Has Universal Pictures’ The Lorax forgotten the lessons learned? #Loraxwashing

My last blog post was about Universal Pictures’ The Lorax and how hope will change the world. I was actually optimistic that the new movie would inspire more people to change their worlds. I was optimistic that the movie The Lorax would reach more people with an uplifting environmental message.

But, a recent article by Mother Jones has crushed that optimism. According to the article, The Lorax has over 70 launch parties, including many not so environmentally friendly products, such as standard fuel injection engine Mazda SUV, Pottery Barn Kids, dispoable diapers and more.

Wasn’t one of the more compelling messages in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax that conpicuous consumption will result in environmental gloom and doom UNLESS we care? Shouldn’t the good folks behind the movie care a bit more about the launch partners, consistent with the environmental message of the story? Shouldn’t the products be at least environmentally friendly, even if they are products that we don’t really need? An electric car? Disposable diapers made with reclaimed materials or some environmentally friendly concept?

Or are those good folks just like the Once-ler – caught up in making money?

Pimping products is just, well, #loraxwashing.

Greenwashing – Westcott KleenEarth Scissors with Microban

I was trying to find some information on whether Microban shows up in recycled plastic items. If you aren’t familiar with Microban, Microban is a tradename for various antimicrobial technologies used in consumer products. Microban in plastic used to mean triclosan, but many Microban technologies have been developed so whether the Microban is all triclosan in plastic is hard to tell.

But, in any event, I was curious whether recycled plastic items can have Microban in them if Microban was in the source plastic used. In my searching, I came across Westcott’s KleenEarth scissors for kids which use recycled plastic in the handles and recycled plastic in the packaging. And there are a bunch of different products in this line, all with Microban. BUT, the recycled plastic handles are treated with Microban. So doesn’t that completely defeat the green, earth friendly message? What do you think? Greenwashing at its finest?

As I explained in my post from yesterday, I think I’ll skip the unnecessary Microban containing products.

Bah humbug to America Recycles Day – Make it Zero Waste Day Instead

Today is America Recycles Day – November, 15. And just like the pinkwashing fever during October due to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, America Recycles Day brings out the grinch in me.

I say bah humbug.

No doubt recycling has benefits. But, it is vastly superior to eliminate waste in the first place. Or as much waste as possible. Instead of recycling a plastic bottle, skip the plastic bottle entirely and use a re-usable stainless steel bottle. Instead of choosing a paper or plastic bag and recycling either one of them, use reusable shopping bags at the store. Instead of using disposable plates for a party that are made out of 20% corn or post content recycled material or something, use the ceramic or glass plates you have. Instead of take out food containers, bring your own containers – many restaurants will use them (if you aren’t brown-bagging that lunch).

A day that makes you feel good about creating waste is not a day to celebrate. Not at all.

Just look at the sponsors of America Recycles Day – Waste Management (no vested interested there), Nestle Waters (boo), and others. C’mon – I mean really. A bottled water company sponsoring America Recycles Day? Get real.

What it should be is zero waste day. I agree with TreeHugger. I’m not buying a single disposable item today – what about you?

FTC Green Guides – The End of Eco Friendly? Plant Friendly? Earth Friendly?

Most of us will say that we are green.

We all have different definitions of what green is, but ask most people, and they will say they are for protecting the earth. For limiting trash. For saving water and energy. For stopping pollution.

And becauase we are for those things, we will spend money on products that claim to be eco friendly or planet friendly or earth friendly. We might not actually spend more money than we otherwise would, but given the choice between a product with a green claim and one without, for the same price, most of us will choose the green product (assuming, of course, that we believe the product works the same as the conventional product).

But still. We have a niggling suspicion that those vague claims of planet friendly, eco friendly and earth friendly might not mean exactly what we think. But we still buy products with those claims, believing that we are doing some good.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) proposed revised Green Guides may well end those vague, unqualified green claims.

The FTC released its latest revised Green Guides on October 6, 2010. If you aren’t familiar with the FTC’s Green Guides, they are the FTC’s guidance to industry that helps marketers avoid misleading environmental claims in advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) requires that advertising:

  • Be truthful and not deceptive;
  • Be supported by evidence to support the claims; and
  • Not be unfair.

Under the FTC’ Policy Statement on Deception, an advertisement is deceptive if it contains a statement or omits information that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material (or important to a consumer’s decision to buy a product).

What is important that the FTC looks at an advertisment from the perspective of the reasonable consumer, and considers the advertisment in context. It isn’t just the words, but also the pictures and everything else. And, and this is critical, the FTC evaluates both express  and implied claims made in the advertising.

So, back to the proposed revised Green Guides. To update the Guides, the FTC conducted its own survey of consumers and green advertising. And the findings are of critical importance to the proposed revisions to the Green Guides with respect to unqualified green claims.

So, the FTC’s Consumer Perception Study found that consumers, reading an unqualified green green, believed that the product had a number of specific attributes implied by that unqualified green claim. Specifically, 61% believed that the product was made from recycled materials, 59% believed that the product was recyclable, 54% believed that the product was made with renewable materials, 53% believed that the product was biodegradable, 48% believed that the product was made with renewable energy, 45% believed that the product was non-toxic and 40% believed that the product was compostable. And, 27% of respondents interpreted the unqualified green and eco friendly claims as suggesting that the product had NO negative environmental impact.

Remember, a marketer must have evidence to support both express and implied claims. Therefore, because the FTC found that a reasonable consumer implied all of this attributes from an unqualified green claim, the FTC notes that making an unqualified green claim “remain[s] very difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.”

As a result, Section 260.4(a) of the revised Green Guides, if adopted as proposed, state that “[i]t is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product, package, or service offers a general environmental benefit.”

Further, Section 260.4(b) states:

Unqualified general environmental benefit claims are difficult to interpret and likely to convey a wide range of meanings. In many cases, such claims likely convey that the product, package, or service has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits and may convey that the item or service has no negative environmental impact. Because it is highly unlikely that marketers can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims, marketers should not make unqualified general environmetnal benefit claims.

From this, it appears that any general claims of eco friendly, planet friendly or earth friendly, or similar unqualified general environmental benefit claims, will be a thing of the past if the Green Guides are adopted as proposed. The examples given make this even more clear.

Example 2 is as follows:

A product wrapper bears the claim “Environmentally Friendly.” Text on the wrapper explains that it is environmentally friendly because it was “not chlorine bleached, a process that has beens hown to create harmful substances.” Although the wrapper was not bleached with chlorine, its production releases into the environment other  harmful sustances. Since reasonable consumers likely would interpret the “Environmentally Friendly” claim, in combination with the explanation, to mean that no significant harmful substances are released into the environment, the “Environmentally Friendly” claim is deceptive.

So, it will be interesting to see what will develop. Other claims addressed by the proposed revised Green Guides include certifications and seals of approval, degradable, compostable, ozone-safe/ozone-friendly, recyclable, free-of/non toxic, made with renewable materials, made with renewable energy and carbon offsets.

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.

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.

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 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?