Understanding Labels: PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil & Greenwashing

The personal care/beauty product industry is rampant with greenwashing. Of course – more than 70% of us say we will buy something if we believe it is “natural.” Why wouldn’t the beauty industry try to capture our dollars by marketing their products as natural?

Natural is not a defined legal term. It has no regulatory meaning. So the Food and Drug Administration isn’t policing “natural” claims on cosmetic products (although the Federal Trade Commission may be looking at green claims).

To be honest, the FDA isn’t policing much of anything when it comes to beauty products. The FDA does not conduct premarket testing or reviews of products to determine if they are safe. That is probably the biggest myth of all – that if a product is on the shelf, some government agency must have tested it to make sure it is safe.

So, in any event, basically a company is free to slap that “natural” label on any product. And the companies do.

One of the favorite tactics is “derived from.” As in, this ingredient is derived from coconuts. On the list of ingredients, you’ll see some long sounding chemical name, like ethylmethyldeath, followed by a innocuous name in paranetheses.  So, ethylmethyldeath (coconut). And you think to yourself that it must be totally natural and okay because, well, it comes from coconuts – the company just had to put this chemical name for some reason.

That isn’t always the case. Often, the ingredient is a long way from its natural root.

Take PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, often identified as PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (Castor Oil). And you think, okay, well it is castor oil. You think, well, that’s nasty to swallow but I know it is natural. Castor oil is obtained from the castor seed. (By the way, did you know that the castor seed contains ricin, an extremely toxic protein removed during cold pressing and filtering. Harvesting castor beans is risky – allergenic compounds on the plant can cause permanent nerve damage. Workers have suffered harmful side effects when harvesting the plants.)

In any event, while castor oil is natural, the PEG-40 in front of this ingredient changes things. As it does with PEG-30 castor oil, PEG-33 castor oil, PEG-35 castor oil and PEG-36 castor oil. These compounds are polyethylene glycol derivatives of castor oil. And, well technically, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is a polyethylene glycol derivative of hydrogenated castor oil.

What that means is that the castor oil is ethoxylated with ethylene oxide, a petroleum based chemical. Ethylene oxide comes from ethylene (ethylene is oxidized to produce ethylene oxide), and ethylene comes from petroleum via steam cracking. Petroleum may be natural, but it probably isn’t what you meant by natural. And it certainly is not a renewable resource.

As a by-product of the ethoxylation process, the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane may be present as a contaminant unless it is controlled and removed. You won’t see 1,4 dioxane on the ingredient list because it is a contaminant, not an ingredient. But you won’t be able to tell from the product’s label whether the 1,4 dioxane was removed or not – you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to find out.

In terms of safety, absent the carcinogenic concerns with the 1,4-dioxane contaminant, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is relatively safe on the scale of things. You should know that it isn’t safe for use on injured or damaged skin. It gets a 4 to 6 on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database because of the contamination concern, because of some limits on use, and because of limited evidence of sense organ toxicity.

But the point is is the PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil just isn’t natural – it can’t be with the use of ethylene oxide to produce it. So any product containing it claiming to be natural is just a bunch of hogwash. Or greenwash.

Greenwashing: Beaute de Maman not so beautiful. Or particularly natural.

Polyetheylene plastic beads

I just don’t get the popularity of Beaute de Maman. Or why the line won an Editor’s Choice Award from Pregnancy Magazine in December of last year.

I really don’t get it.

The line is expensive.

But people like it because it is natural. I’ve found it in very upscale boutiques, with sales people touting its benefits.

But, the line is guilty of greenwashing.

 The product advertising states that

Beaute de Maman was conceived by Dr. Brown, an obstetrician whose ongoing mission is to provide safe and effective remedies for the common problems women face during pregnancy. Her fine line of skincare products has been extensively studied and evaluated, as well as allergy and obstetrician tested. The entire line contains only natural and herbal ingredients proven safe for the mother-to-be, the fetus and the breastfeeding baby. 

Those natural claims are repeated in the Connecticut Post and other press about Beaute De Maman.

And therein is my problem. The entire line is supposed to contain “only natural and herbal ingredients” but that isn’t true. Well, at least by my definition of natural.

Let’s take the first product – the facial scrub. The ingredients are:

Water (Purified), Glycerol Stearate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Butylene Glycol, Disodium Laureth Sulfocucinate, Sodium Cocoyl, Methyl Taurate, Polyethylene, PEG-100 stearate, Myristyl Myristate, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Phenoxyethanol, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, DMDM Hydantoin, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethanolamine, Iodopropynyl Butycarbamate

Okay, now realize that polyethylene is a plastic derived from petroleum. That means that this allegedly all natural and herbal facial scrub has tiny microbeads of plastic that pollute our oceans.

