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    Bubble & Bee is a signer of the compact for safe cosmetics

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    Here we explore some of the myths & legends!


    What are Oleochemicals?

    There's a fellow organic company that has published an article that talks about the "dangers of oleochemicals."  While this company has my utmost respect, I wanted to respond to some of the claims and implications in this particular article because I feel that they may not be fully accurate.

    What is an "oleochemical?"

    Oleochemical is an industry term for "any chemical compound derived from animal or plant fats or oils." Source The term's counterpart, petrochemicals, are, of course, derived from petroleum oil.  The main point of their article is that, while oleochemicals are being marketed as natural because they're derived from natural oils, the chemical processing these compounds endure are not all that natural and can sometimes leave impurities in the finished product, and are not very environmentally friendly.  While I do agree with them on this point, and love their enthusiasm for truly organic products, there are a number of things that I disagree with them on.

    First of all, they make a few claims that have no apparent backing.  They say: "New evidence shows that oleochemical trans fats used in virtually all "natural" and "organic" body care products, when topically applied to the skin, can inhibit prostaglandins."  They cite no sources for this claim, or any at all for the entire article.  A search through the National Library of Medicine for "trans fats and prostaglandins" or "topical trans fats prostaglandins" or "prostaglandins skin trans fats" "skin and trans fats" or any other related search yields no results that would back up this assertion.

    Second, the article implies that all oleochemicals contain trans fats. It repeatedly uses the phrase "oleochemical trans fats" as if they were completely interchangeable terms.  Trans fats equals oleochemicals and oleochemicals equals trans fats, it seems. Hydrogenated oils, because they are substances derived from vegetable oils, by definition, are oleochemicals.  But not all oleochemicals contain trans fats.  This is a baseless claim that has no proof or backing.  Perhaps some isolated fatty acids would contain trace amounts of trans fats, but it's highly unlikely. The distillation process is highly selective, and since a trans fat molecule would have a completely different molecular weight than the isolated fatty acid, they would be separated easily during this process.

    Third, they state "body care products aren´t currently covered by the National Organic Program."  That's simply not true.  According to the Code of Federal Regulations:

    § 205.100   What has to be certified

    (a) Except for operations exempt or excluded in §205.101, each production or handling operation or specified portion of a production or handling operation that produces or handles crops, livestock, livestock products, or other agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must be certified according to the provisions of subpart E of this part and must meet all other applicable requirements of this part."

    There are no exemptions included in §205.101 relating to personal care products (it mainly describes the exemption for operations running under $5000 in annual sales.)  Thus, ANY product claiming to be organic falls under the National Organic Program.  

    Finally, the term "oleochemical" seems to be guilty just by its scary-sounding name alone.  By definition, cold-processed soap is an oleochemical.  It's a substance that has been created from vegetable oils.  So, technically, the company who wrote this article, uses "oleochemicals" in their own products!

    Not all oleochemicals are dangerous or processed with toxic chemicals. The article has a link to a diagram that implies that vegetable glycerin is harmful because it's an oleochemical.  Yes, it is true that vegetable glycerin is considered an "oleochemical" but it also naturally occurs in all soaps.  So, because vegetable glycerin is an "oleochemical" should it be removed from the soap?  If it were, the soap would be quite harsh on the skin.  That's because the vegetable glycerin and the free fatty acids (yes, the same isolated fatty acids that the article warns against) is what gives cold-processed soaps their great moisturizing properties. Soy lecithin (which the company who wrote the article uses) can be considered an oleochemical, as it is a substance derived from vegetable oils.  Natural tocopherol can be considered an oleochemical, and yet it carries numerous health benefits.  Astaxanthin, curcumin, quercitin, and resveratrol all carry incredible promise as antioxidants as well as other health benefits, and they all could be considered "oleocemicals" as, again, they are separated from plant sources.  Just because it can be called an oleochemical, doesn't mean that it's bad.

    Again, I want to reiterate that I agree with the spirit of this article.  There are too many companies trying to pass of synthetic chemicals as "organic" and "natural," and there definitely are hundreds of dangerous oleochemicals.  But just because a substance falls under the term "oleochemical" does it mean that it's dangerous, scary, or harmful.


    Are Parabens Natural?

    A reader wrote this statement on my entry of parabens:

    Plants which produce significant amounts of parabens include carrots, olive, cucumber, honeysuckle and ylang ylang (Bach M et al, Plant Physiol, 103(2), 1993); (Aziz N et al, Microbios 93(374), 1998); Smith-Becker J et al, Plant Physiol, 116(1), 1998); (Dweck A, “Natural Preservatives”, Cosmet Toilet, Aug 2003).

