The Truth about the Ingredients in Your Toiletries

Natural toiletry manufacturers are on the increase, brought about by public awareness of the dangers of the harmful chemicals that are found in mainstream toiletries. The use of harmful chemicals in toiletries has encouraged more ethical companies to begin producing products, which are effective, while being natural and safe.

It is easier to consider the rights or wrongs of eating foods which may contain chemicals. The effects they may have on your body, and the effects their use may have on the environment are a common talking point. It is something that is in and out of the news regularly, and some of us may also relate the answer to home grown produce, and our thoughts on whether we would personally add chemicals to the soil for growing food in our own gardens.

However, not many of us have considered the effect of anything that we may put on our skin, or the thought that manufacturers could possibly sell a product which contains harsh chemicals, like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate which have known damaging effects on people’s health. We can sometimes be too trusting with manufacturers. We wouldn’t do it, so they wouldn’t do it either. The shocking truth is they do. Why do they do this? Regrettably, for more sales because their products are mass produced with cheap and sometimes nasty ingredients, and that helps for better profits, but not better health.

For those of you who believe what I am telling you may be true, please read on. Unfortunately we must question the safety of everything that comes in contact with our bodies. When it comes to our health we should be in total control of what we put in to our bodies and put on it. In some respects the government are as wise as you in what companies are developing and producing for sale. Until someone becomes seriously ill, and it can be traced to an ingredient in something they eat or use (remember aluminium in deodorants?), the public will carry on using them, but it does not mean they are safe!

Manufacturers of natural toiletries know about these harmful chemicals that go into mainstream toiletry products, and with the growing sales of natural products its proof that more people are concerned about what they put on their skin. The big problem for these natural companies is that quality natural ingredients are not cheap. They are not manufactured synthetically, or in great mass bulk and their products are more expensive as a result. The good news is there are a growing number of natural toiletry companies coming into existence, and the availability is becoming easier and with competition comes keener retail prices.

Let us begin by discussing the components of natural toiletries, and the variety of safe natural ingredients used by the manufacturers of these products. In all toiletries certain types of ingredients have been included because they provide a certain property, like emollients and degreasers. This is where you get the natural and un-natural alternatives.

Colours: Only natural oils, herbs and their extracts are used.

Emollients: These are to smooth and soften the skin, decrease roughness, irritation and dryness. When in hair products they help with strength, moisture and shine. These include essential fatty acids aloe vera and herbal oils in a natural absorption base, shea-butter and jojoba oil.

Degreasers, detergents or cleaners: Detergents have the ability to emulsify oils and can differ greatly from soaps. These are gentle and made from vegetable and plant based agents. Examples are decyl glucoside from corn, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Soap: A cleansing agent that can hold dirt in suspension, and combine oils. Hard soap or bar soaps are crafted by a mixture of fats, fatty acids or oils with sodium salts softened in water. If liquid soap is required they use potassium salts.

Exfoliants: These are used in scrubs, masks and cleansing lotions. They remove dead cells and boost new skin cells. Many different exfoliants are used, such as fruit acids, ground nuts, meals and jojoba wax.

Humectants: Encourage water retention in hair and skin care goods by drawing and binding water to themselves. Natural humectants are glycerin, sorbitol, honey and mucopolysaccharides.

Hydrators: Provide water to the hair and skin. Plant liquids are the best Quality of all beneficial hydrating agents. The ones used as hydrators are aloe vera, orange pith juice, vegetable glycerine and deionized water.

Emulsifiers: These are constituents used to maintain the uniform combinations of oils and water in a natural way. Shaking well before using will normally solve this problem with natural ingredients. Some manufactures use a blend of vegetable glycerine and natural grain alcohol, carrageenan or lecithin.

Saponins (glycosides): Materials found naturally that foam easily in water, and are used as foam promoters, emulsifiers and mild cleansing agents in natural shampoos. Some that are used are quillaya, yucca, soapwort. Soaping agents with properties comparable to plant glycosides can be made from coconut fatty alcohols and corn starch glucose, like coconut/corn oil soap.

Sequestrants: Chelated agents work together binding and also eradicating metal ions, like iron, calcium and magnesium, to either salt or chlorine from hard water. This helps the hair to rinse and cleanse better. Sequestrants help to keep hair colour. Good examples are kelp, citric acid, corn syrup and alginate.

