Ingredient of the Week

a Salon Naturals blog

Phenoxyethanol – Should Increased Use Concern Us?

Phenoxyethanol is typically one of the undisclosed ingredients in many products containing “fragrance.”  However, it may also be used as a preservative and there has been a recent upsurge in the frequency with which formulators are using it for this purpose.  The public became aware of it when the FDA recently issued a warning concerning its use in a cream (Mommy Bliss) for nursing mothers.  Their warning concerned the potential of Phenoxyethanol to cause vomiting, contact dermatitis and even to shut down the central nervous sytem.

This chemical is an aromatic glycol ether.  It begins as phenol, which is a toxic powder created from benzene and treated with ethylene oxide and an alkalai.  Both benzene and ethylene oxide are known carcinogens.  Glycols are a family of chemicals that are frequently found in paint, lacquer, and even airplane fuel.

It is restricted for use in Japan, it has been linked to central nervous depression, eye and lung irritation.  It is important to note that many of these reactions occured at moderate and even low doses.  The EPA has issued data sheets demonstrating chromosomal changes and genetic metation effect, along with reproductive interference.  Of more than 3000 allergens recently evaluated, Phenoxyethanol was ranked among the top 10 most likely chemicals to create allergic reactions in users.

The frustrating truth is that manufacturers are making the switch to Phenoxyethanol to steer away from parabens and formaldehyde donors.  Unfortunately, they are causing their customers to do little more than exchange one set of serious concerns for a new set entirely.  Phenoxyethanol should be avoided when at all possible.

Learn more about other ingredients of concern or contact us with your specific requests.


We have gathered several additional resources for your consideration.



July 19, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yucky! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Hair Product Company Claims Hair Care Industry Not Honest About Ingredients

WICHITA, Kan. / As important health and safety distinctions like “natural” hair care product or “organic” shampoo continue to be reduced to meaningless hair care industry buzz words, one healthy hair care product company is fighting back to help create a safer, more informed customer. Salon Naturals, an environmentally and ethically conscious hair care product manufacturer not only puts the ingredients of its shampoos and conditioners on its website, it also explains the ingredients’ effects (both positive and negative), and will send customers to websites that have reviewed the ingredients so they can get third-party information and research. 

The company says honesty and transparency are born out of necessity because there is no mandatory pre-market testing for cosmetics ingredients in the United States. In fact, only one in 10 cosmetic ingredients is even tested for safety, and that’s by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, a group founded by leaders in the cosmetic industry. The Food and Drug Administration has no authority over cosmetics other than labeling requirements, and even then most companies largely ignore regulations and do not properly disclose their ingredients on their labels. The FDA only tests a specific ingredient if someone gets sick or hurt, and even then, the injuries or illnesses need to be fairly catastrophic to prompt a change in policy. This lack of regulation is why terms like “organic” shampoo or “natural” hair care products really don’t mean anything. The term “natural” is completely baseless, and even though the USDA has a branch called the National Organic Program that now regulates the use of the term “organic,” a lot of these regulations aren’t fully enforced yet. Words such as pure, non-toxic, gentle and mild are also undefined. Any product can make these claims.

“People think terms like ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ are strictly regulated by the government or the FDA, but they’re not,” says Lorrie McBee, director of customer education for Salon Naturals. “Most people don’t know the European Union has banned nearly 1,200 ingredients from being used in cosmetics, but the United States has only banned 11. People think they’re getting natural or organic products, but the truth is they have no idea what chemicals they’re coming into contact with every day.”

This is a big problem for people with health conditions, skin sensitivity, allergies, or people who just want to live a healthier lifestyle. One Salon Naturals customer was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a painful medical condition that causes skin irritation and overall chemical sensitivity in the body. The customer didn’t think she’d ever be able to find safe, natural hair products, but she found the Salon Naturals website, saw the hair care product ingredient breakdown, and contacted McBee for more information. Lorrie went as far as to send the customer an MSDS (material safety data sheet) so she could have as much ingredient information as possible.

