Vaseline is a very traditional ingredient in cosmetics that has become a baddie in recent years. The popularity of Vaseline is based on its versatility and cheap price. A jar of Vaseline was found in every home few years back. Vaseline was considered a miracle cure for almost all skin problems. Squeaky hinges, bicycle chains, and the machinery of cars and other equipment were all treated by Vaseline. The properties of Vaseline made it a miracle thing that no one could survive without. Why has the original multi-purpose product become a baddie of cosmetics?
What is Vaseline?
Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, was invented as early as the late 19th century. An American chemist, Robert Chesebrough patented a method of making Vaseline in 1872. Chesebrough started Vaseline production for all possible skin problems. Today, the Vaseline brand is owned by Unilever.
Vaseline is made from crude oil, the same substance as gasoline and diesel fuels. It is refined gasoline. Vaseline is not a natural cosmetic ingredient but a completely synthetic product. Unrefined crude oil is toxic and harmful when applied to the skin. Vaseline to be intended as a skin care product is rectified carefully. This is to ensure that no harmful chemicals remain in the product. Unfortunately, there are huge differences in the quality of Vaseline. All the products are not refined.
Vaseline is not environmentally friendly due to its fossil origin.
Why is Vaseline harmful to the skin?
Vaseline is made from crude oil by refining. The crude oil is very dark brown in colour. The crude oil must be purified very well before it will become pure white, translucent Vaseline. Very often PAH residues from crude oil can be found in the final product. PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are toxic compounds. Many PAHs cause cancer and mutations. PAHs are not biodegradable. They are really hard to remove from the soil.
Because vaseline requires a very intensive purification process, it becomes very contaminated. Vaseline classified as pure may contain residues of chemicals harmful to humans.
Vaseline clogs the pores and prevents the skin from breathing. It is not absorbed into the skin but remains as a film on the surface of the skin. Vaseline does not belong to the skin’s natural lipids or fats. It is a completely foreign compound to the skin.
Vaseline is used to protect the skin from drying out. Vaseline is said to lock moisture into the skin by forming a thin film on the surface of the skin. Unfortunately, Vaseline also prevents the skin from getting moisture from the air. The skin dries under the fatty Vaseline layer. Vaseline prevents the skin from functioning normally.
Vaseline may help dry skin the first time you apply it. After a few times of using it, you will find that your skin gets used to Vaseline and needs more of it. This is really easy to notice for lip balms.
Did you know that Vaseline is highly flammable? It ignites as easily as gasoline. this product is not ideal for skin care. In addition, you cannot remove Vaseline from towels or bedclothes in a 30-degree Celsius wash. If your towels become contaminated with Vaseline and paraffin residue, they are highly flammable.
Why is Vaseline so famous?
First of all, Vaseline is very cheap. Price is often the only reason why Vaseline is included in the product.
The Vaseline trademark is owned by Unilever. Unilever is a global multi-billion-dollar company that wants to protect its production efficiently. If you search for information about Vaseline, you will find a great many articles praising Vaseline. The text criticizing Vaseline is really hard to find. In this way, Unilever secures the market for its products.
Vaseline is very stable. It is not oxidized or rancid like vegetable oils. Vaseline lasts long enough in the product without spoiling. This raw material is a cosmetics manufacturer’s dream.
Refined Vaseline is a very neutral product. Many people with allergies prefer Vaseline because they cannot use vegetable oils. This is why Vaseline is also used in eczema and other medicated creams. Vaseline is also used in products designed for babies precisely because of its nature.
In which products is Vaseline used?
Vaseline is still a very common ingredient in all cosmetics. Unfortunately, the most popular Vaseline is in baby creams. If you want to find Vaseline, you should look at creams specifically designed for babies.
Pharmasy emulsion creams contains often Vaseline and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, SLS. Vaseline and SLS makes a white, creamy and permanent emulsion. The product looks attractive and creamy but the truth is different. The combination of SLS and Vaseline is lousy when treating dry skin. Cream like this, just unnecessarily dries the skin more. In addition, SLS has been found to thin the skin, especially in long-term use.
Vaseline is also found in lipstick. Up to 15% of all lipsticks contain Vaseline or paraffin. Lip balms also often contain mineral oils. Think about why you can always add lip balm and your lips just seem to dry out more.
Candles are often paraffin-based. When the candle burns, you inhale toxic fumes. Choose a soy wax candle or a beeswax candle. For example, the Candel Light Story sells authentic soy wax candles.
Vaseline is found in products under a wide variety of names such as
- Mineral oil
- Petroleum Jelly
- White soft paraffin
- Mineral oil
- Liquidum Paraffinum
Look for better alternatives to Vaseline
No one needs to use Vaseline. You will very easily find so many natural alternatives to crude oil-based cosmetics.
There are really many options for natural skin care and moisturizing. All natural waxes and vegetable butter are very safe and nourishing the skin. At the same time, they retain moisture in the skin but do not prevent the skin from absorbing more moisture from the air.
For example, try the following ingredients in your own cosmetics
- Candelilla wax
- Rice bran wax
- Carnauba wax
- Jojoba oil (liquid wax)
- Castor oil
- Coconut oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Baobab oil
Vaseline should be avoided in all cosmetics
Vaseline feels like a very harmless product. After all, it has always been available in Grandma’s chest. However, the disadvantages of Vaseline have been noticed quite recently. The German consumer organization Siftung Warentest, which has studied cosmetics containing mineral oil, has already found that it contains the most MOAH substances, the toxic hydrocarbons that cause cancer. Based on the results, Siftung Warentest warns using lip products specifically containing mineral oils. Vaseline has not yet been banned by EU food authorities, but MOAH substances are acknowledged to be carcinogenic.
My own view of Vaseline is that it is not a very good product for skin care. Natural herbal butter and waxes are much more effective skin moisturizers.
Do you use mineral oil in cosmetics?
Many of you are certainly familiar with the mandatory cosmetic product ingredient list, the INCI -list. The package of each commercial cosmetic product must include a list of raw materials indicating all the ingredients contained in the product. Unfortunately, not all information can be found on INCI. There is a group of very dangerous or allergenic substances that can be left out from the list. These substances are impurities in the raw materials of cosmetics.
What are these contaminants and where do they come from? In this article, I will tell you about the seven most common ingredients hidden in cosmetics.
Nitrosamines are very harmful chemicals. They are not found in the INCI list of products because they are hidden inside other ingredients. Nitrosamines have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as potentially carcinogenic chemicals. In addition, nitrosamines have been found to cause hormonal disorders even in very small amounts.
Nitrosamines can be found in just about any cosmetic that contains preservatives. Ingredients used in the manufacture of preservatives may be contaminated with nitrosamines. Currently, 55 different chemicals that may contain nitrosamine have been studied. The most common of these substances are harmless lecithin as well as hydrogenated lecithin. That is why it is especially important to pay attention to the quality of the ingredients. High quality lecithin does not contain dangerous impurities.
Ethylene oxide is a very harmful chemical to which we are exposed quite often. Ethylene oxide is actually used in hospitals for disinfection. Ethylene oxide can be used to disinfect instruments and equipment that cannot tolerate heating. In hospitals, of course, this is important. Ethylene dioxide is also used to treat spices, seeds and beans. Ethylene oxide stops unwanted microbial growth in foods without heating. The ethylene oxide content of food is closely monitored. Sometimes we get warnings about products removed from shops due to excessive ethylene oxide content.
Ethylene oxide is a carcinogenic chemical. Excessive exposure to ethylene oxide has also caused mutagens, fertilization problems and sensitization.
Where can ethylene oxide be found in cosmetics? Synthetic emulsifiers such as polysorbate-20, polysorbate-60 and polysorbate-80 may have residues of ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide may also be found in all PEG compounds. PEGs are commonly used in cosmetics for many different purposes. You can read more about PEG compounds here.