Hair conditioners: Natural conditioners contain natural proteins to improve hair texture, strength and manageability.

Styling aids: Herbal gums are used as holding agents, and panthenol (B5) as a natural humectant and hair thickener.

Tonics: These are generally from herbs. They help to stimulate and soothe while improving the condition of the hair, scalp and skin. These herbs are put into vegetable glycerine, natural grain alcohol or water. Sometimes the herbs are added as essential oils. The herbs that are used are camomile, nettle, rosemary, lavender, horsetail and ginseng.

Volumisers: These tend to hold and thicken the hair fibre which adds to the texture and strength.

These are taken from soy protein, almond protein, wheat protein, panothenol and herbal gum.

Preservatives: These are used to stop any microbial growth and extend the shelf life of a product. Fruit extracts and vitamins are used as preservatives in natural toiletry goods.

Now let us look at what mainstream toiletry manufacturers use.

Colours: Manufacturers know that colours can help to sell products. These used to be, and some still are based on coal, like coal tar found still in soaps and shampoos. Synthetic colours are made from petroleum which contain heavy metals and can also be carcinogenic. Colours D & C, and F D & C; when put on the product labels are followed by a colour and then a number. Normally used in cosmetics and hair colours, and are also carcinogenic.

Degreasers: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is commonly used which can cause skin problems, mouth ulcers, and is an irritant for the eyes and can be carcinogenic.

Preservatives: Parabens are common. There are 4 different parabens, ethyl, methyl, propyl and butyl parabens. They can give hormonal imbalance problems and they should not be used by anyone with breast or prostate cancers. They also cause skin rashes.

Absorption Aids: Ethyl Alcohol is used to help the ingredient to soak into the skin. It causes the skin to dry out and crack, and it can result in dermatitis with repeated use. It can also be irritating to the eyes, central nervous system and the liver.

Perfumes: Synthetic fragrances are present in all toiletries unless you buy organic. In general usage there are 2,000 different fragrances, and very few are natural. The side effects are dizziness, coughing, sickness, headaches, skin rashes and discolouration. Fragrances don’t even have to be listed. The words “fragrance” or “parfum” will probably be a cheap synthetic ingredient, not a high quality essential oil.

Emolients: Refined petroleum and its derivates are the most common. Petro oils, glyceryl sterate and paraffin. These petroleums can produce an interference with our natural body’s job of moisturising, and instead of helping a moisture and dryness of the skin problem, it makes it worse. The other reason the manufactures use it, is that it is very, very cheap.

Emulsifiers: Propylene glycol (PPG), polyethefer glycol (PEG), and triethanolamine (TEA), and synthetic petrochemical emulsifiers are used to keep products from separating. These can cause eczema, hives and other allergic reactions.

Cleaners and foaming agents: These are usually made from a variety of petrochemicals like sodium lauryl sulphate, olefin sulphonate, cocamidopropyl betane, cocamide DEA and TEA. These can cause dryness of skin, hair and eye irritation. DEA and TEA are ammonia compounds, they are carcinogenic and toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period.

Hair conditioners: Commonly made from ammonium compounds (stearalkonium chloride), and usually in high amounts. These chemicals are also used as fabric softeners and because of the cheapness are used in hair conditioners instead of proteins or herbs that would be advantageous to the hair. They can cause allergic problems and are toxic.

Mass produced hair sprays and styling goods contain PVP/VA copolymers plastic films that coat the hair and pollute the environment. They are toxic. People who inhale these particles into the lungs can cause damage and breathing problems.

Preservatives: There can be as many as 5 on a label. Avoid methyl butyl, ethyl and proplyn paraben, imidazolidinyl urea (known as germall), diazolidinyl urea and MDM hydentoin (formaldehyde). These can cause dermatitis and formaldehyde is toxic and carcinogenic.

I hope this will clear up some of the uncertainties about natural versus mainstream toiletries and cosmetics. You may now be able to understand the long words on your toiletry ingredients, and decide whether they are indeed natural or not. This should give you a better, more complete picture of the facts regarding the safety of your toiletries, and enable you to compare and decide which is for you.

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