“We’ll tell you exactly what’s in our products, how each ingredient was harvested or manufactured, where it came from, and how it can affect you,” says McBee. “The information we provide our customers gives them the truth not only about shampoo and conditioner, but all the products they use on their bodies and on their children. When our customers find us, they know they’ve found a resource that is changing the industry.”

The healthy hair care product company’s website provides consumers with a database of not only the ingredients it uses in its pure shampoos and nutrient-rich conditioners, but also the most controversial and commonly used ingredients in other cosmetics. If an ingredient is not listed on the site, Salon Naturals invites you to contact them and they will research it for you. The company’s core concepts are simple: its products have to perform, be easy to use, and they have to be good for the hair, safe for the body, and respectful of the environment. Jeffery McBee, Salon Naturals founder and CEO, thought the best way to do that was to use non-toxic, gentle ingredients and to adhere to a ground-breaking level of transparency and honesty with his healthy hair care products. 

For more information about Salon Naturals and its ingredient transparency policy, please visit

About Salon Naturals:  Salon Naturals, LLC is a dynamic hair care manufacturer dedicated to bringing safe, healthy, high-performance products to informed consumers and professionals. To that end, the healthy hair care product company has established the most transparent and honest ingredient ethics standard in the industry. Any customer can go to the Salon Naturals website to see a list of every ingredient found in its products, and see the positive and negative effects those ingredients can have. Whether it’s the Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner, Sleek and Shiny Shampoo and Conditioner, or the Curl Defining Shampoo and Conditioner, Salon Naturals strives to create a healthier, more informed consumer.

Jeffery McBee
Phone:  (316) 258-0945

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geogard Ultra – Preservative

As most conscientious consumers realize, the process endured by safety-minded manufacturers to select an appropriate preservative for their formulations is one fraught with limitations and obstacles.  The job of a preservative is to prevent the growth of microorganisms that would otherwise contaminate the product.   So by their very nature, preservatives must be somewhat destructive in order to successfully perform this job.  Presently, there is no 100% natural or organic preservative that effectively protects a product from contamination for a length of time comparable to what the majority of consumers would consider an acceptable shelf-life expectancy.  There are, however, a wide range of alternatives to conventional parabens and many of these offer substantially fewer health risks than others.

The preservative used by Salon Naturals in its hair care products is recognized by the trade name Geogard Ultra.  This preservative is manufactured by Lonza and presents a multifunctional alternative to more traditional systems through the use of hurdle technology.  Geogard Ultra is the only product of its kind certified by ECOcert for use in natural and organic products.  However, ECOcert standards are not as rigid and their methodology is certainly not as transparent as many other certifying bodies, so this stamp of approval should only be given limited consideration.

The more trustworthy sources of acceptance for Geogard Ultra as a preferable preservation system come from other, more widely recognized bodies whose standards for safety and transparency exceed those of ECOcert.  Specifically, the European Union Cosmetics Directive includes Geogard Ultra on its “Positive List” and can be used in all countries in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering the extremely stringent standards of the EU Directive, (they banned more than 1,100 chemicals from use in cosmetics while the US has banned only eleven), Europe’s comfort level with the safety data associated with Geogard Ultra is clearly reassuring.

The Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare have also given their approval for the use of Geogard Ultra in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering that Japan abides by the most stringent criteria in the world concerning what ingredients can be present in the personal care products sold there, the acceptance of Geogard Ultra as an approved preservative certainly encourages a level of comfort concerning its safety characteristics.

The positive aspects of Geogard Ultra include:

  • Multi-functionality (effective in a wide variety of cosmetic products, including shampoos, lotions and skin creams)
  • Broad spectrum (creates an overall hostile environment for varying types of microbes within a formulation)
  • Globally accepted (beyond Europe and Japan, Geogard is also viewed as safe by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association in North America as well as regulatory bodies in Latin and South America).
  • Laboratory tests show that Geogard improves skin moisture content
  • Listed as a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) ingredient
  • Broad compatibility with other widely used cosmetic ingredients
  • Developed without reliance on animal testing
  • Contains no GMO’s

There are, however, opponents to the use of Geogard Ultra as a preservation system for cosmetics and personal care products.  The data used as a basis for these concerns is well-documented and widely accepted as true and reliable.  One of the ingredients used to manufacture Geogard Ultra is sodium benzoate.  This has been a controversial ingredient, especially in the UK, since it was discovered that when used in combination, sodium benzoate and Vitamin C together create a chemical known as Benzene.  Benzene is, without question, carcinogenic.  Furthermore, Benzene fed to mice causes mitochondrial degeneration, which is viewed as one of the primary causes of aging and cell death.  Certainly this information is a legitimate cause for concern if the necessary variables and precise conditions for occurence are overlooked.