Ethylene oxide can also end up in homemade cosmetics if you have used dried herbs (thyme, rosemary) in oil extracts. Ethylene oxide may also be present in seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. The product descriptions of herbs and seeds do not need to mention ethylene dioxide treatment. You should get all the cosmetic ingredients as organic as possible.
1,4 dioxane is a very common hidden chemical in cosmetics. From the same products where you can find ethylene dioxide, you can also find 1.4 dioxanes as they are produced in the same process. 1.4 Dioxane is most commonly found in foaming products like bath foams and shampoos. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies 1,4-dioxane as a potential carcinogen.
Cosmetic products are also tested for 1.4 dioxane. However, testing is not complete. Therefore, it is better to avoid the same PEG compounds and the above-mentioned polysorbates.
Acrylamide is classified as a human carcinogen. Acrylamide can be formed in the product when treated at high temperatures (baking). Many fried foods may therefore have high levels of acrylamide.
No maximum levels have been set for acrylamide. However, there is a recommendation to avoid acrylamide in the EU Commission legislation.
Acrylamide is found contaminated in products containing polyacrylamide, polyacrylic acid or polyquaternium-7.
Formaldehyde is recognized as a carcinogen. The European Union severely restricts the use of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is quite often found in nail polishes, hair sprays and lash adhesives. A very common source of formaldehyde is preservatives that contain formaldehyde releasers. I have written a separate article about formaldehyde. You can read it here.
Hydroquinone is a compound that can co-occur with vitamin E (tocopherol) and its derivatives. Hydroquinone can be formed in products during the manufacturing process.
Hydroquinone is classified as a harmful product. It has been shown to cause severe skin and eye burn at short-term exposure. Hydroquinone belongs to the group of dangerous chemicals. It can potentially cause cancer and potentially damage the genome. It has also been suspected of causing allergies as well as skin changes.
Hydroquinone is used creams for whitening age spots and freckles. In nature, hydroquinone is found, for example, in beeswax.
PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)
PAHs are chemicals that have been studied for decades. They have been found to cause cancer in humans. Breast cancer in particular is often associated with PAHs. PAHs can be present in both food and cosmetics.
PAHs are found in cosmetics that use crude oil, gasoline, or coal. Such products are products containing Vaseline and/or products containing coal tar. Ordinary wood tar can be used without worries. Hydrogenated palm oil also contains PAHs.
How to avoid harmful hidden chemicals?
These aforementioned impurities are just examples of compounds that have been hidden in cosmetics. Cosmetics may also contain pesticide residues and environmental toxins. In addition, the raw materials may contain other chemical residues due to the treatment.
If you want to use conventional cosmetics, watch the INCI list. Avoid products that use PEG compounds. PEGs as well as polysorbate-80 and polysorbate-20 are so common in cosmetics that they are quite unavoidable. I recommend that you choose an unscented product. Many fragrances contain incredibly harmful compounds.
The best way to avoid contaminated cosmetics is to buy and make natural cosmetics. Most of the listed chemicals are present in preservatives or fragrances that are not allowed in natural cosmetics. By choosing a natural cosmetics -quality product, you will also avoid most of the hidden chemicals in cosmetics.
Are you worried about cosmetic impurities?
Parabens are very commonly used in cosmetics. It is estimated that up to 90% of cosmetic products contain parabens. Parabens are used in cosmetic preservatives. The harmfulness of parabens has been discussed for a long time. Unfortunately, there are only few alternatives to parabens. Parabens and their avoidance is one of the main reasons why I make cosmetics myself.
This article belongs to the series “Dirty Dozen of Cosmetics”. In this series, I am taking about harmful chemicals commonly found in cosmetics. This time we take a closer look at parabens; what they are and why they are harmful.
Parabens are preservatives in cosmetics
Parabens are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. The most common parabens are ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, propyl paraben and butyl paraben.
Parabens are very effective preservatives. They are used in cosmetics, detergents and even foodstuffs. Parabens effectively inhibit the growth of bacteria and mould in various products.
In which products are parabens used?
Most water-based hygiene- and cosmetic products contain a paraben-based preservative. Parabens are not allowed in certified natural cosmetics. Parabens are also generally not used as a preservative by small non-certified natural cosmetics producers.
Parabens also occur in nature. For example, blueberry contains methyl paraben. It is blueberry’s own preservative. However, paraben levels in natural products are really low. Harmful levels of parabens are obtained from cosmetics and hygiene products such as shower soaps.
Why should parabens be avoided?
Preservatives are absolutely essential in many products. Preservatives ensure product safety. Without the preservative, the product would be spoiled in a few days. Parabens are definitely a better thing than no preservative at all.
According to official recommendations, a person can tolerate parabens 10mg / day per kilogram of body weight without a risk of getting ill. This is quite a huge amount. There are, of course, many views on this. The industry does not want to give up an effective preservative and the research results are in line with that. Once parabens have been found to be harmful in some studies, the industry immediately conducts its own study in which they are found to be completely safe. It is entirely up to the authorities what studies are relevant. That is why we consumers must be awake.
Only one paraben at a time has been used in studies on the harmfulness of parabens. In reality, products always contain several different parabens at the same time. The interaction of different parabens has not been adequately studied.
The problems of parabens also continue in nature. Paraben decomposition residues are highly toxic and harmful to both nature and humans.
Parabens are irritating and sensitizing ingredients
Parabens are very common preservatives. If you use non-natural cosmetic products bought from supermarket, it is virtually impossible to avoid them. The majority of the population is exposed to parabens on a daily basis. Although parabens are not actually allergenic, sensitization is very common. Because the body is so often exposed to parabens, paraben allergy is very common. In general, changing a cosmetic product does not help because parabens are found in almost every product. Only Natural Cosmetics does not contain parabens. Even then, you should make sure that the manufacturer uses only ingredients that are allowed in natural cosmetics. ECOCERT and COSMOS certificates are the most reliable guarantee of product quality. The products of small natural cosmetics manufacturers are quite often paraben-free but unfortunately not always.
Parabens cause hormonal disorders
The main concern for parabens is their estrogenic properties. Parabens have been classified as weak xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are substances that mimic oestrogens. Xenoestrogens are harmful to health. They interfere with hormonal function by advancing puberty. Therefore, products containing parabens intended for children should definitely be avoided. Denmark has banned parabens in products for children under 3 years of age.
Xenoestrogens increase the mucosa of the uterus, causing endometriosis. Xenoestrogens also cause a painful condition in the uterus called adenomyosis.
The effect of xenoestrogens has been studied among other things in reproduction of fish. Xenoestrogens were found to interrupt the normal development of fish genitals. The fish could no longer reproduce. Xenoestrogens also affect men’s health. It has been speculated that the decrease in sperm count in men may be due to exposure to xenoestrogens in uterus.
Some parabens are more harmful than others. It has been found that different paraben groups have varying degrees of estrogenic activity. Therefore, Isopropyl paraben, isobutyl paraben, phenyl paraben, benzyl paraben and pentyl paraben were banned by the EU decision.
Environmental hazards of parabens
Parabens are abundant in cosmetics and hygiene products such as shower soaps and shampoos. Some parabens are absorbed through the skin into the body. Most are flushed down the drain and end up in water. Parabens are relatively rapidly biodegradable. In wastewater treatment plants, parabens are either removed, chemically modified, or released into the environment with the sludge. 40-98% of parabens can be removed from wastewater. Parabens are a major environmental problem in countries where the wastewater problem has not yet been solved. Fortunately, parabens decompose rapidly in nature.
