How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XLI

You have finally ventured away from the drugstore and have decided to look for products in a nearby health food store that sells natural and organic products.  You are curious to see if there is truly any difference in the ingredients at a typical drugstore versus a health food store.  You pick up a product that meets your standards: it has 5 ingredients (!!), the 5 ingredients look familar to you, and the product has fair trade ingredients.  Seeing a product that also has a social cause really moved you.  You are not too sure what saponified means, but the shea butter and coconut oil soothe your reservations.  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

Azadirachta Indica (Neem) Aqueous Extract:  Beware! This ingredient is used as a skin conditioning agent and has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-hyperglycemic and insecticidal properties. No MSDS found.

Liquid Shea Butter Soap

    • Water:  Safe!  Water is the ultimate moisturizer and is a key ingredient in many moisturizing products.
    • Saponified Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter:  Safe!  This ingredient is derived from the nut of the Shea Tree and is used for its moisturizing properties.
    • Saponified Coconut Oil:  Safe! Coconut oil is used for is skin conditioning and moisturizing properties. It is high in vitamins E and K.

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)

Lavandula Hydrida Oil:  Safe!  This ingredient is a hybrid of true lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia) and Lavandula latifolia. The oil is extracted via steam distillation of the stems and leaves of the plant. It is used as an antiseptic and fragrant. It is not known to be carcinogenic or toxic, though it is a skin and eye irritant in pure form. It has the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic species and is an aquatic toxin. (MSDSMSDS)

Sodium Chloride:  Beware!   This is common table salt. Sodium Chloride can be added to a lotion as a thickener or as a preservative. Salt can dry moisture away from the skin, however, given the likely concentration it should not be a concern.  (MSDS)



Nature’s Pulchritude’s Critique:  This body wash is a “true” soap, meaning to produce the soap fats, in this case shea butter and coconut oil, were saponified (turning a fat into soap by reacting with an alkali).  If done correctly none of the alkali (typically Potassium Hydroxide [KOH] or Sodium Hydroxide [NaOH]) will no longer remain after the reaction, only the soap.  None of the ingredients in the product are of concern.  I would definitely give this product a try!

The Allergens in Natural Beauty Products

It is very important to acknowledge that everything is a chemical.  Despite a product being all natural and/or organic the chemicals in the products you use can illicit an allergic or sensitizing reaction.  This is also why it is important to pay attention to the ingredients in your products and your skins reaction to aid in finding products that work for you or common ingredients in your products that may be causing a negative reaction.

Please note that all essential oils and fragrances have use restrictions.

By Rebecca Guenard–When Sara ordered a zucchini, goat cheese, and broad-bean salad, she had no way of knowing it would almost cost her life. As her airway began to swell after two bites, a shot of adrenaline was the only thing that could save her.  Sara was 55 years old at the time and had never had an allergic reaction to goat cheese. A few months before her anaphylaxis she had stopped using a natural moisturizer made with goat’s milk because instead of helping, it only exacerbated her itchy, dry skin.  But worse than that, the organic beauty cream ended up putting her in the emergency room.

Sara had a hidden allergy to a compound in goat’s milk.  The daily moisturizer she applied built up enough antibodies to cause the flood of immune response she experienced the day she ingested a massive dose of the compound.

Natural beauty products like the one Sara opted for have become very popular: Due in part to the cosmetics market, revenue from essential oils is expected to total $1.5 billion by 2018.  And marketing language is often designed to entice consumers by imbuing natural ingredients with wondrous properties–the liquid soap in my bathroom encourages me to experience the soothing fragrance of lavender and chamomile as it “works its magic” on my hands. But as Sara’s case demonstrates, “natural” doesn’t always mean “worry-free.”

“A lot of people think if you buy a natural product then you are not going to have any allergies to it. No, that’s not what natural means,” says Dr. Cindy Jones, a biochemist and natural-beauty formulator. In fact, two of the most reputedly benign ingredients—the magic-makers chamomile and lavender—are known allergens.

