Female animals that ate large amounts of ethylene glycol had babies with birth defects,while male animals had reduced sperm counts (Anderson et al. 1987). Ethylene glycol and propyleneglycol affect the body’s chemistry by increasing the amount of acid, resulting in metabolic problems.However, these effects were seen when animals were fed very high concentrations of thesechemicals. It is very unlikely that you will gulp PEG-containing toothpaste by the tube. However,your two-year-old toddler might happily do that, given the chance.Then there is another potential danger. Impurities found in various PEG compounds includeethylene oxide, 1,4-Dioxane, polycyclic aromatic compounds, and heavy metals such as lead, iron,cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic. The toxicity of PEG compounds increases when products areapplied to damaged skin. These contaminants could be easily and economically removed by vacuumstripping during manufacture. Still, there is no guarantee that the PEG in your baby wash has beentreated to remove any possible toxins. In spite of these concerns, PEG compounds remain commonlyused in “natural” cosmetics and personal care products, often disguised by giving plant names tothem.Simply because propylene glycol has many different applications does not make all PEG-containing beauty products equally toxic. Industrial-strength solutions are very concentrated andrequire caution in handling them. The cosmetic industry uses only very small amounts of propyleneand polyethylene glycols. Chances are you’ve been using products containing various PEGs and PGsfor years, and there’s little use in being paranoid about it. But if you would like to reduce your currentpersonal toxic load, it may make sense to avoid using products containing glycols, especially nowwhen many alternatives are available.The Big Preservative DebateAll personal care products have a shelf life. You can usually find out how long the product willremain fresh by locating a “best before” date stamped on the sealed end of a tube or directly on thebottle’s label. Have you ever noticed a sketch of an opened jar on a box of a beauty product?Sometimes there is a symbol of a jar along with a number preceding the letterM: 6Mmeans six monthswhile 12Mmeans twelve months. If these numbers accompany a jar with a closed lid, it means that aproduct will remain fresh for six months from the manufacture date (as long as it remains closed andsealed), while a jar with an open lid indicates that once opened, with normal use the product willremain fresh for six, twelve, or more months.Preservatives contained in beauty products ward off bacteria, fungi, microbes, and oxidation. Suchpreservatives halt enzyme activity in the formulation, stop the oxidation process, or kill bacteria andany living creatures that wandered inside the bottle. The more preservatives that are loaded into theproduct, the longer it can remain “pure” and uncontaminated. This way, beauty products can bemanufactured in mass quantities and be warehoused for a longer period.Of all cosmetic ingredients, preservatives are the most frequently targeted by open-mindedresearch doctors, consumer groups, and nongovernmental organizations. Preservatives keep productsclean and fresh, which is a good thing because we often store our beauty products in bathrooms,which tend to be warm and moist. Also, family members may share cosmetic products, which oftencome in wide-neck jars—think body balm used as an aftershave lotion and hand salves doubling as
creaking door menders. Under such conditions, even the most stable formulation can grow some fussycolonies.Microorganisms can do much more than make the cream smell weird. While using out-of-dateproducts may not please your senses, decaying ingredients can actually affect your health. Thebacteria growing in outdated products can cause rashes and breakouts when applied to skin that isirritated or scratched, or to the fragile, thin skin around the eyes.Staphylococcus aureus, a pathogenic bacteria, can be fatal when applied to broken skin (Nguemaet al. 2000), and incidences of blindness caused by contaminated mascara have been reported(Reid,Wood 1979).No wonder many cosmetic companies are now searching for preservatives that are paraben- andformaldehyde-free yet are effective against the effects of air, light, bacteria, yeast, and fungi even atlow concentrations.In addition to eliminating parabens from their formulations, marketers are also removingphenoxyethanol. Fenilight and Feniol have the same full bactericidal activity but are much safer thanphenoxyethanol. Tinosan is a natural, silver-based preservative.Chemists are also working on creating cosmetic compounds that would not require preservatives atall. Ritative AN is a blend of emulsifiers and humectants that has built-in, broad-spectrummicrobiological activity. Despite its militaristic name, the B52 preservative (based on benzyl PCA)doubles as a gentle, nonirritating moisturizer and emollient. It can be used in moisturizers, lotions,and bath products.All of these preservatives are synthetic. They are safer than conventional preservatives, but theyare hardly green. Are there any completely natural preservatives out there?Suprapein (created by Bio-Botanica) is a totally natural preservative made of oregano and thymeoils, as well as cinnamon, lavender, lemon peel, goldenseal, and rosemary extract. Lemon peel oil,grapefruit seed extract, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamin E (tocopherols) are also used toprevent oxidation. The chemical benzanthracene, found in lemon and lime oils, has potent microbialproperties. Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate are considered safe and have a lower likelihoodof causing cosmetic-related allergies and sensitivities. Many cosmetic companies are switching toaseptic manufacturing and airtight packaging, which minimizes the exposure to air and bacteria.You can do your own share to prevent contamination of your paraben-free products, which have amuch shorter life span than their synthetic counterparts do. Handle all cosmetics in a way thatprevents bacterial contamination. Do not leave product containers uncapped. Do not share them. Donot use your fingers instead of applicators. Some products, such as lip and body balms, body and hairbutters, oil-based serums, perfumes with or without alcohol, oil-based salt and sugar scrubs, bath andbody oils, and liquid soap have a shelf life of several months to a year. Nevertheless, most organiccreams and lotions that contain water must be used within six months.what science saysWhile keeping bacteria away, preservatives themselves often act as contaminants and powerfulskin allergens. It was once believed that parabens, known as esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid,were not stored in human tissue. However, recent findings prove the contrary. When rubbed into the
