Over the last few months, I began using personal care products from a company called Avalon Organics. I found their Vitamin C skin care line on Vitacost.com and it was relatively inexpensive. At the time I was using coconut oil for a facial moisturizer and it was not working for me at all. I gladly bought the cleanser and moisturizer and actually liked it. (Until I tried this, but that’s another story.) When I was searching for a new natural shampoo and conditioner, I saw Avalon Organics Lavender line at Target and purchased without thought. Because the name has “Organic” in it I thought it would be completely natural and harm-free. I never even read the ingredients.
In my shower, the conditioner bottle sat on the shelf with the label facing out. Over the course of days, I was repeatedly noticing the large, bolded font reading, “Product is preserved with Sodium Benzoate.” Why would they be required to state that, outside of the ingredient list, I wondered, again thinking it was organic and all natural ingredients. I checked my Vitamin C skin care line, also from Avalon Organics. The same sodium benzoate notice was printed on the face washes.
I soon got to looking up sodium benzoate online. I found that preservatives which are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. FDA are allowed to be used in products, as long as they are listed on the label. Sodium benzoate is classed as GRAS and under acidic conditions can prevent the growth of bacteria, mold or yeast. Please note that preservatives do not keep foods fresh, rather they provide a toxic enough environment to prevent life (bacteria, molds and yeast) from proliferating. The primary concern with sodium benzoate as a preservative stems from its ability to react with ascorbic acid or vitamin C, which is commonly found in food as well as cosmetics. A chemical called benzene is formed via this reaction, which is a known carcinogen. It is widely reported that benzene is formed due to the combination of these two ingredients, as well as it is widely reported that benzene is a dangerous carcinogen. When checking the Skindeep Cosmetics Database, sodium benzoate receives a safety rating of 3 which is low-moderate, while benzene receives a 10 which is the highest hazard possible. Avalon Organics must be aware of this.
Because of the known potential danger of sodium benzoate, it is not permitted to be used in organic foods or beverages due to government regulation of the organic label on foods. In fact, the Skinnygirl Margarita line was once carried by Whole Foods, however in 2011 it was found to contain sodium benzoate and Whole Foods pulled the product from the shelves. It is unfortunate that personal care items do not carry the same strict organic labeling requirements that food products do. Our skin is absorbing everything we put on it, after all. According to the Organic Consumer’s Association,
“Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government doesn’t regulate cosmetics for safety, long-term health impacts or environmental damage. Many common cosmetics ingredients are harmful to people and the environment… On cosmetics labels, words like ‘herbal,’ ‘natural,’ even ‘organic’, have no legal definition. That means that anybody can put anything in a bottle and call it ‘natural.’ And they do!”
After checking the labels on my Avalon Organics, I found that ALL of them contain both sodium benzoate and some form of Vitamin C. According to Healthwyze.org, “Benzene content increases in correlation with shelf-life, heat, and light exposure.” This means the longer these products sit, the more benzene is contained within. My seemingly organic products are becoming more toxic with time!
Avalon Organics products all contain the “NSF/ANSI 305 Standard for Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients” certification. According to their website:
To be certified, all formulas must contain a minimum of 70% organic content. All other ingredients may not be available in organic form and must be evaluated and approved by an independent scientific panel to minimize environmental impact during production and ensure safety for the product user.
This commitment to the NSF/ANSI 305 Standard is the next chapter in our journey to provide you with personal care products that are inherently pure, safe, effective and conscious of the greater good. We hope you will join us on our journey.
Benzene. Carcinogen. Inherently pure?
On July 23rd, 2014, I emailed Avalon Organics regarding the information above. To date, I have received no response. Here is a copy of the email I sent:
Hello, I use several of your products including the Lavender Conditioner and the Vitamin C skin care line. I noticed that Sodium Benzoate is included as a preservative in all of these products. After further research, I found that when sodium benzoate is combined with ascorbic acid, another ingredient in the Vitamin C skin care line, it creates a chemical called benzene, which is a documented carcinogen. I found this information in several locations across the web, so it must be common knowledge among people in the food and cosmetic industries. For a company that markets themselves as safe and organic, I find this extremely alarming! People pay more to use your products expecting them to be toxin free and safe. If someone would please respond to this inquiry regarding this issue, it would be greatly appreciated.
I really don’t want to point fingers, but I am sincerely alarmed and disappointed that a company can pose as organic and pure while they are actually selling products containing the most dangerous type of carcinogen. While I understand that commercially produced products must have some type of preservative to prevent spoilage, I would hope a company touting it’s consciousness of the greater good would choose a safer combination of ingredients. I honestly think this company is playing into the organic market, talking the talk, providing a harmful product in a nice package with fancy language and collecting the dollars. Many, many dollars of people who are not getting the product they think they are. I am disheartened in the commercial body care industry. As I mentioned above, people pay more to use the products and they are probably none the more safe than the cheap counterparts. I understand that
I have come to the conclusion that the only safe and toxin free way to care for myself and my family is to begin making my own products. Thankfully the internet has more than enough great resources. I am excited to embark on a DIY natural beauty adventure!
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be trying several new recipes from some of my favorite bloggers. Everything from shampoo to deoderant, I’m trying it all. It will take me some time to order ingredients and prepare the recipes, so I will be planning in advance. I hope you will join in!
Do you have any great DIY recipes for body care or beauty? Please share your links in the comments below!