are two ways to sell a product: Explain to your potential
customer why they should buy yours, or why they shouldn't buy someone
else's. The tough part is trying to find something wrong with
every competing product. In the case of cosmetics and personal
care products the task has been simplified by the commonalities
of the various formulations. Make a case for avoiding Sodium
Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Alcohol, or Mineral
Oil and you've eliminated about 95% of your competition. That's
exactly what a growing number of MLM companies are now attempting
to do, and with success. However, there's a problem there's
This torrent of "Harmful Ingredients" propaganda is a phenomenon
virtually exclusive to network marketing with the bulk of it traceable
to one particular company, although several others have recently
joined the battle to save us from the perils that lurk in our bathroom
cabinet.1 The list
of "dangerous" ingredients vary little from company to company.
The primary targets are the aforementioned Propylene Glycol, Glycerin,
Mineral Oil, Alcohol, SLS, and it's close cousin Sodium Laureth
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate suffers a guilt by association with "engine
degreasers" as does Propylene Glycol with "industrial antifreeze,"
and other dirty, disgusting sounding applications. Yes, it's
true that the antifreeze in your car's radiator is mostly Propylene
Glycol, and the stuff the car wash uses to clean the grime from
it contains SLS. But here's a question that needs to be asked
that no one seems to be asking so what? Why is the fact
that a certain substance is used for some other totally non-human
application make it harmful to humans? When someone first
discovered that baking soda can also reduce unpleasant odors, did
cakes baked with this substance suddenly become harmful? After
all, those cakes were now being baked with a "litter box deodorizer."
When you're at the movies and you buy your obligatory cola and popcorn
are you not eating "industrial packaging material" flavored with
a "compost catalyst" and washing it down with a "battery corrosion
remover?" After all, those are alternative uses for popcorn,
the primary substance in butter flavoring, and cola respectively.
What's more, most antifreezes used to be made with Ethylene Glycol.
According to an article in the LA Times (1995), Ethylene Glycol
that dripped from cars was found in the ground water below the streets
of LA and was making the water toxic. A safer, non-toxic substitute
needed to be found and that was Propylene Glycol. So, were
shampoos that contained Propylene Glycol somehow more harmful right
after some antifreeze manufacturers made the switch? Come
on. Truth be told, the whole "industrial antifreeze" angle
is nothing more that a psychological ploy. Think about it.
Why is the word "industrial" even used here? Antifreeze is
antifreeze whether you use it in a steamroller or your family car.
Clearly, it's to make it sound dirtier. The propagandists
want you to associate moisturizing your skin with a Propylene Glycol
laced lotion with rubbing dirty, grimy, green antifreeze on your
face. It's an illusion. It's a mind game designed to
create the perception of danger and disgust and people are buying
into it by the thousands.
Let's follow this logic a bit further. Antifreeze isn't entirely
made up of Propylene Glycol, nor is engine degreasers all SLS.
There's certainly a lot of it in there, but not all. In fact,
some antifreezes are about 99% Propylene Glycol. But, does
that really make Propylene Glycol an "industrial antifreeze?"
If you say Yes, then be aware the next time you take a shower that
you're bathing in blood! After all, blood is 99% water.
Right? (Sorry if that was a gross analogy -- hey, I could
have used urine!). I'm not debating whether Propylene Glycol
"is" antifreeze so much as I'm trying to point out that just because
a vile substance that you'd never put on or in your body is mostly
made up of another substance, that doesn't necessarily mean that
other substance would be bad for you. In fact, no where is
there even a shred of evidence that these other uses for SLS or
Propylene Glycol make them any more harmful to humans. It's
a scheme designed by the propagandists to make them seem more harmful.
Another common substance found in numerous personal care products
that has received surprisingly little attention considering it's
rap sheet is dihydrogen monoxide. Admittedly, this substance
does seem to pose a legitimate danger. It's gas is a by-product
in the creation of nuclear power, it can cause excessive sweating
and vomiting, it is abundant in tumors of terminal cancer patients,
it's also found in the tissues of vital organs of over 90% of all
stroke victims, can kill an adult human in less than six minutes
if inhaled, and is the primary component of acid rain. In
fact, this substance is so lethal that it once killed over 900 people
on a small island off the southern coast of Japan in less than 20
minutes! Should we be avoiding dihydrogen monoxide?
That'd be pretty hard to do. It's only the most abundant substance
on the face of the Earth. Yes, dihydrogen monoxide is (how
many of you saw this coming?)... water.
You see, anything can be made to sound like the most deadly substance
Let's take a giant step back and look at the big picture.
There are over six billion people on Earth, so let's be pessimists
and assume five billion wash there hair at least once a day.
Most of the "harmful" ingredients in shampoo have been common components
for over half a century. Do the math, folks. That's
over 100,000,000,000,000 (100 quadrillion) applications of these
substances to human skin, yet not one bit of evidence exists that
they have caused any harmful effect on even one single human being.
Of all the maladies these "harmful" substances allegedly cause,
you would think some doctor somewhere in the world would have directly
linked just one to any of these substances by now.
Instead, the propagandists have had to resort to circumstantial
evidence, and even this case is a flimsy one. One very common
method used to convince prospective buyers that certain substances
are "harmful" is to site the results of animal testing. For
example, when SLS, Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, and various other
common substances are applied to the skin of lab rats, their skin
does become irritated. So, why should we not be concerned
about putting these substances on our skin? Well, because
you're probably not going to go to a chemical supply company and
buy raw, pure, SLS or Propylene Glycol, then shave a bald spot on
your head, rub the stuff into the bald spot and leave it sit there
all day, day after day, for a week or two! What happens to
lab animals who are exposed to the raw substance over a prolonged
period of time is not the same as what happens when a human applies
a shampoo containing SLS that's diluted as much as 100-to-one with
other ingredients that is washed off in a matter of seconds (cinnamon
oil will burn the skin in its undiluted form, so should we avoid
Hot Tamales candy, too?). Besides, how many times do we hear
about promising results in cancer or AIDS research based on positive
results in animal studies that never end up benefiting humans?
