Saturday, August 9, 2008

Synthetic Ingredients to avoid

I have a great little booklet called "Natural Ingredients Dictionary" by Aubrey Hamilton of Aubrey Organics.  You can look up a bunch of ingredients that are present in food, cosmetics and personal care products and find out about them.  At the back it also has a very handy little reference guide called "Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid" which I'm going to paraphrase from because I find it useful.

1. Parabens - Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben
These are preservatives which extend product shelf lives and inhibit microbial growth.  They are hormone disruptors and many people can have allergic skin reactions to them. Not to mention that they are known to be toxic.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)
These are emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritations and dryness, and can also be toxic. 

3. Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea
More preservatives. These have been shown to be a primary cause of contact dermatitis and can release formaldehyde, which is toxic.

4. Sodium lauryl sulfate, Sodium laureth sulfate
A cheap, harsh detergent used for its cleansing and foam-building properties.  Can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions.

5. Petrolatum
Also known as petroleum jelly. This is a cheap mineral oil that is supposed to be moisturizing but it can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism leading to more of the problem it is supposed to help with.

6. Polyethylene glycol (PEG), Polypropylene glycol (PPG)
These are synthetic petrochemicals used as humectants (moisturizers). They have been known to cause skin irritations. They are somewhat similar to propylene glycol which actually may be OK if it is formed from a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol - so check to make sure you are getting a product from natural ingredients if propylene glycol is listed, otherwise avoid it to be safe.

7. PVP/PVA Copolymer
An oil- derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and other cosmetics which is toxic when inhaled.

8. Stearalkonium Chloride
Originally developed as a cheap fabric softener, this is now used in hair conditioning formulas. It can cause allergic reactions and is toxic.

9. Synthetic Colors
These may be labeled FD&C or D&C followed by a color then a number. Many synthetic colors can be carcinogenic.

10. Synthetic Fragrances
Some of the fragrances can contain over 200 chemicals and there is no way of knowing what is in them because it will simply list "fragrance". Problems caused include headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, vomiting, skin irritation, etc.

Personally, I don't worry so much about synthetic fragrances. Some of my favorite products, such as Pacifica soaps and perfumes, contain synthetic fragrances. I just hope that by using a company that is reputable, they will have taken care to ensure that the bad guys are left out.  I guess we'll see if I'm just a fool or not.

I'd also add to the list:
11. Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone
These are preservatives that are cropping up in products I strongly suspect are greenwashing us just so they can advertise "no parabens". They seem to be implicated in neurotoxicity and allergic reactions.


Sam said...

I'm going to print this one and take it with me shopping. Thanks for a great way to help a lazy ass like me. I'm used to checking food for gluten (which has a zillion different names), adding another dozen or so things to check isn't that big of a deal.

Care said...

This is so helpful Sarah! I'm going to print out this list as well, to keep in my purse while I'm shopping.