This article is not designed to scare you. The reason I want to share this information is because whenever I raise awareness of potentially problematic cosmetic creams, emollients and steroids, many people come back to me with 'but my doctor prescribes it'. Just because a product is recommended by your doctor or widely available in mainstream supermarkets, does not mean it's suitable for your skin.
Sure a brand might have a global presence and instantly recognisable logo, but this does not mean they're infallible. Over the years, large corporations have been sued for anything from cancer causing ingredients to animal cruelty and false advertising claims.
Johnson & Johnson
Strongly associated with baby products, chances are if you have little ones J&J's oil, talc or gentle formula shampoo, might long be a staple in your bathroom cabinet.
The company is currently facing more than 25,000 lawsuits related to its various talcum powder products, that have allegedly caused cancers, primarily from asbestos fibre contamination.
Legal action began back in 2016 (Reuters) and last year Johnson and Johnson reportedly set aside $3.9billion in litigation expenses, reflected in their 2020 year-end results.
Twenty two women have so far successfully claimed damages totalling $2.12billion against J&J's iconic baby powder and shower gel, alleging ingredients in these products caused their ovarian cancer. The women's lawsuit claimed these products were contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen (cancer causing).
How is this possible? Talc - the mineral from which talcum powder is made - is chemically related to asbestos. Both are mined and can occur geographically close to one another in the ground, so asbestos contamination is a known potential production concern. But Johnson & Johnson denied that its products were tainted or that they caused cancer.
In 2019, J&J did however recall 33,000 bottles of its baby powder out of what the company described as “an abundance of caution.” The following year J&J announced that it would cease production of its best selling talc in Canada and America, replacing it with a cornstarch-based product instead.
The American Cancer Society has stated "it is not clear if consumer products containing talcum powder increase cancer risk." Indeed, some studies show that talc-based baby powder increases the risk of ovarian cancer by about a third, whilst some studies highlight tissue inflammation but no overall increase in total cancer risk. Johnson and Johnson meanwhile insist their talcum powder products are safe and continue to fight the lawsuits.
Would you feel comfortable putting this stuff near your baby?
Johnsons Baby Oil
No skin is as delicate or precious as your baby's. We put a great deal of trust in brands who market products towards our little ones. When it comes to applying oils to your child's sensitive skin, J&J is certainly not the brand I'd choose. Whilst the bottle proudly states 'Free from dyes, parabens, phthalates, and alcohol', the ingredients are listed as 'Paraffinum Liquidum, Isopropyl Palmitate, Parfum' - this is basically liquid paraffin and perfume.
Research continually changes things and what we considered safe a decade ago might not be recommended as scientific studies advance. Let's take paraffin for example. New warnings were issued over the dangers of 'safe' paraffin skin creams in 2018, many years after they first went on sale.
You can read my full article on paraffin and petroleum products here. These are the by-products of the crude oil petrol industry, highly refined to remove carcinogenic compounds. Often labelled as 'mineral oil' on the skincare products we see in the shops, it's an 'occlusive' ingredient. This means it acts by forming a film over the skin, which creates a water-resistant barrier to 'lock-in' moisture. Whilst this all sounds wonderful, it also locks-out moisture! Pores get clogged, skin can't breathe, and the synthetic oil disrupts our skin's natural ability to produce sebum.
When it comes to a natural alternative to baby oil, I would opt for a gentle, plant-based solution. Always patch test first to ensure your child's delicate skin is comfortable. Jojoba oil has a pH of about 4.5-5 which is ideal for restoring and maintaining your baby's natural skin pH. Argan oil, rosehip oil and borage oil are similar.
DIY Homemade Talc
If you like using talc after swimming or on delicate bottoms, making a home formula with natural ingredients is a safe and inexpensive option.
- 100g Arrowroot or Cornstarch
- 50g Kaolin Clay
- 50g Baking Soda
- 10 drops Calendula, Lavender or Chamomile essential oil (optional)
TO BLEND: Blend the arrowroot, kaolin clay and baking soda together well in a small bowl. Add ten drops of essential oils (if you're using them) and stir well to distribute the essential oils evenly. Store in an airtight container
TO APPLY: Sprinkle a small amount of powder onto your hand, then smooth the powder over your baby's skin. Don't use near their face and neck, and avoid directly inhaling any powder.
Cruelty to Animals - Avon and Estee Lauder
In this day and age you wouldn't believe that animal testing for cosmetic purposes is still a thing would you.
Did you know there's been a law in China since 2012 that cosmetics could not be sold over there unless they were tested on animals? Whilst the rest of the world stepped away from the cruel action of animal testing, China insisted upon it.
For many years China became the only country that required cosmetics to be tested on animals, they also have the second-largest beauty market globally, making them an attractive proposition for cosmetic sales.
