Tag Archives: chemicals

How safe are your skin care products?

Our bodies absorb 60% of what we put on it (in 26 seconds!). Children’s bodies absorb 40-50% more. This is a scary fact and we need to become more aware about what we actually use for skin care, not least for our children. Toxins are present in most skin care products and even though the quantities may be small, they build up in the body. How many products do you use daily? What is in them? What about your children?

Cosmetics; true claims or publicity?

Though the skin acts as a barrier to the “outside world”, a lot of the stuff we put on it will pass through and enter the bloodstream, influencing every cell of your body. In this day of enlightenment with information and knowledge, literally at your fingertips, more and more people are growing aware of the importance of what you put on, and in, your body. Later years there has been a great wave of new awareness of “the bad stuff”; chemicals, artificial flavorings, synthetic perfumes and manipulated foods. People stay clear of that which they know to be bad and try to make informed choices, especially when it comes to food. BUT when it comes to skin care, only the tip of the ice-berg has been scraped.

Catchy, but is it true?

Catchy, but is it true?

The cosmetic market is one of the largest in the world, turning over more money than we can even imagine and there have been almost no regulations whatsoever. Over the past few years new bodies of regulation have been formed and guide-lines are being set up. This is all good and well, but in reality it means nothing because the only regulations we are seeing are about certain (a very small percent) ingredients which have shown to be harmful to human health. There are still no guidelines in place about what you are allowed to say in terms of publicity. A producer can say anything he likes, even if it is a blatant lie. (see earlier post)

As a producer and manufacturer of botanical organic products, I have spent much time doing research among people and shops; How informed are people and what do they ask for? How informed are the staff in cosmetic sections? I have spent hours browsing cosmetic departments in many different countries and the picture is the same everywhere…The answer is; NOTHING! More people than ever are asking for “clean” cosmetics; no chemicals, no animal-testing, organic and natural. They trust the staff in the shop to know these things and help them, but the staff only knows that which they have been told when trained to sell specific brands. This is no knowledge at all, it is publicity. Staff as well as the common person don’t know how to read inci-list (ingredients) nor do they know what the words mean. On top of that the inci-list is printed on some obscure part of the packaging that you have to search for and in such tiny letters that I need both my glasses and a magnifying glass to read it. (see this post on inci) If you buy cosmetics over the internet, the inci is not always listed on the site, only on the physical product.

Clinically? I doubt it. Spread on that botox, no more shots...Seriously?

Clinically? I doubt it. Spread on that botox, no more shots…Seriously?

Animal testing is a huge arena and the world is beginning to understand the impact such testing has on millions, billions of animals. Most people are horrified and would never want to use any product that has been tested on animals. The majority of products on the market today claim that they have not been tested on animals which is probably true. BUT many of the different ingredients have been tested on animals, even though the finished product hasn’t been tested. Claims on skin care are seldom true, they are publicity.

With this I will leave you to inform yourself; what do you actually need for your personal hygiene and cosmetics? What is acceptable to you? If you want to know more and inform yourself so that you can make better choices, there are loads of sites on the internet where you can find this information very easily, I have put a few links on the right under “information & resources”. When you go shopping, ask questions and demand informed answers.

WHAT IS IN YOUR SKIN-CARE?

“The European Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (COLIPA) informed the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) that the Legal Services of the EU Commission has accepted the names in CTFA’s International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary (ICID) without translation. These names, which are now designated as International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) names, will be used by EU members to identify ingredients in the EU Inventory of cosmetic ingredients and are expected to be the basis for ingredient labeling on products that will be required in the EU in 1997.”

(taken from a FDA document that you can look closer at here.)

Simplified, this means that until this time there were no regulations regarding the declaring of ingredients in skin-care. You could put anything you liked in there, and nobody would ever know. Because of, or maybe thanks to, increasing allergic reactions, the demand for clarity about ingredients in skin-care pushed the need of this law. To simplify the communication and understanding of ingredients, INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) was decided upon: This means that all ingredients by plant extracts are named by their Latin botanical names (according to Linneae) and for other ingredients the chemical names are used. These names are recognized world-wide. Regulations also stipulate that on the label the ingredients should be listed in falling order with the largest ingredient first. To give you an idea of the amounts: A cream consists of about 50-60% water, a lotion of 70-90% water. The ingredients way down on the list are in the proportions of 0,x% or even 0,0x%. So if you buy, for example, a product that is labeled with something special; lavender or Aloe Vera or something, check the list. Chances are that you find this ingredient among the last on the list, and then you know the amounts are around 0.x%. There is no law stipulating WHAT you can say, only that you list it. Following are the INCI-lists of 2 well-known, popular body-lotions. I have highlighted the pure natural ingredients.

This is the INCI-list of a popular body lotion: Aqua, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Paraffinum liquidum, Glycerin, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Prunus Armeniaca Kernel Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract, Linoleic Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Cera Microcristallina, Disodium Phosphate, Propylene Glycol, Parfum, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Benzoic acid, BHT, Pentaerythrityl Tetradi-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Alcohol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamat, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Limonene, Linalol.

