4 Reasons You Should Care About the Ingredients In Your Products

1.  Better Results:  Some products on the market contain cheap fillers that do not appropriately address the reason you are purchasing the product.  Example:  Lotion.  Have you ever used a lotion and noticed that your skin and hands just never feel quite moisturized?  That’s because the product is not properly moisturizing your skin.  Instead opt for a butter (shea, cocoa, etc.) based product without fillers like dimethicone and mineral oil.

2.  Value:  Many products, whether the lotion in a major chain retailer or the face cream in a high end department store, contain some questionable ingredients, with prices ranging from $6 for 20 oz. to $155 for 1 oz.  Based on the ingredients, many of these products are overpriced.  Many all natural products contain quality ingredients that are in the same general price range per ounce and work much better.  Or you can always make your own moisturizer which will save you money in the long run and leave you with better skin (and hair).

3.  Toxins and Cancer:  Skin is the largest organ of the human body and absorbs what you put on it.  Many products on the market, including those marketed as ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ (but not USDA certified), contain chemicals that can be toxic to humans and wildlife; irritants to skin, eyes, and lungs; and have been scientifically proven to cause cancer.  The quantities of these known toxic chemicals, and suspected carcinogens and toxins, vary from low to high depending on the product, and continuous use of these products (chronic exposure) can have a multitude of negative health effects.

 

4.  Protect Yourself (and your Family).  Current cosmetics laws in the United States are antiquated and do not adequately protect consumers.  By simply reading the product label you can make better decisions and provide yourself with a high level of protection that legislation currently does not provide.  Additionally, some natural ingredients can cause skin irritation (essential oils) in select individuals, being knowledgeable of this can help you avoid ingredients that irritate your skin.

 

For tips on how to read the ingredient labels of your personal care products please refer to Nature’s Pulchritude’s series on How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels.

 

Do you care about the ingredients in your products?

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How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels IV

Today we’re in the store looking for a new facial cleanser.  There are so many options in [insert your favorite store here].  You remember what you’ve learned about Label Poise and decided to head to the natural product section instead.   Ahh, a safe haven–or is it?  There are several different options, what should you get?  You start using your Label Poise and pick a product.  Even though it looks a little ‘chemical-ish’ you are comforted by the fact that it is in the natural section.  Remember, I am teaching you Label Poise–how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and buy products that meet YOUR standards, whether natural, organic, or safe enough.

Here are the tips I gave you in my first three posts on how to read ingredient labels:

  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

The Label:

LabelPoise4

Would you buy this product?

Ingredients:

Ingredients marked with as asterisk (*) are Certified Organic.

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*:  Safe!

Water (Aqua):  Safe!

Decyl Glucoside:  Safe!  This ingredient is derived from the reaction of glucose from corn starch (GMO?)  with decanol (fatty alcohol) of coconuts.  Decyl Glucoside is a non-ionic surfactant that can be used as a foaming agent, emulsifier, or conditioner.  It is biodegradable and is not known to be toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic (MSDS).

Sorbitol:  Safe!  Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol which is produced naturally in various fruits, though it can also be produced synthetically from glucose (via corn syrup [GMO?]).  Sorbitol is typically used as a thickener and humectant in personal care products, though it also has various other uses.  Sorbitol is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic. It is not known to bioconcentrate in animals, though it can be a slight irritant upon dermal contact or inhalation in pure form.  (MSDS ; PubChem)

Coco-Glucoside:  Safe!  This ingredient is a non-ionic surfactant that can be used as a foaming agent, emulsifier, or conditioner.  It is typically derived from coconut oil, corn (GMO?), or fruit sugars, though it is dependent on the supplier.  This ingredient is biodegradable and is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic.  In pure form Coco-Glucoside can be a skin irritant or cause inhalation irritation. (MSDS)

Xanthan Gum:  Safe!  This ingredient is a polysaccharide (carbohydrate consisting of sugar molecules) secreted by Xanthomonas campestris (a bacterium).  It is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or cause developmental toxicity, though it can be an eye, skin, and lung irritant in pure form.  There is a risk of long term biodegraded products being more toxic than pure Xanthan Gum. (MSDS)

Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil:  Safe!  Bergamot Fruit Oil is often used for its cooling and refreshing effects in skin care products.  It also has antiseptic properties, which may assist in healing acne.  This ingredient can also be used as a fragrance.

Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil:   Safe!  Orange Peel Oil is used as a skin conditioning agent and fragrant.

Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil (Lemon Bioflavonoids):  Safe!  Lemon Peel Oil is used for its astringent and skin conditioning properties.  In pure form it can irritate dermatitis and psoriasis, and can be a skin, eye, and lung irritant.  (MSDS

Arnica Montana Flower Extract*:  Safe!  This ingredient is also known as leopard’s bane or mountain arnica and is native to Europe.  It is used as a skin conditioning agent and fragrant.  It is not known to be carcinogenic or mutagenic, though it can be contaminated with toxins, such as propylene glycol, depending on extraction method.  (PubMed)

Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract*:  Safe!  This ingredient comes from the tea plant native to East, South, and Southeast Asia.  It is typically used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.  This ingredient is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or developmentally toxic.  In pure form it can cause slight skin and lung irritation (MSDS).

Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*:  Safe!  Also known as German chamomile, this naturally derived ingredient is used for its skin conditioning and anti-inflammatory effects.  It is not known to be carcinogenic or toxic. (MSDS)

Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Extract:  Safe!  This ingredient is used for its astringent and antiseptic properties.  It is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic in humans, though it may be an eye, skin, and lung irritant in pure form.  (MSDS)

Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavendar) Flowe/Leaf/Steam Extract*:  Safe!  Lavender Extract is used for its fragrance and refreshing properties.  It is not known to be toxic.

Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract*:  Safe!  Olive Leaf extract is used for its skin conditioning, antioxidant, anti-inflamatory, and antimicrobial properties.  It is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or cause developmental toxicity.  This ingredient can be a skin, eye, lung, and digestive irritant in pure form (MSDS)

Ascorbyl Glucoside:  Safe!  This ingredient may act as an antioxidant, those these claims are not fully substantiated.  It is a form of vitamin C combined with glucose.  This ingredient interacts with skin to form Vitamin C.

Bisabolol:  Safe!  This ingredient is extracted from German chamomille, though it can also be derived synthetically.  It is believed to be an anti-irritant and skin soother, and can be used as a fragrant.  It is believed to cause contact dermatitis in patients that are bisabolol sensitized, though this is not a regular occurrence. It is not known to be toxic.  (MSDS; PubMed)

Citric Acid:  Safe!  This ingredient is naturally occurring in citrus fruits, but is typically produced by feeding sucrose or glucose to mold and additional chemical treatment.  It is used in cosmetics as a pH adjuster.  It is generally considered safe, though it is a skin and eye irritant in pure form. (MSDS)

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

Glyceryl Oleate:  Safe!  This ingredient consists of oleic acid and glycerin.  It is used as an emollient, emulsifier, and fragrance ingredient.

Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein:  Safe!  This ingredient is naturally derived and contains wheat oligosaccharides (carbohydrates) and acts as a moisturizer and film former to nourish skin (or hair).  It is not known to be a carcinogen or mutagen, though it can cause eye and dermal irritation in pure form. (MSDS)  Avoid! if you have a gluten allergy.

Tocopheryl Acetate:  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.

Alcohol*:   Safe!/Beware!  This ingredient is likely used as a disinfectant, it can be used as a preservative though this product explicitly states the preservative.  This ingredient is listed as organic, though it is likely toxic in pure form.  It is very low on the ingredient list and should not be considered a serious concern.

Benzyl Alcohol:  Beware!  This ingredient is made naturally by many plants or can be synthetically derived.  It is typically used as a preservative and based on its placement on the list is in low concentration.  Benzyl Alcohol is not known to be a carcinogen or teratogen, though it is a mutagen in bacteria and yeast, and may be toxic to the liver and central nervous system in pure form.  Benzyl Alcohol can be slightly hazardous with skin contact, but due to its concentration it should be okay.  (MSDS)

Potassium Sorbate:   Safe!/Beware!  This ingredient is the potassium salt of sorbic acid, which is likely synthetically derived though it is naturally occurring in some berry species.  It is widely used as a preservative in food, wine, and personal care products.  It is known to be a skin, eye, and lung irritant in pure form, though it is not generally considered to be a carcinogen, mutagen, or teratogen in humans, however, additional research suggests that is is mutagenic and genotoxic in human blood cells (in vitro).  It is typically not used in concentrations above 0.2%, so it should be fine in this product.  (MSDS)

