Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Natural-Sounding Ingredients to Avoid

The Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database is a great place to research ingredients and safety. However, we're uncovered a number of natural-sounding ingredients that score low in the database, but are not as safe and natural as they sound. Here's a quick and easy summary:

Vegetable Emulsifying Wax

(also listed as: Emulsifying Wax, Vegetable Emuslifying Wax NF)
This wax sounds harmless and even scores a "0" risk in the Cosmetics Database. However, it's not as natural as it sounds when you look at what it's really made out of. Vegetable Emulsifying wax contains ethoxylated compounds PEG-150 Stearate, polysorbate 60, and Steareth-20. These ingredients are created using the known carcinogen ethylene oxide, traces of which can be left in the product, along with the carcinogenic by-product 1,4-dioxane.

More info:
My original blog post
My Chemical of the Day follow-up

Japanese Honeysuckle Extract
(also listed as: Honeysuckle Extract)

This harmless-sounding extract contains para-hydroxy benzoic acid, which is structurally nearly identical to parabens, and is known to mimic estrogen in the same way.

More info:
Chemical of the Day Article

Grapefruit Seed Extract

Even when it's made from organic grapefruits, this is not a natural extract. It undergoes about 7 different steps of chemical processing, and in the end creates a quaternary ammonium compound similar to benzethonium chloride. It is not natural. It is not organic. This is a synthetic compound.

More info:
Chemical of the Day Article


"Mineral Salts"
Used in the crystal deodorants that are so popular today, "Mineral Salts" are made up of alum. Usually it's potassium alum, and sometimes ammonium alum. The full name of alum is aluminum sulfate. Aluminum has been long recognized for its potential negative link to Alzheimer's disease. If you are trying to avoid aluminum, avoiding "mineral salts" should be included.

More info:
Chemical of the Day Article

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a question about Aloe Vera that has always seemed to confuse me since I hear both good and bad about it. Is Aloe Vera gel from the actual plant bad to use? Is it drying or moisturizing? Is it organic? The cosmeticdatabase.com rates it only a 1 and even though that’s not bad sometimes the site and other websites can be a little misleading when rating some of the ingredients and products. Thanks in advance!

Stephanie Greenwood said...

No, Aloe isn't bad to use. It's been used for centuries to heal skin. However, unless you're squeezing it right from the plant, there will be some type of preservative present, which I recommend staying away from. So, even if you think you're buying just aloe vera juice, be sure to read the ingredients. Additionally, a lot of the time they'll add carbomer and chemical thickeners to it to make it look like a gel, which I also recommend avoiding. So...the bottom line, aloe vera isn't bad. But the chemicals they add to it, may be. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Are vitamin E, Mannan, and medowfoam wax harmful?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much!! I thought the deodorant I was using was aluminum free, but, it isn't. So glad that I ordered some of your deodorant earlier today ( before I knew). Thanks so much for providing TRULY natural ingredients.

Anonymous said...

Is grapefruit seed extract generally unsafe or just as a body care product? Would the supplement be processed in the same way as you mention? I'm curious because it has been recommended to me by several people as a natural healer of kennel cough and I have been using it on a dog I pulled from a shelter. It seems to have helped but I'm concerned if what you mention is true of the supplement.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

GSE as a body care/cosmetic ingredient is the same chemical as the supplement. I would recommend consulting your vet regarding its safety for dogs.

Anonymous said...

There is organic alovera juice that only has lemon to preserve it. I got it at wholefoods. I use it as a toner and to drink and for a conditioner for the hair. Its has the usda organic symbol product is lakewood organic fresh pressed

Stephanie Greenwood said...

@Anonymous--make sure that you keep it refrigerated!

Anonymous said...

So this shampoo is bad?! Bummer,, I thought I finally found something that was better. (I tried yours but in Southern California the water is too hard and I couldn't get it to work, I even tried baking soda and vinegar only and ended up with a flaky scalp)

Contains de-ionized water, Decyl Glucoside (sugar beets), African Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter) (denotes certified organic ingredients), aloe vera leaf juice, Argan Oil, Panthenol (pro-vitamin B-5, rosemary extract, sea kelp extract, vitamin E, Lonicera Caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower and Lonicera Japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Yep, it all looks pretty good until you get to that honeysuckle extract!

Dream & Scheme said...

This is a great, candid post! I really appreciate you being so transparent. I think it's great to bring awareness to issues with greenwashing.