Several of these chemicals are known toxins.

This is the INCI-list of a natural body-lotion: Water/Aqua, Rose (Rosa Canina) Hip Extract, Rose (Rosa Gallica) Petal Extract, Sweet Almond (Prunus Dulcis) Oil, Alcohol, Glycerin, Quince (Pyrus Cydonia) Seed Extract, Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Carrot (Daucus Carota) Extract, Jojoba (Buxus Chinensis) Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Beeswax/Cera Flava, Rose (Rosa Gallica) Wax, Rose (Rosa Damascena) Essential Oil, Fragrance/Parfum (Essential Oil), Citronellol*, Geraniol*, Limonene*, Linalool*, Citral*, Coumarin*, Eugenol*, Benzyl Benzoate*, Propolis Wax/Propolis Cera, Lecithin, Xanthan Gum


I leave it up to you to make your decision about what kind of stuff you want to put on your skin. Remember though that if molecules are small enough, they go straight through your skin and into your bloodstream from where they can access every cell of your body.

If you want more information on different chemicals or skin-care ingredients, you can check out this website: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/

PERFUMES – synthetic fragrances

Your perfume may not be as rosy as you’d like to believe. Even though perfume may evoke images of a field of wildflowers, it actually consists of a variety of synthetic chemicals that are manufactured in laboratories. Many perfume ingredients are far from natural. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) listed 20 common perfume ingredients on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, such as benzene, benzyl alcohol, limonene, acetone and ethanol. Many of these chemicals list headaches, nausea and other complications as side effects.

    History

Up until the 20th century most perfumes were made with natural animal or plant ingredients and were a luxury to have. Perfume became more accessible with the introduction of synthetic ingredients. The first synthetic fragrance was created from coal tar. Now waste byproducts could be used to make fragrances that smelled like flowers and be sold to the masses for less money.

    Features

Over 4,00 chemicals are used in today’s fragrances. According to a 1991 study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 95 percent of these chemicals are derived from petroleum and some are potentially hazardous. Common ingredients found in perfumes are: acetone, ethanol, benzaldehyde, formaldehyde, limonene, methylene chloride, camphor, ethyl acetate, linalool and benzyl alcohol. Phthalates and synthetic musks are also commonly used potentially hazardous ingredients.

    Effects

EPA Material Safety Data Sheets for the most poplar perfume ingredients list many nasty side effects from exposure. Acetone, often found in cologne, acts as a central nervous system depressant and can cause nausea, dryness of the mouth and slurred speech. Inhalation of ethanol vapors can produce symptoms similar to those of indigestion. Benzaldehyde is a narcotic and a local anesthetic. Limonene is a carcinogenic and should not be inhaled. Methylene chloride was banned by the FDA in 1988 but still may pop up in fragrances due to lack of enforcement. Another carcinogenic substance is benzyl acetate, which has been linked to pancreatic cancer. All these chemicals are found in everyday perfumes and are readily absorbed into the body with every spritz.

    Considerations

Even though personal-care products must list their ingredients, fragrances can keep their ingredients a secret because they fall into the “trade secret” category. Critics saytThe FDA is lax on regulations for the fragrance industry. The word “fragrance” may be used on any product that has a given odor, but there’s no telling what “fragrance” can stand for. It may contain one or 100 chemicals.

    Significance

Many people experience adverse side effects when exposed to second-hand perfume. People with asthma or allergies generally don’t tolerate being around fragrances. Chemical sensitivity, also referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or Environmental Illness, is a condition in which people experience headaches or breathing difficulties from exposure to fragrance. Some workplaces have banned employees from wearing perfume as a result of these conditions.
(source: Sarah Valek, e-How)

THE SCENT-VOID

smelling-1A friend called me yesterday and talked – interestingly enough – of the absence of smell; he had been to America and noticed that both the hired car and the hotel-room were entirely devoid of smell, the non-odor environment, he called it.

A few years back I was involved in a scientific group in Sweden. It was called GustOlf and was created by a group of scientists and other people involved in the art and science of taste and smell.  I was invited as an aromatherapist. The scientists came from different universities and were all experts in their fields; biology, chemistry and physics. There was also a chef representing a restaurateur institute and an art-professor. A most interesting group. We had a few conferences where we would discuss taste & smell for a couple of days; from pheromones and insects through the make-up of an odorous molecule to the digestive system and emotional impact of scent. I was a frequent speaker at these occasions since I work with the emotional reaction to scent. What we all agreed on was this:

The sense of smell is completely subjective and different for each individual

The most ardent group of participants were from the automotive industry, all with the same question: “How do I make a car smell attractive?”