In fact, the vast majority of positive animal studies don't transfer
to humans, so why, at least according to some personal care product
marketers, should we assume that any, if not all, negative results
will transfer to humans? I'm not saying it won't, but the
fact a rat got a rash certainly offers no proof a human will.
Nor would it even if the rat were to experience cancer, blindness,
birth defects, brain damage or any of the other ominous, alleged
risks associated with these "harmful" substances.
One marketer of "safe" products sited the exceptionally high rate
of illness among salon workers. The implication being, they
have their hands immersed in lotions and shampoos laced with so
many harmful ingredients. However, again there is no scientific
evidence that these substances cause illness in humans, but the
prolonged exposure to the fumes from finger nail polish and polish
remover have been found to cause numerous ill effects. What's
the first thing you smell when you walk into a salon? It's
not the SLS in the shampoo their using.
Another common scare tactic is to site the alleged increase in cancer
rates over the past few years. According to one well traveled
piece of e-mail propaganda, 1 in 8000 contracted cancer in the 80's,
and 1 in 3 in the 90's. Even if this were true, to suggest
toxins in our air, water and soul are somehow less responsible that
an ingredient in our shampoo is ridiculous in itself. However,
the cancer stats aren't even true. According to both the American
Cancer Society2 and National Cancer Institute3 the combined occurrence rates for all forms
of cancer has dropped by an average of almost 1% per year every
year of the 90's.4
And that's in spite of a dramatic increase in the over-50 population
and significantly better detection techniques. A related,
an even more desperate piece of propaganda states that over twice
as many people get cancer today that 100 years ago. While
this is likely true, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that
cancer rates increase dramatically after age 40, and that we live
twice as long today, than it does with the introduction of "harmful"
substances in our shampoo.
Propagandists also love to quote a speech given by Senator Edward
Kennedy5 where he states
that a study done by the General Accounting Office (GAO) "reported
that more than 125 ingredients used in cosmetics are suspected of
causing cancer." First, "cosmetics" is only a subset of all
personal care products. Second, "suspected" does not necessarily
mean they cause cancer, or that there is even evidence that they
may cause cancer. Third, not only could I not locate such
a study (I visited one of the largest government depositories of
archived GAO reports dating back to 1976)6,
but three different staff members of the GAO, including the Associate
Director of the Health Education and Human Services Division (the
division of the GAO which would have performed such a study) have
no memory of any such study. This isn't the only example of
Kennedy's words from this speech being misused by propagandists.
They've also used an example given by Kennedy where he describes
how a six year old girl's neck and ears received second degree burns
after her mother applied a common hair care product. As I
recall this news report7,
the mother applied a hot curling iron to the girl's hair after the
flammable hair product had been applied. The hair product
didn't cause the burns, fire did! Kennedy also allegedly described
how a woman "had her cornea destroyed" by a mascara product.
That's not what Kennedy said (I have the transcript of the speech).
He said her cornea was destroyed by a "mascara wand."
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Dr. Keith Green, PhD, DSc, of the Medical College
of Georgia is another individual the propagandists love to quote.
Allegedly, Dr. Green's studies on SLS found that by dropping small
amounts into the eyes of rabbits the SLS entered the tissues of
the heart, brain and lungs within a matter of minutes. According
to several e-mail messages and on-line statements, Dr. Green's research
has also linked SLS with cancer and eye damage in humans, specifically
children. Not only is none of this so, Dr. Green has responded
publicly to denounce the rumors about SLS, going so far as to call
them "absolutely ridiculous."8
He goes on to say, "Like any other chemical, it is the manner of
usage that is important. As long as you don't rub it all over
your body and reapply it every hour for 24 hours, it's perfectly
safe." Dr. Green did confirm that he studied the effects of
SLS on lab rabbits and that the substance did enter the tissues
of vital organs, "but in very minute amounts (and) all of it washed
out in 96 hours." Furthermore, he stated, "the eye stayed
pristine. There was no redness and no irritation. There
were no toxic effects." He has also vehemently denied that
his studies even involved children.
Not only are there few credible authorities who
support the "harmful ingredients" claims (virtually all have a financial
interest in "safe, non-toxic" alternative products), but the list
of doctors and scientists who scoff at the propaganda is quite lengthy.
Dr. Andrew Weil, author, speaker, and noted authority on wellness
and anti-aging, stated "I've been getting a lot of questions about
sodium laurel sulfate and, frankly, I'm at a loss to know where
this concern comes from... I found repeated instances of unsubstantiated,
alarmist claims coming mostly from the purveyors of natural shampoos."
Dr. Peter Panagotacos, MD, a board certified dermatologist, stated
he "saw no problem" with SLS. Dr. Ed Friedlander, MD, states
"You may use your shampoo and toothpaste without worrying about
sodium lauryl sulfate." Dr. Ronald DiSalvo, the designer of
the Paul Mitchell line of salon products and past head of the R&D
department of Redkin, states "The unethical marketer picks on the
most popularly used surfactants like SLS and SLES. They'll
damn these materials, erroneously extrapolating bits and pieces
of information from a study or two that really has little if anything
to do with rational cosmetic ingredient usage, and then misstate
such information for their own devious purposes. According
to the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA), SLS
is "safe as presently used in cosmetic products."9
Even the American Cancer Society has went to the defense of SLS.
They created a section on their web site titled "Debunking the Myth"10 in which they disavow any known link between
SLS and cancer going so far as to label such claims "radical...
misleading... propaganda." According to Health Canada, SLS
has a "history of safe use in Canada... Health Canada considers
SLS safe for use in cosmetics... you can continue to use (products)
containing SLS without worry."11
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)12,
the National Toxicology Program (NTP)13
and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)14 have all declared SLS and SLES as being non-carcinogenic
(doesn't cause cancer). And yes, even our own FDA has classified
SLS and "GRAS" (Generally Regarded as Safe).15
The "SLS causes cancer" myth likely developed as
a mutation of another somewhat flimsy claim. According to
some, SLS can react with Diethanolamine (DEA) and other related
substances commonly found in shampoo and form nitrosamine.
