Why Some Cosmetic Articles Are Crap

Posted by on Jul 28, 2018 in Myths and Misinformation |

There’s no shortage of crap cosmetic articles.   Some of these writers apparently don’t use a lick of science or logic. I’ve come to expect it, especially when you see it was written by a “LIFESTYLE REPORTER” or “staff”.  Here’s one I ran across that has mixed messages. But what really made me shake my head is this snippet:

“The demand for natural ingredients is increasing rapidly. This is because people have become very aware of the harmful effects synthetic chemicals can have on their skin”.

“People are becoming aware and believing synthetics are harmful” because of crap like this being published all over the internet. Instead of asking a chemist or toxicologist if this is true, and educating their readers, they repeat falsehoods. Why don’t they question the fact that there are no synthetic ingredient victims?  No bodies, no evidence of harm, no epidemiological evidence of disease. The most toxic things on earth are made by Mother Nature. The beauty industry can be proud of decades of safe products on the market enjoyed by billions world-wide, as compared to other industries.

In terms of finding new and innovative ways to advance skincare, the article says:  “…using traditional age-old ingredients with the help of the latest science and technology in cosmetology, can do just that”.  

What do they mean by age-old? For the past 30 years traditional ingredients (to name a few) include preservatives, emulsifiers, quats, emollients, and silicones.  A great many of them are synthetic or semi-synthetic- the stuff that makes stable, microbe-free cosmetics. If you reach back too far in time, you’ll be in the era of blood-letting, plagues, and drilling demons from people’s skulls. Science uses hazard, risk, and dose to determine the probability of harmful adverse reactions, not the naturalistic fallacy, world-view, or what some blogger believes.

girl with 2 heads

Which way should I think?


Soooo, which is it?  If someone believes synthetic ingredients are harmful (they’re not), they’re rejecting science.   And herein lies the great divide.

The purists make products from ingredients that they deem come only from nature although those ingredients generally come from a lab packaged in plastic. Keep in mind, ultimately everything comes from Mother Earth as the starting material of synthetic ingredients (feed stock). We can’t order raw materials that are the building blocks of synthetic ingredients from outer space!

On the other hand, you have the makers who embrace the high-tech synthetics that vastly improve aesthetics, demonstrate clinical efficacy, and have a history of safe use.  The irony of this polarizing topic is that the skin cannot tell the origin of what is put on it.  Skin doesn’t know or care if it’s “natural”, synthetic, or made in Japan!

I’ve found that using a combination of ingredients accepted by “natural lovers” AND “synthetic users” make the best beauty products. But like many other emotional hot topics, there’s more than 50 shades of opinion in-between. It shouldn’t be an emotional topic because the ORIGIN of an ingredient has no bearing on it’s safety.  And safety should come first.

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I’m giving organic the finger (Part 3)

Posted by on Aug 3, 2016 in All Posts, Myths and Misinformation |

Part 2 was about organic products that have this ‘one weird trick’ to make people think they’re pesticide-free.  In terms of how this relates to cosmetic ingredients, it’s ironic the way petroleum products are demonized, as seen on the (natural /organic crowd) websites who proudly state they’re “petroleum-free”.  Yet mineral oil is used as an organic pesticide!

“We found the mineral oil organic pesticide had the most impact on the environment because it works by smothering the aphids and therefore requires large amounts to be applied to the plants.”  “Compared with the synthetic pesticides, the mineral oil-based and fungal products were less effective because they also killed ladybugs and flower bugs, which are important regulators of aphid population and growth”  “Ultimately, the organic products were much less effective than the novel and conventional pesticides at killing the aphids, and they have a potentially higher environmental impact. In terms of making pest-management decisions and trying to do what is best for the environment, it’s important to look at every compound and make a selection based on the environmental impact quotient rather than if it’s simply natural or synthetic. It’s a simplification that just doesn’t work when it comes to minimizing environmental impact.”  http://www.uoguelph.ca/news/2010/06/organic_pestici_1.html

As a side note- potassium salts of fatty acids (the liquid soaps some makers sell as body wash) are used as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and algecides on organic farms.

