Bait and switch. Deceptive advertising. Greenwashing.
Unless you’re a crook, these concepts may be foreign to you, but maybe they shouldn’t be.
Absolutely Natural has been producing natural products for 24 years and when we started in 1992, it was an oddity. Natural products didn’t mean a lot to people back then but over the years the public has become more educated about the potential dangers and long term dire consequences that go along with the cheap, harsh chemicals pervasive in skin care and person care products.
More people want clean products and companies want to give the consumer the perception that they are natural. Unfortunately, most companies don’t really have natural products and don’t want the expense and complications that can occur when doing natural products.
You see, producing a natural product is much different than the manufacturing processes utilized by most companies. Smaller, hand crafted blends. Low volume fills. More expensive raw materials. More precise blending (you can’t depend on chemicals to “save a blend”). It is actually much more expensive which means less to the bottom line, smaller bonuses and possibly unhappy shareholders.
But yet, they just want to be perceived as natural. That’s called greenwashing. One of the worst cases I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot), was with a well-known product line represented by an even better known actress. We had purchased their body lotion to test out and of course it was laden with chemicals which actually were properly identified on the label. It was called XYZ Body Lotion. Several months later, the company, with much fanfare, announced their new “Naturals” line.
We bought their new XYZ Natural Body Lotion and Natural was prominently featured (deceptive advertising) on the front label. Upon flipping the bottles over and reading the “new” label, we were shocked to discover that not ONE ingredient had changed. The exact same ingredient deck was on the old lotion that now appeared on the “natural” lotion. Here is the actual ingredient deck:
Water, Glycerin, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Petrolatumum, Isopropyl Palmitate, Dimethicone , Cetyl Alcohol, Oat Flour, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Chloride
Natural? I think not. In fact I’ll go so far as to say it is “bait and switch”.
By the way… here is Absolutely Naturals ingredient deck for one of our lotions:
Aloe Extract, Hi-Oleic Safflower Oil, Vegetable Emulsifiers, Organic Rose Hips Oil, Squalane, Shea Butter, Green Tea, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Potassium Sorbate (Natural Preservative) & Natural Fragrance.
So the moral of this story is to read the label! If you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t want it on your skin. Following this are 15 ingredients (and variations) to avoid.
- Chemical sunscreens, like oxybenzone, benzophenone-3, and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Oxybenzone is absorbed into the skin where it filters UV light, converting it from light to heat, which may damage growing cells. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.
- 1,4-Dioxane is a chemical by-product that’s not included on many ingredient lists. Produced by the ethoxylation process in cosmetics manufacturing, it’s a known animal carcinogen and penetrates readily into the skin. When ethylene oxide is added to sulfates to soften them, 1,4-dioxane is born. More than 56 cosmetic ingredients are associated with this chemical. Look out for “sodium myreth sulfate,” “PEG,” “oxynol,” “ceteareth,” “oleth,” and “polyethylene.”
- Disodium-EDTA is a salt used in cosmetics and personal care products, often as a penetration enhancer, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, as well as a “chelating” agent that improves the performance of cleansing products. It is found in contact solution, eye drops, shower and bath products, and more. High doses have been shown in some studies to disrupt hormone function and mutate cells.
- Ethylacetate is a flammable liquid used as a solvent in many cosmetics, including nail polish remover, perfume, shampoo, and aftershave. (It’s also used in paint remover and dishwashing liquid.) Listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, it’s known to be irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract and may potentially depress the nervous system. Avoid at all costs, especially on your face.
- Formaldehyde is a colorless gas and a known carcinogen used in many nail polishes, body washes and shampoo. The U.S. National Toxicology Program lists it as “reasonably anticipated to cause cancer.” It can also cause allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, headaches, and chronic fatigue.
- Parabens (including methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl parabens) are a group of preservatives used to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. Estimates say over 90% of all cosmetics contain parabens. A 2006 study took urine samples from 100 adults and found two of these parabens (methyl- and n-propyl) in over 90 percent of them, with other parabens showing up in over half the samples. Studies have also shown them to be estrogenic and capable of being absorbed by the body through the skin.
- Petrochemicals are derived from petroleum and include mineral oil, toluene, and petroleum oil. Petroleum is an economical mineral oil used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can produce photosensitivity. It may also interfere with the body’s own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness. Oddly enough, this ingredient often creates the conditions it claims to alleviate. Petroleum by-products coat the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. They interfere with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. They also slow skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Watch out on this one—it’s used in many products. Even baby oil is 100% mineral oil. In addition, any mineral oil derivative can also be contaminated with cancer-causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
- Phthalates are chemicals produced from oil and used to make plastics. They’re also used as solvents in products such as lotions, creams, shampoos and conditioners. (They help the product cling to the hair or skin.) These chemicals are readily absorbed by our fingernails, skin, and lungs. Human studies identified developmental abnormalities in male infants correlating to high phthalate levels in their mothers’ bodies. Watch out for ingredients like dibutyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzylphthalate (BBP), and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).
- Propylene glycol is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant—a substance that promotes moisture retention and keeps products from drying out. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives, and eczema. This chemical is also drying to the skin. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics.
- Silicone-derived emollients are derived from silica and are used as water-binding agents (moisturizers) in cosmetics. These emollients, however, are occlusive—they coat the skin and don’t allow it to breathe (much like plastic wrap would do.) Recent studies have indicated that prolonged exposure of the skin to sweat, by occlusion, causes skin irritation. Some synthetic emollients are known tumor promoters and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes. They are also non-biodegradable, negatively impacting the environment. They include dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, and cyclomethicone.
- Stearalkonium chloride is an anti-static agent used in hair conditioners and creams. It can cause allergic reactions and is known to irritate skin. Developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it’s a lot cheaper to use in hair-conditioning formulas than more beneficial ingredients like proteins and herbals.
- Sulfates (like sodium lauryl and sodium laureth) are cheap, harsh detergents used in shampoos, body washes, and face cleansers for cleansing and foam-building properties. They can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, dry skin, and allergic reactions. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology concluded that through skin absorption, sulfates enter and maintain residual levels in the heart, lungs, and the brain. It also noted that sodium lauryl sulfate has a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein-denaturing properties. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low-dose concentration.
- TEA, MEA, DEA are ammonia compounds often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. DEA can also be found in some pesticides and is listed by the World Health Organization as an unclassified carcinogen. These chemicals contain ammonia compounds and can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of hair and skin. Any of the three can be toxic if absorbed into the body for a long period of time. If they come in contact with nitrates, they can form harmful nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic.
- Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent present in all kinds of personal care, home care, and dental products—even though the FDA has reported that there is no evidence that antibacterial products protect people any better than regular soap. Triclosan has a chemical structure similar to dioxin—a class of toxic chemicals formed as by-products of the manufacture of chlorine-containing products. This similarity could lead to contamination of triclosan with dioxins. The agent has also been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and is accumulating in our soils and farm fields. Because of its widespread use, it may result in germs resistant to it.
- Ureas are synthetic ingredients widely used as preservatives as well as water-binding and exfoliating ingredients. (Also known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.) The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause for contact dermatitis. Urea has also been shown to release formaldehyde. Some forms are derived from animal urine.