How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XVII

Today you picked up a facial cleanser and makeup remover that caught your eye in a local drug store.  It is a natural product made by a mainstream brand that drew your attention.  You liked many of the environmentally friendly attributes on the bottle, as well as the logo of a known environmental organization.  Did you make a selection that meets your Label Poise?  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 sixteen posts on how to read cosmetic 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

Quick Tip:  Aside from avoiding synthetic chemicals as much as possible, have an idea of what ingredients do not work as well 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!

The Label


The Ingredients

Water:  Safe!  Water is the ultimate moisturizer and is a key ingredient in many moisturizing products.

Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine:  Beware!  This ingredient is a mild amphoteric (reacts as a base and an acid) synthetic surfactant, and the bottle indicates this product is derived from coconut/palm. This ingredient is not believed to be an eye or skin irritant, though an additional study found it to be a skin allergen in a patch test. It is not believed to be a carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, or reproductive toxin, though there is limited information available. (MSDS)

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate:  Beware!  Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is a mild ionic surfactant that is a sodium salt of lauroyl sarcosine, which was derived from coconut and palm kernel. It is also used as a foaming and hair conditioning. It is considered safe when used in concentrations less than 5%, though there is concern over contamination with nitrosamine, a carcinogen. It is considered a skin and eye irritant in pure form. There is no information available on carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, developmental toxicity, or teratogenicity. (MSDS;MSDS)

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)

Glycerin:  Safe! Glycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture in the skin.  The Glycerin in this product is vegetable derived.   (MSDS)

Hydrolyzed Caesalpina Spinosa Gum:  Beware!/Avoid!  This ingredient is derived from the Peruvian Tara Seed. It is used as a an absorbent, emollient, and skin conditioning agent. It is considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review in concentrations between 0.002-0.4%, which is the current usage range. There is very limited information about this ingredient. No MSDS.

Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum:  Beware!/Avoid!  This ingredient is derived from the Peruvian Tara Seed. It is used as a an emulsion stabilizer and skin conditioning agent. It is considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review in concentrations in its current usage range. No MSDS.

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.  The label of this product just says it was derived from a ‘vegetable’ source, which is likely one of the aforementioned.  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)

Glyceryl Oleate:  Safe!  This ingredient consists of oleic acid and glycerin both from vegetable sources as indicated on the bottle.  It is used as an emollient, emulsifier, and fragrance ingredient.  (MSDS)

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

Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride: Beware! This ingredient is quaternary ammonium derivative of guar gum, which is made from the guar bean indicated on the bottle. It acts as a skin conditioning and viscosity controlling agent, and detangler.  It can be an eye irritant in pure form though it is not expected to be a skin irritant.  It is not believed to be a carcinogen, however, there is not information on mutagenicity.  (MSDSMSDS)

Caprylyl Glycol: Beware! Caprylyl Glycol is used as a humectant, emollient, and wetting agent that also has anti-microbial properties. This ingredient can be synthetic or naturally derived though that information is not indicated on the bottle. It is not believed to be a skin or eye irritant, nor is it considered a mutagen. (MSDS)

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)

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 concentration above 0.2%, so it should be fine in this product.  (MSDS)

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)

Fragrance:  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.


Nature’s Pulchritude’s Verdict:   I would consider purchasing this product.  While several of the ingredients are labeled Beware! , it is more so because of a lack of information than known hazards.  An issue with this product is the listing of the origin of the ingredients.  Some ingredients have the word derived while others do not.  The primary reason for this is because some ingredients, such as Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, may have used a component derived from a natural source though the overall ingredient is synthetic and has been significantly altered chemically to create the final product.  This product may list the origin as coconut derived, which is true, thought it may be misleading a customer to think it is not synthetic or completely naturally derived.  The ingredients are better than many other cleansers and makeup removers on the market, and also boasts a bottle made from 50% post consumer recycled material.  How they list their ingredients is really commendable and appreciated because a vast majority of other companies do not.


Would you purchase this product?


7 thoughts on “How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XVII”

  1. I finally could find some helpful information here! I had started both a new helmet with a liner and new hair conditioner at the same time for about 2-3 weeks, before hive took place. I did not think of the conditioner could be the cause, because it was the first NATURAL hair conditioner I have ever used in my life. I don’t ever have problems with widely produced commercial hair products. I am not allergic to any food but only a few known natural items for contact dermatitis. I did stop using both helmet and conditioner.

    It took me a month to heal my serious hive. Just a week ago, I used the conditioner again. This time, it only took one day to react. Thus, I washed my hair again and applied the prescribed cream immediately after the breakout. Thus, this time, it’s not as serious.

    I have tried to find out if there was any record or research on any ingredient in the conditioner. I couldn’t find anything until reading this website. Thank you for posting.

    I suspect “caesalpinia spinosa gum” after reading this website. Would you mind further explaining more about this substance?

    P.S. all the ingredients in the conditioner:
    Aqua/water, brassica alcohol, cetyl alcohol, glycerin, brassicyl isoleucinate esylate, squalane, plumeria acutifolia flower extract, hydrolyzed quinoa protein*, porphyra umbilicalis extract, caesalpinia spinosa gum, angelica archangelica root oil, vanilla planifolia fruit extract, coffea arabica (coffee) seed extract, cocos nucifera (coconut) fruit extract, pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract, prunus armeniaca (apricot) fruit extract, avena sativa (oat) kernel extract*, gluconolactone, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower extract, lonicera japonica (honeysuckle) flower extract

  2. i am using a product with Brassicyl Isoleucinate Esylate (plant derived), Brassica Alcohol (from brassica oil) called Don’t Despair deep conditioner by Briogeo. It has caused contact dermatitis. I suspect these ingredients are causing the allergic reaction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s