Loading... Please wait...

Ezine 09 09 09

Dropwise Essentials Health & Beauty News

September 9, 2009
Vol. 2, Issue No. 14

A Note from Donya

Hello and welcome to all our new subscribers since the last issue. I've been doing a lot of organizing and de-cluttering lately. Getting a handle on all the paper, magazines, books, and miscellaneous items that can’t be easily filed or put away, is an ongoing challenge for me. So much so, that it's rare for me to get beyond handling the surface clutter to do some deeper rooting out of outdated or unwanted stuff.

Recently I was weeding through my linen closet and came across a couple of personal care items that had been taking up space in there for over 10 years! Just out of curiosity, I opened one or two to see what kind of shape they were in. To my astonishment the lotion had not changed color or texture and still had a strong overbearing perfume smell –the kind I now associate with toxic synthetic fragrances!

I scanned the label to try to figure out which of its dizzying array of synthetic and petroleum ingredients enabled it to maintain its youthful appearance after all these years. Unfortunately, I'm no expert when it comes to understanding all the properties of synthetic chemicals so I couldn't really tell you. I just know I now avoid products like these like the plague! But I couldn’t successfully do this and neither can you without being a fanatic label reader. I read the ingredient panels on everything I buy –-both personal care and food products. I even read the labels on things I don't buy just out of curiosity! Reading and understanding ingredients is SO important and the only way you can really know what you’re getting, so in this issue I share some tips on how to become a savvy label reader when it comes to your personal care products.

Yours in health and prosperity,


p.s. If you like our products then help us spread the word! Follow us on Twitter or become a fan of Dropwise on Facebook.

Recommended Products & Specials

INDIAN SUMMER SPECIAL: Take $10 off any purchase of $35 or more

Feature Article

What's in a Name? Making Sense of Ingredient Decks for Personal Care Products to Safeguard Your Health

An Ingredient Deck or Ingredient Panel is a term that refers to the listing of ingredients on a product label. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has certain labeling requirements regarding how ingredients are presented on a panel. The most important of these is listing ingredients in descending order of concentration or prevalence. The exception to this rule is any ingredient at or below 1% in concentration, which can be listed in any order. Typically, preservatives and dyes are listed at the end.

This is the first step to deciphering product labels. Since manufacturers are not required to list the amount of each ingredient used it can sometimes be difficult to get a handle on the prevalence of the ingredients listed at the top, especially if the ingredient deck is long. Rather than worry about the concentrations of these ingredients, I think a more useful approach is to do a quick scan of say the first 5-7 ingredients since these typically make up the lion's share of a product. Are they easily recognizable names? Do they sound like something you may have heard in your high school biology or Latin class? Or do they more closely resemble something you learned in your chemistry class?

Chemical vs. Botanical Names

Don't let the long names on ingredient panels confuse you. Manufacturers are required by the FDA to provide the botanical or Latin names (sometimes called INCI Names) of ingredients in addition to, or instead of, their commonly used names. For example, Aloe Vera is a commonly used name for aloe, but its true botanical name is Aloe Barbadensis. Often you will see the latter term listed alone or followed by the term Aloe Vera or Aloe in parentheses, or the common name followed by the botanical name in parentheses. The INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) standard required by the FDA is not necessarily a complete or accurate standard of the spectrum of ingredients available for use in making skin care products. It’s the standard created and instituted by the cosmetics industry so that companies could present universally recognized symbols representing cosmetic ingredients.

It's not by any means exhaustive or entirely consistent --many INCI names are the same as common names. Some INCI names are alternates coined by individual companies in an effort to gain a competitive advantage or distinguish themselves from other companies using the same ingredient under its common name. Because the use of essential oils in cosmetics is not widespread, it's naming conventions for essential oils and plants don't conform to the botanical naming conventions used by those industries. While the INCI system is not ideal, it is the closest thing we have to a universal standard at this point in time.

Nevertheless, there are still some clues that can help you navigate through the vast sea of ingredients out there today. Most synthetic ingredients have "chemical" sounding names rather than "botanical" sounding names. That makes sense since synthetic ingredients are made from chemicals in a lab. Ingredients that are 3 or 4 letter capitalized acronyms like TEA, DEA, EDTA, and PEG or ingredients that have a number attached to them like quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc. are always synthetic. Names ending in "ate" like sulfate, acetate, palmitate, sarcosinate, or phthalate are usually synthetic too.

