Debra Lynn Dadd

Are these products really natural?

QUESTION:

My friend has introduced me to a company that is supposed to be natural. They have skin care and cosmetics. She is so head strong about this. She knows I am working hard and trying to get healthy and stay away from chemicals and toxins. I'm trying to eat organic, and I have a long way to go, and I would be happy if what she says about this company being natural is for sure. Could you help me? [Name of company deleted]

Thank you.

POSTED BY M. H. :: FLORIDA USA :: 10/18/2005


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I went to their website and here's what I found, or more accurately, what I didn't find. I didn't find any ingredients lists for their products. What they listed were the natural "key ingredients." These key ingredients, though natural, could be mixed with other ingredients that are very unnatural.

My experience has been that companies that have truly natural products include complete ingredients lists and often have glossaries to explain exactly what their ingredients are and what function they perform in the product. With so many all-natural and even organic bodycare products available now see the Debra's List bodycare page, there's no need to use products that have mysterious ingredients.

[After I sent her the above reply, she responded with a list of ingredients from the label of a bottle of their foundation make-up.]

I looked up the sources of each of the ingredients see chart below. You can see they are hardly natural. Note that five of the ingredients all the parabens near the end are all preservatives made from petrochemicals. The parabens are frequently used in so-called "natural" products, but are not of plant, animal or mineral origin. I tried to linked each ingredient to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, which tells the toxicity of the ingredient, but the links wouldn't work. You can go to their website and type any ingredient in that you would like to look up. Ingredient source information is from Ruth Winter's A Consumer's Guide to Cosmetic Ingredients.

As you read this, keep in mind that most of the ingredients from natural sources are derived from those sources--they are not in their natural state. To my mind, the further we get from ingredients in their natural state, well...the less natural they are.

I've marked the ingredients made from petrochemicals with an asterisk *. I'd say this isn't a natural product.

Debra :-

  ACTIVE INGREDIENTS:  
  Titanium Dioxide naturally occurring mineral
  Octinoxate not in book or database
     
  OTHER INGREDIENTS:  
  Water natural, but may be contaminated with chlorine, fluoride and other water pollutants
  Isododecane not in book or database
  Cyclomethicone derived from silica, a naturally-occurring mineral
  Dimethicone derived from silica, a naturally occuring mineral
  Talc naturally occurring mineral
* Nylon-12 a petrochemical plastic
  Sorbitan Sesquioleate derived from plants
* Butylene Glycol
made from petrochemicals
  Dimethicone Copolyol derived from silica, a naturally occuring mineral
  Quaternium-18 Hectorite derived from plant cellulose
  Isononyl lsononanoate made of unspecified alcohol and acid
  PEG-30 Hydroxystearate derived from natural materials treated with chemicals
  Glycerin a natural by-product of soap manufacture
  Silica naturally occurring mineral sand is silica
  Sodium Chloride salt processed to remove 82 other minerals, leaving only the sodium and chloride
  Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract herb
  Daucus Carota Sativa carrot Root Extract herb
  Larrea Divaricata Extract herb
  Rosa Canina Fruit Extract herb
  Ginkgo Biloba Extract herb
  Tabebuia Impetiginosa Bark Extract herb
  Triticum Vulgare Wheat Germ oil herb
  Stearic Acid made from animal fat
* Phenoxyethanol made by treating phenol with ethylene oxide--both petrochemicals
  PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate derived from natural materials treated with chemicals
  Polysorbate 20 // derived from coconut derived from coconut
* Propylene Carbonate derived from petrochemicals
  Aluminum Hydroxide aluminum is a naturally occuring metal
  Tocopheryl Acetate vitamin E
  Retinyl Palmitate derived from coconut
  Xanthan Gum cultured from plants
* Methylparaben
Ethylparaben
Propylparaben
Butylparaben
Isobutylparaben
parabens are all derived from benzoic acid, which is made by the chlorination of toluene, a petrochemical derivative
  Trisodium EDTA a processed salt, not in it's natural form
  Iron Oxides naturally occurring rust

Debra :-)


COMMENTS:

About 10 years ago, I was right where the above gal was and boy what a journey. You need to read each ingredient and buy cosmetic ingredient books. More than one because you will get a couple of different takes on each ingredient which helped me a lot. Eventually, you will get good enought to catch the bad from the good. There are many many companies claiming natural products that put some bad, cheap stuff in and add some good stuff to make it jump out at you and you say "this has plant extracts in it so it must be good" NOT!

