Possible links between talc and ovarian cancer have dominated the international cosmetics industry for weeks now, after international pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson came under fire for risks associated with their baby powder and Shower to Shower gel.

Talc, as recent lawsuits suggest, may cause cancer when regularly applied to the genital area, on nappies, sanitary pads or the like.

The cosmetic industry is rocked from time to time by scandals of this nature, causing many to seek alternatives with less associated risk.

This has led to a burgeoning natural products industry.

At least two new “green” cosmetic lines were launched in South Africa recently.

Established in the UK in 1988, Uber Natural Beauty (www.uberbeautysa.co.za) boasts an international footprint with outlets in America, Australia, Europe and Asia.

The all natural range of skin, hair and body products is said to be free from gluten, parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate and no synthetically-produced preservatives are added.

Uber Natural Beauty is brought into the country by experienced skincare therapist, Karmen Fieldgate, who has more than 26 years’ experience in the industry.

Also new is Vegan skincare brand, Iba (ibacares.com). The product range is the brainchild of sisters, Teli and Grishma Mauli, who started their company, Ecotrail, a manufacturing unit and research lab, in 2012.

The eco-ethical brand which originated in India is halaal certified and includes everything from make-up to soaps, lotions and fragrances.

There are no sulfates, parabens or alcohol, and no animal or animal-derived products such as lanolin, keratin or gelatin.

Instead, the brand contains aloe vera, kulengi, olive oil, henna, rose petals and hibiscus, among other natural ingredients.

Fieldgate says, “When it comes to skincare, consumers need to be savvy.”

“The skin is the body’s largest organ; a sponge for whatever we put on it. Through the application of pro-ducts, we expose our skin, and body, to a large number of ingredients – many of which have not been tested for long-term effects.

“Many of the products we apply consist of ingredients that are toxic, without us even knowing.”

The talc debacle is indeed proof.

If after numerous years of use and global popularity a trusted brand can be linked to cancer and the scientific evidence remains murky; newer products, “natural” or not, are likely to have less research behind them.

It’s worth noting too, that all cosmetics contain chemicals, water for example, is the chemical compound H2O.

Many eco-friendly ranges also venture to tell you what they do not contain, rather than what they do.

Consumers are advised to read labels and do their own research.

Fieldgate, advises against the following ingredients:

Alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates the skin and strips its protective barrier. It causes irritation, dryness and free-radical damage, but most importantly, it destroys the very substances that keep the skin healthy.

Parabens

Parabens are used as a preservative and can be found in products used externally – such as body products – as well as internally, such as pharmaceuticals.

Parabens imitate oestrogen and are suspected of being endocrine disruptors, which potentially cause reproductive disorders.

It is further suspected to cause lower sperm count in men and even though it can’t be confirmed, is also said to cause breast cancer.

Synthetic fragrances

These are found in most fragranced products, such as perfume, aftershave, shower gel and scented body lotion. These fragrances are made up of a large number of chemicals and potentially harmful ingredients and cause irritation and in some cases, eczema.

It may also cause asthma, allergic rashes and headaches. The best alternative to synthetic oils are essential oils, a plant oil which gives herbs and flowers their fragrance.

Mineral oil

The three main sources of mineral oils are crude rock oil, which is drilled from the ground; fish discards such as the guts; and rancid plant oil.

Not exactly what you wish to put on your face. Mineral oil sits on the skin and forms a layer that causes blocked pores, which leads to blackheads, spots and acne.

It doesn’t allow the skin to breathe and prevents the elimination of toxins through the skin.

Mineral oils are found in lipsticks, baby oils and face and body lotions.

Sodium Lauryl and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

These are artificial foaming ingredients which are found in products such as shampoo, toothpaste, bubble bath, washing powder and soap.

It causes skin irritation, is toxic to internal organs and can cause reproductive problems.

A big concern is that the human body isn’t designed to get rid of these toxins once absorbed.

For this reason it remains in the tissues for a long period.

Triclosan

Triclosan is a synthetic anti-bacterial ingredient and has a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange, which was used in the Vietnam War and still has side-effects today.

It is a hormone disruptor which poses long-term chronic health risks interfering with the performance of hormones. When stored in body fat, the toxic levels accumulate and affect the liver, kidneys and lungs.

In some cases, it can cause paralysis and brain haemorrhages.

The use of triclosan in popular products such as toothpaste and household products may have massive negative implications in the future.