Archive for July, 2011

Be Sun Screen Savvy

There are two forms of sun protection out there – physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens are formed with millions of particles that act like tiny mirrors to deflect the sun off of your skin. Chemical sunscreens create a process in which the energy that comes from the light gets turned into heat.  This not only sounds dodgy but is also terrible for skin inflammations (acne, rosacea, eczema etc.) and for our ecosystems. The physical sunscreens are the way to go but unfortunately many formulas use the nanoparticle version of the minerals because it creates more protection and doesn’t whiten the skin. There just isn’t enough data available to determine its safety and I have read  negative reports of what it does to our water systems. Nanoparticles do not have to be labelled so make sure that it is indicated as non-nano.


  • Octinoxate: estrogenic effects and disruption of thyroid
  • Homosalate:  endocrine disruptor, forms toxic metabolites
  • Oxybenzone:  creates outbreaks of viral infection in coral reefs, endocrine disruption, easily absorbs into skin adding to bioaccumulation in our bodies


  • Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
  • Titanium Oxide (non-nano)

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Did you hear about the Brazilian Hair Straightener/Blow Outs? They made people’s hair fall out (including Mary Louise Parker), made people sick and even killed one women in Brazil (she died of asphyxiation while doing it herself). The culprit – formaldehyde. Health Canada claims that this treatment tested 6000% the levels permitted by law. Yikes.

This is an extremely harmful substance that is still very prevalent in the cosmetic industry in the form of formaldehyde releasers. They slowly release formaldehyde into the product in order to preserve it. This substance is highly carcinogenic so take care to eliminate it from your life. Look for the following ingredients on you cosmetic/personal care labels:

  • diazolidinyl urea
  •  imidazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • quaternium-15
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate

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Over the years, I have heard many customers tell me about the evils of sodium laurel sulfate (sls), a widely used surfactant (foaming agent).  I have also read ‘no sulfates’  written on personal care labels and marketing material in order for the product to seem clean and non-toxic. The truth is that not all sulfates are bad. In fact, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates sodium laurel sulfate as ‘1 – 2’ and labels it  ‘good’ in its cosmetic safety database.  The concerns are that it causes skin and eye irritation in heavier doses. In a world of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, this seems fairly low priority.

Sulfates are derived from sulphur, a basic element essential to all life and exists in everything. It is extracted from many sources but the majority of its commercial product comes from petroleum. The cosmetic industry gets most of its sulfates from coconuts and palm trees. People soak in sulphur springs and magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) for their therapeutic values so clearly the term ‘no sulfates’ is very misleading.

You can determine a sulfate’s toxicity by determining its origin. If it’s from a safe mineral such as calcium (calcium sulfate) or  from fatty alcohols (stearyl, cetearyl, laurel sulfates) then it is generally non-toxic. If it’s from a petrochemical (dimethicone PEG-7 sulfate), petrochemical processing (anything with ‘eth’ i.e. sodium laureth sulfate) or  harmful metals (lead sulfate) then it is going to be unsafe for you to use on your skin.

At Cocoon Apothecary, we use sodium cetearyl sulfate from the fatty alcohol of coconut as part of our emulsifier in a .2% concentration. It is rated ‘0’ (safe) by EWG.

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