Fortunately, the combination of sodium benzoate with vitamin C is a mandatory condition for the creation of the carcinogenic environment linked to Benzene.  Sodium Benzoate on its own (not combined with Vitamin C) is in no way considered carcinogenic.  In fact extremely large amounts of Sodium Benzoate would need to be ingested in order to produce even slight toxic consequences for the body.  In studies where mice have been fed a substantial diet of sodium benzoate, the data clearly indicate that their life expectancies were not shortened, nor was any notable health affect present at all.

Careful consideration of this data, combined with an understanding of the currently imperfect nature of preservatives is the driving force behind Salon Naturals’ decision to rely on Geogard Ultra as the preservative in all formulations.  Since ideal and perfect are not options at this time, ensuring the preservatives utilize the “most beneficial” and “least potential for harm” approach possible is the current best-case scenario.  For today, Geogard Ultra meets those criteria better than any other option identified in the industry’s marketplace.  It is not perfect or ideal and it’s frustrating to have no choice but to include a “flawed” substance in an otherwise beautiful combination of ingredients.  Unfortunately, that is reality as it exists today.  Hopefully, tomorrow the world will wake up to headline news announcing a 100% natural, organic, risk-free preservative that works like a charm.  Wouldn’t that be great?

To review Lonza’s product information sheet on Geogard Ultra, click here.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yummy! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Honeysuckle Flower Extract – Sounds mild, doesn’t it?

In manufacturing non-toxic personal care products and cosmetics, the most challenging issue faced by manufacturers is choosing the right preservative.  Its no longer a secret that parabens are off-limits.  Their effectiveness is clearly and unquestionably outweighed by the potentially harmful effects they have on the body.  Excluding preservatives from the formulation is not a realistic alternative either.  Doing so would limit the shelf life of most products to less than ninety days and neither the industry nor consumers as a whole are prepared to deal with the challenges that would bring.  Scientists are working diligently and making continual progress toward creating healthy, non-toxic preservatives that work.  However, the perfect preservation system simply does not exist at this time. 

So how do manufacturers handle this dilemma?  They research, study, test, research some more and then make the best decision they can based on the options they have.  It isn’t a simple or friendly process and sometimes during the course of researching a “new” preservative that claims to be the answer to every problem imaginable, some unfortunate and even disturbing realizations come to light. 

Unfortunately, a product known as Plantservative is one such discovery.  The marketing materials were encouraging, the easily accessible data was extraordinary.  Unfortunately, the reality was completely disappointing.  Products containing Plantservative typically list the preservative on their ingredient labels as Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle Flower Extract), Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle Flower Extract), Japanese Honeysuckle Extract, or some combination thereof.

Plantservative is the trade name for what is essentially parabens created from highly concentrated extracts of the Japanese Honeysuckle.  Rather than restating the information provided by Eliza Moriarty in an article from the Organic Consumer Association’s website, I have included it below, along with comments pertaining to the article made by Shannon Schroter of Grateful Body and Angelina Amalie, a manufacturer of USDA certified organic cosmetics.  Clearly, there is some very heated disagreement within the personal care industry regarding specifically parabens, but also preservatives as a whole.  However, the information provided in this article is certainly compelling and sheds light once again on the need for more regulation in labeling.  After all, who would think to be concerned with Honeysuckle Extract?  Furthermore, companies using this ingredient as a preservative for their product are fully entitled by law to stamp “Paraben Free” right on the label.  Is it any wonder consumers are so overwhelmed and confused?