The use of shampoo and shower gel in natural water systems is a problem. Parabens and other chemicals in shampoos are harmful to fish and algae. Therefore, hair should never be washed using any kind of detergent or shampoo in a lake, river or sea. Always wash your hair in proper place and make sure the wastewater is properly treated.
The decomposition products of parabens react sensitively with chlorine
Parabens decompose relatively quickly. However, their degradation products are quite problematic. When parabens enter the sewer with wash water, they often come into contact with choral compounds. Remember that even tap water is chlorinated. Sodium hypochlorite is used in the disinfection of wastewater treatment plants. Chlorinated parabens are no longer biodegradable. They are removed with the treatment plant sludge to the fields. Chlorinated parabens in sludge will remain for a long time.
Chlorinated parabens are many times more harmful than the original parabens.
Chlorinated parabens tend to accumulate in cell membranes. Decomposition products of parabens cause, among other things, abnormal development of the foetus.
Decomposition products of parabens also cause problems for the environment. If sludge containing decomposition products of parabens is applied to fields, it is easily drained into ditches and thus into water systems. The chemical is very toxic and easily destroys various algal species.
Read more about the harmful ingredients in cosmetics
How can I avoid parabens?
As I said at the beginning, up to 90% of cosmetic products contain parabens. Preservatives must be used to make cosmetics safe. Parabens have been replaced by phenoxyethanol, for example, in cosmetics.
Learn to read the INCI list
By law, products cannot be labelled “free of parabens”. This rule was created because parabens are completely allowed to be used in the cosmetics industry. If you know INCI names, you can try to look for parabens in the ingredients of the product. There are 25 parabens in the INCI search. Parabens are easy to identify from the list of ingredients.
Use certified natural cosmetics
Eco-certified natural cosmetics do not contain parabens. For example, the prestigious ECOCERT and COSMOS standards do not allow the use of parabens in certified products. Parabens are preferred preservatives and are used in products for the masses. It is desired that the product remains usable for up to years. Natural cosmetics are more expensive because high quality and safe ingredients cost more. The shelf life of natural cosmetics is also shorter because the products do not contain strong preservatives.
No preservative will take care of your skin. All preservatives are useless or harmful. A completely preservative-free, anhydrous product is always a better option. Therefore, prefer anhydrous products whenever possible.
Anhydrous creams, butters and balms are generally preservative-free. Even bar (soap bar etc) products usually do not contain parabens. Ordinary, familiar and safe soap bar is the best alternative to liquid shower soap. Many small cosmetics manufacturers make preservative-free cosmetics by leaving the water out from the product.
Anhydrous products should always be applied to well-moisturized skin. This way they work on the skin just like products containing water.
Parabens should be taken seriously
Parabens are one of the most harmful chemicals in everyday cosmetics. So seriously consider how to replace products containing parabens in your home. Parabens are especially harmful to children.
Parabens accumulate in the skin in large amounts during the day from various products. They are found in every liquid hand soap and hand creams. If you are starting to reduce parabens, I recommend replacing your liquid soap with a bar of soap. Even a small change can make a big difference.
Are you worried about parabens?
Emulsifying wax is a very popular emulsifier in homemade cosmetics. I wanted to do this article because emulsifying wax is an unknown thing to many. The name of the substance is somehow misleading and many people think it is a natural wax like beeswax. Emulsifying wax has been used for a very long time. That is why a popular name has also been invented for it. In reality, emulsifying wax contains chemical compounds like other emulsifiers. Now, let’s find out what emulsifying wax actually contains.
Emulsifying wax; what is it?
An emulsifying wax is a solid, white, waxy substance. It is combined during the heating process with the oil phase of the emulsion. Emulsifying wax is a very popular and common cosmetic emulsifier. It is used in both washing and care products. The popularity of emulsifying wax is based not only on its versatility but also on its stability and easy use. Emulsifying wax is easy to use even for a beginner. You can make products with a pleasant composition with emulsifying wax. The structure of the product withstands storage and temperature fluctuations well.
Emulsifying wax has nothing to do with natural waxes such as beeswax or candelilla wax
I have heard someone said that an emulsifying wax is a natural wax that emulsifies. This is certainly not true. Sometimes the word wax can mislead us. Emulsifying wax is in no way comparable to natural waxes such as beeswax, candelilla wax or rice wax. In the case of emulsifying wax, the word wax only describes the phase of the product, meaning waxiness. There is no other similarity between these ingredients.
Natural waxes do not contain synthetic chemicals. They cannot be used as an emulsifier, meaning to combine water and oils. Natural waxes are also not detergent surfactants like emulsifying wax.
What chemicals does the emulsifying wax contain?
Emulsifying wax is not an ingredient in natural cosmetics. The chemicals it contains are completely synthetic with the exception of cetearyl alcohol. The emulsifying wax has a slight odour of fatty alcohol. It indicates the cetearyl alcohol contained in the product. Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol most commonly made from palm oil, and sometimes also from coconut oil.
According to the NF standard, emulsifying wax contains the following chemicals.
- Steareth-20; emulsifying, waxy, fully synthetic chemical
- PEG-150 stearate; emulsifier, PEG compounds may be contaminated
- Polysorbate 60; synthetic surfactant
- Cetearyl alcohol; white, waxy, naturally occurring fatty alcohol
The NF standard is a very old chemical standard. It is from the 1880’s USA. The NF standard indicates the composition of chemicals. In this case the standard specifies the ingredients that the emulsifying wax may contain. That standard does not apply worldwide. That is why there are quite a variety of chemicals for sale under the name of emulsifying wax. The emulsifying wax we see in Europe often contains SLS, a compound called sodium lauryl sulphate, and cetearyl alcohol. SLS is a non-natural cosmetic chemical that irritates and dries the skin.
You can read more about SLS here: SLS in cosmetics, find out the facts and dangers. https://helenatur.com/sls-kosmeteti-assa-tiedosta-faktat-ja-vaarat-2/
What is emulsifying wax used for?
The main applications of emulsifying wax are creams and emulsified detergents. An emulsifying wax is both a surfactant and a detergent. It is used as an emulsifier to combine the fat-soluble portions of the cream with the water-soluble portions. Emulsion creams containing emulsifying wax can also be used as detergents.
In detergents, emulsifying wax is also used as a detergent ingredient. Often, the product may contain other detergent ingredients as well. Emulsifying wax is very popular in industrially made cosmetics precisely because of its versatility. Shampoos as well as shower soaps often contain caring oils. It is desired to compensate for the skin drying effect of the product with oils. The emulsifying wax combines the oil contained in the product with water. Without an emulsifier, the oils in the product do not form a stable emulsion with water.
How can I replace emulsifying wax in homemade cosmetics?
I understand very well the popularity of emulsifying wax. It is an easy, inexpensive and versatile product. You can continue to use emulsifying wax in your products. In this article, I just want to clarify the nature of emulsifying wax. An emulsifying wax is an emulsifier.
- Emulsifying wax is not a substitute for natural or vegetable waxes
- Emulsifying wax is not part of natural cosmetics
- Emulsifying wax is not very gentle on the skin
In case you have used emulsifying wax already in your products and you haven’t noticed any problems, and your passion is not to make 100% natural cosmetics, then you may well continue to use emulsifying wax in your products. The emulsifying wax is in no way toxic. Anyway, get emulsifying wax from a reliable supplier as there are huge quality differences in the products. A product bought cheaply from far away may be contaminated.
Two eco-certified emulsifiers
If you want to change the emulsifying wax to more natural emulsifiers, I warmly recommend you the Olivem 1000 emulsifier. Olivem 1000 is sold as light, waxy flakes that are combined with the oily phase of the cream. Olivem 1000 is a herbal emulsifier made from olive oil. Olivem 1000 contains Cetearyl oleate and sorbitan oleate.
