Sunday, December 8, 2013

Carcinogen free products: It's about *$%@in' time!

I had to rant about this for a second. I saw these products in my local Safeway, and I had to retreat to the safety of my car to enjoy a very lengthy and creative swearing fit! (Spending time on their website really didn't help things much. I've just woken up the dog with a few choice words!)

So what makes Attitude's (Sustainable Wellbeing) products different than every other product out there? Well, you see, they don't have carcinogens, like all those other brands that don't care about you or your children. "Cleaning skin and getting rid of impurities are the essential purpose of body wash. Why then do it with substances containing potentially dangerous industrial compounds? The solution: ATTITUDE Body & Face Bar, a smooth and natural product that only contains what you really need...Carcinogen free ingredients or by-products (IARC group 1 & 2). Free of 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, tested by independent laboratory"

Yes, you can interpret this as "all other brands will give you cancer and we won't!" 

So what is 1,4 dioxane? What is ethylene oxide? Here's a quick summary. I encourage you to click on the link to learn more!

"Ethoxylation is an industrial process in which ethylene oxide is added to alcohols and phenols to give surfactants." In other words, without ethoxylation, emulsifying wax, Polawax, and other emulsifiers would just be fatty alcohols (like cetyl alcohol) that didn't mix with water. When something is ethoxylated, 1,4-dioxane can be produced as a side product.

Can 1,4-dioxane cause cancer? Possibly, possibly not. (Click here for the CDC's FAQ on this chemical.) It isn't something you want to expose yourself to for any length of time, but, like everything in life, it's about the dose. Eating toast for every meal for years could expose you to a ton of acrylamides (click here for more on this...), which are thought to be carcinogens, but we don't think that having some with jam or a roasty potato. We wouldn't think of putting a "can give you cancer" label in big letters on coffee because it contains a small amount of acrylamides, so why are we doing things like this on our bath and both products when they contain parts per million - a really tiny amount - of a possible carcinogen?

To get back to this product line, it doesn't appear they are doing anything very different than other products. I suspect they are doing something on par with going through EWG's Skin Deep database or using studies to see what might cause cancer, then advertising what they have or don't have. The difference isn't super obvious in their ingredient list.

Someone explain to me how this ingredient list for a conditioner is different from any other conditioner you could buy: Water, Distearoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate, Cetearyl alcohol, Glycerin, Stearyl alcohol, Hydrolyzed wheat protein, Cetearyl glucoside, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate, Fragrance, Citric acid.

And how this ingredient list for a body wash is different than the others? (It doesn't have any nice moisturizers in it, for a start!) Water, Sodium coco-sulfate, Coco-glucoside, Decyl glucoside, Sodium cocoyl glutamate, Glycerin, Sodium chloride, Sodium gluconate, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate, Fragrance, Citric acid

And how this lotion differs from other ones? Water, Glycerine, Dicaprylyl Ether, Glyceryl stearate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Glycine Soja (soybean) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea) Butter, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid

Can you spot the emulsifier? The answer's at the end of the post! 

The marketing division of this company is genius. They are hitting on all the fears people have about bath & body products and using them to get you to buy their products. I loved this line - "What touches you becomes part of you!" - no, it doesn't, but there's that urban myth that we eat so many pounds of lipstick a year or that we absorb 5 pounds of bath and body products. (If that was the case, I think I'd be 80% 2B pencil lead during exam time, 15% dog hair, and 5% chocolate!) And look at this line - "free of any chemicals linked to cancer (not even traces!)." This kind of sentence cannot be proven, but it sounds great. And check out this one - "Even though chemicals linked to cancer are legally tolerated in laundry detergents, we don’t think you want them in your home."

And the emulsifier? They've created an HLB emulsifier with glyceryl stearate as the low HLB emulsifier and a combination of cetearyl oliveate and sorbitan olivate! Very nice. 


Angela McGuire said...

L....O....L! I love it! Smoke and Mirrors.

Can you explain the emulsifyer? Whats HLB...? So, the listed the 3 separately, but in combination they create an emulsifyer, what would it be comparable to on the market (I.e. BTMS, emulsifying wax NF,etc)?

Michelle D said...

This is exactly the same situation as soy versus paraffin candles. It's fabulous gear-based differentiation marketing that becomes melded to the collective consciousness of society.

Michelle D said...

*Fear-based, sorry about that.

Angela McGuire said...

Michelle D., please explain more, "the same situation as soy versus paraffin candles". Because this company lists Candelilla wax (Candle wax) as its "emulsifyer".( People who want to call their products Vegan use this instead of Bees Wax for "holding" the water and oil together).

Angela McGuire said...

Wait, Im referring to another blog post about 100% Pure products actually, using candle wax. Anyway, please explain your analogy. The smoke and mirrors of the industry fascinate me and I want to learn about it:)

Bunny said...

Wait, wait, isn't sodium benzoate one of things things people also (somewhat incorrectly) scream "CANCER!!!" about? XD Then why include it in your shampoo.....?? Ooooh smoke and mirrors.

Jennifer said...

But Susan. It has PENGUINS on it. That MUST mean its good. Because we all LOVED Happy Feet. Sigh.

Lorraine Dallmeier said...

If you advertise your brand based on fear I actually think that's very sad. You should be emphasising the great things about your product, highlighting your awesome ingredients and being loud & proud about how good it all is. By highlighting what's NOT in it, I personally think you do yourself and your brand a disfavour. Apparently this is no longer allowed under the new EU Cosmetics Regulations I believe anyway, although that obviously has no relevance for you peeps in North America.

Katie Ziegler said...

Olivem 1000's INCI is Cetearyl Olivate and Sorbitan Olivate, so my guess would be that that's their emulsifier, and the Glyceryl stearate helps to stabilize the emultion. It seems weird to me that they'd use such a finicky emulsifier in their product (I use Olivem 1000 for my lotions, and it's a bear to work with). It is made from olive oil, but it's not ECOCert.

Their whole marketing campaign is bizarre and makes me angry. I get that they're trying to scare people into buying their products, but I hope that most people are smart enough to roll their eyes and laugh. I mean, at some point hasn't *everything* been shown to cause cancer? I remember hearing a report that oxygen is the largest cause of cancer (and, yes, I know that that is a vast over-simplification). If someone is so easily manipulated as to take these products seriously, then they deserve to pay what I'm sure is an obscene markup.

Okay, rant over :o)

Kelli Spears said...

So they go on and on about how they don't have any "bad" ingredients. They have Sodium Benzoate and Citric Acid listed. Sodium Benzoate is not a bad ingredient on it's own but when combined with any (emphasis on any) Vitamin C or derivative of such (i.e. citric Acid), Benzene can be created. Light, Heat and Shelf life can affect the rate at which benzene is created. According to the Cosmetics Database and Wikipedia, Benzene is a high hazard substance that can cause some really scary problems.
Kind of a catch 22 since a lot of formulators use Citric Acid to adjust pH. Thanks but I would rather use a product with ethoxylated ingredients since the process to remove traces of 1,4 Dioxane has been greatly improved.