Article as published on Organic Consumer Association website:

From Eliza Moriarty:

Parabens are in widespread use by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries as an effective preservative. Parabens work to prevent fungal and bacterial growth in water based products, such as creams (a mixture of oil and water). Parabens are found in a variety of cosmetic products including moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, tanning solutions and even toothpaste.

Until recently it was thought that Parabens where safe due to their low toxic profile. However, new research has shown that the build up of Parabens in the body and their interaction with other commonly used chemicals may lead to hormone disruption and can lead to an increased cancer risk. It is very difficult to conclusively say whether Parabens are harmful. Any definitive study would likely take 10-20 years and would have to study the interactions of Parabens with a vast number of other synthetic chemicals. Paraben allergies are thankfully very rare. However, they do occur in a small number of people, and their reported incidence is increasing as people are exposed to Parabens in more of their food and cosmetic products.

Many companies dismiss the concern over Paraben usage as a media inspired scare story. However, those who are most active in rubbishing claims of Paraben health concerns either work for or are linked to companies that extensively use Parabens in their products. There are many alternatives to using Parabens in personal care products and consumers are seeking out “Paraben Free” skin care in ever-greater numbers. However, some manufacturers are cynically employing other chemical preservatives that are known irritants or have far great health concerns – such as Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate. So long as it doesn’t say “Paraben” on the label, they are happy.

Other companies continue to use Parabens, but describe them on the ingredients list as “Japanese Honeysuckle”, a natural source of Parabens but chemically identical to the synthetic variety. There are alternatives to using Parabens or other synthetic preservatives in personal care products – but these are often more expensive to source or require extensive changes to the manufacturing process.

 And, from “Gaia Research”, in defense of parabens:

“Contrary to popular misbelief, parabens are not diabolical chemical poisons invented by mad scientists to inflict havoc on human health. Parabens do have direct correlates in nature. In fact, all plants normally produce p-hydroxybenzoic acid, albeit in small quantities (Viitanen P et al, Plant Physiol, 136(4), 2004). Well-known plants known to significantly synthesise parabens as defensive chemicals against attack by micro-organisms include carrot, olive, cucumber, honeysuckle and ylang ylang (Bach M et al, Plant Physiol, 103(2), 1993); (Aziz N et al, Microbios 93(374), 1998); Smith-Becker J et al, Plant Physiol, 116(1), 1998); (Dweck A, “Natural Preservatives”, Cosmet Toilet, Aug 2003).”

Of course, this misses the point entirely. The parabens present in their whole, natural state do not have the paraben concentration necessary to provide preservation. The real problem at present is that Campo is producing a “honeysuckle” derived paraben that is concentrated and processed specifically for use as a preservative; further, isolated synthetic and natural parabens are bio-identical, and we have no evidence to show that concentrated natural parabens are any less toxic than concentrated synthetic parabens (presuming that Campo is not spiking their “natural” paraben preservative with synthetic parabens.) Since the INCI recommended for this concentrated paraben based preservative is ” Lonicera Caprifolium “, otherwise listed as Japanese Honeysuckle, Honeysuckle Flower Extract, Honeysuckle Extract, etc, unwitting consumers are fooled into assessing a label as miraculously innocent and pay premium prices to purchase what appears to be a wonderfully green product. More often than not, products that contain “Honeysuckle Flower Extract” (and truly, could any ingredient sound more gentle?) also make the false claim “NO PARABENS” all over the label and marketing materials.

Since I began making noise, a few have shifted marketing language to state, “No synthetic parabens.”  Tricky.

Here is a marketing page for Campo’s Plantservative

Many others among us understand that there is a difference between a chemical component of a whole plant and a concentrated chemical compound used to preserve a product. I do not object to the use of a simple aqueous extract (tea) of honeysuckle, labeled as “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract”, but I do object to the misrepresentation involved in the use of Plantservative, labeled as “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.” It is a highly processed and concentrated paraben extraction that may or may not be contaminated with synthetic parabens where is it manufactured in Singapore. I am particularly distressed by the fact that so many companies are evidently using the latter version of “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract” and simultaneously claiming “NO PARABENS” on their labels. 