Some nitrosamines are animal carcinogens. However, according
to Dr. Jerry McEwen, Vice President of Science for the Cosmetic,
Toiletry and Fragrance Association, "DEA does not react with SLS
or SLES to create nitrosamines." More on this issue in the
upcoming discussion of DEA.
According to Dr. Ed Friedlander MD16, board certified in both anatomic and clinical
pathology, another possible catalyst to the SLS/Cancer myth might
be the fact that SLS is routinely used to solubilize chemicals used
in cancer experiments before injecting them into animals.
Perhaps someone read the list of substances being injected and mistook
the innocent solubilizer for the active ingredient being tested.
SLS has also been accused of causing cataract formation
in the lens of the eye. Technically, this is true. Dr.
Friedlander states that SLS is indeed used in cataract experiments.
They take the transparent lens from lab animals and dunk it in concentrated
detergent. Not surprisingly, the lens proteins were rendered
translucent. However, the lens is deep within the eye and
wouldn't be exposed even if you were to splash pure SLS into it.
"Either somebody misunderstood the work, or somebody is willfully
deceiving the public," states Dr. Friedlander.
An even more ridiculous example of the lengths
the propagandist will go to generate fear in consumers is this statement:
"Almost all toothpastes uses SLS as a major ingredient, and not
coincidentally warns it should be kept out of reach of children.
'In case of accidental ingestion...contact a poison control center
immediately,' reads a toothpaste warning. In fact, it's been
reported that accidental toothpaste ingestion by children results
in 11,000 calls to poison centers the leading cause of all their
calls." Read this propagandist warning again, carefully.
Notice, no where do they actually say SLS has poisoned anyone, or
is even poisonous. The anonymous author of this internet tripe
is a master at linguistic slight of hand. Yes, SLS is in many
toothpastes, and yes, the toothpaste company's attorneys have advised
them to place an overly protective warning on the label. And
yes, many kids love the taste of flavored toothpastes, so some will
attempt to eat it right from the tube. And yes, I'm sure 11,000
parents called poison centers (most because junior accidentally
swallowed a little of it, and were probably told to give him a glass
of milk), but that certainly doesn't mean 11,000 kids were poisoned
by SLS! Clearly, the intent of the author is to make you think
I'm focusing on SLS more than any other allegedly
harmful substance because that's the one that seems to take the
most heat (ironically, it's the one with the weakest case against
it). But what about all those other dreaded ingredients?
Propylene Glycol is probably a close second in the "harmful ingredients"
hit parade. Propylene Glycol is used in personal care products
as a binder to prevent freezing in low temperatures (that's why
it makes a good antifreeze!), and to assist in keeping the product
blended. Some claim Propylene Glycol is a humectant (attracts
moisture) while others claim it's primarily a preservative so,
actually, there seems to be quite a few benefits to this substance.
It is not only found in cosmetics and personal care products, it's
in many food items and is even used in many medications.
Most propagandists will cite the Material Safety
Data Sheet on Propylene Glycol which advises "causes irritation
avoid contact with eyes, skin." I've seen several references
to the MSDS allegedly warning that Propylene Glycol can damage the
liver and kidneys. The fact is, the only MSDS I reviewed that
even mentioned this only cautioned that accidental ingestion of
pure Propylene Glycol can aggravate existing kidney conditions.
What's more, some of these Data Sheets employ a rating system to
show relative hazard levels. A "4" is an "Extreme Hazard,"
where as a "0" means "No Hazard." Propylene Glycol's hazard
rating for skin contact is a "2" (Moderate), again meaning direct,
prolonged contact with pure Propylene Glycol. It's "health"
hazard rating was ZERO17.
This is an appropriate time to briefly discuss
Material Safety Data Sheets. The assumption by some consumers
is that these are documents produced by some federal agency, and
one data sheet is produced for each substance. Not true.
MSD Sheets are prepared by chemical manufacturers in an effort to
educate users as to safe method of use, toxicity, proper disposal,
chemical and physical properties, and other potential hazards, if
any. These Data Sheets are reviewed by the company's legal
department and, like toothpaste warnings, they are usually written
in a very conservative, overly protective manner. In other
words, the hazards described in MSD Sheets are generally overstated
The desperation that some marketers of "safe" products
exhibit in maligning this substance is evident in this quote:
"Year after year these 'beautifying' creams assault the hair and
skin with Propylene Glycol, and the end result is always the same
wrinkles and dull, dry, putty like skin." Um, I believe
that's the end result of getting old! I hope they're not blaming
that on Propylene Glycol, too.
Here's another blatant and grossly misleading
scare tactic: "The recommended method of storage for undiluted Propylene
Glycol is in an explosion-proof refrigerator!" So, what's
the point here? If we use facial cleansers with Propylene
Glycol our face might blow up? According to the MSDS not only
is Propylene Glycol not explosive, it's barely flammable! (Flammability
is rated a 1).
Not all attacks come from internet authors selling
"safe" alternatives. Even Forbes Magazine has become a willing
propagandist tool. In an article titled "Alcohol-free,"18 author Stephan Herrera tells the story of
"crusader" Mark Wilson, who in 1995 successfully lobbied for child-resistant
caps on mouthwash containing more than 3% alcohol (and rightfully
so since some brands are as much as 54 proof!). However, Wilson
didn't stop there. He's now trying to get Propylene Glycol
banned outright. According to Herrera, Propylene Glycol is
"really nothing more than alcohol... similar enough to the alcohol
in booze that it can cause many of the same problems... inebriation,
liver damage, cardiorespiratory arrest and violent nausea."