Guess what? Lots of the other ingredients are very, very far from “natural.” Take butylene glycol. It is produced by the petrochemical industry by steam cracking. In other words, saturated petroleum hydrocarbons are broken down into small hydrocarbons. Or take triethanolamine. Triethanolamine is produced by reacting ethylene oxide with ammonia. In turn, ethylene oxide comes from ethylene and oxygen, and ethylene is produced by the petrochemical industry by steam cracking.

Okay, how are those natural? Or herbal?

Last year, I tried to speak with Beaute de Maman about its products. I was specifically interested in the natural claim and also contaminants being present in ceretain ingredients. And I got a fairly snotty response from Laureen Schroeder, VP of Marketing, that kept emphasizing how the company has access to research not available to the rest of us.

First, and most importantly, she said that “we do not claim to be 100% natural – as we could not be effective.” Huh? Isn’t that at odds with the advertising?

She also said:

Our products have been researched using databases and reproduction toxicity reports available only to physicians. . . . According to Reprotox, which are physician only databases  . . .”

Okay Ms. Schroeder, hate to tell you, but Reprotox is a subscription service available to physicians and consumers. So, yes, I use the same databases that you do.

So, many of the ingredients in the facial scrub peaked my interest. Ethylhexyl palmitate, for example, is an irritant, and the CIR panel warns against using in products for use around the eyes or on the skin above a certain concentration. Butylene glycol has the same problem. Several ingredients are ethoxylated and can have the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane as a contaminant, including disodium laureth sulfocucinate and PEG-100 stearate. Phenoxyethanol is phenol reacted with ethylene oxide, which again is petroleum derived.

Now, Ms. Schroeder states that the “facial scrub has no dioxane or carcinogenic compounds. All ingredients used are pure with no contaminants. Again, Intertek, or the FDA of England, did extensive testing of all products and determined that repeated exposure to the ingredients will not cause skin irritation, even with prolonged or repeated use. The ingredients used are well known and present at typical concenetrations where they will not cause irritation or allergy and are deemed safe. There is no formaldehyde or carcinogenic ingredients.”

Okay, so it seems that perhaps the ethoxylated ingredients are vacuum stripped to eliminate the 1,4 dioxane. But when I asked about the detection level used (and we know that is important after the SIGG debacle), I didn’t get a response.

Obviously, formaldehyde isn’t an ingredient. But her statement that there is no formaldehyde doesn’t address whether there are formaldehyde donors. The thing is about formaldehyde donors is that they work by releasing small quantities of formaldehyde to make the environment – the product – less favorable to microorganisms. So how can she claim that there is no formaldehyde produced? I get it that the levels may be very small, but still. Formaldehyde, by the way, is a carcinogen. It also causes contact dermantitis. DMDM Hydantoin, for example, is a formaldehyde donor. Setting asside the whole formaldehyde issue, DMDM Hydantoin is also an irritant, a known human immune system toxicant, and is a human skin toxicant. It is restricted for use in cosmetics in Japan. It gets a 7 to 9 (depending on use) in Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Safety Database.

I’m also completely unconvinced by the reliance upon Reprotox. Beaute de Maman banks on its claims that the products are safe for pregnant women. (I have some questions about the specific claims because, well, they seem to cross into the product being a drug, not a cosmetic, but that is for the FDA. And the FTC.) But the thing is, we know that there have not be adequate toxicology reviews of most of the chemicals we use. Looking at the Reprotox entry for DMDM Hydantoin, for example, there is no information in Reprotox other than the CIR’s assessment from 1988. Hello? There has been more information since the industry-funded panel looked at it – and the CIR only considers irritant/allergen type responses for the most part, not developmental toxicity.

And, by the way, Beaute de Maman claims that “these products, cosmeceuticals, have medicinal propertiers in their ingredients ensuring the safety of both mother-to-be and baby.” That certainly sounds like they are super special, right? Just so you know, the FDA does not recognize any such category as “cosmeceutical”, as Beaute de Maman asserts that the products are. A product is a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

What’s wrong with natural deodorants? You may be surprised to find aluminium.

Well, the real answer may be that many people find that natural deodorants just don’t work as well. But that isn’t what I was going to talk about in this post. Instead, I wanted to talk about what is in what many consider to be the most natural of all the natural deodorants – the crystal rock deodorant.

