Chemical Free? Give Your Head a Shake!


The other day, I was reminded of a disturbing TV ad from about a year ago. The ad was for a 'natural' cosmetic series. It was simply put together – a continuous list of chemical names rolled across the screen, similar to how movie credits are usually presented.

Each chemical name had the word 'no' in front of it. As the names rolled by, a soothing female voice explained how healthy and chemical free this new, all-natural product series was, and that all of the dangerous chemicals you were seeing on the screen were nowhere to be found in this wonderful series.

The voice further explained how your family could now feel perfectly safe and chemical free. At last – security and peace of mind were available in the 'all natural' contents of these products.

Reasons to Be Fearful?

I don't remember all of the names, but at the time I did recognize quite a few of them, for example:
No Monoterpenes
No Sesquiterpines
No Phenols
No Benzyl Alcohol
No Esters
No Ketones
No Farnesol

They ALL sound dangerous, don't they? After all, they're chemicals!

But guess what.

Every one of the chemicals in the above list come from all-natural essential oils. They have a variety of functions: such as to help heal, calm, desinfect, deodorize, battle infection, soothe, preserve, stimulate cell regeneration and do all kinds of other good and health-inducing things.

Of course, if you overdose and misuse them, they can become irritants and toxins. But then, so can C-vitamin, green tea and bananas – even plain old water can be dangerous to your system if you overdo it.

I honestly don't remember the name of the product series that was being advertised, because at the time (and even now) I could only focus on the distasteful function the ad had – to sell products by feeding existing fears and spreading misinformation.

The Big No No

Somewhere along the line during the forward march of organic and natural products (which – make no mistake – I applaud enthusiastically), the word chemical became a baddie – the Big No No.

Chemicals have become synonymous with danger – a reason for alarm and worry. Even worse are the 'chemically educated' – people that actually work with these life-threatening substances on a daily basis. Surely they must all be plotting together to create some horrid fate for the rest of us.

This, unfortunately, is a viewpoint I meet far too often.

Somewhere along the line, while focusing on prioritizing the natural and organic, we have become a society of chemophobes.

She Who Lives in Glass Houses...

I am (unfortunately) a sinner here too. I have used the 'chemical-free' phrase to describe my own products. But it really isn't a fair description. In fact, it is petro-chemicals I choose to exclude from my products.

Life (and product development) would actually be a heck of a lot easier for me if I would let up on my plant-based principles and let a few non-plant-based emulsifiers into my life and products. Because the plain and simple truth is, there are actually petrochemical ingredients that function well, are harmless to the environment, and not even close to being health hazardous.

Oops! Did I say just that out loud?!  Thanks to the inspiration from this article on Personal Care Truth, I guess I did.

PS: Just because it sounds like I'm going soft and fuzzy on petro-chemicals, I still won't even consider working with petro-chemical based emulsifiers (or other ingredients) in my products – but that's just because I'm stubborn. :)

PPS: The ingredient that is giving grandma the fright of her life in the picture above is guar gum.

Comments

Joey said…
Can't every substance known to man be identified through a chemical name? I mean, everything, whether naturally occurring or man made, is made up og molecules and their connections. This may be silly, but aren't 'chemicals' just the scientific name for things?!

Oh, and dddd-doi-doi-doi-doi-ggdoi
Lise M Andersen said…
well put Joey. I'm guessing you are not among the people that feel threatened by the word chemical. :)