From Shannon Schroter:

I’m an active member of OCA, and an eager reader of the Organic Consumers Association’s weekly Organic Bytes e-newsletter. On May 7,  OCA published an article called “More on Parabens: Greenwashing With Honeysuckle Extract (read full article here)” by Eliza Moriarty (editor’s note: neither Shannon Schroter nor Eliza Moriarty are representatives of the Organic Consumers Association.  The perspectives of both of these author’s and their respective articles are their own).

The author asserts that companies using Japanese Honeysuckle extract as a preservative are doing so as a way to hide parabens in their products. She describes a particular honeysuckle preservative as “a highly processed and concentrated paraben extraction that may or may not be contaminated with synthetic parabens.”  As it happened, I had test results showing that the exact product she maligns actually does not contain any parabens. When I sent those test results to OCA, I was invited to submit a response to Moriarty’s article.  

Having lost two sisters to cancer, my mission at GratefulBody for the past 10 years has been to make the safest, purest skin care I possibly could.  Because of this, I know that the intent of Moriarty’s article is honorable.  For she is right – things are not always as innocent as they seem, and anyone sincere about making or buying safe products has to be careful.  But regarding this important issue, crucial clarifications need to be made. Here are the questions that I believe need to be addressed for the consumer to be able to make informed decisions about the ingredient Japanese Honeysuckle extract.

1. Is Japanese Honeysuckle extract spiked with synthetic parabens?
2. Does Japanese Honeysuckle in general, contain parabens, natural or synthetic?
3. Is Japanese Honeysuckle extract dangerous?
4. How can consumers protect themselves from concealed parabens?

1. Is Japanese Honeysuckle extract spiked with synthetic parabens?  No, it is not.  At least not the CO2 extract of the Japanese Honeysuckle flower (Lonicera japonica) which Moriarty wrote about.  When we first explored the possibility of using Japanese Honeysuckle extract as one part of our multi-faceted botanical preservative system, we had this ingredient tested by a third-party, independent lab.  The results were negative.  Absolutely no detectable traces of any of the parabens, which include methyparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.   

2. Does Japanese Honeysuckle in general, contain parabens, natural or synthetic?  To answer this, we must establish a protocol of word usage. The word paraben was coined by laboratory scientists who had succeeded in developing a synthetic preservative based on a common substance found in nature:  para-hydroxy benzoic acid.  But let’s go deeper into this.  Para-hydroxy benzoic acid is found everywhere in nature, it is present in most plants, in many animals and insects.  Nature seems to use this substance to help the organism protect itself against bacterial and microbial intrusion.  This very biological activity is probably what gave laboratory scientists the idea to look at para-hydroxy benzoic acid as a model for developing preservative ingredients.  Interestingly, the phytochemical para-hydroxy benzoic acid found in plants is not strong enough by itself to be considered a powerful, effective, multi-purpose preservative for industrial purposes.  For this to happen, the original substance had to be altered in the laboratory – boosted if you will.  If you look at the molecular structure of the para-hydroxy benzoic acid found in Japanese Honeysuckle, one sees a classic carbon ring bond – elegant and simple.  But if you look at the molecular structure of methyparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben or butylparaben, one is immediately struck by the additional CH3 tail, sometimes called a methyl free-radical, that makes these substances completely different from the original phytochemical.  It is this difference that makes the Moriarty’s statement:  “Japanese Honeysuckle is a natural source of parabens chemically identical to the synthetic variety” entirely untrue.  And it is this difference that compels us to say that the word paraben refers ONLY to the chemically-altered, man-made substance.  Therefore, we contend that there is no such thing as a natural paraben.  In the conventional idiom, paraben has always referred to the synthetic substance.  The word paraben was never originally used by any botanist, biologist, ethnobotanist or herbalist.  The importance of this point cannot be stressed enough.  It is the essential spirit and soul of a holistic viewpoint and for some reason, the current science paradigm does not understand it.  You CANNOT take one or two active constituents out of the whole context of the dynamic and complex plant chemistry, copy it, synthesize it and then regard it as the same as the original plant.  Japanese Honeysuckle extract is a complex blend of hundreds of related, connected and cooperating phytochemicals.  Parabens are a synthetic copy of one particular phytochemical that happens to be found in countless manifestations in great nature.  That is why we assert that there are no ‘natural’ parabens and therefore Japanese Honeysuckle extract has no parabens.    