Another claim is organic farming is sold as good for the environment.

This is correct for a single farm field: organic farming uses less energy, emits less greenhouse gasses, nitrous oxide and ammonia and causes less nitrogen leeching than a conventional field. But each organic field yields much, much less. So, to grow the same amount of wheat, spinach or strawberries, you need much more land. That means that average organic produce results in the emission of about as many greenhouse gasses as conventional produce; and about 10 per cent more nitrous oxide, ammonia and acidification. Worse, to produce equivalent quantities, organic farms need to occupy 84 per cent more land – land which can’t be used for forests and genuine nature reserves”.


organic farming methods

Old farming methods won’t feed the world’s hungry population of 9 billion.

A few takeaways:

All pesticides and fertilizers are chemicals.

All farmers protect the ecosystem and conserve natural resources. Otherwise they’d go out of business.  They use only the smallest amount of pesticides-they’re expensive!

Today’s synthetic pesticides are safer than the old ones, have the ability to kill only the target insect- not the beneficial ones.  They are highly regulated and food is monitored for residues.

Modern conventional agriculture maximizes yields and thus reduces the amount of land needed to produce food.  It has evolved from organic farming more than a century ago- 19th century farming methods don’t make food healthier or better for the environment.

Organic produce yields are frequently very low requiring greater land usage and there is evidence that organic farming is causing rapid deforestation, which does not protect the ecosystem.

GMO’s are not ingredients, it’s a breeding method.  The science is solid on the safety of GMO’s.  The report is 388 pages, took two years to conduct, involved over 50 researchers, looked at 900 studies, and analyzed 20 years of data.  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nothing-threatens-emotional-movement-like-facts-damian-mason.

The bottom line is GMO produce and organic produce are equally safe.  But I gotta say, if you hold out 2 apples in front of me, and one is $1.00, and the other is $2.00, you better have some science-based, measurable, peer-reviewed, hard evidence as to why I should pay double.

I see ads & sales hype featuring organic ingredients stating “organic skin care products work better and are better for you” (In what way?).  AND THEY STOP RIGHT THERE.  It’s just an opinion.  There’s no science to back it up.  That’s why I’m done buying organic ingredients.  There’s no benefits over conventional ingredients- and I’m not about deceiving my customers.

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I’m giving organic the finger (Part 2)

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in All Posts, Myths and Misinformation | 2 comments

Part 1, pointed out the fact that organic crops do use pesticides.  That’s when I realized “Organic” is philosophy based.  There’s no significant benefit that I can see- for nutrition, or safety.

Lets start with nutritional benefits.  The following pertains to food.  Our skin doesn’t eat, so that’s a strike against paying more for organic cosmetic ingredients.  If you rub organic organic flax seed oil @$4.00/# on your left arm, and conventional flax seed oil @$2.34/#on your right, can you tell the difference in feel or function?  In terms of pesticide residue, I couldn’t find any reliable literature on what organic pesticides or herbicides are generally used for that crop.  Most sites were click bait with a link to sell you “their healthy” version and claimed no pesticides were used.  It’s a common myth, spread from site to site.  Somehow, insects get the word that it’s an organic field and they fly past it. I doubt the fields were populated with volunteers bending over to pull weeds by hand or hoe.

To maintain yields without herbicides, U.S. would need 55 million laborers to hand weed crops

Approved organic pesticides.

Approved organic pesticides.

“The USDA, which oversees the foods labeled as “Certified Organic,” states quite clearly on its website about its role in organic: “Our regulations do not address food safety or nutrition.”  Foods labelled “Certified Organic” must adhere to certain rules and regulations but aren’t endowed with any particular nutritional or safety features. However, many consumers believe that the Organic label means the food has superior nutrition and is safer, especially in regard to pesticide residues. This is not true. Studies have shown no appreciable difference in nutrition between crops grown either organically or conventionally.”

