Ah, we all love a little dress up, eh? Whether it’s just to glam it up and make the most of our best features, or to have some fun at a party dressed up as someone (or something) completely different, so long as it’s respectful, it’s all good fun.
In our industry, we see a lot of dress ups of a different kind, and unfortunately, it’s not all respectful and it’s not good fun…
What it means is that when we’re choosing products it’s difficult to know whether we’re being shown an honest representation of what’s in the bottles, or if something is ‘dressed up’. The prevalence of ‘dress ups’ is why terms like green-wash and pink-wash have emerged, when a connection to the environment or a cause like breast cancer is used to capture and divert your attention in the same way that a white wash spruces up something old.
That’s not saying the products are inherently awful and will do bad things to you. It IS saying, however, that the people who are selling you these products are not confident that you will buy them without them dressing them up as better than they really are.
It’s one thing to have a chemical product and be frank about what it is. To falsely present products that are mostly petrochemicals and synthetic chemicals as healthy and ‘green’ is at best accidentally misleading, or at worst willfully deceptive.
We believe you deserve better.
This is why one of our goals at Y natural is to be a catalyst for positive change in the industry.
We hold workshops to help demystify labelling and ingredients lists. If you’re trying to make informed choices about what you use, please do come along!
Let’s take a look at a bottle of shampoo to give an example of what you’ll soon be able to do for yourself… I’ve removed the branding because the purpose is to educate, not name and shame.
As the picture shows, this product has ‘Certified Organic’ in bright lights on the front of the label. Before getting too excited though, just note that the CO tag on the label is specifically for the Black Tea extract, not the whole product…
A quick look at the ingredients list confirms that the prominence of the words ‘Certified Organic’ is not indicative of the formulation as a whole:
Aqua, Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, Sodium chloride, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Coco-glucoside, PEG-200 hydrogenated glyceryl palmate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, Sodium lauroyl glutamate, Lactic acid, Parfum, C11-15 pareth-9, Silicone quaternium-20, Glyceryl oleate, C11-15 pareth-5, Trimethylsilylamodimethicone, Polyquaternium-10, Citric acid, Xanthan gum, Cetrimonium chloride, Argania spinosa oil, Methylchloroisothiazolinone Methylisothiazolinone, Camelia sinensis extract.
There’s not a whole lot of deliciousness on that list. It contains extract of Camelia sinensis ( Black Tea) which is the ingredient with its name up in lights. It also contains Argan Oil (Argania spinosa oil) so there might be a second CO ingredient. These are both very nice ingredients, by the way.
Let’s keep looking, to see if the benefits of the good ingredients outweigh the rest of the stuff with which they’re mixed…
You’d be familiar with Aqua (water) and Sodium Chloride (NaCl, common salt, added to thicken the formulation).
Then it starts getting harder, so here’s a few quick examples of what you can look for…
First, ethoxylated chemicals.
We can account for quite a few ingredients at once by combining ethoxylated chemicals. These may be identified by the prefix PEG (polyethylene glycol), PPG (polypropylene glycol) or the endings eth , oxynol or polysorbate . There are others too, though note that some brands attempt to mask the presence of ethoxylated ingredients, for example by omitting the PEG prefix.
Just following the simple guide above, we can identify the following ingredients in this product as ethoxylated chemicals: Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, PEG-200 hydrogenated glyceryl palmate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, C11-15 pareth-9, C11-15 pareth-5.
Ethoxylation is a process in which one or more components are combined with ethylene oxide to form an ingredient that can be used for things like creating bubbles (in a cleanser or shampoo) or to help combine (emulsify) the oil-based ingredients with the water-based ingredients in the formulation. That makes them very useful. Unfortunately, they’re also very polluting. The fact that they’re very cheap is the reason why you see them in almost every product on the market despite a variety of options that are more healthy and ethical.
One by-product of the ethoxylation process is the known carcinogen 1, 4-dioxane. You won’t see it on an ingredients list because it’s there as a contaminant. It pollutes our bodies, our waterways and our landfill – for no good reason, because there are plenty of cleaner alternative ingredients available. It speaks volumes that the presence of 1,4-dioxane in products of a number of brands is currently is the subject of a class action in the US against personal care giants including Johnson&Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly Clark.
Second… Chemicals with ethicone in their name are synthetic silicone oils, some of which are known to accumulate in the lymph and liver and are linked with cancer generally and breast cancer specifically. This particular ingredients list contains Trimethylsilylamodimethicone. While very little data exists about Trimethylsilylamodimethicone at this point, it’s fair to say you wouldn’t expect to see a synthetic silicone oil a product that’s trying to present itself as Certified Organic. If you’re wondering why there’s no data, it’s because there’s no legal requirement to provide data, and given that over a hundred thousand chemicals are used in personal care products and there’s a new chemical created every few minutes, there’s no chance of any independent monitoring body being able to keep up.
Third… Preservatives are often the most (or one of the most) questionable ingredients in a formulation. In this product, there are two preservatives we’ve discussed in a previous blog post: Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. The latter was the subject of a Today Tonight story which is well worth a quick look. The link to the TT story is at this link: https://www.ynatural.com.au/news/wet-wipes-and-problematic-preservatives/
The TT story features a young woman who suffered a shocking reaction to wet wipes due to sensitivity to the preservative methylisothialinone. Its use in wet wipes or any form of cosmetic is mystifying because – as pointed out by Dr Lynne Gordon of Flinders Medical Centre – about one in every six or seven patch tests reveal sensitivity to methylisothialinone. It’s also mystifying because the problems with methylisothialinone are no secret. It’s already banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in the EU and its use in cosmetics is also restricted in Canada and Japan.
Fourth… This product also contains Parfum (perfume, fragrance) which unless specifically denoted as natural, is typically a blend of many synthetic chemicals. Artificial fragrances are one of the leading causes of skin reactions, allergies and sensitivities. They also contain phthalates which, according to papers published by the World Health Organisation, are linked to childhood leukaemia and childhood asthma and deformities in the sex organs of baby boys, amongst other problems.
There’s a few extra ingredients we could discuss, but that’s probably enough for you to know that on balance, if you had a choice between two products, you’re better choosing the one without all the chemicals.
After doing one of our workshops, you’ll be able to read ingredients lists and be really confident with your choices. We go through a swag of tips and tricks so that you leave with a whole lot of knowledge about what’s great for feeding your body, and what you’re better off avoiding. Frankly, the part I find most exciting is about all the good – FABULOUS! – ingredients so we spend plenty of time on that too.
If you’re keen to come to a workshop, drop us a line here and we’ll get in touch with information on what’s happening in your area.
More soon! xx