Sodium Benzoate:  Beware!  This ingredient is the sodium salt of benzoic acid, and is commonly used as a preservative in food and cosmetics.  This ingredient is typically synthetically derived.  The FDA mandates that this ingredient is not to exceed 0.1% of the formula by weight.  When combined with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), sodium benzoate can react to form benzene, a known carcinogen–this product contains a form of Vitamin C.  These claims have been substantiated by the FDA, though the benzene levels are considered less than World Health Organization limits to be considered dangerous.  Sodium benzoate is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, or neurotoxic, though it can be teratogenic in embryos and fetuses.  This ingredient may cause skin and eye irritation in pure form.  (MSDS)

Limonene: Safe!  Limonene naturally occurs in the rind of lemon and other citrus fruits.  It is primarily used as a flavor and fragrance though it also has been used for industrial degreasing.  It is not known to cause cancer or gene mutations in humans and can have anti-cancer effects in pure form, though limonene and its oxidation products are suspected skin and respiratory irritants in some cases.  A product that has been sitting on the shelf for an extended period may oxidize, however, ingredients with antioxidant properties, such as Vitamin E (Tocopherol), may alleviate this.  This ingredient must be listed if it exceeds concentrations of 0.01% in rinse off products in the EU.  (MSDS)

 

Nature’s Pulchritude Verdict:  I was a bit skeptical of this product upon scanning the ingredients, but was sold while research each ingredient until I got to the second to last ingredient.  All but 5 of the ingredients in the product were rated Safe!, and none of them were Avoid! (unless you have a gluten allergy).  What concerns me about this product is the interaction of Sodium Benzoate and Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C), which react to form carcinogenic benzene.  Perhaps the ingredients cannot react in the bottle as the Vitamin C is combined with glucose, but in the event that they can is troubling, particularly because this product is marketed as containing Vitamin C and one must wonder if the combination of these ingredients is an oversight or if it is indeed safe chemically.  This product uses a number of corn products, which may be GMO contaminated, though this is not explicitly clear. I also am not fond that the brand that manufactures this product has the word “Organics” in its title, despite the fact that only 70% of the ingredients are organic–USDA organic must contain 95% organic material.  Aside from these factors, this product has quality ingredients, does not contain sulfates and might be a good cleanser.

The Downside of Natural: Biopiracy

Many people are unaware or oblivious to the fact that many of the ingredients in the products they use come from nature, whether as an oil, extract, or a chemical derived from natural sources.  Before it is in your conditioner, shampoo, soda, crackers, pill, etc. it was existing in nature.  I am all for natural and organic, but natural (as with anything) is not always good.  Some products and company operations have a high impact on the environment, which is dependent on the ingredient and its quantity within a product.

Examples

Raw materials are key components in almost every supply chain in consumer goods (clothing, personal care products, food, etc.).  In most cases the largest environmental impact occurs upstream in the supply chain (i.e. from raw materials).  If you have ever read a sustainability report for a company whose product is based on natural resource, they often exclude these impacts in their reporting.  The result is often a significant decrease in what their reported greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts should be.  As an example, cotton is a major raw material in the fashion/textiles industry.  Some of this cotton may be sourced organically or sustainably (land dedicated to agriculture), but some may sourced from lands that were recently deforested.  Agriculture in itself is also a very intensive process and also adds to greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane.  The same can be said for soft drinks and other products that utilize agricultural products.

Hoodia

San Male with Hoodia Plant

Approximately a decade ago ‘hoodia’ (hoodia gordonii) became a big diet craze.  The cactus, Ilhoba in San language, is native to Namibia and South Africa and has been used by the San people as an appetite supressor.  The San people are one of the oldest genetic populations in the world and live as hunter-gatherers who have used hoodia as an appetite suppressor for generations as it allows them to go for 1-2 days without food in the Namib and Kalahari Deserts, yet stay sustained.  The San people’s knowledge spread within South Africa, with the South African Council for Scientific Research isolating and later patenting the ingredient of hoodia gordonii that causes appetite suppression in 1977 and 1996, respectively.  The patent was then licensed to pharmaceutical companies who began studying the plant.  These companies harvested so much of the plant that it became scare for the San to find, causing hoodia gordonii to eventually be granted protected status (Namibia).  The intellectual property of the San people was acknowledged in 2002, however, the San have not being properly compensated as per a prior agreement which stated they would receive 6-8% of profits of products containing hoodia.  After 2008 the hoodia craze had subsided due to unsubstantiated scientific claims about hoodia and its safety.

