Earth Mama Angel Baby Head of the Class – What is Natural?

Are you ready for college? You will learn about “Natural” for your college level course. And, of course, enter to win Earth Mama Angel Baby’s purely natural, naturally safe Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Mama Bottom Balm, C-Mama Healing Salve and Natural Nipple Butter!

So many products, so many labels! The label says “natural,” but does that mean safe? What’s really organic? What’s a toxic ingredient? You almost need a degree to decipher label claims!

That’s why Earth Mama Angel Baby® is giving you the chance to go to the head of the organic class, win prizes and learn about the five levels of Organic and Natural. You’ll get product label information a concerned consumer can really use, plus earn your Mama U. diploma and a chance to win fantastic prizes all along the way, including a ginormous Grand Prize worth over $650! Earth Mama Angel Baby and five respected bloggers will take you from grade to grade: once you pass one level, you can move on to the next. You can do all five in a day or take your time and do it in a week. Just make sure you go to Mama U. Graduation by midnight Sunday, May 1 to pick up your diploma, your special graduate coupon code, and enter to win the Mama U. Graduates Grand Prize bundle of honestly organic goodies, valued at $650!! That’s the grand prize in the picture below:

Welcome to College! With all your education, this should be a snap, but if you need to take some refresher courses, no worries, it won’t take you long. You’ve learned about USDA Certified 100% Organic, Organic, Made With and Contains Organic Ingredients. So this college level course on “natural” should be a snap, right? Wrong!

Here’s the problem. When it comes to beauty products, there is no regulatory or legal definition for the word “natural”! Without a regulatory or legal definition, the word natural means whatever the manufacturer or labeler wants it to mean. So, figuring out what is meant by “natural” on a label is the most difficult of all.

Studies show that most consumers trust the word “natural” on a label over even USDA Certified 100% Organic. But, as we just learned, without a regulatory or legal definition, when a label says natural, it can mean anything the company wants it to mean, or it can mean absolutely nothing. If you trust the brand, you might be able to assume it means that every product occurs naturally, and that there are no harmful ingredients. But the word “natural” on its own is a bad indicator of the purity or safety of the product.

In other words, in the cosmetic world, natural can mean anything.

For most consumers, the word natural results in a very visceral reaction. Take natural on a shampoo label with pictures of coconuts and coconut derived ingredients. The word will evoke an idyllic tropical scene featuring a lovely woman with her long tresses tied back and her brightly colored dress fluttering in a warm breeze, perfumed with tropical flowers. Most of us will picture her gently mashing coconut meat, and then adding it to some other gathered ingredients to make the shampoo.

That may be exactly what we mean when we use the word natural. We probably mean the opposite of synthetic and we believe natural equals safe. But that probably isn’t what the manufacturer means.

First, and most importantly, natural doesn’t mean safe. Lots of things that are natural are unsafe. Just think of lead. Lead is a naturally occurring element which is poisonous. It damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders. Or arsenic. Or mercury. Or some of the toxins produced by plants and animals, like tetrodotoxin, synthesized by the Japanese globefish. Tetrodotoxin is 10 times more poisonous than potassium cyanide. Or cyanide in apple seeds. Or aflatoxins, naturally occurring mycotoxins produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus.

And the flip side is also true. Synthetic doesn’t mean unsafe. Synthesized water isn’t more toxic than its naturally occurring counterpart.

So, the real issue is whether you are getting what you think you are getting when you buy a product because it has natural on the label. Our lovely coconut masher isn’t how the naturally derived coconut ingredients get into your shampoo. Nope. Most of them get into your beauty products courtesy of men and women in white lab coats.

Take sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is sometimes indicated to be derived from coconuts. You find SLS as an ingredient in a lot of beauty products today. SLS is synthesized by treating lauryl alcohol with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfonic acid to produce hydrogen lauryl sulfate.  The lauryl alcohol comes from either coconut or palm kernel oil, so SLS does come from coconuts sometimes. Once hydrogen lauryl sulfate is produced, it is neutralized by adding sodium hydroxide or sodium carbonate.

