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There are tens of thousands of chemicals in our everyday personal care products, many of which pose serious health threats.  Xenoestrogens, respiratory toxins, neurotoxins.  We do our own independent research on every chemical that we post so you have the latest information available.

Friday
Apr092010

Vaseline Sheer Infusion

A beautiful commercial that's so inspiring it almost gives you chills, doesn't it?  Well, let's take a look at Vaseline Sheer Infusion and see exactly what they're "infusing" in to your body's largest organ.

Water is the first ingredient.  The product is probably 70 to 80 percent water.  Sure, it's going to give you a nice hydrating feeling when you first put it on, but most of that water will evaporate, and cause you to feel like you need more lotion.  Additionally, because of the water, they have to use lots of preservatives to keep the formula from growing mold and bacteria. 

Fragrance  In the middle of the list is "parfum."  Because it's in the middle of the list, we can tell it contains a high amount of synthetic fragrance.   "Fragrance" or "parfum" can be a combination of a number of over 3000 chemicals, so you really don't know what chemicals you're dealing with.  The largest concern with "fragrance" is that it can contain high amounts of estrogen-mimicking compounds called phlalates.  In addition to throwing off the body's delicate hormonal balance, many phlalate compounds are suspected or known carcinogens.   

Phenoxyethanol a preservative that's potentially an estrogen mimicker. 

PEG-12 Short for polyethylene glycol, PEG is an ethoxylated compound, meaning it was synthesized using the known carcinogen ethylene oxide.  Products containing PEGs can contain traces of this chemical and its carcinogenic by-product, 1,4-dioxane. 

Methylparaben and Propylparaben are known estrogen mimickers that can disrupt hormone function in the body and are being studied for their link to breast and other reproductive cancers. 

Full ingredients list:

Agua. Glycerin, Isopropylmyristate, Dihydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Tapioca Starch, Dimethicone, Triethyl Citrate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Mineral Water/Eau Minerale, Parfum, Cyclopentasiloxane, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-12, Dimethicone, Cetyl Palmitate, Sorbitan Olivate, Sorbitan Palmitate, Dimethiconol, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

The bottom line is that no matter how many millions of marketing dollars they put behind it, no matter how nice the product may feel on your skin, Vaseline Sheer Infusion is a chemical cocktail of potentially estrogen-mimicking compounds with compounds that may have traces of carcinogens. 

Because all water-based lotions have the problem of needing preservatives, we recommend natural or certified organic lotions with no water, such as these:

Bubble & Bee Organic Body Butta

Trillium Organics Organic Body Butter

Nature's Shea  (Shea butters only, not their liquid lotions)

Oracle Organics

 

Thursday
Mar182010

BHT (Butylated Hydroxy Tolulene)

Today's Chemical:

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytolulene)

What is it:

A fat-soluble anti-oxidant and preservative in foods, cosmetics, and industrial compounds.

Why it's a risk:

  • When the body metabolizes BHT, it creates free radicals in your body that can create damage to cell's DNA (Source, Source)  
  • One study found that it works both to promote and inhibit tumors, depending on what other chemicals are present in the body. (Source)
  • Is known to be an estrogen mimicker.  (Source)
  • Is known to penetrate the skin (Source)
  • Carries a small risk of skin sensitization or allergic reaction (Source)

Types of products it's in:

Lipstick, eyeshadow, lip gloss, foundation, moisturizers, lip balm

A few brands that use BHT:

ColoreScience

Neutrogena

Degree

Irish Spring

Dial

Revlon

L'occtane

Cover Girl

Pysicians Formula

Steph's Opinion:

Some ingredients I'm kind of on the fence about.  This is not one of them.  This is definitely an ingredient that I personally avoid, especially because of its risk of being a xenoestrogen, because it's fat soluble, and because it's proven to be absorbed through the skin.

Thursday
Mar182010

Sodium Benzoate

Today's Chemical:

Sodium Benzoate

EWG Risk Score:

2

What is it:

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative.

Safety Info:

  • Known to be a neurotoxin to aquatic animals.  (Source)
  • Is toxic/lethal at high doses in humans.  (Source)
  • Animal studies have shown some developmental abnormalities (Source)
  • Rats and mice given moderate doses of sodium benzoate showed decreased weight and some endocrine disruption (Source) however, at low doeses there were no effects.
  • Animal studies have shown it to be toxic to the liver at moderate doses (Source)
  • When combined with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or citric acid, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen.  This is a common problem in soft drinks. 
  • One study found that sodium benzoate created free radicals in the body, destorying mitochondrial DNA, adding to the body's aging process.  (Source)

Type of products it's in:

Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face and body lotions, mouthwash

Some Brands that use this ingredient:

MyChelle

Oblige by Nature

Kiss my Face

Jason

Aveeno

Alba

Steph's Opinon:

I am somewhat wary of this ingredient, however, after sifting through hundreds of studies, I haven't found much evidence that it acts that way.  It seems as though the body is able to break it down easily and flush out of the system.  Studies have deemed it safe as used in cosmetic applications because it's used in small amounts.  However, some people may be sensitive to it, and if you are hormonally sensitive or imbalanced, I would limit your exposure as much as you can.   Additionally, make sure that there is no Vitamin C present with it, as it can form the carcinogen benzene in its presence.    The bottom line is, avoid it if you can, but if you can't find a safer alternative, it's safe in limited amounts.  In foods, definitely avoid it.  If you've eaten something with vitamin C, and then eat something with sodium benzoate, it can create benzene in your body. 

Friday
Feb122010

Dimethylethanolamine (Dimethyl MEA)

Today's Chemical:

Dimethylethanolamine

EWG Risk Score:

4

What is it:

pH adjuster; 

Why is it a risk:

Strong evidence of immune and respiratory toxicity.  Also a possible skin irritant.

Types of products it's found in:

Facial moisturizer, toner, sunscreen, make up, eye cream

A few brands that use this ingredient:

Eve Organics

Ecco Bella

derma e

Neutrogena

Zia

Dr. Michelle

Steph's Opinion:

Although it's not the worst chemical out there, it is something that I would personally avoid.  I would especially recommend avoiding it if you're chemically sensitive, have sensitive skin, or have a weakened immune system.

 

Tuesday
Feb022010

Polysorbate 20

Today's Chemical:

Polysorbate 20

EWG Risk Score:

1   (Steph's risk score: 5)

What is it?

Polysorbate-20 is fragrance component, a surfactant, an emulsifying agent, and a solubilizing agent.   

Why is it a risk?

Polysorbate starts out as harmless sorbitol, but then it's treated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide.  It's called Polysorbate 20 because it's treated with 20 "parts" of ethylene oxide.  The higher the number, the more ethylene oxide it has been treated with.  This substance is then combined with various fatty acids.  The Skin Deep Database rates it as only a "one," and doesn't pick up on the risk that it could be contaminated with ethylene oxide, and subsequently, 1,4 dioxane.  In addition, it can be laced with heavy metals.

Types of products it's found in:

Facial cleanser, body wash, toners, moisturizer

A Few Brands that use this ingredient:

Kid Kare

Afterglow Cosmetics

Daisy Blue

emerginC

Lotus Moon

derma e

Kiss My Face

EO

Terra Firma

Alba

Steph's Opinion:

Although it's derived from a natural ingredient, it is not natural--it is an ethoxylated compound.  This is another case in point proving that you need to do your own research and not just count on the EWG risk score, as there are many ingredients that can slip through the cracks.