FACTS OVER MARKETING
Let's start by doing away with the "us vs them" and "natural vs synthetic" mindset that is so prevalent in the beauty world today. Like many things in science, the answers are not always black and white. While we know that certain plant-derived ingredients have shown useful properties for skin through research and we use several therapeutic naturally-derived ingredients in our products, there's a reason we don't advertise it. There in no such thing as "all-natural" or chemical-free on this planet. This is because everything is made up of chemicals - including water, plants, and the air we breathe. A floral or citrus extract, for example, may be made up of many more chemicals (sometimes hundreds more and most often sensitizing ones) than those from a lab people are trying to replace in order to avoid more chemicals. Sensitive and sensitized skin can stem from many factors and one of the biggest causes today is the use of sensitizing ingredients in skincare that often give rise to chronic skin issues (beyond accelerated skin aging) that are hard to treat. Vilifying based on generalizations is dangerous and basically, there are the good and not-so-good in both the naturally-derived and synthetic world of ingredients.
It is good to know and understand what's in your products, but unfortunately, some marketing steers people down a path that's not the most beneficial for their skin.
- Just because you can pronounce an ingredient does not make it better.
- While the order of ingredients can provide a good guideline, you can't always judge product quality based on whether or not some ingredients are high or low on the list. Higher percentages of actives (especially certain acids) are not always better - especially when a lot of ingredients are scientifically researched and demonstrated to be most effective and safe at specific percentages - sometimes, this means a 0.5 to 1% concentration. Actives in delivery systems also tend to be lower on ingredient lists.
- More than the order of ingredients, interaction of ingredients are very important. The pH levels of products also affect effectiveness and interactions of ingredients. This is why many professionals discourage the trend of DIY mixing of actives because not truly knowing about stability, how ingredients can react with one another and how they interact in various conditions can be extremely harmful for skin. Additionally, many single ingredient-focused serums also contain much higher concentrations of potentially irritating ingredients than formulated products. A 10% peptide or vitamin serum, for example, can contain as much as 90% of potentially irritating solvents and preservatives.
Being cautious of these factors will help you to better avoid problems caused by your skincare.
We seek to push the limits beyond traditional cosmetic chemistry standards for an honest and safer meaning of "clean". For our skincare, we even ban several ingredients that strict EU cosmetic standards allow.
With that said, we are not about fear mongering. Based on what has been found so far, we feel it's better for peace-of-mind to invest in ingredients and technology that can meet or exceed the standards for performance and safety.
As we continue to keep watch on formulation science, this list will be updated accordingly. The following are some ingredients of concern that we do not use in our skincare either based on potential harm to you, our animal friends, or our environment.
- Alcohols such as Alcohol Denat/Denatured Alcohol, SD Alcohol 40 , Ethanol and Isopropyl Alcohol - many times listed on ingredient lists simply as Alcohol - High chance of damaging skin barrier, increasing dry skin, redness and inflamed skin conditions as well as increasing oiliness and enlarge pores.
- Aluminum Salts - much concern has been raised about several health issues from having too much in the system.
- Animal-Derived Ingredients - There is no need to harm or exploit animals for our beauty needs and higher profits, especially with the technology we have today.
- Arnica - High potential to cause redness, irritation, or sensitization of the skin.
- Benzoyl Peroxide - Drying and can cause severe irritation of the skin
- BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) & BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) - Controversial preservatives that the National Toxicology Program concluded "is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and linked to increase risk of cancer in animals. Some research has also shown they are broken down and absorbed by the body to be potentially harmful and toxic to cells. While studies are still being done, we feel these should be put in the "caution" column.
- Bismuth Oxychloride - used in a lot in cosmetics as cheap filler ingredient, its crystalline structure has high potential to aggravate skin and cause itchiness, irritation and flare-up of rosacea or acne conditions.
- Camphor / Comfrey / Menthol / Menthyl Lactate - High potential to cause redness and irritation
- Citrus-Derived Ingredients (including Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange & more) - Can cause big problems for all skin due to high potential to be sensitizing and irritating. Likely to cause inflammation (both visible and below the surface) and photosensitivity.
