Take a glance at Aveeno’s Active Naturals website and you’ll get the feeling that this brand is full of natural goodness. A light, earthy background color serves as the palette for rich photographs of products flanked by white sand and green leaves-the kind that give you the feeling these products are healthy for you and full of safe and nourishing ingredients. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Let’s take a look at one product-Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizing Cream Cleanser. According to the company, it’s “the beauty of nature + science,” a gentle, soap-free cleanser with skin conditioners that “lift away dirt, oil, and make-up while moisturizing dry and sensitive skin.” It contains feverfew extract, a natural ingredient related to chamomile that’s “known for its soothing properties.” This feverfew is even organically farmed and along with the rest of the formulation, supposedly helps reduce redness and calm skin.
For people going through cancer treatments, this sounds like the perfect solution to problem skin that’s particularly sensitive. But Aveeno isn’t telling you the whole story.
Turn the product over and you may be surprised to see that most of the ingredients are nothing like the “organically farmed” feverfew. The third ingredient is “isohexadecane”-a synthetic petrochemical-which though generally considered safe, is suspected of being an environmental toxin by Environment Canada.
Two ingredients down you see “Di-PPG 2 myreth-10 adipate.” Does anyone think this looks “natural?” It’s one of those “skin conditioners” the web site mentioned, but it’s synthetically made and goes through the process of “ethoxylation,” which means it has a higher probability of being contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane is a chemical by-product that is a known animal carcinogen and penetrates readily into the skin. Another ingredient in the formulation-PEG-20 methyl glucose sesquistearate-is also subjected to ethoxylation, and carries the same risk of 1,4-dioxane contamination.
Next ingredient is TEA cocoyl glutamate, a mild surfactant that has a risk of being contaminated with nitrosamines-which are banned in the European Union and prohibited from use in Canadian cosmetics because of the strong evidence linking them with cancer. Animal studies also show reproductive problems at very low doses of nitrosamines.
Keep going down the list and you find more synthetic ingredients, more petrochemicals (caprylyl glycol, acrylates/C10 30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, and hexylene glycol), tetrasodium EDTA, a chelating ingredient that has poor biodegradability, and another preservative that could lead to sensitization of the skin (methylisothiazolinone).
“None of these ingredients would pass natural standards,” says Judi Beerling, a technical research manager who works with Organic Monitor.
So how does Aveeno get by claiming that this product-and so many of its other products-are “natural?” Seems it’s all about image. I assume Aveeno thinks if it packages the not-so-natural formulas in earthy colors and puts “natural” on the label everyone will be fooled. But to savvy consumers, green products and a green-looking website don’t mean safe, natural products. I recommend you check out Marie Veronique Organics instead. They have a delicious Redness Remedy that really is full of natural goodies like green & white tea, apricot kernel oil, aloe vera gel, vitamin E, bilberry extract, and so much more (without any compromising ingredients).
You don’t have to compromise your skin or your health to get good results. There are manufacturers out there who are making products that are really safe and natural-just be sure you get the real story by reading the ingredient list, not just the promises and claims on the package. Click here for a list of the 21 ingredients to avoid. You can even print out the card and put it in your wallet when you go shopping!
Have you found other brands of natural products that are serious about their claims? Let us know!