Tag Archives: bees

How to Read Cosmetic Ingredient Labels XLVI

You have had enough of your dry cracked hands from this winter weather! You stop by the beauty section of your favorite organic/natural grocery store to see if they have any good hand creams. You figure, considering the store, anything you pick up is sure to be a safe bet. Does the first hand cream you scan meet your standards? This is 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

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

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

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

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil: Safe!  Sunflower Oil is comprised of triglycerides (esters of glycerol and fatty acids) and has a high Vitamin E content.  It primarily acts as an emollient and assists the skin in retaining moisture.

Glyceryl Stearate Citrate:

Cetearyl Alcohol: Safe! Typically naturally derived from Coconut and Palm Oils (though it can be derived synthetically), it is a mixture of Cetyl and Stearyl fatty alcohols.  This ingredient acts as a thickener and moisturizer in personal care products.  In pure form,  this ingredient can be a slight skin irritant and permeator, and is toxic to mucous membranes.  The is no data available on human toxicity, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, developmental toxicity, and teratogenicity.  (MSDS)

Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil: Safe! Sweet Almond oil is high in oleic acid and is primarily used as an emollient.

Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil: Safe!  Safflower oil is made from safflower seeds and is high in monounsaturated fatty acids. Safflower oil helps the skin retain moisture and promote elasticity. It may be a slight skin and eye irritant, though it is not known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or a developmental toxin.  (MSDS)

Cetyl Esters: Beware!  This ingredient is derived from vegetable sources, such as coconuts, and is typically used as a thickener in cosmetics.  It is comprised of various fatty alcohols and fatty acids.  It is typically 1 to 3% of the weight of the formula.  There is no data regarding toxicity, carcinogenicity, or mutagenicity.  (MSDS)

Natural Fragrance: Safe!/Beware! Without knowing what flavors were used and assessment of toxicological information and benefits cannot be determined.

Natural BEESWAX (cera alba):Safe!   This ingredient is derived from worker honeybees within a bee hive.  It is used as a thickener and skin barrier.

Vegetable Glycerin: 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)

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)

Lauryl Laurate:

HONEY (mel): Safe!  Honey is a humectant that draws moisture into the hair, which helps to maintain elasticity, shine, and overall health of hair.

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)

Glyceryl Caprylate:

Sodium Levulinate:

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)

Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil: Safe!  This oil is made from the kernels of the argan tree found in Morocco. It is high in oleic and linoleic fatty acids and is renowned for its hair repairing and moisturizing properties. (MSDS)

Sodium Phytate (from rice bran):

Nature’s Pulchritude’s Verdict: This product doesn’t look half bad. The top 5 ingredients are all moisturizing, hopefully the beeswax down the list will help the skin retain that moisture. There are a few ingredients that we have not come across before (intentionally left blank). We’ve been doing this series for a while, and yet we are always coming across new ingredients! What are your thoughts on having 5 ingredients that the 44 other Label Poise’s have not covered? Check back tomorrow for the details on those ingredients!


FDA Issues Draft Guidance on Proper Labeling of Honey

Honey is a multipurpose substance that is not only used in food and beverages, but is also used in a host of do-it-yourself beauty treatments for skin and hair.  Honey that has been cut with sugar or corn syrup (likely GMO) is not going to be as effective as true honey.  I prefer to buy raw honey (organic or non-GMO) because it has more nutrients.  You can view the full FDA draft guidance here.  It is important to be cognizant of this because once the guidance is final, manufacturers are not required to follow it.

Just because it’s sweet and sticky doesn’t mean it’s ‘honey’ -U.S. FDA

Honey mixed with sugar might be sweet, but it is not “honey.”

Food companies and other producers who add sweeteners to honey have to alert consumers by labeling their products as a “blend,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday.

Only manufactures that do not add sugar, corn syrup or other sweeteners should label their products as pure “honey,” the FDA said in draft guidelines posted online.

Only honey with no added sugar or corn syrup can be labeled pure, the FDA saysDAMIAN DOVARGANES / AP

Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of honey each year, according to U.S. government and industry estimates. But just 149 million pounds were produced in the United States last year, U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed.

To feed America’s sweet tooth, much honey is imported, and U.S. producers are worried about cheap substitutes.  Pure honey is generally more expensive than those mixed with corn syrup or sugar, and prices reached a record high of $2.12 a pound last year, according to the USDA.

The FDA’s review follows a petition from the American Beekeeping Federation and several other related groups seeking a standard U.S. definition for the natural sweetener to promote fair trade. While the agency rejected their request, it said it was willing to look at labeling.

The FDA inspected imported honey to see whether it had been “adulterated” with corn or cane sugars. In recent decades, it detained honey containing such substitutes from countries such as Brazil and Mexico, according to the agency.  Manufacturers have 60 days to comment on the proposal before final guidelines are issued. Even then, however, guidelines are not mandatory.

via Reuters; Written by Susan Heavey.

Beeswax: Friend or Foe?

Beeswax has emerged as a relatively abundant ingredient in many personal care products who market themselves as being natural and organic. It is commonly found in lip balms and lotions, and has essentially become the ‘natural’ replacement for petroleum based derivatives, such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly, in these formulations. Though beeswax is all natural, is it a beneficial ingredient for skin and lips, or is it a natural version of a filler?

Beeswax is the wax produced by honey bees from the Apis genus to form the foundation for the honeycomb.  It is made up of several different components, but primarily consists of monoesters (carbonyl group connected to and ether linkage), hydrocarbons, diesters, and free fatty alcohols (long chained).  The approximate chemical formula of beeswax is C15H31COOC30H61, which means it has a large molecular weight (~676 g/mol).  It is generally believed that substances with a molecular weight below 500 grams per mole (g/mol) can easily pass through the skin.  Substances with larger molecular weights such as mineral oil are too large to be absorbed by the skin, unless they are chemically altered to make their molecules small enough to be absorbed.  Is beeswax beneficial to the skin and lips, other than creating a barrier that keeps moisture in?

A German study conducted in 2003 found that beeswax based barrier creams performed better than petroleum based creams in alleviating moisture loss and irritant contact dermatitis (Frosch et al. 2003).  Beeswax itself is not a moisturizer.  Beeswax can be in the first 3 to 5 ingredients of a lip balm or moisturizer, but I would hesitate to use a product that contains beeswax as the first ingredient.  I have used a lip balm whose first ingredient is beeswax and the performance was okay.  It is not a bad product by any means (it is USDA Certified Organic), however, it did not provide long term moisture or softness to my lips (after 1 application for 2-3 hours). Beeswax is far from ‘foe,’ though it is not quite ‘friend’ depending on its purpose in an application (i.e. as a binder versus as a primary component).  Perhaps ‘associate‘ is the best designation if it is the first ingredient, and ‘friend‘ if it is a component used to bind the formula together.  By and large, it is dependent on what YOU like and what works for YOU.

Do you use any products that contain beeswax?  How do they perform for you?


Are there any ingredient (food or cosmetics) you would like to see featured in Friend or Foe?  Leave a comment below or send us an e-mail!

Thank you for reading!