A couple more points . . .
– the Japanese Honeysuckle in question is a CO2 extract* of the honeysuckle flower.  From a botanical purist point of view, this extraction method is sustainable, beneficial and preferable. The CO2 extract keeps the molecular integrity of the original phytochemical intact.  It does not create synthetic isolates.  Remember, all parabens are synthetic isolates.  In sum, Japanese Honeysuckle does NOT contain parabens.  Japanese Honeysuckle does contain para-hydroxy benzoic acid, a natural, beneficial phytochemical readily found in nature.
*CO2 extraction of plant matter is an innovative method of producing the purest plant extracts without the use of chemical solvents or high heat.  During this process, pressurized carbon dioxide is pumped into a chamber that contains plant material, such as honeysuckle flowers, where it becomes a supercritical liquid that pulls the essence from the plant to create an unadulterated liquid extract.
– the author suggests that companies would choose Japanese Honeysuckle because it is cheap and a way to avoid more expensive and supposedly safer alternatives.  I must say here that Japanese Honeysuckle CO2 extract is very expensive, in fact one of the most costly ingredients in our formulations.  Because of this, I doubt any company wishing to cut corners and use cheaper ingredients would choose this ingredient.

3. Is Japanese Honeysuckle extract dangerous?  No, it is not.  At least, no more dangerous than other plant medicine extracts such as dandelion, calendula or yarrow.  The plant Japanese Honeysuckle contains many hundreds of active, dynamic phytochemicals.  It also contains high concentrations of the phytochemical para-hydroxy benzoic acid.  But so do carrots and olive oil.  Herbalists know that the reason certain plants have specific useful properties is because they have dense concentrations of certain natural phytochemicals.  For example, yellowdock has a genetic predisposition for elemental iron – so the roots happily roam around in the soil looking for iron to uptake.  Since yellowdock root therefore has this extravagant iron concentration, it tends to be used by practitioners for anemia and various blood and skin issues where bio-available iron would be helpful.  To support our formulations, GratefulBody looks to nature to supply every function needed in any skin care product.  We only use whole, plant preservatives; not only to protect our formulations but when dermally applied, to infuse this very same botanical virtue into our own bodies.  Along with honeysuckle, nature supplies many wonderful solutions for this objective, turmeric, marigold, olive leaf, rosemary, thyme and acerola berries come to mind.  GratefulBody has a formulating principle that guides us in all product development: follow the intelligence of nature, not the intellect of the laboratory.

4. How can consumers protect themselves from concealed parabens?  This is a bit tricky since the industry is unregulated but there are a few suggestions that can help in choosing safe skin care products.  First, judge an ingredient by the company it keeps. Examine ALL the ingredients. Is every ingredient a botanical?  Does it truly reads like a garden recipe top to bottom that you’d be willing to eat?  Or do you get the impression that the product is created from the ‘better living through chemistry’ paradigm?  Does the product follow a common strategy of basically being a chemical soup but with a few token, trendy botanicals added to the mix?  Second, do you find ingredients followed by the word ‘from’ or ‘derived from’?  For example:  allantoin (from comfrey), ceteareth-20 (from coconuts), sodium laureth sulfate (from palm), silicone (from silica), parabens (from strawberries).  This is a sure-fire clue that there is a labeling propensity to tie actual synthetics to a natural source – greenwashing via name dropping. Third, is the product found in discounter stores, national chains or supermarkets?  Corporate operations put very intense margin pressure on vendors which often results in ingredient shortcuts or label shenanigans.  Another clue is the company itself.  Does it have a history of chemical skin care but now has a new business strategy to exploit the new and profitable green demographic?  These are just suggestions but may indicate entrenched corporate standards that would rationalize deceptive practices.  However, as Moriarty’s article does demonstrate, if you really want completely pure and safe skin care products, one must educate themselves.