The below video showcases a great deal about the San people.  The first 15 minutes discuss the challenges they have faced over hoodia, as well other challenges they have faced, such as being displaced from their ancestral lands and being forced to live outside of their traditional societies.

The Globes featuring Karen’s Body Beautiful

In honor of Black History Month, February’s “The Globes” are featuring black owned businesses with a commitment to high quality products and ingredients.  Each company has been carefully selected because they align with focal points of this site.  None of these companies have paid to be featured and all opinions are my own!

Karen’s Body Beautiful.

Image Courtesy of Karen’s Body Beautiful

Karen’s Body Beautiful was founded by namesake and proprietor Karen Tappin in November of 2003 in Brooklyn, New York. Karen began making hair and body products after learning about the presence of preservatives and possible carcinogens in many commercially available products, and decided to create all natural alternatives.  Karen’s Body Beautiful went from a small home-based full spa line to a budding brand with a store in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn and a several loyal customers in a short time.  Karen’s Body Beautiful follows the philosophy that “ingredients really matter” and has formulated her luxurious spa quality line to exclude ingredients such as “sulfates, parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates, mineral oil, paraffin, DEA, and artificial color.”  Her products are for all hair types and skin needs.  Offering 13 different fragrances, including unscented, you are sure to find a product that meets your scent, quality, and efficacy standards!  Their products are cruelty free and are not tested on animals. Karen’s Body Beautiful products are packed in PET containers and are recyclable!

Image Courtesy of Karen’s Body Beautiful

Karen is quite the entrepreneur. In addition to Karen’s Body Beautiful, she opened a larger store in Brooklyn, NY in 2006, which also features a spa.  Her products are now available in select Target stores across the country, in addition to being sold on her website, beauty supply stores, and online boutiques.  Karen’s Body Beautiful products have high quality ingredients and feature diverse offerings to suit customer needs.  I appreciate her commitment to quality ingredients, as well as her success as an entrepreneur!  I have yet to try Karen’s Body Beautiful products, but have heard great things about them.  As their presence in Target and similar stores increases I am sure we will hear much more from them in the future.

Nature’s Pulchritude’s Picks: Sweet Ambrosia Leave-In Conditioner, Maximum Moisture Body Lotion, Luscious Locks Hair Mask, Shea Body Butter, and Butter Love

Sweet Ambrosia Leave-In Conditioner

Karen’s Body Beautiful very recently celebrated 4 months in Target and 10 years in business, Congrats! Visit their website to learn more about their products!

Would you like your business featured in “The Globes?” Visit the “Contact” page to get in touch with us!

The Globes featuring Koils by Nature

In honor of Black History Month, February’s “The Globes” are featuring black owned businesses with a commitment to high quality products and ingredients.  Each company has been carefully selected because they align with focal points of this site.  None of these companies have paid to be featured and all opinions are my own!

Koils by Nature.

Koils by Nature

Koils by Nature was founded in 2009 by Pamela S. Jenkins and is a home-based business operating in Temple Hills, Maryland.  Recognizing that people want quality and affordable hair and skincare products, Pamela created Koils by Nature to suit all skin and hair types and meet high quality standards.  Koils by Nature uses the best natural ingredients because the brand cares about what their customers use on their hair and body.  Koils by Nature products do not contain “parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petroleum, paraffin, DEA, synthetic color, or animal products” and instead contain only ingredients from nature including “natural butters, oils and certified organic essential oils.”  That means their products are high quality and vegan!  The brand also sells unscented products for people with fragrance allergies, as well as products for men.  Koils by Nature tests there products on volunteer panels to ensure their safety and efficacy.

Courtesy of Koils by Nature

Pamela began making products after “going natural” and becoming more concerned about the ingredients in the products she was using on her hair and body, as well as taking note of the money she was spending on products that met her quality standards.  I, like many of you, also experienced various events that encouraged a deeper learning about what ingredients were in my hair and body products as well as trying not to spend too much on quality products, so I absolutely appreciate her story!  Though I have yet to try Koils by Nature, I have heard great things about their products and they are definitely high on my list of brands to try.