Chamomile can soothe, but for those with an allergy to this family of plants, which also includes daises and ragweed (responsible for common springtime allergies), the potential for hives and swelling hinders relaxation.

Lavender induces tranquility too, but it can also cause enough skin irritation that in May 2014 the Swedish Chemicals Agency (SCA) proposed a health warning on lavender products. The European Union is now considering labeling lavender, “May Be Harmful if Inhaled.” More specifically, a lavender allergy is caused by a compound within lavender extract called linalool. Linalool produces lavender’s fragrance and reacts with air to form the skin irritant. The natural extract of a lavender plant contains 20 to 40 percent linalool, depending on the plant variety, and chemists can synthesize linalool at a purity of 97 percent.

The more people use natural products, the more likely they are to develop an allergy to them, since reactions often occur with regular contact. These types of allergens are called sensitizers.

“People often think that when they become allergic to some thing it has to be something new,” says Dr. Michael Stierstoffer, a dermatologist practicing in the Philadelphia area. “But often it’s something that they have been repetitively exposed to and then at some point in time the immune system just decides to become allergic to it.”

Some types of allergies induce hay fever and asthma as the immune system dumps histamine and other inflammatory response chemicals into the blood stream in response to the allergen.  A Type 1 allergy, as it is known, can be fatal if the inflammation is so severe that the airway swells to the point of closing (called anaphylaxis).  A less extreme allergy (Type 4) occurs when lymph nodes absorb an allergen and tag it as suspicious.  Continued exposure assures the immune system of the allergen’s ill will and, eventually, contact with the allergen results in a scaly rash.  Both types of allergies can exhibit this sensitization lag time, though it’s more common with Type 4.

Stierstoffer says because of the frequent consumer assumption that natural equals better, more people encounter chamomile and lavender than in the past and thus more people react to them. “The more you get exposed to an allergen, the higher the chance that your body’s immune system will see it as something it doesn’t like and react to it.”

The best example of this is a sensitization study conducted with a natural product over nine years in Japan.  Researchers analyzed the low-dose exposure of 1483 patients to lavender oil. The study showed that between 1990 and 1998 the rate of allergy among participants increased from 1 percent to 14 percent, with a spike in 1997 when aromatherapy became trendy.

Since the turn of the millennium lavender’s popularity has only grown. Lavender is present in 90 percent of cosmetics products sold in the U.S. It’s found in places you would expect, like detergents and air fresheners, but it is also a common ingredient in less intuitive products, such as adhesives, plasters, and inks. Any scented product, be it cosmetic or stationary, most likely contains lavender. And, because of its proven sleep-inducing effect, products marketed to children—bubble bath, shampoo, lotion—contain lavender 70 percent of the time. It is this omnipresence that provoked the SCA to warn consumers of lavender’s potential harm.

No one knows why some people become sensitive to linalool molecules and others don’t. The exact percentage of the population affected depends on the source: Some studies report 2 percent of people break out in an eczematous rash from contact with lavender, while others claim it’s as high as 7 percent. Dr. Donald Belsito, a Columbia Medical Center dermatologist and panel member on two different boards that review ingredient safety, says experiments on mice suggest people’s genes may have the answer. “We are probably all born with whatever allergies we might potentially develop and then it is only with the correct exposures over time that those allergies become manifest,” he says.

Anything someone continually introduces to her body, whether synthesized or naturally occuring, has the potential to someday cause an allergic reaction. Slightly more than half of all linalool produced globally is man-made, but regardless of the source the allergic reaction is the same.

The skin irritation associated with lavender is less extreme than what Sara experienced with goat’s milk, and Cindy Jones doesn’t think the numbers are big enough to warrant a label that would taint lavender’s reputation. “I think one study I was reading in that filing was where they introduced the oxidized linalool to volunteers and they found 1.8 percent developed sensitivity. Which to me just seems low,” Jones says.