As for the safety issue. When most people hear the word “pesticide,” they imagine something scary in terms of toxicity to humans and the environment. The reality is that modern agriculture employs an integrated suite of non-pesticidal control measures, and the actual pesticides used today are mostly relatively non-toxic to humans. Organic farmers also use pesticides, and the products they are allowed to use are constrained with few exceptions by whether they can be considered “natural.” That is not a safety standard since many of the most toxic chemicals known are “natural.” Like all pesticides, these natural options are subject to EPA scrutiny, and so the pesticides that organic farmers are allowed to use are “safe when used according to the label requirements” which is the same standard for synthetic pesticides allowed on conventional crops. When it comes to pesticide residues on our food, there is a USDA testing program that demonstrates year after year that the pesticide residues on both organic and conventional foods are at such low levels that we need not worry about them. I confidently buy non-organic foods based on this public data that demonstrates that our system is working and that we consumers are well-protected.”  From https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/03/22/scientist-chooses-conventional-organic-foods/

If there’s minimal to no perceived difference between organic and conventional products except the price, why waste money?  I’ve found when things are not adding up in your business it’s time to subtract.
















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EWG: A Beginner’s Guide (Part 2)

Posted by on Jul 30, 2016 in All Posts, Myths and Misinformation |

For EWG part 1 click here.  One of the biggest problems with the EWG is that they list hazards for chemicals and potential negative health outcomes from information gathered from scientific literature in the absence of adequate data, and then don’t address the actual risk of harm.   Risk = hazard x exposure, and the dose makes the poison.  Another big red flag is the “donate” button on their web site.  Shouting that ingredient x is in a product, (but at a very low dose), then listing the probable effects of using that ingredient at full-strength does nothing for public trust and is sleazy.

Scaring consumers about cosmetic ingredients

Scaring Consumers for profit

Risk assessment is important.  It gathers info from many different scientific entities such as toxicology, environmental exposure, epidemiology etc.   The FDA, CDC, OSHA, WHO and many other regulatory agencies use risk assessment to try to understand human exposure to a compound or ingredient, with the likelihood of a bad health outcome, and that’s what helps to set exposure limits.

Part of evaluating risk, is the dose response assessment; how much you need of a chemical to see a negative health outcome.  What’s important here is the type of exposure and how long that exposure occurs- to what extent people are exposed to a chemical (daily, for a few seconds?, the concentration of the chemical, how much chemical enters the body, the threshold effects, and if it’s a possible carcinogen).  When toxicology (animal) studies are used for risk estimates,  we have to keep in mind that animals are not people, they are often given extremely exaggerated doses of a chemical,  and it’s difficult to extrapolate that data to humans.  When scientists evaluate chemicals there should be a discussion on the limitations of the risk assessment when there is scarce data to go on.

Another important factor in assessing the impact of chemicals is the idea of association and causation.  For example if the number of storks was increasing at the same time as the number of babies born, one might try to tie them together and claim storks were bringing the babies.  When there is a statistical fact or association presented in research papers, it still doesn’t allow you to declare a true causal relationship.

The only source I trust in terms of ingredient safety is the Cosmetic Ingredient Review.  If you hadn’t guessed, I despise scare tactics.

One of the more brilliant critiques of the EWG written by cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.  Read it here

(Jenny Splitter writes about the EWG exploitation of the public- especially women.  http://goo.gl/F0uufk

Sources: Center for Consumer Freedom.
















One of the more brilliant critiques of the EWG written by cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.  Read it here

Copyright © 2010 Center for Consumer Freedom. All rights reserved.

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EWG: A Beginner’s Guide (Part 1)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in All Posts, Myths and Misinformation |

  If you want to “detox” your mind, or open it up a little, join me for some straight talk.  

