Beauty products are everywhere we look, in magazines, newspapers, billboards and on the shelves of every drug, grocery and department store. As one of the highest grossing industries worldwide, cosmetics are a part of everyday life. Unfortunately, with all our modern science, new chemicals and bulk availability, these products have become tubs of chemicals, often using potentially toxic ingredients to obtain a silky feel, good lather and apleasant scent.
Shampoos are used just about daily by every person in America. The most common main ingredients in an average shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate and ethyl parabens. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) has received a lot of attention in last few years as it is a known skin irritant. According to David Steinman of Healthy Living, “shampoos rank among the products most often reported to the Food and Drug Administration for association with scalp irritation, stinging eyes, and tangled, split, and fuzzy hair”. He goes on to say that “studies have indicated that sodium lauryl sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, liver, lungs and brain from skin contact”(as cited in Jason Cosmetics, 2008).In the recent organic, non-toxic health movement, many products advertise to be free of these potentially toxic ingredients. However, products that claim to be free of SLS often contain derivatives of it like ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and cocamide DEA. These chemical detergents are less irritating to the skin; however, they are potentially carcinogenic.
The comparison I chose is shampoo for tendency toward oily hair. This will be between a common drug-store brand, Garnier Fructis Naturals, which claims to be made from natural ingredients and real herbal exctracts, and Rosemary Gladstar’s Make-it-Yourself Herbal Shampoo recipe. Below is a side by side comparison of the ingredients:
Most of the ingredients in the Garnier shampoo are tested on animals. All of the sulfates, colors, and parabens have been tested on laboratory rats or guinea pigs. Ethylparaben, limonene, linalool, benzyl salicylate, propylparaben, alpha-isomethyl ionone, methylparaben, butylparaben, butylphenyl methylproprional, and hexyl cinnamal are all listed as known allergens, and parabens have shown to be hormonally affective and mutagenic in mice (“Environmental Working Group,” n.d.). The container boldly displays a seal stating “100% Natural Extracts”but the only ingredients of natural origin are water, sodium chloride, kaolin and anise extract; all other ingredients are synthetic.
Synthetic colorants are controversial ingredients. Although yellow 5 is approved by the FDA for limited use in food and cosmetics, several animal tests have shown it to be not only a neurotoxin, but the RTECS Journal of Toxicology and Mutation Report found it to be bioaccumalitve (meaining it builds up in tissue), cause developmental effects and is mutagenic on mammalian cells (meaning it can cause cells in mammals to mutate). Blue 1 is also listed as safe for common use by the FDA, but it is listed as a known neuro and respiratory toxin(“Environmental Working Group,” n.d.).
The National Library of Medicine HazMap lists Limonene as a known immune system toxicant and the European Union Classification and Labeling committee reports limonene to have occupational hazards in handling and to be a wildlife and environmental toxin (“Environmental Working Group,” n.d.). Imagining how many people are using these common chemicals on a daily basis and rinsing them down the drain to ground water supplies and into our oceans is alarming. The long-term effects on our bodies and our environment are still unknown.
The incredibly long list of synthetic ingredients in the Garnier shampoo is in sharp contrast to the short, simple and natural ingredient list of Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Shampoo. Her formula is devoid of any synthetic ingredients, ingredients that are tested on animals, environmentally toxic,or toxic to humans.The detergent she uses, liquid castile soap, is naturally derived from coconut. Rosemary essential oil is used for oily hair and treats dandruff while also promoting hair growth. In her recipe, she calls for 25 drops of an essential oil of choice, and I chose lavender because I love the scent and it goes well with rosemary. In addition, lavender is also good for dandruff and itchy scalp as well.With such straight-forward ingredients and the knowledge she has of herbs, I strongly believe that her shampoo is safer and healthier to use andmore effective for oily hair than the Garnier formula.
Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com