Not really the naturally coconut derived ingredient you envisioned, right?

Other coconut derived ingredients that are routinely found in “natural” beauty products but come courtesy of people in white lab coats, and not our coconut masher, are cocamidopropyl betaine (derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine) and cocamide DEA (made from reacting coconut oil fatty acids with diethanolamine).  There are many others on the market.

So what did we learn? That natural has meaning different meanings. That natural has no regulatory or legal meaning when it comes to beauty products. When it comes to beauty products, what natural means is up to the manufacturer.

College Exam (see Crib Notes here)

Post your answer to the question below in the comments by May 1, 2011 no later than 11:59 pm Pacific time, and you’ll get a chance to win one each of Earth Mama Angel Baby’s purely natural, naturally safe Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Mama Bottom Balm, C-Mama Healing Salve and Natural Nipple Butter!

Q. What is an example of an ingredient that is “natural” but is actually not very safe? (And to clarify this question, we are looking for substances that are commonly used as ingredients in today’s beauty products such as shampoos).

Congratulations, you can now graduate with full Pomp and Circumstance from Mama U. at Earth Mama Angel Baby! But first, march over to Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Facebook page to let everyone know, “I just graduated from Organic College at The Smart Mama!”

Check Earth Mama’s Go to the Head of the Organic Class page for blog locations, prize information, and the Crib Sheet for your open book tests. Earth Mama will announce locations, prizes and winners on Facebook and Twitter too.

Disclosure – Earth Mama Angel Baby provided the prizes.

You know you are a green mommy blogger when . . .

Can you complete that sentence? I can. You know you are a green mommy blogger when a J. Crew ad showing a boy getting his toe nails painted leads you to wonder what is in the nail polish and whether it is a less toxic kind of nail polish as opposed to raising gender identification issues. Yes, I admit it. The J. Crew ad showing a young boy getting his toe nails painted pink raised concerns about the ingredients in the nail polish for me – not gender identification issues.

 My first reaction when seeing the ad was how happy the two of them look and how the camera captured a moment of pure glee.

My second reaction was whether the mother, Jenna Lyons, uses a less toxic nail polish like Hopscotch Kids. I hoped she wasn’t using nail polish containing toluene, formaldehyde, or dibutyle phthalate.

At no point did I even think of gender identification/confusion issues, which is the issue that is being debated. Nope, I’m a green mom at heart. (And, just for the record, I think almost any 5 year old would love to paint any part of his or her body. My own son liked yellow.)

#EcoWed Twitter Party with ecomom – Uncovering Spring Beauty: Restoring Winter Skin

This Wednesday’s #ecowed Twitter party will be fabulous! Our wonderful sponsor is ecomom. And, just so you all know, we are going to have 4 #ecowed Twitter parties in a row sponsored by ecomom because ecomom has launched a contest to win a $75,000 healthy home makeover!

That’s right – a $75,000 ecomom healthy home makeover! Go check it out and enter to win.

Our first ecomom #ecowed Twitter party in this series is this Wednesday, March 30, 2011, from 7 to 8 pm Pacific (that’s 10 to 11 pm for you on Eastern time). We will be talking Uncovering Spring Beauty: Restoring Winter Skin with guest experts Kim Walls, MS and Sara Snow. I don’t know about you, by my skin suffers during the cold and windy weather, especially when you add in the dry air of indoor heating. With the advent of spring (although we just  had a series of cold winter-like rain storms here in Los Angeles), I would like to uncover some Spring beauty (actually, any beauty at all but that is an entirely different story) . . .

If you aren’t familiar with ecomom, then you really, really should go check out the website. ecomom has everything a green mama could want, and then some. Really – go check it out. And also check out the ecomom blog.

