The 12 Most Maligned Cosmetic Ingredients

toxic-lipstickIf you have spent any time reading information about cosmetics on the Internet, you’ve no doubt come across scare stories about dangerous, “toxic” ingredients. It might be lead in lipstick, mercury in mascara, or some other outrageous headline but the message is always the same, cosmetics kill and cosmetic companies are more concerned about profit than producing safe products.

As a cosmetic chemist, this has always troubled me. I was a formulation chemist for years and I never used chemicals that I thought were unsafe. Also, I was never pressured by my company to use “less safe” ingredients because they were cheaper. This is complete nonsense and groups that propagate it are bad for society and for cosmetic chemists.

But if you’re going to be a formulator, it would be helpful for you to know which cosmetic ingredients get bad press, why and whether it is true or not. So here we present a look at the 12 most vilified cosmetic ingredients. The next time a friend or family member asks you about them, you’ll be in a better position to answer.

Top Vilified Cosmetic Ingredients

1. Parabens
2. Diazolidiny Urea
3. Diethanolamine
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
5. Petrolatum
6. Mineral Oil
7. Propylene Glycol
8. Triclosan
9. Fragrance
10. Color pigments
11. PEG – Polyethylene Glycol
12. Talc


Parabens include ingredients like Methylparaben, Propylparaben and Butylparaben. They are used in cosmetics to prevent microbial contamination. Their high temperature stability, high level of effectiveness, and long record of safety make them an excellent preservative choice.

Parabens have recently come under fire by certain consumer groups and all-natural companies. They claim that parabens are “…a strong hormone disrupting chemical. Has direct links to breast cancer and heart problems.” These claims are not true, not based on science and are complete exaggerations.

For a full account of parabens and their safety in cosmetics see these excellent articles.

Paraben puzzlement
More about parabens

Diazolidinyl Urea / DMDM Hydantoin

Like parabens, these cosmetic ingredients are preservatives added to combat disease-causing microbes. They are called “formaldehyde donors” because when placed in a solution they dissociate into ions, one of which is formaldehyde. The formaldehyde then quickly kills microbes.

Formaldehyde is a scary ingredient to people as it has been shown to cause irritation, gene mutations, and cancer. But formaldehyde donors are not the same thing as formaldehyde and the amount of exposure gotten from cosmetics is well within safe levels.

See this summary explanation for why formaldehyde donors are safe for cosmetics.
Formaldehyde mythbusting

For a full review of formaldehyde, see this toxicology report from the CDC.


Triclosan is an anti-bacterial ingredient added to cosmetics to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It’s usually found in antibacterial soaps, handwashes, toothpaste and deodorants. The FDA has affirmed its effectiveness and regulates products that contain triclosan as over the counter (OTC) drugs.

Some groups object to triclosan for various reasons. They say that Triclosan can produce a toxic, hormone disrupting chemical. That it poses long term chronic health risks, alters genetic material, and causes birth defects. It also can damage kidneys, lungs, liver, etc.

Independent scientists who study Tricolsan come to different conclusions. The safety of triclosan has been established but recent studies have prompted the FDA to re-examine the data. But as of now, “FDA does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time” You can learn more about the status of Triclosan (in the US) at this FDA triclosan web page.

One interesting concern about Triclosan is that it has the potential to create “super-bacteria” that is resistant to its effects. This has some scientists suggesting it shouldn’t be used in cosmetics. They might have a point.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

SLS, SLES are basic detergents used in everything from body washes, hand cleansers, shampoos and even toothpaste. They really are versatile cleansing surfactants.

They are also the most maligned surfactants in the entire cosmetic industry. Just do a Google search for sodium lauryl sulfate and you’ll find plenty of sites telling you how awful it is. Claims such as “may cause hair loss”, “causes cancer”, and “the most dangerous chemical found in hair and skin care products” are frequently repeated.

Of course, SLS can be irritating (many surfactants are) but the CIR has reviewed it and found

“Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1 percent”

SLS is used in cosmetic products because it is effective, inexpensive, and safe.


Speaking of maligned surfactants, Diethanolamine is right up there with SLS for its ability to receive bad press. It is a secondary surfactant added to cosmetic formulas to boost foam and improve lather feel. Typically, it is not added directly to formulas but rather added in the form of Cocamide DEA, Lauramide DEA or Stearamide MEA. The concern is over residual DEA not from the surfactants themselves.

Concern about DEA containing cosmetics was brought up when a 1998 National Toxicology Program (NTP) study found an association between the topical application of diethanolamine (DEA) and certain DEA-related ingredients and cancer in laboratory animals. Chemical fear groups ran with this and claimed that DEA is a “hormone disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates”. It actually caused most personal care companies to replace DEA materials with other options.

However, the fear is unfounded and the FDA reviewed all the latest data and concluded, “at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be alarmed based on the use of these substances in cosmetics.” Certainly, the FDA will continue to review DEA containing ingredients but at the moment, there is no established safety concern.


Ah, one of my favorite ingredients, petrolatum. It is an excellent material for moisturizing skin and also for creating slick hairdos. Unfortunately, this petroleum-derived hydrocarbon blend is also a favorite ingredient for all-natural and chemical fear-mongerers to bash.

What’s the complaint? There are lots of claims but basically the knock on petrolatum is that it causes cancer and the fact that it’s banned in the EU.

The FDA has reviewed the safety of Petrolatum and determined that it is a safe ingredient to use. In fact, it’s even safe for use in food products. And as far as the EU goes, it is not banned in cosmetics. Petrolatum can and is used in cosmetics as long as it’s a cosmetic grade of the material.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is another skin moisturizing ingredient that gets a bad wrap from natural product producers and other chemical scare groups. I never understood this because Mineral Oil is a natural ingredient that comes right from the Earth. No matter, here are some of the claims about mineral oil.

Mineral oil is contaminated with carcinogens
Mineral oil dries the skin and causes premature aging
It robs the skin of vitamins
It clogs pores and prevents collagen absorption
It causes acne

None of these claims are true as reviewed in this mineral oil article.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a humectant and diluent frequently used in cosmetic formulations. It is a useful material as it’s compatible with numerous materials and provides benefits itself.

Regrettably, it’s also claimed to penetrate and weaken skin proteins and to cause brain, live and kidney abnormalities. Of course, it’s claimed to have a cancer link too. And did you know it is used in anti-freeze?

I’ve never understood why PG is so feared but according to scientists at the FDA, CIR, and National Toxicology Program, there is negligible concern related to its use. In fact, PG is so safe it has earned the designation as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) from the FDA. It’s safe enough to eat.


Fragrances are added to cosmetics to make products smell better or reinforce a marketing story. Cosmetics without fragrance just don’t sell as well so that’s why cosmetic chemists add them.

