understanding your skin
Our Ingredients Manifesto
Pfeffer Sal with consideration of your health, the earth, air, sea and living creatures have curated our product edit, both professional and retail, to ensure that no products contain the following unnecessary ingredients for the improvement of your skin health
If you’ve ever wondered how your beauty products stay fresh, it’s probably down to chemicals like Parabens which act as a clever preservative to prevent bacteria. In fact, a huge 85% of health and beauty products contain them - now that’s one hard-working chemical! However, there’s a ‘but’. Parabens can sometimes irritate the skin and traces of them have even been found in marine life which certainly doesn’t go hand in hand with our ongoing desire to help the planet. There is also evidence to suggest that some absorb into the blood stream and wreak havoc with the endocrine – or, hormone – systems. As a result, Parabens such as phenylparaben, isobutylparaben and benzylparaben have actually been banned in the EU. But despite some brands replacing Parabens with chemicals that are, ironically, less wellbeing-friendly, as well as scientific proof about them remaining a little hazy, we don’t use any in our products just in case. Because why would we put your skin – and the planet - at risk unnecessarily?
Not only are Sulphates excellent at cleaning your skin, hair, teeth and even bits and bobs around the house, they’re also the reason why products like shampoo and toothpaste produce foam. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a shampoo that lathers up quickly and effectively? You’d think that having an extra squeaky-clean complexion would help towards its wellbeing and appearance – clean skin means glowy skin, right? But because Sulphates remove every single trace of oil from the skin, it becomes less radiant, more parched and irritated. Despite being perfectly safe when used properly in products like soap, Sulphates have also been found to break down proteins which can lead to a degenerative effect on the cell membranes. SLS – otherwise known as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – is a sulphated surfactant and is so powerful that it is regularly used for industrial floor and engine cleaning. Oh, and beauty products too. In short, Sulphates and SLS work way too hard and can actually work against your skin. So, we’ve given them a miss from our products – an infinite holiday if you will - because frankly, your skin is a lot more precious than a factory floor.
No, not what you hang the washing up with but Polyethelene Glycol –which can either be naturally derived or sourced from environmentally unfriendly mineral oil. In skincare, it is highly beneficial for your products to be penetrated beneath its surface so that it can work to its full potential. However, it needs something to give it a boost, which is where PEGs come in. They work behind the scenes to enhance the penetration of products - so, if you use a regenerating cream, PEGs are the clever things that help all the goodness from the product reach underneath the skin, for better results. But what if there isn’t any goodness in the product, or furthermore, what if it contains ingredients that aren’t skin-friendly? Regardless, the PEGs continue to carry them into the deeper layers of the skin, and it is negatively impacted as a result. So, in the name of not taking risks, we say no to PEGs just in case.
Otherwise known as a softener, binding agent, solvent or plastisizer in cosmetics, this organic chemical compound is commonly used because it is an agent that something else can be dissolved into. It’s used in things like nail polish to avoid cracking, hairspray to create a flexible film on the hair and in perfume to make the fragrance linger a little longer. However, just like Parabens, it has shown to disrupt hormones, plus the production of phthalates has been the cause of water waste and water pollution. It isn’t alone in causing problems – it works in combination with other chemicals in consumer products – but the fact that even the least strict-on-ingredients companies are working towards removing it from their products rings alarm bells. And just in case you hadn’t guessed, we’re not working towards getting rid of it because we’ve already done it.
Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound found in fruits, and Formaldehyde Donors have been used in beauty in much the same way as Parabens – as a preservative to keep products free of bacteria, yeasts and mould. Used way before Parabens even existed, they slowly release Formaldehyde over the course of the product’s life to keep it fresh. Think of its job as being similar to that of a room diffuser. But as efficient for the product as that sounds, Formaldehyde isn’t very kind to the skin. Studies have shown that these donors can actually cause skin allergies – contact dermatitis being one of them - and whilst the levels released in products are very low, Formaldehyde has been banned in the EU. Despite some Formaldehyde Donors still being allowed in percentages under 0.1% and the fact that we are exposed to formaldehyde in everyday life, we believe that not using Formaldehyde Donors in any of our products is our way of being kinder to your skin.
On the one hand, Mineral Oil is lightweight, cheap, safe for most skin types and typically doesn’t cause allergic reactions. What’s more, it is an occlusive agent meaning it won’t allow water to leave the skin and therefore stops dehydration in its tracks. Hello beautifully moisturised complexion! But on the other hand, despite being labelled ‘natural’ because it comes from the earth, the way it is extracted, processed and refined causes concern for the environment. These oils are extracted as part of the petro-chemical industry, they are non-renewable and add to the exploitation of the earth for fossil fuel. In short, by the time mineral oils used for skincare have been extensively purified, there isn’t much of their ‘natural’ origin left and the purifying process negatively impacts our planet. Here at Pfeffer Sal we don’t believe Mineral Oils are the be-all and end-all for fabulous skin so we don’t use it in our products - there are plenty of environmentally-friendly alternatives out there.