skin, parabens are rapidly absorbed and metabolized, but they also accumulate in the human body. In2002, parabens, due to their estrogenic activity, were found to cause increased uterine growth inanimals. The same study first linked parabens to the proliferation of two estrogen-dependent humanbreast cancer cells (Darbre et al. 2002). Two years later, parabens were found in breast milk andbreast cancer tumors. In a 2004 study, tests found parabens in breast cancer tumors in nineteen out oftwenty women with breast cancer (Darbre et al. 2004). This study, while small and statisticallyinsignificant, proves the ability of paraben preservatives to penetrate skin and accumulate in livingtissue, such as breasts. In the body, parabens mimic our own hormones and can have an endocrine-disrupting action. The hypothalamus, the ovaries, the thyroid—parabens affect virtually every system,even though their action is much milder than that of natural estrogens and other xenoestrogens(synthetic estrogens that mimic natural hormones).Granted, science currently has no direct evidence that any cosmetics containing parabens result in ahigher risk of cancer, and the American Cancer Society insists that parabens are perfectly safe froman oncologist’s point of view. The cosmetic industry’s panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR),reviewed the safety of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded theywere safe for use in cosmetic products at levels of up to 25 percent of the finished product. However,not a single study has yet focused on chronic, decades-long, direct exposure to parabens that actsynergistically with other xenoestrogens and the body’s own estrogens.While the jury is still out, the use of parabens, often disguised by tongue-twisting names such asbenzoic acid, isobutyl p-hydroxybenzoate, or p-methoxycarbonylphenol, has been strictly regulated inEuropean-made cosmetics, and current European Union legislation allows their use only in extremelyweak concentrations. It is unlikely that parabens will be removed from cosmetics sold in the UnitedStates anytime soon. There is strong support of paraben use coming from the chemical industry,especially preservative suppliers, which is very understandable.PRESERVATIVES TO AVOIDOther preservatives to avoid include imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea. Often disguised asGermall 115 and Germall II, they are a mixture of allantoin, urea, and formaldehyde. Bothpreservatives are known skin irritants (de Groot et al. 1988; Bosetti et al. 2007). During use, they canrelease formaldehyde, whose ability to increase the risk of cancer is well-documented (Blackwell etal. 1981). In liquid form, formaldehyde is contained in other widely used preservatives as DMDM-hydantoin and quaternium-15. Beginning in September 2007, the European Union has banned the useof formaldehyde for embalming purposes. Bronopol, often listed as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol,can contribute to the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines, according to the FDA. It can alsobreak down to produce formaldehyde. European regulators have also questioned the safety ofiodopropynyl but ylcarbamate (IPBC), a common wood preservative used in cosmetics, and mayrestrict its use in moisturizing body lotions. Many agencies are concerned about the levels of iodinefound in IPBC, and regulators claim that iodine may be absorbed into the bloodstream, travel to thethyroid gland, and affect its functioning.“Artificial preservatives are only necessary if your product formulation is weak or unstable,” saysRoger Bars by of Weleda. “If you dilute your ingredients [with water] to make the product cheaply,then you will need artificial preservatives. Also if your formulation is not balanced and carefully
created, you will need stabilizers and preservatives to hold it together.” To keep their lotions, showergels, and baby products safe, Weleda uses essential oils, which provide a natural preservative action.While writing this book I tested and studied ingredients in hundreds of cosmetic products. Toooften, when thoroughly reading the ingredients in a 72 percent “organic” hand cream, I discoveredthat methylparaben was shyly hiding at the end of the list of ingredients, almost blending in theluscious floral design. The ingredients list further revealed triethanolamine and fragrance (unlikely tobe naturally derived), both printed in very small, all-capitalized letters, making it very difficult toread. There was plenty of blank space on the label permitting a larger type, but the company usuallychose not to attract attention to synthetic bulk in their “organic” creations.Our skin eats anything that we put on its surface. I bet you already know that junk food, with all itsflavor enhancers, preservatives, synthetic fillers, and highly processed ingredients, is not good forour bodies. When you use beauty products loaded with chemical ingredients, you are feeding yourskin highly processed, artificial junk food. If you try eating healthfully, why use junk beauty products?Allergies:When Pink Is Not PrettyAlthough experts say that only one in ten people has ever developed an allergy to a cosmeticproduct, I have yet to meet a woman whose skin would happily accept anything applied to it. Most ofus have experienced a pink spot or an itch after using a new foundation or a facial treatment. For mostof us, something as minor as itching is not a reason to panic.Contact dermatitis is the most common skin disorder. It can be an irritant reaction (most commonlycaused by irritating substances) or allergic reaction (caused by allergens, less common but moresevere). Irritant contact dermatitis happens when harsh chemicals directly injure the outer layer ofepidermis and irritate the skin. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the immune system reactsagainst a specific chemical that it considers foreign and harmful. While irritant dermatitis flares upalmost immediately, an allergic reaction can develop even after you have used a cosmetic product forsome time. Lips, eyes, ears, neck, and hands are the most common sites for cosmetic allergies.Symptoms of cosmetic allergy include itchiness, redness, swelling, mild fever, and blistering—definitely not pretty!Green FactPimples, redness, itchiness, and rashes are all signals that our body rejects certain ingredients in cosmetic products.It may take a while to figure out what causes the allergy. You use about a dozen products on a dailybasis, among them makeup, moisturizers, cleanser, toner, sunscreen, and antiaging serum. How do yougo about finding the cause of the problem? While strong irritants such as fragrances cause a reactionwithin seconds, weaker irritants such as preservatives may take up to ten days to trigger an allergicresponse.Some cosmetics are labeled “allergy-tested” or “hypoallergenic,” but do not let this fool you.“Hypoallergenic” means that the manufacturer thinks the product is less likely to cause an allergicreaction. To justify this claim, some companies simply do not include fragrances or pack the lotionwith fewer preservatives. The claim “dermatologist-tested” on cosmetic products only means that askin doctor has checked the ingredient list to see if the product will generally cause allergenicproblems. Other label claims that are meaningless include “sensitivity-tested” and “nonirritating.”
