How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XXXII

You’ve been hearing about a new product line from one of your favorite brands that you just had to get your hands on.   You pick up a leave-in conditioner and see a few ingredients you don’t recognize, but you purchase it anyway.  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.  For instructions on Label Poise visit our Label Poise page.

The Label


The Ingredients

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

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil:  Safe!  This ingredient is used as an emollient, moisturizer, and skin conditioning agent. The type of Castor Oil in this product is unlike Castor Oil you will find in a drug store, as the castor seeds are roasted and the oil is typically extracted by hand. This ingredient is not known to be toxic or carcinogenic, though it is a suspected penetration enhancer.

Stearyl Alcohol:  Safe!  This is also a fatty alcohol that is often used as an emollient and emulsifier in conditioner. (MSDS)

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.  (MSDS)

Behentrimonium Chloride:  Beware!   Also known as Docosyltrimethylammonium chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride Is a “quaternary ammonium compound” made from corn (likely GMO) or canola oil. It is used as an antistatic, detangling aid, conditioning agent, and disinfectant. This product is toxic to aquatic animals, however, the concentrations in the product are likely less than 3% and should not be harmful. This product can cause skin irritation upon prolonged or repeated exposure (via MSDS), though concentrations and exposure length is not likely enough to be harmful. In pure form Behentrimonium Chloride is also an eye irritant that can cause severe and permanent damage with prolonged exposure. In the U.S. it is used in concentrations of 0.2 – 7% by weight of the formula, depending on the product. It is banned by the European Union in concentrations over 0.1% in “ready to use” products. There is no data available regarding mutagenicity and carcinogenicity. (Author’s Note: Avoid if you are averse to GMOs, I don’t recall using this ingredient in a product so err on the side of caution.)  (MSDS)

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

Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil:  Safe!  Coconut oil is used for is skin conditioning and moisturizing properties. It is high in vitamins E and K.

Panthenol:  Safe!  This ingredient is a provitamin of B5.  Panthenol is an alcohol analog of Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).  It is used as an anti-static and conditioning agent.  It can be derived from plants or animals therefore it may not be vegan friendly. There is debate about what benefits panthenol can actually provide to hair as a vitamin being that hair is not living.  Panthenol is a mild skin and eye irritant in pure form, though there is no information on carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, mutagenicity, or developmental toxicity.  It is low on the list of ingredients and should not be a concern.  (MSDS; MSDS)

Dicaprylyl Ether:  Safe!/Beware!  This ingredient is an ether of coconut oil (or other plant based oil) derived caprylic acid. It acts primarily as an emollient and solvent. It gives a non-greasy residue on the skin and hair and has been used as an alternative to silicones. Dicapryyl Ether also increases the spreadability of a product. Also known as dioctyl ether, this ingredient is not known to be a skin irritant or sensitizer, though it is a slight eye irritant. It is not known to be a carcinogenic, mutagen or reproductive toxin. This ingredient has not yet been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. (MSDS)

Hydroxyethylcellulose:  Safe!/Beware!  This ingredient is a modified celluose polymer. Hydroxyethylcellulose is primarily used as a binder, viscosity controlling agent (aqueous), emulsion stabilizer, and film forming agent. It is typically used in concentrations of 0.1 – 3% by weight of the formula. It can be a mild skin or eye irritant in pure form, though it is not known to be carcinogenic. (MSDS;MSDS)

Glycerin (Vegetable):  Safe!  This ingredient is derived from palm, coconut, soy, or other vegetable fats.  It is used as an emollient and has the ability to draw moisture and oxygen to the skin.  There is no information in mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, developmental toxicity, or teratogenic effects.  In pure form is can be a skin, eye, and lung irritant, and may be toxic to the kidneys with prolonged exposure.  It is typically used in concentrations of 2 – 5% of the formula and is a minimal concern.  (MSDS)

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

Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil:  Safe!  This oil is extracted from the Baobab Tree, which is found exclusively in Africa. This oil contains vitamins A, D, E, and F, and is high in Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 fatty acids. Baobab is believed to improve skin elasticity, encourage cell regeneration, and proves moisture.

Hydrolyzed Keratin:  Safe!  Hydrolyzed Keratin is a hydrolysate (produced via hydrolysis [water breakdown]) of keratin derived by an acid or enzyme. Keratin is a key building block of hair and is used to fortify hair as a protein. It is typically used as a skin conditioning agent and humectant. This ingredient can be derived from animals sources (sheep’s wool), therefore Avoid! if you are vegan. This ingredient is not known to be a skin or lung irritant, though it can be an eye irritant. Hydrolyzed Keratin is not known to be carcinogenic or mutagenic. (MSDS; MSDS)

Mauritia Flexuosa Fruit Oil:  Safe!  This ingredient is made from the fruit of the Buruti or Moriche palm tree, which is native to Brazil. The oil is very high in oleic acid, tocopherols, carotenoids, and has a higher concentration of betacarotene than carrots. It is used as an emollient and conditioning agent for skin and hair, and can protect from damage caused by UV rays.

