How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels (Follow Up)

Yesterday I gave you some tips to help you read the ingredient label for the leave-in conditioner/styler we found at the store. I left you with the question: Would you buy this product?

The Label


Lets go through the ingredients:

For reference:  Safe! is safe to use an are considered innocuous.  Beware! is a discretionary suggestion though their is no or limited information on toxicity.  Avoid! means an ingredient is toxic or hazardous.

Water (Aqua): Safe, Of Course! Having water as the first ingredient is a good sign as water based conditioners provide moisture to the hair.

Cetyl Alcohol: Safe! This is a fatty alcohol that is often used as an emollient and emulsifier in conditioners. It is typically derived naturally from coconut or palm oil.

Stearyl Alcohol: Safe! This is also a fatty alcohol that is often used as an emollient and emulsifier in conditioner. It is typically derived from

PEG-50 Shea Butter: Avoid! So I’m sure you recognized “Shea Butter,” but what is “PEG-50?” Remember what I said earlier about using scientific naming, and if it looks like a “chemical?” This ingredient is a Polyethylene Glycol derivative used to make the Shea Butter water soluble. This ingredient is not toxic, but I do not recommend it. (Author’s Note: I compared Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for this ingredient and unrefined Shea Butter. This ingredient alone (not mixed) may cause slight irritation and should be washed off with copious amounts of soap and water; unrefined Shea Butter did not list these health hazards).

Ethylhexyl Palmitate: Beware! Is used as an emollient, derived from fatty (Palmitic) acids (palm oil). It may be a skin or eye irritant, with low to medium toxicity (via MSDS).

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Safe! This ingredient is used as an emollient and is typically derived from coconut oil and glycerin.

Polyquaternium-11: Safe/Beware! It is a copolymer of vinylpyrrolidone and quaternized dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate, and is used for its antistatic properties. It is generally considered safe. This ingredient can cause buildup so use at your discretion.

Coco Nucifera (Coconut Oil): Safe! However, if your hair is sensitive to protein be leary if it is higher on the list.

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil: Safe! This ‘oil’ is a liquid wax and has a moderate fatty acid content.

Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil: Safe! This oil contains Vitamin E and contains antioxidants.

Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil: Safe! This oil is believed to be high in fatty acids and help fortify the hair.

Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E): Safe/Beware! Tocpheryl Acetate is has antioxidant properties and can penetrate skin cells. It is generally regarded as safe however I saw some information (not on a MSDS) linking it to cancer so use your best discretion.

Glycerin: Safe! Glycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture in the hair, if you are ‘glycerin sensitive’ avoid this product. Glycerine can be derive from fats and oils or synthetically.

Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice: Safe!

Carbomer: Beware! Used as a thickener, typically at very low concentrations. This ingredient is not toxic, but can be slightly hazardous upon skin contact. Concentrations likely not high enough to be hazardous.

Triethanolamine: Avoid! Triethanolamine is used as a stabilizer and pH adjuster. This ingredient is not a known carcinogen to humans, however it has mutagenic effects in “mammalian somatic cells” (cell forming the body of mammals), may be toxic to kidneys, liver, and skin (via MSDS). Similar studies have found Triethanolamine to be toxic to aquatic species, cause contact allergies, and was found to cause tumor in the livers of female rats. (Author’s note: Toxicity is dependent on dose, therefore the quantity may be too low for these effects to be observed after using this product).

Fragrance (Parfum): Beware! Fragrances are often synthetic. Though they are low in concentration in the product, here is still a small chance of having an allergic reaction

Dehydroacetic Acid: Beware! This is used to prevent bacterial or fungal growth and is not believed to be toxic but is hazardous if it comes in contact with skin.

Benzyl Alcohol: Beware! This ingredient is made naturally by many plants or can be synthetically derived. It is used as a preservative and based on its placement on the list is the lowest quantity. This can be slightly hazardous with skin contact, but due to its concentration it should be okay.

This product starts off good, but the PEG-50 Shea Butter as the 4th ingredient was a red flag for me. Though there are only 2 ingredients that were rated “Avoid!,” several of the other ingredients got a ranking of “Beware!” not for toxicity but for assumed performance. This product may work excellently for many people, but based on the ingredients there are better quality products out there. Those of you who commented on my last post were absolutely right!

I would NOT buy this product!

Feel free to leave questions and comments below.  Thank you for reading!


How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels (Shop With Me!)