Still, you have a slightly less chance of developing an irritation when you use these products thanthose with a full-strength fragrance and preservatives occupying the whole ingredients list.Sometimes you may develop a reaction to a specific ingredient that haunts you even if you stopusing a suspected product and buy a similar one from another brand. You may even show symptomsof skin allergy to a product you have used for years. This happens because of a well-knownsynergism effect: two chemicals are working together to produce a stronger effect than they normallywould when used separately. In addition, the chemical balance of the human body constantly changes.Our skin starts to produce more oil or loses water; our blood becomes more or less acidic; wedevelop invisible skin conditions that make our skin react in a different way to a chemical that wasonce safe and gentle.“I am not allergic to synthetic chemicals because I am unhealthy,” said Aubrey Hampton, creator ofAubrey Organics, in his book Natural Organic Skin and Hair Care . “I am allergic to syntheticchemicals because I am healthy. Your body is natural, and if your immune system is doing a good job,it will attempt to reject chemical allergens” (Organica Press, 1987).what science saysFragrances, formaldehyde, and other preservatives used in cosmetics are among the most commonallergens causing contact allergic dermatitis (Diepgen, Weis-shaar 2007). And new allergens areuncovered daily. One such emerging cosmetic allergen is dicaprylyl maleate, an inexpensive syntheticemollient that has been rarely reported as a cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Now scientists haveconfirmed that this common cosmetic ingredient causes skin irritation in most of the participants of arecent European study (Lotery et al. 2007).Natural beauty products are not a panacea for allergy sufferers. Many people are allergic toessential oils, especially those of peppermint, orange, and lemon. Tea tree oil, when it oxidizes in acosmetic product, is capable of causing an irritation, which is especially annoying since tea tree oil isoften used to treat acne. Lanolin, derived from sheep’s wool, is a known allergen. Trace amounts ofhoney and propolis can cause a reaction in those allergic to pollen, and a newly found allergen,hyaluronic acid, once thought to be completely safe, is known to consistently cause an inflammatoryreaction based on recent studies (Bisaccia et al. 2007; Alijotas-Reig, Garcia-Gimenez 2008).Advocates of synthetic skin care rejoice at such news. “Citrus often shows up in skin-careproducts, but most of us have gotten lemon or lime juice on a slight cut while cooking and know itburns like crazy because it’s irritating to the skin,” Paula Begoun wrote in her book The Beauty Bible(2002), which is filled to the brim with praise for mineral oil, isotretinoin, dishwasher liquids-cum-facial-cleansers, and laser surgeries when everything else fails. Well, I cannot imagine that a saneperson would think of applying undiluted lemon juice to the skin or rubbing the open wound withpoison ivy. It is simply stupid! To please her supporters in the chemical industry, Begoun continues,“Hanging on the notion that ‘natural’ equals good skin care or better makeup products will waste yourmoney and probably hurt your skin. . . . For many women, it’s hard to resist the pressure to believethe lie about natural products being good for skin. . . . The notion that natural ingredients are betterthan synthetic ingredients is even more distressing because it just isn’t true.”Criticizing natural cosmetics because poison ivy stings is the same as criticizing the use of water
because a certain number of people drown while swimming or sailing each year. There are manywonderful synthetic ingredients (such as coenzyme Q10 or palmitoyl pentapeptide), and there aresome noxious plant extracts. I hope this book will empower you with the knowledge of how tocombine the best of both worlds to create your own green, ecoconscious beauty routine. Let“chemophiles” defend the chemical beauty giant with feet of clay.So what can you do if you end up with an array of itchy, scratchy spots while trying to hide ablemish? Apart from ditching makeup for a little while, it may be wise to discard all old cosmetics.Preservative agents break down over time, creating new irritating compounds, and other ingredientsin cosmetics may oxidize, causing additional problems. For the time being, limit yourself to onecleanser (organic baby soap or baby wash), one toner (rose hydrosol or witch hazel), and only onemoisturizer containing no preservatives and only natural, soothing ingredients such as green tea,feverfew, brown algae, and mugwort. While chamomile and marigold are traditionally used to sootheirritated skin, they may cause allergic dermatitis in some people, so use them with caution. Forsunscreen, choose a mineral-based version containing zinc or titanium oxide. Whenever possible, usemineral makeup and avoid any foundation or blusher in gel or lotion form. Stay clear of deeplycolored eye makeup. Stick to basic black, nonwaterproof mascara and pencil (not liquid!) eyeliners.Keep eye shadows earth-toned—no deep purples, greens, and bright metallics! Avoid looking for anoffending product by patch testing with old cosmetics, because oxidation byproducts are strongallergens. Instead, make it a rule to discard all skin care products after three months of use.Synthetic Fragrances: I Smell DangerWhat is the first thing you do when you try a new moisturizer or lipstick? You smear it on the top ofyour hand and then you smell it. At this moment, you are not much different from a glue sniffer:substances that make cosmetics smell attractive are very similar to those that send addicts on theirchemical trips.It seems to be vitally important for us to use cosmetic products that smell nice, and this is quiteunderstandable: beauty products make us look and feel better. Even people who admit to