Nature’s Pulchritude Picks:  Ultra Moisturizing CocoAloe Deep Conditioner, Mositurizing Shealoe Leave-In Conditioner, Nourishing Hair and Body Butter Marvelous Mango, Replenishing Hair Oil, and Soothing Herbal Curl Defining Unscented Gel.

Koils by Nature is celebrating the 4 year anniversary of their website launch by offering 15% off of purchases on $30 or more through February 28th!  Visit their website to learn more about their products! 

Would you like your business featured in “The Globes?”  Visit the “Contact” page to get in touch with us! 

Thoughts on Animal Testing

Apparently there has been a significant movement against the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, in the form of a online petition, because it would promulgate mandatory animal testing.  The primary reasoning of the opposition is that it promotes animal cruelty, is costly, and is an antiquated practice that has been banned in the EU and a handful of other countries.

Animal testing in controlled laboratories has enabled scientists to determine how chemicals behave when they interact with humans and the environment, and therefore serve a purpose.  Many companies are cruelty free and do not conduct animal testing, however, how can one ensure that these products are truly safe?  Some companies run testing or clinical trials on people to test their products.  If some of these products are being released to the market without being tested, what are the implications?

 Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Protozoa Show Potential For Cosmetic Testing

(via InsideScience)

(Allison Jarrell  ISNS) — Mascara is a staple in many women’s beauty routines, helping to give the eyes the coveted “pop.” But before a new cosmetic hits the market, it must be tested to determine how much it could irritate the eyes it adorns.  In the U.S., this can be done using traditional live animal testing methods, such as the Draize test, which involves applying mascara or other test chemicals to the eyes of albino rabbits.

Albino Rabbits

However, over the last 20 years, scientific breakthroughs, new legislation and ethical concerns regarding live animal cosmetic testing have led to an increase in the development and validation of alternative tests. These range from testing cosmetic toxicity on the corneal layer of removed cow eyes, to cellular tests that detect and monitor cells’ pH levels after chemical exposure.

So far, no single test on animal tissue has been accepted as a complete replacement for the Draize test for all types of chemicals. But a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Liverpool in England suggests that utilizing very tiny model organisms – ciliated protozoa – may be a cheaper, reliable alternative to live mammal mascara testing.

Daize Test (via BBC)

David Montagnes, a protozoologist at the university’s Institute of Integrative Biology, and undergraduate student Hayley Thomason decided to use protozoa as model organisms for their research because of their ability to act as living detectors for environmental toxins.

“Protozoa are excellent model organisms,” Montagnes said. “They’ve been used for over 100 years as models, but we need to go back and take advantage of them.”

For the study, Thomason chose six commercial mascara brands at random and painted thin layers of each onto microscope cover slips, which were placed in chambers filled with the protozoa. Thomason and Montagnes were able to examine the mascara’s potential toxicity by measuring the tiny organisms’ growth rate.

They used two ciliates – so-called because of the hair-like structures on their exterior. One is the Paramecium caudatum, also known as the slipper ciliate because of its shape. The other is Blepharisma japonicum, nicknamed the eyelash ciliate for its long row of cilia. Both were chosen because of their large size, historic use as model organisms and genetic similarities to humans.

Paramecium Caudatum

Because of the ciliates’ size, Montagnes and Thomason were able to use a microscope to observe and measure the population growth, which varied according to the brand of mascara and the amount of mascara in the chamber. Some brands killed the protozoa, while others left them unscathed.

Montagnes said the study is a “proof of concept” – a cheap and easy way to test toxins and reveal differences between products.

“Are those differences related to something that’s going to affect humans? Since both of the cells that we used are eukaryotic cells, and we’re made up of eukaryotic cells, you would expect that there would be some correlation there,” Montagnes said.

Besides being inexpensive and resilient, Montagnes said protozoa are ideal because they have a similar metabolism to higher animals, but aren’t classified as such.

“We consider protozoa and other similar species as a lower species,” said Frank Barile, a toxicologist at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Jamaica, N.Y. and chief editor of the journal Toxicology in Vitro. He was not involved with the new study. “Most of the people who are sensitive to the use of animals in toxicology don’t really worry about the effects on these single-celled organisms.”

Now that the study has been published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Sciences, Montagnes said the next step is cross-referencing the research with epidemiological work or biomolecular techniques.

Barile noted that there is much work to be done and “stringent criteria” to be met before the method could be validated by the U.S. government or the European Union. He said scientists need to continue testing with protozoa, and added that testing a larger sample of chemicals that have already been tested with other methods would add to the validity of the study.

