Here we explore some of the myths & legends!


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


Hugo Naturals Responds to Japanese Honeysuckle Claims

By far, the most controversial topic in our "most controversial" section has been the subject of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.  Maybe it's the hot-button topic of possible hidden parabens, or the angry responses from some in the industry.   We've thorougly established that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract (tradename Plantservative) contains a compound called parahydroxy benzoic acid, the chemical on which parabens are based, and one that has been proven to act estrogenically like synthetic parabens. 

One of the brands that uses Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is Hugo Naturals.  One reader, Lisa B wrote to them and posted their response in the comments section of our previous article.  I have a lot to say about what she's posted here, so I'm posting the comment and my full response here in this article.  Here is the statement:

I emailed Hugo Natural's about their use of Honeysuckle Extract and this was their reply to me, anyone have any thoughts about what they have to say??? This is what they said:

Hello Lisa,

Your request for clear and understandable information is completely reasonable. You want to make informed decisions about the products your use, and their potential health effects. I also hear you saying you believe that we are not providing this information, and that we are not being forthright with our customers about this specific ingredient. I want you to know we understand your outrage, and would feel the same way if we only had a limited amount of information available, such as what is found on some websites.

Fortunately, Hugo Naturals has access to a wealth of credible experts on the subject, and we have spent countless days and weeks investigating this ingredient, as we do all ingredients in our formulations. I will attempt to provide some important information which we have complied for our own use.

Below is a statement from Dr. Balasubramaniam. Dr. “Bala” is not an industry pundit, or a scientist of questionable credibility, but is the actual creator of Campo Plantservative (Japanese Honeysuckle Extract). He is the guy, so to speak. The other statement we have included is from our own Organic Chemist and Technical Advisor, John Mizialko. John is well-respected in the natural personal care industry.

Dr. Balasubramaniam:

“Natural Parabens” do not exist, and especially not in Campo Plantservative WSr...The anti-microbial influence of this plant extract CP WSr is not of paraben at all, nor of natural Benzoic Acid, and is due to complexities of Loncerin and side-lined enzymatic chains that are highly anti-microbial (ie. natural preservation properties).

Below are additional comments from John Mizialko (Hugo Naturals Organic Chemist and Technical Advisor):

“Japanese Honeysuckle Extract does not contain chemicals commonly known as parabens , however, it does contain small amounts of natural Benzoic Acid (less than 5 ppm), which is also found in some common fruits and vegetables, and is used widely as a food preservative. It is completely false that natural Benzoic Acid is a natural paraben. There is class of chemical compounds called esters that can be made (synthetically) from derivatives of Benzoic Acid, and these esters (Methyl Benzoate, Propyl Benzoate, Butyl Benzoate) are also known as Xeno-parabens- or their more commonly known names of Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and Butylparaben. These synthetic compounds do not exist in Japanese Honeysuckle Extract. In addition, independent analytical testing using PDA (Photo-Diode-Assay) HPLC (High-Pressure-Liquid-Chromatograph) instrumentation have conclusively shown that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract contains no “parabens” whatsoever.”

We sincerely appreciate this opportunity to provide needed clarity and address your important concern. I want you to feel free to contact me at the direct number below if this response does not answer your questions. Hugo would be happy to speak to you personally, and can arrange a phone meeting with our organic chemist, at your convenience. We are incredibly proud of our formulations, and the use of this preservative.

David Greenbaum

VP of Sales

20727 Dearborn Street

Chatsworth, CA 91311

1.206.396.6896 (direct)

1.888.642.5024 (fax)

1.818.576.9917 (Customer Service)

First of all, I want to applaud Hugo Naturals for their professionalism in which they apparently responded.  I do however, have a few things to say in direct response to Dr. Bala and their chemical advisor, John Mizialko. 

I have tried e-mailing "Dr. Bala" numerous times and have yet to hear anything back from him.   That's why I went to the distributor of the product for my latest fact-finding mission to confirm the presence of parahydroxy benzoic acid.  I have sent Dr Bala another e-mail and will post anything that I hear back.  So, let's take a careful look at his statement that Hugo Naturals reportedly used:

"Natural Parabens” do not exist, and especially not in Campo Plantservative WSr." 

By definition, a "paraben" is a synthetic compound, an ester of parahydroxy benzoic acid.  So, technically, there is no such thing as a "natural paraben" because by nature, a paraben is a synthetic compound.  HOWEVER, there is such thing as parahydroxy benzoic acid.  When someone says there is a "natural paraben" they mean parahydroxy benzoic acid, because it is the natural compound on which parabens are based.  (For more on the topic, read this article.)