Even something as innocuous as hydrolyzed animal protein is potentially very toxic due to its ability to readily transform into a nitrosamine. Nitrosamines are a class of compounds that are by-products of chemical reactions between certain ingredients (referred to as nitrosating agents) and nitrogen compounds, which are apparently quite prevalent in cosmetics manufacturing. About 80% of the 120 or so that have been studied were found to be carcinogenic. Often, the conditions under which cosmetics are stored and raw materials prepared can lead to nitrosamine "contamination".

Naturally Occurring vs. Synthetically Made

It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between a botanical and a chemical name in the case where the botanical name of a plant-based ingredient is derived from the underlying chemical composition or structure (usually referred to as the chemotype) of the plant. For example, the term methyl salicylate sounds a little suspect. On the one hand it describes the aromatic compound found in essential oils of wintergreen or sweet birch, on the other hand it can also be produced synthetically. There's really no way to know for sure unless the manufacturer lists it as an essential oil or a component of an essential oil.

Likewise, a common ingredient like glycerin or glycerol can be produced synthetically from propylene alcohol or derived naturally from vegetable oils. Usually natural product manufacturers will list glycerin as vegetable glycerin or glycerin (derived from vegetable source), but if they don't then there's no way to know by simply reading the label.

Also, beware of ingredient lists that start with the word Infusions or Extracts of … followed by a laundry list of herbs or flowers. This may look very impressive until you scroll down and see a long list of chemicals that follow. An infusion is a way to extract some of the beneficial properties of an herb or flower. But there are different types and methods of infusion and without knowing the details, it’s impossible to discern the concentration of the components in the finished product. An aqueous infusion or extract means the herbs were steeped or brewed in hot water (like making a tea). Other types of infusions can include steeping or slow-cooking herbs in the base oil or other bases like witch hazel extract, glycerin, or pure grain alcohol (the latter two are how herbal tinctures are usually made).

The list of synthetic and petrol ingredients is extensive and constantly growing. If you want to better familiarize yourself with them refer to books like Aubrey Hampton's "What's in Your Cosmetics?" or Ruth Winters' "A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients".

There are also several dozen ingredients that have been specifically flagged by watchdog organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and consumer advocacy groups like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as harmful. You can use the Teens Turning Green Dirty Thirty List as a handy cheat sheet to help you quickly identify and eliminate the worst of these ingredients from your life.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials' spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

The Aroma Zone

If you enjoy the articles in this newsletter then be sure to visit our blog The Aroma Zone for even more valuable articles, practical tips, and helpful resources on Aromatherapy, Health & Beauty, and Greener & Better Living. You can access the blog any time by clicking on the links to the Aroma Zone found throughout our site. If you don't want to miss anything then you can subscribe to the RSS Feed and all new posts will be sent to you via email.

Please feel free to post comments. Your feedback is always welcome. If you have a burning question about something send it in an email to [email protected].

Twitter Icon Facebook Icon

About Dropwise Essentials

Dropwise Essentials is a San Francisco-based manufacturer of pure aromatherapy and organic plant-based personal care products that give people a safe and effective way to relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or manage their emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. Our products are:

  • Free of synthetic chemicals and petroleum ingredients
  • Made with high quality certified organic oils and pure essential oils sourced from around the world
  • Packaged in re-usable or recyclable materials
  • Hand-made locally in northern California

Dropwise Essentials was founded by Donya Fahmy, a writer, producer, and consultant whose avid interest in the curative powers of aromatherapy and herbs ultimately led her to design and create the seven products and seventeen unique essential oil blends that make up the current Dropwise product line. She has studied aromatherapy with Carol Schiller - a successful author of several aromatherapy books - and with Dr. Daniel Penoel - a renowned expert in the field of medical aromatherapy.

Dropwise Essentials is a proud member of the Indie Beauty Network (formerly the Handmade Beauty Network), the Green America Business Network (formerly Co-op America), Green Product Alliance, Natural Ingredient Resource Center, and a Friend of PETA. We were among the first companies to join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics by signing their Compact for Safe Cosmetics - which simply formalizes our existing commitment to formulate products free of known or potentially toxic ingredients.