There is one simple guide you can use when analyzing the ingredient lists on your body products and cosmetics.
But first, we have to look at, and understand, the goals of manufacturing. Number one is high margins. Couple that with needing a long shelf life and you have the cornerstones of production, which is to efficiently produce as much product as possible at the lowest cost. It’s the factory/assembly line model. But inherent to this entire process are some realities that affect what we end up putting on our skin.
It starts with the cheapest ingredient available. Water. Typically, it is first in the lineup, which means there is more water than any other ingredient. Aside from its low cost, it serves as an excellent dilution mechanism so that fewer other ingredients are necessary.
It’s interesting because when I talk on this topic, people are always surprised that water is what presents the biggest problem in skin care and beauty products. I often hear how counterintuitive it is because water seems like it would be the safest, most natural thing one could use. Not so. It’s the presence of water that changes everything.
The minute you add water you add risk of mold, mildew, fungus, etc… growing in your creams. Naturally, that won’t fly. And, the minute you add water, you also now have water/oil separation problems that would turn a cream or lotion into something more akin to an Italian salad dressing.
The only way around this is to add chemicals that prevent microbial growth from forming in your products, and to keep it from separating and degrading in color, smell and texture, as well.
This is why we don't use water.
From a consumer perspective, the way around it is to just stick with butters, balms and oils, sans the water. You’ll have a myriad of natural products to choose from that can, in fact, be truly natural.
You may also enjoy reading, Clean Beauty Day And The "Free Of" Movement.