Kim Walls is the CEO of Episencial and creator of the Epicuren Baby and Episencial skin care products. She is also one of my favorite people to discuss ingredients. She knows everything, and gets into the nuances of petroleum based ingredients versus petroleum processing just like I do. We can talk fragrance components for hours. I’m so happy to have her as our guest expert as we discuss spring beauty and restoring winter skin. 

Sara Snow understands healthy and natural living and it is her mission to impart that knowledge and experience. She is an author, speaker and Discovery Channel television host. Her book Sara Snow’s Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home provides information on not only how but why to live green. She is also a mom.

And we’ve got fabulous prizes. Episencial has donated 3 Summer Skincare Kits. And our sponsor, ecomom, has donated 3 $20 gift certificates to ecomom.com and a grand prize $100 gift certificate to ecomom.com. That’s right – a $100 gift certificate to spend at ecomom.com for our grand prize.

To win a prize, you MUST leave a comment on this blog AND participate in the Twitter party using the hashtag #ecowed. For you comment, just tell us what you would like to talk about to uncover your spring beauty and beat those winter blahs or ask a question of our guest experts, Kim Walls and Sara Snow. To participate in the Twitter party, make sure you join us from 7 to 8 pm Pacific on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, and use the #ecowed hashtag. Follow me, @thesmartmama, and also @ecomom, @ecomomkimberly, @episencial and @sarasnow. If you don’t know how to participate in a Twitter party, just read this handy guide.

DIY – Herbal Infusion

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with growing and using my own herbs. Herbs are so easy to grow – you don’t need a garden even – just a sunny spot and some pots. You can even often just use an indoor spot with a sunny window. They really don’t need much care – some herbs even have a better flavor with a little stress. 

I also want to use them, and not just for cooking. I have this romanticized notion of the herbal healer woman. And I have a desire to be that herbal healer woman. At least sort of. A modern day notion. The ability to be able to make my own tonics and creams and teas and all that appeals to me.

So, in any event, I’ve been researching and reading what to add to my herbal garden. I thought I would share some of my adventues with you.

One of the easiest  herbal preparations is probably something you are already familiar with – the infusion. Preparing an infusion is really just like making a cup of tea. You bring water to a boil (a good, roiling boil – you want the hot water to break the cell walls of your herb(s)) and then pour it over a herb or a combination of herbs. Allow it to steep. Then, you can use a a tea strainer, or a small bag, or a ceramic insert strainer, or a strainer, or whatever, to take the herb(s) out when done. That’s it. You are extracting the herb’s scent, flavor, and color into the water. An infusion works best for delicate herbs.

Now, how much of the herb to use in relation to how much water, and the steeping time, depends on what you are trying to do.

Generally, you use about a cup of herbs in a quart jar, and fill with boiling water; close the lid; and allow to steep for 4 to 10 hours. Strain. You can then keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

You may use an infusion for a variety of reasons. I just made a herbal infusion for purposes of doing a facial steam. I used 1/3 cup of lavender blossomes and 2/3 cup dried chamomile (from last year) blossoms. After steeping and straining, I refrigerated the infusion. Then, 2 days later, I brought the infusion back to a boil, let sit and then draped a towel over my face and gave myself a facial steam. I then rinsed my face. Voila! Instant tension reliever, and chamomile is supposed to  soothe irritated skin.

Have you ever tried a herbal infusion?

Revisiting Lavender and Tea Tree Oil & Breast Development in Young Boys

Okay, so I’m reading Samuel S. Epstein, MD’s new book Healthy Beauty: Your Guide to Ingredients to Avoid and Products You Can Trust to review it.  (BTW – If you buy the book from the link, I get some change, and I mean just a little bit of change, because it is linked through my Amazon affiliate account). This isn’t the review because I’m not done with the book yet.

Nevertheless, I got a little annoyed at a paragraph in the book. And when I get annoyed, I am compelled to blog.

Why did I get annoyed?

