What Mess? The mess that confronts us when we attempt to buy
natural body care products from a natural foods store.
How can the
educated person decide what to buy when:
a. The ingredients on the bottom are not pronouncable, and
b. Each brand defines “natural” in its own way?
Use this article as a tool to help you define natural for
Your definition might differ from mine in the end, but what's
is that you are knowledgeable about ingredients, and that you
to trust the establishment! (You don't have to sport a bandana and
Birkenstocks to believe this.)
I’ll start by outlining several popular renditions of the word
and then explain why they don’t make the grade (in my humble
coming from nature
containing all vegetable-based
containing some vegetable-based
containing minute amounts of
vegetable-based ingredients whose
purpose is solely to harness the shopping power of the average
trusting consumer who feels that “natural” is somehow better, and
soothed by the presence of words such as “aloe” and “lavender” at
very bottom of the ingredients list after the word fragrance,
makes up .05% percent of the formula.
All of the above have one thing in common: They all purport
ingredients derived from plant materials, and assume that this
equivalent to the concept of “natural”. But where does the
“natural” come from? People who are looking for natural
suspicious of man-made products for many reasons. The
reasons can be as
amorphous as the concept that Nature knows best how to maintain a
and has created more wonders than man/womankind can ever dream of.
Another reason could be the perpetuation of the age-old folk
claims that certain plants have healing properties that are
to us. Then there’s the information that screams at us from
on a regular basis: “A chemical spill resulted in a whole
townspeople having deformed children!” “Don’t eat too much tuna or
salmon, the mercury toxicity is at unprecedented levels!”
This or that is
NOW known to cause cancer, even though it was approved by the FDA
ago. (Can you say “guinea pig”)? Whatever the reason, when
searching for “natural” products, they are specifically searching
non-synthetic, non man-made products! So, let me explain why
common presentations of “natural” don’t match this concept.
Let’s begin by asking some crucial questions:
If an ingredient is “plant-derived”, how
was it derived?
Does the extraction process result in an
ingredient that is
chemically different that it's source?
Does the extraction process destroy the
capabilities of the plant? (After all, the majority of us have
acne when we’re
young, acne and dry skin at the same time when we’re middle-aged,
wrinkles when we’re older, so we are in fact, looking for
To illustrate my first point about extraction methods of plant
materials, I’ll tell you a little story. When I first started
making my own
body-care products, I read about shea butter, about how women in
had been using it for centuries, and swore by it as a moisturizer
hair treatment. So I decided to buy some in bulk to use in
manufacturing of my lotions. Not being internet savvy at the
time, I called the corporate office of NOW foods after purchasing
a small jar of their shea
butter from a store shelf. (It’s since then that I’ve begun
the mantra: "Don’t trust the establishment", and this certainly
health-food stores). The employee who answered the phone
gave me a
price for a 20-kilo bucket if I bought it from NOW, and then
gave me the name of the manufacturer who distributed it to them.
naturally, I called the manufacturer, who supplies to many, many
companies who manufacture so-called “natural” products. I ordered
twenty-kilo bucket, and it arrived, white and waxy, with a slight
odor. But not knowing better, I began making my lotions with
months later, after continued research on the subject, I realized
what I had bought was not shea butter at all. It was a wax
been chemically extracted from the karite nut, and then manually,
chemically refined. The product that I had bought was
classified by the
venerable FDA itself as a synthetic. Well whoopdie-do,
didn’t I feel
stupid! I gave myself two dunce awards: one for having
so new to me in such large quantities, and two for not having done
I spoke to the manufacturer (or processor, I should say) at great
length, and this is what I was told: The wax is extracted using
chemicals. Solvents are something like paint-thinner, and
toxic. How do we know they’re toxic? Because after
bleaching the wax further, the solvents are vacuumed out!
Down to a
residual percentage, I was told. Hmmmm.
At this point, I need to stop and take a minute to reiterate the
“Don’t trust the establishment!” Case in point: One of the
that you will hear over and over from the body-care industry, and
especially the chemists who produce the products, is this: “Small
toxins won’t hurt you”. CONSIDER THIS CONCEPT A TRAIN WRECK AND
YOU; THE HELPLESS WRETCH TIED TO THE TRACKS. Let me take a moment
to tear apart this odiously fragranced concept.
