{what's in it wednesday: odd labels found on skin care}

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I have a back log of requests for our exclusive What's In It Wednesday feature. On the schedule: another Lush moisturizer, a Dove product, Arbonne facial care, and about 10 other products to discuss. Summer is here and I am way behind! Sorry for that. While I am away from the computer this week, let's rewind to one of my favorite What's In It Wednesday posts:


I am always on the lookout for stellar handmade products to tell you about. Searching to find some handmade products with great ingredients listings has been tough. I have contacted many businesses and have been looking for the following criteria:

1. Paraben, Phthalate, Petrochemical free...and avoids other nasties I often mention. There needs to be a preservative, though, for safety.
2. Handmade or base used? If handmade, is lab testing done to ensure product safety? If lab testing is not done, I would much prefer that a base was used because the manufacturer had to have it tested. Lab testing is so important.
3. What is the background of the seller? Experience/training are definitely important when it comes to applying products to the body--is there an esthetics background and/or professional experience?

You really need/want someone with a basic knowledge of ingredients to be the one selling your products. Let me tell you about my own experience recently. A seller who has been in business for several years now does not list ingredients on site. I emailed to ask what was in her body wash because I choose to avoid certain things. She emailed me back with a link to a supplier/wholesale site and said that she used that base and added in some oils and that I should look at the ingredients because she didn't know what each thing was on the ingredients list.

I have said this before and will say it again--you need to know your ingredients. You need to be able to tell a customer what is in your product and you need to have an understanding of what you're having them put on their bodies. It is a responsibility. If you're unsure of what the difference between a propylparaben and petrolatum is, you're in the wrong business.

4. Are ingredients listed on the site? The FDA requires a full ingredients disclosure on all skin care labels. Is this done? Are proper ingredients lists done? Are ingredients, as required by the FDA, listed in order? When you read an ingredients label, the first ingredient is the one that makes up a bigger part of the product. The last ingredient listed on the label means it makes up the smallest percentage of the product. That is why the first 5 or 6 ingredients are so important.

While I have been browsing individual websites, Etsy, and 1000 Markets, there have been some rather interesting item descriptions and ingredients lists that have left me shaking my head. I thought I would share some observations with you.

I have not included the name of the shops or sellers. I have, though, contacted each seller with questions about the products. Most have not responded, even 6 or 7 days after writing to them. Being an informed consumer is critical. If a website doesn't list ingredients, do not buy. Plain and simple. In this day and age of so many allergies and sensitivities, there is no excuse not to have ingredients listed. I used to just advise readers to ask the seller, but this information is required by the FDA on labels, so it should be plainly visible for potential customers.

Last year, I wrote about there being confusion over what is and is not a preservative. Here is the link to that post.

So, let's take a look at some of these items and see what has left me scratching my head about some of them:


All Natural Facial Scrub with water and without a preservative: Ingredients: Kaolin Clay, Natural Borax, Apricot Kernel Meal, Grapeseed Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract (natural preservative), Distilled Water
 
Water is listed last. This would actually be near the top of the list if listed properly in terms of proprtion of ingredients used (as required by the FDA's labeling requirements). Otherwise, it wouldn't blend enough. That said, there is water. There is oil. There is no preservative. It lists GSE and says it is a preservative, but it actually is not. Read here for more. This is a breeding ground for microscopic mold spores, bacteria, staph, etc.

For $22, you can have a product called "Miracle Serum" with one ingredient and only one ingredient: Olive Squalane. It comes in a 2 ounce bottle.

For reference, you can buy a 3.5 ounce bottle for $17.55 at Lotioncrafter or a 7 ounce bottle for $32.17. By the way, one wouldn't typically apply straight squalane to their face and it is not recommended in that concentration.

Here is another 100% natural body cream with pure goat's milk and no preservatives:
Fresh Goats Milk, Glycerin, Pure Silk, Wheat Protein, Green & White Tea extracts, Ginkgo, Grape & Hemp Seed Oils, Mango, Macadamia Nut, Avocado, Cocoa, Shea & Olive Butters, Aloe Vera Juice, Neem, Carrot, Red Raspberry Calendula, Jojoba, Sweet Almond Oils, Retinal, Panthenol, B5, Lecithin & Emu, Wheat Germ Oils, Grape fruit Seed Extract, Rose Hip & evening Primrose Oils, Witch Hazel Extract
Goat's milk is very hard to preserve. I have never spoken with a chemist or lab analyst in the past dealing with my own line who recommended anything other than a true preservative in formulations containing goat's milk. Imagine using your own milk from the fridge in a lotion you concoct in your kitchen. Pour it in with these natural oils and more liquid (witch hazel). That is what this is doing. It would be opened and closed, exposing it to microorganisms and other things in the air. Would your milk last mixed with oil in a jar? What happens to milk when it goes bad? Think about that and imagine what types of things you could be putting on your skin at that point.

Every single person I have spoken to about this in the lab testing arena has agreed that it is just too risky to use antioxidants and essential oils to effectively and truly "preserve" a product. Getting a staph infection is a very real possibility. Goat's milk doesn't need parabens--it does need a true preservative, though. Knowing that people do not undertstand this and #1 sell it and #2 buy it, is frightening. You don't usually see the nasties lurking in products that have gone bad, but that doesn't mean they are not there.

