I recently had a Y natural fan ask me about a product someone had approached about, so I’ve done a quick overview to get a sense of the ingredients. If you read our posts, you’ll soon be able to do this kind of assessment too. It’s not a comprehensive analysis of every single ingredient – it’s an overall indication of whether or not something seems to be generally ok.

Here are the ingredients for a facial cleanser gel that was represented as being natural /organic:

I’m going to pick out a few things that jump out at me as ingredients we’re better off avoiding.

First up, I’m not a fan of ethoxylated ingredients. When you see an ingredient with ‘eth’ in the name, as we see with Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, we know it’s been ethoxylated. 

This means some component has been combined with Ethylene Oxide in a process that often leaves impurities of the Ethylene Oxide and also the byproduct 1,4-Dioxane.

And why is this bad?

Ethylene Oxide is so toxic that if you took the lid off and sniffed the bottle, death would be imminent. If you were working with it in a lab, you’d be wearing protective clothing, glasses, gloves and a face mask to stop it getting on your skin or in your lungs. It scores 10 on a scale of 1-to-10 of hazardous chemicals because it is carcinogenic and specifically shown to induce tumours in mammary glands. It’s also linked with developmental and reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity and allergies.

And then there’s the 1,4-Dioxane, which is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects. Readily penetrating the skin, it is a known carcinogen with evidence suggesting a possible link to breast cancer. While pregnant women, infants and teenagers are considered to be most vulnerable, it’s reasonable to suggest this is a chemical best avoided more widely.

Why would an ethoxylated chemical be used in a product that’s being promoted as natural or organic?

And why use these three ethoxylated chemicals?

If you wanted a healthy and organic product, you wouldn’t use unhealthy, carcinogenic ingredients like these. You only use these ingredients if you think your customers aren’t smart enough or sufficiently observant to see what you’re doing. You’re smarter now! You know not to use ingredients with eth in the name, with PEG or PPG in the name, or Propylene Glycol, Polypropylene Glycol, or Polyethylene Glycol.

That’s not all though. There’s another ethoxylated ingredient: Polysorbate 20.

Polysorbates are used in a variety of skincare, haircare, makeup and cleaning products. They alter surface tension and their inclusion in formulations is usually to help dissolve oils into water. Like other ethoxylated chemicals, Polysorbates can be contaminated with impurities of Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane.

To avoid Polysorbates, look on the label for any ingredient with ‘Polysorbate’ as part of its name: Polysorbate-20, Polysorbate-21, Polysorbate-40, Polysorbate-60, Polysorbate-61, Polysorbate-65, Polysorbate-80, Polysorbate-81 and Polysorbate-85.

So to recap: this product contains several ethoxylated ingredients: Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, PEG-120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Propylene Glycol and Polysorbate 20. All these ingredients are better avoided – alternatives exist. So there’s no reason to make ingredients that expose people to Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane – and even if these impurities were to be removed from the product, there’s no reason to add these chemicals to our landfill and waterways.

And although there are other ingredients we could discuss (like Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Phenoxyethanol) instead, let’s finish with Disodium EDTA.

Disodium EDTA is in many products as a preservative, to stabilise it, or to enhance the foaming action. It’s also used as a chelating agent, which means it is used to precipitate out metals from the formulation (if tap water were used to make the formulation instead purified water, for example, and it can bind with metals dissolved in your shower water).

One reason we recommend to NOT use products containing Disodium EDTA is that it is a ‘penetration enhancer’. Although it doesn’t absorb particularly well into the skin, it disrupts the surface of skin cells so that other chemicals can get in more easily – ie other chemicals in your products, and chemicals in your shower water. This includes contaminants like Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane.

So if you see Disodium EDTA, then look at what else is in the ingredients list, because you might not be too thrilled at what chemicals getting a free ride into your body.

Hope this helps expand your knowledge of ingredients a little and helps you make informed choices next time you need to stock up on personal care products!

Til soon xo

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