Now, some people switch to natural deodorants because they want to avoid aluminium. Aluminium is present in many conventional anti-perspirants, although it isn’t typically found in conventional deodorants. An increased amount of aluminium is found in the brains of many Alzheimer’s patients. Aluminium is a neurotoxin at high doses. However, aluminium in anti-perspirants has not been shown to cause Alzheimer’s, and the absorption of aluminium from anti-perspirants may be low although it does occur. While some animal studies have shown that high doses of the same aluminium salts used in anti-perspirants have detrimental impacts, The Alzheimer’s Society concludes that the evidence does not demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer’s.

So, even though the science does not confirm a link to Alzheimer’s, some people prefer products without aluminium. So they switch to natural deodorants. Other people want to avoid other ingredients commonly found in conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants, such as parabens, phthalates, and more. So they switch to natural deodorants. And some people just want to avoid the disposable plastic that comes with most conventional anti-perspirants and deodorants. So they switch to natural deodorants with less packaging.

All of those are valid reasons. But, if you are switching to a “natural” deodorant to avoid aluminium, then the natural deodorant better not have aluminium, right?

The thing is – those crystal deodorants contain aluminium.  Just check out the ingredients here, including the original Rock with ammonium alum. Ammonium alum is ammonium aluminium sulfate. Potassium alum, or hydrated aluminium potassium sulfate, may also be used. Now, it is true that the aluminium compounds are different in the rock crystal deodorants than in most conventional deodorants, and may be absorbed differently, but they still contain aluminium. And it is aluminium which is considered a neurotoxin that penetrates the blood-brain barrier. It is a bit misleading for The Original Crystal Rock to suggest that it is only aluminium chlorohydrate that is a neurotoxin.

In any event, it just seems to me that if you want to avoid aluminium, then you shouldn’t use the crystal deodorants. And keep in mind that those cystal rocks aren’t just mined naturally. They are as close to the aluminium compounds mined as sodium laureth sulfate is to coconuts. In other words, not much.

In any event, I find baking powder is the easiest and cheapest. Just put some in a small dish – I use a dish that used to have some fancy dusting powder and a pouf to put on the baking soda. It works wonders. Some people like a lit bit more to their deodorant, so you can make  your own. The best recipe is 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup corn startch and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Heat over low heat, until the coconut oil melts and the ingredients are combined. Pour liquid into container of your choice (re-use an old stick deodorant container). Let it cool. You can add some essential oil to the mixture if you want some more scent. Enviromom posts about her efforts with a slightly different recipe that doesn’t involve cooking.

If you don’t believe me and want a product, try Weleda. I like Weleda Citrus Deodorant. Now, the ingredients include the dreaded “fragrance” but the fragrance is from natural essential oils. And all those potentially yucky sounding chemicals – limonene, linalool, geraniol, citral, and farnesol – are the componds that make essential oils smell. Linalool is the top note in lavender essential oil. The information is included because the European Union’s rule requiring identification of certain potential allergens. And essential oils contain compounds which can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Suave Kids #WashThemGrow Twitter Party Illustrates Ingredients Are Not Mild Or Gentle

So what is really in all those bath and beauty products intended for our kids? It is hard to tell. Deciphering the ingredients is frustrating, especially when you are in a hurry to get your shopping done. And you can’t rely on labels – those terms like natural, naturally derived, hypoallergenic and more have no regulatory meaning. Plus, the US Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) – the federal agency tasked with jurisdiction over the safety of cosmetics – does NOT review cosmetic products for safety before they are placed on store shelves. In fact, most of the ingredients have never been studied for safety. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group found just 13% of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care product have been reviewed for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel – and the CIR panel really doesn’t concern itself with carcinogens and developmental toxicants. It is more concerned with skin reactions and skin irritation.

What does that mean? It is left to us to figure out what we want to use and whether we believe the products are safe for our kids. You may use the EWG’s Cosmetic Safety Database Skin Deep to check out ingredients. Or you may rely on recommendations from other moms. But recommendations may not be the best gauge of a product’s safety – what you think is okay may not be okay to the next mom and vice versa.