    Plants known to synthesise Methylparaben include Guan pepper (Piper guanacastensis) (Pereda-Miranda R et al, J Nat Prod, 60(3), 1997); Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) (Walker T et al, J Agric Food Chem, 51, 2548, 2003) and Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) (Pal Bais H et al, Plant Physiol Biochem, 41(4), 2003).

    Mangoes produce Propylparaben as a self defense mechanism (Mangifera indica) (Chirawut B, Sangchote S, 15 th Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference, Deakin University, Geelong, 26-29 September, 2005).

    In fact, parabens have been used as preservatives in foods and beverages and exhibit little or no toxicity in the concentrations used. The cancerous breast tissues that had parabens were probably caused by preserved food rather than underarm deodorants!

    Is this true?  Do parabens occur naturally in foods?  Do they pose a risk to our health?  If parabens occur in nature, does that mean that parabens in personal care items are safe?

    These studies do appear to be true and credible.  P-hydroxybenzoic acid and its esters (aka, parabens) do occur naturally in foods and plants.  So, does this mean that we shouldn't eat cucumbers, carrots, olives, or mangoes?  No, not at all. 

    Parabens that are present in foods act very differently than those applied in personal care products.  First of all, in a food, other compounds are present in nature's perfect balance. We're talking antioxidants and enzymes that work together to create an overall healthful effect on the body.  Second, when parabens enter the body through foods, they have a much better chance to be metabolized because they're going through the digestive system.  Stomach acids and other enzymes help to break them down to metabolites that are easily flushed out of the body.  Third, parabens behave much differently when applied to skin than when ingested in a food.  

    A recent study found that parabens, when applied to skin, react with an enzyme called SULT.  In simplified terms, SULT is the enzyme that helps the body flush out estrogen.  So, when SULT enzymes are deactivated, estrogen levels increase.  Parabens were found to deactivate these important enzymes.  The study states "...these results suggest chronic topical application of parabens may lead to prolonged estrogenic effects in skin as a result of inhibition of estrogen sulfotransferase activity."  Supporters of parabens are always talking about how little parabens are absorbed and how weak their estrogenic activity is--but with this study in mind, absorption and estrogen receptor activity really are moot points.  It's a reaction with parabens in the skin that increases overall estrogen levels in the body.  Many reproductive cancers are estrogen-dependent and tumor growth is fueled by an excess of estrogen.  Uterine fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, irregular menstruation--all of these reproductive problems are caused by an excess of estrogen.  So why would you want to apply these compounds to your skin!?

    Another pro-paraben argument that you'll hear is that the skin metabolizes parabens quickly and they're flushed out of the body.  Not so!  This study found that after a month of applying methylparaben to skin cells, it "remained unmetabolized and persisted slightly" in the stateum corneum. Additionally, it was found to affect DNA expression in the skin cells, inhibiting collagen production, and possibly leading to early aging of cells. 

    So, just because parabens may have been found to be in foods, doesn't mean that personal care products with parabens are safe.  Parabens applied to your skin behave much differently, likely increasing levels of estrogen and leading to premature aging and other changes in the skin. 


    Ethoxylated Compounds

    When a chemical is produced using the carcinogen ethylene oxide, it is known as an "ethoxylated" compound.  During the processing of an ethoxylated compounds, a carcinogenic byproduct is created called 1,4-dioxane.  Many ethoxylated compounds are used in cosmetic and personal care products, and commonly contain traces of 1,4-dioxane.  This carcinogen has been found in even in supposedly "natural" brands.  Thanks to the Organic Consumers association and the EWG Cosmetics Database, the word about ethoxylated compounds is spreading every.

    How to spot an ethoxylated compound. 


    There are three easy ways to spot an ethoxylated compound. First is looking out for "PEG." PEG stands for polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene Glycol is used in cosmetics as a skin conditioner and emulsifier. It usually is followed by a number, reading PEG-200. The number following the PEG is the number of moles (a unit of measure in chemistry) that the glycol has been treated with. So PEG-40 is polyethylene glycol treated with ethylene oxide 40 times, in simplified terms. The higher the number, the more ethylene oxide it's been treated with.  Second, look for the suffix "eth." Sodium laureth sulfate or ceteareth-20 are two examples. The "eth" indicates it has been treated with ethylene oxide.

    Third, look for dashes followed by a number, as in steareth-20.


