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Behind the Label Skin Cream

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  • Behind the Label Skin Cream

    Behind the Label Skin Cream

    ‘40 is the new 30,’ proclaimed a recent ‘regenerist survey’ conducted on behalf of the UK’s number-one skin-care brand, Olay. The statement might have made a good contribution to Private Eye’s Neophiliacs column had not the implicit message of the survey been so disturbing.

    Our population is getting older. By the year 2010 around 40 per cent of female Europeans will be aged over 50. Of the more than 2,000 women surveyed by Olay, most spent an average of £200, and some a whopping £500, a year on anti-ageing treatments. Globally, the picture is much the same. The skin-care market is valued as being worth around £21 billion a year and rising, and anti-wrinkle creams make up a sizeable proportion of sales. Panic buying is the only reasonable way to describe it. Most of today’s anti-ageing formulas boast sophisticated technology and unique ingredients.

    But at the most basic level there is very little difference between them. What is more, many contain ingredients that can accelerate skin damage and which may even have more serious health implications over the longer term. Regenerist is Olay’s top brand. It’s costly but claims to ‘harness the latest peptide technology in an exclusive amino-peptide complex’. The product needs to be well absorbed, but that’s not much of a challenge as facial skin is thinner than skin elsewhere and Regenerist contains penetration enhancers to help the process along. The effect is superficial and temporary, however, lasting only as long as you keep using the product.

    Regenerist contains the usual range of skin irritants, strong perfumes and colours. Full safety data appear to be lacking for some of its ingredients. However, it does contain carcinogenic acrylamide, triethanolamine (which can form cancer-causing oily compounds called nitrosamines) and Teflon (recently dubbed by environmentalists as the ‘new DDT’). Regenerist also contains a range of ultraviolet filters, enough to have a potential additive effect in the process of skin damage. Sun-screens have become de rigueur in anti-wrinkle formulas, almost to the point of insanity: scan the label of some night creams, and you will find UV filters in these as well. The British facial skin-care market generated sales of £478m last year.

    Olay (owned by household products giant Proctor & Gamble) claims nearly 19 per cent of this market, more than double the share of its nearest competitor, L’Oreal. According to Olay’s figures, four Regenerist products are sold in the UK every minute. ALTERNATIVES No external treatment will be as effective as maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you are going to use cosmetics, try these:

    Barefoot Botanicals (
    Essentially Yours (
    Green People (
    Higher Nature (
    Weleda (
    Aubrey Organics (
    Available in the UK from Au Naturel (0800 0851 697) Neal’s Yard (
    Jason (
    Rio Health ( www.mybeingwellcom
    Earthbound Organics
    Primavera Aromatherapy

    Pat Thomas is the author of several books on the environment and health, including: Cleaning Yourself to Death: how safe is your home? and Living Dangerously: are everyday toxins making you sick?(both published by Newleaf) and Under the Weather: how the weather and climate affect our health (Fusion Press).
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