He also mentions the fact that the FDA "curiously" banned the use
of Propylene Glycol in cat food, yet allows it in children's medicine
with concentrations four times higher. Herrera goes on to
state "If Propylene Glycol appears high on the list of ingredients,
that tells you there is a lot of it in the product." It also
tells us Mr. Herrera didn't do his homework. Ingredients in
over-the-counter medicines and personal care products are listed
in order of prevalence only. The first ingredient listed (usually
water in many cases) can make up as much as two-thirds of the bottle's
content. The third or fourth ingredient on the list (of usually
over a dozen) could be less than 5% of the contents. What's
more, any chemistry student could tell you that "alcohols" are a
broad class of organic compounds that occur naturally in plants
and animals in addition to being synthetically produced. In
fact, Glucose, Fructose, and table sugar could be chemically classified
as alcohols19. Not
only that, if Propylene Glycol was really the same thing as Ethanol
(the kind of alcohol in booze) would we be allowed to fill our car
radiators with it!? I mean, jeez let's use our heads here.
Also, some chemical compounds are metabolized differently in animals
than in humans. Dogs can't eat chocolate. Acetaminophen
(Tylenol) is poisonous to cats. Propylene Glycol can cause
damage to red blood cells in felines (it can not in humans)20.
That's the only reason the FDA banned it in cat food.
It should also be noted (as Herrera did in his
Forbes article), that the article's subject, Mr. Wilson, is the
sole owner of a company that makes a product called "Zeffr."
Guess what Zeffr is? That's right. According to Mr.
Wilson, it's a "safe" alternative to Propylene Glycol.
Paula Begoun, author and publisher of several best-selling
books on the cosmetics industry states, "I have seen several studies
indicating that Propylene Glycol is not a problem as it is used
in cosmetics, while I have seen no studies indicating the opposite."21
Some of the attacks on Propylene Glycol have been
based on unique situations where individuals suffered allergic reactions.
Of course, people can be allergic to literally anything. According
to two independent researchers, J.O. Funk and H. I. Maibach, "True
allergic reactions to Propylene Glycol are uncommon and the clinical
significance has probably been overstated"22 ( I wonder who they were referring to?).
There were additional studies on allergic reactions to Propylene
Glycol. In two separate tests of 104 individuals (human individuals),
only one person had an "irritation response."23
The Agency for Toxic Substances states "Propylene
Glycol is generally considered to be a safe chemical."
The FDA has classified Propylene Glycol as GRAS
(Generally Regarded as Safe).
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board (CIR)24,
a group of independent scientists and doctors who are top authorities
in various industry specialties, reviewed Propylene Glycol and published
their findings in the American Journal of Toxicology (1994).
Their conclusion? "Safe for use in cosmetics in concentration
of up to 50%." PG typically makes up 1-5% of a product's formulation.
This expert panel found that it would still be safe if half the
bottle were pure Propylene Glycol! They also found that Propylene
Glycol was not carcinogenic.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade organization
serving chemical manufacturers, perhaps best sums up the issue of
Propylene Glycol safety with this comment: "Propylene Glycol
has been used since 1920 in a variety of consumer product applications.
Due to its wide use, it has been extensively studied for many different
health effects, but from a toxicology and regulatory viewpoint,
Propylene Glycol continues to have wide recognition as a product
of low concern. The battery of toxicology testing performed
on Propylene Glycol includes acute, subchronic, and lifetime exposures
of laboratory animals to Propylene Glycol. In addition, specific
tests to identify potential effects on genetic material, reproductive
capacity and developing organisms have all been conducted on Propylene
Glycol. The overall evaluation of the test results suggests
that Propylene Glycol is safe for human use."
Here's a common substance that's used as a humectant to not only
keep the skin moist, but is primarily used in some personal care
products to keep the product moist.
Since the propagandists can't seem to find anything
to base an adverse medical condition on, they've instead went this
rout: "The truth is, sometimes glycerin can help to moisturize
the skin and hair but it often does so by drawing moisture from
the deeper skin layers to rehydrate the surface. Obviously,
this is like drying the skin from the inside out!" Obviously?
Really? Not only is this not obvious, it ridiculous.
Think about it. Glycerin accounts for a small potion of the
moisturizing ingredients you're applying to your skin. Are
they actually claiming that little amount of Glycerin is going to
pull more moisture from the skin than that gob of lanolin, aloe,
jojoba butter, and numerous other moisturizing substances are going
to put in it? What's more, in most parts of the world the
air is rich with moisture. So, are they suggesting that this
small amount of Glycerin is pulling moisture from the air and pulling
moisture from the skin and creating, what?, a layer of water on
the surface of your dry skin? I'm confused.
Dr. McEwen agrees. "This type of statement
is absurd. It shows a substantial lack of sophistication and
understanding." Although he agreed that Glycerin has the potential
to draw moisture from the skin, "The product would have to be pure
Glycerin to draw more from the skin than to it." He further
states, "Glycerin has been used in cosmetics for ages. The
reason it's so popular is that consumers need and want the characteristics
The argument against alcohol in skin care products is probably the
most irrational of all. The knock on alcohol is that it's
a drying agent, so what is it doing in skin moisturizing products?
Actually, most alcohols are drying agents. However, alcohol
is not installed into moisturizing formulations as an active, beneficial
ingredient, it's only in there, in minute amounts, as a blending
agent so the ingredients don't separate in the bottle. And
those ingredients it keeps blended are primarily moisturizers!
In other words, claiming that using a skin cream that contains alcohol
will dry the skin is tantamount to saying if you put a pinch of
sugar into a pound of salt it will make the salt taste sweet!
Doesn't this not make sense?
The above point is also assuming that the type
of alcohol in cosmetic products is ethanol, the type that can be
used as a drying agent. It's not! The type of alcohol
used in the vast majority of skin care products is called "fatty
alcohol" which has moisturizing properties!
If you have any doubt about the foolishness of
this bit of propaganda, try this simple test: Take any skin
cream that contains alcohol and mix it with an equal amount of pure
alcohol. Then, take this solution that now consist of slightly
more than 50% pure alcohol and spread a little of it on your arm.