havingsensitive skin would choose a lotion that had a barely noticeable scent over a completely unscentedformulation that smelled like beeswax, green tea, and sunflower oil combined, no matter howbeneficial these substances were for human skin.When we smell an odor, a complex process begins in the brain. The Roman philosopher Lucretiussaid that different odors are created by molecules of various shapes and sizes. As we inhale fragrancemolecules, they trigger a complex chain of reactions. There are many theories about how our nosedecodes scents, and there is no theory that explains olfactory perception completely. While the humantongue can distinguish only five distinct tastes, the nose can recognize hundreds of substances, even inmicroscopic quantities.So what is fragrance, and why is it so important to us? Odorant (fragrant) molecules dissolved inthe air cause a certain sensation. This is a complex process: First, the molecule triggers receptors inthe nose. After that, the limbic system, a part of the brain that governs emotional responses, decodesthe information. That is why messages sent by odor molecules are powerful mood enhancers. It is nosecret that certain odors can evoke distant memories, raise spirits, soothe jagged nerves, and even
boost self-confidence.For most people, the process of smelling gives little information about the ingredients of aparticular scent. Most of us think, What the heck, one spray won’t hurt! The same with food: we maydiligently cook organic vegetable meals at home, but sometimes we need to “recharge the batteries”with a chocolate milkshake or a burger. In one meal, we consume a hefty dose of FD&C colors andpreservatives. One slip, and a week’s worth of pure and clean eating goes down the drain!This is when technology comes into play. While perfume makers hire famous “noses” to createperfume compositions, mass production of artificial fragrances relies heavily on smelling machines,or “electronic noses” that use chemical sensors to produce a fingerprint of any scent. It is nowpossible to dissect any natural scent and recreate it using synthetic fragrances. While advocates ofsynthetic skin care insist that everything comes from nature and nothing is created via alchemy, in thecase of serious fragrance synthesizing, it’s simply not true. Today, the chemical industry can recreateany scent known to man, including dirt, earth, leather, snow, or freshly cut grass—and all of them canbe surprisingly beautiful when mixed in the right proportions with floral and wood notes.It is now possible to dissect any natural scent and recreate it using synthetic fragrances.Every year, fragrance compositions are becoming more and more complicated. More and moreproducts become heavily scented: laundry detergents, dryer sheets, cosmetics, stationery, candles,and pet products come in a variety of “naturally inspired scents.” Even baby toys are now infusedwith lavender and vanilla. To meet these needs, hundreds of new fragrant chemicals are beingdeveloped. Of the more than 5,000 materials currently available for use in fragrances, only 1,300 orso were tested for safety. Many of them are known fragrance sensitizers that have to be used inmicroscopic doses, if at all. Bear in mind, these synthetic fragrance molecules are programmed toturn on switches in our brains! Scientists believe that the ubiquitous nature of synthetic fragrance inmodern society, coupled with the growing number of fragrance products for children and men, likelycontributes to the sharp increase in allergies and respiratory illnesses.Smart manufacturers rarely disclose the full list of ingredients that go into a fragrant composition.Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets, and manufacturers do not have to tell anyone,including health authorities, what is in those formulas. However, many manufacturers attempt to list atleast some ingredients. For example, a full list of ingredients of the average musk body mist reads asa huge list of synthetic and organic fragrance ingredients plus a “secret” fragrance, which most likelycontains synthetic musk that has strong potential for triggering adverse effects in sensitive people.There are plenty of organically derived fragrance ingredients used to enhance and enrich existingtrademark compositions. All of the following naturally occurring fragrance ingredients are capable ofcausing allergic dermatitis and rhinitis: citronellol (found in citronella essential oil), linalool (afloral, slightly spicy odor chemical found in many plants, including mint, scented herbs, and evenbirch), geraniol (a fragrant component occurring in geranium, lemon, and many other essential oils),farnesol (found in citronella, neroli, cyclamen, lemongrass, tuberose, rose, balsam, and tolu),cinnamal (a flavor component in the essential oil of cinnamon), and eugenol (extracted from spicessuch as clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaf).what science says
A typical perfume contains a mixture of fragrance chemicals (often between 50 and 100) producedfrom coal tar and petroleum distillates or plants and herbs. In terms of “greenness,” the fragranceindustry is unique: scented, natural, and synthetic ingredients can be equally harmful. But whileorganically derived aromatic alcohols can irritate skin, make you sneeze, or trigger existing eczemaor asthma, benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phenols, phthalates, and many other fragrant toxins arecapable of causing cancer, birth defects, and central nervous system disorders. These substances canget into the body by being absorbed through the skin and when inhaled.Studies constantly reveal new irritating fragrance ingredients. Some of the oldest known toxicsynthetic fragrances are nitromusks, such as musk ambrette, musk xylene, and musk ketone. In clinicalstudies dating back to the 1980s, musk ambrette has caused eczema, jawline dermatitis, acute contactdermatitis, and chronic actinic dermatitis (Wojnarowska, Calnan 1986). The use of nitromusks incosmetics has been banned, but synthetic musks are still found in musk-scented incense candles andmay be lurking under the vague name “fragrance” in popular scented products.Hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde (also known as Lyral) is the most allergicfragrance chemical currently used. It caused contact dermatitis and eczema in 79 percent ofparticipants in a recent study. Lyral irritated the skin of even healthy people who were not prone toallergies (Baxter et al. 2003). Lyral is currently listed as an allergen but is contained in many of thepopular fragrances as well as every other deodorant on the drugstore shelf.Benzyl alcohol, an aromatic substance naturally found in essential oils including jasmine, hyacinth,and ylang-ylang, may cause various toxic effects, such as respiratory failure, very low bloodpressure, convulsions, and paralysis. However, to cause real damage, it has to be used in highconcentrations. Benzyl alcohol was used up to 0.9 percent as a preservative in neonatal medications,but after sixteen newborns died of acute toxic poisoning in 1982, benzyl alcohol was banned for useas a preservative. In spite of this, as a fragrance ingredient, and possibly a preservative, it iscurrently used in popular moisturizers, facial cleansers, aftershaves, and baby wipes and lotions. Formore information, check www.thegreenbeauty guide.com.As I was writing this chapter, I could not help but feel a tiny bit smug. Perhaps I am not a very badmom, I thought. I do not use fragrances at home. I am feeding my baby organic food and homemadepurees; she drinks her organic formula from glass bottles and sleeps on organic cotton sheets. Hermattress is pure wool. There is no chance she would be exposed to such a horrible substance asbenzyl alcohol.Yeah, right. Just as I finished writing this chapter, something clicked inside my head. Iwent to our nursery and picked up the pack of baby wipes. These award-winning wipes containedbenzyl alcohol as the third ingredient, right after water and glycerin. I sent a letter to the manufacturerof these wipes giving them specific research on how dangerous these baby wipes can be. Themanufacturer responded with a canned letter that defended their use of benzyl alcohol as adisinfectant but promised they would revise the formula someday soon. Needless to say, weabandoned all wipes made by this brand, and instead I brew a cupful of organic chamomile tea, pourit in a spray bottle, and use it with a plain cotton face towel to gently cleanse my daughter’s bum.Please note that some babies (and adults, too) are allergic to chamomile, so if you have a familyhistory of allergies, always perform a patch test before using any herbal infusions, flower distillates,or essential oils.Lesson learned: never assume anything. Just because a company makes chlorine-free, plastic-free,disposable diapers and packs them in smart bags with handwritten letters and cute baby faces, it does
not mean that all of their products are safe for your baby. Do not assume that if a company makes agreat moisturizer, you should buy the rest of their products.Also, do not assume that people succeed in the cosmetic business while being led by only one aim:to make you healthier and help you live longer. Every enterprise is started with a business plan thatinvolves some sort of profit gained at the end of the year. The manufacturer can save millions byreplacing just one costly natural extract with some synthetic brew. So always check the ingredients;be vigilant and skeptical, even if it comes to organic beauty.Back to synthetic aromatics. Benzyl acetate, a jasmine-flavored relative of benzyl alcohol, wasgenerally recognized as safe by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) expertpanel. However, a 2002 study conducted at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, suggested that thissynthetic fragrance compound may be carcinogenic in rodent studies, causing liver and bladdercancer (Waddell 2002). This study caused quite a stir in the scientific community, but so far benzylacetate sits happily in drugstore aisles, listed among ingredients in many bestselling products,including award-winning moisturizers, mascaras, and antiaging products.Butylphenyl methylpropional (also known as Lilial or lilialdehyde) is a widely used fragrancecompound found naturally in the essential oil of chamomile. Allergic contact dermatitis caused byLilial was first reported and well studied in 1983 (Larsen 1983). Currently, this lovely floralsynthetic fragrance is used in both elite fragrances and drugstore shampoos, deodorants, tanninglotions, and hairstyling products (Buckley 2007).Almond-smelling benzaldehyde can be easily derived from apricot, cherry, laurel leaves, andpeach seeds, but now is most often made from toluene. In 1977, it was proven that benzaldehyde is astrong contact irritant, but it remains one of the most frequently used fragrance components. Its highestreported concentration of use was 0.5 percent in perfumes. Benzaldehyde is generally regarded as asafe food additive in the United States and is accepted as a flavoring substance in the EuropeanUnion. Benzaldehyde rapidly metabolizes to benzoic acid in the skin, is absorbed through the skin andby the lungs, and is distributed to all the organs. In 2006, fragrance manufacturers, via the CosmeticIngredient Review, assured that benzaldehyde is not a carcinogenic, reproductive, or developmentaltoxicant at concentrations used in cosmetics (Andersen 2006). However, a new 2007 studydetermined that “exposure to aldehydes represents potential risks to human and animal health,”scientists from Chem-Risk in Colorado wrote. They found that this chemical induced formation ofstable DNA-protein cross-links in cultured human lymphoma cells (Kuykendall et al. 2007). In plainEnglish, benzaldehyde promoted cancerous cell growth. Today, synthetic benzaldehyde is containedin many popular