But some groups will lead you to believe that all fragrances are awful. They “…cause headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing, vomiting and skin irritations. Fragrances affect the nervous system, cause depression, hyper activity, irritability, inability to cope and other behavioral changes”

Indeed there are chemicals in fragrances that can cause problems at high enough levels. There are even ingredients that the EU requires companies to label because they are known allergens. However, fragrances are thoroughly screened for safety by independent scientists at the IFRA. There is a safe level of use and fragrance houses follow these guidelines.


Without colorants most cosmetic formulas would be yellow or brown. Color cosmetics would not exist.

The complaint is that artificial colorants are carcinogenic. As usual, this claim is not supported by science.

Of all the ingredients in cosmetics, colorants are the most highly regulated. Each batch of colorant must be approved by the FDA prior to use. The FDA also monitors the safety of colorants. Any color additive that is found to cause cancer in animals (or humans) may not be used in cosmetics.


PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are used in cosmetics for a variety of reasons including moisturizing, thickening, emulsification, solvency, etc. It would be difficult to produce many modern cosmetics without them.

However, the chemical scare mongers fear that PEG is a carcinogenic material that will dry out and make your skin age faster. It’s the typical claims you find related to any petroleum derived ingredient.

According to an article in the Journal Toxicology from 2005, scientists conclude that “Taking into consideration all available information from related compounds, as well as the mode and mechanism of action, no safety concern with regard to these endpoints could be identified.” Chemical fear-mongers are not basing their concerns on science.


Talc is a powdered ingredient used is cosmetics to absorb moisture and as a filler. It is powdered hydrous magnesium silicate.

The primary concern about talc is that it is linked to ovarian cancer. This is based on a study published during the 1990s.

Subsequent review of all the available data has demonstrated that talc is safe when used as directed. The most recent talc data supports this position. The push to avoid Talc is not based on science.

What can cosmetic chemists do?

As a cosmetic chemist you are the one who ultimately makes the decision to use a certain ingredient or not. It is up to you to see what the best SCIENTIFIC data has to say about ingredients before making any choice to use them or not. Forget what consumers tell you, or fear-mongering groups say, or even what your marketing people believe. Cosmetic ingredients are tested and answers about safety are available for people curious enough to look beyond a Google search of the latest blogs.

Sure, your marketing group might want to remove some of these ingredients because of bad PR but that doesn’t change the fact that none of these materials pose a significant risk to consumers when used in cosmetics.

Did we miss any maligned ingredients? What do you think about the safety of cosmetic ingredients? Leave a comment below.


Perry Romanowski has over 18 years experience formulating products to solve consumer problems in the personal care and cosmetic industry. His primary focus has been on hair & hair related products. He is also an author who has published extensively about the field of cosmetic science. He is currently Vice President of Brains Publishing which specializes in science education.

Perry received his B.S. in Chemistry from DePaul University. He has written and edited numerous articles and books, teaches SCC continuing education classes in cosmetic science, and is the primary author at a website dedicated to training current and future cosmetic scientists.  His latest book project is the third edition of Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry published by Allured. Perry can be reached thorough his website ChemistsCorner where he is available for consulting about cosmetic formulating, testing, and Internet solutions.

  • AmandaFoxon-Hill

    My interest is always around the long term effects of ingredients on the environment – a lifecycle analysis. I wonder if we would come to different conclusions if we looked at things that way? I’m still making up my mind :)

    • Chemists Corner

      I agree the issue of ingredient safety to humans is a different question than the one of ingredient safety to the environment. It’s just a much more difficult question because there are no specific tests you can do.

      It also leads to difficult decisions. Is sunscreen use killing coral reefs? If so, do you switch to Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles which could have their own problems?

      I don’t have enough information to decide.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that it’s much more difficult to determine the long-term effects of ingredients on the environment. But some of these have been around long enough that that’s been determined. For example, SLS is apparently completely biodegradable and does not accumulate in the environment. I don’t know all about the others off the top of my head, but I can’t imagine that things that come from the earth are really going to hurt the earth too much when they go back to it! (Generalizing here, obviously.)

        As for other maligned ingredients: every single preservative. I have questions about preservatives literally every single day, and I hear, “Isn’t that bad? Doesn’t that cause cancer?” Every. Day. Phenoxyethanol is one that I have people ask questions about or object to, but I can never get a straight answer about what the objection might be. People just say they read it’s bad or they saw it on tv (or in an EWG scare email). Sodium Benzoate is another that I hear lots of complaints about, particularly from “natural” folks, but I’m not sure what the complaint on that one is either. I’m guessing cancer. I’m convinced everything causes cancer if you get enough of it (or give a rat enough of it).

        • Perry Romanowski

          “I can’t imagine that things that come from the earth are really going to hurt the earth too much when they go back to it!”

          Petroleum comes from the Earth and the Gulf of Mexico pretty much shows what can happen when it returns to the Earth in its natural form…not good.

          There are many more examples that violate the generalization (lead, uranium, radon). So many that I doubt the generalization is correct.

  • Todd Weiss CFA

    Always good to get the facts. One particular area of concern is the anti-bacterial stuff creating more resistant strains of bacteria. That makes me a little concerned…

    • Chemists Corner

      I agree Todd. Making resistant bacteria could be trouble.

  • Lisa M. Rodgers

    Perry, thanks so much for contributing this article to PCT! The groups that are spreading misinformation, half truths and fear are extremely detrimental to consumers and chemists.

    We are dedicated to providing truthful information to educate consumers and manufacturers alike. PCT looks forward to more of your contributions!

    ROCK ON!

  • The Organic View Radio Show

    Excellent description with the proper information to go along with it, Perry! Nutmeg is a common spice found in every household that bakes. Yet, too much nutmeg can kill you. It is just a matter of what the ingredient is, how it is sourced and how it is used. That is the bottom line. Great job!

  • Maria

    Straight forward, fact based article….
    Backed up with evidence (including links and everything!)…
    Undertone of humor and humility….

    Can only be you, Perry! 😉
    Thanks for yet another great article!

    Thanks to PCT for continuing to add such credible sources to your already outstanding list of contributors!

    ~ Ria

  • Kayla Fioravanti

    Great information – thanks for a level headed look at these ingredients…as a natural cosmetic formulator there are still some on the list that I chose to avoid, but that doesn’t mean that they cause all the scary stuff that you read out there.

    • Lisa M. Rodgers

      So true Kayla! While there may be many that disagree with Perry, he has provided truthful information based on scientific facts. Educating consumers, instead of scaring them to death is the overall goal we want to achieve on PCT.

