Marketing in personal care products can be sneaky. Terms like ‘hand-made’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, ‘natural’, even ‘organic’, are often used to blanket over what’s really in the product. I get rather infuriated these days when I see a product trying to promote how ‘natural’ and ‘safe’ it is. Take this shampoo bar, for instance (one which I used to think was totally safe and natural):
Ok, so the description sounds pretty good – it’s ‘natural’, ‘naked’ (not exactly sure what that means!?), and doesn’t need to ‘preserve…’, insinuating that there are no nasty preservatives in the bars (I guess?). The right words are there, but the description is pretty ambiguous. It’s easy to to be duped into thinking that what you’re about to purchase is safe.
Let’s look at the ingredients list of one of these shampoo bars:
Well hello, most of these ingredients actually do look pretty good. A lot of the ingredients are plant-based and natural. But there are also three ingredients that are synthetic. Oh, hang on, the company of this product says these three ingredients are ‘safe synthetics.’ Do you believe them? I as hell don’t! A year or so ago, I probably would’ve taken their word for it. But now I know that ‘Sodium Lauryl Sulfate’ is a very dirty word – in fact, it’s usually considered in the top 10 toxic ingredients in personal care and cleaning products! It’s a foaming agent, used to create lots of bubbles. It’s also commercially used as an engine greaser – gross! Let’s go rub some engine grease on our face, shall we?! Known effects of sodium laurel sulfate include skin irritation and rash, teeth damage, endocrine disruption, hair loss, cataracts, mouth ulcers, respiratory tract, eye and oral toxicity, headaches, nausea, coughing and congestion.
The synthetic ingredient ‘Perfume’ is often no better. ‘Perfume’ and ‘fragrance’ are often made up of formaldehydes, which are known carcinogens, and are rated as 9/10 on the toxic scale (10 being most hazardous). It’s possible that this ‘natural’ company might not have used formaldehyde to create their ‘perfume’ (although unlikely), but why not be open and transparent about it, and tell the consumer EXACTLY what is used in the product? That they hide behind seemingly harmless blanket terms like ‘perfume’, makes me very suspicious about what sort of ‘safe synthetics’ are actually in this shampoo bar.
I also looked up the ingredient ‘Colour 73360’ on the Environmental Working Group website (awesome website to help you work out if what you’re using is safe), and it was rated as 5/10 on the safety scale for ingredients. It is classified as expected to being toxic or harmful to the organ system, and expected to be an environmental toxin and bioaccumulative (which is pretty crazy as this company openly touts how environmentally friendly they are!).
So what products can you trust? There are some really good, safe and ethical products out there, which can usually be found in conscientious health food stores or online companies (Young Living is a great one!). You can also make your own toxic-free products using natural ingredients that you can actually pronounce! DIY products are so easy and cheap to make, and best yet, you know EXACTLY what’s going into the product.
In November I’ll be holding a couple of DIY Chemical-Free SKINCARE workshops to teach people how to make your own simple and effective skincare products, using 100% pure, therapeutic-grade Young Living essential oils and other natural products. The first workshop will be held on Saturday 5th Nov, 2pm at Vibrant Health Clinic in Launceston. And the second workshop will be in Devonport, on Thursday 17 Nov, 10am at the Devonport Soccer Club on Lovett Street.
During the workshops you’ll also learn about some other toxins to become aware of, as well as natural and safe alternatives that are just as effective, without the nasty side-effects.
To get you started, here is my top 10 list for toxic ingredients to avoid in skincare (of course there are hundreds more, but this will give you a good starting point!):
A potential carcinogen that is most commonly used as a foam boosting surfactant emulsifier and dying aid. Emulsifiers can strip skin of protective oils, cause skin irritation, scalp eruptions, interferes with nutrient absorption, hair loss, allergic reactions, organ damage, reproductive damage, blindness and cancer. Found in: shower gels, shaving gels, bubble bath, shampoos, conditioners and cosmetics.
2. PROPYLENE GLYCOL
A solvent which prevents your products from melting or freezing at extreme temperatures. It also acts as a humectant to prevent moisture from evaporating from the skin. It has been shown to cause dermatitis, skin irritation, allergies, kidney and liver abnormalities in animal studies. Labelling on industrial bottle give warnings to avoid skin contact. Found in: deodorants, cosmetics, shaving gels, conditioners, shampoos, toothpaste, face creams (and ice cream!).
Methyl, propyl, ethyl, butyl are used as effective preservatives but have been found to be highly controversial. Scientists dispute the dangers saying paragon preservatives although rapidly absorbed through the skin are excreted. However, a recent British Study at the University of Reading conducted by Dr. Philippa Darbe and colleagues on 20 different samples of human breast tumors showed each sample traces of the paraben chemicals. Dr Darbe concluded: “their detection in human breast tumours is of concern since parabens have been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen.”
