Toxic List: Fragrance

You have to wonder why we instinctually avoid, at all costs, the perfume girl passing out strips of fine paper soaked in “parfum o’ the day” at the department store entrance.  It definitely is a smart move.

Fragrances evoke emotions, memories, elegance and lures people to you.  Enlivening the senses with floral, musk, fruit, and wood notes, fragrance is beautifully powerful.  Beautiful when NATURAL.

I have been a card-carrying No. 5 girl all my fragrance spraying life.  In fact anything from the house that Coco built (some would argue Karl), I absolutely loved and doused myself in.  In the past year, I have limited my spritzes and opted for the endorphin inducing scents of my healthy body lotions.

This weekend I made a bold move.

As I opted for naturally derived fragrances this past year in an effort to limit my toxin intake, something shifted in my olfactory reception.  A simple spray of any of my coveted glass bottles has me rush out the bathroom gasping for fresh air.  My senses have heightened from my big name fragrance hiatus.  This weekend I decided enough is enough.  My shelf is now shiny and free, showcasing my life-giving essential oils.

Fragrances are protected by a trade secret law, which allows companies the right to not reveal the ingredients of their fragrances.  This holds true for added fragrance in other products such as moisturizers, where the vague ingredient “fragrance” is listed.  Of course, if the fragrance is naturally derived, the company will make that clear on the ingredient list (it is a badge of integrity).

So what are some toxic ingredients in major fragrances that have been discovered?

  • Diethyl phthalate – mimics hormones, linked to abnormal reproductive organs and sperm damage
  • BHT – toxic to immune, nervous, and respiratory systems, endocrine disruptor, possible carcinogen
  • Oxybenzone – potential photocarcinogen, endocrine disruptor, linked to lower birth weight
  • Octinoxate – endocrine disruptor, increases uterus weight
  • Limonene – can create formaldehyde as a byproduct when exposed to ozone

These synthetic chemicals are tweaking with mother nature and creating heart-breaking results that we should not be living with.  Detox your olfactory system and switch to natural fragrances, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE PREGNANT.  Purchase essential oils.  Add a few drops to a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or almond oil. Become a perfumer of essential oils; we all loved being a bathroom chemist when we were younger!

Right now this chemist rocks a blend of rose and lavender, dreamily.

Want to see how your fragrance rates in toxicity?  Check out the EWG’s fragrance report.

Gluten-Free Cosmetics


Becoming aware of gluten-free cosmetics and skincare popping up on makeup counters?  Do you know why?  I sure didn’t have a clue until Celiac Chicks enlightened me a couple of months ago.

Gluten intolerance exists in varying degrees: celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. Celiac disease is the most heightened gluten sensitivity since it is an autoimmune disease that affects digestion, nutrient absorption, the blood stream, and skin.

Since our skin is an absorbing organ, those with gluten intolerance should stay away from applying ingredients that are derived from gluten, especially celiacs.  Dermatitis herpetiformis is a common visual symptom of gluten intolerance.  It can be a gruesome rash of itchy, liquid filled blisters. I’ll refrain from including pictures of the condition.

So, what is a common gluten-derived ingredient in cosmetics?

Vitamin E.

This is where Celiac Chicks enlightened me.  Vitamin E can be derived from wheat germ. Applying vitamin E that is derived from wheat germ can cause a sizeable allergic reaction to those with gluten intolerance, namely celiacs.

The good news with vitamin E is that it can come from gluten-free sources, such as corn and soy.

If you have any gluten intolerance it is wise to seek gluten-free skincare and cosmetics.  Read your labels.  If you are still unsure of the ingredients or want to be doubly assured, contact the company.

Keep an eye on this space, because gluten-free product reviews are on their way!

Got a favorite gluten-free skincare/cosmetic product?  Share it in the comments below!

Get To Know Your Ingredients: Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol

Also listed as:


Propylene glycol is an alcohol commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products to seal moisture into the skin. While keeping moisture in skin sounds like a good idea, propylene glycol is not a safe way to keep your skin moisturized and hydrated. It coats skin and does not allow toxins to be released, clogging pores. Propylene glycol increases the acidity levels in the body.  It also can cause or increase asthma, hay fever, eczema, skin irritation, kidney and liver damage, nausea, and headaches.