Olivem 1000 is a COSMOS and ECOCER approved, easy to use and stable emulsifier. It does not have a washing property like emulsifying wax. Therefore, it also does not irritate or dry the skin. Olivem 1000 is also suitable for sensitive skin and small children. Olivem 1000 emulsifiers are easy to find in online stores that sell cosmetic ingredients which is a really good thing.
Another similar emulsifier is Vegetal or Montanov 68. Vegetal is sold as white wax pellets or flakes. It is a safe, COSMOS and ECOCERT approved emulsifier. Vegetal contains cetearyl alcohol and cetearyl glucoside. Vegetal gives the creams a wonderful skin feeling and texture. Vegetal applications and principle are similar to Olivem 1000. Vegetal is not a very common emulsifier in Finland. If you want to try Vegetal, you have to order it from abroad.
What is your favourite emulsifier?
From time to time, I have to answer to the question why do I bother to make cosmetics by myself. Making cosmetics is already so self-clear to me that I haven’t thought about it much anymore. Long time ago I decided to use the purest, cleanest possible cosmetics without any additives. Years ago, it was almost impossible to find such a product in stores. Last week, while visiting the local Market, I decided to take a look at their cosmetics shelf. There were some products that I am analysing deeper in this story. The purpose is to tell you about the differences between the ingredients of homemade cosmetics, natural cosmetics and conventional cosmetics.
There is a huge variety of cosmetic products available today
It’s been quite a long time since I last took a look at the supermarket cosmetics selection. I usually visit stores specialising in natural cosmetics. The selection of our own local market surprised me positively, even though the whole store is undergoing a massive renovation. Certified natural cosmetics were also found on the shelf. This is a very good thing. Natural cosmetics are starting to be mainstream these days. A good thing!
Do you know what your cosmetics contain?
According to EU legislation, cosmetic packaging must have a clear list of ingredients, i.e., INCI, visible on the label. Many certainly know this, but INCI is rarely seen. The INCI vocabulary is mainly in English. Many of the ingredients are chemical compounds with challenging spellings. The names of herbs and plant parts are in INCI in Latin language. Many manufacturers have made it easier for the consumer by translating Latin plant names into English as well.
Three different day face creams and their INCI lists
I will open you INCI lists of three different day face creams. I will not mention product names or manufacturers as I do not want negative publicity for anyone. I think it is great that there are companies and entrepreneurs. Otherwise, we should prepare everything by ourselves. I myself buy commercial cosmetics from time to time.
Two of the day face creams were found in the Market and I made one day face cream myself at home. All day face creams are emulsions, meaning they contain mostly water. Of course, the caring element in the emulsions is oils and solid fats. In addition, all products contain active ingredients as well as excipients such as emulsifiers, thickeners and preservatives.
Moisturizing day face cream found in the market
This day face cream is a domestic product. The packaging reminds me of a very light and reduced cream. Let’s see what the product contains.
- Dicaprylyl Carbonate; absorption enhancer
- Betadine; antiseptic, iodine
- Decyl Oleate; skin protective and moisturizing agent
- Glycerin; safe, moisturizing ingredient.
- Propanediol Alcohol; solvent, moisturizing ingredient
- Arachidyl Alcohol; skin softening ingredient
- Behenyl Alcohol; thickener, emulsifier
- Cetearyl Alcohol; emulsifier
- Erophorum Spissum extract, tussock cottongrass extract
- Phenoxyethanol; preservative
- Arachidyl Glucoside; emulsifier
- Dimethicone; siloxane, a skin-protecting ingredient
- Cetearyl Glucoside; emulsifier
- Sodium Polyacrylate; acrylate that binds water
- Ethylhexylglycerin; preservative, skin irritant
- Allantoin; oxidation product of uric acid, humectant
- PEG-8; moisturizing polymer
- Tocopherol; Vitamin E, antioxidant
- Potassium Sorbate; preservative
- Ascorbyl Palmitate; fat-soluble form of vitamin C.
- Sorbic Acid; sorbic acid is a preservative
- Ascorbic Acid; Vitamin C
- Citric Acid
- Benzyl Salicylate; salicylic acid
- Citronellol, Limonene, Parfum; perfumes
A natural cosmetic day face cream found in the market
This day face cream is a natural cosmetic product. The product is an emulsion, meaning it contains a lot of water and some vegetable oils. The product is ECOCERT certified. Some of the ingredients also have an organic label. The product is rich in plant-based active ingredients.
- Meadowsweet extract
- Heptyl undecylenate; a substance made from castor oil that binds moisture in the skin
- Cetearyl alcohol; emulsifier
- Caprylic / capric triglyceride; MCT oil that is neutral oil. Made from coconut oil
- Cetyl alcohol; emulsifier
- Macadamia oil
- Cetearyl glucoside; emulsifier
- Almond oil
- Lily new
- Madonna lily extract
- Sodium PCA; moisturizing ingredient
- Xanthan gum; thickener
- Glycerine; moisturizer
- Benzyl alcohol; preservative and fragrance component
- Dehydroacetic acid; preservative
- Vitamin E; antioxidant
- Soybean oil
- Potassium sorbate; preservative
- Sodium benzoate; natural preservative (from rowan berries)
- Citric acid
- Linalool, limonene, citral, geraniol, citronellol; perfumes
Homemade day face cream
Homemade day face cream is ready in about 30 minutes. This cream contains calendula as an active ingredient. I chose cold-pressed sunflower oil, which is rich in natural vitamin E. Sunflower oil is rich in well absorbed linoleic acid.
- Water, purified by activated carbon filter
- Calendula extract, made from calendulas from my own vegetable garden
- Cold pressed organic sunflower oil, pressed about a month ago
- Olivem 1000; Emulsifier, made from olive oil
- Geogard 221; Preservative, contains Dehydroacetic acid and Benzyl alcohol. You can read more about the preservative here.
Why do I want to make my own day face cream?
From the INCI lists above you can see the number of ingredients used in the products. There is a crucial difference between raw materials and the amount of ingredients. An industrial product must last up to a year in perfect condition. Therefore, a huge number of different emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers and preservatives are needed.
The day face cream found in the market contains a huge number of different chemicals.
This example product also includes a few synthetic polymers. Synthetic polymers are popularly plastic. In this product, the plastic is liquid (siloxanes). The actual plastic word is usually used only for cured synthetic polymers. Liquid plastics are also harmful to the environment.
In the example product, no single ingredient sounds very harmful. In fact, market cosmetics have improved a lot in recent years. The most harmful chemicals have been left out, even if they have been allowed. However, the cream is made up of a great many different ingredients. There is a good chance that the whole will eventually start to irritate the skin.
The list of endless excipients is not in the product to benefit your skin. Excipients are present in the product to keep the structure of the product together and to prevent microbial growth and rancidity. And you do apply these excipients to your skin on a daily basis.
Natural cosmetics -quality day cream has ingredients thoughtfully
Many ingredients come directly from nature. The product contains vegetable oils, plant extracts and excipients made from plants. In natural cosmetics, preservatives and emulsifiers are the safest on the market.
The product contains quite a lot of excipients. Excipients are essential in commercial products. The excipients ensure that the product remains in good condition for a long time on the store shelf and for a long time at home. Commercial cream cannot be prepared without excipients. Anhydrous creams are a different matter. Many different manufacturers make them without additives.
A homemade day face cream contains only a few ingredients.
I carefully selected the ingredients for my cream that suit best my own skin. I can choose the most suitable oils myself. Sunflower oil is rich in linoleic acid, which is gentle on the skin. Linoleic acid is highly perishable and is therefore hardly used in commercial cosmetics.
When I prepare the cream myself, I can also be sure to the quality and freshness of the oil. We cannot know the age of commercial cosmetic oils. No cold pressed oils was used in commercial products.
