Journalists

  Now I must admit I usually think certain journalists are ill-informed arseholes who can’t string two words together, and often just parrot a press release before disappearing up their own fundement. Then I read something like this in the UK Times newspaper.

I liked it so much that I’ve quoted it verbatim, and here is the link if you want to read the original article with proper formatting and everything: My only observation is that the person who typed it onto the website might have done a few too many cut n pastes
The article is here

Naturally dangerous?

It has been claimed that chemicals in beauty products can harm our health. But, say experts, going barefaced may be a far greater hazard. Peta Bee reports

Lured by the promise of a permanent youthful bloom and blemish-free complexion, we can’t get enough of the “miracle” products peddled at every cosmetics counter in the countrys.During her lifetime, the average British woman is likely to spend £186,000 on cosmetics, contributing to the coffers of an industry worth an estimated £6.4 billion a year.But are we wasting our money or, worse, harming our skin by slathering on products that claim to restore and rejuvenate our appearance?Richard Bence, a chemist, is the latest to suggest that hundreds of chemicals in everyday beauty products could damage rather than protect the skin. After three years of research into the ingredients of popular cosmetics – including foundations, mascaras, moisturisers and even baby lotions – he concluded that many of the man-made compounds they contain can not only irritate skin but even cause it to age prematurely.His findings come after a report in the industry magazine In-Cosmetics revealed that the average woman absorbs 4lb 6oz (2kg) of chemicals through her skin every year.

Bence (who, it should be noted, founded a website for organic beauty products last year), lists as skin irritants such ingredients as sodium lauryl sulphate (used to make shampoos and shaving foams lather); parabens (added as preservatives to skin and hair products but thought to mimic the effects of oestrogen and linked by some campaigning bodies to breast cancer); and cocamide MEA (which binds ingredients in many moisturisers).

For the skin to absorb such chemicals is, he says, potentially more dangerous than swallowing them. “If your lipstick gets into your mouth it is broken down by the enzymes in saliva,” he says, “but if the chemicals get into your blood-stream there is no protection.”

But some dermatologists dismiss these suggestions as scaremongering, suggesting instead that it is probably better to wear cosmetics than to go barefaced. In fact, they claim, the chemicals in many products – especially moisturisers and night creams – can do much to prevent skin damage caused by exposure to harmful substances in the environment.

Numerous studies have looked at how urban life affects the skin. One, at the University of California, found that air pollution could lead to conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and other ailments characterised by red and scaly skin.

Hairless mice exposed to high ozone levels experienced a 25 per cent drop in levels of vitamin E from the stratum corneum (a thin layer of skin that stops pollutants and other chemicals from entering the body). Although the mice were exposed to greater amounts of ozone than most city dwellers, the length of exposure was only two hours a day for six days, so the overall effect might be similar.

Dr Nick Lowe, a consultant dermatologist at the Cranley Clinic in Harley Street and a professor of dermatology at UCLA School of Medicine, says there is no comparison between the potentially damaging effects of the environment and those of chemicals in make-up and cosmetics. “Pollution, sun exposure and smoking wreak far more havoc on the appearance than any skin product ever could,” he says.

According to Dr Lowe, cosmetic night, day and eye creams have now been developed to the point where they can not only protect the skin but even rebuild it. “At least 84 published studies – the first almost 30 years ago – have shown that when antioxidant vitamins A, C or E are applied in creams the skin is protected against irritation, the breakdown of enzymes such as collagen, and sun damage,” he says. “Most dermatologists recommend some form of sun protection cream, along with antioxidant cream to protect against UV damage. Most of them are also convinced of the skin-rejuvenating benefits of retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A.”

Bence’s survey was not the first to alarm cosmetics consumers. In 2004 a study in the US by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit consumer research organisation, suggested that many moisturisers, deodorants and shampoos exposed users to potentially dangerous ingredients that, over time, could put their health at risk. According to the study, every day a typical Western adult uses nine cosmetics containing about 126 ingredients, a “chemical overload” that can cause allergies or even disease.

Each of the 7,500 products analysed in the EWG’s Skin Deep report, many of which are sold on both sides of the Atlantic, was given a “risk rating” based on the supposed ability of its ingredients to cause allergic reactions, hormonal and other problems, and to increase the risk of cancer.

