Birchbox Ingredient Breakdown: August 2012: Oscar Blandi Jasmine Conditioner

This came in my August Birchbox.


Let’s find out what’s in it.

Water—nuff said.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride—an emollient derived from coconut oil.  Sounds fine to me.

Isopropyl Palmitate—another emollient derived from my least favorite ingredient ever: palm oil.

Behentrimonium Methosulfate—sounds scary, but it’s derived from rapeseed oil (which also sounds scary, but it’s a beautiful yellow flower).  Helps detangle your hair.

Dimethicone, Anodimethicone, Dimethicone Copolyol—silicones.  I talked about silicones in the boscia BB cream post.  To summarize, I couldn’t find enough information from unbiased sources to decide whether I approve of them.

Stearalkonium Chloride—derived from stearic acid, which is found in plants and animals.  It reduces static.

Cetearyl Alchohol—an alcohol derived from coconut oil.  So, I generally try to avoid alcohol in cosmetics, because I figure they are drying.  I looked into it and what I’m hearing is that some, including this one and cetyl alcohol, are not.  Something about the structure of the alcohols is supposed to make this emollient and nice.  I don’t know.  I am a lip balm obsessed lady.  I probably own 6-8 at a time and I never leave the house with less than two on me.  In high school I used to put that stuff on every half hour.  Really.  Someone told me that the cetyl alcohol in Chapstick was drying out my lips, requiring me to reapply so frequently.  So I switched to natural lip balm and I’ve never looked back.  The difference was extreme.  I use the natural kind every few hours and my lips are never dry.  Seriously, I haven’t had chapped lips since 2003.  I am not claiming that you should trust my personal experience over what chemists are saying about the structure of alcohols, but I still prefer moisturizing products that don’t contain alcohol.

Glyceryl Stearate—an emulsifier composed of glycerin and stearic acid.  Shouldn’t be harmful.

PEG-100 Stearate—an emollient derived from coconut or palm or produced synthetically.  PEGs are controversial.  They help other chemicals penetrate the skin and can be irritating.  They should not be used on damaged skin.  However, they are not currently considered dangerous by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review.

Olea Europaea Fruit (Olive) Oil—just olive oil.

Polyquaternium-11—here’s what the EWG Skin Deep database says about this ingredient “Polyquaternium-11 is a quaternary ammonium polymer formed by the reaction of diethylsulfate and a copolymer of vinyl pyrrolidone and dimethyl aminoethylmethacrylate.”  Doesn’t sound good does it.  This ingredient, Quaternuim-80, Cetrimonium Chloride and Polyquaternium-7 are positively charged, which helps your hair lie flat.

Jasminus (Jasmine) Officinale Extract—just jasmine.  Probably just included for fragrance, as it doesn’t do anything special to hair.  It’s ridiculous that companies throw a miniscule amount of some nice sounding, botanical ingredient into their formula so they can call it “Jasmine Conditioner.”  Really, this should be called Oscar Blandi Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride Shampoo.  Blergh.

Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract—an Antarctic kelp.  Full of minerals.  Makes your hair shiny.

Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract—lavender for fragrance.

Geranium Maculatum—geranium for fragrance.

Distearyldimonium Chloride—a detergent and surfactant that the European Union and a Canadian environmental group have classified as toxic to wildlife.  Sigh.  Anti-static.

Glycerin—don’t worry about glycerin.  It’s fine.

Hydrolized Wheat Protein—a moisturizer derived from, you guessed it, wheat.

Hydrolyzed Soy Protein—a moisturizer derived from soy.

Panthenol—a form of Vitamin B5.  Moisturizing.

Tocopherol Acetate—Vitamin E.  An anti-oxidant that penetrates skin easily.

Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride—sounds scary, but it’s derived from guar beans.  Another one of those negatively charged ingredients.  Makes it easier to get a comb through your hair, apparently.

Diazolidinyl Urea—goat piss.  Just kidding!  A widely used antimicrobial preservative derived from formaldehyde.  Hmm, so I just learned that there’s formaldehyde in many baby wipes.  That’s great.

Methyl Paraben—an antimicrobial that is naturally derived, mostly from blueberries.  That being said, it has been found in tumors.  It messes with estrogen and some researchers hypothesize that it may be one reason why women are hitting puberty earlier.  May reduce sperm count.  I am not making this up.  Known to increase UVB damage.  Gross.

Propyl Paraben—another paraben.  Less is known about this one.  There is a theory, proposed by scientists not just hippies, that parabens in deodorant explain why most breast tumors occur in the area near the underarm.  Blergh.  Aren’t you glad Birchbox sent you this conditioner?

Final thoughts—it’s crazy to me that we manufacture all these chemicals and expose ourselves and the environment to them.  It’s so unnecessary.  I don’t need all this crap in my conditioner.  My conditioner has 8 ingredients, none of which are synthetic.  I’ll post about it soon.


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.

Birchbox Breakdown: July 2012: Color Club Nail Polish

Color Club Nail Polish


Butyl acetate—an organic compound solvent that occurs in some fruits.