“Then you can say the test is more sensitive than, or as sensitive as, using rabbits or guinea pigs,” Barile said. “That’s part of the validation process. If some laboratories decide that this test might be very easy [to conduct], inexpensive and easy to set up, then it will promote itself.”

If ciliated protozoa do prove useful in cosmetic testing, Barile said the outcome would be a new sensitive, non-animal test – one that fits into the overall goals of the cosmetic toxicology field.

He summarizes those goals as reducing the number of higher animals used in tests, refining tests so they’re less painful and developing tests that don’t require any higher animals.

“The Draize test was developed in the 1940s; it’s so archaic,” Barile said. “I don’t know of any case in the biomedical professions, maybe with one or two exceptions, where we still use something today that was developed around World War II.”

Cosmetics Law: Legislative Impasse, Corporate Free for All

If you have been following this site you have probably realized and become very familiar with the following statement regarding cosmetics law in the United States: “Legislatively, there is limited protection for consumers against potentially dangerous chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms in cosmetics, personal care products, and food.”  If you are viewing Nature’s Pulchritude for the first time, that statement is a partial introduction to why this site exists.  The unfortunate reality is that most consumers are ill-informed or apathetic about what is in their cosmetics, personal care products, and food, and on top of that there is limited legislative protection for any consumer (knowledgeable or otherwise) to avoid harmful chemicals and toxins outside of purchasing certified organic.  This past week two articles were published and reposted on this site that clearly highlight the legislative issues with cosmetics.  The fact of the matter is that there is a legislative impasse–companies are essentially doing whatever they please (a free for all) because existing laws allow them to, whether through loopholes or inadequate permissions to regulate by the appropriate agency.  Despite the attempts at getting Federal or state legislation passed, progress seems to be moot.

The current state of affairs is unacceptable and needs to change.  The first article  linked the presence of certain chemicals (lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBS), and toluene) in cosmetics and household products to developmental issues in fetuses and young children.  It should be pointed out that the chemicals listed are scientifically very well known to be toxic, however, for reasons unbeknownst to many informed people these chemicals are still in various household and personal care products in the United States.  Why?  The European Union, Japan, and other nations have banned the used of these chemicals in products or have given concentration restrictions.  Why has this not happened in the United States?  Well, steps have been taken in the United States, albeit unsuccessful or struggling.

The second article discussed how the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 in California has struggled due to lack of funding and cooperation from corporate entities.  This situation further illustrates the legislative problems that enable a corporate free for all.  Companies do not have to fully comply with California State Law, which requires that ingredients be disclosed prior to being sold in the state, because there is a loophole that allows them to claim “trade secret” without further proof or justification.  Loopholes in legislation are not new, however, when it drastically impedes the ability of a law to fulfill its purpose it almost defeats the purpose.  California was also one of the first states to propose a bill to require GMOs be labeled in all products, however, voters did not pass it during the 2012 elections.  The legislative world can be difficult to navigate and goes much deeper than people voting.  While the aforementioned legislations and the stalled Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (Federal law) are steps in the right direction, more must be done.

Many people strongly underestimate the power they wield as consumers.  They are not called “consumer products” solely because it is catchy, but because they are dependent on you, the consumer.  Companies spend millions of dollars annually convincing you to buy their product (marketing), and with social media and the internet are devising more innovate means to reach the consumer.  If a significant portion of consumers decide they do not want harmful chemicals in their personal care products or pesticides and GMOs in their food and stop purchasing these products to the extent that it impacts these companies financially, changes will occur.  Until that happens the legislative impasse and corporate free for all are likely to continue.

What do you think should happen to implement effect Cosmetics law in the United States?

Pulchritude: African Shea Tree

Copyright F. Allal/CIRAD

Appreciate the Pulchritude of the African Shea Tree.

Before you purchase it wholesale or it becomes an ingredient in one of your favorite products, ‘shea butter’ was once a seed on a African Shea (Karité) Tree (Vitellaria paradoxa, formerly Butyrospermum parkii).  African Shea Trees are native to equatorial Tropical West and Central Africa, spanning east through the parts of Ethiopia.  ‘Shea butter’ has become a key ingredient in the cosmetics industry, though it has long been used by West and Central Africans for a variety of purposes, with evidence of shea butter extraction dating back to the 1300’s.  The African Shea Tree is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).