How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels V

Today we’re in the store to buy another baby shampoo that you just finished.  You pick up a product by the go-to brand for baby products–they must know what they are doing, right?   There are several different options and you pick up the product with Cocoa and Shea Butters.  You start using your Label Poise and notice the product has a lot of chemicals you should ‘Beware!‘ and ‘Avoid!‘.  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:


The Ingredients:

Water:  Safe!

Cocamidopropyl Betaine:  Beware!  This ingredient is a synthetic surfactant derived from coconut oil and dimethylamonipropylamine.  This ingredient can be a skin allergen and irritant and was voted Allergen of the Year in 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.  It is also an eye and lung irritant, though it is not known to be carcinogenic or mutagenic. (MSDS)

PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate:  Beware!  PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate is used as an emulsifier, mild solvent, and mild surfactant, which helps water combine with oil and dirt to be cleansed.  This ingredient is considered safe to use in cosmetics, however it is derived from polyethylene glycol, which may be contaminated with carcinogens 1,4-dioxane (1 ppt), formaldehyde (2.5 ppm), ethylene oxide (1 ppm), and acetaldehyde (3 ppt).  (MSDS)

Sodium Trideceth Sulfate:  Beware!/Avoid!  This ingredient is a surfactant.  Very limited information available.

Acrylates Copolymer:  Beware!  This ingredient is used as a binding, film forming, and antistatic agent.  It can be found in a variety of products including nail polish, hair sprays, sunscreen and mascara.  It is not known to be carcinogenic or mutagenic, thought it may be a skin or eye irritant. (MSDS)

Phenoxyethanol:  Avoid!  This is a preservative.  You will notice it is very high on the list of ingredients.  The FDA released a warning about how it can impact the central nervous system and induce vomiting in infants.  Interesting isn’t it?  it is commonly used because it is safer than formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.  It is also suspected to be a xenoestrogen (mimics estrogen), a cause of contact dermatitis and skin irritant.  I am not sure what concentration is in this product, but it is banned in the EU and Japan in concentrations over 1%.  Therefore, one would assume it is either greater than the EU concentration restraint or it is in accordance, and all the Shea & Coco Butters that are used to market this product are at very low concentrations.  This ingredient is made from 2 carcinogens (benzene and ethylene oxide), though it itself is not known to be carcinogenic.

Glycol Distearate:  Avoid!  This ingredient is used as an emollient.  It is the diester of ethylene glycol and stearic acid.  It is typically used in concentrations of 0.5 – 4%.  There is no data available about hazards, carcinogenicity, or mutagenicity. (MSDS)

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

Fragrance:  Beware!  Fragrances are often synthetic. They are in moderate concentration in this product, so there may be a greater chance of having an allergic reaction.

Lauryl Methyl Gluceth-10 Hydroxypropyldimonium Chloride:  Avoid!  This ingredient is an ammonium salt used for its humectant and antistatic qualities.  There is no available information available on this ingredient.

Laureth-4:  Beware!  This is a synthetic polymer of lauryl alcohol and polyethylene glycol (PEG).  It is used as surfactant, antistatic agent, emulsifier, and masker.  This ingredient is typically used in concentrations of 1-5%.  It has low toxicity, is not mutagenic is lab animals. (PubChem)

Methylparaben:  Beware!  This ingredient is synthetic and acts as a preservative with anti-fungal properties.  It is naturally occurring in fruits such as blueberries as p-hydroxybenzoic acid.  This ingredient is readily absorbed into skin and it along with other parabens have been at the center of controversy about its role in causing cancerous cells in breast tissue being that parabens are xenoestrogens (mimic estrogen).  There is not conclusive proof that states that use of personal care products containing parabens causes cancer.  Methylparaben is suspected to cause DNA damage and increased skin aging when it reacts to UVB rays.

Sodium Hydroxide:  Beware!  Also known as caustic soda or lye, this ingredient is likely used to aid surfactants or increase pH.  In pure form it can be dangerous, toxic to eyes, lungs, and skin, though it is typically used in low concentrations in personal care products. (MSDS)

Propylparaben:  Beware!  Propylparaben is used as an anti-fungal preservative, typically in concentrations less than 1%.  It is commonly synthetically produced though it is produced naturally in fruits as p-hydroxybenzoic acid.  It is readily absorbed into the skin and metabolized, and has been found in urine in limited tests.  This ingredient is readily absorbed into skin and it along with other parabens have been at the center of controversy about its role in causing cancerous cells in breast tissue being that parabens are xenoestrogens (mimic estrogen).  There is not conclusive proof that demonstrates that use of personal care products containing parabens causes cancer.

Tetrasodium EDTA:  Beware!/Avoid!  EDTA is an abbreviation for Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid.  This ingredient is used as a chelating agent to sequester metal ions and causes them to lose the ability of reacting with other ingredients.  It is also used as a preservative.  It can improve lather and decrease incidence of soap scum.  Tetrasodium EDTA is a penetration enhancer and suspected to be toxic to the upper respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. Target organs are the kidneys and bladder.  This ingredient is toxic to the environment and is a suspected persistent organic pollutant (POP) by the EU.  (MSDS; MSDS)

Mineral Oil:  Beware!  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 products.  Mineral Oil prevents moisture from entering or leaving the skin.

Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter:  Safe!  Derived from the seeds of the Cacao pod, it is used for its emollient and moisturizing properties.

Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter:  Safe!  This ingredient is derived from the nut of the Shea Tree and is used for its moisturizing properties.

Tocopheryl Acetate:  Safe!/Beware!  Tocopheryl Acetate, a form of Vitamin E, 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.

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice:  Safe!  This ingredient is used for its nutrient content and moisturizing properties.

Yellow 10:  Beware!  This ingredient is typically derived from petroleum or coal tar.  It may be contaminated with carcinogens associated with petroleum. Its use is approved by the FDA, there is not information available on teratogenicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, or developmental toxicity, though it is a skin, eye, and inhalation hazard and irritant. (MSDS)

Red 40:  Beware!  Also known as Allura Red AC, CI16035, FD&C Red 40, this ingredient is a synthetic dye used in food and cosmetics.  It is not recommended for use for consumption of children due to a study linking it and other synthetic dyes to hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  It is considered safe by the FDA and EU (individual countries have banned its use).  It is not known to be (no data) carcinogenic, teratogenic, or mutagenic, though it is a slight skin, eye, and lung irritant in pure form. (MSDS).

Nature’s Pulchritude Verdict:  Four of the first five ingredients are potentially hazardous.  This is a baby product that has an ingredient fairly high on the ingredient list that can impact the central nervous system and induce vomiting in infants, a warning that was issued by the FDA.  Need I say more?  This product looks worse than some shampoos used on adults.  Additionally, this product is marketed using the moisturizing factors of Cocoa and Shea Butters, being that babies lose moisture in their skin quickly.  Remember what I mentioned about ingredient list and quantity (Tip #1)?  The Cocoa and Shea Butters are 4th and 5th from the bottom, it is unlikely they are providing much “moisture.”  It is also questionable that several of the ingredients in this product had no available information, they could be harmless but they may also be harmful and that is not a change you would want to take with a baby.  On another note, the makers of this product have released a “naturals” version of their baby products, check back in a few weeks to see if it is really a better product.


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