Skincare Preservative Causing ‘Epidemic’ of #Skin Reactions

This should be interesting to you if you are suffering dermatitis, eczema or scaly skin, especially if it started in the last 5 years. Many people are suffering skin reactions to a chemical preservative called MI that became popular about that time ago. The Mail on Sunday carried a report on it and there is a summary below.


Doctors are calling for an immediate ban on a face cream chemical they say has triggered one of the worst skin allergy epidemics.

Dermatologists estimate that 1 in 10 patients they are seeing with eczema or dermatitis is allergic to the preservative – called METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE or MI.   

Cosmetic firms like MI because it extends shelf life.  Manufacturers started to use MI seriously about 5 years ago after it was approved by the European Commission in 2005 as a preservative for products left on the skin. 

The chemical is routinely add it to moisturisers, sun creams, shampoos and wet wipes (often used for babies, note!).  The report states that it is used in products including Nivea Daily Essentials face wipes, Piz Buin 1 Day Long Lotion, Clarins Extra Firming Day cream, L’Oreal RevitalLift Laser Renew, Molton Brown Paradisiac Pink Pepperpod Body Lotion and Wet Ones hand wipes etc. 

Doctors blame the chemical for a massive surge in patients with rashes, scaling skin, swelling and eczema.  The problem will be discussed at a major dermatology conference in Liverpool this week.  Dr John McFadden, consultant at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, said:

“This is one of the worst outbreaks of allergy to cosmetic products I have ever seen.  There hasn’t been anything on this scale before.”   

This year 10% of patients with certain skin conditions are testing positive according to St John’s Institute of Dermatology in London and Nottingham Uni Hospitals.  Studies from Denmark and Australia paint a similar picture.  

The DM reports that, so far, Molton Brown said it would stop using MI from September.

FreeFrom #Skincare Awards Shortlist Out!

The FreeFrom Skincare Awards 2013 Shortlist has just been announced, so put your feet up, get a cuppa (not necessarily in that order of course) and choose some new products that myself and the other judges think are the best non-toxic, allergy-aware effective products in their class..

Here’s the detail from the awards press release for you. Enjoy, and, whilst reading it, think of me wading through all those Latin names for you and all the tutting, cogitating and general chin-scratching we all did on your behalf!   

Almost 80 products from over 50 skincare manufacturers have made the shortlist of the second annual FreeFrom Skincare Awards, which has been announced today.  Five brands lead the way with three shortlisted products each – Barefoot Botanicals, Botanicals, Green People, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Suti.

 With 10 categories, including Problem Skin, Men’s Grooming and Hair Care, as well as last year’s popular Make up, and Face and Body Care categories, entrants flocked to submit their products to the Awards, with entries rocketing by over 30% on last year.

 Hand creams and skin cleansers were very much in evidence, hotly pursued by therapeutic oils, and assorted balms and butters. Entries came not only from long established natural skincare brands such as Spiezia and Inlight, but from newer, more niche or one-woman/one-man producers such as Live Native, Bathing Beauty, Aedos and MuLondon. Well represented too were the Antipodeans (QSilica – 2012’s overall winner – Sukin, Antipodes and Australian Bush Flower Essences, for example) and this year’s sponsors, NATorigin.

 As in 2012, assessing the range of products entered proved a challenge for judges.

 ‘It’s always difficult, as there are many criteria for our judges to consider,’ said Alex Gazzola, awards coordinator and deputy editor of ‘For instance, their natural and ‘free from’ qualities, the level of beneficial ingredients, their effectiveness, functionality, innovation, ease-of-use, value for money and packaging. We are also always particularly concerned about clarity of ingredient information, especially in conveying the presence or absence of allergens or other additives which many seek to avoid.’

 As last year, judges awarded ‘Commended’ honours to products they thought to be well-made and that sat well in the ‘free from’ skincare market, but which, in an exceptionally classy field, they felt were not quite potentially award-winning. Commended products are listed on the FreeFrom Skincare Awards site here.