- Coal Tar - Beyond potential for irritation, its polyaromatic hydrocarbons with potential to cause skin cancer have raised concerns.
- Cocomidopropyl Betaine (CAPB) - Whether coconut/plant-derived or synthetic, don't be fooled by the fact that it is used in a lot of "clean" haircare as surfactants as well as makeup removers. It is well-known to cause irritation of skin & eyes and to worsen conditions of rosacea and eczema.
- DEA/EDTA/ETA/MEA/TEA (Ethanolamines) - The ammonia compounds responsible for luxurious emulsion and foaming of your products are classified as harmful by the European Union (in particular DEA) for potential serious damage to health from prolonged exposure with research showing link to cause of liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin. DEA compounds can also have reactions with ingredients in cosmetics to form nitrosamines, classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- Essential Oils - These are the worst types of fragrances you can use on your skin. No matter how they are marketed or how many internet articles speak of their benefits, when you look at the science, essential oils are not good for skin. They are chemically volatile parts of plants with compounds that are highly irritating and damaging to skin (a lot of which may not be visible but occur underneath the surface). Please refer to the Fragrance bullet point below for more details and for a list of some of the most commonly used harmful essential oils and their components.
- Ethoxylated Ingredients - Potential for contamination with and by-products of known human carcinogen, ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane
- Formaldehyde / Formaldehyde Releasing Ingredients (including 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol / 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane / Bronopol / Diazolidinyl Urea / DMDM Hydantoin / Imidazolidinyl Urea / Quaternium-15 / Sodium Hydrxymethylglycinate) - Often used as preservatives, these ingredients not only have high potential to cause allergic contact dermatitis but continuously release formaldehyde which is a known human carcinogen as classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer. Lab research also suggest that formaldehyde from cosmetics can be absorbed by the skin.
- Fragrance (Naturally-Derived & Synthetic) - Please pay attention to the speicfic fragrances listed below. Whether naturally-derived or synthetic, their fragrance components can contain 100 disruptive chemicals and are extremely harmful to skin. Fragrance in cosmetics have been proven to be one of the most irritating and allergenic ingredients. Despite claims some make that fragrances used in their cosmetic products are hypoallergenic (another marketing term with no standards or federal regulation), fragrances are known to be highly irritating and can even have toxic hormonal effects. They can not only cause dermatitis and sensitivities with long-term use, but they can cause you to be allergic and react negatively to other ingredients used with it. If you have used products with fragrances all your life, you may think you are immune, but the reality is, fragrances can keep causing damage by breaking down and weakening your skin without you ever knowing it for a long time. The inflammation can potentially show in the form of rosacea, dark spots, uneven skin texture, wrinkles and even trigger long-term conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Some "natural" fragrance ingredients of concern you may see in cosmetics include
Bergamot, Citrus, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Myrrh, Neroli, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Wintergreens, Ylang Ylang, & much more.
While some some products list "fragrance", "parfum," or "perfume" in their ingredients, brands don't actually have to list details of their fragrance(s) since they are considered trade secrets unless there are allergens involved. The tricky part is, when these components are listed separately not as "fragrance" or "perfume" as a whole (as often used in "clean" beauty to seem "natural") fragrances may be hard to spot. In both naturally-derived and synthetic products, look for ingredients (often towards the end of an ingredient list) that include
- Gold/ Colloidal Gold - potent skin sensitizer
- Grain/Wheat Proteins - Potential for sensitization and atopic dermatitis and can adversely affect people with celiac sprue or wheat sensitivity.
- Hydroquinone - Banned in the Australia, Europe, & Japan, it has not been ruled out as carcinogenic by the FDA.
- Lanolin - Besides being secreted from sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, it's known to cause irritation and allergic reactions in skin.
- Methenamine - High potential sensitizer & irritant
- Methyl Cellosolve / 2-Methoxyethanol - Several studies highlighted concerns of several health issues with prolonged exposure.
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone / Methylisothiazolinone - Preservative with higher sensitizing and irritation potential.