The good news is that things are changing. On January 1, 2021, China made some major changes to its animal testing laws lifting the mandatory animal testing requirements for some imported cosmetics. Sadly China’s new animal testing requirements do NOT exempt ALL ordinary cosmetics from animal testing, and tests are still required if the products;
- Are marketed or designed for infants and / or children
- Contain a ‘new cosmetic ingredient’
- Are manufactured by a company listed as a key supervision target according to the results of the quantitative rating system established by the NMPA
All this said, whilst the steps look positive in favour of stamping out animal cruelty, real-life evidence from companies trying to obtain exemption suggests the process is rather difficult.
Avon and Estée Lauder Sued for $100m
In 2012, cosmetics giants Avon, Estée Lauder, and Mary Kay were exposed for having allegedly tested their products on animals without informing consumers about their change in practices. Quite rightly California residents filed a lawsuit against these companies which were originally on PETA's safe list.
The plaintiffs claimed these massive high street brands deliberately misled the American public by listing their products as “cruelty free”, whilst knowingly engaging in animal testing to enable sales in China.
Sadly they're not the only big cosmetics players who continue the barbaric practice of animal testing. Check out Peta's list of who is still doing so to facilitate sales in the Far East. The ones that really shocked me were Clinique and OPI - both of which I've used in the past.
Avon is apparently working to become cruelty free, but according to Ethical Elephant they are not there yet. When you type ‘Avon’ in PETA’s directory, it says that Avon is “working towards regulatory changes to reduce the number of animals used for testing.”
You'd really hope the world might become a kinder place sometime soon.
Dannon Misleading Probiotic Claims
We've all heard about the importance of 'good gut bacteria', but how to achieve it can be quite confusing. People often reach out to me asking if those little yoghurt shots you can buy in the supermarket would offer a simple solution. My response is no!! Absolutely not.
Besides the fact that dairy can be problematic for psoriasis, eczema and acne, the amount of sugar in the well marketed yoghurt drinks you find in the chiller section at the supermarket, far outweighs any benefit you'd reap from the tiny percentage of probiotics.
For two years Activia and DanActive touted their yogurt products as "clinically" and "scientifically" proven to regulate digestion and boost immune systems. Back in 2010 The Dannon Company agreed to Federal Trade Commission charges of deceptive advertising and drop claims that allegedly exaggerated the health benefits of these dairy drinks.
The company had used the line that 'one daily serving of Activia relieves irregularity, and helps people avoid catching colds or the flu'. As part of its ongoing efforts to make sure that marketers do not overstate the health benefits of their products, the FTC deemed Dannon’s ads deceptive, because they did not have enough evidence to back up their claims.
A study conducted by leading microbiologists, and funded by Dannon, determined that there was 'no conclusive evidence' of probiotics providing health benefits and, according to the FTC, agreed to pay $21 million to resolve investigations. However Dannon defended its products and says it settled the lawsuit to "avoid the cost and distraction of litigation."
Better Probiotic Alternatives
Over sixty percent of UK households apparently regularly invest in probiotic yoghurt shots. Rather than taking a daily drink of dairy, which has been proven to have a negative impact upon skin conditions, a pure probiotic with skin supporting vitamins would be a better option.
My Multi Strain Biotic might not have the same, sweet, sugary appeal, but it will certainly provide you with significantly more probiotic live bio cultures and skin benefits.
Actimels ingredients are listed as:
Ingredients: Yogurt (Milk), Water, Skimmed Milk, Stabiliser (Pectin), Milk Minerals Concentrate, Sweeteners (Sucralose, Acesulfame K), Natural Flavourings, Lactobacillus casei (L. casei Danone®), Vitamins (B6, D).
That's a whole lot of sweeteners and flavourings before we get to its active probiotic strain 'Lactobacillus casei'. According to scientists Lactobacillus acidophilus is well tested and widely used, but not as effective as some Bifidobacteria species. Ideally, formulations with Lactobacillus acidophilus should contain Bifidobacteria too.
The best way to determine whether a probiotic is having a beneficial impact on your digestion, overall health and skin is by taking it regularly for at least one month. Keeping a food journal can be a really useful way to track personal progress. This doesn't have to be massively detailed, but it can be a great way to look back and spot beneficial correlations.
Big Brands Aren't Always Best
The above lawsuits are not designed to scare you away from every big brand you've ever bought, but one thing's for sure - many of these companies have one thing at the forefront of their minds, and that's profits.
Sure, every business has to make money to exist, but for me there are serious moral and ethical considerations to take into account. Would I compromise my stance on animal cruelty simply to treble my turnover by being allowed to sell into China - no, absolutely not! Would I switch to cheap ingredients so that each product I sell makes ten times more profit? Never.
Creating natural skincare comes with great responsibility, but the most lovely thing about designing products made using ethical, beneficial, active ingredients is that they are effective! You only need to read through our fantastic customer feedback to appreciate why we're such a trusted brand. That for me is never worth compromising, no matter what the cost.