Wait a few minutes (it's okay, alcohol doesn't cause skin cancer
at least, not yet) and what you will find is a spot on your arm
that's still moist!
If you're still not convinced, then better stop
letting your kids drink root beer. There's trace amounts of
alcohol in most brands (minute, residual amounts left over from
the manufacturing process). Based on the propagandist's logic,
you're nine year old could be sited for SUI (Skateboarding Under
Mineral Oil (Petrolatum)
The basis for avoiding products with mineral oil in them is based
on a single premise: Skin needs to absorb oxygen and mineral
oil can "suffocate" the skin by coating it with an oil barrier.
First of all, most human skin is already oily.
In fact, it's loaded with natural oils. Saying that putting
mineral oil on your skin will cause an oily film to cover it is
kind of like saying putting snow on an ice cube will make it cold.
Even if the mineral oil did temporarily block air from reaching
the skin, how long do you think that effect will last before the
oil barrier begins to break down? Minutes? A swim in
the family pool or a leisurely soak in the tub will block oxygen
from reaching much more skin surface for a longer period of time.
I guess a bubble bath would be downright deadly you're suffocating
most of your skin and soaking in Sodium Lauryl Sulfate! Also,
again, keep in mind that the mineral oil is usually only a part
of the entire substance you apply to your skin, so the opportunity
for it to be thick enough to completely block oxygen from reaching
the skin is remote.
One internet (where else) based argument against
Mineral Oil went so far as to invoke the urban legend about the
actress who was painted gold in the James Bond movie Goldfinger.
During filming the actress died of asphyxiation, you see, because
the gold paint that covered over 90% of her body suffocated her
skin. That actress, Shirley Eaton, went on to appear in several
more movies. She didn't really die. She didn't even
Another alleged unhealthy side effect of mineral
oil sealing the skin surface is that it can cause a "flooding" of
the skin by holding in large amounts of moisture. Okay.
So, what about products that contain mineral oil and alcohol and
Glycerin? Will it flood the skin, or dry the skin? I'm
When questioned about this claim, Dr. McEwen commented
"Some of these claims are hard to refute only because they are so
ludicrous. Every system in your body operates on a fluid medium.
You can't 'flood' the body's biology." He goes on to explain
that Mineral Oil will hold water beneath the skin surface, but the
result is a slight plumping of the skin cells. "That's a good
thing" he says. After all, that is the objective of most moisturizing
creams. They don't really eliminate wrinkles, but the "appearance"
of wrinkles by plumping up the cells within the epidermis (outer
layer of the skin).
Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Alpha Hydroxy, glycolic, lactic, and other acids are generally referred
to as AHAs. They are used to exfoliate the dead, dry or damages
outer layer of skin and expose the younger skin cells. The
result is a smoother skin surface and a reduction in fine wrinkles
and minor blemishes.
The propagandists will tell you that this outer
layer of skin protects the under layer from "harsh, damaging environmental
agents." They claim, "Use of AHAs could make you age much
faster. You could look better today but it may not be such
a pretty sight in ten years. Your outer layer of skin is your
first line of defense. Everything should be done to make it
healthy and keep it, not lose it!"
First let's look at this logically. If the
young, second layer of skin will be exposed to "harsh, damaging
agents" by removing the top layer, isn't the top layer also being
exposed to these same damaging agents? So, are we to maintain
this damaged outer layer of skin to protect the newer second layer
from becoming the damaged outer layer? If we should try
to keep the outer layer healthy rather than lose it, well, why can't
we remove it then apply the same health maintaining regimen to the
new, fresh second layer? Once again, I'm confused.
Author Paula Begoun states "Revealing new skin
and improving cell turnover rates can absolutely improve the appearance
of skin. That is the whole purpose behind facial peels and
laser resurfacing. It is not dangerous; if anything, it removes
potential cancerous skin growths." The bottom line, she says,
is that "Sun damage causes thickened, uneven skin, and getting that
stuff off the face is good, not bad."
AHA have been scrutinized by the FDA25.
They've just completed two studies to assess the safety of AHA and
the conclusion was, put in laymen's terms, your skin is more susceptible
to sun damage if you remove the old, outer layer. In other
words, if you're using an Alpha Hydroxy Acid based product you might
get sunburned a little sooner. The FDA's recommendation?
Protect your skin. The CIR also reviewed AHA. Their
concern was the same as was their recommendation: Use sun
Although not with AHA specifically, I have had
personal experience with similar exfoliating products. From
the age of 12 to 18 I was prescribed a topical vitamin E product
for acne that would literally cause thin sheets of skin surface
to roll off my face. Almost six straight years of treatments
(most of them spent on a baseball diamond under the blazing sun),
and today, at age 42, I not only have nary a wrinkle (in fact, I've
been carded for wine purchases twice this year), but the horrible
case of acne I had during those years has left virtually no scaring.
Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), and Monoethanolamine
(MEA) are amino alcohols used in cosmetics as emulsifiers, thickeners,
and detergents. The nitrosation of the ethanolamines may result
in the formation of N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDELA), which has been
shown to be carcinogenic in lab animals.
In English, these substances can react with other
ingredients in shampoo or cosmetic products and form nitrosamines.
And yes, high doses of nitrosamines ingested over prolonged periods
have been shown to cause cancer in rats and mice. Not only
that, but according to some propagandists SLS and SLES are two common
ingredients that ethanolamines can react with to form nitrosamines.
What's more, a study by The National Toxicology Program (NTP) in
1998 found that repeated applications of pure DEA to mouse skin
caused liver and kidney cancer.
According to the web site of a well known propagandist,
in a recent edition of "CBS This Morning" Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor
of environmental health at the University of Illinois claimed "Repeated
skin applications of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase
in the incidence of two cancers." According to Dr. Epstein,
the NTP report stated that "The mainstream U.S. industry has been
unresponsive, even to the extent of ignoring an explicit warning
by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) to discontinue
uses of DEA."
