When you read the ingredients list on a ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ skincare or hair care product and see chemicals like PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, PEG-70 Mango Glycerides or Olive Oil PEG 7 Esters then it’s pretend-natural, not authentic-natural.
They contain the name of a plant, so they sound natural. They’re often referred to as ‘plant-derived’ but it’s a bit like comparing green leaves with fossil fuel. However, the end product is so significantly different to the source material, that it is unrecognisable.
Chemicals like these are a classic warning sign of greenwashing.
Greenwashing is an attempt at making something look more natural than it really is.
PEG stands for Polyethylene Glycol, an ethoxylated chemical.
In the cases above, they’ve taken components from a plant (mango, almond, olive) and combined them with ethylene oxide in a process that often leaves impurities of the Ethylene Oxide and also the byproduct 1,4-dioxane. Even if these impurities are removed, then they end up in our landfill and waterways.
Why choose them when you can choose something that is both super-clean AND awesome for skin?
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.
You don’t need to remember all that, of course… Just remember this picture and “AVOID PEG”!