Ethyl acetate—also an organic compound.  This is the flavor that makes wines fruity.  It is also used by entomologists to kill insects.

Nitrocellulose—this is what makes your nail polish flammable.  Highly explosive!  As long as you don’t drink your nail polish you should be ok.  It is also used to make film.

Adipic Acid—organic compound used to make nylon.  Mildy toxic if ingested.  Used in small quantities as an artificial flavor.  Makes you wonder about artificial flavor.  Again, don’t drink your nail polish.

Neopentyl glycol—organic compound used in paints, plastics, lubricants, etc.

Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer—synthetic compound that forms films.

Acetyl Tributyl Citrate—another film-forming compound, not suspected of toxicity when used in nail polish.

Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer—uh oh.  Styrene is a suspected carcinogen.  However, it is considered unlikely to be absorbed into the skin.  I don’t know.

Stearalkonium hectorite—produced from minerals.  Considered safe even by the very conscientious Environmental Working Group.

Isopropyl Alcohol—we know what this is.  Don’t drink it.

Camphor—comes from trees.  Some nail polish companies leave this out, because it is toxic when ingested in large amounts.  However, in small amounts it should be fine.  Evidence: dried rosemary leaves have about 20% camphor.

Benzophenone-1—is one of the sunscreen ingredients that people get upset about.  It is used in nail polish to block UV light from damaging color.  The controversy is that it may increase free radicals when it absorbs into the skin.

Color Club nail polishes are “Big Three Free.”  Which means they do not contain:

Dibutyl phthalate—suspected of harming the reproductive system

Formaldehyde—ironically this was never actually included in nail polish to begin with, something called formalin was.  You can still find formalin in some nail hardeners.

Tulolene—ew.  This solvent is the ingredient in glue that messes up your brain when you inhale it.  Repeat: messes up your brain when you inhale it.

The moral: nail polish companies have removed the ingredients that are supposed to be toxic.  Look for brands that are Big Three Free.  Most of them are.  I should mention that only some of O.P.I. nail polishes are Big Three Free.  I don’t use this brand, mostly because the names of the polishes offend me.  Bad puns.  However, O.P.I. is an extremely popular brand, so you should know that if you flip the bottle over to look at the obnoxious name of the polish and see green font, it is 3 Free.  Black font means it is not 3 Free.  The very popular quick drying top coat Seche Vite does contain tuolene, by the way.  That is why it smells so horrible.  I think that everyone who uses nail polish knows that they are not doing yoga or anything very healthy.  Fortunately, nail polish is not as scary and toxic as my mom would have me believe.  Do it at your own risk just like drinking alcohol, driving a car, being around sick people.

Birchbox Breakdown: July 2012: boscia B.B. Cream

I changed the theme.  The large font size was annoying me.


Here is an ingredient breakdown of another product I received in my July 2012 Birchbox, boscia B.B. Cream.  B.B. Creams, by the way, are supposed to be an alternative to foundation.  They generally claim to even out your skintone and cover blemishes.  Most make a host of skin improvement claims such as brightening, anti-aging, firming, reduce redness, smoothing etc.  This particular product claims “This B.B. Cream creates a lustrous, flawless finish as it hydrates, firms and soothes the skin.  Helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and uneven skintone while providing long-wearing, natural coverage that conceals imperfections.”


Silicones—the following ingredients in this product are silicones: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Phenyl Trimethicone, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone, PEG/PPG-20/15 Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane.  I have been searching for information on silicone safety in cosmetics with little luck. Most of what I found was published by companies that sell products containing silicones.  You can guess what those said.  “Silicones are so great for you!  Never worry about aging again.  Our silicone based lotion will instantly turn you into Taylor Swift!  Everyone who says they are bad is just jerking your chain, don’t listen to those whackos.”

So what are they?  Chemical compounds containing the element silicon.  They are most commonly used as sealants.  For example, did you have an aquarium when you were a kid?  It is very likely that silicone was used to join the glass panels together with a watertight seal.  In cosmetics silicones make a product feel smooth.  In theory the size of the silicone molecules in personal care products are too large to penetrate the skin.  However, I am not 100% sure that silicones never penetrate the skin.  I think it is possible that they could react with other compounds on your skin in a way that allows them to penetrate.  Some skin care products contain ingredients that facilitate penetration of the skin.  They are generally considered to be safe, as in low toxicity, relatively inert, not going to react with your tissues in a dramatic fashion.  There is evidence that certain silicones, cyclopentasiloxane in particular, bioaccumulate.  Canada has taken measures to regulate this silicone.  It should also be noted that some people have negative reactions to silicones including irritation.  Many people are concerned that silicones clog pores, but the silicone slingers say “No way! That’s impossible!  They don’t penetrate the skin, so they can’t get in your pores.  Instant Taylor Swift!”  Seems to me that the feeling of clogged up skin may come from putting a sealant on your skin.  Kind of feels like a barrier between your skin and the air.  Silicones are in fact used to create airtight barriers.  I just don’t know about silicones.  Just don’t know.