  • Melody Lea Lamb

    Another great, informative, and well written post! Thanks so much for sharing your vast knowledge regarding cosmetics with us.

    • Lisa M. Rodgers

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts Melody!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. Yet another very useful piece shattering the myths the fearmongers put out there.

    However, I can’t agree with the inclusion of fragrance on a list of unfairly maligned ingredients, as I actually think more awareness is required of its potential problems. While I don’t like the way EWG and similar groups claim fragrance causes all manner of diseases and is highly toxic, etc, isn’t it well-known to be an dermal irritant and for a relatively high number of people, an allergen? I can’t pretend to be an expert, but I trust for example, Paula Begoun, who always offers a ton of references to back up her anti-fragrance stance.

    And as someone who gets terrible headaches,sinus pain and nausea around strong perfume, it would be good if more people were aware that even if there are no noticeable issues for themselves when using fragrance, they may be affecting others. I don’t expect people to stop using perfume, but I shouldn’t be able to smell it two rooms away. A little consideration toward those of us adversely affected by perfume would go a long way.

    The list of supposedly bogus symptoms you cited does include some bogus and exaggerated claims, but also some real symptoms that are known to be triggered by fragrance, so I don’t feel it’s fair to dismiss all those claims entirely. I’m afraid I don’t have references at hand, but I have read intelligently presented, refrenced information – untainted by exaggerated claims and cries of ‘chemical poisons!’ – that explains fragrance can be an allergen, dermal irritant, respiratory irritant, and migraine trigger.

    • Katherine

      Hi Christene,As Fragrance is addressed here, Perry isn’t necessarily dismissing the claims such as what he states in the following paragraph below the marked symptoms:”Indeed there are chemicals in fragrances that can cause problems at high enough levels. There are even ingredients that the EU requires companies to label because they are known allergens. However, fragrances are thoroughly screened for safety by independent scientists at the IFRA. There is a safe level of use and fragrance houses follow these guidelines.”I believe it is more about the level at which some of these fragrances are applied. I don’t understand it, but some think they need to bathe in the stuff to make it last longer, when in reality, they simply stink to high heaven.Furthermore, I too am extremely sensitive to artificial fragrance and enjoy those found only in essential oils. Some synthetically formulated fragrances make me gag and give me a headache as well. And I couldn’t agree more about smelling someone from two rooms away, or this one is my favorite, an hour after they have left the room.In fact I must avoid fragrance counters at the mall due to the strength of the odors wafting in the air. It is enough to make someone sick. I am not always agreed with on this point, but as a person who also suffers from allergies, I believe fragrance ingredients should be divulged and not hidden under the guise of trade secret. Same with Essential Oil blends. If someone is going to have a reaction on the skin, it would be pertinent to them to know about everything that is in the fragrance, artificial or not!Thanks for making this point!

      • Anonymous

        Hi Katherine,

        Good points. I’m just wondering what standards cosmetics companies other than fragrance houses use. For example, a company like Lush seem to use irritating amounts of fragrance in most products. I’m usually sensitive but with their products I have had really angry rashes, which I never usually get.

        I guess I just feel that, unlike people avoiding parabens, mineral oil, etc, there is a more valid reason to seek out fragrance free items. I think I would have liked the Fragrance section here to be a little more like the Triclosan section, where it is explained why they’re not as scary as people think, but why there still may be reason to be cautious.

        I very much agree people are over-applying perfumes and wish they would learn less is more! I do think a lot of everyday items are over-fragranced these days (it’s hard to find unfragranced toilet paper, for example) and I can’t help but wonder if the constant sensory overload of this dulls some people’s olfactory sensitivity, leading them to apply more fragrance. I think also when you are wearing the fragrance yourself, you quickly get used to it and can’t always smell it as strongly as others can. It would be best, I think, if people apply a recommended amount rather than putting it on until they are sure they can smell it.

        And yes, I always hold my breath around perfume counters! Or take a detour ;).

        • Perry Romanowski

          Hello Christine,

          Katherine is correct, I don’t dispute that some fragrances in cosmetic formulas can be a problem for many people. Certainly, it can cause problems. It’s enough of a problem that big cosmetic marketers come out with products specifically devoid of fragrance. If it was a small market that only affected a few people they wouldn’t bother.

          What I was suggesting was that the advice that everybody should avoid all fragrances is wrong. Many (most) people will have no problem with most fragrances. For most people, it is an ingredient that improves the overall experience of using the product and there is no good reason for them to avoid it.

          One of the biggest problems is that the term ‘fragrance’ is used for many different ingredients. Fragrances that smell like Lemons are chemically completely different than ones that smell like flowers. However, to listen to what some people communicate, you’d get the impression that all fragrances are the same. It’s like saying an elephant and a chicken are the same because they are both animals. There is a difference.

  • Zach E

    I didn’t know all this stuff was in makeup. Good thing I don’t wear it! 😀 Very informative post!

    • Dene Godfrey

      Erm, Zach, I think you missed the point here – the truth is that the ingredients that the EWG try to scare consumers over are actually safe!

  • Dene Godfrey

    @ Perry – fragrance is another classic example of where Skin Deep fails miserably! Despite the massive chemical difference between the various fragrances available, they are ALL classified in exactly the same way – with a “hazard score” of 8, based on a 100% data gap, with the concerns listed as “neurotoxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, miscellaneous” (whatever THAT means!), and all this without any data!

    • Perry Romanowski

      @Dene – yes, this has always bugged me about the database. Since companies have started identifying the known allergens in fragrances, saying there is a 100% data gap is wrong.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure what the 100% number refers to. How do you know how much data represents the gap? What is a 50% data gap?

  • Dene Godfrey

    @ Zach – on reflection, perhaps I missed YOUR point! Whoops!

  • Anonymous


    I propose the addition of SILICONES to your list of “most maligned cosmetic ingredients”. Silicones are a good addition because:

    (1) They are among the most useful, effective, agreeable, and yet biocompatible ingredients in a broad variety of cosmetics;
    (2) Of the many cosmetic ingredients which are inappropriately or unscientifically maligned, silicones offer possibly the widest gap between effectiveness and risk of all.

    • Dartigen

      Eh, yes and no. In conditioners, I can tell you silicones are the worst possible thing you can put on a dandruff-prone scalp or oily hair – on oily hair, it seems to just massively trigger over-production of oil (so you wash your hair more, so you add more silicone, so it goes greasy even faster…) and I don’t know how exactly but it just seems to set off dandruff like nothing else. They also do nothing for the health of the actual hair, so you’re not actually addressing the dryness or other problems that are making hair dull – just covering it up.