“None of these surveys was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, and they ignore the large amount of safety data behind the cosmetic industry’s products,” says Dr Lowe. He further points out that the industry is subject to the European Cosmetics Directive, which requires that no product must be harmful to health and all must be rigorously safety-checked before they are allowed on to the market.

“Parabens, for instance, are the safest of all cosmetic preservatives,” he says. “Suggestions that they are linked to cancer have never been substantiated, and the legislation governing what can and can’t be used is so tight that nothing that isn’t bona fide would get through.”

Critics of the industry cite loopholes in safety legislation that could, they suggest, mean that some cosmetics are unsafe. But Dr Chris Flower, a toxicologist and director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), describes the suggestion that cocktails of chemicals in cosmetics are harmful as “an urban myth”.

“Even if harmful substances are found, the levels are so low that they pose no safety concern. They are there only in minute, unavoidable traces,” he says. Dr Lowe agrees, adding that in any case “the great majority of cosmetic ingredients sit on the outer layer of the skin”.

Furthermore, the kind of organic cosmetics that Bence endorses on his website are not necessarily less laden with chemicals than other varieties. “All substances used as ingredients, whether natural or man-made, are chemicals,” says Debbie Hunter, a CTPA spokeswoman. “A chemical is not the opposite of something natural.” Professor Antony Young, head of experimental photobiology at King’s College London, says: “There is a lot of rubbish out there about the absorption of chemical ingredients into the skin, but to date no evidence that anything in approved products does any harm.”

So, despite the beauty industry’s outlandish claims about the power of its products to “turn back the clock”, it seems that on the evidence so far, at least those products cause little or no harm.

According to the experts, not only is it safe to slather on the latest “antiageing” skin or night cream, but it may even help your skin’s health and appearance. And you won’t need to spend a small fortune on products such as Crème de La Mer, ReVive and Dr Hauschka. As a small trial for the BBC’s Horizon programme by Professor Chris Griffiths, a dermatologist at the University of Manchester, indicated recently, bargain-basement products can work just as well.

Professor Griffiths and his team compared the effects of various antiageing products with a prescription-only drug called Tretinoin (retinoic acid). They found that Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect serum, which contains peptides to increase collagen levels and costs £16.95, came out top.

“At both basic-science and clinical levels the product has been shown to repair photo-aged skin and to improve the fine wrinkles associated with photo-ageing,” Professor Griffiths says. But it is not alone in providing value for money. Many dermatologists simply opt for the cheapest antioxidant moisturisers they can find.

“If they offer some protection – which they seem to – then why not?” says Dr Lowe.

Times beauty editor’s verdict: Never mind natural, give me the boffins’ best every timeIn the beauty products war the battle lines are clearly drawn. On one side are the men in white coats with their retinoids and glycolics, their vitamin infusions and promises; on the other are the nature brigade with their organic certifications, their emu (or rosehip, or argan, or whatever happens to be de jour) oils, their social consciousness.You practically need a degree in biochemistry to buy a face cream these days – and it helps if you have a healthy bank balance, too. There are “miracle” eye creams that cost £200, and mysterious ingredients that pound for pound are more expensive than diamonds; precious organic oils sourced from exotic locations – all with apposite price tags.My job as beauty editor is somehow to separate the wheat from the chaff, the genuine from the hype, so that you, the reader, can make an informed choice based on your pocket and your requirements. But, oh, the lobbying that goes on: it makes Alastair Campbell look like an amateur.One of the more effective and persistent lines of attack comes, oddly, from the side of the nature-lovers.

Now, don’t think that just because a company is producing lovely natural, organic products it is not interested in turning a profit. In this business everyone wants to make money. Natural cosmetics companies are as clever and accomplished marketeers as their science-based counterparts – perhaps even more so, as they have a tendency to crowd out the high moral ground. Think of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So when a recent press report suggested that the average woman absorbs 4lb 6oz (2kg) of chemicals through her skin every year in the course of applying products, naturally they were delighted. My inbox crashed under the onslaught of e-mails offering “natural” alternatives. As always with these headline-grabbing reports, however, no one stopped to ask a few vital questions.

