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Monday
Jun242013

Are Vegan Products Safer?

Taba Asks: 

I use the India product line from I.C.O.N., specifically the shampoo and conditioner. On their bottle, they indicate that it's vegan. I emailed them asking to confirm that these products were certified organic and contains no chemicals. They confirmed that this is accurate. I would greatly value your opinion. 

Answer:

Just because a product is vegan, doesn't make it safe, natural, or organic.  Sometimes when we think of vegan cosmetics/personal care products, we imagine that it's all made up of vegetables.  That somehow some kale was turned in to a puree, some essential oils added and now it's a shampoo.  But when a product is labeled as "vegan" all that simply means is that there are no animal-derived ingredients.  Petroleum isn't an animal by-product, so, technically it's "vegan."  Petroleum-derived "fragrance" and coal-tar derived artificial colors are "vegan" too.  "Vegan" doesn't mean it's all vegetable-based, just simply absent from animal-derived ingredients.  

So, let's look at one of the products in question, the I.C.O.N. India shampoo. They don't list their full ingredients on their website (our first red flag here.) But I found them listed elsewhere:

Water, sodium cocoyl isethionate, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, acrylates, crosspolymer, cetearyl alcohol, ceteareth-20, moringa oleifera seed extract, shea butter, panethenol, hydrolyzed soy protein, rice amino acids, spirulina, fragrance. 

Ceteareth-20 is an ethoxylated chemical, meaning that it's created with the carcinogen ethylene oxide, traces of which can remain in the product, along with its carcinogenic by-product 1,4-dioxane. 

Fragrance can be anything from a list of over 3000 different chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting phthalates, neurotoxins, petrochemicals, and allergens.  

Acrylates are plastics known to be strong irritants and allergens.  

Sodium cocoyl isethionate and sodium methyl cocoyl taurate are mild detergents, however, they're new chemicals to the market and not much else is known about them.  While they don't have any known health effects, they are hardly organic as you state the manufacturer claims.  

So, while there may be a couple of natural ingredients in the shampoo, and it may be vegan, it's hardly even natural. (See my definition of natural here.) If they have claimed that their product is organic, either they're blatantly lying or don't understand what organic really means.  

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Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for the great article. I would also like to add that just because something is "natural" doesn't mean that it is good for you. On this wonderful earth there are plenty of naturally toxic (poison) plants that can harm you via ingestion or topically.

I think in the world we live in today where corporations are selling products just to make money without a care for who they harm, it is more than ever a "buyer beware" market. We must do our own research, and really that empowers us to take responsibility for our own health. Just my humble opinion, Ha, as humble as an opinion can be anyway. Thank you.

Tue, June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Stephanie,
Thank you so so much for clarifying this. My wife is really into "Natural Products" and is not a bio-chemist, nor am I. When she tells me "Eat this, it's good for you", I usually cringe. Now I can show her that doing a little more due diligence is needed before I swallow something or put it on my body just to keep peace in my house. I've shared this article with her, if you don't hear back from me for a while, it's because my wifi does not reach to the dog house :)
Greg

Tue, June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Stephanie, if possible, I'd like to know how "safe" the Yes products are. They claim on their label to be 99.8% safe on the shower gel & shampoo. Also, Burt's Bees.

My daughter thinks these are good products, but I'm trying to get her to switch to yours. But, she doesn't like paying shipping when she can get these other two products over the counter. I think I can convince her if these other products aren't what they claim to be.

Thank you!

Wed, June 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterToni

Stephanie, thank so s much for writing about this. I've been vegan for three years, but have learned about chemicals in personal care products way before that. And I agree that although a product is labeled vegan, it doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't contain the bad stuff. We still need to read labels and question anything that we can't pronounce.

Wed, June 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMidge

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