      In primers, however, silicones are one of the best for aged or severely damaged skin – I’ve found that silicone-based primers, while they feel pretty gross and slimy, fill in wrinkles better than silicone-free primers. It won’t do much for deep wrinkles or deep scarring, but on finer wrinkles it practically makes them disappear. With that being said, they do feel pretty slimy, so some people really don’t like them (and for some reason, silicone primers are really not kind to acne-prone skin – can’t see why, but I break out like nobody’s business if I use a silicone-based primer).

      • Perry Romanowski

        Interesting hypothesis about hair, silicone and dandruff. Do you have links to any study demonstrating this effect? I’ve not seen any scientific evidence to support what you’re saying.

  • Melissa

    is it true that Propylene Glycol is banned by the EU and if so why?

    • Chemists Corner

      No, propylene glycol is not banned in the EU.

      Perry, 44

  • Noelle

    I’m doing research on this topic for a college project. My concern is not so much that we’re saturating ourselves with poisons, as some would argue, but that chemicals are often potent (which I’d assume is also why they are used) and can have unexpected, less-direct effects. My concern is the fact that the American public has a very uneducated approach to the use of products with chemicals, assuming any and every one is completely harmless. But to be surrounded by such chemicals (many of which, even if not lethal, couldn’t be said to be exactly healthy) daily and not to understand the tendencies of each is not very wise, I’d argue. My push is that more people inform themselves about the chemicals they use and not assume there’s no room for caution. Although no one or two products may be terribly harmful, maybe the long-term use of so *many* chemicals could have negative results in the long-run, of course harder to detect. My question is, in an age where chronic illness is so predominant and for unknown reasons, and where some common chemicals have been shown to be problematic (I didn’t say deadly!), perhaps a little more caution would be in order. Moderation, rather than all-out boycotting, seems to be a prudent path. You thoughts as a chemist?

    • Chemists Corner

      @Noelle – If absolute safety is a primary concern then people should not use ANY cosmetics. They are not necessary to live a healthy life. Similarly, you should not drive a car as they are not absolutely safe not required. But most people do not want to live this way. We take risks every day because they lead to happier lives. Based on all the testing available, daily use of cosmetics has an extremely low probability of being harmful. Much lower than driving a car.

      I understand your desire for people to be more educated about chemicals however, I don’t think it is particularly useful or helpful to consumers for the following reasons.

      1. There is just too much to know. In the INCI dictionary there are over 17,000 chemicals that a cosmetic chemist can use in formulations. Does it make sense that a consumer should have to know about these ingredients? If they did, how would it help someone to know whether their shampoo contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Sodium Laurylamphoacetate? Unless someone is allergic to an ingredient, knowing what’s in a formula won’t help them much.

      2. Available information isn’t unbiased. This article lists the 12 ingredients that are most frequently cited as “bad for you.” However, the people who are experts in assessing the safety of ingredients have determined that these ingredients are safe. Regular consumers have no way of knowing who is telling them inaccurate information to scare them (EWG) and who is giving them science-based information.

      Being uninformed is better than being misinformed.

      The cosmetic industry is required to produce safe products. Ingredients and formulas are tested following accepted safety tests. People can disagree with the testing that is done, but what is the alternative? How do you think cosmetic chemicals could be tested better? Why is your opinion of what is safe superior to those of the toxicologists and other chemical experts?

      I understand your concerns. If you are afraid of cosmetics, don’t use them. However, if you decide to use a body wash, skin moisturizer, eye shadow or other cosmetic, don’t think that you can pick the one that is “safer.” The safety level of all are essentially the same.

      Perry, 44

  • Anonymous

    You make some good points. However, in my opinion, the credibility of this article went down the drain as soon as you called petroleum/mineral oil (let’s remember, they’re just liquid and solid states of the same thing here) a “moisturizing ingredient.” While it can help lock moisture into the skin because it forms a barrier of sorts (which the mineral article you link to does mention), it is not a moisturizing ingredient in itself. Why? Because the body literally cannot absorb it, either through the skin or through ingestion (one of the reasons why it’s approved for food use and constipation suppositories).

    • Dene62

      @shatteredshards – I think you are being a little harsh in condemning an entire article on the basis of one point with which you disagree. I don’t understand the logic that determines “one fact is wrong, therefore I don’t believe anything you say”. And, surely, if the ultimate effect of the use of mineral oil is to increase moisturisation of the skin, how can it not not described as a “moisturising ingredient”? How else would you describe it?

      • Anonymous

        Humectant, for starters.

        I’ll put it this way; my comment was the nicest way I could say, at the time, that this site is just the polar opposite of Skin Deep. Both are sensationalists, both perpetuate misinformation and ignorance, and neither one has much, if any, credibility.

        • Colinsanders

          I have worked in cosmetic development for decades and I have never heard anyone refer to mineral oil as a humectant. Humectants are materials like glycerol that hold moisture by virtue of their chemical structure. Mineral oil doesn’t work that way at all.

          • Anonymous

            I was considering a loose definition of it, and thus used it in completely the wrong context. I apologize.

        • Philippe Papadimitriou

          Hello Shatteredshards,

          I think you are being a bit hard when you say that (eventually) confusing humectance and moisture is perpetuating misinformation and ignorance.

          By the way, how do you define moisture? How do you define humectance? Do you really think mineral oil, petrolatum or any other oil, vegetable or synthetic, are “humectants”?
          (And do you really think to identical molecules or mixtures -petrolatum/mineral oil- might have differing states at the same temperaure? You mention one is solid, the other is liquid, but they are the same “thing”; they are not, even if chemically comparable)

          I am of the opinion, no lipid, fat or oil can really be called a humectant, but I would be all ears to listen to your version of the story. Humectants bind moisture (low amounts of water). Knowing about the nature of oily components, I think very rare are the ones that would be able to bind water. And for sure mineral oil doesn’t bind water. Never.

          Moisturizers are ingredients that help moiture “stay in” (because water tends to evaporate – TEWL measurments tell us so). In that sense, oils are moisturizers too, aren’t they?

          Besides, do you really think one such mistake, if it were only accurate (I would eventually call this confusion if it had happenend), would fully hurt the whole web site credibility?
          If so, what would you propose or eventually offer for this web site to be more informative?

          Your help and eventual contribution, even only in the comments section, would be much appreciated by the PCT readership, don’t you think?

          Looking forward to your news.

          • Anonymous

            We can split hairs, but mineral oil and petrolatum are essentially the same thing. They are both made from by-products of the crude oil industry and have mostly the same properties, though one is a solid state and one is a liquid. They are also used for the same purposes in products, and will achieve similar, if not the same, effects

            As for humectants, I used it in the wrong context and I apologize. That is my mistake.

