The ingredients we avoid and what we use instead

Special care is taken to include only the purest, most potent plant actives in the Down to Earth ointment range. Plant actives that soothe, purify, heal and relieve pain. We also take special care to avoid ingredients that have shown to be potentially harmful. Why spoil a good thing, right?

There are a large number of ingredients used in conventional skincare products that are suspect or known to be harmful. Companies have for decades and continue to use these ingredients because they are cheap and easy to come by – even though studies have shown some potential harmful side-effects in recent years. Below we highlight a few ingredients to avoid and tell you why. This list is far from complete and there are many more to look out for, however, we have seen that these ingredients are commonly found in conventional cream and gel solutions.

We are proud to report that Down to Earth has gone to great lengths to include natural and safe alternatives to the below functional ingredients in our carefully prepared formulations.

Propylene Glycol (PEG)

PEG is a very common ingredient in skincare and personal care products. It is made of petroleum-based compounds that, when combined, becomes a thick and sticky liquid. It has a wide range of use in cosmetics, but usually it acts as a thickener, an emulsifier (helping water-based and oil-based ingredients mix properly) or as a humectant (used to reduce the loss of moisture in products).

One benefit of PEG’s in skincare is that it penetrates well and helps deliver other ingredients deeper into the skin. However, PEG’s are not always pure and can be contaminated with toxic impurities and many of these impurities are linked to cancer. If your skin care product contains other unwanted ingredients (some of which are mentioned below), those will penetrate too. Furthermore, PEG’s have been found in some cases to cause irritation and sensitisation when applied to broken or damaged skin.

The number next to PEG indicates the number of ethylene units, i.e. PEG-100. The lower the number, the better the absorption.

Down to Earth chooses to use natural ingredients like
• Cera Alba (Beeswax) and Xanthan Gum as viscosity adjusters or thickeners;
• Cetearyl Alcohol as a natural emulsifier sourced from sustainable coconut and palm oil; and
• Glycerin as a natural humectant which hydrates by drawing moisture to the skin.

Petrolatum

Petrolatum, a petrochemical derived from crude oil, may be better known as mineral oil jelly, petroleum jelly, liquid paraffin or baby oil. It extremely cheap and is extensively used in the skincare industry.

It seals the skin’s barrier function to “lock” in moisture and provide a moisturised feel, however, it prevents the skin from “breathing”, i.e. it doesn’t allow absorption or the release of toxins. As a result, the skin’s natural function is disabled causing the natural oils to be stripped, which in turn causes chapping and dryness. Ultimately the skin’s function and normal cell development is slowed and results in premature aging and many other skin irritations and allergies. Since toxins cannot be eliminated through the skin, it can also cause acne.

Down to Earth chooses to use natural, deep-penetrating and nutrient-giving oils to provide moisture. These include Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Fruit Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil and Tritium Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil.

Parabens

Parabens are food grade preservatives that have widely been used for decades to preserve cosmetics and personal care products, and to extend their shelf-life. They suppress microbial growth in everything from shampoo, perfume, toothpaste, soaps, and creams. When you see methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben on the label, put the product back on the shelf.

Parabens easily penetrate the skin and has been found to be estrogen-mimicking, disrupting hormonal balance that could potentially lead to fertility problems. Parabens have been found in human breast tumours suggesting a link between parabens and cancer. Furthermore, Parabens can cause skin irritations and methylparaben has been found to react with UVB rays on the skin, leading to premature skin aging.

Down to Earth chooses to use two safe preservatives which are based on nature identical compounds and are approved by EcoCert (the largest organic certification body in the world) – Benzyl Alcohol and Dehydroacetic Acid.

Ethanolamines (Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), monoethanolamine (MEA))

These chemicals are ammonia compounds used mainly as emulsifiers or foaming agents, but also as pH adjusters. They are found in products ranging from household detergents to body lotions, shaving creams, make-up, shampoos and conditioners.

These compounds have been found to cause liver cancers in laboratory experiments. They have also shown to be irritants. Furthermore, both DEA and TEA combine with nitrates to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been found to be carcinogenic. So, if a product with DEA or TEA also contains nitrites as either a preservative or a contaminant, a chemical reaction takes place forming the hazardous substance, nitrosamines. Stay away!

Down to Earth chooses to use Citric Acid as a natural pH adjuster in our products, to adjust levels to an optimal skin pH of 5.5.

Phthalates

In cosmetics and personal care, phthalates are mainly used in nail polish to prevent it from becoming brittle and in fragrances to keep the fragrance chemicals in solution and on skin. If you see the word “parfum” or “fragrance” in the ingredients list, you can be almost certain the product contains phthalates. Manufacturers are not required to disclose fragrance chemicals since fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets.

Studies show these chemicals are endocrine disruptors and affect hormone function, leading to infertility, miscarriages and birth defects. They have also caused a reduction in sperm counts in laboratory animals. The European Union classifies these chemicals as very toxic to aquatic organisms. This is especially concerning, since we wash the residue of our personal care products off and this eventually lands up in the ocean.

Down to Earth chooses to use natural and organic essential oils, with beneficial healing properties, to provide scent in our products. Essential oils like Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor) Bark Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) Oil and Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil.

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