shaving foams, deodorants, moisturizers, and some “soothing” baby products. As forme, I don’t find this information soothing, do you?Synthetic fragrances may smell like the real deal, but they cannot fool our bodies. The syntheticfragrance molecules aren’t recognized by our immune system as safe. Because our DNA has evolvedover millions of years, and synthetic fragrances have been in use only since the 1920s, every cell inour body is programmed to accept only truly natural, volatile compounds found in herbs and fruits.What does our body do when hostile substances attack it? It kicks back, and the outcome of thisfight is not beautiful. Asthma, migraines, hyper activity disorder in children and adults, rashes,depression, and seizures have been linked to synthetic chemical fragrances. New studies linkingsynthetic fragrances to cancer and diabetes come up daily.Asthma, migraines, hyperactivity disorder in children and adults, rashes, depression, and seizures
have been linked to synthetic chemical fragrances.In people whose immune system is constantly alert “thanks” to large amounts of synthetic additivesthey consume with food, drinks, and cosmetics, every additional chemical triggers a much more acutereaction than in people whose bodies aren’t overly sensitized. But it’s really hard to get rid offragrances today. A pretty scent helps sell otherwise no-nonsense laundry detergents, dishwashingliquids, and baby wet wipes. Celebrity fragrances are churned out overnight. For many fashiondesigners, couture collections serve only to help sell fragrances, shower gels, and body lotions. Ourfascination with fragrances grows exponentially: celebrity-fragrance sales have increased by 2,000percent since 2004.Here’s a bit of harsh reality: British researchers spent quite a bit of money on a massive shoppingspree, buying 300 perfumed cosmetic and household products available on the shelves of UK storesin January 2006 (Buckley 2007). They only bought products that listed “parfum,” “fragrance,” or“aroma” among the ingredients. The results weren’t all roses: the top six most frequently labeledfragrances were linalool (found mostly in expensive perfumes, soaps, shampoos, and shower gels),limonene (most frequently found in toothpastes, aftershaves, dishwashing liquids, and detergents),citronellol (found in deodorants), geraniol, but ylphenyl methylpropional, and hexyl cinnamal. Othertop scents detected in 300 popular cosmetic products were eugenol, hydroxycitronellal, isoeugenol,cinnamal, and oak moss (Evernia prunastri) absolute. Hydroxyisohexyl-3-cyclohexenecarboxaldehyde (Lyral) was present in large concentrations in almost one-third of the products.Scientists concluded that linalool and limonene, both strong allergens, are the most frequentfragrances inhaled and rubbed into skin by millions of people.And the list, sadly, can go on and on. A potent carcinogen, methylene chloride, banned for use in1988, can still be found in shampoos and shoe polish spray; methyl eugenol, also a potentialcarcinogen in animals, is present in shampoos and men’s grooming products; ethyl acrylate, anotherchemical that killed rats with cancer in 2002, is listed among ingredients in antiaging creams,designer fragrances, and sunscreen towelettes.When I made a big leap and switched to purely organic scents, the whole picture got clearer andscarier—or maybe my head was working better without all those synthetic vapors? On one side, thereis a noticeable interest in truly natural scents. On the other, famous “noses” come up with yet anotheralluring twist and weave together scents that Mother Nature still has to invent. I can’t help but suspectthat the fragrance industry may now be acting similar to the tobacco industry in the early 1990s,hiding the truth of the very serious health effects of secondhand smoke and chemicals from cigarettes.Even perfectly natural and gentle skin products, such as a “98.36 percent natural” carrotmoisturizer that I have tested and reviewed recently, contain fragrances. They are used to maskotherwise blunt or even repulsive odors of natural ingredients or to add depth and staying power toscents of essential oils already present in the composition. After years of testing various beautyproducts, my skin became as tolerant as a celebrity UN ambassador, and I suspect nothing can throwit off balance. But since the phrase “made with pure essential oils” translates to an ingredient list witha small percentage of essential oils, with the remainder being synthetic fragrances, chemicalenhancers, and boosters added in an attempt to cut costs, I cannot help but think that a natural herbalscent is in fact a chemical cocktail that is anything but healthy.Can you really be too careful? Well, you are informed now—maybe scared—and the choice isyours. With a little girl growing up and a family history of allergies and cancer, I prefer to err on theside of caution. If something was proven unsafe once, even in animal studies, I would avoid this
ingredient so when new research emerges, I won’t be biting my nails (buffed, not polished) oversome benzaldehyde-loaded “holy grail” lotion I used diligently over the years. Have you ever heardof a chemical that was considered unsafe for many years being recently declared safe? I haven’t.More often, things happen the other way around.The Golden Rule of BeautyWhen people encounter new scientific information that casts doubt on the status quo, they oftencan’t believe their eyes (or ears). If all this is true, you may ask, why haven’t I heard it before? Whydo so many dermatologists with perfect credentials endorse beauty products that are making me sick?Could they be doing it to keep themselves busy?These are all perfectly good questions, and getting the right answers is an important part of yourgreen coming-of-age. To follow all the leads and examine all the underlying reasons may be beyondthe scope of this book, but some issues have to be explained. The beauty industry is one