Lavender growers worry that a label warning on lavender products will affect sales, precipitating a lavender-free consumer trend. “If you couldn’t use lavender in cosmetics that would be pretty serious,” Jones says. (Or, as a presenter at the recent Society of Cosmetic Chemists annual meeting put it, “When you start to pass a regulation that means you can’t sell Chanel No. 5 anymore, things start to get dicey.”) He was exaggerating—Chanel could still sell its iconic perfume, but the warning label it would have to carry might make people reluctant to spritz themselves.

Stierstoffer cautions that once an allergy does occur it will not go away. “So people have to be forever vigilant once they have an allergy. They have to read labels.” If you have a lavender allergy he points out the importance of buying fragrance-free products (“unscented products” may still contain linalool to mask other odors). And even if you avoid the allergen for a long time re-exposure could lead to a breakout. “The immune system has a very good memory,” Stierstoffer says.

(via The Atlantic)


How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XL

You are looking to switch your hair care products to more natural alternatives in 2015.  You see this ‘natural’ gel in your local drugstore and decide to give it a try.  Is this product as natural as it claims to be?  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

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

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)

Glyercin: Safe!  Glycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture in the skin. Glycerine can be derived from fats and oils, or synthetically–which is not indicated here.  (MSDS)

Dehydroxanthan Gum: Beware!  This ingredient is made via the dehydration of xanthan gum. Dehydroxanthan gum is used as an emulsion stabilizer, film former, hair fixing agent, and viscosity controlling agent. No MSDS Found.

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)

Lithium Magnesium Sodium Silicate: Beware! This ingredient is a synthetic silicate clay that is used as a bulking agent, viscosity increasing agent (aqueous), and viscosity controlling agent. No MSDS found. Lithium Magnesium Sodium Silicate is considered safe for use in cosmetic products by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review.

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

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)

Citronellol: Beware! Also known as dihydrogeraniol, Citronellol is a natural acyclic terpenoid and is used as a fragrance agent. Though it is considered Generally Regarded As Safe by the US FDA, it has use restrictions due to Citronellol’s ability to sensitize the skin. This ingredient is a skin and eye irritant, and is toxic to aquatic organisms. Citronellol is not known to be mutagenic or carcinogen. (MSDS; MSDS)

Linalool:  Safe!/Beware!  This ingredient is used as a fragrance and is banned in rinse off products above a concentration of 0.01% (or 0.001% in leave-on products).  It is naturally occurring in various plants and spices, though it may also be made synthetically.  It is considered a skin irritant (causing eczema) and allergen, though pure linalool can have anti-cancer properties.  Given that the concentration is likely quite low it should be fine unless you are allergic to it.

Acacia Senegal/Accacia Senegal Gum:  Safe!  This ingredient is a gum derived from Senegalia senegal, a deciduous tree that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. Also known as acacia gum, it is used as an astringent. Acacia Senegal Gum is not known to be toxic though it can be an eye, skin, and lung irritant in pure form. It is considered safe to use by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review in current use amounts. (MSDS)



Nature’s Pulchritude’s Critique:  While the 98% naturally-derived label cannot be confirmed simply by looking at the ingredients, however, the ingredients in this product are mostly rated Safe!, so feel free to give this a try.

Does Your Beauty Regime Change During The Winter?

Share your thoughts in the comments!  Expect a follow up post on how to manage during the winter months!

How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XXXVIV

Best. Top. Coat. Ever?  You’ve heard rave reviews about this product and given that your New Year’s Resolution is to do your nails more, you have finally decided to try it!  You know that certain ingredients are to be avoided in nail polish, but really want to try the product and don’t remember the ingredients to avoid anyway so you make your purchase.  As you paint your nails and smell the fumes you start to wonder if any of the ingredients may in fact be harmful. 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

Butyl Acetate:  Beware! This ingredient is an organic compound commonly used as a solvent in paints and lacquers. Though it is naturally found in various fruits providing flavor, it is chemically produced through the esterification of butanol. This ingredient can be hazardous to skin, eyes, and lungs, with repeated exposure (in large amounts) resulting in damage to the lungs, central nervous system, and mucous membranes. Butyl Acetate is not known to be carcinogenic. (MSDS)