First, just because something is natural does not mean that it isn’t a chemical. And secondly, for a compound to make its way into a face cream that will then be marketed at vast expense by a high-profile global organisation, it has to be rigorously tested. These tests may not be medical-grade but they are comprehensive, nonetheless. Large cosmetics companies such as Estée Lauder and L’Oréal can’t afford to embarrass themselves (or risk lawsuits) by getting it wrong. So they err on the cautious side. You may be putting chemicals on your face but, bought from a reputable source, you can be almost certain that the product is safe to use.

Thirdly: not everything natural is automatically good for you. In Australia, getting bitten by a deadly spider is natural – it will still kill you, though, if you don’t get the antidote fast enough.

And fourthly, science has a lot to offer – especially if, like me, you are on the older side of the market. There is nothing as pleasurable as rubbing a sweet-scented oil into your face. But the truth is that, in my experience at least, it’s the scary-sounding serum that gets results. Here are my best buys:

Naturals Origins Have a Nice Day moisturiser for combination skin, £25 Dr Haushka Quince Day Cream, £16 Neal’s Yard Violet Day Cream, £15Men in white coats Dr Sebagh Cream Extreme Maintenance, £120 Kanebo Sensai Cellular performance creme, £120 Cellex-C (for very mature skin) Seline-E Cream, £52 In between Dermalogica Intensive moisture balance, £38.60 Nude Age defence intense moisture, £54 Decléor Aromessence balm for men, £27are harmful as “an urban myth”.“Even if harmful substances are found, the levels are so low that they pose no safety concern. They are there only in minute, unavoidable traces,” he says. Dr Lowe agrees, adding that in any case “the great majority of cosmetic ingredients sit on the outer layer of the skin”.Furthermore, the kind of organic cosmetics that Bence endorses on his website are not necessarily less laden with chemicals than other varieties. “All substances used as ingredients, whether natural or man-made, are chemicals,” says Debbie Hunter, a CTPA spokeswoman. “A chemical is not the opposite of something natural.” Professor Antony Young, head of experimental photobiology at King’s College London, says: “There is a lot of rubbish out there about the absorption of chemical ingredients into the skin, but to date no evidence that anything in approved products does any harm.”So, despite the beauty industry’s outlandish claims about the power of its products to “turn back the clock”, it seems that on the evidence so far, at least those products cause little or no harm.

According to the experts, not only is it safe to slather on the latest “antiageing” skin or night cream, but it may even help your skin’s health and appearance. And you won’t need to spend a small fortune on products such as Crème de La Mer, ReVive and Dr Hauschka. As a small trial for the BBC’s Horizon programme by Professor Chris Griffiths, a dermatologist at the University of Manchester, indicated recently, bargain-basement products can work just as well.

Professor Griffiths and his team compared the effects of various antiageing products with a prescription-only drug called Tretinoin (retinoic acid). They found that Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect serum, which contains peptides to increase collagen levels and costs £16.95, came out top.

“At both basic-science and clinical levels the product has been shown to repair photo-aged skin and to improve the fine wrinkles associated with photo-ageing,” Professor Griffiths says. But it is not alone in providing value for money. Many dermatologists simply opt for the cheapest antioxidant moisturisers they can find.

“If they offer some protection – which they seem to – then why not?” says Dr Lowe.

Times beauty editor’s verdict: Never mind natural, give me the boffins’ best every timeIn the beauty products war the battle lines are clearly drawn. On one side are the men in white coats with their retinoids and glycolics, their vitamin infusions and promises; on the other are the nature brigade with their organic certifications, their emu (or rosehip, or argan, or whatever happens to be de jour) oils, their social consciousness.You practically need a degree in biochemistry to buy a face cream these days – and it helps if you have a healthy bank balance, too. There are “miracle” eye creams that cost £200, and mysterious ingredients that pound for pound are more expensive than diamonds; precious organic oils sourced from exotic locations – all with apposite price tags.My job as beauty editor is somehow to separate the wheat from the chaff, the genuine from the hype, so that you, the reader, can make an informed choice based on your pocket and your requirements. But, oh, the lobbying that goes on: it makes Alastair Campbell look like an amateur.One of the more effective and persistent lines of attack comes, oddly, from the side of the nature-lovers.

