Green Beauty: natural doesn’t mean non-irritating

I’ve been reading quite a number of reports of how some people got their eyes stung after using certain facial cleansers and I really had no idea what that meant until recently. You see, two of the cleansers that I’ve been asked to try had stung my eyes. These are products in the natural category, said to contain certified organic ingredients, and I was rather surprised they caused irritations to my eyes. I don’t have sensitive eyes and I don’t recall any facial cleansers, even those in the non-natural category, stinging my eyes like these two.

Hard to pinpoint the culprit
Probably some ingredients within the cleansers didn’t agree with my eyes but it is difficult to pinpoint which are the ones. I read that Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Cocobetaine) and Lecithin, which were ingredients found in the cleansers, can cause irritations to the eyes but the concentration needs to be rather high. These ingredients were rather high up in the list but I cannot be sure if they are the culprits. One of the cleansers also contain a higher concentration of vitamin C and I also wonder if it could be due to this ingredient but the thing is, I have used vitamin C on its own on my skin without any problems. I also thought if the number of essential oils in the other cleanser irritated my eyes but again, it is difficult to confirm. But the bottom line is, both cleansers irritated my eyes, so much so that I had to abandon one of them after a week of persistent trying.

Natural does not guarantee safety
It’s kind of a shame because the whole idea of using a more natural formulation is that they should be more gentle for our skin. Well, the two cleansers work well for my skin but stinging my eyes made me wonder if the formulations were actually harsher than I know. So this goes to show that just because a product is labeled as natural doesn’t mean it’s non-irritating as some natural ingredients can irritate and even cause allergies. It all depends on the formulation. Moreover, it is also important to note that even some ingredients used in such formulations aren’t really natural. And even a product bearing a certified organic logo is not not a proof of safety or of efficacy as such certification is just a marketing program.

Validated by clinical trials?
But I’m really curious as to how cleansers are being tested after formulations. From speaking to some of the brands, I understand that products are always sent for testing and in this case, I expect that the products be tested on real people and someone within a group will surely flag out the irritation considering it was so obvious. Like I mentioned, my eyes are not particularly sensitive and surely someone in a sort of “clinical trial” could identify with my concern no? Or perhaps they washed their face but did not use the cleansers around their eyes?


  1. Eveline says:

    I thought this should be common sense. Chilies for instance are “natural” but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to apply it to your face. “Natural” is pretty much a meaningless term for skincare; so are terms such as “chemical-free” because everything in this world is composed of chemicals, even “natural” things!

    “Natural” also doesn’t guarantee “allergy-free”. Peanuts allergy are very common and nobody can say that peanuts are not “natural”! Allergies are a very individual thing and you can be allergic to anything! I have read of rare cases of allergic to sunlight and even touch!

    As I said allergies are a very individual thing so if one person is allergic to a particular product, it does not mean that the product is bad or defective; it just means that it is not suitable for this particular person! Read the ingredients and find out what you are allergic to. It is not the product’s fault that you develop allergies.

    Really we consumers need to educate ourselves so that we will not be bought into meaningless labels like “natural” or “chemical-free”.

  2. Carrie says:

    I think you’ve got a very good point there. Though the argument here isn’t really about allergies, it is rather about certain ingredients that may irritate certain types of skin.

  3. sesame says:

    Eveline: Good thing we don’t have chillies in skincare. LOL. I think it might seem like common sense but when someone purchase a product that promotes itself as pure and natural, chances are one may not think too much about allergies or irritation, especially if one does not have sensitive skin or eyes. I mean, I’ve used tons of cleansers and I haven’t had my eyes stung like this. And anyway, I don’t equate allergy to irritation. While you might have some idea of what ingredients can give you allergies if you have a history but it is also not easy to find what ingredients can cause irritation. The same ingredient used in a different formulation may not have issues.

  4. Mai says:

    My eyes will tear everytime i use the Devita M0isturiser SPF 30. N0t sure why c0z i definitely av0id the area near the eyes. But the ‘burning/stinging’ sensati0n will g0 away within 2-3 mins.

  5. sesame says:

    I remember some readers also have this product with other sunscreens…not sure why either.

  6. EcoBeauty says:

    I’ve got really sensitive eyes so almost any type of cleanser would make my eyes really, really itchy 1-2 min/s after washing. Sometimes, I’m starting to suspect I’m allergic to tap water, lol.

  7. sesame says:

    Oh? So it’s quite a chore to wash your face in that sense. Hmm…you think it’s the tap water? have you tried using filtered or bottled water to wash?

  8. EcoBeauty says:

    Hmmm, that’s a very good idea. I’ve always wanted to try using “mineral water” or purified water to wash my face but figured it’s too expensive in the long run. But probably I’ll test it for a week just to see what happens. ? Unfortunately, I don’t use filtered water for bathing/washing my face. Only in the kitchen.

  9. Aida Mustapha says:

    My current facial wash will stung my eyes if i wasn’t careful and it’s a natural product. However one of my makeup (also natural) not only will sting my eyes but also cause me severe headache… at first i thought it was the mascara, later i discovered the tint as the culprit

  10. sesame says:

    Makeup giving you severe headache? Oh no…that’s nasty! I hope you’ve stopped using it.

  11. Stephanie/Yukaeshi says:

    I do experience irritation/breakouts using “natural” or even organic products as well. I think it’s mainly the type of ingredients e.g. for me cetearyl alcohol/cetyl alcohol/stearyl alcohol, even if naturally-derived, will still cause breakouts for me. So yeah, “natural” or organic does not always translate to irritation and/or breakout-free!

  12. Nika says:

    Just the other day I had a bad experience with one new natural product. Usually, I use Bioderma Sensibio micelle solution as a face cleaner and it works great for me. But I wanted to try something new and I’ve picked Cattier micellar water for babies. That works great for my children. But what a disaster for me. I became red instantly and my skin started itching terribly. And this was one totally natural and mild product.

  13. sesame says:

    I remember reading your issue with alcohol…and those are fairly common ingredients.

  14. sesame says:

    That’s quite strange…your kids had no issues with it? Always been told that whatever works for kids are safe for us but it seems it’s not always the case.

  15. Swati says:

    that’s so true…we always get misguided that if something is natural, it will deifnitely suit but its not so…even I used almond oil mixed with some essential oils and it stung my eyes though almond oil doesn’t sting the eyes.

  16. Nika says:

    Actually, my older son has a very sensitive skin and no problem with that micellar water. I don’t know, my skin sometimes reacts on things that no one else has any reaction. Seems like I am allergic to some ingredient but I can’t figure out what can it be.

  17. sesame says:

    Could it be the essential oils instead?

  18. sesame says:

    I see…it can be a challenge to identify the ingredients. I guess for new products, it’s best to do a patch test since you have sensitive skin.

  19. Kim says:

    That’s very true. I recently developed an allergy to a number of natural products. Like someone said, it’s more of whether the products are suitable for me or not, whether natural or chemical products.

  20. sesame says:

    Sometimes I also wonder if some of the natural products are well tested.

  21. Swati says:

    yes, it is essential oils only ?

  22. Sue says:

    completely agree with you! i have a reaaaally sensitive skin and people are always telling me that natural products are the best… but thats not true! besides my sensitive skin, i also suffer from allegies and have tried many natural products and some of them work a little and others dont work at all and actually give me a big allergy problem… for example, aloe vera is supposed to help if u have acne (its probably true), but it only gives me an allergy and makes my skin really dry.. >.<

  23. Sesame says:

    Woah, sounds like your skin is pretty sensitive considering aloe vera is really quite mild. But it can be drying when applied alone.

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