Tocopherol:  Safe!  Also known as Vitamin E, Tocopherol is a is a fat soluble alcohol with antioxidant properties.  This ingredient is not known to have carcinogenic or toxic effects.  It can also be used as a preservative for oils. (MSDS)

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

Yeast Extract:  Safe!/Beware!  There is limited information about the benefits of the ingredient for hair, though it is though to be a skin conditioning agent. It can be an eye, skin, and lung irritant in pure form, though it is not known to be carcinogenic. (MSDS; MSDS: Yeast Extract, Selenium)

Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol:  Avoid!  This ingredient is a mixture of hydrolyzed vegetable protein and silicone. It is used as a surfactant, and hair and skin conditioning agent. No MSDS found.

Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract:  Safe!  Peppermint leaf extract is made by extracting the essential oils of the leaves using alcohol distillation. It creates a cooling and soothing effect on the skin and scalp due to its high menthol content. It can be a skin and eye irritant in pure form, though it is not known to be toxic. (MSDS)

Fragrance (Essential Oil Blend):  Safe!/Beware!  This is a blend of various essential oils that likely acts as a fragrance and may also have other beneficial properties for the hair.  It is listed generically, similar to parfum or fragrance, because the blend is likely considered a “trade secret.”  If you have sensitive skin or are known to be allergic to some essential oils Beware!

Hydrolyzed Rice Protein:  Beware!  This ingredient is a hydrolysate (produced via hydrolysis [water breakdown]) of rice protein derived by an acid or enzyme. It is used as a hair and skin conditioning agent, as well as an antistatic agent. Hydrolyzed Rice Protein is not known to be a skin irritant, though it is an eye and lung irritant in pure form. It is not believed to be a carcinogen, though there is no toxicological information available. (MSDS)

Butylene Glycol:  Beware!  Also known as 1,3-Butanediol, this ingredient is an organic alcohol that is typically used as a solvent. Butylene Glycol is typically synthetically produced via the catalytic hydrogenation (combine with Hydrogen) of acetaldehyde. It is commonly used in concentrations of 1-10% and can be used as a skin conditioning agent, humectant, and viscosity controlling (decreasing) agent. Butylene Glycol is typically derived from petroleum sources and can contain potentially carcinogenic impurities such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Very limited research does not indicate Butylene Glycol as a carcinogen, though it can be a skin, eye, and lung irritant in pure form. (MSDS; MSDS)

Niacin:  Safe!  Also known as vitamin B3 and nicotinic acid, this ingredient is a heterocyclic aromatic compound. It is used as a hair and skin conditioning agent, antistatic agent, and smoothing agent. It is not known to be toxic, though it is very hazardous to skin, eyes, and lungs in pure form. (MSDS)

Dextran: Safe! This ingredient is a glucan (a polysaccharide [a carbohydrate] made of multiple glucose molecules) that is synthesized from lactid acid bacteria. Dextran is typically used as a binder and viscosity building agent. This ingredient is a slight skin and eye irritant in pure form. Dextran is not known to be carcinogenic, though additional research on toxicity is not available. It is water soluble. (MSDS; MSDS; MSDS)

Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3:   Avoid!  This ingredient is considered a skin protector and is formed by adding an acetyl group (-C(O)CH3) to Tetrapeptide-3.  It is used in an anti-hair loss/growth complex called Capixyl, which also includes Butylene Glycol, Dextran, and Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract.  No MSDS Found.

Trifolium Pratense (Clover) Flower Extract:   Beware!  This ingredient is an extract of Red Clover flower, which is native to Europe, west Asia, and northern Africa. It is believe to prevent hair loss and improve the elasticity and strength of hair. It is also used as an astringent and masking agent. Red Clover is a phytoestrogen and is believed to have estrogen-like effects and has been used as a treatment for menopause symptoms.  (MSDS; NIH Research)

Vinegar:  Safe!  The vinegar in this product is apple cider vinegar, which is created by the fermentation of cider or apple must. The fermentation process utilizes bacteria and yeast to produce alcohol which is then converted to vinegar by acetic acid forming bacteria. It is used in this produce to balance pH of the product and the hair.

Caprylhydroxomic Acid:  Beware!  Also known as octanohydroxamic acid, this ingredient is an amino acid that can be derived from coconut oil. Caprylhydroxomic Acid functions as a chelating agent and preservative at a neutral pH. There is very limited toxicological information available about this ingredient. (MSDS; MSDS)

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)

Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil:  Safe!  This ingredient is made by pressing macadamia nuts and is used for its moisturizing and emollient properties.  If you are allergic to tree nuts or macadamia nuts, Beware!



Nature’s Pulchritude’s Verdict:  One of the first things I noticed looking at this ingredient list is “What is the preservative”?  I have become pretty familiar with this brand and more or less all of their products. Said preservative is a natural paraben.  Perhaps some of the ‘backlash’ against those ingredients has this company to another alternative.  Only caveat is the replacement for the ‘parabens’ has very limited information available about its safety.  Not surprising.  The first 5 ingredients of this product are pretty good and should not be a cause of concern.

Something else to take note of is the amount of proteins (3 different types) in the product.  As well as the presence of 2 ingredients that are essentially silicone replacements.  One of those ingredients, Butylene Glycol, is a bit of a surprise on the ingredient list, though it is included because it is an ingredient in an anti-hair loss complex.  This product is formulated for women with chemically treated (relaxers, color, etc) or heat damaged hair as indicated on the jar.  This product is worth considering if you are looking for a product to help repair damaged hair.

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