            Finally, I’ve addressed my belief of inaccuracy with this site in comments above, so I won’t waste anyone’s time in reposting what I’ve already said.

          • Philippe Papadimitriou


            I agree than these substances are similar, but they are not “the same”. If you think this is splitting hair, it is your view, but this view is commonly not considered valid for scientists or educated people. Shea butter and peanut butter are not the same. Margarine and Olive oil are not the same.

            There is no problem for me with this (really). Everybody can make a mistake and I have made many myself. Your confusion for humectant and moisturizer is another basic one for which you can not be blamed.
            I only regret, and it seems I am not alone, that having some confusion and publicly making mistakes, you still believe you are in a right position to have made such a critic to PCT contributors.

            I would have preferred apologies for your attack as the mistakes made were your only amunition to bash PCT (so it seems at least).

            Your “middle way” comment above (in reply to Dene) makes sense. This is what most experts here are saying: if the US want safe cosmetics, safety assessments should be done appropriately, by toxicologists as it is the case in the EU. Then no one safety assessment, even the one made by the best expert on the planet could mean allergies will be avoided at 100% and secondary reactions will never appear (even if the product is used under normal or forseeable conditions).

            I am of the opinion that a product sold by the million unit per year that causes 0.001 to 0.02% minor tolerance reactions is quite safe.
            If labels were better written by US manufacturers (the problem of multi entries for one sole ingredient on the skin deep database) and regulations on the declaration of all additives and solvents better followed, at least 50% of the “minor reactions” (it is a regulatory classification, not a classisication based on subjective parameters) could be avoided.

            NB: The fragrance issue is quite well covered in the EU*, but I admit that for this system to be applied in the US it would be very complicated.
            (* the public has the right to contact the manufacturer with some questions defined by regulations and the latter has to give an answer within 3 weeks – knowing about fragrance components to avoid allergies are included).

            Take care.

          • Anonymous

            I’m sorry, but your response to my comparing mineral oil and petrolatum is to compare shea butter and peanut butter, and I’m supposed to take it seriously? You can’t tell someone that their comparison of Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples is inaccurate because apples are not the same as oranges.

            As for ingredients being requested for allergies, you’d be amazed how companies refuse to disclose them when contacted. I’m not sure if it’s against the law for those companies to do so here in the US, but it happens regardless, so a lot of good it does to try and find out what’s in something to avoid allergic reaction.

          • Philippe Papadimitriou

            Accept my apologies, but to compare a comparison is not easy. Things are less similar in this example, true (I never have written the similarity was perfectly identical). What about margarine and vegetable oil, then? Do you eat your salad with margarine-based dressing? It is possible and the flavor is not that bad. Similar, but not “the same”.
            Anyways, you have well understood and if it is a matter of having the last word on this, I’ll let you have it.

            In the US, there is no such regulation for the disclosure of ingredients by manufacturers. Regrettably.
            But you have to remember this is a market, not a monopoly. If you are not satisfied with one manufacturer, you may skip to the next. I doubt big brands would want to hide anything, but I do not know. Many smaller brands on the other side would be very happy to count you in their clientele and will put all efforts to do so. Finally, I am sure you are satisfied with the brands you use daily and probably you didn’t have to contact them beforehand, am I right?

        • Dene62

          @shatteredshards – Once again, I have to question your logic, given that you describe PCT and Skin Deep as “polar opposites”, yet claim that both are sensationalists, perpetuate misinformation and ignorance and have a lack of credibility. That would suggest to me that we have a lot in common, rather than being polar opposites! Actually, I don’t think there is any common ground between PCT and Skin Deep, other than the desire to have safe cosmetics.

          I am curious to understand just what it is that you DO believe, and also to understand precisely where anyone from PCT has “sensationalised” anything. What misinformation has been put out by PCT? You have made some serious accusations in your comment, but without giving any examples.

          • Anonymous

            I misspoke; what I meant to say is that they are polar opposites in their viewpoints, but use the same methods to attempt to get said viewpoints across.

            Let’s take this article, for starters.

            “But some groups will lead you to believe that all fragrances are awful. They ‘…cause headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing, vomiting and skin irritations. Fragrances affect the nervous system, cause depression, hyper activity, irritability, inability to cope and other behavioral changes.’

            Indeed there are chemicals in fragrances that can cause problems at high enough levels.”

            The problem with this is that they do cause headaches, dizziness, violent coughing, et cetera. Not in all people, of course, but for a growing number of the population. This article dismisses the problem as exaggeration, but would one really argue that someone who is ensitive to artificial fragrances is just encountering products with too much fragrance in the formula?

            Another quote:

            “I never understood this because Mineral Oil is a natural ingredient that comes right from the Earth.”

            It’s a seemingly innocent statement, yet it leads people to think “it’s all natural, therefore it must be safe.” So is lead, and look at how much of it was found in cosmetics before someone finally figured out that it’s not good for you. I don’t think that anyone should be presuming to know everything there is to know about the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products.

            On a completely unrelated note, since people suddenly seem so interested in what I have to say four months later, whose idea was it to add the right-click disabling JavaScript, et cetera, to the site? I would hope that people realize it’s only a minor annoyance for about 5 seconds, and by then one has gotten around it. It gives the impression of the people behind this site being, for lack of better words, naive.

          • Dene62

            Thanks for your considered response. Neither example is one of sensationalism, which is the charge that I would most strongly refute. The contributors to PCT do not all agree with each other on everything, and I doubt very much that anyone of us would lay claim to know everything about all of the ingredients used in cosmetics and I am not sure why you seem to believe that this is the case!

            I challenge your claim that the mineral oil statement leads anyone visiting this site to believe that “if it’s natural, it must be safe”, as the point has been made many times in various articles and comments that this is not the case. If anyone visiting this site believes that natural is safe, it is not for the lack of factual information shared by several PCT contributors.I am confused by your implication that there has ever been a situation where cosmetics contained a lot of lead, and that this has now been reduced since the industry discovered that even fairly low levels are not desireable. This has been well known for the entire history of modern cosmetics.

            You seem to be making several unwarranted assumptions about the contributors to this site, and misinterpreting some of the comments.

          • Lisa M. Rodgers

            Hey Shatteredshards –

            Appreciate your comments. The “right-click disabling JavaScript, et cetera” is called Blog Protector, a wordpress plugin that is designed to protect blog content as from getting copied. There are many people that simply copy-paste the content from blogs without giving
            credit to
            the original source.

            We are happy to share the information on PCT, however, all we ask is that people request permission. It’s a common courtesy, and the right of any blog owner. I typically don’t like to make things easy on people who want to pass information off as their own. Blog Protector isn’t in place for the honest people. It is a protection to the authors of this site so that their articles will
            not be copied and pasted by others, and then passed off as their own content.

