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Customer & member questions. This is a public forum. Your questions help all of us!

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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.

    Tuesday
    Mar082011

    Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine

    Today's Chemical:

    Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine (aka, coco hydroxysulfaine).

    EWG Hazard Score:

    0

    What is it:

    Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is similar to cocamidopropyl betaine. It is a synthetic detergent used also as a foam booster, thickener, and anti-static agent. 

    What are it's risks:

    Like cocamidopropyl betaine, it can be a strong skin allergen. (Source)

    Steph's Opinion:

    There is only ONE published study regarding the safety of this ingredient.  The MSDS sheet is also not made public. Although the database scores it as a 0, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe--it's just means that there is no data on the ingredient. So, while it doesn't have a history of being harmful, it also doesn't have a history of being safe.  If you have skin sensitivies, eczema, reactions, and such, I would personally suggest avoiding this ingredient. 

    Monday
    Feb282011

    Phenoxyethanol

    Today's Chemical:

    Phenoxyethanol

    EWG Risk Score:

    4

    What is it:

    Phenoxyethanol is an aromatic ether alcohol. What does this mean? This ingredient starts out as phenol, a toxic white crystalline powder that's created from benzene (a known carcinogen) and then is treated with ethylene oxide (also a known carcinogen) and an alkalai.

    What's its job as an ingredient:

    Phenoxyethanol is commonly used in the ingredient listed as "fragrance" and also used as a preservative.

    What Type of Products is it in:

    Sunscreen, facial products, scrubs, moisturizers, body wash, mascara

    Safety/Hazard Info:

    • This animal study found phenoxyethanol to be a reproductive toxin.  (Source)
    • This study found it to be the cause of contact dermatitis (skin allergen/irritant.)  (Source)
    • This review confirms phenoxyethanol as a reproductive toxin.  (Source)
    • This also confirms phenoxyethanol as an ovarian toxin not just for the original animal exposed to it, but shown to effect the development of its offspring.  (Source)
    • This study found it to be a significant contact allergen.  (Source)

    Steph's Opinion:

    Made out of carcinogenic and toxic compounds, phenoxyethanol is an ingredient that I would suggest avoiding. Oftentimes it's found in "natural" products. They'll use phenoxyethanol as the preservative and then tout that they're "paraben-free." In addition it's commonly used as a fragrance ingredient. Many of the natural companies still use synthetic fragrance. They'll tout that they're "phthalate-free" but still contain phenoxyethanol. So, just because something's "phlalate-free" or "paraben-free" doesn't mean it's safe. Any time you see "fragrance" listed, phenoxyethanol could be present, along with any number of harmful synthetic chemicals. Phenoxyethanol is structurally similar to parabens on a chemical level, so its toxicity to the reproductive system is not surprising.  

    Also note: some companies may claim that their phenoxyethanol is extracted from natural sources.  So, while this is better because it lessens the risk for ethylene oxide contamination, it is still the same chemical structurally, and would pose the same risks. 


    Friday
    Jan212011

    Sorbitan Olivate

    Today's Chemical:

    Sorbitan Olivate

    EWG Risk Score:

    0

    What is it:

    Sorbitan is a mild surfactant and emulsifier made from sorbitol and olive oil.

    What are its risks:

    Sorbitan olivate is a relativeley new chemical on the market, so there is not much published data on the ingredient.  According to MSDS sheets, however, it is over 90% biodegradeable, defined as non-toxic and non-irritant. 

    Steph's Opinion:

    I have worked with this ingredient before and it actually is a synthetic that I would consider to be safe.  I would consider this to be a better alternative to "vegetable emulsifying wax," which is full of ethoxylated compounds (you can read more about that here.)

    Monday
    Jan102011

    Glucose Oxidase

    Today's Chemical:

    Glucose Oxidase

    EWG Risk Score:

    2

    What is it:

    Glucose Oxidase is actually an enzyme that's naturally present in honey and even on the surface of some fungi.  Glucose oxidase works as a preservative by releasing hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to bacteria.  (Source)  It is typically used with lactose peroxidase for full preservative effect in a cosmetic formulation.

    Safety Info:

    • According to MSDS sheets, it is an eye irritant, a skin irritant a lung irritant and "prolonged or repeated exposure may lead to irreversible damage to health." (Source)  However, this may not be an accurate risk asessment, as this information applies to the pure powder.  Concentrations of glucose oxidase in a cosmetic formula would be much lower, and thus the risks would be as well. 
    • Toxilogical data for Glucose Oxidase is highly lacking. Here is a screen shot of one MSDS sheet:


    As you can see, "no data available" seems to be a theme with this ingredient. 

    Steph's Opinion:

    I view this ingredient somewhat with caution because of its lack of safety data, and wouldn't recommend it for someone with extremely sensitive skin.  I also find it somewhat concerning because it creates hydrogen peroxide, which creates free radicals on the skin.  (Source)  However, this would be in very small amounts, and the effects may be negated by other ingredients.  But it is still a concerning effect. 

     

    Sunday
    Jan092011

    Parabens

    Todays Chemical:

    Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, benzylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben)

    What is it:

    Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in lotions, conditioners, shampoos, shower gels, deodorants, etc. 

    Safety/Hazard Data:

    • Although the results have been hotly debated, parabens have been found to accumulate in breast cancer tissue. (Source)  [Critics of this study claim that the samples tested were contaminated during the study.]
    • Parabens are suspected to raise levels of estrogen by interfering with the enzyme that flushes estrogen from the body. This enzyme is found in the skin, lessening counterarguments that parabens are not absorbed in to the body enough to be problematic. (Source)
    • Parabens are absorbed in to the body.  In one study of Danish men, "methyl-, ethyl-, n-propyl- and n-butyl parabens were measurable in 98%, 80%, 98% and 83% of the men, respectively." (Source)  An American study found methyparaben in 99.1% of the study samples.  Women had significantly higher concentrations of parabens, likely due to higher use of personal care products.  Older women had even higher concentrations, likely due to higher absorption rates due to a thinner skin barrier.  (Source)  Another study in Denmark found that urinary concentrations of parabens increased after application of a paraben-containing cream, furthering the evidence that parabens applied dermally are absorbed.  (Source)
    • The European Journal of Cancer Prevention reported that “Frequency and earlier onset of antiperspirant/deodorant usage with underarm shaving were associated with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis.” It is possible that the parabens (and other chemicals) in the antiperspirant are to blame for this.

    What type of products is it found in:

    Any water-based formula--conditioner, shampoo, body washes, lotions, hair creams, makeups.

    Brands that use this ingredient:

    Biore

    Desert Essence

    Peter Thomas

    Derma Pro

    Revlon

    Estee Lauder

    For a full list, click here: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/browse.php?containing=703937

    Steph's Opinion:

    Over the last few years the EWG hazard score of this ingredient has crept from a 4 to an 8.  It seems like the evidence keeps piling up against parabens.  The good news is that a lot of companies are reformulating their products without parabens because the word is getting out.  The bad news is, though, that they're just replacing parabens with other harmful preservatives like diazolidinyl urea and tetrasodium EDTA. 

    For more detailed information about the parabens debate, check out my article here.