Look at the label

Let us read together the label of a nourishing lip balm with almond oil made by a known foreign firm of so-called natural and vegetable products for personal care.

Are the ingredients really natural and vegetable?

Here is the list in descending order of quantity, grouped according to the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) (ref. 4):

As written on the packaging:

  1. Paraffinum liquidum;
  2. Ozokerite;
  3. Hydrogenated palm kernel oil;
  4. Myristyl lactate;
  5. Cetyl palmitate;
  6. Cera alba;
  7. Buxus chinensis;
  8. Prunus dulcis;
  9. Buthyrospermum parkii;
  10. Ethyl linoleate;
  11. Diisostearyl malate;
  12. Parfum;
  13. Tocopheryl acetate;
  14. Propylparaben.

Let us see in detail what it is, starting from the components contained in higher amounts.

The paraffin (ref. 1) is a mixture of hydrocarbons contained in oil and in ozokerite used for candles, electrical insulators, shoe creams, lubricants, for ointments in pharmacy, and as a protection for the skin and a laxative in medicine.

The ozokerite (ref 1) is a fossil wax found in the vicinity of oil fields. It is yellow brown colored, soft and plastic.

The hydrogenated palm kernel oil is palm kernel oil hardened through a chemical reaction called hydrogenation (ref. 2).

The myristyl lactate, also called Tetradecyl 2-hydroxypropanoate, (ref. 3) is an ester of myristyl alcohol and of lactic acid.

The cetyl palmitate, also named Hexadecyl palmitate (ref. 3) is an ester of cetylic alcohol and cetyl palmitic acid.

The “cera alba” is a bleached and purified bees wax. The wax is produced by bees and is used for the construction of honeycombs. It consists primarily of palmitic ether of myristyl alcohol and free cerotic acid (ref. 2).

The buxus chinensis is a native of the American continent and is also called jojoba.

The prunus dulcis is the almond tree.

The buthyrospermum parkii is also known as shea butter and is derived from an African plant.

The ethyl linoleate is an ethyl ester of oleic acid.

The diisostearyl malate, also known as butanedioic acid or dimethyl malate, is a diester of stearyl alcohol and of malic acid.

The mixture of the perfume is not described.

The tocopheryl acetate, or tocopherol, is made of acetic acid and vitamin E.

The propyl paraben is the propyl ester of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and is an allergen (ref. 5), which means a substance that is capable of penetrating into the body, causing a state of allergy (ref. 2).

In conclusion, the ingredients are not all natural and vegetable.

This balm was for sale until a few months ago and the one that recently replaced it no longer has the ingredients written on the package.

Never stop at the writings on the labels, at the inviting colors and at the misleading advertisements. Not even trust the commercial name given to the product, even if it contains words such as “eco” or “organic”, or also “for children”, “sustainable”, and the like. Instead, it is important to carefully read the ingredients. With a little experience, it becomes quick and easy to recognize what is natural and vegetable from what is rather of chemical synthesis, or by-product of the oil and fossil fuel industry.

These directions apply not only to products for personal care, but also to those intended for house cleaning, which may contain toxic and harmful components for the health and for the environment, such as the formaldehyde contained in certain detergents for floors.

Finally, however, here is the good news.

In the European Union animal tests are banned for all cosmetic products (ref. 4).

In particular, since July 11, 2013, the European Cosmetics Regulation, which replaces a previous directive, has established:

  • the testing ban, that is the prohibition to test finished cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients on animals;
  • the marketing ban, that is the prohibition to market in the European Union finished cosmetic products and ingredients, which have been tested on animals.

The testing ban on finished cosmetic products has been applied since September 11, 2004. The ban on testing the ingredients, or combinations of ingredients, has been applied since March 11, 2009.

The marketing ban has been applied since March 11, 2009 for all effects on human health, with the exception of repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity, and toxicokinetics. For these specific health effects, the marketing ban has been applied since March 11, 2013, regardless of the availability of alternative non-animal methods.

Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering

(1) Nicola Zingarelli, Vocabolario della lingua italiana, Zanichelli.
(2) http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/
(3) http://www.chemspider.com/
(4) http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/cosmetics/index_en.htm
(5) http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Propyl_4-hydroxybenzoate#section=Top

Translation of the article: Paola Morgese “Occhio all’etichetta” published in the blog of Sostenibile.com (May, 2015).



Author: progettisostenibili Paola Morgese

Ingegnere, project manager, autrice. Convogliatrice di sostenibilità nelle aziende e nella vita. Engineer, project manager, author. Conveyer of sustainability in business and life

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