Time for another 10 minute tute!
Here are the ingredients of a popular brand of hand and body lotion. .
Water (Aqua), Theobroma Cacoa (Cocoa) Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, Petrolatum, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil), Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Stearalkonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Theobroma Cacoa (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Eleis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Fragrance (Parfum), Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG-8 Stearate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Benzyl Alcohol, Yellow 5 (Cl 19140), Orange 4 (Cl 15510).
Because our emphasis is on making it super-easy and looking for patterns, instead of learning a hundred thousands chemicals off by heart, we’ll stick to the ingredients that are common and easy to spot. Our hope is that you’ll be able to look like an ingredients list like this one and know instantly whether or not it meets your standards.
At a glance it’s easy to spot good ingredients, like cocoa extract, cocoa butter and coconut oil. After that, it’s a little more challenging.
There are some occlusive emollients, three that jump out in particular that serve to make the skin feel damp and trick you into thinking your skin is moisturised, when in fact it’s only ‘coated’. Ongoing use of such ingredients will typically result in skin gradually becoming drier and more dehydrated, instead of healthier. Instead of your skin looking nice, smooth and healthy, it skin will become gradually more scaly and even cracked in places.
Petrolatum and Mineral Oil are both forms of the same thing – think Baby Oil, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin and the like. The processing of these petrochemicals results in impurities of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, many of which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic – for more information, see our recent post here.
Dimethicone is a synthetic silicone oil. We recommend avoiding all the silicone oils (chemicals ending in ‘ethicone’ or with siloxane as part of their name) as for many of the oils, evidence points to a link with cancer generally and breast cancer specifically.
Methylparaben and Propylparaben are synthetic preservatives that are linked to cancer and hormone disruption. As they break down, they release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
Parabens were amongst the chemicals singled out by the French Minister for Health in 2009, with a bill put before the French Parliament seeking to put warnings on the bottles of skincare and haircare, similar to how we have warnings on cigarette packets. The fact that a government considered such drastic action in an industry worth $15 billion to its economy each year is a clear indication that they perceive a looming issue. Governments wouldn’t mess with such an important and powerful industry on a whim.
In 2010, Denmark banned the use of two kinds of parabens in children’s products and momentum continues to build, with five different types of parabens now banned in the EU.
PEG-8 Stearate is an ethoxylated chemical, the manufacture of which leaves it at risk of contamination with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. For more on PEGs, look here, but the following gives a quick indication of why we recommend avoiding PEG-8 Stearate and other PEGs:
Ethylene Oxide is so toxic that if you took the lid off and sniffed the bottle, death would be imminent. If you were working with it in a lab, you’d be wearing protective clothing, glasses, gloves and a face mask to stop it getting on your skin or in your lungs. It scores 10 on a scale of 1-to-10 of hazardous chemicals because it is carcinogenic and specifically shown to induce tumours in mammary glands. It’s also linked with developmental and reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity and allergies.
1,4-dioxane is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects. Readily penetrating the skin, it is a known carcinogen with evidence suggesting a possible link to breast cancer. While pregnant women, infants and teenagers are considered to be most vulnerable, it’s reasonable to suggest this is a chemical best avoided more widely.
It’s possible to continue, but not necessary. There’s enough to know whether or not it’s something you’re happy to use on yourself or your loved ones.
We’ll do another review soon. Hope this helped make it easy for you xo