First, because a citation wasn’t right. The citationwas in Chapter 5, endnote 36, which was the wrong reference. It should have been endnote 37. Okay, no big deal (I shouldn’t even quibble since my own book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure, has some typos not to mention a big mistake in the summary on the back cover). But the fact that the citation was wrong leads to the second reason. 

So the second reason, and the more important reason, is because lavender and tea tree oils are presented conclusively as posing a “hormone disruption dilemma.” Dr. Epstein writes that they cause breast enlargement in young boys. Which is why I was even looking at the citation to see if there was some new medical study other than one from several years ago, which I talked about in a blog in 2008.

And there isn’t one cited – just the same article as before. And that article – a brief report – links lavender and tea tree oils to prepubertal gynecomastia (breast enlargment) but it isn’t conclusive. Also, it isn’t clear whether the products contain true lavender and tea tree essential oils, or synthetic versions.

The article cites 3 incidents of enlarged breast development. The first case reported using a compounded “healing balm” containing lavender oil with no more information. The second case reported using a styling gel and shampoo containing lavender and tea tree oils, but no information on a stay on skin product. The third case reported using lavender-scented soap and intermittent use of lavender-scented commerical skin lotions, both of which may well not have been lavender essential oil but a synthetic lavender scent.

Now, laboratory testing has confirmed that lavender oil and tea tree oil possess weak estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities. So I don’t dispute the possibility that lavender and tea tree oils may be linked to unwanted breast development in young boys.

But it is a possibility. And I think that it is more honest to state that it is a possibility, instead of scaring people. With the information that it is a possibility, many may choose alternative skin creams and lotions that don’t contain such ingredients.

June Junk Claim #3 – Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap Not So Clean As It Contains 1,4-Dioxane

June Junk Claim #3 is Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap and the company’s claim that the products are “always EARTH FRIENDLY.”

Mrs. Meyer’s products are sold and marketed as “green” products. The packaging is retro inspired cute.

But, the thing is, they are not as eco-friendly as you think. For example, the Dish Soap was found to have high levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane. In fact, according to testing commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Mrs. Meyers’ Clean Day Dish Soap had the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane in the group of products tested. The levels in the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap were 204 parts per million (ppm), ten times higher than any other similar product in the study.

1,4-dioxane is a by-product of the ethoxylation process. Ethoxylation is used to make certain ingredients milder and change solubility and foaming properties. It involves the addition of petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. You’ll find 1,4-dioxane in products with ethoxylated ingredients, usually identified by the “eth” – such as sodium laureth sulfate. Several “eth” ingredients are derived from natural sources – such as coconut – so you’ll find carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane in a number of products that claim to be derived from natural ingredients.

Unfortunately, the ethoxylation process results in a contaminant, 1,4-dioxane. So those allegedly naturally derived ingredients can have a carcinogence contaminant that is not identified on the ingredient label.

And Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap has it.

I don’t know if using the product poses a health risk. Since it is a rinse off product intended for use on dishes, I wouldn’t think that there is much dermal exposure (exposure through the skin) at all. Even if used as a hand soap I doubt there is any significant dermal exposure. And exposure from inhalation is probably minimal too.

But, the presence of carcinogenic 1,4-dixoane as a result of using petroleum derived ethylene oxide doesn’t really seem earth friendly to me.

June Junk Claim #2: Aveeno Not So Natural

June Junk Claim #2 is Aveeno’s claim that “all of [its] products come from nature.”

Okay, so June Junk Claim #2 isn’t a specific product claim as discussed in the post for June Junk Claim #1. June Junk Claim #1 addressed Josie Maran Cosmetics’ false claim that the line’s Argan Mascara is petrochemical free.

But I wanted to talk about Aveeno. The Aveeno claims really bother me because people believe that the products are all natural.