I think that issue – what is okay with one is not okay with another mom – came up during a Twitter last week, the #washthemgrow Twitter party. During the party, questions were raised regarding one ingredient – methylisothiazolinone. Jessica Gottlieb tweeted that is was banned in Canada, yet Suave Kids products included it. Methylisothiazolinone is an antimicrobial agent used in shampoos and other bath products in the US. Animal studies have linked exposure to methylisothiazolinone (“MIT”) to stunted development. In other words, chronic exposure to MIT may negatively impact neurodevelopment. Its use is restricted in cosmetics in Canada, although not completely banned. So some moms try to avoid it, while other moms may think it is okay.

The party hosts didn’t seem prepared to respond to questions on ingredients. (And I think that is a lesson learned for all Twitter parties – you must know your subject well. And be prepared for all issues. Can anybody say Nestle fiasco??) With respect to the concerns expressed over the ingredient methylisothiazolinone, Maria Bailey posted Suave’s response on her blog after the party had concluded.

But to be honest, MIT is only one problemmatic ingredient in the Suave Kids products. The Suave Kids Body Wash (the focus of the Suave Kids Wash Them Grow campaign) is supposed to make “bath time a more fun experience with [Suave’s] gentle and tear-free formulas . . . ” But the body wash is far from gentle. And I have to say I get a little annoyed at the sheer number of primarily mom blogs simply repeating the Suave media kit information. The blog posts almost universally say that the Suave Kids products are safe, gentle and non irritating. But none of them talk about WHAT IS IN THE BLOODY STUFF, including all the ingredients that are known irritants and/or allergens. Or that many of the products have high scores in the Skin Deep database.

Okay, I get it – people want to win the prizes being offered in the Wash Them Grow Campaign. They are great prizes. Plus, the campaign encourages bloggers to post about the product because the one that drives to most traffic to the sweepstakes will win a year’s supply of the product plus a $100 gift certificate to Build-a-Bear and can give the same prize to 10 of her readers.

But you would think that it would be responsible to at least vet the company claims before repeating them. Or at least read the ingredients. For example, this post suggests that the Free and Gentle body wash is free of perfumes and dyes. Yeah, right. The Free and Gentle body wash contains fragrance. Just look at the last ingredient.

And I fully understand that my issues on what is in the products we use may not concern other people. And I fully understand that there are a lot of more significant issues in the world. Just in the field of children’s environmental health, radon and lead in paint are much more significant issues.

Nevertheless, let’s look at what is in the Suave Kids Free and Gentle Body Wash. The claim: “clinically proven to be mild. The lightly fragranced formula is hypoallergenic so you don’t have to worry about irritating your child’s skin.”

The ingredients:

Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, PEG-150 Distearate, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance

So, the second ingredient, sodium laureth sulfate, is an ethoxylated compound. What that means is basically ethylene oxide is added to sodium lauryl sulfate to make it sodium laureth sulfate (“SLES”). The carcinogen 1,4 dioxane is a by-product of the ethoxylation process, and ends up in the body wash as a contaminant, so it doesn’t appear on the ingredient list. If you want to learn more about carinogens in kid shampoos and body washes, read my post on the Toxic Tub report. SLES can also cause eye and skin irritation, which makes the claim that this product is mild odd, and it is inconsistent with the “hypoallergenic” claim as well.

The third ingredient, cocamidopropyl betaine can cause allergic reactions. Cocamidopropyl betaine can also be contaminated with nitrosamines. The fourth ingredient, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, may cause immune system toxicity. 

Other ingredients are also of concern. Polyquaternium-10 is a formaldehyde donor, and may result in the release of the carcinogen formaldehyde. PEG-150 Distearate is ethoxylated, meaning that the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane may be present. Tetrasodium EDTA is a salt of EDTA. EDTA is synethesized from ehtylenediamine, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. EDTA is a peristent organic pollutant. Tetrasodium EDTA is linked to cancer and organ system toxicity. Of concern in cosmetic formulations is that Tetrasodium EDTA enhances the penetration of other ingredients.

DMDM Hydantoin is a human skin toxicant according to a CIR assessment. Also, it is an irritant. Finally, it also is a formaldehyde donor.

Finally, the all inclusive ingredient fragrance. The one that manufacturers don’t have to provide the actual ingredients in the fragrance because of trade secrets. So, we really can’t tell what synthetic chemicals make up the fragrance for this product. But what we can make an educated guess is that the fragrance contains numerous volatile organic compounds and also hormone disrupting phthalates. Phthalates are used to sustain fragrance in beauty products.

Okay so would you recommend this product? I don’t think I would – there are so many better options on the market. However, in the scheme of things, I think wash off products are less of a concern than leave on products such as lotions and diaper cream. So, switch your lotions, diaper cream and any other leave on products first, and then tackle body washes and shampoos. However, if your child takes a bath every night and hangs out in the bath, then you may be more concerned, especially since heat increases volatilization of the volatile ingredients.