 The ‘Shortlisted’ products will now go forward for in-depth month-long assessment by testers from Award partners, The Beauty Bible, and their detailed feedback will be used to draw up lists of winners and runners-up in all ten categories – plus an additional award for Best FreeFrom Skincare Brand, and of course Best Overall FreeFrom Skincare Product – to be announced at the Allergy and FreeFrom Show at Olympia on 7th June 2013, and presented by Janey Lee Grace.

The full shortlist in the ten entry categories is printed below and also on the awards site here.


 1. Babies, Kids, Teens and Mums-to-be

Bentley Mother & Baby Hand Sanitizer

Faith in Nature Humphrey’s Corner Natural Baby Lotion

Green People Mum & Baby Rescue Balm

Inner Soul Organics Mum’s Special Breast Soothing Oil

Neal’s Yard Remedies Mothers Balm

Niki’s Organic Balms Baby Bottom Balm

Vital Touch Prenatal bath soak organic vetiver and lavender


2. Men’s Grooming

Bathing Beauty Shaving Oil

Borealis Post Shaving Balm with Eucalyptus & Rosemary

Live Native Head to toe for men remedial moisturiser

Spiezia Organics Nourishing Balm


3. Hair care

A’Kin Lavender Conditioner

Essential Care Gentle Herb Shampoo

Fushi Wellbeing Really Good Hair Oil

Suncoat Natural Hair Calming Serum

TIANA Fair Trade Organics Ltd 100% Organic & Fair Trade Argan Fresh Coconut TLC


4. Hand and Body Care (‘Leave On’)

Aedos Italian Bergamot and Grapefruit Hand & Body Balm

Alison Claire Natural Beauty Mango Body Butter

Barefoot Botanicals SOS Face & Body Rescue Cream

Blend Collective Unwinding Hand Cream

Conscious Skincare Soothing Hand Cream for Hardworking Hands

Elixirs of Life Gardeners Life Hand Cream

Mary Elizabeth Spearmint & Tea Tree Nurture Balm

Mary Jean Vitamin Rich Body Cream

Organic Surge Lavender Meadow Hand & Nail Cream

Qsilica Pawpaw Rescue Ointment

Seascape Island Apothecary Soothe Body Butter


5. Hand and Body Care (‘Take Off’)

Bakewell Soap Beekeepers’ Delight Goat Milk & Honey Soap

Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure-Castile Soap

Buddha Beauty Lemongrass Bergamot Scrub

le belle skincare Detoxifying Body Polish

Pevonia Ligne Tropicale De-Ageing Papaya-Pineapple Salt Mousse


6. Face and Body Oils and Oil Serums

Fushi Wellbeing Really Good Cellulite Oil

Green People Anti Ageing Facial Oil

Inlight Daily Face Oil

Kelly Edwards Skincare Florence Selina Rejuvenating Serum

Laidbare From Dawn to Dusk Vitamin C Serum

Naturaleve Nourishing Therapy Oil

Neal’s Yard Remedies Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Oil

Suti Rejuvenate Organic Face Oil


7. Make Up and Nail Care

Bellapierre Compact Mineral 5-in-1 Foundation

Bellapierre Eye Shadow Palettes

Essential Care Concealer

Herb Farmacy Nail & Cuticle Oil

Jane Iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain

NATorigin pencil eye liner

NATorigin lengthening mascara

Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Lipstick – Pomegranate

Suncoat All Natural Nail Polish Remover Gel


8. Face Care (‘Take Off’)

AEOS Cleansing Oil De-Maq

A’Kin  Rose & Geranium Pure Creamy Cleanser & Toner in One

Angela Langford Skincare Clean Sweep Cleansing Balm

Botanicals Rose and camellia cleansing melt

Cherylin Daily Cleansing Balm

Circaroma Skin Gentle Cleansing Drops Rose Otto and Aloe Leaf

Eve of St Agnes Nourishing Cleansing Cream

Inlight Organic Face Cleanser

Moa Daily Cleansing Ritual

MuLondon Organic Fragrance-Free Foaming FaceWash

Qsilica REMOVE

Saaf Pure Face Cleanser

Suti Cleanse Facial Cleansing Balm

Thea Age Revival Dream Creme Exfoliator


9. Face Care (‘Leave On’)

Australian Bush Flower Essences Soothing Firming Eye Neck Face Gel

Antipodes Natural Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream

Barefoot Botanicals  SOS Face & Body Rescue Cream

Botanicals Rose and camellia facial balm

Green People Scent Free 24-hr cream

Sukin Sensitive Facial Moisturiser

Twelve Beauty Ultra Revitalising Elixir


10. Problem Skin

Barefoot Botanicals SOS Face & Body Rescue Cream

Botanicals Lavender and chamomile botanical balm

Gentle Green Gentle Green Soothing cream