Speaking of Goat's Milk, here is another troubling one for a Goat's Milk Lotion:
Ingredients: Glycerin, Water, Goat's Milk, Lavender Essential Oil, Aloe Vera Extract, Plant Based Preservative

Here is what I asked the seller, "Which plant-derived preservatives are in this? Thank you so much. Karley." The seller's response was this: "I buy my perservatives already mixed, I don't want to take any chances with spoilage. The marketing on the product is "all natural plant derived." I don't know the specific chemical names for the plant derived ingredents. Sorry. Have a great weekend." In other words, the person making these has NO IDEA what she is putting in her products! HOW SCARY!



"I originally formulated _______ for myself, after I tried -- and failed! -- to find a commercial product that worked for me...It took me a year to work out this formula." (Product is described as one developed specifically for fiber artists)


Ingredients of said formula (which is Crafter's Choice Goat's Milk & Honey Lotion sold through Wholesale Supplies Plus and very, very popular among small businesses):
Pure Distilled Water, Glyceryl Stearate, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylic/Capric Glyceride, Stearic Acid, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Soybean Oil, Shea Butter, Dimethicone, Sunflower Oil, Aloe Barbadensis, Goat Milk Extract, Hydroxypropyl Trimonium Honey, Benzophenone, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, DMDM Hydantoin, Triethanolamine Disodium EDTA


This base contains parabens, toxic DMDM Hydantoin, and a product derived once upon a time from honey that is nothing like pure honey. It does not contain any healthful ingredients one would choose to make as an alternative to harmful commercial products. Not only that, but it contains another very harmful ingredient, Benzophenone, which is ranked an 8 out of 10 in terms of how harmful (10 being the worst) by the Cosmetics Database.

Facial Cream for Large Pores:
Beeswax, Coconut and Almond Oils, Lanolin, Aloe Vera, Distilled Water, Cinnamon and Tea Tree Essential Oils


#1, cinnamon should never be applied to the face. It is far too harsh to apply by the nose or eyes. I have never seen it recommended for the face. Ever. This is marketed as a cream for large pores. The ingredients used -- from irritating lanolin (which typically is not advised for facial use) and the oils need balancing ingredients and something for those pores to help them. Also, distilled water is one of the last ingredients. To make a cream or lotion, it would be 1st or 2nd in almost every case--unless this is a balm. If it is a balm (which wouldn't have water), it would be way too greasy for large pores. Also, there is water and no preservative once again.

*Adding: the seller of this product is new to Etsy and has 3 facial creams. I did receive a response and was told that since it is distilled water, there is no preservative. While *all* water should be distilled in skin care, it must still be preserved.

Odd label on a Facial Lotion: Ingredients: Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Aloe Vera, Almond Oil, Orange Blossom Water, Vitamin E, Beeswax
This formula's ingredients label also seems out of order. Beeswax is listed last, but I would suspect it is actually in the #3 spot or so. Also, there is orange blossom water. This product needs a preservative or it has the shelf life of a week or 10 days, max.

"All Natural" Goat's Milk Lotion:
Goat's Milk, Water, Emulsifying Wax, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Aloe Vera Extract, Vitamin E, Scent, Dye
With the exception of all of the hazardous chemicals (parabens and formaldehyde) and artificial colors and fragrance, this would be natural. ALL NATURAL, though, means 100% natural.

"Stress Relief Lotion" ingredient listing: Paraben Free Lotion, Essential Oils, Extracts


Legally, ingredients listings cannot say something as vague as "paraben free lotion" or "extracts". It also should specify the essential oils used, as some cannot be used by pregnant women, babies, or those with certain health conditions. I haven't seen such a mysterious ingredients listing in quite some time.

A response from an Etsy seller in regards to a vague ingredients listing and "fruit derived preservative" on the label: "Potassium Sorbate is a paraben free preservative derived from berries while oleoresin extract helps keep the oils from becoming rancid as quickly. I am always the first test subject but recruit friends and family to try things out also...It has a shelf life of one year and is made when an order is placed..."

It is very disconcerting to hear incorrect statements when it comes to product safety. Potassium Sorbate can protect against yeast and mold growth, however it does not provide protection against harmful bacteria, including staph. Rosemary Oleoresin does not preserve products. It can be an antioxidant, but is not a preservative. The seller told me that the shelf life is 1 year. Lab testing would surely reveal microscopic spores and bacteria within months. Testing on family and friends is not enough, not when selling to the public.

Yet another product with a terribly vague ingredient label (which does not comply with FDA labeling regulations):
 
Ingredients: Distilled water, olive oil, grapeseed oil, emulsifying wax, shea butter, glycerin, vegetable based thickener, phthalate-free fragrance or essential blend, paraben- and formaldehyde-free preservative

Let's see. The thickener is veggie based. From which veggie? Is this derived from palm? There are many thickeners. Which one? Is it something one could be allergic to? It is a fragrance oil or essential oil blend. Which ones are used? Which preservative? From a buyer's perspective, this is just so vague. Argh!

Here is another body lotion with an interesting listing of ingredients:
Ingredients: water, sunflower oil, alcohol, shea butter, aloe juice, polysorbate, fruit derived preservatives, EDTA, propylene, and our essential oil blends


My problem--"fruit derived preservatives"? Polysorbate? Which one? Polysorbate 20? Polysorbate 60? How about "propylene"? Did the person selling this perhaps forget to say "Propylene Glycol" which is a formaldehyde releaser? How about the vague "essential oil blends"? Which ones? Cinnamon and lemon? Lavender? Peppermint? Some essential oils cannot be used by certain people. Listing them is a must.

My favorite "unusual" or not quite right claim or label:
"Whipped Shea Butter Body Parfait VEGAN-with Shea Butter, Aloe, and Goat's Milk"
Goat's Milk is Vegan? Seriously? Hmmm. I learn something new each day :)
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