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Top 5 Toxins to Avoid

By Grace Culhaci, Director Pure & Green Organics

Some ingredients are more prolific in the beauty industry than others so to help you know what to avoid when reading product labels I have compiled a list of my top 5 toxins I recommend you avoid.  As it is always my endeavour to promote the benefit of organics I have decided to let you in on our secrets – what we use as alternatives to these ingredients as proof it is possible to create stable, functional and long lasting products without chemical toxic nasties.

TOXIN #1 – Triclosan

According to Professor Dingles book Dangerous Beauty: Triclosan is an antibacterial, anti-microbial agent. It is used mainly in toothpaste to prevent it from breaking down. This chemical is moderately toxic by ingestion. It is also a skin irritant.

In January 2010 Australia’s NICNAS released a 537 report stating that triclosan passes from mothers into their breast milk

Studies have shown that Triclosan is broken down into dioxins in river water to cause pollution and disrupt hormones in aquatic life. This has resulted in increased feminisation of fish populations (males with fish eggs, high proportion of females to males)

Organic alternative:

Instead of relying on chemical bacteriacides, Pure & Green Organics toothpaste “Teeth & Gums” harnesses the anti-bacterial properties of  certified organic essential oils of clove, spearmint and mentholated peppermint to freshen your breath and minimise bacteria – naturally.

Mentha piperita (peppermint) essential oil was investigated for its antimicrobial properties against 21 human and plant pathogenic microorganisms in a study conducted in 2002 ( Medicinal and Aromatic Plant and Drug Research Centre (TBAM), Anadolu University, 26470-Eskişehir, Turkey.)    Results showed that the menthol in mentha piperita oil strongly inhibited plant pathogenic microorganisms and moderately inhibited human pathogens.  The mentha piperita oil used by Pure & Green Organics contains 40% menthol, hence its effectiveness.

Our teeth and gums toothpaste was independently tested in a laboratory to determine its ability to kill bacteria commonly found in the human oral cavity – it has passed the British Pharmacopeia oral test giving consumers peace of mind that a natural product can be truly effective in the battle against bacteria – triclosan is not necessary!

TOXIN #2 – Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is produced as a by-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. It has absolutely no nutrient value for the skin.   Depending on its state, mineral oil has three official names (1) mineral oil – for liquid state, (2) petrolatum – for jelly state and (3) paraffin wax – for solid state.  However, manufacturers often opt for a common synonym – like liquid paraffin.

Mineral oil acts as an oil film on the skin that blocks the pores and the skin’s natural respiration.  It can trap dirt and bacteria and stop the absorption of vitamins, minerals and botanicals. It can also cause skin itching or rashes.

These non-biodegradable oils never go rancid (meaning they are oxidatively stable) which is why they have replaced natural oils in many cosmetic formulations as they greatly improved shelf life of cosmetic products.

Organic Alternative:

Consumers are demanding products with natural ingredients once again which is great to see but the initial problem remains, these “naturals” for the most part are not oxidatively stable. Thus, the consumer has created an apparent dilemma for the green formulator by demanding oxidative stability and increased usage of naturals, while simultaneously requiring the functionality of synthetics.

Pure & Green Organics use jojoba oil in all our creams and lotions as it’s natural oxidative stability, thermal stability and lack of support for microbial growth also increases our products safety and decreases their dependence on antioxidants and preservatives.

Unlike greasy materials like mineral oils, jojoba provides an absolutely non-tacky and non-greasy, dry emolliency.

Jojoba serves as an excellent moisturizing agent with exceptional spread leaving a rich velvety non-oily feel on the skin while reducing water loss and enhancing the flexibility and suppleness of the skin.  There is no need for greasy, synthetic mineral oil – jojoba is the perfect alternative.

TOXIN #3 – Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used instead of formaldehyde, and release small amounts of formaldehyde over time to help prevent bacteria from growing in water-based products like shampoos, liquid body washes and creams. The most common FRPs are: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

FRPs can trigger allergies and are linked to skin sensitivity and eye irritation.  For more information visit

The EU restricts the use of formaldehyde & FRPs in personal care products and requires a label to say “contains formaldehyde”.  Canada restricts the use of formaldehyde and it is banned from use in cosmetics in Japan and Sweden.

Australia’s National Industrial Chemical Scheme (NICNAS) released a report in January 2006 recommending that formaldehyde and FRPs be added to the scheduled poisons list and that considering the potential health risks it be treated as a carcinogen.