This is a (biased) opinion piece.  All of us want to live in a safe world.  None of us want undisclosed dangers to our health.  The Environmental Working Group is the non-government activist group that writes the “dirty dozen” reports for both agriculture and cosmetics.  I follow those because they impact the personal care industry.  I don’t know if they have metastasized into other industries.  The EWG has a certification program for cosmetics and for those that have signed on, they might have fared better by becoming a member of the Mickey Mouse Club.

As mean spirited as this sounds, the EWG is the Mothership of makers who still have their training wheels on (no disrespect to those folks).  We can have different world views, but I still cheer them in their successes, and feel for them when they have a struggle.  We all start as beginners with varying skill sets and educational backgrounds.  When I see the money they’ve spent on certification by this outfit, despite feeling happy for their perceived success, I think they’ve been bamboozled.  They’re giving up control of which ingredients they can formulate with, to an NGO that back-scratches for $$ using shady science.  Being aligned with them is giving the end user (their precious customer) misinformation while scaring for fun and profit.

Chicken Little

Chicken Little

I know many cosmetic scientists (you know, the ones’ who’ve worked hard to earn their degree’s and actually work in the field?) have an overwhelming disrespect for the EWG.  Activist groups are reactionary; jumping to erroneous conclusions and issuing press releases based on half-assed assessments.  Then the journalist’s pick them up, further sensationalize the “findings”, and the panic ensues.  The public outcry over whatever evil chemical is ready to kill us ensures their balance sheet will continue to grow with cash.  The more this happens, the more people lose confidence in the cosmetic industry.  Then comes more government oversight and regulation.

Its not about their cause, but about their methodology (or lack thereof).  The primary issue with the EWG, their sister groups, and database is they fail to see anything beyond assigning a hazard.  If you don’t evaluate risk, you have no useful information – hazard alone is only one part of an assessment.

I’ll post more on faulty assessments of cosmetic ingredients….stay tuned.   Cheers to those who can open their minds when given information that may contradict their beliefs- something I struggle with everyday.

Click Here to read:  “Color Them Stupid: Environmental Working Group Goes After Crayons”

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Baby Butts and Vaseline

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in All Posts, Myths and Misinformation | 2 comments

I’ve been using Vaseline on my lips every night for over 40 years.  I used it on my kids and their kids’ bottoms to protect the skin.  It’s been used on millions upon millions of babies’ butts.  I’ve used Vaseline impregnated gauze to help avoid an air embolism at the insertion site when I’ve removed a central line from a patient’s heart.
Ya think we would have noticed anything epidemiologically if Vaseline were causing harm?  Through testing we know it’s not harmful and is held to a certified level of purity.  We know what’s in it, what’s not in it, and how it works.  Thanks…science!
Speaking of babies butts:  Diaper rash cream is an OTC drug.
Vaseline is "non-toxic" for baby. #cosmetictruthbombs

Vaseline is “non-toxic” for baby.

Petroleum products are as natural as any other material that you could use. Petroleum comes from the biomass. What’s not natural about that?

Why do makers think petroleum products and their derivatives are so evil?
Petrolatum is being avoided based on bias and fallacy by “free-from” marketers.

Does it extend to shunning all plastics and any petroleum derivatives in their lives?  Petroleum products for baby’s skin is a no-no, but the polyethelene lining on disposable diapers is OK?  Do they hike or bike to work?  What about the mouse in their hand?  Do they package their products in plastic containers?

I’d like to see them live without ‘petrochemical byproducts’

There is no scientific reason to shun mineral oil or petrolatum in cosmetic products.  Otherwise it’s #healthwashing.