"..The anti-microbial influence of this plant extract CP WSr is not of paraben at all, nor of natural Benzoic Acid,"

Dr. Bala seems to be confused-- benzoic acid is not parahydroxy benzoic acid. 

Here is benzoic acid:


Here is parahydroxy benzoic acid:

Note that the parahydroxy benzoic acid has an extra OH group.  They are similar compounds, but they are not the same thing.  I'm not quite sure what the Dr. is trying to say here.  He's not addressing the issue of parahydroxy benzoic acid in his Plantservative product. 

"and is due to complexities of Loncerin and side-lined enzymatic chains that are highly anti-microbial (ie. natural preservation properties)."

Loncierin is a flavonoid that does have antioxidant powers but none that would be strong enough to preserve a cosmetic formula.  (source)   Some enzymes, like lactose peroxidase and glucose oxidase have been used as a broad-spectrum preservative, so I wouldn't rule out enzymes being the active component.  But then why would all the information on the ingredient when it came out state that the active ingredients were parahydroxy benzoic acid?  And why would the distributor confirm those claims?

So now, let's look at the statement from Hugo's formula advisor,  John Mizialko. 

“Japanese Honeysuckle Extract does not contain chemicals commonly known as parabens , however, it does contain small amounts of natural Benzoic Acid (less than 5 ppm), which is also found in some common fruits and vegetables, and is used widely as a food preservative. It is completely false that natural Benzoic Acid is a natural paraben.

Like Dr. Bala, Mr. Mizialko is also confusing benzoic acid with parahydroxy benzoic acid.  It IS completely false that benzoic acid is a natural paraben.  No one is claiming that it is.  Parahydroxy benzoic acid, however, is a "natural paraben."

There is class of chemical compounds called esters that can be made (synthetically) from derivatives of Benzoic Acid, and these esters (Methyl Benzoate, Propyl Benzoate, Butyl Benzoate) are also known as Xeno-parabens- or their more commonly known names of Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and Butylparaben.

Mr. Mizialko appears to be terribly confused here.  Methyl Benzoate, Propyl Benzoate, and Butyl Benzoate are not "xeno-parabens," nor are they methylparaben, propylparaben, or butylparaben. 

Methyl Benzoate is not used as a cosmetic preservative.  It is a strongly aromatic compound that cocoaine offgasses.  It is in fact, the compound that drug-sniffing dogs detect when they identify cocaine.  (Source)

Here is methyl benzoate


Here is methylparaben


They are completely different chemicals.  The full name for methylparaben is Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, not Methyl benzoate.

Propyl benzoate is not propylparaben.  Propyl benzoate is a synthetic fragrance and flavor compound with a nutty scent and flavor.  Here is propyl benzoate:


Here is propylparaben:

Very similar in structure, but not the same compound.  The full name for propylparaben is Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, not propyl benzoate.

The same applies for the butyl version.  The full name of butylparaben is not Butyl benzoate, but Butyl 4-hydroxybenzoate.   Mr. Mizialko appears to be misinformed or confused about parabens and their chemical structures.  

These synthetic compounds do not exist in Japanese Honeysuckle Extract. In addition, independent analytical testing using PDA (Photo-Diode-Assay) HPLC (High-Pressure-Liquid-Chromatograph) instrumentation have conclusively shown that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract contains no “parabens” whatsoever.”

I believe it that the extract contains no synthetic parabens.  However, there is no credible evidence that it does not contain parahydroxy benzoic acid, and much evidence that it does.   It is strange to me that these chemists are so confused about the structures of these chemicals.  These are professional industrial chemists, and to not know the difference between benzoic acid and parahydroxy benzoic acid, or the true structures of parabens is quite odd.  Either way, they never really addressed the issue (although to the untrained eye, it may appear that they did). 

Throughout this controversy the only thing that my opponents could do were to try to knock my credibility by saying I'm not a "chemist."   Just because I don't have a degree in chemistry doesn't mean I don't understand it.  That's like saying "you don't have a degree in English, so you can't speak English."  If you're immersed in something enough, you understand it and can use the knowledge you attain.  So, the controversy continues...


Confirmed: Aluminum in Crystal Deodorants IS Absorbed

This is a follow-up tidbit on the subject of Alum.  See my first article here and my second article here.

