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Friday
Feb012013

Volcanic Minerals?

Q: 

Hi Stephanie,

The new body shop deodorant "DeoDry" claims to use "volcanic minerals" to absorb & evaporate sweat, keeping you dry. Despite it being aluminum & paraben free, it contains a host of harmful chemicals. For this reasom I would never use it, I'm just wondering if this whole volcanic minerals thing is for real? How would it stop you from sweating? Is it safe?

Thanks! Ama L.

A: 
Thanks for your question, Ama!  It looks like the "volcanic minerals" they're talking about is perlite. It's kind of an iron-based clay that doesn't really pose a risk as-used. (Perhaps if you inhaled the dust, but that's not an issue with this product.) It will work to an extent to absorb moisture, but it's not going to keep you from sweating.  (This product is considered a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant.)  Just for kicks, let's take a look at what else is in this deodorant:
Propylene Glycol, Water, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Ceteth-20, Perlite, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Alcohol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Limonene, Eucalyptus Radiata Leaf Oil, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Oil, Citral, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Cymbopogon Flexuosus Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Oil, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil, Linalool, Eugenol, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Bud Oil, Satureia Montana Oil, Geraniol.
 
Propylene Glycol is the first ingredient here.  Propylene glycol is an irritant, penetration enhancer, and suspected neutrotoxin. (Read more here.)

 

Ceteth-20 and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil are both ethoxylated chemicals. This means they've been created using the carcinogen ethylene oxide, traces of which can remain in the product, along with its carcinogenic by-product 1,4-dioxane. 

"Fragrance" is a blanket term for anything on a list of over 2000 different chemicals, including neurotoxins, endocrine-disrupting phthalates, allergens and more. (Read more Here.)

So, despite it not containing aluminum, it looks like this product has quite a few problematic ingredients not just at the end of the list, but that comprise the bulk of the formula! 
Thursday
Jan312013

Wen

Q. Hi Stephanie,

What do you think about Wen Cleansing Conditioner?

Amanda P.

A. 

Thanks for your question! Wen is marketed as a natural choice that's better for your hair. Let's take a look at the ingredients and see if it's really a natural and healthy choice:

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydrolyzed Wheat, Protein, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 60, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Amodimethicone, Citric Acid, Menthol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance (Parfum, Limonene.)

Polysorbate 6 and PEG-60 are both ethoxylated chemicals. This means they've been created using the carcinogen ethylene oxide, traces of which can remain in the product, along with its carcinogenic by-product 1,4-dioxane. 

Behentrimonium methosulfate is a quaternary ammonium compound. These "quats" are known to be endocrine disruptors, skin irritants, and toxic to aquatic life.  (You can read more here.)

Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone are known neurotoxins, developmental toxins and contact allergens. One study states: "Prolonged exposure to low levels of MIT and related compounds may have damaging consequences to the developing nervous system." (Read more here.)

"Fragrance" is a blanket term for anything on a list of over 2000 different chemicals, including neurotoxins, endocrine-disrupting phthalates, allergens and more. (Read more here.)

Amodimethicone is a silicone-based conditioning agent similar to dimethicone. There is not much available information about amodimethicone, however dimethicone is a suspected reproductive toxin, skin irritant, tumor inducer (in animal studies), and bioaccumulative. (Read more here.) 

So, the bottom line here is that yes, it does have some natural extracts and ingredients, but it's far from all natural and contains some potentially harmful ingredients.  

Tuesday
Jan222013

Children's Product

Q. Hi, I was hoping you could answer my question regarding the safety fo the following ingredients:

Glycerin USP
Petrolatum USP
Distearyldimonium Chloride
Isopropyl Palmitate
Cetyl Alcohol
Dimethicone
Allantoin
Benzyl Alcohol
Parfum

Primarily I would like to know the safety of these items in something that would be used on the skin daily by my children.

Sigrid

A. Sure thing!  Here is a quick analysis of these ingredients.

Glycerin USP
Doesn't pose a health risk.  

Petrolatum USP
This is petroleum jelly. Can contain harmful impurities, like polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are carcinogens. 

Distearyldimonium Chloride
This is a quatnerary ammonium compound, about which you can read here.

Isopropyl Palmitate
Doesn't pose a threat from current information available.

Cetyl Alcohol
Can be a skin irritant.

Dimethicone
You can read more about dimethicone here.

Allantoin
Doesn't appear to pose a threat from current information available. 

Benzyl Alcohol
You can read more about benzyl alcohol here.

Parfum 
aka "fragrance" it can contain anything from a list of over 2000 chemicals, including neurotoxins and endocrine-disrupting phthalates.   

Tuesday
Dec132011

Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose

Q.  What do you think of sodium carboxymethylcellulose? The MSDS says it can be a skin and eye irritant. Is this a no go in a shampoo?

-Charlotte via Facebook

A. Sodium carboxymethylcellulose is the sodium salt of carboxymethyl cellulose, aka, cellulose gum. It is a synthetic deriviative of cellulose (wood pulp.)  It's used as a thickener and stabilizer in cosmetics and foods.  It does not appear to be a carcinogen, xenoestrogen, neurotoxin, or developmental toxin based on current available, albeit limited, safety data. It can trigger allergies in certain prone individuals, and at full strength will irritate skin or eyes.  If the powder is inhaled in large quantities it can cause lung irritation, as any powder would. 

Due to the manufacturing process of this ingredient, trace to moderate amounts amounts of sodium glycolate can be present in the finished ingredient. (Source) Sodium glycolate, when used in a leave on product like a makeup, can cause skin cell damage when exposed to UV light.  (Source) However, used in a rinse-off product, diluted highly, as would be in a shampoo, as long as you didn't have a personal allergy to it, I would consider this to be a minimal risk ingredient. 

Tuesday
Oct112011

Monoi Oil

Q. What about monoi oil? Is it as good as they say it is?

-Sally via Facebook

A.  That's a great question, Sally!

True monoi oil is made by soaking gardenia flowers in coconut oil.  Over time the compounds are released from the flowers and in to the oil.  The main compound that gives monoi oil its skin soothing powers is methyl salicylate, the same compound found in wintergreen oil and icy hot patches.  Topical overapplication of products containing methyl salicylate have resulted in death.  (Source) It can be safe at low doses, but I would suggest using caution with this product.  I would also suggest avoiding it during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Imitation monoi oils can be made artifically by adding methyl salicylate to an oil along with other fragrances and compounds.  So, ask if it's a true monoi oil, how it was made, and for its full ingredients list.  But keep in mind that natural monoi oils may not be safer than imitation oils.