1. The human skin is an organ and absorbs up to 60% of everything
is applied to it. As an example: How many drugs now use the skin
the method of delivery into the human system? The nicotine
been around for years, and now we can see women cavorting on T.V.
explaining how easy birth control can be with a hormone patch.
2. Many chemicals DEPOSIT, meaning, STAY in the body after the
such as a lotion, or a cosmetic, has long been washed away.
minute percentage of
these chemicals that you absorb builds up over
time to become a potentially fatal pile-up. For example,
and proplyaraben, explained on 365 brand bottles of lotion as
“plant-derived”, and whose purpose is to maintain freshness, are
found deposited in cancerous tumors extracted from the deceased.
innocent freshness maintainers have to do with cancer?
long story, but you can read about it at this link:
www.livingnature.com. Go to the news and talk section of
the site. Then turn over every body care product and
cosmetic that you have at home and look at the bottom of the list.
Multiply those products times how many times you use them per day,
times 365 times your age, and then try to figure out if
your organs have paraben deposits in them.
The wholly unfunny thing about all of this is that if you walk
grocery store, there are food products lining the shelves,
“no preservatives”. It screams out at us that there must be
wrong with preservatives, yet they are in all of our body care and
cosmetic products with the exception of very, very, very few
How is this possible you say? Because the FDA does not
care products in the same way that it does food products.
is that these products are being used on the OUTSIDE of the body
someone please forward this article to the FDA so that someone
can read the information about the percentage of product
through the skin, though I imagine that they already know about it
the FDA approved the patch delivery method for pharmaceuticals!)
But I digress. Back to the shea butter. So this
company supplies this
chemically treated wax in bulk to the natural products industry,
the manufacturers in turn make lotion with it, and label it
lotion”, even though it simply is not. Not shea-butter
lotion, and not
natural. The manufacturers are either ignorant, or count on
Here is a list of ingredients that are often solvent-extracted
Apricot Kernel oil
And many others
To avoid these “residual” solvents and bleaches, Look for the
words, “cold-processed", or "cold-pressed oils" on the labels.
Another extraction method that is used is heat. Heat is
But as we all know from the culinary field, the longer that you
vegetable, the less of the vitamins and minerals are present in it
time of consumption. Oftentimes, extremely high heat is used
fatty esters, for example, from plants. An example is
Stearic acid is used to emulsify, or combine oil and water in a
to make it resemble a lotion instead of a bottle of Italian
Palm stearic acid has nothing resembling palm oil in its chemical
makeup, due to the fact that the heat destroyed all of those
shea butter that I bought came in a bucket, and had a sink-hole in
from having been poured from a melted state. Good, cold-pressed
butter should come wrapped in plastic in a chunk. That’s how a
manufacturer can be more sure that it hasn’t been heated at all.
So, extraction methods can turn simple ingredient like jojoba oil
carriers for small percentages of toxic chemicals that build up
One other very large problem with the word “natural” is that not
“natural” ingredients are good for the human body. Talc, for
simply not a healthy ingredient. Again, look at the industry
proof: Johnson and Johnson now offer a “talc-free” version
of baby powder.
Yet talc is a completely natural ingredient, mined from the
is in Aveda’s eye-shadows.
Carmine, an extract of a beetle’s wings is called “natural” by
because it comes from “nature”. Not only is it an
for those who don’t want animal-based ingredients in their
it causes irritation to the skin of many women, and was linked to
heart failure in an incident involving Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice.
despite all of the controversy and evidence, in Burt’s Bees, and
Bella lipsticks, as well as many other “natural” brands of
Have I chipped away at any of your trust yet?
So... (drum roll)...
Here is a new definition of “natural” as it relates to body care
100% of ingredients are:
Not chemically refined or bleached
Fragranced only with essential oils or
The products themselves are produced with the lowest possible heat
any to preserve the botanical properties of each component
PHEW! There it is! The magical definition. Now, good luck
manufacturers who live by these golden rules. Here is some
of what you’ll
come across as you begin your journey.
