Saturday, November 22, 2014

Please Stop Saying Chemical-Free (please).

There. I’ve said it. Please stop saying chemical-free. Because ladies and gents- absolutely nothing in this world is chemical free (outside of electricity and light).
The word chemical has gotten a bad name. Let’s define it.

Question: What Is a Chemical? 
Answer: Short answer: Everything is a chemical. Longer answer: Chemistry is the study of matter and its interactions with other matter. Anything made of matter is therefore a chemical. Any liquid, solid, gas. Any pure substance; any mixture. Water is a chemical. Technically speaking, so is a chunk of your computer. A chemical can often be broken down into components, as is true with your computer. However, people generally use the term 'chemical' to refer to a substance that appears homogeneous or the same throughout its structure.  
Helmenstine, PhD, A. M. (2014, May 16). What Is a Chemical? Retrieved from

That bears repeating. Everything is a chemical. Marketers have (very adeptly) warped the meaning into something else. A "chemical" is now a toxic, dangerous, or hazardous ingredient. This use has become quite mainstream. I hear phrases like “You don’t use chemicals in your products right?” or “I’m looking for something natural and chemical-free” in my practice all the time. I know what some of you are thinking. “Hey, you know what we mean, the bad stuff, the dangerous ones!” The fact is, if we’re going to have an intelligent dialogue, we have to use words carefully and correctly. If we don’t start there, there’s truly no productive place to go when everyone’s defining words differently. Having this dialogue about safety, efficacy and ethics in what we use on our skin is so important. Let’s just start it from a well defined neutral space.

Sooo….. No one can sell you chemical free skin care. If a label/rep/salesperson says chemical free as a selling point, I would opt for another line. In my opinion, it calls into question the rest of their labeling. Is it accurate? Is it legal? Can you trust their formulation, or claims about the product?

I understand it can be daunting to sort the facts from the marketing hype. If you’re worried about specific ingredients/chemicals that may be in your products, let me know which ones! I’ll be posting about chemicals/ingredients that clients have asked questions about, as well as spotlighting some that I think are amazing!