Herb Farmacy Skin Rescue Balm

Live Native Everybody every day low-allergenic moisturiser

Niki’s Organic Balms Organic Lavender & Chamomile Balm

Suti Purity Organic Balm

Busy Judging!

Just a quick sorry if I have been a bit quiet on the blog front the last few weeks. I have been judging both the Winners and Innovations categories of the

logoFreeFromFood Awards and the


logoFreeFrom SkinCare Awards.

Been lots of fun and, particularly with the skincare entries, lots of peering at very long Latin names, umming and aahing, tutting and appreciative smiling. Anyone watching me would have thought I had gone mad and they would have been half right!

Anyway, just wanted to check in and say I am still here. Almost done the peering at ingredients lists bit, just the slapping-on and smelling bit to do now, then I’ll be back with full throttle as per.

Cadmium in Make-Up Linked to Breast Cancer

    Worrying report from WDDTY enews: long term low level exposure to minute amounts of cadmium – found in everyday cosmetics – can stimulate breast cancer cells and make them more aggressive according to research done by the Dominican University of California. Gulp. Immediately I wanted to know which cosmetics!

A recent international report on branded cosmetics by the Ontario-based environmental organization Environmental Defence examined 49 popular makeup products, and discovered the presence of cadmium in a little over half the products tested, which included foundations, powders, concealers, bronzers, eyeliners, eye shadows, lip glosses and lipsticks. 

Those with the highest levels of cadmium included NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss, Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus Eyeliner and Cover Girl Ultimate Finish Liquid Powder Makeup. Clinique Stay True Foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage and L’Oréal Bare Naturale Mascara were also found to contain cadmium. Seven of the eight heavy metals tested for were found in virtually all of the 49 popular products save one: Annabelle Mineral Pigment Dust (Solar).  

These results are worrying, considering the amount of makeup the average woman slaps on her face. According to a 2004 report by the US-based Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average woman applies around 12 makeup products per day that contain, on aggregate, 168 unique ingredients. What this adds up to is that one in 13 women is being exposed to substances that are confirmed or probable carcinogens. Furthermore, the EWG discovered that at least 146 cosmetics ingredients include impurities, such as cadmium, that are linked to cancer.

You can read the WDDTY report here (full for members). And I have found the original report: Heavy Metal Hazards, which lists all the products tested and their results.

The answer – as I have wittered on about for years – is to choose safer brands like Weleda, Green People, Dr Haushka etc. They are probably not perfect – is anything? – but they will be much safer for everyday use. Check the Non-Toxic Toiletries section on the website here. You’ll find my hot picks and a free list of chemicals you should be looking for on labels. No brainer as far as I’m concerned.

Avoid Zinc Oxide in Sunscreens

Scent Free Sun Lotion Spf25

Time to check your sunscreens in preparation for Summer (if we ever get any…)!

I have always recommended non toxic sunscreens as I think most of the problem comes from the toxic chemicals the vast majority of them contain, not from the sun. So, I was interested to see this report on zinc oxide in sunscreens possibly causing skin cancer rather than protecting you from it.

Far from protecting you from skin cancer, many popular sunscreen products directly cause it. Zinc oxide in the sunscreen reacts to direct sunlight, damaging cells and increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Ultraviolet light from the sun starts a chemical reaction in the zinc oxide that releases free radicals – unstable molecules – that interfere with the DNA in cells. This, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to skin cancer and other diseases.

Researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology estimate that the zinc oxide begins to react within an hour of being exposed to the sun.  In one laboratory test, half the cells in a zinc oxide solution had died after three hours’ exposure to UV light, and 90 per cent had died after 12 hours.

However, say the researchers, it’s still better to wear sunscreen than to go out into the sun without protection – or, perhaps, buy a sunscreen that doesn’t contain zinc oxide.

(Source: Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 2012; via WDDTY enews)

I normally recommend the non-toxic ranges from Green People, Annemarie Borlind and Lavera. BUT, on checking, I note that some of those in the suncare ranges of Borlind and Lavera contain zinc oxide, so I would be interested to see those companies’ comments on this new report!

Happily, Green People’s are zinc oxide free. You can see the whole range of no scent suncare from Green People here. I have used this for years and find it the best range anyway so thank goodness for that!

I am sure there will be statements against this from natural companies who have chosen zinc oxide specifically for it’s sunscreen capabilities and the researchers themselves advise caution as further research is needed since their conclusions cannot say whether zinc oxide is safe or not.

But, until we are sure, it might be a good idea to stick to Green People or other non zinc oxide ones. I will let you know the counter-arguments if I see any!


As I am always going on about, see this story in the press recently about the sheer number of chemicals we stick on our faces everyday. The story suggests the average woman uses 12 products a day, containing 168 ingredients and Dr Donald Grant believes this is causing skin conditions.

“Unfortunately I see an awful lot of women who have eczema or inflammation on their eyelids.”

He advises not using cosmetics such as eye shadow every day, some of which contain parabens preservatives [and a lot more besides].  Dr. Edward Seaton, consultant dermatologist at the Royal Free Hospital warned even products labelled ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ could contain irritants such as preservatives. Hear hear. Funnily enough I got a message from a skin condition company this morning which sells  supposedly ‘pure’ cosmetics. Some of them were, which is great, but others certainly were not!

Read the full news report below and take a look at the companies I think are truly toxin-free in the section on Non-Toxic Toiletries. There you will find a list of the chemicals I recommend you avoid and my favourite product ranges.

Also, see my article on the link between thin skin and toiletries causing skin conditions written for Foods Matter here .

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.

Hidden Parabens

Crafty toiletry manufacturers getting wise to those of us avoiding their toxic products are hiding parabens etc by using names on labels we don’t recognise!  An example is ‘Phenonip‘ – see this note someone sent me recently:

“I recently bought a face cream called Elegance Natural Skin Care, anti-wrinkle cream. It seemed to have all natural ingredients – but I Googled one of the ingredients called ‘PHENONIP’ which sounded like an nice old herb.  But far from it.  This little name is made of:



Butyl parabens,

Ethyl parabens,

Propyl parabens.

Chemicals such as parabens etc. were what I was trying to avoid!”

Naughty, naughty. I haven’t seen this particular product myself so can’t say whether this is true or not but, as a general rule, watch out for names you don’t recognise and do as this person did if you are unsure and look it up.

Another one I have come across is Germaben II which turns out to be Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben so, again, not good at all!

Watch out, watch out, there are (well-hidden) nasties about….


Skin Support Plan

Just to let you know my latest article as the agony aunt for has just come out. Read The Skin Support Plan if you want to slow skin ageing or dampen down any skin problems. Don’t forget too to look at my top picks for non-toxic toiletries on the clinic site.

Avoid Triclosan in Toothpaste

A story in the Daily Mail recently highlighted the fact that triclosan, a common additive in toothpaste, may lead to bacterial resistance in the mouth so could potentially cause more bacteria problems than it solves.

Here is the DM story, a response from the Cosmetic & Toiletry Perfumery Association and a link to the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database who classify it as a ‘high hazard.’ It is restricted in other countries including Japan and Canada, is persistent in the environment and is thought to be toxic to organs and an endocrine disrupter.

Despite there being a little controversy about it, I know what I would do: avoid toothpastes with it in and choose a more natural product from the Aloe Dent or Weleda ranges, for example.

PS. Although don’t assume all ‘natural’- looking products are immune. I got a press release about a new dental range today targeted at the healthfood market, and guess what it contains…!