They SAY It's Good For Your Skin! (Part 2)

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by Christine Wolfe
updated 12 months ago

Published on: October 19, 2003
article reprinted from

#08. Dimethicone copolyol The label's comma between "dimethicone" and "copolyol" really slowed down already difficult research. The chemical is known under a variety of names, including di-Me; Dimethicream; dimeythyl silicone; dimethylpoly-siloxane; dimethylsiloxane-glycol copolymer; ethoxylated propoxylated; hydroxy-terminated; latex (Hevea brasiliensis); Silbar; silicone; silicone rubber; siloxanes and Simethicone. If you are allergic to rubber/latex (as I am), it might be wise to avoid dimethicone copolyol under any of its names!

Silicone, by the way, is made from silica which occurs in rocks and sand, and which is used to make glass and computer parts and breast implants.

Dimethicone copolyol can be derived in part from almonds (Prunus dulcis), avocados (Persea americana), beeswax, cocoa (Theobroma cacao) butter, olives (Olea europaea), phthalates or shea (Butyrospermum parkii) butter. Since I am allergic to three of these, I, at least, need to avoid dimethicone copolyol.

In its pure form, dimethicone copolyol:

is flammable.

can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if you swallow it.

can cause redness and pain if you get it in your eyes.

makes it necessary to use it in a well-ventilated area.

makes it necessary to wear gloves to prevent skin contact!

I don't know if it is a carcinogen or a teratogen. I do know that it isn't good for my skin!

#09. Tetrasodium EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra acetate) is a very controversial chemical: Some sources say it's safe, others say it's very dangerous.

There are more than a hundred commercial names for tetrasodium EDTA. Instead of listing them in this article, you can click here to see the ones I've found so far.

Tetrasodium EDTA is a synthetic amino acid derived from an unspecified natural ingredient. Its primary use by the cosmetic industry appears to be that of permitting the removal of undesirable minerals from a combination of chemicals (chelating agent); were the minerals left in the product, microbes could get busy. This chemical can also be used to soften water.

Other industries using tetrasodium EDTA are the detergent and printing ones.

How safe is it in its pure form? Judge for yourself.

It isn't flammable.

It isn't known to be a carcinogen or a teratogen.

Noone knows if there are any chronic effects.

It's incompatible with strong oxidizing agents.

Don't put aluminum, zinc, copper or copper alloys (brass, gold) or nickel (the clasp on your watch) in touch with it.

It's very alkaline, with a pH of 11 to 11.5 (7 is neutral, 14 is corrosively alkaline and 0 is corrosively acidic).

It may cause chemical conjunctivitis if you get it in your eyes.

It may cause gastro-intestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you remain conscious after swallowing it, you must immediately rinse your mouth out with water, you mustn't vomit and you must seek the help of a doctor. If you're unconscious, noone must give you liquids. Dimethicone copolyol must be a poison!

Don't breathe in its dust. The most extreme re-action you could have is to stop breathing!

It can irritate your skin.

I never dreamt that cosmetic-industry chemists led such dangerous lives!

#10. Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer is a fully proprietary chemical owned by Noveon, Inc. It is one hundred percent man-made (synthetic); no plant or animal material, whether natural or genetically modified, was used in its creation. It appears to be a copolymer of acrylic acid.

Noveon manufactures a line of copolymers, some of which are: Carbopol (r) 1342 and 1382, Carbopol (r) EDT 2020 and EDT 2050, Carbopol (r) Ultrez 21, Permulen (r) TR-1 and Permulen (r) TR-2. Hopefully, Carbopol (r) 1342 wasn't used, since it contains benzene.

Benzene is given off naturally by the decomposition of vegetation. However, there's too much more being given off by exhaust. The situation in the USA has become so bad that the federal government has legislated its eventual complete banning as a component of exhaust. There is such a thing as too much of a good/natural thing!