For a couple months now I've been talking about the crystal deodorants and how they still do contain aluminum even though most of them claim to be "aluminum-free."  I wrote about how crystal deodorants are made up of potassium alum, the nickname for potassium aluminum sulfate.  Once the potassium alum is wetted, as one would do using a crystal deodorant, it dissolves into ionic aluminum.  Ionic aluminum is the smallest form of aluminum possible.  My argument is that if larger molecules such as aluminum chlorohydrate pose a health risk by absorption, aluminum ions would as well.  Although I found a number of empirical studies that would suggest ionic aluminum is absorbed through the skin, I had yet to find a direct study stating that aluminum ions are absorbed through the skin.  Today I am glad to say, I found the research.

A French study published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research explored the effects of aluminum ions on collagen.  As stated in the study's introduction, "Heavy metal ions are capable of inducing crosslinking between peptide chains of collagen.  The metal ions improve the capacity of collagen to resist denaturization as well as the attack by enzymes, bacteria, and chemical agents." [p 1339]  In other words, metal ions have been found to stabilize collagen.  This is a process that is used in the leather-making industry (known as "tanning" hides) and in some medical devices/products. 

Chromium salts were already well-known to be a good collagen stabilizing agent at the time of the study.  The purpose of the study was to find if aluminum ions, as found in aluminum salts, had the same collagen stabilizing effects, and could be used in the same way industrially to tan hides and to create collagen-based medical materials. 

The researchers treated collagen with aluminum ions and found that it became significantly dehydrated.  They concluded that "the substitution of water molecules by aluminum ions on intramolecular hydrophilic sites is suggested to be responsible for this evolution." In other words, the aluminum ions substituted the water molecules in the collagen, thus drying it out.  This may explain why alum has a drying effect on skin-- as it robs the collagen of its moisture, aluminum ions replacing  water molecules.

The researchers studied the effects of aluminum ions on both extracted collagen and skin tissue.  The aluminum ions were found to affect the collagen in the skin samples.  Thus, we can ascertain that the aluminum ions were absorbed into the skin at some level.  The deodorant companies' claims that their aluminum molecules are "too large to be absorbed through the skin" are thus disproven. 

Aluminum ions, as found in crystal deodorants, are absorbed through skin, and do have a biological reaction therein. 


100% Pure Responds to Honeysuckle Extract Claims; Mudslinging Ensues.

Ah, the debate rages on about Honeysuckle Extract. 100% Pure has responded to your questions on their Facebook page.  Readers have asked them about honeysuckle extract and parahydroxy benzoic acid (for the original article, click here.)  This is my response to them.  Their original comments are on a thread on their facebook page.  Out of respect, I have responded here, instead of on their facebook page. 

They write:

"The japanese Honeysuckle Extract is a controversial ingredient-"

My response:

If it's controversial, then why use it?

They write:

"Of course with any other company that posts any other article, there is of course going to be some sort of bias to it, espesially since there it is controversial."

My response:

I'm really not biased against 100% Pure. If it was my mission to bring down 100% Pure, I wouldn't be recommending some of their products in the article I wrote about mineral makeups.

They write:

"We do NOT put ANY sort of chemicals, parabens of ANY sort in ANY of our products."

My response:

This is not true. By "chemicals" I'm assuming you mean synthetic chemicals.  (Everything is a chemical.)  Grapefruit seed extract is used in numerous 100% Pure products. It is a synthetic ingredient. I don't count something that's treated with ammonium chloride and hydrochloric acid to be a natural extract. (For more on this, read this article) Technically you're correct in stating that your product doesn't contain parabens, however, that's only a technicality (see this article.)

They write:

"We welcome you to do your own research. The owner an CEO of the company has many revolutionary patents under her belt for the oraganic cosmetic industry."

My response:

I agree. Everyone should do their own research. But however many patents 100% Pure and its owners have, it doesn't negate the fact that there is Japanese Honeysuckle Extract in the product.

They write:

A great place to start would be chemist Dr. Barbara Olioso's website:

My response:

That's an interesting article, but it doesn't apply to 100% Pure. That's an article specifically about the extract that Dr. Olisio uses in her line of products. She has verified through third-party lab testing that her extract contains no parahydroxy benzoic acid. 100% Pure has not. In fact, to the contrary. I have in writing from Suzie Wang that 100% Pure's extract contains an ingredient that has the "same chemical structure as parabens." (See this article) In other words, parahydroxy benzoic acid.