Today we’re in the store looking for a new leave-in conditioner/styling creme.  There are so many options in [insert your favorite store here].  What should you get?  You start looking at labels, they all look nice, but you’ve heard some things about certain ingredients being toxic and linked to cancer, and don’t want to buy one of those products.  What do you do?  Simple, Shop With Me!  I’ll teach you Label Poise–how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and buy products that meet YOUR standards, whether natural, organic, or safe enough.

First, there are some things you should know:

  1. Ingredients are listed by quantity in the formula, from greatest to least, based on standards by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  2. Ingredients are listed using the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI), therefore they are listed using scientific nomenclature, or    binomial nomenclature (latin; taxonomy) for ingredients derived from plants.
  3. How ingredients are derived is seldom listed on the label (the same chemical can be derived synthetically or naturally).
  4. Fragrances are generically listed because they are considered trade secrets; typically naturally derived fragrances do not use “Fragrance (Parfum)” but a specific naming system.
  5. If it looks like a “chemical” it probably is, if you don’t want chemicals don’t buy it!  **Everything is a chemical, I’m referring to ‘bad’ chemicals here.

Quick Tip:  Aside from avoiding synthetic chemicals as much as possible, have an idea of what ingredients don’t work for you.  Pay attention to the ingredients in the products you use.  If you notice every time you use a product with [insert ingredient here] you get an allergic reaction or your hair/skin responds negatively, make a note and steer clear!  In my last post I told you mineral oil and silicones don’t work for me so I don’t buy them, irrelevant of the fact that they are synthetic or petrochemicals.

The Label


Would you buy this product?  Let me know in the Comments!

Check back tomorrow for a detailed breakdown of each ingredient and whether or not I would purchase this product!  Thank you for reading!

When to Buy Natural and Organic Products

Buying Natural and Organic products isn’t always the best option.  Natural and Organic do not automatically equate good, nor are they always cost effective.

The key takeaways from this blog are to educate yourself and buy what works best for YOU!

I don’t only use natural and organic products, some products have some unfavorable ingredients, but they work for me and I haven’t found a comparable replacement.

You will see product reviews for products that are not 100% natural or organic, but most of them have quality ingredients and are closer to natural than chemical laden.

Stay tuned, new content coming soon!  Thank you for reading!

Label Poise: Ingredients, Chemicals, Extracts, Oh My! Part I

What to avoid when shopping for cosmetics, consumer products, and food.  There are various ingredients that I avoid when purchasing cosmetics and personal care products.  Often times it is because the chemical is toxic or synthetically derived or it is partially for the aforementioned reasons and because it is nothing more than a cheap filler in a product.  The following are a list of ingredients that I avoid; classification, code names, and reason will be listed.

Beware! (User Discretion)

Mineral Oil aka Parrafinium Liquidium – This is a petrochemical typically derived from crude oil.  It can be found in high concentrations (one of the first 5 ingredients, more on this later) in a variety of lotions, hair lotions, ‘grease’ and conditioners (deep, leave-in, and rinse out), however it appears in highest concentrations to products marketed toward African-Americans.  Mineral Oil prevents moisture from entering or leaving the hair shaft.  This can often lead to hair breakage and clogged pores on the scalp.

Silicones aka Amodimethicone, Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclomethicone – These are a variety of synthetic chemical polymers derived from silica.  They are found in hair conditioners (deep, rinse out or leave in), lotions, hair lotions, deodorants and antiperspirants, foundations, mascara, etc.  Silicones are not known to be toxic; there has been a fair amount of controversy over this subject, but again they are not known to be toxic.  They are, in my opinion, cheap fillers that coat the surface (hair, skin) they come into contact with.  I am more tolerant of silicones in skin lotions, however, I do not use hair products of any kind that have silicones anywhere on the ingredients list.  Period.  Silicones give the appearance of healthy shiny hair, but don’t be fooled it is just an appearance.  Silicones, similar to mineral oil, often prevent moisture from entering or leaving the hair shaft, which can result in hair breakage (particularly if you have dry hair).  Additionally, most silicones are not water soluble (will rinse out with water or a ‘no poo’) therefore you must use a sulfate shampoo to remove them to avoid build-up on your hair.

Sulfates aka Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), – Sulfates are foaming agents commonly found in shampoos.  Sulfates are known skin irritants.  The Journal of the American College of Toxicology states that SLS has a “degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties.”  Sulfates can be extremely drying, particularly for curly and coily hair.