As one of the few companies committed to making genuinely pure skin care using only whole plant ingredients, Grateful Body has gone to great lengths to ensure that all ingredients that we use in our handcrafted skin care are healthy for the body and the planet.  We don’t market our products as merely paraben-free, we go so far as to say they are altogether chemical-free because we believe in only using whole, biologically appropriate ingredients.  We would like to heartily thank OCA for giving us this forum to bring clarity to the issue. 

By Angelina Amalie:

As a small manufacturer of USDA certified organic body care, I am  relieved that OCA is providing a forum for a discussion of hidden  parabens. I have reviewed the data and, as a formulator, am convinced that the Plantservative honeysuckle preservative in question cannot  possibly be a simple CO2 extract of honeysuckle as claimed by Grateful Body. The MSDS and documentation for Plantservative is available online, and a review of those materials clearly states that it is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial and behaves as any synthetic paraben. No known whole plant extracts or materials provide anything resembling the industrial strength preservation claimed in the Plantservative documentation. Additionally,if CO2 honeysuckle extract were as effective as Plantservative, every personal care manufacturer interested in producing USDA certified organic products would be willing to pay a  very high price for a USDA OG CO2 honeysuckle extract. It would be the end of all of our formulation challenges!

In regard to the May 14, 2009 issue of Organic Bytes, there is one  very important error. I do request that OCA send a correction  immediately, or in the very least, specifically correct the error in a visible location the next issue of Organic Bytes.

Under Headlines and Issues of the Week, OCA states:

“Coming Clean News of the Week:  Grateful Body Refutes Claims That  All Honeysuckle Extracts Contains Parabens 
In last week’s issue of Organic Bytes,  we linked to an article  where organic supplier Eliza Moriarty made the claim that products using honeysuckle extract as a ‘natural’ preservative are simply hiding parabens in their products. This week, USDA organic personal care product leader, Grateful Body, says those are false claims and shows documentation that its products have been tested free of parabens, despite the use of honeysuckle extract. Let the debate begin!”

I am surprised by the mistakes. It does illustrate the fact that even some OCA staff members have difficulty distinguishing between USDA  certified organic and inauthenticated organic claims in the personal  care marketplace. Grateful Body has NO third party certification and  does not produce USDA certified organic body care.

While Grateful Body modifies most ingredient names with the word  “organic”, it does not specify the certifying body, so we don’t know  if they refer to USDA, Eco-cert or any other program. Grateful Body  claims some ingredients are “organic” when the ingredient doesn’t  exist as an organic ingredient. Grateful Body also claims to use no  synthetics. (They claim “organic xanthan” for example, which cannot be organic. It is an allowed synthetic.)  In the absence of a third- party certifier, organic claims by body products manufacturers have no meaning. Any company that wishes to prove its organic and clean  ingredient status may do so at any time by cleaning up their  ingredient decks and earning the USDA seal of approval. Any company  that is not eligible for the USDA seal is certainly not a leader in  USDA organic body care!

Unfortunately, when you describe Grateful Body as “USDA organic  personal care product leader,” you offer meaningful credibility to a  company that has not earned it, mislead consumers into believing that their products are USDA organic, and undermine OCA’s own Coming Clean Campaign in regard to hidden ingredients! As a manufacturer of USDA  certified organic products, it also undermines my company’s position in the marketplace when I must compete with companies that aren’t meeting the USDA organic standards, but are credited by OCA as such.

Additionally, the description of Eliza Moriarty as an “organic supplier” is inaccurate. I am on an organic industry listserve with Eliza and am familiar with her work. She is an experienced  phytochemist, researcher and professional organic body care formulator, and is also a certified Organic Processing Inspector. She’s an organics advocate with a sharp eye for “greenwashing.” From our mutual positions as natural products formulators, the documentation speaks for itself, as does the action of the  preservative in question.

