WEN’s Careful Beauty Checklist: Explanations
Free from bleaching agents
Bleaching agents, such as hydroquinone and mercury, are added to skincare products to
help lighten skin. Although banned in the EU they are still manufactured in Asia and
Africa. These bleaching chemicals are highly toxic – hydroquinone can cause brown
patches on skin and is an irritant, mercury can cause serious poisoning as well as
cancer and exposure to both have been linked to ochronosis.
Free from chemically manufactured / synthetic made / nature identical
Nature identical ingredients are produced synthetically or processed but are chemically
identical to substances that are found in nature. Synthetic ingredients: e.g. silicones,
paraffin and other fossil fuel-derived products.
Free from detergents
Detergents are alternatives to soap and are derived from petroleum based products.
Some commonly used detergents are;
? Ethoxylated Alcohols (EA) including PEG, SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate)
? Amines and Derivatives including Diethanolamine (DEAs) such as
cocamide, lauramide, myristamine and oleamide DEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate,
DEA oleth-3 phosphate, triethanolamine (TEA), TEA-lauryl sulphate,
monoethnolamine (MEA) including cocamide, linoleamide and steramide
Many of these are known for their foaming action and surfactant functions (easy mixing
of oily and water-based substances) in daily use products such as shampoo,
conditioners, facial cleansers, hair dyes, lotions, soaps, baby shampoo, baby wipes,
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shaving cream and acne treatment. Detergents can dry skin and hair, cause irritations to eyes and skin, and can react with impurities and nitrate preservatives, some of which may cause cancer. DEA causes liver and kidney tumours, can damage testicles and reduce sperm activity. Many of the EA detergents are potentially contaminated with or break down into cancer causing agents. Research demonstrates a strong relationship to toxicity to kidneys and nervous system.
Free from GM ingredients
Genetically modified organisms are highly contested ingredients on a global scale. Some mass produced cosmetics have GM ingredients, which could be maize or soya based. Consumer concerns have pre-empted European companies to work at removing GM ingredients from their products, however many US companies maintain there is not enough evidence of harm from GMOs in cosmetics.
Free from lanolin
Lanolin, also known as wool fat or wool wax, is used as an oil or alcohol and is derived from a sheep’s oil glands. A natural emulsifier and emollient, (which prevents moisture
from being lost), lanolin is used extensively in cosmetics as a due to its waxy texture and the idea that it can make skin soft and smoother. Lanolin is found in moisturisers, especially those for lips. It is found in shampoo, ointments, face washes and creams, lip balms, hand creams, cold creams and face powders. Lanolin can be an irritant and can cause chapping of the lips. If the cosmetic product does not use certified organic lanolin then there is a risk of exposure to traces of DDT, dieldrin, lindane and other neurotic pesticides. Additionally, lanolin no longer is used in pure form because of the allergy-causing reactions.
Free from nanoparticles
Nanoparticles, such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide are used in cosmetics and as UV filters in sun creams. Nanoparticles are defined as anything smaller than 100 nanometres in size, with a nanometre being one-billionth of a metre, 80,000 times smaller than a human hair. It has shown to be possible for nanoparticles to enter the bloodstream on inhalation and cross the blood-brain barrier, thus entering the brain itself. Fullerenes are another example of nanoparticle used in antiaging products. Due to the fact that nanoparticles pass cellular membranes it can be expected to reach DNA and
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have adverse affects on genotoxicity, a short term measure of carcinogenicity. Research associated with the health affects of fullerenes and titanium dioxide indicate that certain nanoparticles may be genotoxic and photogenotoxic.
Free from phthalates
Phthalates are used as a plasticizer and a solvent in cosmetics. They may be listed as dibutyl, dithylhexyl, DEHP, DBP to name a few chemical variations. Some phthalates may not appear on a label as they are components of ‘fragrances’, ‘parfum’, ‘perfume’ and other synthetic fragrances. Phthalates are used in the production of plastics, packages, cosmetics and other household items. Research strongly demonstrates that DEHP is linked to adverse affects to male and female reproductive system and the EU has banned the use of some phthalates in PVC toys as well as listing it as a ‘substance
of very high concern.’ Phthalates are found in a number of products that are fragrant or
have a scent to them e.g. ‘parfum’. Parfum can contain more than 100 different
ingredients which are not required to be identified on a product. A previous study of name brand cosmetics found phthalates in nearly 80% with none of them listing phthalates on the ingredients list. Phthalates can be found in cosmetics such as nail varnishes, deodorants, fragrances, hair gels and sprays, hand and body lotions.
Free from petrochemicals
Petrol based products, such as petroleum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, paraffin, petroleum and petroleum by-products are used as penetration enhancers, lubricants and emollients in such products as cold creams, lipsticks, mascaras, baby creams, moisturising creams, shaving creams, hair conditioners, makeup removers to name a few. Petroleum based products can irritate and sensitise skin, may compromise skin’s own moisturising system as well as contain harmful impurities.
Free from synthetic preservatives
Synthetic preservatives are those ingredients of an unnatural source or origin used as a preservative system in products. Organic certifiers may allow specific preservative systems within a product, however those will not be included in this section. Due to the fact that parabens are one of the most widely used preservatives they are the primary exclusion on the list. Formaldehyde may be hidden within products and may be
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released when products break down or react with another product. It can be found as a preservative in various cosmetics, soap, nail hardeners and varnish. Ingesting formaldehyde can cause internal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, coma and death. Formaldehyde is a proven neurotoxin, genotoxin, carcinogen and skin irritant. It is involved in DNA damage and inhibits its repair and in conjunction with other chemical ingredients can produce mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. Preservatives are the second most common cause of allergic and irritant reactions to cosmetics.
Free from retinol
1Retinol, natural vitamin A, is added to cosmetics for marketing reasons. Other forms of
retinol include tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene and retinyl and are used in moisturizers and night creams with the suggestion of offering anti-ageing effects. Used as ingredients in anti-aging creams, these chemicals were developed for and continue to be used as acne treatments. Predominantly found in anti-ageing skin creams and moisturisers as well as psoriasis and acne care. When exposed to large doses of retinol during pregnancy research shows that it may harm the development of the embryo. Side effects associated with topical tretinoin are skin irritation, dryness, peeling and sun sensitivity and with persistent use, skin damage and accelerate ageing. Adapalene and tazarotene both indicate similar side effects from usage, but add redness, burning sensation and rash.
Free from synthetic colours
Synthetic colours are entirely artificial in composition and added to makeup and other coloured products. These crude oil, coal tar and mineral derived dyes and lakes may contain carcinogenic arsenic and lead. In the USA FD&C colours are certified for inclusion in food, drugs and cosmetics and D&C colours for drugs and cosmetics only. Questionable synthetic colours are: FD&C blues 1(E133), 2(E132), 4; Green 3; Reds 4, 40(E129); Yellows 5(E102), 6(E110), D&C Reds 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 21, 27, 33; Green 5; Oranges 5, 17. Disperse Blue 1; Yellow 3. These ingredients are found in products such as lip glosses, children’s toothpaste and hair colours. Some synthetic colours have been linked to childhood hyperactivity disorders as well as cancers.
1 From Cosmetics Unmasked, Dr.Stephen & Gina Antczak
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Against animal testing
Regulation requires cosmetic companies to test products to ensure consumer safety, however the methods used are entirely up to the manufacturer. According to COLIPA, the European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, a testing ban on animals in the EU will apply from March 2009 whether or not an alternative to animal testing is available.
Contains ingredients which carry the certified Fairtrade Mark
The Fair Trade criterion was added as a number of cosmetics products now include ingredients which carry the Fairtrade Mark. For more information about Fairtrade and for an explanation of the differences between organic and fair trade standards please visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/what_is_fairtrade/default.aspx.
Full and clear disclosure of ingredients
That all the ingredients listed on the label are all the ingredients contained in the product. High street cosmetics products can contain ingredients like phthalates, which are not listed on the label but contained in the product to carry fragrances or make the products undrinkable in the case of perfume. Also the ingredients used to create a fragrance.
All products carry recognised certification
This criterion takes account of developments in independently monitored standards for the health and beauty industry, particularly the Soil Association in the UK, and BDIH in
Germany. For clarity we only indicate if ALL of a company’s products carry a recognised
certification, though some of the listed companies do have specific products or a range of products which carry certification.
Plants from sustainably managed areas
An indicator of whether companies producing greener cosmetics extend their concern for human health to environmental health.
Product information printed on recycled paper
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Packaging printed by a carbon neutral company with vegetable oils, no film or
This criterion was included to take into account the popularity of Carbon Neutral
companies, the overuse of packaging materials and the chemicals that can leach from
the packaging to the product. To clarify this addition, WEN does not endorse carbon
offsetting as a manner of combating climate change.
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