I highly recommend BeWellStayWell.com [Now called Natural Solutions--I recommend it too! - D]. This gal started her business from scratch and it is getting huge now. She researches all products and doesn't carry stuff that has the bad in it all for you. Most importantly she lists all the ingredients for everything she sells right on her web site so if you find you are allergic to something you can see it in the product before you buy. Also, if you don't agree a certain ingredient is safe enough, you don't have to buy it.

EWG.org is great and also National Institutes of Health: Household Products Database. Many companies are only half good, but there are some great ones out there. My best advice if you are serious is look up your ingredients and don't believe the salespitch because it is usually a play on words. Also, even natural ingredients can do harm depending on how you use them and go organic whenever possible especially with essential oils and herbs. Hope this helped some.

POSTED BY JESINMI :: MICHIGAN USA :: 02/07/2007 1:56 PM


Hi Debra,

Great job at breaking it down so people can use the resources you provided to be their own ingredient detective. That is the most powerful, the ability for someone to really look into something on their own and find out for themselves what the ingredients are.

One of the things that bothers me is the whole "derived" from approach by many companies that are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. You see that term all the time on products with ingredients that are "derived from coconut". This is a ploy to get people to think the ingredient is a safe clean ingredient.

If when an ingredient is "derived" from a "natural" substance it does not mean it is safe or clean. When ingredients are derived from they have been processed chemically to create the "derived" from ingredients. That means they usually have used some kind of chemical to extract the final ingredient.

An example of this is: vodka can be made from potatoes. Generally a mother would not want to give vodka to a child...but it's safe right? Because it was "derived" from potatoes.

It's a marketing ploy on the part of many companies to use this terminology on their products.

You can read more about this on a website:
www.dyingtolookgood.net

This is another great resource for information on ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products. There is also a book by the same name that you can purchase from the author Dr. Christine Farlow who is a Chiropractor that focuses on educating others about ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products.

Keep up the great work Debra.

POSTED BY ERIN :: MIESSENCE CERTIFIED ORGANICS :: WWW.ELYORGANICS.COM :: OREGON USA :: 02/14/2007 8:07 AM


I just want to further the cautionary words spoken by others. Just because something is "natural" does not mean it is safe, or healthy. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral, but has been loosely implicated as a carcinogen.
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=2198684&dopt=Abstract)
(http://www.meb.uni-bonn.de/cgi-bin/mycite?ExtRef=MEDL/92293722)

(Incidentally, a quick search reveals what the mystery "octinoxate" compound is - Octyl methoxycinnamate, a sunscreen component. I'll leave it to Debra and her phenomenal resource skills to let us know how natural/safe that one is!)

I also have to question the consideration of glycerin as a "natural" compound - if it is the byproduct of a manufacturing process (albeit a fairly benign one), would that not make it unnatural, ie, not found in nature?

Even plants, a very natural part of this world, are often toxic. Several herbal medicines, if taken in the wrong dosage, can have toxic effects. I would never advise anyone to eat white baneberry, a common woodland flower in Ontario, as the following effects can occur:
"POISONOUS PARTS: All parts, mainly berries and roots. Toxic if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include burning of mouth and throat, salivation, severe stomach cramps, headache, diarrhea, dizziness and hallucinations. " http://wildflower.utexas.edu/plants/result.php?id_plant=ACPA

But it is perfectly natural!

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: I agree that natural is not always nontoxic and you give some good examples.

I want to address your comment about questioning glycerin as a natural compound. It's a very good question. In my mind, there is a difference between the "manufacturing" of nature and the manufacturing of man. Humans are a part of nature, but we seem to have forgotten something inherent in every other species of life that know how to "manufacture" (make things) in ways that are beneficial to life rather than tend to destroy life as our manufacturing is. I'm not saying ALL human manufacture destroys life, but much of it does.

Glycerin can either be manufactured from petrochemicals, or be produced as a by-product of--let's call it soapmaking rather than soap manufacture. When humans make soap, we are combining various materials from nature (oils and minerals) which then have a natural chemical reaction that produces soap. That humans bring the fat and minerals togther and then they "do their thing" still seems natural to me. What seems unnatural to me is when humans go through extreme technological manipulations to force compounds to do things they wouldn't otherwise do naturally.

The qualitative difference is that you can bathe with soap, you can brush your teeth with it, you can wash your mouth out with it, and it can go into the environment...without harm. In fact, I used to have a pipe sending grey water from my washing machine into my garden. Full of soap. And it was the most lush, productive spot in the garden. How many manmade chemicals can do that?

On the other hand, nature is full of poisons as well. We just need to be able to distinguish what's toxic and what's not.


POSTED BY GILLIAN :: SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH :: WWW.PR.UOGUELPH.CA/SUSTAIN :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 02/20/2007 2:35 PM


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