So, Aveeno markets itself as using the science of Active Naturals, which are ingredients derived from nature and uniquely formulated by Aveeno to optimize skin’s health and beauty. Aveeno’s tag line is “that’s the beauty of nature + science.” And there is a little box on the website that states “all of our products come from nature.”

So the problem with the claim that its ingredients are “derived from nature” is that most of us picture flowers and herbs and similar items when we hear that the ingredients are derived from nature. We don’t picture petroleum derived ingredients. And there’s the rub. The claim that the products are “natural” or “derived from nature” has no legal or regulatory meaning. It means whatever the company wants, including long decayed organic matter (petroleum).

Aveeno has a reputation for being natural with a lot of parents and it isn’t deserved. If you buy the products because you like the smell or they work well, that’s great. But if you buy the products because you think that the ingredients are all natural, you might want to reconsider. Let’s look at the ingredients of Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream, described as naturally soothing and hypoallergenic. The ingredients are:

Water, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour (Oat), Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Ceteareth 6, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Hydrolyzed Oats, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, PEG 25 Soy Sterol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Benzalkonium Chloride Solution, Benzaldehyde, Butylene Glycol, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Ethyl Alcohol, Isobutylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben, Stearyl Alcohol

So, petrolatum and mineral oil are derived from petroleum. And while that is natural, it isn’t what you expect, is it?

Cetearyl alcohol can come from vegetable sources, or can be synthetically derived. Without more information, it is hard to say how natural it is.

Dimethicone belongs to a group of polymeric organosilicon compounds popuarly referred to as silicones.

Ceteareth 6 is a polyoxyethylene ester where the “6″ indicates the average number of ethylene oxide residues in the polyethylene chain. To get ceteareth 6, ethylene oxide is used, which is derived from ethylene, which is derived from petroleum. Notably, because ethoxylation is used to derive ceteareth 6, it can be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane. 1,4 dioxane won’t appear on the ingredient list because it is a by product of manufacturing and is a contaminant, not an intentional ingredient.

Butylene glycol is derived from petroleum.

The production of phenoxyethanol involves ethylene oxide, which is derived from petroleum.

The various parabens in the product are synthetically produced. While some parabens are found in nature, all commerically used parabens are synthetically produced. And parabens are a group of compounds that many choose to avoid in products. One reason is that parabens have been detected in breast tumors, although no link between the topical use of paraben containing products and breast cancer has been found. Parabens do mimic estrogen, however. And, parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in those with paraben allergies, which is at odds with the claim that the product is hypoallergenic.

Okay, so I think that advertising that pushes the natural basis for the Aveeno products is junk. And before you decide that it doesn’t really matter because the FDA makes sure that the products sold in the US are safe, think again. The FDA does not approve or evaluate cosmetic ingredients for safety before they are sold even thought most of us think that the FDA does undertake such a review.

If you want a more natural, soothing cream designed for baby, try Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Angel Baby Lotion.  (Yes, I’m an affiliate but this link is not an affiliate link.) Or  Weleda’s Calendula Baby Cream. Or erbaviva’s Baby Lotion.

June Junk Claim #1: Josie Maran Mascara and Petrochemical Free

So, I recently blogged about how I was tired of chemical free claims when it comes to beauty and cleaning products. And that gave me an idea. I thought for each day of June, I’d talk about a “junk” claim when it comes to beauty and cleaning products.

My first “junk” claim is Josie Maran Cosmetics’ Argan Mascara. I’m picking on Jose Maran Cosmetics to start because of a recent Twitter party that included promoting the products as safe for pregnant mamas, including that they were free of petrochemicals. And while I can’t say whether or not the products are safe, I can say that many of the products are not free of petrochemicals as advertised.

The Argan Mascara, for example, is advertised as free of petrochemicals, free of animal testing, and free of toxic chemicals. The claim “free of petrochemicals” should mean, well, that none of the ingredients are petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are generally considered chemicals derived from petroleum.

So, if the advertising is true, none of the ingredients should be derived from petroleum. The ingredients are:

White Beeswax, Carnauba Wax, Polyisobutene, Isododecane, Propylene Carbonate, Quaternium-18, Hecorite, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Isoeicosane, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Simmondsia Chinenesis (Jojoba) Oil, Linseed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol. May Contain: Iron Oxides, Black Iron Oxides, Mica.

Okay, let’s look at some of these ingredients. And, don’t be worried, there isn’t too much chemistry – just a little.

Let’s start with polyisobutene. Polyisobutene is a synthetic rubber, a copolymer of isobutylene with isoprene. Isobutylene is produced from oil, and 95% of isoprene is synthetically produced from oil, although it is possible that the isoprene comes from a natural source. Unlikely but possible. And I could not get a response from Josie Maran Cosmetics.

Isododecane is produced from isobutane, which is produced from oil.

Propylene carbonate is basically produced from propene, which comes from petroleum, natural gas or sometimes coal.

Phenoxyethanol is virtually always derived from phenol and ethylene oxide. Phenol is usually produced from benzene derived from oil, and ethylene oxide comes from reacting ethylene with oxygen. Ethylene is derived from oil.

So, you tell me, how is this mascara free of petrochemicals?

Seems to me that the claim the Jose Maran Cosmetic Argan Mascara is free of petrochemicals is nothing more than junk greenwashing.

No Such Thing As Chemical Free In Cleaning & Beauty Products. Really. Really really.

Fingers cross

Cross my heart – there is no such thing as “chemical free” when it comes to cleaning and beauty products. Unless you bought a product that just contains a vacuum – nothingness. Because if it was just air, it would still have chemicals.

Really.

Really really.

A “chemical” is a material with a specific chemical composition. Like water, whether it is found in nature or manufactured in a laboratory, is always 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom, or H20. Now, there are some refinements to that. For example, in organic chemistry, there can be more than one chemical compound with the same composition and molecular weight. These chemicals are known as isomers. You actually know this. Really. Glucose and fructose are isomers. Both have the same molecular formula but differ structurally.

Okay, enough chemistry. Basically, all you need to know is that a chemical is a material with a specific chemical composition.

So, if a product contains water, it contains a chemical. If it contains propylene glycol, it contains a chemical.

But, lately, I have seen a TON of products claiming to be chemical free. Take Blue Lizard’s Baby Sunscreen. It claims it is chemical free and fragrance free. Yet, here are the ingredients:

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (10%), Titanium Dioxide (5%)

Inactive Ingredients: Water Purified, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Polyglyceryl 4 Isostearate, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Propylene Glycol, Cetyl Dimethicone, Trimethylated Silica/Dimethicone, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, VP/Hexadecene Copolymer, Methyl Glucose Dioleate, PEG 7 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sorbitol Oleate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Beeswax (Apis Mellifera), Stearic Acid, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Tocopheryl Acetate

Take a close look at the ingredients. Does that really seem chemical free to you? So the two active ingredients – although naturally occurring minerals – they are chemicals. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both chemicals. (Although in sunscreens, they work by providing a barrier, as opposed to chemical sunscreens.)

The first inactive ingredient – water – is a chemical. Water is H20. Always. So it is a chemical.

Then we can pick on all the other synthetic ingredients too.

It has skin penetrants – the PEG/PPG ingredients. It has lots and lots of petroleum based ingredients, such as propylene glycol. And it has 2 parabens, something many individuals are avoiding.

So if you see a beauty or household cleaning product claiming to be chemical free, be wary. If the company is going to make that blatantly false a claim, then what else is it doing?

If the company is claiming all natural ingredients, or no harsh chemicals or something similar, that is a different issue. It may well be true – it all depends on your definition since “all natural” and “no harsh chemicals” are not legal or regulated terms.

But chemical free? That is just a lie. Unless the company is selling you absolutely nothing. Because even water is a chemical.