Sounds like DEA may be guilty as charged.
Or, maybe not. Before reaching a verdict, let's hear from
First, MEA will not react with nitrosamines and create nitrates26.
This is only true for DEA and TEA. Furthermore, according
to the CTFA and Dr. McEwen, "amines" must react with a "nitrocating
agent" to form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines, and although
DEA and TEA are both amines, SLS and SLES are not nitrocating agents
and can not react with DEA or TEA to form nitrosamines. Even
the nitrates (a nitrocating agent) used as a preservative in bacon
are not carcinogenic unless it reacts with "amines" which are generally
not found in bacon products (in other words, as long as you don't
mix your bacon and shampoo together, you're okay). What's
more, Dr. McEwen states, "Absorbic Acid would block the effect."
Absorbic Acid is a common ingredient in cosmetic products.
Also, once again, we're talking about a study done on mice.
After reviewing the NTP study, the FDA stated "The NTP study did
not establish a link between DEA and the risk of cancer in humans.
The Agency (FDA) believes that at the present time there is no reason
for consumers to be alarmed based on the use of these substances
According to the CTFA, the NTP study was suspect.28
DEA was applied to the shaved backs of both rats and mice.
Rats can't lick their backs. Mice can. The rats never
got cancer. The mice, who were able to eat the DEA, did.
What's more, the mice were obese, the rats weren't. Also,
mice from different strains were tested and only one particular
strain contracted cancer. However, just to be safe, don't
go to a chemical supply company and buy pure DEA and eat it.
Every other test for toxicity conducted by the
CIR found that "DEA was not a hazard as used in cosmetics."
Contrary to Dr. Epsteins claim regarding the NTP report, the CTFA
explicitly denies ever warning against the use of DEA. The
Cosmetic Ingredient Review board found "DEA to be safe when used
as directed. Since no evidence that products containing DEA
have been unsafe for consumers, it would be unnecessarily alarming
for the news media to suggest there is a health risk."
The well known propagandist's version of the CBS
interview with Dr. Epstein is based on comments taken totally out
of context. Although Dr. Epstein did take an anti-DEA stance
during this interview, his comments regarding "two forms of cancer"
were related to the NTP study on mice not humans. Reread
the quote above and note how the propagandist left that part out
creating the impression that the doctor was talking about people.
Finally, the International Agency for Research
on Cancer found "no evidence of cancer risk in humans."
It should also be noted that the DEA/cancer scare originated in
the 1970's. This is not a recent discovery based on the NTP
research. It's old news.
Miscellaneous Internet Rumors
If I were to attempt to debunk every piece of
internet propaganda relating to "harmful" personal care products,
this would be a very long article (and it's already too long).
Here are just a couple of the most recent internet myths orbiting
Sunscreens can cause temporary blindness.29
According to the CTFA, this is "typical of internet
rumors notorious for inaccurate and false information. There
is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that any such harmful effects
have ever resulted from using sunscreens." The American Academy
of Ophthalmology defined the e-mail as "erroneous and alarmist."
Neither the Poison Control Center or the FDA have ever heard of
anyone being blinded by sunscreen. When asked what someone
should do if sunscreen does get into the eyes, the American Academy
of Dermatology responded, "Wash it out."
Antiperspirants are the "leading cause" of breast
The CTFA responds: "This anonymous e-mail is nothing else
but an unsubstantiated internet rumor that has no factual basis."
The American Cancer Society stated, "There have been many extremely
thorough epidemiological studies of breast cancer risk and they
have not found antiperspirant use to be a risk factor for breast
cancer, much less the 'leading cause' of the disease." Scientists
at the National Cancer Institute "are not aware of any research
to support a link between the use of underarm antiperspirants or
deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer."
The FDA also does not have any evidence or research to support the
Inaccuracy and Hypocrisy
Making bogus attacks on cosmetic ingredients in an effort to sell
"safe" alternatives in not a new marketing invention. Indeed,
it's existed for as long as there's been cosmetics. For exmaple,
about 30 years ago a major hair care product company ran ads touting
the fact their hair spray contained none of an allegedly toxic substance
called PVP. Thing is, PVP was originally invented as a blood
plasma extender and had been pumped through the veins of hundreds
of thousands of people for many years without any ill effect.
How then could there possibly be any danger in applying it to one's
hair? What's even more ironic is that it was eventually revealed
that the company's products did, in fact, contain PVP and they just
didn't list it on the label.
What those companies who are hawking "safe alternative"
products today really need to do is get together and coordinate
their propaganda. As I visited the web sites of the various
marketers of these products, I was amazed at how they stepped all
over each other in their efforts to expose their competitor's "harmful"
By far the most common "safe alternative" to SLS
is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. But according to one propagandist,
"Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is significantly more irritating that SLS
and cannot be complexed (blended with other ingredients) to reduce
its irritation potential. It should definitely be avoided."31 Yet another lists "America's Most Unwanted:
Cosmetic Ingredients You Should Avoid!" Within that list are
"harsh cleansers like Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate."32
Dr. Doris Rapp, during her cassette tape presentation
"How Toxic is Your Shampoo,"33 claims that different kinds of parabens can
cause an estrogenic (feminizing) effect in men and can cause liver
damage. Ironically, Dr. Rapp is a hired gun for a major MLM
company who is in direct competition with the MLM company that initiated
the "harmful ingredients" campaign which also touts two forms
of common parabens in several of their personal care products.
Companies who like to promote the "all natural"
angle will claim Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is a natural substance
derived from coconut oil. However, as Paula Begoun explains,
"Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is the salt of a sulfuric acid compound...
Associating it with coconut oil, a far-removed organic source, just
makes for better, though misleading, marketing lingo." Many
of the sellers of "alternative" products claim to have "all natural
ingredients" as if to suggest that makes their products better,
or safer. Of course, opium and poison ivy are also natural
substances. Also, plant oils decompose faster than mineral
oils thus require a higher concentration of preservatives and fragrance.