We can’t guarantee you’ve heard of Palm Oil but we can almost guarantee you’ve used it without realizing. It is extremely common and used in thousands of beauty products as an emulsifier and surfactant – a substance that, when added to liquid, reduces its surface tension so that it can interact with other formulas. The better the interaction = the better the result. However, if there is palm oil in a product, chances are it has played a part in the cutting and burning down of tropical forests across Asia, Latin America and West Africa to make way for palm tree plantations. Not only does this negatively impact the trees but also the people and wildlife living there. There are other knock-on effects too - air pollution, climate change, the contribution to the rise of rural poverty in the countries in which it is produced, not to mention the work provided on the plantations being dangerous, poorly paid and possibly involving child labour. So it’ll come as no surprise that we have a Palm Oil-free policy and believe there is always a safer, kinder way to get great skin.
Known for its skin lightening benefits, Hydroquinone is a topical skin-bleaching agent for hyper-pigmented skin conditions. Hyper-pigmentation is when the skin appears darker in certain areas than the rest of the skin. It can make the skin look noticeably patchy and is caused by excess deposits of melanin – a pigment found in the skin, hair and iris. Hydroquinone is an ingredient used in skincare products to lighten these dark patches and even up the skin tone and whilst it doesn’t typically cause harm, it has in some cases caused side effects such as dryness, irritation, prutirus, erythema and mild contact dermatitis. Because of these side effects, products containing over 4% concentration have been banned in the EU. The tricky thing with Hydroquinone is that its effects are reversed when exposed to sunlight, meaning it can’t just be used as a one hit wonder - it needs regular use. Our rule? No Hydroquinone, no side effects. Simple.
Methylisothiazolinone is a powerful preservative and biocide that works to banish and prevent the build-up of bacteria in products. Not only is it incredibly cheap, but a little goes a long way so it’s no wonder it has been a popular substitute for other controversial preservatives like Parabens and Formaldehyde Donors. You’ll find it in products like shampoos, baby wipes and creams however, it has been found to be the cause of red patches and itching on the skin – otherwise known as contact eczema - and an allergic reaction like this can occur at any time. So, even if you’ve been using it for a few weeks, your skin could still have a negative reaction to it in the future. Even airborne fine particles from Methylisothiazolinone can cause a reaction on the skin but despite being banned in the EU from leave-on products, it is still allowed in 0.01% to 0.0015% in rinse off products. We don’t care if it’s a rinse off formula, leave on cream or magic fairy dust, our products simply don’t contain it.
Who doesn’t love a smooth, luxurious-to-the-touch complexion? If your skincare makes your skin feel this way, chances are it’s because of silicones. They’re used in products to leave a thin layer – or barrier – on the skin to protect it, meaning moisture is trapped, skin remains hydrated and, hey presto – a velvety soft finish. But it’s not just moisture that silicones are retaining – bacteria, skin oils and sebum are also trapped underneath the film, meaning that those with oily or acne prone skin could notice increased blackheads or experience a breakout. That is, unless they perform a stricter than strict skincare regime. Silicones are generally safe for the skin and do not cause allergic reactions but is unknown how much they are affecting the environment. Studies in Norway have shown it to be present in the Nordic region including oceans, lakes and fjords, and that’s enough information for us to know we’d prefer to exclude silicones altogether.
What better type of sunscreen to use than one with a thin texture and that’s therefore quick and easy to apply? That’s the advantage of using a sun cream which contains chemical sunscreens, organic carbon-based compounds which create a chemical reaction. They cleverly change UV rays into heat, then release the heat from the skin meaning that after 20 minutes (when applied properly), skin is fully protected until the next application. However, over-heated skin can increase brown spots and discolouration and because heat can also disagree with rosacea, chemical sunscreens have been known to cause redness too. The cocktail of ingredients it takes to ensure maximum sun care protection, which includes chemical sunscreens, can also result in stinging and irritation and because it gets used up quicker in direct UV light, you need to reapply it more often. There are two types of chemical sunscreens which are a cause for concern when it comes to coral reefs too – oxybenzone and octinoxate. So, we’ve made up our own clever cocktail - a healthy, protected planet combined with healthy, protected skin, with chemical sunscreens not included. Cheers to that.
You will have heard of antioxidants but may not know how they benefit your skin. They help to protect it from the free radicals we come across daily such as car pollution, bacteria and smoke which can all affect the skin’s cells. So, an antioxidant = your best buddy. BHT – or Butylated Hydroxytoluene - is a potent, synthetic antioxidant and preservative used in both food and cosmetic products to keep them fresher for longer and defend the skin from everyday obstacles. Despite it being a chemical cousin of BHA which is recognized as safe and there being mixed opinions on whether it is actually detrimental to the skin, what has been proven is that it can be a carcinogen in animal studies. So, in the name of following our heart over our head, we are well and truly a BHT-free zone.