Now, don’t think that just because a company is producing lovely natural, organic products it is not interested in turning a profit. In this business everyone wants to make money. Natural cosmetics companies are as clever and accomplished marketeers as their science-based counterparts – perhaps even more so, as they have a tendency to crowd out the high moral ground. Think of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So when a recent press report suggested that the average woman absorbs 4lb 6oz (2kg) of chemicals through her skin every year in the course of applying products, naturally they were delighted. My inbox crashed under the onslaught of e-mails offering “natural” alternatives. As always with these headline-grabbing reports, however, no one stopped to ask a few vital questions.

First, just because something is natural does not mean that it isn’t a chemical. And secondly, for a compound to make its way into a face cream that will then be marketed at vast expense by a high-profile global organisation, it has to be rigorously tested. These tests may not be medical-grade but they are comprehensive, nonetheless. Large cosmetics companies such as Estée Lauder and L’Oréal can’t afford to embarrass themselves (or risk lawsuits) by getting it wrong. So they err on the cautious side. You may be putting chemicals on your face but, bought from a reputable source, you can be almost certain that the product is safe to use.

Thirdly: not everything natural is automatically good for you. In Australia, getting bitten by a deadly spider is natural – it will still kill you, though, if you don’t get the antidote fast enough.

And fourthly, science has a lot to offer – especially if, like me, you are on the older side of the market. There is nothing as pleasurable as rubbing a sweet-scented oil into your face. But the truth is that, in my experience at least, it’s the scary-sounding serum that gets results. Here are my best buys:

NaturalsOrigins Have a Nice Day moisturiser for combination skin, £25 Dr Haushka Quince Day Cream, £16 Neal’s Yard Violet Day Cream, £15 Men in white coatsDr Sebagh Cream Extreme Maintenance, £120 Kanebo Sensai Cellular performance creme, £120 Cellex-C (for very mature skin) Seline-E Cream, £52In betweenDermalogica Intensive moisture balance, £38.60 Nude Age defence intense moisture, £54 Decléor Aromessence balm for men, £27

SARAH VINE

While there is ANY doubt in anyone’s mind about the safety of these products, why would you take the risk? When there are hundreds of fully organic, chemical and paraben free alternatives that offer the same protection from UK light and pollution, at a similar price, why on earth would anyone risk even a chance of carcenogenic materials?
On top of which, it is not only about the health of the individual, but the heath of the planet, as the products are washed off into our water supplies, which could then be used as waching or driking water. The production of these products has a more harmful impact than that of the natural products, and packaging is less likely to be designed as enviornmentally friendly.
While there may be nothing specifically wrong with chemical products, there is definitley far more ‘right’ with the organic versions. Surely a no-brainer?
Marianne, London,I don’t think that anyone would dispute the fact that there are toxic chemicals around in the atmosphere – especially in cities.
However, the mouse experiment tells us nothing other than we should ensure we eat well to have a good level of vitamins – Vit E is a fat soluble anti-oxidant, so it neutralises toxic chemicals, in particular ones like ozone (an oxidising agent… duh). Obvious really, if you know this info. For the majority that probably don’t, the way this is reported implies that there is something much more dangerous going on.
Another example is exposure to sun, which reduces levels of anti-oxidative vitamins and other protective agents as well, but again the body replenishes and repairs if given the opportunity to.
Carlos, ,Congratulations on one of the most sensible press articles concerning cosmetics and “chemicals” I have ever read. A refreshing change from the hysterical garbage emanating regularly from the Daily Mail et al. Mike Poulson’s use of the term “chemical packs” in an earlier comment either means that he understood the point made in the article about all natural substances being chemicals, or that he missed the point entirely. Sadly, I suspect it is the latter. I sell parabens (amongst other personal care preservatives) for a living. Presumably, this makes my opinions redundant, according to Mike’s cynicism.

Dene Godfrey, Miskin, UK

People intent on selling chemical packs at high prices are not about to say that the product is worthless. Nor are the researchers and producers of the chemicals that go into the packs. Make-up is in many ways a personal choice, but in todays image obsessed society there is more pressure to conform to fashions – pressure that the industry is not reluctant to maintain.

Mike Poulsen, Reading, Berkshire

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One response to “Journalists

  1. Eee! That’s a lot of text. I could have just done with a link. And maybe for you to digest the important part and feed it to me, pre-chewed, and tell me what to think. Facilitate me, blogger!

    Well done on starting a blog, I was thinking of a SciPunk special on stupid added-benefits-water, so you’re definitely onto a good subject.

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