Shortterm toxicity can include coughing, skin irritation, rash, wheezing, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and irritability. Longterm toxicity can include cancer, lung disease, heart disease and reproductive disorders. Up to 95% of fragrance is derived from petroleum. Found in: Almost all cosmetics and personal care products, as well as cleaning products. Many ‘green’ products contain ‘fragrance.’
A highly toxic substance and a known cancer causing agent. It damages the neurological connectors in the body. It is an irritant to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. May cause skin reactions, headaches, asthma, joint pain, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea, fatigue and many others. Unfortunately this ingredient is rarely listed as ‘formaldehyde’ it is often listed as its fragmented name. Watch for these fragmented ingredients containing formaldehyde (note, this is not a full list): Tosylamide, Melamine, toluensulfonamide polymer, Urea, Bisphenol A, Sodium hydroxymethane, Phenol, glycidyl ether. Some formaldehydes, such as methylene glycol, are used as a preservative to embalm corpses! Found in: hairspray, cosmetics, cleaning products, perfumes, shampoo, air fresheners, fingernail polish, toothpastes, and antiperspirants.
There are a range of aluminium compounds that are particularly dangerous. For example, there is strong evidence that aluminium starch, which is used as an absorbent/anticaking agent, is associated with human neurotoxicity. Apparently it can be used in cosmetics as it is considered ‘safe’ provided that established limitations imposed on heavy metal concentrations are not exceeded. This is difficult to monitor, however, as an individual may use many products (not to mention foods and drinks) containing aluminium in the one day, which may very well exceed limitations. Found in: lipstick, moisturiser, facial powder, eye liner, foundation, antiperspirant and indirectly in food additives and adhesives.
This chemical is used as an antioxidant, masking ingredient and is known as a recognised carcinogen. It wreaks havoc on the environment and wildlife, and has been known to cause chronic urticaria. It is also a suspected respiratory, liver, endocrine, immune and neurotoxicity. It has been banned in Europe as a fragrance ingredient. Found in: lipstick, lip gloss, lip liner, moisturizer, eye shadow (and some foods!).
Glutaral is a preservative that is a suspected developmental, reproductive, respiratory and immunotoxicity. It has been shown to cause asthma and sensitisation. It is also toxic to the environment and wildlife. Found in: cleansers, moisturisers, liquid hand soap, furniture polish and disinfectant.
Phenol has a number of functions, including antimicrobial, denaturant, deodorant and preservative. It is toxic if inhaled or by skin contact or ingestion. It has been associated with respiratory, liver, reproductive, cardiovascular, kidney and developmental neurotoxicity. It has been banned in Canada and Japan. Found in: lip balm, shaving cream, hard surface cleaners, disinfectant, paint.
Toluene acts as a thinner in many nail polish lacquers and can cause reproductive harm. It is also a suspected cardiovascular, respiratory, kidney, immuno, liver and neurotoxicity. It is apparently safe as used up to 50% in nail care. That said, you need to be exposed to a lot of this ingredient to be at risk, but it’s not worth the danger! Found in: nail polish, nail polish remover, inks, spot remover, adhesives.
*****DIY Chemical-Free SKINCARE Workshop******
If you’d like to learn how to use essential oils to make your own natural, toxic-free skin care products, come along to our next workshops in November! If you’d like to attend but can’t make the date, please let us know and we can organise another workshop at a time that suits best.
When: Sat 5 Nov, 2pm-4:30pm
Where: Vibrant Life Clinic (Shop 3 Quadrant Plaza, 94 York St, Launceston)
Cost: $35 (to make and take five skincare products, and Paleo afternoon tea)
When: Thur 17 Nov, 10am-12pm
Where: Devonport Soccer Club, Lovett St, Devonport
Cost: $30 (to make and take five skincare products)
During the workshop you will make:
Honey Lavender Face Wash – 250ml
Anti-Wrinkle Serum – 25ml
Skin Perfecting Face Cream – 120ml
Lemongrass & Ginger Salt Scrub – 250ml
Choc Mint Lip Balm – 10ml
All of the products will be made from natural ingredients, including 100% pure, therapeutic-grade Young Living essential oils. All ingredients and containers for the products will be supplied. You won’t believe how quick and easy it is to make your own skincare products! And it’s also super cheap – it is literally only $30 to make five high-quality, natural products, including the cost of the containers.
As spaces are limited, we would appreciate that you book in and pay prior to the workshop.
Looking forward to seeing you there!