The fatty (saturated) acids that are often contained in "natural"
plant extracts and oils can, in fact, clog the pores and cause acne.
What's more, according to Begoun, many plant derived substances
can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, skin and/or sun sensitivity,
such as geranium oil, grapefruit, lavender oil, papaya, and sage.
All of which are found in the formulations of many "alternative"
products (including the MLM company most responsible for the "harmful
A front runner for the "most ridiculous" approach
to attacking non-natural, allegedly harmful chemicals in cosmetics
are the laughable comments such as: "I can't even pronounce
most of the ingredients in my shampoo. It's scary!"
As I listen to seemingly intelligent, rational folks make exclamations
such as this, I wonder, do they actually believe that the number
of syllables in an ingredient's name somehow correlate to it's level
of toxicity? Ironically, these same people are distributors
for a company who's "safe" products contain Methylehloroisothiazolinone
and Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine. I certainly hope these
folks don't take their "long name" paranoia too far and attempt
to rid their bodies of Olygomer Proanthocyanin (Picnogenol) or Dehidroespiandrosterone
(DHEA, a life sustaining hormone).
The aforementioned Dr. Rapp34, a doctor of pediatrics and board certified
in allergy and environmental medicine, is a well respected authority
in her field. Her efforts are quite noble in every other area,
however I think she diminishes herself by trying to hock products
for an MLM company. To that end, during her live presentation
she invokes most of the propaganda already discussed in this article.
However, she goes even further. Dr. Rapp suggests that the
cosmetic industry today is the tobacco industry of tomorrow.
She suggests the manufacturers and marketers of these harmful products
are knowingly putting their customers at risk, but refuse to switch
to safer alternative ingredients. She believes that many years
from now we'll look back on the damage done by these products in
much the same way as we look at tobacco products today. Of
course, her mental bridge to the future has a huge gap in it.
Namely, there is no substitute for tobacco (no legal substitute
Every "alternative to tobacco" gimmick has failed.
However, there are several effective, comparably priced substitutes
for SLS, Propylene Glycol, and the rest. So, this begs the
question, If these ingredients are so harmful to human health, and
will inevitably destroy so many cosmetic companies in the years
to come, why don't all the cosmetic companies just switch now?
Well, because, unlike tobacco 50 years ago, there are numerous studies
being done today that have shown these substances to be safe.
It's not at all like the tobacco industry!
Dr. Rapp also does a great slight-of-word routine
with this observation: "SLS stays in the body at least seven
days." (Remember, Dr. Green's studies showed SLS completely left
the tissue within 96 hours). "If the body can't get rid of
(SLS) it will tend to store it in fat places, such as the breast...
That's where the body stores chemicals and that's why women who
have breast cancer, some of them have four times more pesticides
in their breast tissue than other women who didn't." How did
we get from SLS to pesticides? As has already been discussed,
adnauseam, SLS does not cause cancer. But, if one were to
listen to Dr. Rapp's presentation one could easily surmise she was
She also states that mineral oil has been linked
to "numerous forms of cancer" according to Rawlin's School of Public
Health. I contacted this institution and after much searching
did finally locate the author of the report. Her report analyzed
"formulations" that included various type of oils, including mineral
oil. However, mineral oil found in cosmetic formulations was
not part of the study. When specifically asked if the mineral
oil found in cosmetics could cause cancer, as Dr. Rapp claims the
report suggests, the author responded, "It's a complex area mineral
oil formulations have changed through time and there are varying
levels of evidence for different cancer sites for different formulations
(emphasis mine)... I can't comment specifically on the mineral oils
used in cosmetics." In the actual report, the author specifically
states that the study was limited to "substantial dermal and inhalational
exposure" to pure mineral oil of the type used in machine lubrication.
The report goes on to specifically and clearly state that mineral
oils in "end-use" products, such as cosmetics, can be derived from
a different source, have a different method of refinement, and a
variety of additives, thus making an analysis of it's toxicity "inappropriate."
I don't intend to slather us in the subject of
mineral oil again, but it does seem appropriate at this juncture
to address an example of the "varying levels of evidence" that mineral
oil of any kind might cause cancer. At the same time I can
provide yet another demonstration of how the propagandists fold,
spindle and mutilate the facts to fit their own personal agenda.
According to a comment found in (guess where) an internet chat room,
a "Canadian study" revealed that mineral oil in skin lotions increased
the risk of contracting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Well,
I located that study35 (it was a shock to discover it even existed)
and here's the rest of the story: The study assessed the risk
of occupational exposure to "benzidine, mineral, cutting, or lubricating
oil, pesticides, and herbicides." Seventeen different chemicals
were studied. Mailed questionnaires were used to obtain data
from 1469 individuals who were newly diagnosed with NHL to determine
what amount, if any, exposure they had to these 17 chemicals.
The study found there was a 1.3% increase among men in the chances
of getting NHL among those who were exposed to "mineral, cutting,
or lubricating oils." Since men are far less likely
to be using skin care products, it would be reasonable to assume
the exposures related to long term industrial applications (i.e.
motor oil, axle grease, etc.). Additional evidence exists
that mineral oil in cosmetic products suffers only a guilt-by-association
by the fact that this same study found no significant increase in
the rate of NHL among women exposed to the same group of oils (which
would have been primarily mineral oils in cosmetics).
Virtually all of the "harmful ingredient" propaganda
can be traced back to one particular MLM company. Ironically,
this same company once sold (as recently as 1994) a thigh cream
based on Aminophylline. This substance is a used to treat
asthma, but was also found to reduce the circumference of the thigh
when applied topically. However, after prolonged, repeated
applications it also caused mild to severe skin irritation.
They now use the milder, safer, Theophylline.
