Birchbox Ingredient Breakdown: August 2012: DDF Brightening Cleanser


DDF Brightening Cleanser

According to their product description this cleanser is supposed to even out your skin tone and reduce age spots.  I have mentioned before that I do not approve of “brightening products.”  This one comes with a terrifying warning on the back:

“SUNBURN ALERT: This product contains an alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA) that may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn.  Use a sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards.”

What in the…?  That is enough information for me.  I don’t need to know what else is in this product; I am definitely not going to use it.  Ever.  Increase my risk of sunburn?  No thank you.  Limit my exposure to the sun?  It’s summer time!  That is not happening.

Anyway, for those of you who might still want to try this product here is what’s in it:


Amonium Laureth Sulfate— it has been determined by the Cosmetics Ingredient Review that this surfactant appears to be safe for use in concentrations of 1% or less.  At greater concentrations it causes severe irritation.  Product ingredients over 1% concentration must be listed in order of concentration.  Which means that this product either is 99% water or has an unsafe level of ammonium laureth sulfate.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine—another surfactant.  This one is derived from coconut oil.  Apparently, this one helps reduce the irritation that the ammonium laureth sulfate causes.

Gycolic Acid—this is the alpha hydroxyl acid that necessitated the sun burn warning.  Some gycolic acids are derived from natural sources, sugarcane for example.  However, most of them come from a reaction between formaldehyde and some type of gas.  Yuck.  This is the chemical in chemical peels.  Basically, it is a very strong exfoliator.  It penetrates the epidermis and separates your dead skin cells so they can slough off.  This helps with wrinkles, acne scarring and hyperpigmentation.

Glycerin—a natural byproduct of soap making.  It’s a lubricant.

Propylene glycol—an organic compound derived from fossil fuels.  It’s a moisturizer.  It is known to damage aquatic life by using up oxygen.  Oh, dear.

Potassium Hydroxide—it makes soaps soft.  I think it’s safe.

Salicylic Acid—I remember this one from my teenage years, for sure.  It is most commonly used to treat acne.  Formerly derived from willow bark, now it is usually made from breaking down certain amino acids.  It occurs naturally in many fruits.  It’s the anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing aspect of aspirin.  At high concentrations it can cause irritation, but it is regulated by the FDA, so you won’t find high concentrations in skin care products.

Mulberry Bark Extract—a source of resveratrol, which is supposed to be an anti-aging, anti-cancer, cardiovascular miracle substance.  Unfortunately, there is no valid evidence that it has any such effects on humans.  However, it’s great for nematodes.

Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract—supposed to be some kind of skin miracle.  It makes dry, flakey skin smooth and supple, reduces reddnes and brightens by inhibiting melanin production.

Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi (Bearberry) Leaf Extract—this cute Arctic and Antarctic shrub is another brightening ingredient that disrupts melanin production.

Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract—mostly used orally, so there’s not much information on topical effects.  It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  Not harmful.

Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract—soothes inflamed skin.  Not harmful.

Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract—an astringent.  Astringents are good for acne, because they constrict the skin, dry it and protect it.

Dexpanthenol—reduces inflammation and irritation in the skin because it is an emollient and moisturizer that easily penetrates skin.  Not harmful.

Sodium Benzoate—a preservative.  Also a rocket fuel!  You know those fireworks that whistle?  This causes the whistling sound.  Hmm, apparently it turns into benzene a carcinogen if it is mixed with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).  That does not sound good at all.  I think it’s fairly likely that something you put on your face has Vitamin C in it, right?

Xanthum Gum—derived from bacteria.  Huh.  It increases the viscosity of a liquid.  Not harmful unless you eat/breath it in quantity.

Disodium EDTA—a chelating agent, which means in binds to heavy metal ions.  This prevents your products from deteriorating.  Unfortunately, this is a persistent organic pollutant.  It’s also toxic above certain concentrations.  No good.

Methylisothiazolinone—this just makes me mad.  This is anti-microbial and a biocide.  I have mentioned this before, but if an ingredient kills bacterial cells, it’s likely to kill your cells too.  This widespread use of this chemical in cosmetics is causing concern.  It may be a neurotoxin.  Workplace exposure has caused medical problems for many workers.  It’s extremely toxic to fish and is causing problems for aquatic systems.  VERY BAD! Yuck, ugh.  Ugh. Blerf.

Fragrance—who knows?

Final Thoughts:  That’s it.  I’m done.  No more Birchbox for me.  I want to use my purchasing power more selectively.  I signed up for Eco-Emi, a natural/organic/green beauty subscription service.  I will be getting my first box next month.  Hopefully, it will be a good way to try out natural brands.  I don’t want methylisothiazolinone on my conscious.


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