- Mints (Including Balm Mint, Peppermint, etc.) - High sensitizer and irritant potential
- Musks (Nitromusks (Musk Keytone, Musk Xylene) / Polycyclic Musks (Galaxolide, Tonalide) - These fragrances are often included in cosmetics but rarely disclosed have raised concerns due to links to bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption and both organ and reproductive toxicity.
- Nano Titanium Dioxide / Nano Zinc Oxide - Generally considered safe in creams and emulsions on intact skin, but nanoparticles can act as photocatalyst to accelerate oxidation processes that cause damaging free radicals. Some tests have raised concern that breathing in nanoparticles can lead to lung toxicity and cancer.
- Parabens - Although studies have not proven that parabens cause cancer, environmentally, parabens have been found in marine mammals and this is believed to have come from products we wash down that gets released to the environment. There are many other ingredients now that are just as effective.
- PEG’s (polyethylene glycols, prop) - Often used as softeners and absorption enhancers in cosmetics, they can increase absorption of harmful ingredients to cause irritation and potentially system toxicity. Impurities, respiratory irritants and known carcinogens such as 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide have been found in PEGs.
- Perfluorinated Compounds (PFAs or PFCs) - Associated with cancer, negative effects on the immune system and liver damage. They can negatively affect the environment by building up and accumulating in wildlife.
- Phthalates - Research have raised concerns that exposure can affect mental and behavioral development in children and studies have linked phthalates to breast cancer and congenital disorders. Phthalates also have negative and harmful effects to our environment and wildlife to the point that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified phthalates (DEP) as Priority and Toxic Pollutant.
- Plastic Microbeads - These plastic particles can be harmful to skin by causing abrasions, making skin more prone to irritation and dryness. Additionally, these plastics get deposited into and accumulated in waterways as a pollutant because the amount that is washed down the drain do not easily degrade. This can greatly affect our environment and wildlife long-term.
- Polysorbate-20/Polysorbate-40 - While commonly used as emulsifiers, fragrance and/or surfactants in cosmetics, there are increasing concerns that their process of ethoxylation can lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane. Not only is this linked to skin allergies, but it's a known carcinogen that can penetrate readily into the skin.
- Resorcinol (look for 1,3-benzenediol / 1,3-dihydroxybenzene (m-hydroxybenze, m-dihydroxyphenol)/ 2-Methylresorcinol / Resorcin ) - Beyond being a high-potential skin sensitizer & irritant, there are concerns of endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity.
- Retinyl Palmitate - There are concerns based on U.S. government scientist studies that suggest retinyl palmitate can damage DNA and may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Too much of this and other preformed vitamin A (including retinol, retinyl acetate and retinyl linoleate) can cause vitamin A toxicity which may lead to several problems including brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and liver damage.
- Silicones (Cyclic) including cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), cyclohexasiloxane (D6), and cyclomethicone.- concerns raised of endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental toxicity
- Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate - a preservative that can break down into formaldehyde.
- Spices (Including Cayenne, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Nutmeg and more) - very high potential for irritation and sensitization of skin. Great for the pantry but based on science, they have no business being in your skincare.
- Steareth-20 - Beyond links to skin allergies, there are concerns about the presence of ethylene oxide due to the fact that the process of ethoxylation of this ingredient may lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen in animals.
- Sulfates / SLS / SLES - Especially with long-term use, it can be irritating to eyes, skin, and lungs. During the manufacturing process, SLES can also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. Environmentally, products with sulfates that get washed down the drain can be toxic to some marine animals.
- Tea Tree Oil - Skin sensitizer and irritant
- Thyme - Skin sensitizer and irritant
- Toulene (also listed as Benzene, Methylbenzene, Phenylmethane, Toluol) - Beyond irritating to eyes, skin and respiratory tract, it can cause systemic toxicity when inhaled. Research has shown that an expectant mother's exposure to toulene vapors may cause developmental damage to the fetus.
- Triclosan / Triclocarban - Associated with hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity and weakening of the immune system
- Witch Hazel - Despite its popularity in skincare, its chemistry tells us it can actually harm the skin long-term due to the drying effects of its concentrations of tannins and the fact that it's a source for the proven sensitizer, eugenol.