They write:

"We here at 100% Pure are passionate and committed to making the best product out there with all organic products."

My response:

100% Pure does have some good products.  But for clarity's sake, they are not USDA certified organic....because Grapefruit Seed Extract, Japanese Honeysuckle Extract and other ingredients they use are not allowed in certified organic products.

They write:

"To everyone following a woman named "Stephanie" at Bumble and Bee- she is not the "go to" person in the world of organic cosmetics- whatever she says does not go. she is NOT the foremost expert in the world of organic skincare and cosmetics.

My response:

I don't know why my name is in quotes, as though it's not really my name...but, okay... I agree--everyone should do their own research. I'm just one resource.  I am an ingredient, research, and development expert, but I don't think there's one person that is the foremost expert in the field of organic skincare.

They write:

"She is welcome to her opinion- she is NOT, however, welcome to defame other companies. We welcome everyone to do their own research in regards to the ingredients in question."

My response:

I don't know what your definition of "defaming" is.  I'm simply bringing scientific studies and research to the eyes of the public about one ingredient.  I just wrote a list of companies who use the ingredient.  That is all.  If anything that I've written is untrue, please let me know. I'm happy to write a retraction if your extract doesn't contain parahydroxy benzoic acid, or if you've found a study that concludes that parahydroxy benzoic acid doesn't act estrogenically, or even if you know anything about its absorption.  Any kind of third-party information you can provide in defense of the ingredient, I will publish. 

They write:

"The rumors about the Japanese honeysuckle extract are based on an article by Tony Dweck on Personal Care Magazine, entitled "An update on natural preservatives". In this article it is stated that the Japanese honeysuckle extract contains parahydroxy benzoic acid, nick named a natural paraben (as a chemist we do not agree with that because it is an acid and not an ester like the parabens."

My response:

So, this again verifies that the honeysuckle extract you use doescontain parahydroxy benzoic acid, as you're coming to its defense. So, what do you say to this study that states:

 "It can be concluded that removal of the ester group from parabens does not abrogate its oestrogenic activity and that p-hydroxybenzoic acid can give oestrogenic responses in human breast cancer cells."

This is a study published in a peer-reviewed journal, not just the opinion of a chemist. Yes, synthetic parabens are more estrogenic, but it has been proven that parahydroxy benzoic acid does display estrogenic activity.  And it's not because of the ester group. 

They write:

"i really dont understand why you are defaming every company out there- your argument has no basis."

My response:

My argument has a solid basis.  For the benefit of your company, I would suggest you truly read the articles, understand the issue, and respond to the claims directly.   Also, there's no defamation going on.  I simply made a list of companies that use this ingredient.  This is already publicly available information from their websites and the Cosmetics Database.  I also wasn't the first one to write about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.  The debate started on the Organic Consumers Association website, here over a year ago. 

They write:

"I have explained to you that we have a patent which preserves our formulas. No added ingredients. First of its kind."

My response:

No added ingredients? What does that even mean? We're not talking about patents, we're talking about one ingredient that you use: Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.

They write:

One more thing- you have to look at this not only from a consumer's standpoint but from a PROFESSIONAL'S standpoint, AKA, a CHEMIST who does the research themselves- we dont just sit here and research articles written by others. We DO the research ourselves. in a LAB. Please don't forget, we too, are also consumers. We wouldn't want to put anything harmful on our bodies. There are many CHEMISTS out there who have come to the same conclusion-

My response:

You're deflecting the issue. Have you studied the estrogenic effects of parahydroxy benzoic acid? Other chemists have? Let's see the research. I'll be happy to post it here. I've offered that to you before.

The bottom line:

It does not seem as though 100% Pure has done their own research on the topic as they advised their customers to do. All of their responses seem to just be cut and pasted from Dr. Olisio's blog or to be deflecting the issue and being defensive. They haven't found or done any studies to discredit those that I bring to the forefront. They haven't stated that their extract doesn't contain parahydroxy benzoic acid. They haven't responded to my research and seem to skirt around the issue in a defensive manner.

I do think that 100% Pure has done a lot for the cosmetics industry; I don't deny that. They have some wonderful products and I commend Suzie Wang for her pioneering work. It pains me to be going back and forth in this debate with them. However, I cannot deny the research that I've found. As someone who has been personally affected by xenoestrogens in personal care products, I feel it is my mission to educate people about the ingredients they're putting on their skin and in their bodies. Unfortunately, "Japanese Honeysuckle Extract" is one of them.