Do you know what chemicals are in your natural and organic products?

In my quest to live a more sustainable and organic lifestyle, one of my goals has been to uncover and discover personal beauty products that are organic and chemical free. You may wonder why I add chemical free to my qualifications. You may think organic products must be chemical free because they are organic, right? Wrong.

There are many personal care products that carry the organic label and claim they are “all natural and organic” but they are not chemical free. How can a product make this claim and contain synthetic chemicals? The government does not require the cosmetic industry to test the chemicals they put in their products for safety. Additionally the cosmetic companies are not monitored by the government thus allowing questionable synthetic chemicals to find their way into personal products.


Yet when it comes to labeling products and produce as “organic,” the USDA has instituted semi-stringent labeling standards on organic products, or products that contain organic ingredients. If a product has the USDA organic label with a 70% on the label this means 70% of the ingredients are organic. Potentially the remaining ingredients, or the other 30%, may contain or may all be synthetic chemicals such as parabens and laurel/laureth sulfates.

Why doesn’t the government require testing of synthetic chemicals? The National Toxicology program a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services acknowledges the risks shown in lab studies but states that the US population is exposed to theses chemicals at levels too low for the population to be at risk (Source, The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2005 http://www.safecosmetics.org/docUploads/Wall%20Street%20Journal%2Edoc )

The FDA’s website states,

“The regulatory requirements governing the sale of cosmetics are not as stringent as those that apply to other FDA-regulated products. Manufacturers may use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, to market a product without a government review or approval.”

Yet the question remains, does the government take into consideration repetitive, long term, exposure to these chemicals on a recurring daily basis? Scientists are now finding that the human body stores many of these synthetic chemicals for life and can not eliminate them. The skin is the largest organ of the human body and what you put on it is absorbed into the human blood stream. Just as you carefully pick organic fruits and vegetables, one should carefully consider the personal products you put on your skin and in your hair. If you don’t want synthetic chemicals circulating in your blood stream, just as you don’t with pesticides and toxic chemicals, don’t put them on your body or in your hair. Choose your personal products wisely and get to know the ingredients.

Kim Erickson author of Drop Dead Gorgeous states, “Some cosmetic chemicals accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues, where they can remain for years and damage your cells.” As an example, a study, reported in the January 2004 edition of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, found parabens the most common cosmetic preservative present in significant amounts in 18 out of 20 breast cancer tumors.

Something is just not right with these standards and practices. The USDA requires companies to pay large amounts of money to update their manufacturing systems so they can put the organic label on their product. Additionally organic farmers are required to pass rigorous tests that meet certain certification standards so they can get the USDA certified organic label. Yet the synthetic chemicals that are added to theses personal products are never tested for human safety. Something is wrong.

Lets take a look at a couple of synthetic chemicals that have come under fire, parabens and laurel/laureth sulfates. Unless you read and study product labels, you probably have never heard of these synthetic chemicals.

Parabens are used in many personal products as a preservative to extend the shelf life of products. Parabens are known to be toxic and cause allergic skin reactions. There are several types of parabens. You can recognize this chemical under numerous names such as Methyparaben, Propylparaben, and Sobutylparaben. Basically, any chemical name that contains the word “paraben,” is a paraben. These chemicals can be found in face and body moisturizers, body wash, cleansers, liquid hand soap, sunscreen, toothpaste, hairspray, mascara, etc. For a whole list of products that contain this chemical you can visit Environmental Working Group’s website. Whole parabens have been found in samples of breast cancer tumors but a direct scientific link has yet to be made (source: http://www.mywiseowl.com/articles/Parabens ).

Laurel/laureth sulfates/sodium lauryl sulfates is a detergent used in shampoos for its foam creating abilities. It is known to cause, skin rashes, eye irritation, and even hair loss. It is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the parenthetic explanation “comes from coconut.”

As a consumer, know you have a choice. If you want a truly pure chemical free product they are out there. You just have to know how to read labels and decide if you want a pure chemical free product. If you come across ingredients on a product label that you are not familiar with and they sound like they came from your high school’s chemistry lab, you should probably find out more about the ingredients in question. To do this you can go to the Environmental Working Group’s website. They will tell you if the chemical has ever been tested for human safety and what it is commonly used for.

You would be surprised at the uses of the synthetic chemicals commonly found in cosmetic and personal care products. The same chemicals used in these products are used in industrial manufacturing processes to grease gears, clean industrial equipment and scour a cement floor. Chemicals used to clean industrial equipment may not be the safest choice with which to wash one’s face. Some of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems that continue to rise in the human race.

To date I have found three skin care lines that are truly pure and the majority of the ingredients are organic. I will review these skin care products in an upcoming blog as I use them.