Scented trees

Smells are smells; some are nice and some not. The problem with “scenting away” an odor is that it usually gets even worse; perfumed deodorant on strong sweat?…well, you get the picture. So how do we avoid smells? (following is taken from Wikipedia)

Air fresheners are consumer products that mitigate unpleasant odors in indoor spaces. They can be in the form of candles, aerosol sprays, potpourri, gels and mechanical or heat release products. [1]

They work in one of five ways:

  1. Masking: Many “fresheners” obscure odors with a fragrance.
  2. Adsorption: Adsorbents like activated charcoal or silica gel may be used to absorb offending, chemical odors.
  3. Chemical neutralization: Substances such as rubber or TEG may be used for some odors.
  4. Disinfection. Odors caused by bacterial activity can be eliminated by disinfectants like ozone, TEG, or bleaching agents containing hydrogen peroxide, chlorine or hypochlorites.
  5. Anesthetization: Some air fresheners use anesthetics to dull the sense of smell.

A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study of 13 common household air fresheners found that most of the surveyed products contain chemicals that can aggravate asthma and affect reproductive development. The NRDC called for more rigorous supervision of the manufacturers and their products, which are widely assumed to be safe:

“The study assessed scented sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners. Independent lab testing confirmed the presence of phthalates, or hormone-disrupting chemicals that may pose a particular health risk to babies and young children, in 12 of the 14 products—including those marked ‘all natural.’ None of the products had these chemicals listed on their labels.” (wikipedia)

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it?

Air-Freshener-Spray

What is an odor? An odor is a molecule; some agents, such as ozone, function by severing the bonds in the molecule. Odors can arise from most anything, many odors are caused by bacteria and fungi. At one point we need to accept that odors are part of life, messages about our surroundings. It is better to smell the smoke and realize that something is burning, than to suddenly find yourself in a burning inferno…?

An alternative is to use essential oils….more about that in my next post… Stay tuned.

New Federal Legislation Targets Baby Bath Products

Baby bathSource: Happi Magazine; Vol. 46, No. 6; June 2009

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York recently introduced the Safe Baby Products Act, which would direct the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate and regulate hazardous contaminants in personal care products marketed to or used by children.

Sen. Gillibrand-who was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Senator Hillary Clinton became U.S. Secretary of State-introduced the bill in response to a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which revealed that many widely used baby shampoos and bubble baths contain formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, which may be hazardous in certain quantities. The chemicals are not listed on labels because contaminants are exempt from labeling laws.

The campaign also recently sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company by the end of August to reformulate its personal care products so that they are free of 1,4-dioxane and preservatives that release formaldehyde.

The Safe Baby Products Act would direct FDA to test a wide range of children’s personal care products, publicly report the findings and establish good manufacturing practices to reduce or eliminate hazardous contaminants from products.

“We applaud Sen. Gillibrand for being a champion for children’s health,” said Lisa Archer, national coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

“This bill is a good step forward, because it would give parents the right to know what’s in the bath products they use on their kids, and would give FDA authority to keep dangerous chemicals out of children’s bath products. Next, we need to overhaul cosmetics laws so the FDA can fully assess and assure the safety of all personal care products.”

The campaign released its test results in March. At that time, Dr. John Bailey, chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, said the “extremely low” levels of chemicals in the products tested “are not a cause for health concern.”

ESSENTIAL OIL QUALITY – part 4

Modified Chemical PictureThere are  methods with which to change, increase or replace essential oils.

  • Synthesizing: Chemically recreating the aroma in a laboratory. Then you have an essence, not an essential oil. In my earlier entries I have spoken of the synergy in an essential oil and how important it is when we are using it for therapeutic/pleasurable reasons. A synthetic essence is nothing but an aroma. As far as making you feel better, it is only because the aroma is pleasurable…it stays in the nose. Synthetic aromas are often  sweet and slightly overpowering.
  • Cutting: Mixing a more expensive essential oil with other, cheaper, essential oils, or synthetic aromatics,  to create larger amounts of oil for economic purposes. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)will sometimes be mixed with Lavandin (Lavandula fragrans). Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) will be mixed with Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). These oils are of course useless for aromatherapeutic use.
  • Standardizing: In industry (perfumery/toiletries/foods/pharmaceutical) the oils always need to be exactly the same, which they by nature are not, and this system was created to ensure a homogeneous aroma every year: The main 1 or 2 chemicals present in the essential oil are usually the ones that give the overall aroma.  When the proportion between them stays the same, the aroma will stay the same. Therefore certain standards are given to essential oils which decrees the percentage of the main constituents within the essential oil. If the percentage is too high, some is taken out. If the percentage is too low, some will be added.  Sometimes synthetics might be added, but mostly isolated chemical-extractions are used. Sometimes chemicals are extracted from the oil and used as they are, an example is Menthol that is extracted fromPeppermint (Mentha piperita). A much standardized oil is Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) where the main constituent is  cineol (60-85%).  The commercial standardization is 98% cineol.

All plants do not contain essential oils. A wide misunderstanding is that everything that has a scent has an essential oil, this is not so.

Apple, Lily of the Valley, Lilac, Peach, Strawberry….the list is long…DO NOT CONTAIN ESSENTIAL OILS. These are all synthetic aromas created chemically in a laboratory. They will do nothing but smell.