Creams contain mostly water. What is the quality of the water used in the product? Generally, the cosmetics industry uses distilled water. For my own product, I can choose genuine spring water or purify tap water with an activated carbon filter.
A homemade day face cream has just 2 excipients
The ingredients of the product and their quality are of course important. What is not in the product is also important. I can leave out everything unnecessary and harmful to the skin from a home-made day cream. In addition to the natural ingredients, only an emulsifier and a preservative are required. Fragrances, thickeners and synthetic, structure-enhancing chemicals do not treat the skin. The chemicals in cosmetics are often very allergenic. Many chemicals and excipients are certainly not good for the skin. So why would I add them to the cream?
Do you make cosmetics by yourself?
My series about Cosmetics Dirty Dozen is presenting this time siloxanes aka polysiloxanes. They are very controversial cosmetic ingredients and there are many opinions on the safe use of them. But that’s how it always is with these chemicals. The cosmetics industry defends ingredients that should not be allowed in products at all. What are siloxanes and in which products are they used? What makes siloxanes harmful?
Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds
Siloxanes are polymer-based compounds such as plastics. From plastics, siloxanes are separated by a silicon-oxygen chain. Siloxanes are by no means natural products. They are always made synthetically in chemical factories. Siloxanes are usually clear liquids. There are several different types of siloxanes.
Cyclomethicones are mainly used in cosmetics. Cyclomethicone is a mixture of 4D, 5D and 6D siloxanes. Dimethicone PDMS is also a common cosmetic ingredient. It is produced using 4D siloxane.
Siloxanes were considered safe for a long time and therefore they have been used as an cosmetics ingredient for a long time. Currently, the world produces about 400,000 metric tons of polysiloxanes annually. So, this is a massive business. The majority of this amount is used in cosmetics and other consumer products.
In addition to cosmetics, siloxanes can be found elsewhere in the home. Siloxanes are commonly used in polishing waxes, textile finishing products, shoe care and car care products etc.
Why are siloxanes used in cosmetics?
Siloxanes have been used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisturize skin and hair. Siloxanes also improve the properties of cosmetic products.
- Creams do apply better and feel “silky” on the skin.
- Roll-on deodorant glides easily on the skin thanks to siloxanes
- Hair products containing siloxanes dry quickly
- Siloxanes are important component in skin care products. Siloxanes cover small skin wrinkles and unevenness.
Siloxanes therefore play important role in cosmetics. Therefore, they are quite common in many products.
Siloxanes and the environment
Siloxanes are a problem for the environment. They are not biodegradable. Siloxanes are a sort of liquid plastic.
Solid silicone is not a problem for the body. In liquid form, silicone-based products are clearly more toxic. Siloxanes are able to be absorbed into tissues and cause problems for sea life. Scientists have not reached an agreement on the effect of siloxanes on water systems. For some reason, the siloxane content in the water has decreased but, in the fish, it has increased. No one can explain why.
The environmental effects of siloxanes in cosmetics have been studied to some extent objectively. Siloxanes used in cosmetics, such as cyclomethycones, are manufactured by one large multinational company only. The company is defending its own interests by constantly conducting studies of its own that overturn neutral research findings.
Siloxanes and health
Cyclomethycone accumulate in the body over time. It is feared to cause health problems in the future. The EU has been particularly concerned about the 4D and 5D siloxanes used in the manufacture of cyclomethycone.
4D siloxanes have been shown to interfere with human hormonal function and affect fertility.
5D siloxane is suspected to be associated with uterine tumours. 5D siloxane is also a hormonal problem and causes infertility.
In the EU and Canada, siloxanes have been classified as substances of very high concern
What does this concern mean in practice? In the EU, siloxanes are freely used in cosmetics but are being monitored. The situation is therefore the same as with microplastics.
In Canada, companies using siloxanes are required to report the matter to the Department of Health. However, the use of siloxanes is permitted and unrestricted.
If you are researching siloxanes from an INCI search, they are marked: no restrictions. However, this does not mean that siloxanes are harmless substances.
There has been virtually no progress in removing siloxanes from cosmetics products. Although siloxanes are clearly harmful to both the environment and humans, there are no decisions made.
Read more about toxic incredients
Get siloxane-free cosmetics
If you want to avoid siloxanes in cosmetics, carefully examine the ingredient list of your product. Makeup and haircare products in particular very often contain siloxanes. In make-up products and haircare products, siloxanes are almost irreplaceable.
I have many times heard following comment: if I can’t find such a good natural cosmetics product, I’ll go back to basic cosmetics. At this point, you should take a moment to think about your values. Perfect makeup or hairstyle may not be possible without siloxanes. Could you compromise a little on your goals? Is the health of yourself and your environment important to you? However, would you get along without siloxanes?
Certified Natural Cosmetics does not contain siloxanes. Cosmetics certification bodies have not qualified siloxanes in any form for the products they approve.
Domestic small cosmetics workshops do make safe cosmetics without siloxanes. Small artisan workshops do not have the ability to obtain and maintain expensive certificates. Nevertheless, their products often even exceed the standards of natural cosmetics.
Do you like an organic cosmetic product instead of the usual cosmetics?
Talc is a very traditional cosmetic ingredient. It is a mineral commonly found in nature. Talc has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years in cosmetics. Now, most cosmetic brands are giving up the use of talc. What makes talc such a problematic cosmetic product? Should talc be avoided?
Talc is a very common mineral
Talc is found in many places on earth. It is a very soft clay mineral that contains among other things magnesium and silicon. Talc occurs naturally in greenish, yellow or white colours. Talc is the main mineral of soapstone. Soapstone can contain up to 50% talc.
China is the biggest producer country of talc. Other talc producers are the USA, India, Brazil, South Korea, France and Finland.
Talk has many uses
Thanks to its softness, talc is very easy to cut. The talc stone can easily be scratched with a fingernail. Talc has been a very popular material for making sculptures, bowls and working surfaces for thousands of years.
Talc is most commonly used as a powder. Cosmetics are just one of the uses of talc.
Talc’s unique properties make it an important ingredient in the manufacture of paints, paper, ceramics, plastics and rubber. Talc is commonly used even in insecticides.
The importance of talc in cosmetics
Talc is used in colour cosmetics to dilute pigments. Eyeshadows and powders are mixed by combining the pigment with talc or some other diluent.
The popularity of talc as an ingredient in powders and eyeshadows is based on its ability to absorb moisture. When applied to the skin, talc reduces the feeling of moist. Talc also absorbs oils from the skin. This feature is useful in facial makeup. Talc removes the shine from the skin and makes the matt finish.
Why talc is a problematic ingredient
Talc is a natural product. Quite common belief is that natural products cannot be harmful to humans. This is certainly not the case.
Talc’s problems in cosmetics are due to the possible contamination of talc. Asbestos is a toxic mineral that occurs in the same places as talc. Talc is very easily contaminated during the mining process. Of course, talc for cosmetics is or should be inspected carefully.
The purity of talc should not be relied upon. In 2018, a Reuters survey found that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos was present in their baby talc. Johnson & Johnson stopped the production of baby talc in 2020. The decision was made because of numerous lost lawsuits. People with cancer and their relatives sued Johnson & Johnson for hiding the truth.
Dusty talc causes problems to respiratory system
Talc containing asbestos causes problems when inhaled. The danger is really great. Talc has been used for the skin care of new-borns. The lungs of the new-borns are really sensitive and defenceless. Symptoms of poisoning include cough, difficulties in breathing, eye irritation, and burning eyes.
Talc is a potentially carcinogenic substance
In 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO institute, classified talc as a potential carcinogen. Talc is suspected to be associated particularly with ovarian cancer. The danger is greatest if talc is used on a woman’s genital area.