Let's say that you notice an editor's pick when browsing through
Organic Style magazine. The editor recommends a Kathleen
Lewis collection of
Narcissus-scented products, including a candle, a soap, and a
Narcissus certainly sounds natural. After all, it's a
And the products look handmade and trustworthy with their simple
packaging, and home-made looking labels. The editor even
calls the product
"Kathleen Lewis all-natural Narcissus-scented lotion" ("All" means
right? Or has the Webster Dictionary redefined it to mean
and I'm the ignorant one? The editor of Organic Style
be confused about the words "all-natural", could she? Well,
print on the candle, is the evidence that Kathleen Lewis herself
that the products are synthetically fragranced: "Ingredients:
and Narcissus fragrance oil". The word fragrance oil means that
person who made the product bought a synthetic fragrance from a
supplier who bought it from a lab. It has no connection at
all with a flower of any
kind. In fact, there is no "natural" fragrance distilled
from the Narcissus flower. Some flowers' essential oils can
be distilled from their leaves and buds in a steam-distillation
process that nets minute drops of oil that give off the wondrous
scent of the plant itself. These oils are called essential
oils. If you see the words. "lavender fragrance", that's a
synthetic, and if you see the words, "lavender essential oil",
that means that the actual oil from the lavender buds has been
distilled into a bottle for your smelling pleasure. The
problem of course, is that essential oils are much more expensive
than fragrance oils. Mais bien sur! But of course!
Man-made materials are usually cheaper than natural ones.
"Exotic" essential oils such as orange flower (neroli), jasmine,
and sandalwood are very pricey. The wonderful thing is that
one drop can scent an eight ounce bottle of oil, such as almond
oil. Then the almond oil can be applied as a scented perfume
oil. The essential oils are very powerful and concentrated.
"So, what's the big deal?", many women say. Here's the big
SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES CAN KILL YOU! No kidding! Really!
"And so can a car crash", I hear a lot, and here's another one: "
I'm gonna die somehow,
someway". Another person says "I can't spend my whole life
about things!" Well, I think to myself, "Why don't you spend
time in a
hospital room with a fifty-year old woman who is dying from breast
cancer, won't see her daughter finish college, won't ever see her
score a goal again, and so on. It's not necessarily about
when you die,
or if you die, but
how, and the
quality of your life up until that
point. "Cancer comes from unidentified sources".
WRONG! Cancer comes from the overload of chemicals that has
invaded our lives in the last 50
years. At first, plastics seemed so wonderful until PVC
plastic was found
to cause birth defects. Then hundreds of thousands of
were retracted because they were made of PVC plastic. But
The pthalates that are the health culprits embedded in the
makeup of these plastics are still in the perfumes and colognes
sprayed directly on the skin
every day. Women have been tested and
found to have much higher rates of this and other
than men, because they use many more scented products! Women
childbearers! So the toxic teething toys were retracted to
protect babies, but the same toxins were not mandated to be
removed the products used by the women whose bodies create, nurse,
and nurture babies. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
So what is a fragrance made of? Here's a few of the 300 or
so chemicals that can make up a typical fragrance:
To read more about these chemicals and their detrimental effects
our bodies, please visit this link:
Well, manufacturers and handcrafters like to say, "It's a small
percentage of the formula." That tired, old argument again.
Let me ask you a question. Why are public baby pools rigorously
drained by pool maintenance staff on a sometimes daily basis?
As soon as the day is done, and sometimes mid-day, the water is
tested, and then changed and chlorinated. But, if we follow
the logic of cosmetic chemists, based on the size of a baby pool,
a little wee-wee from a baby can't be much more than .05% of the
overall volume of liquid in there! So, would you swim in
there? Well, consider your "all-natural" lilac shower gel
with 05% lilac fragrance oil to be the equivalent. It's a
drop of sludge. A drop of leftover petroleum products that
the oil industry pawned off to the cosmetic industry; toxic
alcohols, solvents, and infertility-inducing
pthalates all rolled up in a prettily decorated bottle labeled,
"natural". ( It would be interesting to entertain the notion
that there is a conspiracy on the part of the pharmaceutical
companies to deliberately interfere with human fertility in order
to boost sales of fertility drugs.... but we'll save that for
So let's scratch the .05% theory once and for all, okay?
Remember: absorption, deposits, baby pool.
Now, to help you figure out which products are fragranced, and
which are natural, here are some scents that cannot be distilled
from flowers. One point to make, however, is that some
brilliant aromatherapists have been able to approximate the scent
of orchids, for example, by blending many essential oils (those
are the truly natural ones) together. So always ask if you don't
see the word, "fragrance" on the bottle.
Here's a brief list of some synthetic fragrances:
Banana Nut Bread
As well, some essential oils that can be synthetically duplicated,
and more. Remember, just look for the word "fragrance" vs.
oil" to determine how a product is scented.