As Mr. Dweck (international expert on parabens and former Associate  Editor of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science) states,  Plantservative is clearly a natural paraben.  I see that the quote  taken from  “An Update On Natural Preservatives,” Personal Care  Magazine; September 2005, (Anthony C. Dweck BSc CSci CChem FRSC FLS  FRSH – Technical Editor) has been removed from Eliza’s OCA article. I have a copy, as follows:

Japanese Honeysuckle extracts A plant preservative that is based on the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is available that is described as being a complex  mixture of esters of lonicerin and natural p-hydroxy benzoic acid (Fig. 10). The commercial material from Campo is called Plantservative WSr, WMr (INCI: Lonicera Caprifolium Extract). Clearly this is a naturally occurring paraben, and we would expect this material to have antimicrobial properties.

If Grateful Body tested Plantservative and found no synthetic  parabens, it merely tells us that it has not been spiked with  synthetics. It does NOT tell us that it is not a natural paraben, and it certainly does not indicate that it is a whole plant extract. The “industrial strength” preservation action of Plantservative very  strongly indicates that it is a highly processed and concentrated  natural paraben.

I hope OCA will correct the misstatement in the May 14 issue of  Organic Bytes, lest Organic Consumers believe that Grateful Body is USDA certified organic and give undue credence to their products and  their claims.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yucky! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why are Parabens Still in Use?

Parabens have been used as a microbial preservative since the early 1920’s.  For many years, they have been strongly suspected as having the potential to create health problems, yet they are more commonly used in today’s manufacturing world than ever before.  It is estimated that tens of thousands of cosmetic, personal care products, foods and pharmaceuticals contain this toxic ingredient. 

There are several different names by which parabens can be identified.  The most common start with propyl, butyl, methy, ethyl, or iso and in most cases, all of these end with “paraben.”  However, new INCI names for ingredients are often created when public concern for a commonly used ingredient name grows to a level that affects buying habits.  With this in mind, always conduct a search for unfamiliar ingredients at to ensure their safety.

Researchers from England recently discovered the presence of parabens in eighteen of twenty samples of breast tumors tested.  Furthermore, these same tests strongly indicate that the origin could, with a reasonable degree of certainty, be traced to absorption into the body through a topically applied product.

For many years, the scientific community dismissed the possible link between parabens and breast cancer.  This theory was widely considered to be the self-induced worry of irrational and paranoid minds.  Yet in 1998, it was firmly and conclusively established that parabens create estrogenic-type activities in not only mice and rats in a lab setting, but also in human breast cancer cells.   The importance of this discovery is that the vast majority of breast cancers respond to estrogen.  Suddenly, scientists began giving more serious consideration to the link between parabens and breast cancer in women.

These types of discoveries have led to significant and potentially lifesaving conclusions.  Even prior to these scientific realizations, it was known that parabens were easily absorbed by the body.  However, the assumption was made that they were slowly eliminated from the system through the urine.  The discovery of intact parabens in tumor tissue has completely altered how these chemicals must be viewed.  Scientists now realize that parabens are not only absorbed when present in products applied topically, but they have the potential to accumulate in breast tissue in particular.

It is also notable that consumption of foods containing parabens poses less risk to the health of the body than the use of products intended for the skin.  Parabens contained in food are degraded and lose their most harmful characteristics during the digestive process.

Common defenses for the use of parabens in personal care products always include the fact that parabens make up only a very small percentage of any given formulation.  While on the surface, this truth may seem to dilute the argument against parabens, it ignores several important considerations.  Even twelve years after these important scientific discoveries, a very high percentage of common personal care products contain one or more parabens.  The average woman uses no fewer than a dozen products on a daily basis.  The presence of this cumulative usage has the potential to bring exposure levels far beyond any that could be considered benign or meaningless. 

Cosmetics and personal care products require the inclusion of preservatives in their formulas to protect against the growth of bacteria, which in itself would create significant health risks.  While there are a handful of products that are preservative free or use only natural preservative systems, these typically require refrigeration and still have only a very short shelf-life.  That noted, manufacturers have a wide range of options in selecting the preservatives used in their products.  The evidence against parabens is overwhelming and consumers should insist on products that use other, less toxic preservatives in their formulations.

April 8, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yucky! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment