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.

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.

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.

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?