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?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.


  1. This is hard because it probably is “natural” enough for most people considering what they might be using – this could be a safer alternative. It is, however, the marketing of natural and green that is bothersome and how easy it is for a consumer to not know the break down of the ingredients and trust the marketing.

  2. Ugh. Natural? Heck no! I’d love it if there was a way to scan barcodes and upload them as you shop and you’d get back something along the lines of this article you wrote. Makes me really want to go au natural and not use ANY deodorant..but I don’t live in a remote cabin in the woods and I don’t think I’d be able to be around people if I went that route..

  3. Jennifer~

    What an informative blog post! I’ve only recently become aware of the polyethyelene beads in beauty products, so thank you for eligtening me further. An excellent means of testing our cosmetics and beauty-bath products is to visit Environmental Working Group’s website, http://www.ewg.org, and click on the Skin Deep database link. Many are surprised to find that some mega-cosmetics firms–who love to market themselves as supporters of the cure for breast cancer–are the very ones who stuff their lipsticks and lotions, etc, with all sorts of carcinogens and other toxic products. Thanks so much!

  4. No, it’s not natural at all.

    @Sommer, I think your statement more accurately answers the questions “Is this a risk you are willing to take”, or “is this a product you’re willing to use” or even “Is this natural enough for you?” Different people have different levels of risk they are willing to accept when it comes to what products they will use on themselves, and on their children. Yes, it is better than what people are using, but that’s not hard to do. The conventional products are so terribly bad. But is this product natural? Absolutely not!

    There are deodorants out there that are safe, and have independent 3rd party certifications. Certifications are the only way to know if a company’s claims are valid. Without that, it’s all just manipulation.

  5. Jennifer – Thank you for this valuable information. The practice of marketing a product as natural or organic, when it contains harmful chemicals is widespread. I wanted to share a similar experience I had with a brand called “Yes to Carrots”. I was introduced to the brand through the “Healthy Child Healthy World” website. HCHW is an organization I respect and look to, to provide me with good information & recommendations. I was disappointed however when I found out that the Yes to Carrots product for babies ( baby lotion) contains one of the ingredients you’ve highlighted in your article above – phenoxyethanol. Also a lot of their other products contain “Fragrance” which is another red flag. Yes to Carrots is actually a trusted partner of HCHW….which leads me to believe that HCHW’s vetting process needs serious refinement. Many folks would rely on their recommendation & seal of approval and not investigate any further when buying these so called natural products. I will be writing to them too, but couldn’t resist posting here. Thanks for what you do!

  6. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for telling people about this important issue!

  7. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for telling people about this important issue!

  8. Your post is very sobering. As a breast cancer survivor, I’ve always attempted to use strictly “natural” deoderants. I always wondered why Liquid Rock worked so well–too well as it turns out. I’ve always tried strictly to stay away from aluminum, so that’s one negative. The other ingredients don’t sound so innocent either. I had a vague memory of being warned about this deoderant before, so I’m glad I looked liquid rock up before continuing to use it.

Speak Your Mind