What Is Natural? Lucky Magazine Misses It on Kiss My Face Liquid Rock

Are you buying beauty products because they are marketed as natural or green? Are you sure the products are really natural? One thing is certain – the term “natural” is not regulated in the beauty industry by any government agency.

I was flipping through the February 2010 issue of Lucky Magazine, and it seems that Lucky’s beauty editor Jean Godfrey-June may be buying a product that isn’t as natural as she thinks.

There can be no doubt that the beauty industry has been embracing the green movement. Or at least pretending to do so. Beauty products tout the benefits of “natural” ingredients – seaweed, tea tree oil, rose, coconut, Shea nut, and more. Some 70% of us believe natural products will improve our health.

Think about it. Who wants to buy a body scrub marketed as containing potentially carcinogenic ingredients derived from ancient fossilized organic materials? Instead, we would prefer to buy a body scrub touted as containing seaweed and featuring a sleek woman playing in gently lapping waves, despite the fact that the product may contain polyethylene plastic beads that contaminate our ocean. We will spend money on products claiming to be “natural”, “all natural”, “naturally derived” or “nature inspired” to name just a few, despite the fact that all of those claims have no meaning.

Most of us expect beauty products claiming to be natural to be composed of plant based ingredients, not petroleum-based synthetic ingredients. But we would be wrong. The natural seeming names or pictures fool us, and it easier to believe the marketing than to decipher the complicated chemical ingredient names.

So back to Jean Godfrey-June. She claims she is “one of those lunatics” that uses only “natural deodorant” so she uses Kiss My Face Liquid Rock in Summer Scent. Now, she does state that this product isn’t for you if you are after perfection, but she seems to be referring to how well it works as opposed to requiring a strict definition of natural. Which leads me to believe that she thinks it is really natural.

While I agree that it is better than many conventional deodorants full of synthetic fragrances, phthalates and other not so natural ingredients, it isn’t strictly natural.

The ingredients are:

Water, Potassium Alum, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Patchouli Essential Oil, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Trisodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate

Potassium alum is naturally occuring. It is the potassium double sulfate of aluminum. So that is natural, although I know some people try to avoid aluminum in their skin care produccts.

But polysorbate 20 isn’t as natural as you might think. Derived from coconuts yes, but to get polysorbate 20, you have a lot of petrochemistry, including ethoxylation, which can result in the contaminant 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen, being present (although never identified as an ingredient because it is a contaminant). If you wanted to know, polysorbate 20 is a mixture of laurate esters of sorbitol and sorbitol anhydrides, consisting predominantly of the monoester, condensed with approximately 20 moles of ethylene oxide. And now you remember why you hated chemistry.

Hydroxyethylcellulose is derived from cellulose – I’ll give that as a natural.

Trisodium EDTA, however, is far from natural. EDTA is mainly synthesized from ethylenediamine (1,2-diaminoethane), formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. Sounds yucky, right?

Phenoxyethanol is probably the ingredient of most concern in terms of toxicity according to Skin Deep’s cosmetic safety database. It gets a 4. The other ingredients have lower ratings (although the low rating may be due more to a lack of information). Phenoxyethanol was one of the ingredients that resulted in the Food and Drug Administration issuing a warning against the use of Mommy’s Bliss nipple cream for depressing the central nervous system (upon ingestion). But, in terms of whether phenoxyethanol is natural, the answer is it isn’t. Phenoxyethanol, otherwise known as ethylene glycol monophenyl ether, is a synthetic preservative. Typically, to make the ingredient, one starts with a phenol, a white crystalline powder created from benzene (a known carcinogen) and then is treated with ethylene oxide (also a known carcinogen) and an alkalai. That process can result in phenoxyethanol being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Okay, so what do you think? Do you still consider this natural? Is it natural enough?

Goodguide Ranks Triclosan Containing Antimicrobial Q-Tips As Top Baby Product

Last week, the GoodGuide tweeted a link to its top rated baby products. So of course I checked out GoodGuide’s Best Baby Care Products. I was disappointed to see that several of the top rated products had ingredients I considered suspect or potentially of concern. I tweeted back to the Good Guide several comments and concerns about the list, and the Good Guide has contacted me and we are going to discuss my concerns. So I’ll save my post about why the purportedly Best Baby Care Products really aren’t until after we have a chance to have that conversation. However, one of the top rated products was Q-tips Cotton Swabs, Antimicrobial (listed as the number 12 top baby product).