There has been several court cases about the carcinogenic effect of talc. In the U.S., several women with ovarian cancer sued Johnson & Johnson. The women had been using the talc produced by the company for decades. The court sentenced Johnson & Johnson to pay $ 72 million to the relatives of a woman who died of ovarian cancer. This was just one case. Johnson & Johnson has been sued several times for contaminated talc and the company has always lost the cases.
How can I replace talc in cosmetics?
Talc is not recommended anymore by anyone for skin care. Cosmetics manufacturers have replaced talc with another mineral.
Talc can easily be replaced with completely harmless, herbal ingredients. Many starches are popular in homemade cosmetics. Corn, potato and rice starch are familiar to many. They can be used to make dry shampoo or to use as a raw material for deodorants. They act like talc, absorbing moisture from the skin.
Arrowroot starch is my own favourite. It is one of the best starches in natural cosmetics. It is a very fine powder with skin healing effects.
If you are looking for a talc substitute to treat your baby’s skin, you should choose arrowroot powder. Many mothers of small babies have found it a very good product. You can just use pure arrowroot powder for the skincare of your baby. You don’t need any additives or other ingredients.
Magnesium carbonate is a fine, white, light powder. It can be used as a base for colour and powder cosmetics. Magnesium carbonate absorbs moisture. Therefore, it is often used on the skin instead of talc.
Magnesium carbonate is more commonly used in gyms. Weightlifters and gymnasts rub it on their hands to avoid sweating.
Also read about other harmful chemicals
How do you replace talc in cosmetics?
There is not so much information available about the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics. Many of you have heard that nanomaterials are used in UV filters. In fact, the use of nanomaterials has exploded in cosmetic products. They are found in all cosmetic products almost as often as in plastic.
What exactly are these nanomaterials and why should we be concerned about them?
Nanomaterials are an undefined set of ingredients
Nanomaterials are not a specific chemical or group of chemicals. The nano only describes the particle size of the material. The material itself may be a very safe ingredient. The problem arises when the particle size is small enough.
At least one dimension of the nanosized material should be between 1-100 nanometres. This is the size where the particle has completely new properties. The nano-size particle is able to penetrate human skin and even through it into the body. This property may cause problems for human health.
As a nano-size particle, it begins to function in a whole new way, both physically and chemically. The shape and solubility of a particle also affect its function. Nano-size materials can be made from both soluble and insoluble substances. Solubility is relevant to how harmful the substance is to health.
Please read more about the series of “Dirty Dozen of Cosmetics” from my blogs
The effect of nanomaterials on humans has not been studied enough
Nanomaterials are a relatively new invention. Development programs to create new nanomaterials are going on everywhere. Unfortunately, research about the safety of new nanomaterials is not following the development programs. Serious problems have been raised following the widespread use of them.
The most harmful nanoparticles are made of insoluble materials. The impact of nanomaterials on humans is really difficult to study. Nanomaterial transported to the brain is only recognized on autopsy.
Why should materials used in nanoparticles be a concern?
Because of their small size, they are able to penetrate the skin and even get through a blood-brain barrier. The most harmful are insoluble nanoparticles. They are absorbed through the skin. It has been speculated that insoluble nanomaterials will accumulate in the body.
Many products contain soluble nanomaterials. Nanomaterial in soluble form is not as harmful as insoluble.
Nanomaterials are particularly harmful when inhaled. Many synthetic fragrances contain nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are also found in hairsprays and other sprayable haircare products. Nanoparticles also enter the lungs when applying face powder.
In which products are nanomaterials present?
The transition to nanotechnology has been a big step in the cosmetics industry. Old-fashioned products do not survive in a very competitive market. The use of nanotechnology is largely the reason why natural cosmetic products are not so popular. Technical products full of nanoparticles such as deodorants and makeup are great, but the price you may have to pay is your own health.
The best-known use of nanomaterials is UV filters, the sunscreens. Sunscreens are highly technical products. The making of a functional sunscreen product is not very successful, even by a large cosmetic giant. Nanomaterials have made the impossible possible. That is why the use of nanomaterials is so common in UV products. Sunscreens usually use nano-sized zinc as well as titanium oxide.
Effective deodorants and antiperspirants often contain nanoparticles. The nanoparticles clog the sweat glands and stop sweating.
Nanomaterials are commonly used in powders and make-up bases. Nano-sized particles make the product easy to spread. Nanoparticles can be used to create the desired refractive properties on make-up bases and powders.
Haircare products such as hair conditioners are perhaps the most dangerous sources of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles have been found to be the most toxic when inhaled.
In principle, you can find nanoparticles in just about any cosmetic product. Toothpastes, creams, nail polishes and shampoos are new areas of nanotechnology.
How do I know if a product contains nanomaterials?
The nanomaterial is labelled using its INCI -name. Unfortunately, there is a huge number of nanomaterials. It is impossible to remember all INCI names. The INCI name of a nanomaterial is often referred to as “nanoate”. However, many names of nanomaterials have no reference to the nano-size.
Products may also contain soluble nanomaterials that are not as harmful as insoluble ones. Nevertheless, some soluble nanomaterials also have limitations in cosmetic use.
Why are nanomaterials not banned in cosmetic products?
There is no official definition for nanomaterials. By the way, the same goes for plastic added to cosmetic products. When the official definition does not exist, nanomaterials should be banned one at a time. To ban one INCI name at a time is a very slow process.
There should be enough proof to limit or ban completely the use of nanomaterials. Unfortunately, this proof does not exist yet. I am wondering why new nanomaterials are launched all the time without any published research results.
Currently, the EU is banning or has already banned nano-size zinc oxide as a UV filter. However, it can still be added to other cosmetic products. Elsewhere in the world, all nanomaterials are allowed in cosmetics with some, rare exceptions.
Natural, organic cosmetics may contain nanomaterials and -particles
I have to make a correction into this chapter. My understanding has been that there are no nanoparticles in natural cosmetic products. Unfortunately, this is not true. Also natural cosmetics may sometimes contain nanoparticles. Suntan lotions are a good example of products them. This is a very unfortunate information even though it is essential to know it.
The size of zinc and titanium particles are usually bigger in natural sunscreen products. However, there may be nano-size substances as well. You can easily recognize the nanomaterials easily by reading the INCI-list. They are usually marked as “nano”.
Many manufacturers of genuine natural cosmetic products are saying that their products do not contain any nanoparticles. It is worth being active consumer and support these manufacturers and always ask about the nanoparticles.
The beauty industry can create more effective products with the help of nanotechnology. Still many manufacturers of natural cosmetic products are avoiding nanomaterials. We have to respect that. Our health is the most important thing for all of us.
Here is an excellent article about the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics
Which one would you choose; an effective deodorant based on nanotechnology or a deodorant based on safer natural cosmetics?
Many cosmetics products are based on Polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is commonly referred to as PEG in INCI names. It is hard to even find a product on the supermarket shelf that doesn’t have this mystical ingredient. Are the PEG compounds safe and why they are used in cosmetics is a common concern?
This article is part of a series of “dirty dozen in cosmetics”. In the series, I present to you 12 meanies of cosmetics. I have written earlier an article about formaldehyde releasers. Why have PEG compounds ended up in a dirty dozen? Are PEG compounds really harmful? Let’s find out now!
What is PEG or polyethylene glycol?
Polyethylene glycol is a synthetic chemical that is made in chemical plants. It is a polyether refined from crude oil. Thus, PEG does not belong to natural cosmetics nor to vegan cosmetics. PEG is not just one compound. It has been used to make thousands of different variations. PEG compounds are widely used by several industries
- In the pharmaceutical industry, including vaccines and laxatives, as well as films on tablets
- In the chemical industry
- In the cosmetics industry, skin creams, lotions, toothpastes, mouthwashes, deodorants among others. PEG compounds are very common in all cosmetics products.