    The CosmeticsDatabase has become a go-to resource for thousands of people looking for safer cosmetics.  It lists many ethoxylated compounds and flags them for their hazard with 1,4-dioxane conamination.  However, the database has missed this hazard on a number of ingredients.  Let's help the Cosmetics Database spread the word about the dangers of ethoxylated compounds and get the correct scores assigned to these ingredients.  Cut and paste the following in an e-mail and send it to

    Thank you for the work you do at the Cosmetics Database!  I wanted to bring a number of ethoxylated compounds in the database that have not yet been flagged for 1,4-dioxane contamination. 


    Polysorbate-20 is also known as PEG(20) sorbitan monolaurate.  It currently scores a 1, "low hazard" score and needs to be much higher, like other PEG compounds for its 1,4-dioxane contamination concern..  


    Polysorbate-40 is also known as PEG(40) sorbitan monopalmitate.  It currently scores a 1, "low hazard" score and needs to be much higher, like other PEG compounds for its 1,4-dioxane contamination concern..  


    Polysorbate-60 is also known as PEG(20) sorbitan monostearate.  It currently scores s 1, "low hazard" score and should be much higher, like other PEG compounds for its 1,4-dioxane contamination concern..


    Polysorbate-80 is also known as PEG(20) sorbitan monooleate.  It currently scores a 2, "low hazard" score and should be much higher, like other PEG compounds for its 1,4-dioxane contamination concern..  


    Steareth-20 is also known as PEG-20 stearyl ether.  It currently scores a 1, "low hazard" score and should be much higher.  According to this ingredient listing:  "About STEARETH-20: Steareth-20 is a synthetic polymer composed of PEG (polyethylene glycol) and stearyl alcohol. Due to the presence of PEG, this ingredient may contain potentially toxic manufacturing impurities such as 1,4-dioxane." Yet, the box for "contamination concerns" is not checked; it should be!  


    Steareth-100 is also known as PEG-100 stearyl ether.  It currently scores a 1, "low hazard" score and should be much higher, like other PEG-compounds for its 1,4-dioxane contamination concern.


    Other listings that need to be updated with 1,4-dioxane concerns include:






     Acrylates/Steareth-20 itaconate copolymer


     Disteareth-75 IPDI



     Disteareth 100 IPDI


    Thank you for your attention to the matter

    We CAN make a difference!  Spread this through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter until these chemicals get the score they deserve!




    Why A Carcinogen Scores a "0" in the Cosmetics Database

    We at Bubble & Bee think the Cosmetics Database is a great place to start when it comes to researching ingredients. But because it is such a vast resource, some ingredients fall through the figurative cracks in the database. Like this one: magnesium silicate. 

    Magnesium silicate is a synthetically-produced mineral compound also known as "activated" magnesium silicate. Sold under the trade name Florisil, it is used in chemistry labs as a testing medium in chromatography and other analytical testing. It's also used in other industrial applications, for cleaning up chemical spills (because it's so absorbent), filtering oils and as a catalyst in some chemical reactions. 

    Florisil is actually a blend of two different compounds, SiO2 (silicone dioxide) and MgO (magnesium oxide). When exposed to any amount of water, the two powder compounds ionize and then crystallize in to what we know as talc [CAS 14807-96-6], or hydrated magnesium silicate.

    According to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) found here:

    The substance is toxic to lungs. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. [...] Workers must use an approved respirator, gloves, safety glasses and lab coat. [...] Consult a specialist before handling the product. [...] Chronic exposure can lead to accumulation in the lungs, as in the pheumoconiosis called "Talcosis" and exposure to fibrous forms might result in pulmonary fibrosis.

    Florisil, or activated magnesium silicate is not used in cosmetics. US Silica, the company that makes it, doesn't even offer a cosmetic grade of it. Why? Because it is not safe for skin--it soaks up any kind of moisture, so it would be incredibly drying and irritating to anything it came in contact with. I even called them and asked if anyone ordered it for cosmetics use--the woman on the phone thought I was crazy just for asking. Companies looking for a powder to help disperse a makeup would just use hydrated magnesium silicate, aka, talc.

    So, why is activated magnesium silicate even in the Cosmetics Database? And if it's harmful, why does it score a 0?

    A System Based on Numbers

    In the chemical industry, every chemical is assigned a number called a CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number. The Cosmetics Database started out as a list of chemicals and listed each chemical with its unique CAS number. This list was then cross-linked with other lists from governmental agencies and non-profits to create a comprehensive database. All of the chemicals were cross-linked using their CAS. Activated magnesium silicate isn't widely used and studied, so it wasn't in any of these databases. So, no data was pulled, so there was no score (thus, a 0). 