Now, when any product contains to be antibacterial, it grabs my interest. You see, the EPA’s pesticide regulations govern claims regarding consumer products treated with pesticides.  Generally, antibacterial claims mean that the product is treated with triclosan. And triclosan has some potentially significant problems. Triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and low levels of triclosan may disrupt thyroid function. Triclosan also ends up in our aquatic environments because wastewater treatment plants can’t fully address the triclsoan load. And in the environment, triclosan is disruptive .

The GoodGuide gives Q-tips Cotton Swabs, Antimicrobial a “10” in Health. The Health portion of the score relates to the potential health effects of the product’s ingredients. The ingredients identified by GoodGuide  (from the product’s label) consist solely of 100% cotton. Yet, cotton doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties, so I sent off an email to inquire what made the  Q-tips antibacterial.

And, yes, I was right. The cotton swabs are treated with triclosan.

In fact, here is the response I received from my “friends at Q-Tips”:

Thank you for writing us regarding Q-Tips.

Swab made with 100% high quality bleached cotton specially carded to provide softness and 50% more cotton at the tip (Package carries “Seal of Cotton” logo).

The cotton tip is treated with an “antimicrobial” ingredient and is secured to the applicator with adhesive. The antimicrobial system is incorporated during the cotton swabs forming process.

Antimicrobial system/Processing aid consists of:

– Triclosan is the Antimicrobial

– Methocel is the binder

The incorporation of an antibacterial agent will help prevent the introduction of bacteria, mold and fungi during use and when exposed to potential contamination and environmental conditions (i.e. high humidity and termperature) conducive to bacterial growth and proliferation in storage or use.

So, I disagree with the GoodGuide giving this product top billing as a safe baby product. Any product with triclosan show receive a lower rating because of triclosan’s impact to the environment. In this case, the triclosan content may be low, and there may not be much exposure given how Q-tips are used, but there is still triclosan present, and parents may not expect it. And while the triclosan may be added to prevent contamination of the swab (and thereby exempting Unilever from the requirements of registering the triclosan as a pesticide), the packaging claim of antibacterial probably gives parents and caregivers the impression that using these Q-tips will prevent the transmission of disease. I don’t think that parents or caregivers should be encouraged to use these triclosan-containing Q-tips over conventional Q-tips (and if you are going to use conventional Q-tips, why not go for a green solution . . . )

So, to the GoodGuide, I encourage you to examine the products you are recommending and don’t just rely on the numbers. Put some thought into it.

Why is 1,4 dioxane found in “organic” shampoos?

You’ve made the switch to natural or organic personal care products in an effort to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.  You recognize that the words “natural” and “organic” don’t necessarily mean all that much when it comes to personal care products but you’ve read the labels and are confident in what you bought.  Then, just when you were confident you had done a good thing, you find out that many so-called natural or organic personal care products contain 1,4-dioxane.  What?  The label doesn’t disclose it.  Why the heck would there be 1,4-dioxane in my organic shampoo? 

The Organic Consumers Association released a study that found 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen, in products from JASON Pure Natural & Organic, Giovanni Organic Cosmetics, Kiss My Face and Nature’s Gate Organics.  About 50% of the products tested had 1,4 dioxane.  A complete list of the products can be found here

The reason?  1,4-dioxane is a contaminant resulting from the ethoxylation.  To make certain ingredients mild, ethylene oxide is added.  A byproduct of this process is 1,4 dioxane. 
So, you can avoid it by not buying products with myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth or any other “eth”; also skip PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene or oxynol.  Another trick – buy products that are certified USDA Organic.  All the USDA Organic certified products in the study were 1,4-dioxane free, including Dr. Bronner’s, Sensibility Soaps (Nourish) and Terressentials (one of my faves!). 
1,4 dioxane is found in numerous conventional personal care products, including Hello Kitty bubble bath to Huggies baby wash to Johhson’s baby wash.  In fact, in conventional products, 1,4-dioxane is found in 57% of baby soap and 34% of body lotions.

Non Toxic Homemade Halloween Makeup

Unfortunately, Halloween makeup can contain lots of not so nice chemicals. As you may know, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal government agency responsible for overseeing cosmetics, does NOT conduct itself any pre-market testing, or require any pre-market testing, of cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients. In fact, as clearly stated on the FDA’s website, cosmetic manufacturers are free to use almost any ingredient they want in their cosmetics, except for  9 ingredients that the FDA has banned and certain color additives are regulated. Compare this to the European Union, which has banned well over 1,100 ingredients from cosmetics or limited them.