Parabens aka Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben – These are synthetic esters of ‘p-hydrobenzoic acid.’  Parabens ensure that microorganisms do not develop in your products after being on the shelf (or your bathroom cabinent) for extended periods.  There is no conclusive evidence that parabens are toxic or harmful.  Limited studies have found parabens to mimic estrogren, or be linked (not causing) breast cancer.  Grape seed extract and Japanese Honeysuckle Flower Extract are natural preservatives (not significant enough to be effective) as it has antimicrobial properties (parabens are similar to their structure, not the other way around).  Use at your own discretion as the scientific basis of their toxicity is inconclusive.  (Author’s Note: Some of the organizations that are refuting claims against parabens are industry affiliated, so the validity of their claims may be questionable.)

High Fructose Corn Syrup – Chances are you eat this multiple times a day on a regular basis.  Despite the advertisements you may have seen on tv, HFCS is NOT ‘real’ cane sugar.  HFCS is made from corn and is very cheap to make being that corn is one of the most subsidized crops in the United States; most corn (and its products, corn fed to chickens, cows, etc.) is genetically modified (GMO) unless its certified organic.  HFCS has been linked to a multitude of health impacts including obesity, cancer, liver damage and heart disease.  Take a look in your cabinets, it is in everything from bread to barbeque sauce.  HFCS is not natural and it is not biochemically processed in your body the same as cane sugar.


Toluene – Commonly found in nail polish.  Toluene is an extremely volatile chemical (it likes to vaporize and mix with air) therefore its greatest threat is through inhalation exposure (the fumes you smell when you paint your nails).  Inhalation of toluene can cause dizziness, nausea, or even death at high doses.  This ingredient has been phased out of many nail polish formulas, but not all.

Formaldahyde aka Formaldahyde Resin; Formaldehyde Releasers: DMDM Hydantonin , Imidazolidinyl urea, Hydroxymethylglycinate, Diazolidinyl urea.  Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen in the US and EU.  Formaldehyde is not common in cosmetics and personal care products, however formaldehyde releasers (react to release formaldehyde) are present in various conditioners, shampoos, and foundations.  Though the quantities are often low as they are used as preservatives, I would avoid these ingredients.

This is a multiple part series, so check back soon for additional posts!  All ingredients mentioned in these posts will be available in list form on the Educate Yourself menu on this site.  Thank you for reading!

What ingredients and chemicals do you avoid?

Natural, What’s That?? / Introducing… Label Poise

Nature’s Pulchritude is dedicated to encouraging people to use products that are natural or contain naturally derived chemicals. So what does natural mean exactly? To most people, when they think natural they think nature, therefore, a product that contains ingredients that come from nature as opposed to synthetic chemicals. In the world of cosmetics, personal care products, consumer goods and food, natural is an ambiguous, up-to-individual interpretation term that is not regulated by the FDA or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

My definition of a natural product is a product that doesn’t contain chemicals (synthetic or natural because technically everything is a chemical) that are known or suspected to be carcinogenic, ecotoxins, or endocrine disruptors; petrochemicals (mineral oil, parrafin wax, etc.), silicones, parabens, phtalates, or synthetic dyes and some fragrances.  I am more strict about hair and skin products than nail polish and makeup.  Another important factor that goes into my decision making process is efficacy–does this product work?  There is no sense in buying a product because it is natural/organic if doesn’t work (well enough).  Many of these ingredients have multiple pseudonyms or ‘code names’ so you really have to read product labels thoroughly (look for posts covering this in the near future). Organic is far less complex, I typically look for the USDA Organic symbol, or a similar certification from Canada or the European Union.


In my last post, I told you that there is more or less no regulation for cosmetics or personal care products, therefore companies can call their products ‘natural(s)’ or ‘organic(s)’ without truly being so, or having an organic certification. Marketing is a very powerful tool that is designed to entice you, the consumer, to buy! Companies are well aware of the fact that consumers are becoming more aware about the chemicals present in their products, so they add clever names (either the company name or product name) to draw your attention because they know that you aren’t as aware as you think. Whether or not this deception is intentional is subjective, and instead of criticizing a company who does this, I will instead showcase a company that listened to its customers.

Introducing… Label Poise: A Great Example

These two bottles are for the same product.  Notice anything?

Yes, that’s it, the word ‘Organics.’

Notice anything else about the bottles that might be of importance (hint: any symbols)?