Acrylic acid isn't any friendlier: It's a petroleum derivative which, in its pure form, is very flammable and explosive. It can irritate your eyes. It re-acts with oxidizers, amines, alkalis (like tetrasodium EDTA), ammonium hydroxide, chloro-sulfonic acid, oleum, ethylene diamine (the ED in EDTA), ethyleneimine, 2-aminoethanol. It corrodes many metals; it can have a corrosive effect on your lungs, too. It has injured lungs, livers and kidneys in animals. If you swallow it, it can give you a burning sensation, weakness, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, shock, "corrosion" and unconsciousness. It looks like acrylic acid is a poison!

Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer is also known as polyacrylic acid.

The cosmetic industry uses it as a film former as well as a thickener.

In its pure form, its hazards are:

It may be flammable.

It may be a carcinogen.

It may be a teratogen; acrylic acid is a teratogen.

It is a mutagen if Carbopol (r) 1342 is part of it.

It is a poison: If you swallow it, you should be treated symptomatically.

It may hurt your eyes.

It may hurt your respiratory system.

It may irritate your skin!

Why should I be surprised that yet another chemical component of a skin-care product isn't good for me?

#11. Magnesium aluminum silicate is a naturally occurring mineral which the cosmetic industry uses to emulsify, thicken and color products. Its molecules are so big they cannot be absorbed by your skin. It must have been used to color the skin-care product bright white.

Also known as silicic acid and aluminum magnesium salt, magnesium aluminum silicate is used as an absorbent, an opacifier and a viscosity adjusting agent as well.

No hazard information is available for it; since it is used as an antacid, I believe it's correct to infer that it isn't a poison.

Of eleven chemicals researched so far, this is only the fourth to present no hazards for me!

#12. Xanthan gum is used as an emulsifier, a lubricant, a suspending agent or a thickener. It is made by fermenting corn sugar with a bacterium (Xanthomonas campestris). The pharmaceutical, cosmetic and prepared-food industries all use it.

It has no hazard rating.

Wow! That's two in a row which are safe!

#13. Triethanolamine (aka Trolamine, Triolamine and TEA) is produced by ammonolysis of ethylene oxide (oxirane; see #07 in Part 1).

It neutralizes carbomer solutions (see #10 above) to form gels. It neutralizes stearic acid (see #06 and #07 in Part 1) to form anionic emulsions and acts as an alkalizing agent to control pH.

According to the Hazard Rating Index, the pure form of TEA has a "3" health rating which is defined below as:

"Materials which upon short-term exposure could cause serious temporary or residual injury even though prompt medical treatment is given, including those requiring protection from all bodily contact. This degree should include: Materials giving off highly toxic combustion products; [and] Materials corrosive to living tissue or toxic by skin absorption."

You think this is bad?

TEA also has a "3" flammability rating which is defined as:

"Liquids and solids that can be ignited under almost all ambient temperature conditions. Materials in this degree produce hazardous atmospheres with air under almost all ambient temperatures or, though unaffected by ambient temperatures, are readily ignited under almost all conditions. This degree should include:

Liquids having a flash point below 73 degrees Fahrenheit (22.8 degrees Celsius) and having a boiling point at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) and those liquids having a flash point at or above 73 degrees Fahrenheit (22.8 degrees Celsius) and below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) [Don't you just love bureaucratese?!] (Class IB and Class IC flammable liquids); Solid materials in the form of coarse dusts which may burn rapidly but which are generally do not form [not my mistake; I'm just quoting!] explosive atmospheres with air;

Solid materials in a fibrous or shredded form which may burn rapidly and create flash fire hazards, such as cotton, sisal and hemp; Materials which burn with extreme rapidity, usually by reason of self-contained oxygen (e.g., dry nitrocellulose and many organic peroxides); [and]

Materials which ignite spontaneously when exposed to air."

TEA has a "0" re-activity rating.

If any of you who read this article know anyone working with TEA, you might consider urging them to find another line of work!

Part 3 will contain information on the last six chemicals in the skin-care product as well as a list of my resources.

Christine Wolfe, Contributing Editor,

Article originally printed at

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