If you are still not convinced of the potentially fatal
using synthetically fragranced products including perfumes,
shower gels, shampoos, soaps, candles, etc, then here's the story
soapmaker, a young woman, who ran a very successful business
handmade soaps for many large clients, including stores, hotels,
They all requested the delectable and intoxicating fragrances that
nature can produce naturally, but at a low price, so she worked
fragrance oils for many years. She now cannot let anything
fragranced touch her skin, or be close enough for inhalation, or
her whole body will break out in a rash, her throat will
constrict, and her eyes will tear uncontrollably. She is
dying from toxic exposure. She cannot halt the process and
is slowly deteriorating from a disease born specifically out of
her professional and prolonged contact with fragrance oils.
This is not unusual. There are many, many instances of soapmakers
dying young of cancer due to the unscrupulous sale and promotion
of fragrance oils by so-called "natural" products suppliers.
Every time that I order my unbleached beeswax from a popular
soapmaking supplies site, a small box of fragrance oil is in the
box; a gift for my smelling pleasure. The bottles line my shelves,
untouched. These suppliers are not required by law to
publish the already-proven toxicity levels of fragrance oils on
their sites. It reminds me of the blithe promotion of
cigarettes by the tobacco industry when it was already aware of
the studies linking the chemicals in the cigarettes to cancer.
Of course there is now a Surgeon General's warning on the package
of cigarettes. It all comes down
to cost, but it begs the question, " What could possibly be more
costly than a beautiful life, needlessly lost due to ignorance?
" Don't kid yourself: Just because the concentrated contact of
these women is much is higher than your contact with these
chemicals doesn't mean that you are immune. The quantity of
chemicals imbedded in a modern adult human body is astounding.
But the horse's hide is getting sore, so let's continue our
journey. Perhaps you have become disheartened with the pages
of the "Organic" magazines, and find it impossible to find any
products without synthetic preservatives in your health food
store. So you get on the computer and do a search for
"natural skin care products". You find what looks like a
promising site that advertises "all-natural" products made with
only botanical oils, no fragrances or synthetic preservatives.
You click on the ingredients list for a lavender face cream:
Lavender hydrosol, Apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, vegetable
emulsifying wax, vitamin E, Rosemary Extract, GSE. GSE is
short for Grapefruit Seed Extract, and there is some controversy
about whether it preserves well, but the ingredient that needs to
be brought forward and discussed is vegetable emulsifying wax.
There is no such thing, anywhere. Anyone who claims that the
product called emulsifying wax, is "vegetable" is either lying or
being lied to.
These are the ingredients in emulsifying wax NF: Polysorbate
oleth-10, PEG-75 lanolin, PEG-150 Stearate and Steareth 20.
like a vegetable to me. I like my veggies green and crunchy
to read names like broccoli, or avocado. Call me a dunce,
but one word
ingredients that I can actually recognize make me feel so
So, as we all know, an emulsifier is designed to combine oil and
to create a creamy lotion. Some natural alternatives to
beeswax (unbleached) and sodium borate (borax, a natural mineral
xantham gum (from corn)
Irish Moss ( a sea plant)
Acacia Gum (from the Acacia Tree)
I promise you that if you keep looking, you will find some
that have a very stringent definition of "natural", and offer pure
products for customers that are tired of being confused by
complicated chemical names and explanations that smell suspicious.
So continue on your journey, and please invite others to join you.
We can succumb to hopelessness, or we can caringly spread our
knowledge and concern to others. What is amazing about
living in the "modern world" is that in many third-world
countries, growing organic foods is the default method, due to the
high price of pesticides and chemical feeds and fertilizers.
Skin care is often as simple as handmade soap, and olive oil as a
moisturizer. We, in the first world, have the capability and
the knowledge to begin to create stringent laws that will reign in
the runaway cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry that is knowingly
placing toxins in the hands of the human family. It is
criminal that this still goes on. Please, if any of this
article touches you, use this following bibliography to do further
research, and spread the word.
President, Monave Mineral Cosmetics
article: "Parabens" from Living Nature
article: "Body Burden" from guardian.co.uk
article: "Does it matter if your shampoo, cosmetics are
organic?" Miami Herald/ Entertainment 3650381
article: "Beauty Secrets" from Natural Beauty Solutions
article: "Everyday Products and the Toxins Contained in
Them" from Alternative Answers / Yahoo Groups