Hey, Where’s the USDA symbol? There isn’t one.

While the product may very well have some organic ingredients, it is not certified organic by the USDA or any other reputable body. Aubrey customers complained and Aubrey removed the ‘Organics’ name from products that are not certified organic. How is that for customer service.

This is the first of many posts titled ‘Label Poise.‘ It is my way of teaching you how to read product labels with poise and confidence.

Feel free to comment, provide feedback, and let me know what issues you have when reading product labels.  Thank you for reading!

The Facts.

I hope our welcome post left you inspired, but if you’re anything like me, you want to know the facts.  Why should we care about what’s lurking in our lotions, shampoos, and nail polish?

The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 21, 2013 by Democrat Representatives Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) and Ed Markey (Massachusetts).  The purpose of the act was to address the toxic chemicals that are present in various cosmetics and personal care products in the United States.  The most recent legislation regulating the industry dated back to 1938, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act (SCPCPA) sought to give the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the appropriate industries to ensure that harmful chemicals are removed from products.  The harmful chemicals include chemicals which are well known to be carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, or ecotoxins.  It should be noted that many of the chemicals widely used in these products have not been thoroughly studied to make astute conclusions about their safety.  (Fun Fact: An average of 12,000 new chemicals are registered daily!  Most used in cosmetics are not tested for safety).  It is both unsettling and encouraging to know that many of the chemicals in personal care products used in the United States have been outlawed in the European Union since 1976.

The following chemicals are restricted or prohibited for use in cosmetics: bithionol, mercury compounds, vinyl chloride, halogenated salicylanilides, zirconium complexes in aerosol cosmetics, chloroform, methylene chloride, chlorofluorocarbon propellants and hexachlorophene. (FDA)

Four short months after SCPCPA was introduced, the European Union strengthened their legislation.  The EU Cosmetics Regulation includes 1,372 banned substances.  The FDA has banned 11 chemicals, most of which would not be considered for cosmetics or personal care prducts.  Many of the major corporations in cosmetics and personal care products are international conglomerates, many of which are based in the EU, so don’t for a second think they aren’t complying with the regulation–they just sell a different formula in the United States.  Take a moment to really think about this and its implications.  They can reformulate their products, but they don’t have to, therefore they don’t.  The legislation the European Union has is an excellent template for the United States to follow, however, despite stalled action at the federal level, California is making strides at the state level.

California is very progressive when it comes to environmental regulations.  If you have ever been, you may notice warning labels on products or within stores and restaurants.  The California Safe Cosmetics Law has been allowing consumers to make informed decisions by mandating that products that contain certain chemicals (carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, etc.) be appropriately labeled.  Despite the success of this legislation, federal law is still lagging as the SCPCPA has received significant resistance from cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers.  As a consumer you hold the power and can rightfully request that companies remove harmful chemicals from their products or simply stop supporting them.  It is really that simple.

This is why I decided to create Nature’s Pulchritude, because we as consumers have a right to make educated decisions that do not negatively impact our health or the environment, especially when there is limited legislation to do otherwise.   If you choose to use products that may not have the best ingredients, you made a conscious decision and that is fine; but if you are using these products and the presence of toxic chemicals is unbeknownst to you–that is problematic.  In the future, Nature’s Pulchritude will feature various posts about chemicals to avoid, as well as several posts to teach you how to read labels!  Stay tuned and thank you for reading.

Were you aware of any of the information in this post?  Does it make you reconsider some of the items you have purchased?  Sound off in the comments. : )

Welcome to Nature’s Pulchritude.

Welcome to Nature’s Pulchritude. As the name suggests, we appreciate nature’s pulchritude (beauty) and want others to appreciate it as well. As a society we have become increasingly disconnected from nature, be it through technology, artificial and modified foods, or the synthetic chemicals that are laden in our personal care products. Take a step back and engage with your surroundings–with nature and the envionment! Realize that many of the personal care products we use and ‘foods’ we eat are simply recreating what already exists in all its pulchritudinous glory in nature. This blog will feature a variety of content (such as product reviews, news, and educational pieces) from an environmental perspective, but with flair, pizzaz, and of course pulchritude. I want you to read this blog and feel enlightened and empowered to make informed decisions for yourself (and your family) by thinking of how the products and foods you buy impact your health and the environment. I invite you, encourage you, dare you, to eliminate the middlemen, the synthetics, and the artificial fillers and enjoy Nature’s Pulchritude.