- In cleaning chemicals such as laundry detergents, laundry rinse aids, dishwashing detergents, general detergents, etc.
- In paints and dyes
- In the food industry, like as an antifoam in beverages
How do I know if a product contains PEG compounds?
PEG compounds are widely and plentiful used in the cosmetics industry and for very different purposes. There are 1464 of them in the INCI list. It is self-clear that no-one can remember them all. However, PEG compounds are quite easy to find in the INCI product list. The INCI name for PEG compounds always or almost always includes the abbreviation PEG.
Why should PEG compounds be a concern?
PEG compounds alone are completely non-toxic. They have been found to be safe excipients even for vaccines and foods. Indeed, the problems with PEGs are related to their potential impurities. PEG compounds are prepared by a complex process. Depending on the manufacturing method, polyethylene glycol may be very impure. Toxic ethylene dioxide and 1,4-dioxane may be found in a low-quality product.
Ethylene dioxide is a carcinogen to humans. It has been linked in some studies to breast cancer. It has also been found to damage the human nervous system and cell development. Ethylene dioxide is very harmful when inhaled. Therefore, sprayable detergents should never be used. Many cleaners and housekeepers have been diagnosed with lung cancer due to inhaling cleaning chemicals. Ethylene dioxide is also absorbed very well even through clothing and shoes, causing irritation and dermatitis.
1,4-dioxane is a substance that is toxic to humans. 1,4-dioxane damages the liver and kidneys. Inhaling and swallowing it causes malaise, vomiting, drowsiness and even unconsciousness. 1,4-dioxane is very easily absorbed through the skin into the body. Dioxane is not easily biodegradable but accumulates in groundwater.
Dioxin is highly soluble in water and ends up in the water systems and seas. The fish in the Baltic Sea have been rich in dioxins. The good news is that dioxin levels in fish have declined as much as 80% in recent years thanks to the vigilant environmental authorities. The study shows that current restrictive measures have been effective.
PEG compounds enhance the absorption of other substances into the skin
This is a desirable effect but it can also be a disadvantage if the product is very impure. The effects of impurities in PEG compounds are multiplied if applied to broken skin. For example, if your skin has a rash, abrasion or other irritation, you should use products that are as clean as possible.
It is also possible that dioxane may also end up in cosmetics through some other way than impurities in PEG compounds. That is why I always recommend you to use and make only natural cosmetics.
PEG compounds may cause allergies
Another concern is the potential allergies caused by PEG compounds. Because PEG compounds are so common in foods, detergents, and cosmetics, the potential for sensitization is obvious. Indeed, PEG antibodies have already been detected in 72% of the US population.
How many of us have considered PEG compounds to cause the allergy to cosmetics? You can test your sensitivity to PEG compounds yourself by leaving them out of your cosmetics, detergents and diet for a while. The medicines you use may also contain PEG compounds. You can only change medicines by consulting your doctor.
The purity of PEG compounds is closely monitored in the EU
The European Union pays special attention to the safety of chemicals. In Europe, PEG compounds are also closely monitored. So you don’t have to worry too much about the levels of 1,4-dioxane or ethylene dioxide in the products you use, provided of course that you purchase your cosmetics from the EU.
My main concern would be the products ordered online from outside the EU. In them, the concentrations of harmful substances can be anything.
In this context, I can again warmly recommend you the DIY cosmetics. By making your own cosmetics, you know what chemicals are in your product. Also, domestic Natural Cosmetics is also very high quality and free of all potentially harmful chemicals.
Do you avoid PEG compounds?
The popularity of natural cosmetics and home-made cosmetics is mainly based on the avoidance of harmful substances. Very dangerous substances have been used in cosmetics for decades. In general, those most difficult-to-pronounce chemicals seem to be the most harmful ones. The use of harmful chemicals has declined dramatically recently as information about the harmful effects of chemicals has spread around. One of the most harmful substances in cosmetics is formaldehyde. What is formaldehyde and why should it be avoided?
Formaldehyde has been a generally used ingredient in cosmetics
Formaldehyde is a colourless, strongly odorous gas that does catch fire easily. You can find formaldehyde in quite many places. It is used in fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing of paper and plywood products, as well as in numerous building materials.
Formaldehyde is most often used in the form of formalin. Formalin is an aqueous solution used in cosmetic preservatives. Preservatives do release formaldehyde in very small amounts at a time. This prevents bacteria and other microbes from spoiling the cosmetic product.
How the exposure to formaldehyde happens?
Formaldehyde has been identified as a carcinogen. It has been found to promote tumour growth. Formaldehyde is excreted in very small amounts from materials that release formaldehyde. You can get formaldehyde into your body
- evaporated through the air, for example when washing shampoo
- through the skin by absorption directly from the products
- by swallowing a product containing formaldehyde (lipstick)
Formaldehyde is especially dangerous if inhaled. Therefore, special care should be taken with products that are in sprayable form. Toiletries and shampoos also evaporate into the air.
Formaldehyde causes skin irritation. Formaldehyde concentrations in the products are very low. However, avoid using many products containing formaldehyde at the same time. Glyoxal and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate may cause skin irritation. However, skin irritation disappears after giving up the use of the product.
In case you are a hairdresser or beautician/cosmetologist you should be very cautious of formaldehyde releasers. You can then be exposed to dangerous level of formaldehyde on daily basis.
What cosmetic products contain formaldehyde?
You will find formaldehyde in nail polishers, mascaras, hair sprays, all colour cosmetics, soaps, creams, deodorants and shampoos. So, you can find a source of formaldehyde in just about any cosmetic product. Formaldehyde is a very effective product and therefore its popularity is guaranteed.
Formaldehyde is rarely added to products as such. The use of formaldehyde as a preservative was banned in the EU in 2016. However, its use as pre-mixed with a preservative is still permitted. You can find formaldehyde products at INCI under at least the following names:
- DMDM hydantoin
- imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Polyoksymethylene urea
- sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
- 3-diol (bromopoly)
These substances are the so-called formaldehyde releasers. They release small amounts of formaldehyde over time. This ensures the shelf life of the product.
Even small amounts of formaldehyde are harmful
Only really small amounts of formaldehyde are needed in the product. This alone says a lot about the effectiveness of the substance. The maximum content of formaldehyde releaser in cosmetic products should be no more than 0.2% by regulations. The formaldehyde releaser must also be clearly indicated on the package.
Just a small amount of formaldehyde is enough to affect harmfully the body’s function. Especially if the product you use every day contains a formaldehyde releaser, problems can occur. The risk is bigger because a formaldehyde releaser is added to several cosmetic products you are using every day, other chemicals, and building materials in your home.
Why are formaldehyde releasers still used as a preservative?
It is estimated that formaldehyde releasers are still used as a preservative in up to 20% of cosmetic products. So, we all may have such a product in our home.
Formaldehyde releasers are not all the same.
Quaternium-15 is a particularly sensitizing agent. It has been used because it is extremely effective preservative. There is a plan to ban Quaternium-15 because it is suspected of causing cancer. The decision has not been done yet.
DMDM hydantoin is a particularly well-tolerated preservative that is also added to baby products. It has been considered that the level of formaldehyde released from DMDM is not dangerous. We all can consider if we want any formaldehyde releasers near to our babies at all.
Glyoxal, which is found especially in nail polishes, is a quite strong skin allergen. Nowadays it’s use is limited. Still, glyoxal is found in quite many products.
How to avoid using a Formaldehyde releaser
Read all INCIs and avoid the formaldehyde releaser items listed above. Today, manufacturers are working to find alternative preservatives to replace formaldehyde releasers. Please pay attention especially to old cosmetic products. Old cosmetic products and bottles etc should be properly disposed.
