Propylene Glycol Usage in the US Riddle me this: when it comes to buying skincare and beauty products, do you ever stop and look at what’s actually in them? Really look, I mean – not just glimpse at it briefly before tossing it into your basket?

It’s something I’ve started doing recently – reading the labels – out of a morbid fascination for what people are prepared to apply to their own skins (and to remind myself why I decided to go the natural route instead).

Exhibit A:
Scrub Mask ingredients A ‘Weekly Scrub Mask’ purchased at a well-known chain store

INGREDIENTS: Water, Calcium Carbonate, Kaolin, PEG-6 Stearate (&) PEG-32 Stearate, Glycerin, Polythylene Beads, Mineral Oil, Fragrance, Propylene Glycol (&) Sodium Methylparaben (&) Sodium Dehydro-Acetate(&) Sorbic Acid (&) Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylchlorpisothiazolinone (&) Methylisothiazolinone, Colourants.

Now, I don’t know about you, but anything that has an ingredient as unpronounceable as ‘Methylchlorpisothiazolinone‘ has my little feelers twitching. What the hang is that, anyway? Even a determined consultation of the usually forthcoming world wide web revealed absolutely nada: no results whatsoever on any of the many search engines I tried.

Curiouser and curiouser.

However, this mystery substance’s equally tongue-twisting cousin ‘Methylchloroisothiazolinone’ did have quite an interesting little bio:

“Methylchloroisothiazolinone (5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolinon-3-one) is a preservative with antibacterial and antifungal effects within the group of isothiazolinones. It is effective against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, yeast and fungi.

It is found in many water-based personal care products and cosmetics. It is also used in glue production, detergents, paints, fuels and other industrial processes. Methylchloroisothiazolinone is known by the registered tradename Kathon CG when used in combination with methylisothiazolinone.

It was first used in cosmetics in the 1970s. In high concentrations it can cause chemical burns and it is a skin and membrane irritant and so it was largely removed from most cosmetic products except for those with only short duration skin contact such as rinse-offs. Its inclusion in certain forms makes it more acceptable to sensitive users, so it can be found in cosmetic creams and lotions which require skin contact. In the US accepted concentrations are 15 ppm in rinse-offs and 8 ppm in other cosmetics.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Lovely… And if that isn’t enough to make you gasp in horror, take a look at all the other household products that contain this delightful substance – everything from shoe gel to porch and floor gloss enamel to hair dyes, shampoos and conditioners.

Exhibit B:
A popular (and expensive) sunscreen lotion widely used in South Africa (and internationally)

INGREDIENTS: Aqua, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Butylene, Glycol, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol, Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Caprylyl Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, Xantham Gum, PEG-40 Castor Oil, Sorbitan Oleate, Isohexadecane, Ammonium Polyacrylate, Disodium EDTA, Tocopheryl Acetate, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum – [FPT2050].

My fingers hurt, just typing that out… I’m not going to go wild with the details on this one, but I’ve linked through to more info for a few of the ingredients, if you’re curious.

What I don’t get is how putting this stuff on our skin (and releasing it into our environment) seems like a good idea. Do you?

Obviously, these are just two examples, and I picked out what seemed to be the worst ingredients of the bunch, but it’s enough for someone like me to make a big shift in my thinking:

If the cosmetics companies are willing to put even the smallest quantities of what are potentially toxic substances (I’m not buying the ‘short duration’ and ‘accepted concentrations’ justification) into something that’s going straight onto my skin (and, through it, into my bloodstream), then I will never touch any of their so-called skin-care products again.


And why should I, when it’s so easy to go au natural: products that contain only natural ingredients (organic wherever possible) are in – anything with unpronounceable environmentally-unfriendly ingredients is out.

Exhibit C:
Apricot Kernel scrub ingredientsApricot and Walnut Exfoliating Facial Scrub from The Victorian Garden

INGREDIENTS: organic Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), organic Cetearyl Olivate, organic sorbitan Olivate, Apricot Oil (Prunus Armenica), organic Jojoba (Simmonsia Chinensis), organic Olive Oil, Apricot Kernels, Pumice Powder, Vegetable Glycerin, Walnuts, Yucca Schidigera.

Quite a different kettle of fish, isn’t it? All these ingredients come straight from nature – they didn’t need to be manufactured. And, with so many toxins already in our environment (in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat), it makes sense, I think, to find something natural for our skins.

Faithful to NatureAnd so it was that I became a regular visitor to Faithful to Nature, a wonderful, user-friendly Cape Town-based website stocking only natural and organic products. Their passion for all things eco- and body-friendly has inspired me to take a complete leap, and I will never look back.

Victorian GardenThere’s a wide range of everything from beauty products to healing products to cleaning agents and pet shampoos – all of them completely natural (except the very few that contain clearly-indicated safe synthetic ingredients) . And they deliver within one working day. Plus, their environmental passion extends to their packaging: everything delivered is wrapped in recycleable materials, in previously used boxes. Fabulous.

And if you think going natural means it’s going to cost far more, think again. Certainly, some of the ranges stocked by Faithful to Nature are on the pricier side (and prices in general have recently gone up, fuel-price hikes ‘n’ all), but there’s one range that I feel offers incredible value, as well as unbelievable quality: The Victorian Garden.

Chamomile and Avocado Body Butter, mmmmm…I cannot recommend these folks highly enough. I love all the lotions and potions I’ve tried so far – just the smell of them can drive a girl wild – in particular the Double Rose Ultra Rich Hand Cream (R47), the Apricot & Walnut Exfoliating Scrub (R50) and the Chamomile and Avocado Body Butter (R78).

They don’t have flashy packaging, but what’s inside is pure gold.

Oh, and by the by, it’s not all girl territory. For the guys, Faithful to Nature also stock shaving gels and soaps, moisturisers and aftershaves and loads more.

So, next time you’re out shopping, and you find yourself staring at the rows and rows of lotions, potions and add-ons, consider for a moment what’s in them, and what they could be doing to you – and then make your choice.

Some useful resources for finding out what’s in cosmetics:

Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database – an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products (founded by the Environmental Working Group).

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – coalition working to eliminate chemicals in cosmetics linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

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