One of the most important things in caring for your skin is knowing what you are putting on it. We need to think of it just like food, because like what you put inside your body, what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body, and some of it isn’t so good.
I am going to take a pretty basic facial cream from a very popular name brand The Body Shop. This is from their most basic line, the Aloe line of products designed for sensitive skin, and often sold as preservative free. It is a moisturizing night cream that I have used before, and I liked it, but never thought to examine the peel-away ingredients label on the bottom. I’m not writing this to tell you what to use, but I’m trying to provide information so you can decide what you want to put on your skin! So let’s take a look now.
This is what it says:
Aloe barbadensis, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Elaeis guineensis, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Myristyl Myristate, Octyldodecanol, Sesamum indicum, Squalane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum parkii, Aqua, Panthenol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Bisabolol, Avena Sativa.
So at first glance it is very easy to see why we just blindly trust cosmetic companies, advertisers, and salespeople, because really what the heck does all that mean. And Latin, really?? Since diving into cosmetics it really makes me wish I had signed up to that Latin class in middle school! So just because you can’t read what’s written on the tin (unless you have a fantastic Latin vocabulary), doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. But how can you know whether it’s good or bad if you have no idea what it says? Unfortunately it means we have to do more work.
There is a lot here so I will be doing a few ingredients at a time, until we get the whole list broken down. Otherwise we will all be subject to an information overload! So stay tuned for the whole picture.
So to start:
Aloe barbadensis: This is just the botanical name for the commonly known skin-soother Aloe Vera. Pretty straightforward ingredient. Aloe is good for just about all skin types, it is even used on burned skin to calm down the pain and help heal. Aloe vera is edible.
Glycerin: This is a normal by product of the production of soap. It is a humectant, which means it attracts moisture, so when it is in products it helps seal in moisture to the skin. It is a chemical Alcohol, known as Glycol, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. It is actually pretty decent for the skin, and is non ethanol alcohol, which means on labels this ingredient can be in a product that is “Alcohol Free” because it is non ethanol. It can be plant or animal derived. It is a great solvent, because many things will dissolved better into glycerine than in alcohol or water. Glycerin is even used in food products sometimes!
Pentylene Glycol: This one I had to look up. It is also a humectant, but it is a synthetic ingredient. It is probably used because unlike Glycerine Penylene Glycol lets oil dissolve into it easily. It is also used as a preservative. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) which reviews ingredients and products for skincare, on their “Skin Deep Cosmetics Database“, don’t list it with any warnings. However, there were some studies in the ’70s which indicated some toxicity in animals in high doses, and possibly a skin irritant. Also, a few recent studies indicate that Pentylene Glycol could be a skin irritant, a cause of contact dermatitis. So it is a little unclear what to make of this ingredient.
Caprylic/Capric triglyceride: You’ll never guess what this is. It is basically Coconut Oil, blended with glycerine. This is made by taking glycerol (sugar alcohol) and certain Fatty Acids (Caprylic and Capric) from coconut oil to make an emollient, and preservative. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has considered this a safe ingredient multiple times.
So far so good it seems, let’s see what the rest of the ingredients look like to come.