There are no formaldehyde releasers in natural cosmetics
The best way to avoid formaldehyde is to get genuine natural cosmetics. The use of formaldehyde releasers is completely banned in natural cosmetics. If a cosmetic product is marked with a natural cosmetics certificate like COSMOS, ECOCERT, Cosmebio, Demeter, EcoControl and Ecogarantie, then the product is 100% natural.
Main reason to start using natural cosmetics is the chemicals in traditional industrial cosmetic products. The possible health effects of cosmetic chemicals are often criticized and feared. They can be potentially very toxic. However, many chemicals do not pose a direct risk to health. However, they can be extremely harmful to the skin and the environment. One very common ingredient in cosmetic products is Sodium Laureth Sulfate, SLS.
What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a very versatile chemical. It is produced using either mineral oil or vegetable oils such as coconut oil or palm oil. SLS is chemically processed from lauryl alcohol and sulfuric acid. Then the chemical is neutralized with sodium carbonate aka washing soda.
SLS is a surfactant which are very versatile chemicals. They remove tension from the surface of the water. When the surface tension is removed, the water can penetrate deeper and wider. The surfactants are extremely detergent, meaning they remove grease and other dirt effectively.
SLS has amphiphilic properties
This means that SLS acts as an emulsifier. Water and oil form a cream when adding SLS to the mixture.
SLS is very foamy. It forms a thick, durable foam in all products to which it has been added.
SLS is one of the most common chemicals in cosmetics
Due to its versatile features, SLS is very popular. It is found in all cosmetic products, from shampoos and shower soaps to moisturizers and cleansing milks. You will also find SLS in regular toothpastes.
It is very difficult to come up with a product that SLS would not fit. Cosmetics industry simply needs this substance with so many required properties.
How SLS affects skin and hair?
SLS is a well-tolerated ingredient
SLS is suitable for the skin because it causes little to no allergies or hypersensitivity. If you are sensitized to any cosmetic ingredient it is probably not SLS but some other ingredient. The cosmetics industry has decades of experience in the suitability of SLS for skin care. It has been found to be safe in principle and is therefore used as the very first option when adding detergents to the product.
Persons who are intolerant to plant-based products may well tolerate SLS. SLS has also not been identified as a carcinogenic chemical.
Although SLS does not actually cause sensitization, it does not mean it a safe ingredient for the skin.
So why is SLS not a good ingredient in cosmetics?
SLS is a powerful dehydrator
SLS is also a highly detergent ingredient. Therefore, it dries the skin, sculp and hair. SLS is the only ingredient in shampoos that makes your hair “crunchy”. It is very difficult to achieve a similar washing result with any other cosmetic ingredient. We are used to use strong washing shampoos and detergents throughout our lives so we are also used to get the “crunchy” result.
SLS is best tolerated in shower soaps, gels and shampoos because it is rinsed off quickly. This will reduce the skin irritation.
Household Cleaners and Laundry Detergents
SLS is also commonly used in household cleaners and laundry detergents. It is worth considering whether the same chemical is suitable for washing skin, hair, teeth, floor and laundry – and car.
In shower soaps and gels, the unnecessarily strong washing effect of SLS is diluted by adding oils to the product. The cosmetics industry talks about curative shower products. My question is why SLS is used at all if it causes skin problems.
SLS as an emulsifier for creams
SLS is one of the most stable and effective emulsifiers. It is also very affordable. When purchasing home cosmetics emulsifiers, avoid emulsifying wax. All emulsifying waxes are made from SLS. The emulsifying wax is a very drying ingredient. It should not be used at all, especially in products that are mentioned to stay on the skin. Many manufacturers are adding emulsifying wax to shampoo and shower soaps/gels. There are much better emulsifiers for this purpose.
SLS causes skin and eye irritation
The irritation caused by SLS is caused precisely by its detergent property. All of the skin’s own protective fat and sebum are very effectively washed away. This will make the skin more exposed to many external stimulations. Removing the fat and sebum cause itching and irritation. Symptoms are similar to allergies and hypersensitivity but they are caused by SLS.
Skin rash and eczma
SLS also aggravates previous skin symptoms. Continuous washing of dry skin suffering rash using strongly detergent products may aggravate symptoms.
SLS in toothpastes
SLS is widely used in toothpastes. Consumers obviously want the toothpaste to foam. People do not believe that paste cleans without foam – or do they? The foaming property of SLS is very commonly used in toothpastes. There are very few non-foaming toothpastes available. It is very difficult to find a toothpaste without SLS in a regular shop.
SLS has also been found to affect mouth odours. It neutralizes odours to some extent. Therefore, it is a highly desirable chemical in dental care.
SLS also does its damage in the mouth.
It has been found to cause aphtha, or small painful blisters on the oral mucosa. Patients suffering aphthous ulcers have switched to a more natural version of toothpaste and have got rid of them.
Toothpaste containing SLS is in many cases the reason for mouth sores and fractured, cracked lips. You should try changing toothpaste if you suffer from such symptoms.
SLS is also claimed to reduce the effect of fluoride on toothpastes. Here’s another reason to avoid SLS in toothpastes.
SLS and palm oil
SLS contains lauryl acid, which is a natural ingredient in coconut fat. Sometimes, SLS is called sodium coco sulphate, emphasizing that lauryl acid is coming from coconut. However, the chemical is completely the same and just as harmful to skin and hair as SLS.
Make Sure You Know the Origin of Lauryl Acid
Lauryl acid of Sodium Laureth Sulfate is often made from mineral oil or coconut but also from palm oil. If you want to avoid the use of palm oil for ethical reasons, make sure you know the origin of lauryl acid. It may be, however, an impossible task. The products of chemical industry are sold all over the globe. It is not always possible to identify an individual product, even in case when the producer is a responsible company.
How to find SLS in cosmetics?
You should learn to recognize all different names of SLS and its aliases that appear on products by using INCI-lists. The cosmetics industry would not give up a good, versatile and inexpensive raw material. Therefore, SLS has over 100 different chemical and commercial names. It is therefore quite impossible for an average consumer to learn all the possible names of the same chemical.
Here are Some Common Names of SLS
However, here are some common names. The most common trick is to replace word lauryl with coco in SLS. This gives an idea of the natural ingredient. We know this is not true. SLS is always a synthetic chemical that cannot be found in nature.
Different names of SLS
- Sulfuric acid monododecyl Ester sodium salt
- Sodium salt hydrogen sulphate
- Dodecyl alcohol
- Sodium dodecane sulfonate
- Sodium monododecyl sulphate
- Sodium Coco sulphate
Similar substances that you should also avoid
- Ammonium lauryl sulphate (ALS) ammonium dodecyl sulphate
- Potassium lauryl sulphate
How to replace products containing SLS?
The easiest way to replace products containing SLS is to use soap-based products. Marseille soap contains only natural ingredients and is great for the skin.
There are currently many sulphate-free alternatives for hair washing. Your local store selling only natural cosmetics would be glad to guide you. They are presumably the experts.
Natural, eco-friendly Curly Girl method is very recommendable way to treat hair. Curly Girl products are suitable for both curly and straight hair as they are much gentler and contain no silicones or sulphates.
Consider changing your toothpaste to more natural product. Be careful because many toothpastes considered eco-friendly and naturals contain some form of SLS. People do not buy paste that without foam. Or do they? Here’s how to make homemade toothpaste.
Make Your Own, Natural Hair Wash
If you want to make your own, natural hair wash, try aloe vera juice of which I have written here. Aloe Vera contains saponins, which are natural cleansing agents. They do not wash the skin too clean and do not remove the skin’s own protective layer of sebum.
Are you trying to avoid products containing SLS?