This same company, during the height of their anti-harmful
ingredient campaign, had one of their popular diet products recalled
by the FDA. It contained a full medical dose of the drug furosemide,
a potent diuretic.36
Here's a brief run down of some of the other "safe"
alternative ingredients this company uses in their skin and hair
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate: The Cosmetic Ingredient
Review has found that ALS can "produce eye and/or skin irritation."
Dr. DeSalvo observes that while some companies vehemently warn consumers
away from SLS and SLES "they're turn around and use virtually the
same material, made of the same cut of coconut oil or palm oil,
sulfated in the same manner, but using ammonia rather than sodium
as the salt, and claim that their surfactant (ALS or ALES) is safer,
when the truth is that the ammonia ion can be much more irritating
than the sodium ion."
Ammonium Chloride: The Material Safety Data
Sheet warns users to "prevent skin contact" (it's in their skin
cleanser, shampoo, and shave gel).37
Chitosan: The MSDS warns this substance can
cause eye, skin and lung irritation.38
According to the National Council for Reliable Health Information
(NCRHI), Chitosan can cause illness to those with shellfish allergies39 (this is the primary ingredient in one of
their weight loss products).
Calcium Sulfate: The MSDS warns of irritation
to eyes, skin and respiratory system... Can cause nose bleeds...
used to make plaster of Paris (it's also in their arthritis product).40
Methylchloroisothiazolinone: According to
The National Library of Medicine, this substance can cause contact
dermatitis and is used in house paint.41
According to the American Journal of Contact Dermatitis, this substance
can cause "chemical burns"42 (it's in their shampoo and skin cleanser).
Methyllisothiazolinone: Same as Methylehloroisothiazolinone
(also in their shampoo).
Phenoxyethanol: The MSDS on this substance warns that it can
cause severe irritation or burns to the skin and eyes and suggests
it should only be handled while wearing gloves and goggles43 (it's in their hair conditioner and shave
gel). This substance usually replaces Propylene Glycol.
However, according to Gary Neudahl, the Technical Services Manager
at Costec, Inc. (a leading manufacturer of cosmetic products), he
advises clients to use Propylene Glycol because it is "less toxic
and safer than Phenoxyethanol." (Costec supplies both substances).
Of course, if this company were to respond to this
rather scathing information, I'm sure they would plead that many
of the dangers listed above involve applications unrelated to personal
care use, or that the harmful effects were only on lab animals and
only after repeated, prolonged exposure of the raw material, and
that these substances are safe when diluted and applied momentarily
to the skin, and that most of this information is coming from overly
protective MSD sheets, and so on and so on.
And my response would be... EXACTLY!
In fact, every one of these counter arguments
would be valid. In fact, every one of the above listed substances
are perfectly safe as used in their personal care products.
In fact, they could use the very same defense I am presenting here
to defend their choice of ingredients. And they'd be right!
Again, if you work hard enough you can dig up
data to make anything sound harmful.
A great resource is the National Institute of Occupational Safety
and Health (NIOSH).44 Here you will find a list of potentially
harmful chemicals found in the work place. According to Dr.
Rapp there are 884 "toxic" chemicals on this list found in common
skin and hair care products (in spite of the fact there are only
670 chemicals on the list in total). After a careful review
of this list (which, by the way, did not include SLS, SLES, Propylene
Glycol, or Mineral Oil), I found some interesting inclusions.
For example, Acetoxybenzoic acid was there. That's Aspirin.
Isopentyl Acetate was there. That's banana oil. The
dust from oats, wheat and barley and the mist from vegetable oil
all made the list (irritating when inhaled like, no kidding).
Such vile substances as sugar, table salt, and corn starch made
the list, as did Propenyl Propyl Disulfide. Now, PPD is some
nasty stuff. This can cause irritation of the eyes, nose,
and respiratory system. It can also cause lacrimation!
Would you want to eat Propenyl Propyl Disulfide? If not, you're
missing out on a lot of great food. It's onion oil.
Lacrimation means it makes your eyes water.
Considering sugar, salt and onion oil are all classified
as "chemical hazards," as well as the aforementioned horrors of
dihydrogen monoxide (water), it's got to make you wonder...
How toxic is your spaghetti sauce?
Leonard Clements has concentrated his full-time efforts over the
last thirteen years on researching and analyzing all aspects of
Network Marketing. He is a professional speaker and trainer, and
currently conducts "Inside Network Marketing" seminars throughout
the world. Len is the author of the controversial book "Inside Network
Marketing" (Random House) and the best selling cassette tapes "Case
Closed! The Whole Truth About Network Marketing" and "The Coming
Network Marketing Boom." He is a court recognized expert in the
field of network marketing.
To receive additional information about MarketWave and its products,
please call 1-800-688-4766, or write to MarketWave, Inc., 2406 Canberra
Ave., Henderson, NV 89052, or visit www.marketwaveinc.com.
1. To protect the interest of innocent distributors, no network
marketing companies are named in this article.
4. National Institutes of Health; Annual Report to the Nation
on the Status of Cancer (May, 2000)
6. Dickenson Library, UNLV
7. San Francisco Chronicle (approx. 1994)
8. American Cancer Society web site (http://www.cancer.org/)
22. Funk, J. O. % Maibach, H. I. Propylene Glycol Dermatitis: Re-evaluation
of an Old Problem. Contact Dermatitis 31:2, 36-41 (1994).
23. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Propylene Glycol, Cosmetic
Ingredient Review, J. Am. Coll. Toxicol. 13(16), 473-91 (1994).
26. 2000 CIR Compendium, p. 236
28. Telephone interview with Dr. McEwen
29. CTFA Response Statement; July 29, 1999 (PRST 99-19)
30. CTFA Response Statement; May 19, 2000 (PRST 00-16)
31. Cosmetic chemist Will Evans in PURE magazine
33. Can be obtained via numerous web sites
35. Health Canada Cancer Bureau; 1997
36. San Jose Mercury News; p. 20A; November 13, 1993
39. NCAHF Newsletter; V.21/N3 (May-June, 1998)