of the mostprofitable of all industries, and as in every business, you may be surprised to find out that theinformation is governed by the same old Golden Rule: those who have the gold make the rule.So who has the gold? One of the world’s largest and most profitable industries, which will startlosing millions of dollars if people start asking uncomfortable questions about what goes into theirfavorite moisturizers and perfumes. The formulations smell awesome and perform well; they areproven to sell, and the whole process runs smoothly. The financial health of this industry depends onwhat the public knows about risks associated with many of their products. Like any reasonablebusiness (the cosmetic manufacturers didn’t generate this much money by being unreasonable), thebeauty industry is doing everything in its power to protect its profits and please its shareholders.Science and business have long been aware of the links between cosmetics and the meteoric rise ofcancer, asthma, diabetes, and a host of other systemic diseases. However, the industries responsiblefor producing synthetic chemicals have long been seeking, with much success, to downplay or dismissthem.Things aren’t as dramatic as you may think. No one is paying the scientists to shelve the researchresults. No one is bribing the media. Things are much more subtle. If a cosmetic company buys acertain number of magazine ads, it’s very unlikely that the editor-in-chief would be happy to read astory about peanut oil that wasn’t mentioned on the label of a sunscreen triggering potentially deadlyallergies in hundreds of people, including children—especially since this cosmetic companyregularly delivers a boatful of full-size freebies for review and personal use.Media, government, science, industry, medicine—keeping the status quo is vital for all of them.Too many people would choose profits over health and technology over nature. Using airlesspackaging that prevents contamination requires fewer investments than spending years in researchingand developing another preservative. Thousands of people would lose their jobs, tons of moisturizerswould be left unsold, whole manufacturing processes would have to be revised, a few class-actionlawsuits would be filed—and this means millions if not billions of dollars lost. Once a product is onthe market, the burden of legal proof required for its removal is extremely high.NOT-SO-GREEN FACTS
• Results of the Female Beauty Survey of Great Britain, commissioned by New Woman magazine,revealed that only 18 percent of women said they were “happy with their skin,” with 44 percentadmitting that it was oily, 32 percent saying it was dry, and others complaining of freckles andwrinkles.• Cosmetic companies spend more on TV advertising than any other group, says the Townsend Letterfor Doctors and Patients.• According to Euromonitor International’s data, fragrance is the third most dynamic cosmetics andtoiletries sector, behind sun and baby care, and posted an increase of 7 percent to reach $30.5billion.• In the United Kingdom, the total cost of an adult lifetime of beauty products and treatments wascalculated to be £182,528 (US $365,000), or £3,000 a year, of which £600 is spent on facials,massages, and antiaging treatments. About 43 percent of women do not inform their partner of howmuch they spend, notes New Woman’s survey, conducted in 2006.• The global market for cosmetics and toiletries ingredients will enjoy growth of the ingredientsaround 5 percent per year through 2010, with color cosmetics to have the highest average annualgrowth rate, says a 2006 report by the leading information analyst, BCC Research.• Online sales of cosmetics and fragrances grew by 30 percent, noted Jorn Madslien at BBC News.The beauty industry is busy beefing up its ego. We believe our life is void if we have cellulite. Ourpersonal life may become null if we have dull hair and lips lacking a lick of shimmery pink gloss. Wefear enlarged pores more than job loss. (Otherwise, why would we spend hours in the bathroomapplying makeup, even when we’re hopelessly late for an important meeting?)As a result, we shoptirelessly, rubbing and sniffing magazine pages and listening to sales blabber, mesmerized andhypnotized by the promise of instant youth in a bottle. After all, if a salesperson is wearing a whitelab coat, she knows better, right?Even if you try to do research on your own, the chances of finding unbiased information are scarce.In the beauty industry, it is almost impossible to examine the long-term health effects of any chemicalsubstance without relying on research conducted by the beauty industry itself. Finding an expertwithout corporate ties is difficult.“Show us the dead bodies,” cosmetic regulators say when asked about harmful effects of toxicingredients. “A pinch of glitter cannot kill. Show us the evidence against parabens or aluminuminvolving humans, not rodents or cells in a test tube.” The recent lawsuit filed in California againstmanufacturers of 1,4-Dioxane-contaminated personal-care products shows that we are slowly wakingup to the dangers of toxic beauty. But to win a lawsuit against a cosmetic company for causing yourcancer, there must be scientific proof that your disease was caused by your exposure to this exactchemical. To obtain such proof, series of “double-blind” studies on humans must be conducted. Butwho would participate in them?All of us are eating, drinking, and breathing a chemical cocktail of pesticides, heavy metals, andplastic compounds. Hundreds of synthetic substances have accumulated in our bodies over decadeswhile we strived to keep our faces youthful and hair shiny. It’s impossible to find a perfectly healthy,uncontaminated group of women who would participate in a study proving the harmof 1,4-Dioxane,aluminum, or paraben preservatives. And even if such women exist, I doubt they will agree to rubaluminum and nitrosamines into their skin just to prove how deadly these substances are.