    So, companies started taking advantage of this glitch in the database. They submitted their ingredients lists using magnesium silicate instead of talc, so they would get lower scores. While technically, talc is magnesium silicate, it's the wrong CAS. Companies knowingly do this so they get lower scores in the Cosmetics Database. 

    The Dangers of Talc, a national non-profit organization lists talc as a known carcinogen because it increases the risk of lung cancer when it is inhaled. (Source) The National Toxicology Program ruled in 1993 that there was reasonable evidence that talc is a carcinogen when inhaled. (Source) Additionally, much evidence has been found that talc, when used as a feminine powder, can be absorbed into the body and cause ovarian cancer. (Source)

    Let's Make a Change

    We can make a change with your help! Let the Cosmetics Database know that we're not going to let companies cheat on this ingredient listing. Send an e-mail to and let them know that magnesium silicate should not be listed as a zero, and link to this article. Tweet this! Facebook this article! Let's get the industry to listen!



    Manufacturer Opens up about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract

    After months of my e-mailing them, the manufacturer of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract has finally responded to my questions.  This issue continues to get more complex and the reputation of the extract keeps getting lower and lower. 

    I wrote to Dr. Bala, the owner of Campo Research that makes Japanese Honeysuckle Extract and asked him if parahydroxy benzoic acid present in all or any grades of Plantservative (the tradename for Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.)  His response was yes and no. 

    In the Verification of the description, you may find a variety of phydroxyBenzoic Acid of the Salcyclic class (ie of Aspirin) slightly present in Campo Plantservative, of Which I believe is what Ms ****** ****** has confirmed as Phydroxybenzoic Acid. 

    Let me clarify what he's saying. 

    Parahydroxybenzoic acid, the chemical we've been talking about for all these months in my previous articles, is also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid.

    4-hydroxybenzoic acidDr. Bala is saying that the parahydroxybenzoic acid present in the product is actually 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, which has the same combination of atoms, just arranged in a slightly different shape. 

    2-hydroxybenzoic acid

    You'll notice the OH group is just in a different place on the carbon ring. 

    The common name for 2-hydroxybenzoic acid is salicylic acid.  This is the same salicylic acid that scores a 7 in the EWG Cosmetics Database.  So now, instead of containing an ingredient that's similar to methylparaben, which scores a 4, we find out that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract actually contains a chemical that scores much higher and is so strong that it's regulated as a drug when it's listed as an ingredient.  According to the database, it's a reproductive toxin, a neurotoxin, and a penetration enhancer.  See my Chemical of the Day analysis here.

    A few other notes about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract that I found out in my research.  This is all from the materials that Dr. Bala e-mailed to me:

    • A small amount of butylene glycol is used as a solvent in its production, and it is present up to 2.5% of the finished product. Below is a screen shot of the product detail sheet. 

    • Once the product is filtered, it then undergoes a process called Collusion-induced Dissociation.  Basically, they take the extract and put it in a vaccuum and spin it around at an incredibly high speed---so fast that it actually breaks the molecular bonds of the original compounds to create new molecules that aren't present in nature.

    • Japanese Honeysuckle Extract uses nanotechnology.  Once the extract has been taken from the flowers, it is run through a nano-sized filter two times, resulting in biologically-based nanoparticles. 
    • They claim that Plantservative doesn't undergo any "animal testing" however, it is tested on embryonic stem cells.

    Embryonic stem cells are usually taken from human fetuses that are just a few hours old, comprised of just a few cells.  They are typically created in a lab and then used for testing.  So, it's not as gruesome as it sounds, but, depending on your own personal beliefs, you can make your own decision if you accept the use of this practice by using this ingredient. 

    The bottom line is, Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is not natural.  It is created using very sophisticated technology, (nanoparticles, Collusion-Induced Dissociation, etc) contains salicylic acid (a chemical with quite a few risks), contains a small amount of butylene glycol, and is made up of other unknown compounds that do not ocurr in nature.  Is it the worst ingredient in the world?  No.  Is it one that I personally avoid.  Yes.  Now that you have ALL the information on the ingredient, you too can make an informed decision. 

    Japanese Honeysuckle Extract Quick Facts:

    • Contains Salicylic Acid
    • Created using nanotechnology
    • Unnatural molecules created using Collusion Induced Dissociation
    • Contains butylene glycol
    • Tested on human embryonic stem cells

    Brands that use Japanese Honeysuckle Extract:


    Thera Wise


    Hugo Naturals

    John Master

    Rocky Mountain Soap Company

    Raw Natural Beauty

    Kiss My Face

    Beauty without Cruelty

    Elizabeth Arden



    Nvey Eco

    100% Pure

    Ava Anderson Non-Toxic

    Shea Moisture

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