Organic Alternative:

As organic formulators, Pure & Green Organics have overcome the need to use  formaldehyde-releasing preservatives by using only naturally derived preservatives on the organic standard approved list.  Worldwide we are seeing an influx of aromatic materials formulated for broad spectrum preservative action which comply with organic standards.  Apart from being non-toxic and non-irritating the main difference between naturally derived preservatives and FRPs is the cost – these safer preservatives often cost 350% more than formaldehyde releasing preservatives.

So while a solution/alternative is already available the main shift in ideology is the shelf life required by consumers of their cosmetic products.  If consumers are rebelling against traditional paraben and formaldehyde releasing mixtures they need to recognize that safer options will have a shorter shelf life, in the order of 18 months to two years, as opposed to 5 years that parabens and formaldehyde releasers can bring.  Shorter shelf life is a small price to pay for non-toxic and non-irritating natural alternatives.

TOXIN #4 – Polyethylene glycols (PEGs):

PEGs are petroleum-based compounds that are used in cream bases for cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture-carriers.

Although PEGs are considered safe for use topically on healthy skin, products containing PEGs should not be used on broken or irritated skin. A study showed that patients suffering from severe burns and who were treated with PEG-based antimicrobial cream developed kidney toxicity. “The PEG content of the antimicrobial cream was determined to be the causative agent. However, no evidence of systemic toxicity occurred in studies with intact skin. Because of this finding, the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel states that cosmetic formulations containing PEG ingredients “should not be used on damaged skin”.

Organic Alternative:

Fortunately for the organic formulator there are naturally derived thickening and gelling agents which can be used in place of PEGs.  Common ingredients are xanthan gum and guar gum but both of these cannot accept much additional material without thinning and separating.

Pure & Green Organics use sclerotium rolfsii gum to form a thick gel base for many of our products. Rolfsii gum is a natural gelling agent obtained by the fermentation of the yeast sclerotium rolfsii in a glucose-enriched medium.  Rolfsii gum holds a large amount of additional ingredients in suspension whilst remaining stable and also has the highest capacity to absorb water than any other vegetable gelling agent. Creams are a mix of oil and water and unfortunately these two ingredients don’t mix well at all, so an emulsifying ingredient is always necessary to help hold the two layers together.  By forming a gel base for a cream this ensures the product does not separate and has excellent long term stability and shelf life. Rolfsii gum is totally non-toxic, non-allergenic and also gives a beautiful “skin feel” to any preparation (unlike xanthan and guar gum).

TOXIN #5 – Dioxane

Dioxane is a petrochemical that results from using ethoxylation, a chemical process that renders harsh cleaning ingredients more mild. According to Professor Dingle in his book Dangerous Beauty 1,4 Dioxane is created during the production of sodium laureth sulphate. Therefore, it is commonly found in sulphate based shampoos and body washes aimed at those with delicate skin and wishing to use a “milder” product type.

Another source of dioxane contamination is through personal care products containing the aforementioned polyethylene glycol ingredients (PEGs) namely: PEG-6, PEG-8, PEG-32, PEG-75, PEG-150, PEG-14M and PEG-20M.

Dioxane is a confirmed carcinogen. Its effects in humans are cumulative and may result in eye, nose and throat irritation and kidney and liver disease.  According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, 1,4-dioxane is known to cause cancer and may cause kidney, respiratory, and neurological toxicity. The Environmental Working Group (a watchdog group with over 850,000 members) has also stated that 1,4-dioxane is a groundwater contaminant.

In April 2010 the Green Patriot Working Group in California targeted Procter & Gamble to reduce the level of Dioxane it uses in its Herbal Essences line of hair care products – it was exposing consumers to unacceptably high levels of a toxin and you tube clip

Organic Alternative:

Pure & Green Organics products contain NO petrochemicals including dioxane.  Instead of petrochemicals and sulphate cleansers we use plant based saponins (soap) like soapnut (a small wrinkly, brown fruit from India that can clean everything and is planet friendly), amla (Indian gooseberry) and quillaja (Chilean soapbark).  All these plants can be turned into a powder or liquid extract and used as a substitute to soap as they foam with water. These natural and safe substitutes are what we use in our cleansing products to avoid any toxic ingredients.

Pure & Green Organics liquid cleanser (due for release in July) uses sustainably harvested (FSC certified) certified organic quillaja bark as the key cleansing ingredient.   The ultra filtrated Quillaja extract is food approved (E 999) and as a result of careful, solely physical processing the extract sustains its natural composition. Quillaja has surfactant, foaming and softening properties but it is it’s outstanding mildness that makes it most attractive and suitable for highly sensitive skin.  Mildness exists in nature without the need for ethoxylation and dioxane contamination!

You can find Pure & Green’s wonderful products by visiting this page within the Fishica website and read more about the author of this article and Pure & Green Organics by visiting their website