Then, on top of that, you have Halloween makeup, which is frequently done as inexpensively as possible by companies that don’t really care about bad reactions because the products aren’t on the market long enough. So you  find not only hormone disrupting phthalates and carcinogenic compounds found in regular makeup but also often heavy metals such as lead and more.

So what’s a green mama to do to make her goblins, ghosts and witches eek-o-scary? Homemade, non toxic Halloween makeup of course!

EDIBLE GOOP (Wounds, Warts, and More)

My favorite homemade Halloween recipe is for “edible” goop. And while I describe this as edible you can eat it but it doesn’t taste all that great.

You can use edible goop to make scars, warts, wounds, etc.

gelatin in bowlTo 1 oz. gelatin (not Jello, but plain, unflavored old-fashioned gelatin, usu. located right next to the Jello), add 2 tablespoons boiling water and stir, let sit for 3 minutes. As you stir, the gelatin will dissolve.

The picture shows the dissolved gelatin after sitting a bit.

Smart Mama Tip: The gelatin doesn’t smell all that great, so you can add 2 to 4 drops of an essential oil if your child doesn’t like the smell. Sweet orange essential oil is a good one to add. If you do add an essential oil, make sure it is suitable for skin contact.

Then pour mixture onto natural waxed paper or other surface. You need to shape the gelatin to make what you want – a wart, a scar, whatever. You need to work fairly quickly, particularly if you are going to mix in some color.gelatin on waxed paper The picture on the right is what the gelatin looks like when poured on natural waxed paper.

Add in what you need to create the effect that you want. If you want a wound, add some red coloring. If you want the wound to look old, consider adding some chocolate syrup. If you want a witch’s wart, add some green coloring and perhaps some hair (some bristles from a brush perhaps?). For a ghoulish effect, add cornstarch or flour. For a swamp thing, perhaps dill weed or tarragon. For dead skin, add oatmeal. Get creative! For the leech looking effect below, I added some instant coffee crystals and some brown coloring from water added to coffee crystals.

gelatin woundLet your creation cool and gently peel off the waxed paper.

Once dry, adhere using corn syrup – you just need to let the corn syrup dry.

You can scale up the batches as needed. These look best made the same day that you are going to wear them – they dry out and shrink a bit.

For cleanup of your bowl, just peel the gelatin out – it will all stick together. If some gets stuck, just use hot water to dissolve it a bit to get the dish clean.


homemade face paint shorteningHomemade face paint is hard, I think. With pantry staples, I haven’t hit upon a successful recipe to give the same consistency as store bought face paint.

But, with homemade, you know what is in the stuff! No heavy metals, for one thing.

So, the usual recipe for “edible” face paint is 10 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp white flour, 5 tsp vegetable shortening and 1/4 tsp vegetable glycerin. Mash together with a fork until the mixture balls up. Once this is mixed together, you can add a bit more glycerin as needed. This will make a white base. Separate into different white blobs and add the necessary color. I’ve made a tan (for a lion or cat) using some water collected from coffee crystals. This mixture is relatively “pasty” and will not give you clean lines, but it works. It is edible, although it isn’t very tasty.

Another option is to add basically equally parts lotion and cornstarch. For this recipe, I’ve used 1 tblsp Harley James baby lotion and 1 tblsp cornstarch. (I bought some offace paint with lotion the Harley James to try but I still like my Earth Mama Angel Baby.)  The trick to this one is to have a lotion that you like to start – one that gets a 0 or a 1 over at Skin Deep’s cosmetic safety database. The white made with lotion will still be a little translucent, but if you make colors, it will give you cleaner lines, particularly if you use a comsetic brush to paint. Again, I’ve made a tan using water from water added to a few coffee crystals.

Another recipe is 3 tblsp cornstarch, 1 tblsp flour, 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup corn syrup (light). The corn syrup makes this sweet, so it may be too attractive for little ones. To make this, add the cornstarch adn flour in a bowl. Stir in the corn syrup and water until smooth. Once it is mixed together, divide as needed and add colors.


For fake blood, use light corn syrup, a dash of castile liquid soap (to make clean easier), and red coloring. Easiest to use is red food color. If you want darker blood or more realistic blood, add a dash of blue or some chocolate syrup.


Use aloe vera gel (you can get at almost any natural food store), and mix in some fine glitter. This should be kept away from the eyes. Alternatively, if you have some mineral makeup that you trust, you can use it as well.