You can find propylene glycol in brake fluid, anti-freeze, paints, and de-icing fluids for airplanes, boats, and cars.  Propylene glycol is also found in body lotions, mascara, personal lubricants, deodorants, toothpaste, and foods.

Get to know what your products contain.  You can ELIMINATE  your propylene glycol intake.

(Pay the same mind to ethylene glycol)

The Psychology Of Suds

A while back, I sent some product to my beloved friend Nick to try.  I asked him for some feedback and he says, “It doesn’t really lather up, so I don’t feel it is cleansing and doing the job.”  I tell him that we have been trained to think that a soap only works when it lathers up due to an added ingredient known as sulfate.  This fluffy lather has been created  to evoke “cleanliness”. Sulfates are a foaming agent that strip all oils, leaving surfaces barren and dehydrated, which explains why there is a huge need for conditioners and moisturizers.  Genius marketing?  Maybe.

“Oh!  Then I will continue with this product.  I never knew this.  You should really post about this psychology of clean.  This topic is more interesting and enlightening for your readers.”

So, here it is.


Squeaky clean?  More like squeaky, stripped, and pushing you to the point of no return.  Sulfates are the agent ADDED to create foam and lather to products.  Besides creating a foam party, what else do sulfates and their “gentler” clones do?

  • cause unnatural hair loss
  • damage follicles
  • irritate skin (dermatitis)
  • potentially create carcinogens through contact with other ingredients
  • fade color treated hair
  • strip essential oils
  • damage the immune system
  • may impair brain, heart, and eye function

So the next time you encounter lavish foam, check the label for sulfates.  Squeaky clean is not naturally occurring. Naturally we wouldn’t think otherwise because we have never known anything other than the “lather means it is cleansing” model.



Where can you find these so-called sulfates and “gentler” clones?

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Facial cleanser
  • Body Wash
  • Liquid Hand Soap
  • Shaving Cream
  • Bubble Bath/Bath Oil/Bath Salts
  • Toothpaste
  • Hair Color and Hair Bleach
  • Baby Products

The good news: There are lots of great performing sulfate-free products (that may lather naturally) in the marketplace to replace those sulfate-ridden products, which makes the transition nothing to lose your hair over! (Pun intended)

Oh, and by the way, Nick is now a FAN of  his aforementioned sulfate-free product.

Brazilian Blowout


This past week, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration found formaldehyde in the now infamous Brazilian Blowout solution at levels as high as 10.6%, when an Oregon salon called the administration with workers’ complaints of nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, and eye irritation.  If a hair solution has over 0.1% formaldehyde, the manufacturers must inform the stylists.  Brazilian Blowout firmly negates Oregon’s OSHA test results and claims that their product does not contain formaldehyde.


Brazilian Blowout uses biformyl.  Biformyl is a derivative of formaldehyde.  The authors of No More Dirty Looks have a great post about this OSHA finding along with toxicological information.  Click here to read.  Remember, No More Dirty Looks was conceived in the salon chairs during this questionable beauty process.

Not worth it, Ladies.

So what now?  What is your alternative?

If you’d like to have tamer hair and easier blowouts, I suggest picking up Simply Straight from Belegenza.  I gave a bottle of food-grade (meaning it is safe to eat) Simply Straight to my friend Vana, who is avid about managing her curl by blow drying her hair smooth regularly (I have yet to see her hair curly since I’ve known her for 5 years, mind you).  In just her first application, Vana’s blow dry time was shortened and her hair was visibly smoother and straighter!  Vana was so impressed as was I.

Simply Straight is a product that you must have an intimate and active relationship with.  It is a progressive straightener and curl tamer, meaning that with continued applications your taming and straightening will increase with each use.   This is a very gentle, natural formula; you will produce full results with 30 applications.

Click Here to Purchase

For gentle straightened hair, use small amount as a styling cream. Style as usual. For faster progressive straightened hair, generously apply to wet hair, comb straight and secure with elastic. Leave at least 3 hours. Rinse, shampoo. Follow with conditioner. Reapply small amount of Simply Straight, blow dry and flat iron.

I’d say give Simply Straight a try, Ladies.

Get yours here.

the legal stuff: Although, Belegenza is a goddess.huntress. sponsor, Vana was in no way solicited, swayed, nor compensated by Belegenza nor goddess.huntress. in any way.