            Thanks again, and have a great day!


          • Anonymous

            I understand that it isn’t in place for the “honest people.” I am saying, however, that a dishonest person who’s been around the web outside of facebook can quickly figure out how to take content from this site without giving credit, if they don’t already know how. In 10 seconds I went from discovering the script to pasting the content I had just copied; it takes next to no effort.

            Also, it doesn’t even take a dishonest person so much as a spider crawling the site or something watching the feed for the content to be reposted without credit or with stolen credit. A live human being doesn’t even have to come here to take it, that’s how easy it is. Looking at the Blog Protector site, I’d say it’s misleading of them to claim that their script does anything to make stealing content “difficult.”

          • Lisa M. Rodgers

            Shatteredshards –

            You make valid points, and ones that will need to be addressed.

            Thanks again for your comments. Have a great day!


          • Joseph Colas

            the thing that stood out to me in your entire post above was the usage of one sentence from a paragraph to claim that it “leads people to think “it’s all natural, therefore it must be safe”. not to be rude, but reading comprehension of this article isn’t sentence by sentence. it must be taken as a whole….the ‘mineral oil is natural’ comment was made as sort of a reply to the sentence preceding it “Mineral oil is another moisturizing ingredient that gets a bad (w)rap from natural product producers and other chemical scare groups”. to put that sentence in front of the one you picked, it appears to be an observation being made that fearmongers who scream ‘natural, natural, natural’ seem to forget some of the ingredients they put on their scare lists, like mineral oil, are natural!. it shows how picking one sentence out of an entire commentary can become misunderstood.

            also i don’t think anyone on this site, or who started this site profess to “know everything” about ingredients and skin care, they’re here to share what they’ve learned with their many years of education and work put into the field. as a fairly ignorant, by lack of an equal education to the experts, but curious to learn consumer, i appreciate this site for trying to show what actual science says about the things we put on our skin. i’m sure if the science were to show something different down the road, the experts here would have the integrity to make us aware that things have changed.

            just to comment on why you’re confused that people four months down the road are suddenly interested in your comment, this particular article was reposted, for me, just today on facebook, sort of putting it into ‘fresh’ territory, though the article is from september 2010…i know i shared it when it was spanking new, and i shared it again on facebook today, just in case anyone missed it! :)

          • Michelle

            Fragrances definitely cause headaches, dizziness and even nausea in ME and, unfortunately, it’s becoming a much more common problem. We don’t know the cumulative effect of many of these ingredients and to say they are entirely safe is utterly ridiculous. I think we should all make an effort to reduce the amount of chemicals/toxins/whatever you want to call them, we ingest, inhale & apply to our bodies. I totally agree with you that this article dismisses the problem as exaggeration and, I’d go even further to say, it dismisses those of us of us who experience bad reactions as liars or hypochondriacs. Maybe that’s just MY take on it and isn’t the author’s intention, but I don’t like the tone of parts of the article.

          • Anonymous

            I misspoke; what I meant to say is that they are polar opposites in their viewpoints, but use the same methods to attempt to get said viewpoints across.

            Let’s take this article, for starters.

            “But some groups will lead you to believe that all fragrances are awful. They ‘…cause headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing, vomiting and skin irritations. Fragrances affect the nervous system, cause depression, hyper activity, irritability, inability to cope and other behavioral changes.’

            Indeed there are chemicals in fragrances that can cause problems at high enough levels.”

            The problem with this is that they do cause headaches, dizziness, violent coughing, et cetera. Not in all people, of course, but for a growing number of the population. This article dismisses the problem as exaggeration, but would one really argue that someone who is ensitive to artificial fragrances is just encountering products with too much fragrance in the formula?

            Another quote:

            “I never understood this because Mineral Oil is a natural ingredient that comes right from the Earth.”

            It’s a seemingly innocent statement, yet it leads people to think “it’s all natural, therefore it must be safe.” So is lead, and look at how much of it was found in cosmetics before someone finally figured out that it’s not good for you. I don’t think that anyone should be presuming to know everything there is to know about the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products.

            On a completely unrelated note, since people suddenly seem so interested in what I have to say four months later, whose idea was it to add the right-click disabling JavaScript, et cetera, to the site? I would hope that people realize it’s only a minor annoyance for about 5 seconds, and by then one has gotten around it. It gives the impression of the people behind this site being, for lack of better words, naive.

    • Perry Romanowski

      @shatteredshards:disqus With all due respect, mineral oil and petrolatum are not “just liquid and solid states of the same thing”. Their chemical compositions are different. Mineral oil is composed of straight chain hydrocarbons with a range of C15-C40. Petrolatum has a hydrocarbon range C25 and higher and contains branched chain hydrocarbons.

      • Anonymous

        If all you can do to prove your point is copy some numbers from the intoduction paragraphs on Wikipedia articles, I’m not going to give it much consideration.

        • Dene62

          Is this because you don’t believe ANYTHING on Wikipedia, or because it doesn’t fit in with your argument?

          • Anonymous

            It is because a couple numbers from Wikipedia does little to disprove that mineral oil and petrolatum are more than coincidentally similar.

          • Anonymous

            It is because a couple numbers from Wikipedia does little to disprove that mineral oil and petrolatum are more than coincidentally similar.

          • Dene62

            Of course there are similarities, but both are complex mixtures and there also significant differences. There will be common components in the straight chain alkanes between C-25 and C-40, but many different components. The main point is that you said that mineral oil and petrolatum are the same thing – they are not; similar is not the same. I am not entirely clear on why this is even an issue anyway!

          • Anonymous

            Try telling that to someone who has a severe sensitivity to the lot of it. I can’t imagine that the subtle differences matter much when you get a chemical burn from mineral oil/liquid paraffin/petrolatum/petroleum jelly/paraffin.

          • Dene62

            Do you have any documentary evidence of “chemical burns” from either of these materials? Long chain alkanes tend to be very unreactive, and I can’t imagine any possibility of chemical burns on skin contact. This may be an issue of perception, but I would not describe the differences as subtle!

          • Anonymous

            I can put some on and take pictures, sure. What’s a little pain, blistering, and scarring for the internet?

          • Dene62

            If that is, indeed, the reaction you suffer, I have great sympathy for your condition. I have never heard of this type of severe reaction with mineral oil before, and I suspect that it is extremely rare, although I accept that this is little consolation to you.

          • Philippe Papadimitriou

            Be sure I intend no pun, but are you sure you react to all of these? Did you test each of these ingredients applied pure on your skin or were they formulated?

            It seems to me impossible to react to such an inert material, but if you are really telling the truth, I will then have learned something.

