Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cosmetics Contemplations: Perfect By Nature

A rising phenomenon in the makeup world is the notion of natural cosmetics (which also encompasses mineral cosmetics, perhaps the most famous ambassador of this sector), which doesn't primarily mean a natural look or style, but which refers more to the ingredients used. The fact that search engines bring nearly 6 million results for 'natural cosmetics' is perhaps testament to how much this sector has grown and how popular it is today. Arising from concerns about the chemicals used in more mass-production cosmetics, natural cosmetics seek to use fewer chemicals and preservatives, hoping to more closely resemble something that you could knock up in your own kitchen.

Some of these natural treatments are as old as time itself, such as the use of honey masks on hair and skin. But the idea of natural cosmetics did not come to the mass market until the 1960s, where products began to emerge that were based on botanical ingredients such as watermelon extract and carrot juice. This is exploited to its fullest today by brands such as Lush and Yes To Carrots. But how do natural brands compare with non-natural brands? Natural cosmetics companies like the two aforementioned do not often have the advertising and distribution budgets to match, meaning that they operate very quietly and rely on word of mouth in order to sell their products. Sometimes this is successful and sometimes it is not, and a lack of advertising, or poor management of an advertising budget that does exist, is certainly not limited to the more modest brands: Estée Lauder brand Prescriptives was forced to close this January due to diminishing revenues (but if you never advertise and insist on sticking with rather dated branding, what do you expect?).

There is not really a great deal of comparison to make in terms of packaging; the natural makeup brands often have packaging that is just as effective and innovative as that of their higher-profile rivals. Occasionally it looks a bit less professional, but that is all. Price of the products is variable, but many natural cosmetics companies tend to offer extremely generous deals in terms of samples and shipping, which is not always something that is forthcoming from bigger names.

Ingredients are a trickier area of analysis: some brands that try to give a natural impression - such as Kiehl's, Liz Earle and Lush - often also contain ingredients that are considered no-go by purists, such as parabens, phenoxyethanol and sodium hydroxide. In some cases this is due to misinformation on the part of the consumer (read: people thinking ingredients are more dangerous than they are due to overhyped media portrayals) while others are perhaps more serious. Several consumers also report bad reactions from mineral makeup as a result of two commonly-used ingredients therein (mica, and bismuth oxychloride). However, the battery of offences is more serious on the artificial side, with many companies using phthalates, SLS, and (allegedly) animal testing in the making of their products.

There is certainly no problem in terms of the variety of natural products available: if you can buy it off the shelf from one of the big cosmetics giants, you can almost certainly find it in natural form too if you search hard enough (this is where natural brands can sometimes fall down - availability). Mineral primer? Vegan lipstick? No problem. However, is the efficacy the same? When it comes down to it, many natural products (in terms of skincare or makeup) don't always pass the test, but then again, several artificial products don't either. It all comes down to how dedicated you are to shopping around, and potentially being disappointed a few times (regardless of whether you go for natural or non-natural products) before you can find a combination that works for you.

Top 10 Natural Cosmetics Companies*
1. Afterglow Cosmetics
2. Lush
3. Jason Natural
4. Bare Escentuals
5. J Lynne Cosmetics
6. Ecco Bella
7. Lavera
8. Zia Natural Skincare
9. Besso De Natura
10. Carol's Daughter

Top 10 Mineral Cosmetics Companies*
1. Iredale Mineral Cosmetics
2. Monavé
3. Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics
4. Meow Cosmetics
5. Sheer Miracle
6. Dead Sea Mineral
7. Erth Minerals
8. Alima Pure
9. Lily Lolo
10. Elemental Beauty

Top 10 Cosmetics Companies*
1. Maybelline
2. Avon
3. L'Oreal Paris
4. Lancôme
5. Clinique
6. Revlon
7. Estée Lauder
8. Max Factor
9. Cover Girl
10. Shiseido

*first ten out of Google, more or less, with a little bit of help from

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