Debra Lynn Dadd

Natural ingredients in personal care products


I read that a person should avoid castor oil in personal care products in Terressentials' Healthy Person's Guide to Personal Care Ingredients.

Castor oil is in many organic and natural cosmetics. Could you let me know what you think.


POSTED BY A. F. :: OKLAHOMA USA :: 11/02/2005


I have read their website pretty thoroughly and have a link to Terressentials on Debra's List. I really admire their dedication to the purity of their personal care products. They only use ingredients that the USDA permits in certified organic food, and every single ingredient is certified organic. They don't make cosmetics, however, so if you want to wear cosmetics, you'll have to choose from those that are available.

I looked at their website again in response to your question and found that they recommended avoiding castor oil because "castor beans yield the biotoxin ricin." So I looked up ricin to find out how toxic it was.

It turns out that ricin is one of the deadliest natural poisons on earth, BUT ricin is removed from the oil. So it's not likely that one would be exposed to ricin by using a cosmetic product.

This puzzeled me. Surely Terressentials must know that ricin is removed from the oil. So I called Terressentials and Diana Kay--who co-founded the company with life parther James Hahn--explained why they don't recommend castor oil.

Diana has survived cancer and is now chemically sensitive. She is concerned not only about the health effects of product ingredients when you use them, she is concerned about the toxic pollutants that are going into the environment during manufacture. She calls this "second-hand pollution" because she likens it to second-hand cigarette smoke--it's a by-product of the process that causes harm to others. We don't see this pollution when we buy personal care products in pretty packaging, but it's there...even in so-called natural and organic products.

For Diana, an ingredient has to be sustainable and supportive to life from beginning to end. That's why she and Jim will only use certified organic ingredients in their products. "Our personal choices DO affect others in a major way, and it can be a matter of life and death." They have done a lot of research on the manufacturing effects of personal care ingredients and that is what their recommendations are based on in their guide to ingredients.

As far as castor oil is concerned, she acknowledged that the danger is not in the using of castor oil, but rather the effects it has on the rest of life and re-reading her website, I did see that she didn't say castor oil was toxic--she said "castor beans yield the biotoxin ricin.". I'll let her tell it in her own words excerpted from her website

For decades castor oil has been a part of the folk medicine repetoire. The oil has been used as an industrial lubricant, lamp oil, hot compress, laxative, body care product, etc. The plant material, stalks and leaves, when dried after a harvest are a highly potent allergen/sensitizer and cause severe, disabling allergic asthma in workers who handle the material. The mash that remains after the oil has been pressed or solvent-extracted is toxic to many animals. The majority of castor oil that is produced today is produced in the Middle East, India and Africa. Curiously, there are no significant scientific studies that can strongly document skin healing properties or other therapeutic effects.

There are two interesting things that can be reported about this oil: 1 it has never been used as a food for humans and 2 when you type the words "castor oil army ricin" into the search engine "google," there are 1950 results linking to the potential use of ricin a deadly component of castor beans being used in biowarfare terrorist attacks to kill US citizens and many listings for our government's and the military's concerns about ricin's ease of manufacturing and the virtually unlimited quantities of castor beans available for processing ricin.

For an enlightening report on castor beans and ricin production visit this article from the Harvard Independent magazine titled "Iraq Sharpens Weapons Disguise."

So while castor oil may not affect your health directly, it produces manufacturing pollution, and harm to workers and animals, not to mention it the toxin could be used against us in biological warfare.

I asked Diana if she knew of any cosmetics that didn't contain castor oil, and she said no I found castor oil in all the cosmetics on Debra's List, too. Her greater concern, however, was titanium dioxide, which is even more common in natural cosmetics. This is not a natural mineral, but rather one that is highly processed, requiring a lot of energy and producing a lot of pollutants. More on manufacturing...

We also discussed the even larger issue of women feeling the need to wear cosmetics at all. Neither she nor I wear them. I only wear cosmetics when professional appearances require that I do, and even then I remove them immediately after the appearance. It's all tied up with how we perceive beauty. I'm fortunate that my husband would prefer to look at my face without makeup. He actually screws up his nose and won't kiss me when I have it on. That's a pretty good incentive not to wear it!

So, it's not a simple question with a simple answer. There's much more to explore about the world of natural cosmetics, which is on my list to do.

In a world where there is so much that is harmful to health and the environment, it's important to not lose heart. Yes, most products are not perfect, but many are better than others. By supporting those better products and continuing to push for products that are even better, we do have an beneficial effect on the marketplace.

As to whether or not you should wear cosmetics containing castor oil, that's a personal choice. At least now you know what it is and why Terressentials has chosen not to use it. The most natural cosmetics available contain castor oil and titanium dioxide. If you choose to wear cosmetics, that's the best that's available right now. If anyone finds cosmetics without these ingredients, let me know.

Debra :-)


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