            Where do you live? Would you agree to be paid to make an offical patch-test in a recognized lab near you, according to a validated method, under medical surveillance?
            I will on my side contact a toxicologist to know about his views.

          • Anonymous

            The majority of it was formulated, however, I have tried straight Vaseline and baby oil in addition to the slew of lotions, hair products, and lip products I went through when I first developed the sensitivity and was trying to place it.

            If there were some lab near me (Minnesota) that wanted me to be a guinea pig, I’d be willing. Admittedly I’ve been diligent about reading ingredients to eliminate exposure and it’s possible my skin calmed down in the meanwhile, or that my seasonal allergy medication could have tamed things a bit, but this problem started some 5 years ago and I have yet to hear of anyone else having it.

        • Perry Romanowski

          It’s not all I can do. I have no idea what your chemical background is so it is what makes most sense. There is lots of information I could provide (e.g. melting point, IR analysis, Gass Spectroscopy, Solubility data, etc.)

          What information would convince you that they are different materials?

    • Gski47

      This site is a smear campagin full of fear-mongers and reformaphobes. You can not talk sense to people who believe in non-sense! It is a waste of time. They are experts in the art of spin. There posts are biased and any sensible person gets that. They are the only one’s who listen to eachother.

      • Sarah

        I agree, you cannot talk sense to people who believe (strongly enough) in nonsense, and who are not open to having their ideas disconfirmed. That has been my experience as well. I’m a sensible person and a consumer, and I see no bias in this site, only a genuine effort to inform.

      • Dene62

        You offer an interesting viewpoint, Gski47! I can see that someone could try to interpret the many exposés by PCT contributors of the failings of Skin Deep and the EWG as a smear campaign if you believe that they offer any useful information, but my understanding of a smear campaign is one that uses false claims in order to destroy a reputation. There are no false claims against the EWG on PCT. Please feel free to quote any specific examples that you believe to be “smears”.

        I don’t understand on what basis you accuse PCT contributors of being “fearmongers”. If there is one overriding message from this site, it is surely “DON’T BE AFRAID OF COSMETICS” – quite the opposite of “fearmongering”! Again, please give an example of this fearmongering.

        I have never heard of reformaphobes, but it is a good word, although it is a shame that it is used out of context. I don’t believe that any PCT contributor is against sensible regulation of cosmetics. Indeed, I would suspect that the majority are positively in favour of sensible regulation, possibly along the lines of those in the EU. Unfortunately, the proposed Safe Cosmetics Act falls woefully short of the requirement for sensible regulation, and all contributors (as far as I am aware) vigorously oppose that specific legislation. That is VERY different to being a “reformaphobe”.

        Having been appointed spokesperson for all sensible people, apparently, perhaps you would like to share your opinion on my comments here on behalf of those you claim to represent. I would also like your opinion on what I must do to be treated as a sensible person in your estimation. If the main requirement is that I must agree with you, then you need to tell me what your objections are to my personal position within PCT. I am prepared to listen. Just for the record, however, I don’t automatically believe that anyone who does not agree with me is not sensible – they may be misinformed, but that is different.

      • Anonymous

        Reformaphobes…you’ve not really read the articles or the comments here, have you. I doubt there’s a single soul who would argue with realistic, beneficial reform of regulations here in the States. In fact, we would go out of our way to support it. I suggest you read the articles and the comments here with an open mind.

    • Harald Jezek

      Well, a better term would have been emollient, because that’s what it really is, although indirectly it is moisturizing for the reason you mentioned (keeping water from evoporating from the skin)

      Now to the reasons why many formulators don’t like mineral oil.

      a) because it was thought to be comedogenic (which apparently is not the case)

      b) because it’s against the general trend of using naturally derived products and here I disagree with Perry. Sure, technically it’s a natural product because it’s derived from petroleum, but then we also should call any petrochemical product natural (including plastics) or naturally derived and this is not what the consumer means when talking about “natural” ingredients.

      c) because there are much better emollients with much superior skin feel than mineral oil. Mineral oil is the product of choice where cost is an issue.

  • Essentiallyyrsny

    I would like to post this article on my website. I hear way too many comments/complaints about a product not being “organic”, and how these “chemicals” are killing us, lol. I would really LOVE to educate my customers with some literature to back up what I have been telling them. It’s really astounding just how impressionable the average consumer can be.

    • Lisa M. Rodgers

      Hey Essentiallyyrsny –

      Thanks for your interest in posting this article on your site. I’m happy to provide you with an abstract to use, with a link to the entire article here on PCT.

      Many thanks, and have a great day!


    • Sarah

      @essentiallyyrsny, It’s astounding to me, too, and I’m a consumer:) I will say though that I think that those who are impressionable and easily convinced of a cosmetic industry conspiracy are more vocal and this gives the rest of us the (probably) mistaken idea that they are in the majority. My guess is the average consumer is not so easily swayed by misinformation.

  • tk

    Perry, while I’m not criticizing anything you’ve said in the article and I appreciate your extensive knowledge, I would like to point out one comment you made that I think is flawed: “I never understood this because Mineral Oil is a natural ingredient that comes right from the earth.” While that’s true (partially), I also know you must realize that just because something comes “right from the earth” does not mean it’s good for you. Examples: poison ivy/oak, poisonous mushrooms, oleander, and many other numerous plants and substances that come “right from the earth” that are clearly not good to put in our bodies or on our skin. And to the best of my knowledge, mineral oil in the form that we’re familiar with and is used in many products, does not come “right from the earth,” but rather is a byproduct of processing crude oil. Now if you want to put pure crude oil in your personal care products because it’s “all natural and comes right from the earth” then be my guest. Personally, I’ll pass on that. Just sayin’.

    • Anonymous

      you don’t understand that statement was made in response to the sentence preceding it? ” Mineral oil is another moisturizing ingredient that gets a bad rap from natural product producers and other chemical scare groups.” when you introduce that sentence independent of the context of its usage of course it loses its point. perry was making no comment that ‘natural’ actually is better, just that mineral oil is natural as it comes, so why would these people have a problem with it.

      • tk

        @jcvanyel – First off, yes I do understand the statement was made in response to the sentence preceding it. I disagree that the sentence is taken out of context when presented independently of the previous sentence. Apparently you disagree or didn’t understand the point I was trying to make, but that’s okay. I understand Perry’s point and I actually agree with it (gasp)! However I tend to get kinda technical (my fault) and wanted to point out that mineral oil in the form used in personal care products does not, in fact, come right out of the earth. And I beg to differ when you say “mineral oil is natural as it comes” – since it’s a byproduct of processing and doesn’t come out of the ground in the form used in many cosmetics. In order for mineral oil to become mineral oil, it must be processed from crude oil. I don’t think that’s difficult to understand, but hey, if there’s some science here I’m missing then feel free to point it out. Since the PCT website is trying to set the record straight based on science, I feel it’s slightly misleading to even hint that mineral oil is all natural and comes right out of the earth. Rather, it should be said that mineral oil is a byproduct of a natural substance that comes right out of the earth. That still doesn’t explain why the “natural” advocates have a problem with mineral oil – but again, just because something is natural doesn’t mean everyone wants it on their skin and that’s their choice. I’m sure you’d have the same issues with putting crude oil in your products.