Are your bath and beauty products causing dermatitis? Quaternium 15 & Formaldehyde

JohnsonsHeadtoToeBabyWashDid you know Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash contains a preservative that releases formaldehyde – a carcinogen and a leading cause of dermatitis?

Yep, that’s right. That staple in many homes contains some not so nice chemicals. I’ve posted before about the problems with the ingredients in Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash. The No More Toxic Tub report from the Campaing for Safe Cosmetics led to several posts about hysterical mommy bloggers.

A new peer-reviewed report published in the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association revisits the problem. The report finds that Quaternium 15, a preservative found in Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash and many other conventional bath and beauty products, may be responsible for dermatitis in many users (dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as eczema).

The report states that Quaternium 15 is “the most sensitizing formaldehyde-releasing preservative and has been repeatedly shown to be a strong allergen that can cause contact dermatitis.”

As quoted in the press release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Quaternium 15 is present in an alarmingly high number of baby products, making exposure and sensitization at an early age increasingly common,” said Sharon Jacob, M.D., co-author of the paper and physician at the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics at Rady Children’s Hospital. “This is a concern because repeated exposures to sensitizing chemicals, especially in early life, can cause a person to develop allergic reactions over time. Therefore, we advise parents to choose products without quaternium 15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives whenever possible.”

Okay, so say you want to skip products containing Quaternium 15 or any other formaldhyde donor preservatives. I understand that you don’t want to need a chemistry degree just to shop. So, my general advice is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database and look for products with a score of 2 or lower, and with no ingredient about 4. Another general recommendation is to find a company you trust, and use those products.

For baby washes/shampoos,, one way to avoid preservatives is to avoid detergent shampoos as opposed to soap shampoos. Pure castile soap – a vegetable based soap – doesn’t require a preservative because the pH prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. It’s easy to be confused here because most “shampoo” and “body wash” products are actually detergents that require artificial surfactants, emulsifiers and preservatives. There are some safe detergents, but if you want the easiest and quickest way to buy safely, look for pure castile soap like Earth Mama Angel Baby and Dr. Bronners. (Disclosure – if you click on the Earth Mama Angel Baby link over on the left, I make a little money since I’m an affiliate. Also, in connection with my other company, 3 Green Angels, Earth Mama Angel Baby has retained the company to host several Twitter parties.)

False Advertising & Blatant Greenwashing: Cargo’s PlantLove Botanical Lipstick at Sephora

cargo plantloveI am completely amazed at the blatant FALSE advertising for Cargo’s PlantLove Botanical Lipstick at the Sephora website. This lipstick has been recommended to me by several people, so I thought I’d check it out. But I haven’t done that, in part because I just haven’t been ready to sample new lipsticks. But also because I’ve been skeptical about Sephora’s Naturally Gorgeous Natural Seal, especially since it won the dubious distinction on one of the four biggest Enviro scams. 
In any event, I checked it out today after being prodded by a post on Sephora’s Natural Standard being a complete and utter sham. 

And I’m dumb founded by the completely false advertising. 

Truly, utterly, dumb founded. No wonder we all have such a hard time figuring out what we are doing when it comes to buying products. 

So, here are the claims for the product related to its “green credentials“:

This product is formulated WITHOUT:
– Parabens
– Synthetic Fragrance
– Synthetic Dye
– Petro-Chemicals
– Phthalates


This product has Sephora’s Natural Seal. Okay, sounds great, right? But then if you click on the ingredients, this is what you get:


All shades contain:
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Mica, Candelilla Cera (Euphorbia Cerifera Wax), Cera Alba (Beeswax), Lanolin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Jojoba Esters, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cymbidium Grandiflorum Flower Extract, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), PEG-8, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, BHT, Silica, Alumina, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Benzophenone-3, (+/-): CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 15850 (Red 7 Lake), CI 77491/Ci 77492/CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 15985 (Yellow 6 Lake), CI 75470 (Carmine). 

Notice the three ingredients in bold, common to all shades? Yes, those are parabens. So how stupid does Sephora and/or Cargo think we are? The lipsticks are advertised that they are formulated without parabens, yet all shades contain three parabens? 

And the company also claims that the lipsticks are manufactured without petrochemicals. Hello? Benzophenone-3 is derived from benzophenone, which is manufactured typically using benzene, a petrochemical. 

In other words, the claims for these botanical lipsticks are completely false. Shame of Sephora and Cargo.