Get To Know Your Ingredients: Tocopheryl Acetate

Tocopheryl Acetate

Also listed as:


Tocopheryl acetate is a derivative of vitamin E, not to be confused with tocopherol. Tocopheryl acetate is carcinogenic.  It is cheaper and longer lasting than the natural form of vitamin E, hence its popularity.  It has a high potential of being contaminated with hydroquinone, another carcinogen, during its manufacturing process.  Tocopheryl acetate can also Be a skin irritant.

Tocopheryl acetate can be found in lipstick, lip gloss, skin creams, anti-aging treatments, sunscreen, foundation, eye shadow, facial cleanser, and mascara.

Instead, choose products with vitamin E that list it as vitamin E or tocopherol.

Get to know what your products contain.  You can ELIMINATE  your tocopheryl acetate intake.

Get To Know Your Ingredients: Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl Palmitate

Can also be listed as:


Retinyl palmitate comes from the retin-A family, a derivative of vitamin A.  While this vitamin A family is successful in reducing fine lines and wrinkles (while making skin ultra sensitive and sometimes raw), it causes chemical reactions when exposed to sunlight.

Retinyl palmitate is coming to the forefront as a new, yet controversial, ingredient in sunscreen. According to EWG, 41% of sunscreens being sold to us, this year alone, contain retinyl palmitate. This is definitely a questionable ingredient to include in skincare, especially suncare, due to its phototoxicity and thermal instability.

Seventeen studies have been published by the FDA on the effects of retinyl palmitate. According to these studies, they found that retinyl palmitate forms free radicals in sunlight and alters chromosomes. It has also been found to increase tumor growth in rats by 21%.  An ingredient that potentially mutates into a carcinogen with sunlight should not be in our skin products.

Retinyl palmitate can be found in some sunscreen, sunscreen makeup,  facial moisturizers, anti-aging treatments, skin peels, foundation, lip treatments, lip gloss, lipstick, blush, and eye cream.

Get to know what your products contain.  You can ELIMINATE  your retinyl palmitate intake.

Get To Know Your Ingredients: Formaldehyde


Formaldehyde is an organic compound recently recognized by the EPA as a carcinogen.  It permeates through inhalation.  Formaldehyde is linked to lung cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, and myeloid leukemia.  The EPA also links formaldehyde to cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; reproductive and developmental toxicity; asthma; neurologic and behavioral toxicity; and immunological toxicity.

Formaldehyde has been banned for use in cosmetics in Sweden and Japan.

This month, senate legislation on formaldehyde levels in wood is likely be executed to assimilate standards already enforced in the State of California.  Regulations on other products may soon follow.

  • Formaldehyde may be found in vaccines, nail lacquers, nail treatments, eyelash glue, hair products, wrinkle-resistant fabrics, wood adhesives, carpet adhesives, composite wood products, pill casings, automobile exhaust, tobacco smoke, smog, facial tissues, paper towels, paper napkins, and paint.
  • Imidazolidinyl urea and Hydantoin (DMHM), commonly found in hair products, are preservatives that release formaldehyde.

Get to know what your products contain. You can limit your formaldehyde intake.

Get To Know Your Ingredients: Hydroquinone


Can also be listed as:


Hydroquinone is an organic compound used in skin lightening creams.  The FDA has recognized hydroquinone as harmful and proposed a ban of using the chemical in over-the-counter products in 2006.  Despite the proposed ban, it is permitted to sell products with hydroquinone in concentrations of up to 2% without a prescription in the United States.  The proposed ban in 2006 arose from the increasing tumor rates in laboratory rats.  It is banned in the EU and Japan.

Along with being a carcinogen, hydroquinone causes ochronosis.  Ochronosis is an irreversible disease that causes dark blue discoloration in cartilage and skin, dark urine, and arthritis.

Hydroquinone is the only ingredient the FDA recognizes as a skin lightener.  No other ingredient can be labeled as a “skin lightener”.  Any nonhydroquinone ingredients that operate as a skin lightener are labeled as a “brightener”.

  • Some safe alternative ingredients to skin lightening hydroquinone are: lactic acid, fennel extract, kiwi extract, licorice extract, bearberry extract, mulberry extract, pumpkin enzyme, green tea, white tea, and vitamin C. These have all been shown to inhibit the melanin process associated with discoloration.

Hydroquinone is found in over-the-counter and prescription “skin lightening” treatments.  It may also be found in anti-aging products, sunscreen, hair color, and hair bleach.

Get to know what your products contain.  You can limit your hydroquinone intake.