Toluene:  Beware!/Avoid! Toluene, also known as methylbenzene, is commonly used as a solvent in nail polish. This chemical is extremely volatile (it likes to vaporize and mix with air) and its primary toxicological impact is through inhalation. Inhalation of toluene can cause dizziness, nausea, or even death at high doses. Toluene is a skin and eye irritant and is hazardous if ingested or inhaled. It is not classified as a carcinogen in humans, though it can be toxic to the blood, kidneys, nervous system, liver, brain, and central nervous system with repeated or prolonged exposure in pure form. Toluene can be absorbed by the skin and is a suspected mutagen and teratogen. (MSDS; MSDS)

Cellulose Acetate Butyrate:  Beware! This ingredient is a plastic material that is resistant to ultraviolet rays, and provides a strong, transparent, high shine gloss finish. This ingredient gives this product the high shine and increased durability and wear time of nail polish. Cellulose Acetate Butyrate can be a skin, eye, lung, and digestive tract irritant. It is not known to be a carcinogen, though information on teratogenicity, mutagenicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity are not known. (MSDS; MSDS)

Isopropyl Alcohol:  Beware!  This is a drying alcohol (unlike fatty alcohols). Isopropyl Alcohol is a solvent, and if the name sounds familiar it is because it is commonly sold as rubbing alcohol. I am not sure what purpose this ingredient serves in this product, supposedly to assist in spreading the product. Isopropyl Alcohol in hair products is supposedly very drying, which is ironic considering how this product is marketed. This ingredient typically is not toxic.

Trimethyl Pentanyl Diisobutyrate:  Beware!  This ingredient is used as a plasticizer to improve pliability and decrease brittleness in synthetic polymers. It is not known to be a carcinogen, or eye irritant in rabbits, though limited toxicological information is available. (MSDS; MSDS))

Butoxyethanol:  Beware!/Avoid!  This ingredient is a butyl ether of ethylene glycol and it is used as an industrial solvent. This ingredient is an irritant to eyes and lungs, and is a slight irritant to skin. Butoxyethanol is able to permeate the skin. Butoxyethanol is not known to be carcinogenic, though it can be toxic to blood, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system with repeated or prolonged exposure in pure form. Butoxyehtanol is a reproductive toxin, tumorigenic, teratogen in animal studies. (MSDS)

Dimethicone:  Beware!  Dimethicone is a synthetic chemical polymer siloxane derived from silica.   They are used as a skin conditioning agent and form a protective barrier on the skin that prevents moisture from leaving or entering, which can be harmful to skin.  Dimethicone is the 5th ingredient in this product indicating its (quantity) in the formula.   (MSDS)

Benzophenone-1:  Beware!  This ingredient is an organic compound used to a ultraviolet (UV) radiation blocker and is typically used in nail polish. This ingredient can be an irritant to skin, eyes, and lungs; and can be a sensitizer to skin. It is now known to be a carcinogen; other toxicological information is limited. (MSDS)



Nature’s Pulchritude’s Verdict:  The biggest concerns in this product are toluene and butoxyethanol, both of which have the potential to be toxic.  The box and bottle contain a warning that ingredients in the product are known to be toxic in California (which is written in French on the box).  The qualities of exposure from nail polish are fairly low though a toxiciological response from chronic exposure is possible, though unlikely.  It is very important to never inhale nail polish fumes and to only apply nail polish in a well ventilated area.  This is a judgement call.  Based on ingredients alone, you may choose to skip this product or take the necessary precautions to limit your exposure and use this product anyway.

Pulchritude: 2015

Copyright Yahoo

Across the globe, the new year is celebrated on January 1st on the Gregorian and Julian calendars. New Years Day is celebrated at the stroke of midnight in each time zone and typically features fireworks, confetti, and other decorations. The tradition of celebrating a new year is linked to ancient Mesopotamia, though the current iteration is based on ancient Rome who dedicated the New Year celebration to Janus, of whom the month of January is named.