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Controversial Ingredients: One Brand’s Perspective

By: Ada Polla and Anne Pouillot
Posted: November 29, 2011, from the December 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 11

“Preservative-free” formulas contain ingredients such as essential oils, which can have preservativelike qualities.8 However, essential oils are also considered allergens. Indeed, in Europe, 26 essential oils must be listed on a product label if the concentration is greater than 0.001% for non-rinsed products, and 0.01% for rinsed products, because of potential allerginicity (20–30% of intolerance reactions).

Preservation through packaging should also be discussed in this context.9 Indeed, brand owners may choose to move away from packaging such as jars that are consistently exposed to air and high levels of hands-on contamination and replace them with tubes or pumps that minimize the air channel and hand-to-product contact. This type of packaging allows for the use of less robust preservative systems since microorganism exposure is reduced. Overall, we believe the current best alternative to parabens is the association of benzyl alcohol, benzoic acid and sorbic acid.

This is the combination of ingredients we have chosen to replace parabens. Furthermore, as we do not believe that parabens are nefarious from a scientific perspective, we have chosen not to communicate this reformulation with the usual “paraben-free” verbiage, which in our opinion contributes to the consumers’ misplaced fear of these preservatives.

Ingredients of Ingredients

Cleansing agents

What are they? Ingredients with salts of sulfated ethoxylated fatty alcohols are primarily used in cleansing products—including bubble baths, soaps, detergents and shampoos. Among the alkyl ether sulfate ingredients, sodium laureth sulfate is most commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products. It has come to replace its family member, sodium lauryl sulfate, known to be very irritating to the skin. Sodium laureth sulfate did not yield adverse effects in a number of safety studies—including acute, subchronic and chronic oral exposure, reproductive and developmental toxicity, carcinogenicity and photosensitization studies.10

Why the bad reputation? Trace amounts of 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of ethoxylation, may be found in the salts of sulfated ethoxylated fatty alcohols. The presence of 1,4-dioxane, even as a trace contaminant,11 is cause for concern because it accumulates in the body and is linked to liver and bladder cancer in animals.12 Moreover, in a 2003 study, German dermatologists found that patch testing sodium laureth sulfate increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL), or dehydration of the skin.13 Should it be replaced? Not necessarily. The potential presence of 1,4-dioxane is well-known, and can be controlled through purification steps to minimize it from ingredients before integrating them in cosmetic formulations.14 Alchimie Forever offers consumers two cleansers: one that contains sodium laureth sulfate and one that does not. We have ensured the appropriate purification steps for our foaming cleanser that does contain sodium laureth sulfate, so that 1,4-dioxane is not present in our formula. We have never used sodium lauryl sulfates.