        • Perry Romanowski

          @tk – I can understand your confusion. The problem is that you are unaware of what processing is done to produce mineral oil from crude oil. To obtain mineral oil, a simple distillation process is done. You heat up the crude oil, then capture the molecules that have a boiling point from a certain range. This is exactly the same process that people use to get natural oils like coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil. There is no chemical reaction involved to produce mineral oil or other natural oils.. So by these standards, mineral oil is just as “natural” as coconut oil. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • Anonymous

    Cosmetic corporations are absolutely in it for the profit.  So what if a few hundred, thousands and more are poisoned by these ingredients?  Prove it!  It wasn’t the lipstick that caused my brain cancer; it was that beer I drank every night in front of the tv, the fat around my belly, my mom’s bad genes.  Look at BP in the Gulf of Mexico and GE in Fukishima.  Just a cost of doing business.

    • Perry Romanowski

      BP and GE do not make cosmetics.

      • Day4dreams

        BP = oil = petrochemicals and synthetic fragrances in cosmetics.  Just because they do not make the actual cosmetics does not mean anything…they source the raw material.

        • Nathan Rivas

          This still does not address the fact that jlifittro’s comment is hyperbolic and inaccurate.  Lipstick does not cause cancer.  Petrochemicals in cosmetics or skin care do not cause cancer.  Companies are not “evil” and intent on “poisoning” for profit.  It is inductive and manipulative to use instances of negligence by companies as a litmus test to depict all corporate structures as malfeasant.  It makes as much sense as stating that all those who are concerned about the environment as useless and dishonest as the EWG.  

          • Day4dreams

            Just because lipstick may not cause cancer (I don’t know that to a 100% certainty – do we know everything that causes cancer – no…not even close) – does not mean all lipsticks are without hazardous ingredients. I personally am less concerned about petrochemicals and their possible link to cancer when used topically, than I am to their horrific effect on the environment.  We may not be able to live our lives without fueling up our cars, but we certainly can use cosmetics that do not contribute to that distruction and rape of our planet. I agree the crimes or blind profit motives of some companies does not mean all are evil. But I also didn;t read all that much into the original posters comment at all!  I do agree Nathan, that all of those concerned about the environment are not the same as the EWG…but I also don’t think they are useless or dishonest.  I think they are mistaken about a lot, but I think the expert opinions here at PCT are miskaken about far more. I have been as outspoken as a person can be on the SkinDeep and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Facebook page and on my old blog. I told Dene I was phasing out and I am about one post away from being done.  Why don’t you all post over there if you are so passionate about the issues instead of just in the safety of your cheering squad?  Personally, I’ve taken enough heat from them…it’s somone elses turn. 

  • Harald Jezek

    True, many of the vilifying claims about certain ingredients might be exaggerated, however, we shouldn’t ignore them completely.
    Usually there is some reason why they got a bad reputation and often these ingredients can be avoided anyway.
    For example: Triclosan got a bad name after the Seveso (Italy) disaster in the 70s were Dioxin was released killing thousands of animals and injuring many people living close to the plant. Dioxin was later found to be a by product in the manufacturing of Triclosan and apparently released into the environment. Obviously the concentration found around the CIBA plant producing Triclosan didn’t come even close to the Seveso concentrations, nevertheless the bad reputation in the public mind already existed, hence the negative view of Triclosan.
    Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea: similar story. Both are known Formaldehyde donors, although the efficiency of these preservatives comes from a synergy between the molecule and the released (ppms) formaldehyde. The concentration of formaldehyde released is completely harmless, however, since Formaldehyde is known to be cancerogenous, the bad reputation was already created.
    Now, in many cases the industry took steps to reduce or even avoid ingredients that rightfully or not came under public scrutiny. For example, today many companies formulate mineral oil free, try to avoid formaldehyde itself as well as formaldehyde donors and eliminate ethoxylated ingredients.
    Usually the improvements, at least as far as I can see, are for the better. Cosmetic Science is not static. What was state of the art yesterday might be obsolete today. Just because an ingredient was good enough and worked for the past 50 years doesn’t mean there are no better solutions.
    Sometimes it takes exaggerations to overcome inertia.

  • Bribarkes

    I think the concern with fragrances stems from the fact that it is a ‘catch-all’ ingredient that when listed, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a scent. Almost anything can be considered a ‘fragrance’ and most phalates fall into this category.
    a good reference article: 

  • Dartigen

    The whole SLS/SLES thing is actually quite old, and it started because of a contamination scare in shampoos back in the 70s. (That’s also why some people worry about ALES – because it’s manufactured differently, it’s actually quite probable that ALES for cosmetic use could be contaminated with some rather nasty stuff, so it’s not as safe as SLS or SLES which are virtually contaminant-free.) Snopes has an article on the whole thing.

    • Harald Jezek

      Contamination issues aren’t really so much of an issue. The issue was Dioxan, however large SLS and SLES suppliers got soon a handle on that.
      The main reason SLS and SLES is frowned upon because many consider these ingredients agressive on the skin.
      So sulfate free became an important marketing claim.

  • Michelle

    Saying that these ingredients are safe because they are FDA approved does not give me much, if any, confidence in the ingredients. “The agency charged with oversight of cosmetics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has no authority to require pre-market safety assessment as it does with drugs, so cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market.” In addition, “the FDA’s own Web site explains its limitations:
    “FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency …. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.” ”

    I would remove that part of your argument because the FDA does almost nothing in regards to helping oversee that our cosmetics are safe. Also, I don’t avoid these ingredients because one of them, in and of itself, is harmful. I avoid them because of the cumulative effect. No one knows how much of these products we can inhale, ingest or apply, safely. I avoid sulfates because they are harsh and dry my hair out, not because of all the negative hype around the ingredient. Give people some credit – most of us aren’t reading one article about these ingredients and then going into our bathrooms and throwing out all the products and never buying products with those ingredients. Most people (those that I know, anyway) will research, think about it, and make an educated decision. The fact that you are defending yourself (which is understandable) doesn’t lend a lot of credence because you seem to be only looking at information that supports your “side”.