Any solutions? I cannot possibly recommend that you stop washing your hair, brushing your teeth,or wearing makeup. You can still do all those pleasant and rewarding steps of your beauty regimenwithout inhaling, swallowing, and absorbing toxins. There are many wonderfully effective gentle andsafe cosmetic products that won’t wreak havoc on your hormones, liver, and lungs.If you cannot bear parting with your chemical-laden but it-feels-so-good-on-your-skin foundation,you may be surprised to learn that its European-sold version contains much less toxic chemicals. Asof September 2004, cosmetics sold in the European market had to be reformulated to comply with thenew law banning many toxic ingredients. Now cosmetic manufacturers are required by law to makeversions of their products without carcinogenic or toxic substances to meet European regulations.Such versions are not always available in the United States. Can you really expect a hair dye box tocarry a label saying “May Cause Bladder Cancer”?Blaming the system for all our woes is very unproductive and oh-so-out-of-fashion. Remember thatthrough the ages, women happily used highly toxic cosmetic agents such as mercury, lead, orbelladonna to make themselves pretty.So instead of nursing your paranoia and musing over the ugly side of the conventional beautyindustry, let’s adopt a constructive approach. The first step would be learning how to avoid productsthat contain toxic, even carcinogenic, ingredients and instead choose products that are made withingredients less likely to add to your body’s toxic burden of harmful chemicals. Such products doexist.Green FactIn January 2003, the European Union passed legislation banning the use in cosmetics of chemicals known to cause,or strongly suspected of causing, cancer, mutations, or birth defects.THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GREEN BEAUTYLet’s start our journey with some basic guidelines that can help you get through most of theinformation packed in the chapters ahead. Here are Ten Commandments of Green Beauty. Memorizethem and repeat them every time you crave that new shimmery pink blush, dreamily squeeze and sniffa flower-scented lotion at the beauty counter, or read about a celebrity must-have hair mousse in aglossy magazine. Once you learn these commandments, you will gain a better perspective on what youare really paying for at cosmetic counters, and whether any of this can hurt your skin and put you atrisk for a serious medical condition in the future.1. Thou Shalt Notbuy beauty products that contain phthalates, formaldehyde, phenols, sodiumlaureth sulfate, coal tar, toxic dyes, and synthetic fragrances.2. Thou Shalt Notbuy cosmetics based solely on advertising claims or celebrity endorsements.Very few celebrities actually use the products they advertise. Neither do models whose facesare used in the ads, no matter what models say in interviews. Read the label, scan the ingredientslist online using the Skin Deep (www.ewg.com) tool for chemical hazards, read online reviews,and then decide whether this product is worth your money or not.3. Thou Shalt Notbelieve that just because a cosmetic product is called “natural” it is generallysafer. Cosmetics may claim to be “natural” or made with “organic” ingredients, but may stillinclude paraben and formaldehyde preservatives, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, or other toxic
ingredients.4. Thou Shalt Notbelieve that you have to spend a lot of money on organic beauty products.Many inexpensive natural cosmetic lines have wonderful products that perform just as well asexpensive ones because most plant extracts, vitamins, and minerals are not exclusive to onecompany. High-quality ingredients do not necessarily cost a lot more; many cosmetic companiesbuy ingredients from the same farm or wholesale supplier. There are many organic beautymanufacturers who grow their own ingredients, too. The only difference may be theconcentration of these plant juices and extracts, and in the next chapters, you will learn how tochoose products that really deliver.5. Thou Shalt Notbelieve there is such a thing as a magic beauty bullet. There are no secretingredients that can instantly cure all your skin’s woes, but there are many new, effective activeingredients that can do wonders for your skin.6. Thou Shalt Notcompare your skin or hair to those of celebrities and spend hours moaningover a pimple, a wrinkle, or a stray lock. All celebrities are humans with their flaws andinsecurities, and their picture-perfect skin is not due to the use of some secret potion but ratherskillful hairstyling, makeup artistry, and computer retouching.7. Thou Shalt Notshare your mascara or lipstick, keep the jar of moisturizer open, lick the tip ofyour eyeliner, apply face cream with dirty hands, dilute shampoo with water—simply put,contaminate your beauty products and shorten their life span. Never use beauty products whentheir “best before” date is overdue.8. Thou Shalt Notbelieve that you need a special moisturizer for hands and another one for therest of your body; that you need an eye cream and a separate face cream and a really cute neckserum; that you cannot use baby bath gel to cleanse your face; that you should have a differentsunscreen lotion for each part of your body. In other words, do not let smart marketersmanipulate you. Less is more, especially when it comes to organic formulations. From an oatscrub to a honey mask, the best things in beauty come incredibly cheap, and you don’t need tospend tons of money to look great and be healthy.9. Thou Shalt Notbelieve that if a famous doctor, chemist, dermatologist, yoga guru, hairstylist,or movie star created the formula, it would mean a world of difference. Lots of dermatologists,biologists, herbalists, and even aerospace engineers are involved in whipping up beautyproducts. It’s the juice that counts, not the bottle, as Aubrey Hampton, the pioneer of organicbeauty, used to say, and your skin doesn’t care whose name is on the packaging. Read theingredients list, ask smart questions about the concentration of particular ingredients, checkreviews, be skeptical, and take everything with a grain of sea salt.10. Thou Shalt Notkeep it a secret. Spread the news. Help teenage girls avoid toxic beautyproducts. If you work in a spa or in a health-care facility, explain the dangers of toxic chemicalsto your patients and clients. Phone the companies whose products you use and express yourconcerns directly. Many product labels carry toll-free phone numbers. Be an informed, vigilantconsumer because what you know (and what you don’t) can turn really costly in terms of yourlooks and health.