Normally, I really do try to keep myself from correcting sales people when they dish out thumbsuck about cosmetics ingredients but the other day, I had to make an exception.
The scene: a pop-up health shop
The situation: me, looking for a crystal deodorant
They didn't have what I was looking for, but this particularly perky salesperson didn't want to loose a customer and quickly offered an alternative.
"How about trying a brand new natural deodorant?" she said grabbing a jar from the shelf.
"It has all natural coconut oil and baking soda – it's chemical-free and really effective!" she explained.
"Yes, it's specially made for us and this is our first delivery – we're very excited about it," she said, handing me the jar.
Automatically, I turned it around to check the ingredients list.
"I N G R E D I E N T S (in alphabetical order)"
In alphabetical order?!
There wasn't an INCI name in sight, but all of the ingredients were, sure enough, listed alphabetically.
This product looked disturbingly like a typical version of the very type of DIY baking soda deodorant that causes rash, irritation, and other unpleasant skin reactions – the type of DIY deodorant that has brought about 100.000 people to this post and flooded my inbox with questions and cries for help.
I considered momentarily, but no.
I could not keep silent.
Taking a deep breath, I turned to the smiling face.
"First of all, baking soda is a chemical. Even water.."
"Oh no it isn't," she interrupted, "it's just sodium bicarbonate. That's not really a chemical."
"Secondly", I continued calmly, "if the sodium bicarbonate isn't buffered - which it isn't here - the pH is too alkaline for prolonged skin contact."
Her perky smile faded – but only a titch.
"But it's all-natural and safe" she insisted.
"What I'm trying to say is, this product is very likely going to cause rash and irritation to almost anyone who uses it. It's obviously made by someone who doesn't know what they're doing. The ingredients list doesn't meet cosmetics industry labelling standards. It's not good enough to write 'coconut oil' and 'baking soda', and certainly not OK to list cosmetics ingredients alphabetically. The names have to be listed in descending order, and must be listed using the INCI name - the latin name. Have you sold any of these yet? Because if you have, you are most likely going to be visited by dissatisfied customers - some with serious skin reactions," I said as I handed back the jar.
Her expression changed.
What I wish had happened:Looking concerned, she started removing the jars from the shelf and said, "Maybe I better contact the owner. We should probably have this product - and the maker of it - checked out before we start selling it to anyone."
But, alas, this was real life – not the movies.
So that didn't happen at all.
What did happen:Looking a bit more tight-masked, she replied, "Well, we have a very strict policy about our products, and this one is all natural and chemical-free. I've been using it for a week and I don't have any problems, so I think you're wrong."