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Myth No. 15 - There’s nothing dirty about natural skincare products

This is the second piece in a three-part series of blog articles to help put the skincare Dirty Dozen in layman's terms. Our goal? Make it easy for you to pick them out from skincare product labels and permanently weed them out from you and your family's skincare regimen. If you missed the first part of the series last month, where we introduced the first four of the Dirty Dozen, don't worry, simply visit the link here.

Let's continue with ingredient #5.

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs)

Duh. I know, I know - no one would get near formaldehyde with a ten-foot pole, so obviously, the challenge with this one is how to spot it on skincare product labels, because let's face it, it's gonna be buried - deep. The tip here, look far, far down the ingredients list, near the very end, because preservatives are typically used in very small quantities and the ingredients list is presented in descending order of ingredient volume. They are commonly found in salon products (nail polish, lash glue), shampoos, and unfortunately, also baby care products. Look for any of these ingredients: 

  • quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • imidazolidinyl urea
  • diazolidinyl urea
  • polyoxymethylene urea
  • quaternium-15
  • sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (SHMG)
  • bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1-3-diol)

Health Concerns: Though formaldehyde is a restricted ingredient in Canada (allowed at max. 0.2%), there are no restrictions on use of FRPs. At low doses, some of these can trigger eye and skin irritations and allergies. The primary concern is that formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, may be off-gassed from these products, intoxicating the air we inhale.

6. Parabens

Very similar to FRPs, parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics. They are fairly easy to spot on the ingredients list (with one exception, we'll get to it in ingredient #7) - look for methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216), butylparaben and heptylparaben (E209), and less commonly, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben.

Health Concerns: Parabens can be easily absorbed into our skin and are proven to interfere with hormonal and reproductive functions as they are highly estrogenic. A recent study has also found that some parabens can interact with cell receptors to trigger growth of breast cancer cells.

7. Parfum (a.k.a. Fragrance)

This is the one word on the ingredients list that can hide everything including the kitchen sink. Well, not literally, but did you know there are approximately 3000 chemicals that can be used as a fragrance? Because unique scents are treated as trade secrets, manufacturers are not mandated to disclose the precise ingredients that went in to generate the fragrance. At November Blossom, we believe in 100% Ingredients Transparency, so we openly share the ingredients that contribute to the fragrance of our products (also because they do much more for skincare than just their scents). Our tip here? Avoid products that have Parfum on their ingredients list (usually at the very end) - you and your family deserve the transparency and I guarantee you there will always be fragrance-free alternatives on the market.

Health Concerns: You just don't know what you don't know. But what we do know is synthetic fragrances have the ability to trigger migraines, allergies, and asthmatic symptoms.

8. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) compounds

If you use name brand skincare products, chances are, they contain some kind of PEG compounds. So what are PEGs? Polyethylene is a form of plastic, when combined with Glycol, turns into a thick, viscous liquid that is commonly used as bases for creams, for 3 reasons: 1) it thickens the textures, 2) acts as a emulsifier, and 3) enhances product penetration into the skin. PEGs are followed by a dash and a number (e.g. PEG-6, PEG-100) which stands for the molecular weight of the compound.

Health Concerns: The concern with PEG is primarily its ability to enhance product penetration. Unless you can be 100% confident that in the manufacturing process of the PEG or the skincare product itself, there is no contamination by impurities or worst yet, carcinogens (e.g., ethylene oxide, 1,4-dioxane), why subject you and your family to the risk of these toxic substances seeping into your skin?

Finally, let's bust the myth that natural = clean. Here are a couple of popular brand name products on the market that position themselves as natural:

Product Name Dirty Dozen Ingredient
Huggies Natural Plus Baby Wipes Butoxy PEG-4 PG-Amodimethicone
Live Clean Daily Moisturizing Shea and Coconut Body Lotion Parfum (Fragrance)
Aveeno Baby Daily Lotion Petrolatum

Surprised? The term “greenwashing” is used to describe the use of catchphrases and claims in order to create a false impression that a product is natural or eco-friendly for marketing purposes. There’s actually no legal definition of the term “natural” so it really is up to the consumers to decipher for themselves what is actually safe and true, clean natural products.

And this is the premise of our blog, to empower and remind consumers such as yourselves to exercise due diligence and carefully scrutinize ingredient labels.


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