 “We have access to the greatest beauty products, that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the classics. One of our favorite iconic formulas is probably in the back of your medicine cabinet: Vaseline. It’s been around for 150 years—and with good reason. Vaseline is a multitasking miracle cream, and you can use it for a slew of time- and money-saving hacks”.
Petroleum Jelly Hacks
To help remove lash glue.
Don’t tug on those false lashes at the end of the night—it’s bad for the delicate skin around your eyes. When dealing with some particularly stuck lash strips, smudge some Vaseline into your lash line with a cotton swab. Wait a few minutes and then carefully peel away.
 To aid earring insertion. If you don’t wear earrings regularly, putting those studs in can be surprisingly painful. Rub your lobes with a little Vaseline beforehand for an easier time.
 To highlight cheekbones. We love our essences, our highlighters, and our illuminators, but this is a super easy (and way more budget-friendly) way to get glowing skin: Dab a bit of Vaseline on your cheekbones for a dewy finish.
 To soothe cracked heels. Summer sandals can transform even the softest heels into a scratchy, flaky mess. Before bed, slather your feet in Vaseline, and then put on some socks to wake up to softer, smoother skin.
 To define lashes. If you’re more of a minimalist when it comes to beauty products, you can get shiny, thicker-looking lashes without mascara: Applying Vaseline to the area makes lashes look longer and more voluminous, and it’s also rumored to help them grow faster.
 To protect a sore nose. Whether you have a cold or allergies, a runny nose often gets red and chapped. Dab a bit of Vaseline around your nostrils to add moisture back.
 To tame brows. Smoothing some Vaseline over your brows will keep them in place all day (and even tackle any stubborn brow cowlicks). Dab the pad of your ring finger in the jar, rub two fingertips together to distribute the formula, and then smooth it over your arches.
 To moisturize your face. Contrary to what you may think, Vaseline is noncomedogenic, making it OK to use as a face cream without worrying about clogged pores. (Still, if you’re acne-prone, talk to your dermatologist before doing this.)
 To protect your skin while coloring your hair. It’s hard to convince people that your hair is naturally red if you have patches of hair color on your forehead. Slick some dabs of Vaseline along your hairline before your appointment and the dye will stain the jelly, not your skin.
 To prevent self-tanning mishaps. Use Vaseline on trouble spots such as ankles, elbows, knees, and wrists before self-tanner application—the ointment will act as a barrier cream on these drier areas and prevent uneven absorption for a more natural-looking glow.
 To help heal a sunburn. If you forgot to reapply your SPF at the beach and are paying the price with painful, red skin, liberally apply Vaseline to the affected area: It’ll help lock in moisture to your dried-out skin and prevent peeling.
 To boost the effectiveness of your serum. Dotting Vaseline over your eye serum or face cream can double the strength of the first layer’s ingredients (because Vaseline prevents moisture evaporation). Just don’t apply over retinol-based formulas or other similarly powerful products; it may irritate your skin.
 To make a DIY lip or body scrub. Mix ordinary sugar with an eighth of a teaspoon of Vaseline to create a quick lip scrub. It’ll help get rid of any flakes and create a supersmooth canvas for lip color. If you’re looking to exfoliate your whole body, use more Vaseline and substitute kosher salt for the sugar—the larger grains will be more effective on rough body skin.
 To make your legs glow. Get that sexy Victoria’s Secret–model sheen by slicking Vaseline over each shin. To add a sun-kissed glow, you can also mix some petroleum jelly with an old, cracked bronzer and smooth it over your legs.
 To help prevent chafing. Apply a small amount of Vaseline to any area that’s prone to chafing to prevent irritation or rashes.
 To soothe dry cuticles. Use a pea-size amount of Vaseline for all ten fingers to soften and soothe scraggly, cracked cuticles. (It’s way cheaper than most cuticle creams.)
 To hide split ends. Moisturize and mask damage by smoothing a small amount of Vaseline over split ends. But be careful! Use too much and it’ll turn your hair into a greasy mess.
 To open your stuck nail polish. We love a good DIY manicure but hate struggling to unscrew the cap of our nail polish. Using a smidge of Vaseline on the bottle’s thread will ensure it’s ready to open at game time.
 source for Vaseline hacks.
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