Don’t be fooled. Even natural products must contain chemicals.

And, by the way, natural doesn’t mean safer by any stretch of the imagination. Arsenic and lead both are natural.

Another instance of greenwashing? A Beautiful Life “All Natural” Nail Lacquers

Okay, I suppose I’m going to piss of yet another company. And a PR person too.

But I really, really don’t like fake “all natural” claims.

I got a PR pitch for an “all natural” nail lacquer. Which excited me. I’m always excited to learn about new natural products especially when it comes to a relatively tough product like nail polish.

So, I read the email PR pitch and noted that it said “all natural” nail lacquer. I then checked the attached one pager on the product, and it also said “all natural.” Finally, I checked the website, and it says the nail lacquers offer “amazing wear and incredible colors – WITHOUT any of the nasty chemicals. They’re even safe for kids!” A review by Beauty Snob repeats the “all natural” claim, and enthuses that the polish is worth the price because of the ingredients.

So, of course I look for the ingredients – and they are right on the website for A Beautiful Life Natural Nail Lacquer:

butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetyl tributyl citrate, glycols copolymer, isopropyl alcohol, stearalkonium hectorite, adipic acid/fumatic acid/phthalic acid/tricyclodecane dimethanol copolymer, citric acid and colors, which may contain: D&C Red #6 Barium Lake, D&C Red #7 Calcium Lake, etc.

For each of the ingredients, an oh-so-helpful description is provided, which makes it sound like each one of the ingredients is naturally sourced without actually saying that it is. Take butyl acetate. It says “an organic compound common [sic] used as a solvent. Colorless, soluble found in many types of fruit.” Well, it is true that butyl acetate is found in many types of fruit – apples get their flavoring in part from butyl acetate. But it does not mean that this ingredient comes from fruit – butyl acetate is not derived from fruit for industrial production. Butyl acetate is manufactured by a chemical reaction (esterification) of a butanol isomer and acetic acid in the presence of sulfuric acid as a catalyst. I’ve asked the PR person which isomer of butyl acetate is used, or, more importantly, which isomer of butanol is used to derive the butyle acetate. Which isomer is used will tell us how it was derived - grain or petroleum – but I haven’t heard back. I’ll guess a plant based source to give the company the benefit of the doubt in this case because the PR person now will not return my emails.

In any event, reading the description of the ingredients, I was struck by the fact that it sounded familiar.  I had heard the claims before. Verbatim. I realized that the description matches EXACTLY with Priti’s description of its ingredients for its Priti Non Toxic Polishes. With the same typo on the description of butyl acetate. So I’m not sure what is going on, but Priti doesn’t describe its polishes as all natural. Instead, Priti describes its nail polishes as free of the toxic 3 commonly found in nail polishes – formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Which is fabulous but not quite the same as all natural.

And these products are that too – free of the so-called toxic 3 when it comes to nail polish.  But the claim of “all natural” is a much more significant claim. 

And, it appears that the ingredients aren’t all natural.

Take isopropyl alcohol. Which I use around the home to sanitize. But isopropyl alcohol comes from combining water and propene, and propene is derived from non renewable sources, petroleum or perhaps coal.

Stearalkonium hectorite is synthesized from stearalkonium chloride, a quarternary ammonium compound. Quaternary ammonium compounds are synthetic derivatives of ammonium chloride. 

The various colors can be from petroleum sources. Many are. Again, I have asked for information about the colors being used but the PR person won’t answer my emails. Her last email to me was:

Our nail lacquers appeal to the natural and green market.  We are not using the 3 main highly toxic ingredients that most all nail polish use and that is our focus.  

The thing is, the nail polish appears to be a better alternative than any conventional nail polish containing one or all of the toxic 3 ingredients. But the apparently untrue claim of all natural ruins the product for me. The focus may be on eliminating the toxic 3, but then advertise the product that way – don’t make a false all natural claim.