In the Know: John Hamilton
How do I determine which skincare ingredients are safe?
In official terms, all ingredients are safe when used on their own.
However, it’s when they are mixed with other ingredients, including chemicals that have not necessarily been tested, that their safety becomes an unknown.
That’s the dilemma when you have products that include chemical ingredients.
When you use these products day in and day out, whether they’re shampoos, body washes or skincare lotions, it’s the collective amount that can cause problems. Use brands that are committed to ethics and include only the safest of ingredients, both when it comes to natural and synthetic chemicals.
A good place to start is to look at the ingredients list on products. If brands have gone to the trouble of eliminating ingredients like parabens and petrochemicals such as propylene glycol, this goes some way in communicating a brand ethics of using pure ingredients.
However, if a brand states that it's organic, it's important to check if their organic ingredients are biodynamic and therefore unadulterated, i.e. not tampered with. If they are not biodynamic, then they may not be as pure as they appear and could for example contain sulphates.
"Use brands that are committed to ethics and include only the safest of ingredients, both when it comes to natural and synthetic chemicals"
Natural oils are therapeutic in their pure biodynamic form and are even used medicinally in parts of Europe, such as France and Germany. But in many essential oils, they simply use aroma oils, which do not have the same therapeutic qualities. This is why it's well worth checking the ingredients in detail.
You can compare the creation of personal care products with great chefs, who have the mind-set of only using the freshest ingredients in the preparation of a healthy meal. With personal care products, you also need to do your research. If you choose your brand carefully, you won’t need a chemistry PhD to work out which product are safe to use.
John Hamilton is the founder of Essentially Yours, a UK-based research and development institute, with skincare brands Natural Elements and Therapeutics under its umbrella. Hamilton, who has a 15-yeear career in dermatology and the field of anti-ageing behind him, was an early proponent of natural skincare