sporting chance of working out what they have a problem with.

  6. Kelli

    I agree that there are many things ( usually found in nature) that are considered common allergens. The only problem with highlighting certain ones is that any person could have an allergic reaction to anything at any given time. Then that would be a common allergen for them but maybe not a lot of other people. Would companies have to keep changing their labels to add new allergens all the time? When I come across a website that says they are 100% organic and use no “chemicals” ( so annoying), the first thing I look for is an emulsification system and preservatives. I’ve come across 3 in the past month that use neither. One even told me they didn’t need a specific ingredient to emulsify their products because they have a special machine that just emulsifies it for them. When I emailed back to let them know I am a cosmetic formulator they never emailed again. In my opinion, if a company is omitting ingredients from their label, and then selling these products to the public knowingly, then that is fraud.

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