Not-So-Simple Cleanser

I got a press release today launching a new Simple vitamin cleanser. Now I know just because it is called ‘Simple’ doesn’t mean it’s going to be non-toxic (although many people would infer that for obvious reasons), but I thought it might actually not be too bad so took a look. I’m not singling out this particular product or range, but rather am using it to illustrate the issue.

Here is the blurb and the ingredients list, followed by a link to just a couple of the ingredients I pulled out on the EWG SkinDeep database. I have highlighted the claims made. You can make your own mind up….. 

Kind To Skin Vital Vitamin Foaming Cleanser

Our Vital Vitamin Foaming Cleanser is a perfect blend of multi-vitamin goodness and added moisturisers to gently remove impurities and traces of make-up. Skin will feel cleansed, refreshed and nourished. Perfect for even sensitive skin.

simple goodness
PRO-VITAMIN B5 actively restores, softens and smoothes
VITAMIN E moisturises to improve skin condition

GLYCERIN hydrates and nourishes
CHAMOMILE softens and soothes
GERANIUM conditions and regenerates

NO UNNECESSARY or HARSH CHEMICALS so it won’t upset your skin

Dermatologically Tested and Approved

Available in the following sizes:  150ml


Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamide DEA, Glycerin, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Panthenol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Bis-PEG/PPG-20/20 Dimethicone, Sodium Methylparaben, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dipropylene Glycol, 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, Pantolactone, Anthemis Nobilis Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Oil
Here is the info on two of the ingredients I advise people to avoid. The first is  classified as 6 (Moderate Hazard) and the second 10 (High Hazard) on the database and both are noted as having strong evidence of being skin toxicants. These comments are taken from my Toxic House and Home Factsheet:
Cocamide DEA:

“DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA), TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) and MONOETHANOLAMINE (MEA) are derived from ammonia and although in themselves are considered relatively safe, they can form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines including NDEA when they react with any nitrites found either in the body or in the same or other products being used. MEA and DEA are the most risky and prolonged exposure can affect kidney and liver function and are linked to cancer cell formation. All three are used in cleansing cosmetics like bubblebaths, shampoos etc to thicken, alkalise, wet or clean the skin.

They can cause allergic reactions such as irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. A recent study in the US by the FDA found that 42% of cosmetics tested contained nitrosamines with shampoos having the highest levels. In Europe, the nitrosating agents are more carefully controlled. In Germany, for example, manufacturers have been told to remove nitrosamine forming agents such as DEA and a report in 1987 showed only 15% of products were contaminated.

 Manufacturers claim that these chemicals (MEA, TEA, DEA) are only used in wash-off products and do not therefore penetrate the skin, but studies have shown that skin absorption is very fast. Also, they are used in some products such as moisturisers that stay on the skin for far longer.

 In 1978, the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) concluded that ‘although no epidemiological data were available, nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) should be regarded as if it were carcinogenic to humans.’ Then, in 1994, the National Toxicology Programme in the US tested more than 44 species of animals with nitrosamine-forming chemicals and concluded that ‘there is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of NDEA in experimental animals’ and that it was unlikely that the human species would be the exception.

 Manufacturers have responded to the reports by adding even more chemicals to slow down the formation of NDEA, but so far they have been regarded as inadequate. And still DEA, MEA and TEA continue to be used widely in toiletry products.”


“FORMALDEHYDE or formaldehyde-forming ingredients such as 2-BROMO-2-NITROPROPANE, otherwise known as BRONOPOL, can break down into formaldehyde and also produce nitrosamines as with DEA, MEA and TEA above. Formaldehyde itself is a neurotoxin and is closely linked to allergies and sensitivities. It is found in many products including nail and hair preparations, but as it is an effective and cheap preservative, it is also used in many shampoos, bubble baths etc.”

It beggars belief why manufacturers, especially those trying to give an aura of purity – and this is by no means the only or worst one – continue to use these ingredients when there are much safer, and yes purer,’ ingredients around. Is it the old money chestnut? Probably.

Be aware what you are putting on your skin. If you need ranges, check my Hot Picks section on the clinic site for ideas, or ask me. My normal advice is to finish up what you have and when you are ready to buy new, choose a non-toxic version. There are some beautiful ranges around now and they don’t cost the earth. Literally.

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