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

Sodium PCA—the salt form of pyroglutamic acid, an amino acid that occurs naturally in your skin.

Glycereth-26—very little information about this one, but no evidence that it is harmful.

Arbutin—this is an interesting one.  It comes from the bearberry plant, which is a cute little Arctic and Subarctic shrub.  It is a skin lightener, because it disrupts the production of melanin.

Beta-glucan—this a special little carbohydrate.  It occurs in the cell walls of grains, yeasts, fungi and bacteria.  The crazy part is that it boosts the immune system.  It prevents infection, reduces tumors and can help the body recover from chemotherapy.

Methylsilanol Hydroxyproline Aspartate—sounds scary, but it’s an amino acid that’s found in collagen and elastin.  Probably supposed to have anti-aging properties.

Panthenol—a form of vitamin B5.  Moisturizing.

Alteromonas Ferment Extract—extract from the fermentation process of an oceanic bacteria.  This is an anti-inflammatory thought to speed skin repair.

Sodium Hyaluronate—I don’t know why this would be used in anything topical.  Sodium Hyaluronate was first found in eyeballs.  Pretty sure it’s not extracted from eyeballs.  Injections of this ingredient are used in plastic surgery to reduce wrinkles by filling out the skin.  It is also injected into joints to replace synovial fluid.

Allantoin—this chemical compound is found in many cosmetic products.  It’s also found in mammalian urine and comfrey.  Let’s hope the allantoin in this BB cream is extracted from comfrey, huh?  Anyway it is non-toxic and is known to make skin smoother.  It also protects your skin by binding to irritants.

Adenosine—remember learning about the process of energy transfer in cells?  Well, adenosine is the A in ATP.  Used topically it may be an anti-inflammatory.

Dipotassium glycyrrhizate—what a crazy looking word!  This is licorice extract and it’s supposed to be some kind of skin miracle.  It makes dry, flakey skin smooth and supple, reduces redness and brightens by inhibiting melanin production.

Butylene glycol—this one sounds shady.  It’s a preservative usually derived from petroleum.  The FDA approves it for use in food (yep, food) and cosmetics in small amounts.  It seems that healthy skin care purists try to avoid this one, because there is some concern that with repeated exposure it could build up in your body.  I wonder why the FDA would approve something like this for food.  Do you think it has anything to do with Big Oil wanting to make more money by selling their byproducts?  Hmm.  Don’t government regulations make you feel so safe?

Stearic acid—a saturated fatty acid naturally found in plant and animal fat.  Probably included for texture.

Caprylyl Glycol—a chemical compound that can be plant derived or synthetic.  It is moisturizing and increases the effect of preservatives.  Not suspected of being toxic.

Alumina—aluminum oxide.  An abrasive thickening agent.  Hmm, seems odd to put something abrasive in this product.  Supposedly, it doesn’t penetrate the skin.  Just know that aluminum is definitely a neurotoxin.

Mica—a group of silicate minerals.  Mica is a controversial ingredient.  It is used in natural and mineral makeup.  However, it is known to damage the respiratory system if inhaled (not a risk with this products, because it’s not a powder).  It is also suspected of being a skin irritant.

Citric Acid—we all know what this is.  It’s probably added to this product for its preservative effect.

Sodium Chloride—salt.

Sodium Leluvinate—another salt.  Used a preservative.  Suspected of being an irritant, but there is very little data on it.  It is also used to preserve meats.

Sodium Anisate—yet another salt used as a preservative.  Not suspected of being harmful.

Iron oxides—pigment.  Not considered a safety concern.  Probably better for you than the tin oxide found in the Stila Lip Glaze.  Just a guess, though.

Final thoughts:  There are a lot of interesting ingredients in this B.B. Cream.  Many of them are natural and even seem to have a reasonable chance of actually improving your skin.  Again, I don’t know how to feel about the silicones.  I will say this, I am weirded out by the “brightening” ingredients.  In skincare brightening is synonymous with lightening.  The lightening ingredients actually disrupt the production of melanin, which would indeed make your skin lighter.  This gives me the creeps for the same reason that tanning products give me the creeps.  I am uncomfortable with the idea that a person could become more beautiful by either lightening or darkening their skin.  Yes, that may seem hypocritical coming from a person who has been known to apply a rainbow array of eye shadow/lipstick.  I do think it would be fun to look more like a peacock.  However, I am invested in the idea that everyone’s natural skin color is lovely and that no one needs to modify the color of their skin to be more attractive.  Unless they have jaundice.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that this product comes in only one shade that “self-adjusts” to your skintone.  Huh?  I don’t understand this.  Are we using cuttlefish technology in foundations now?  I am not an expert in color shifting technology, but my interpretation of this claim is that the product is actually so sheer that it wont show up strange looking on anyone’s skin.  Which is true for this product at least.  I tried it and it did nothing for me.  Concealed no redness.  B.B. creams became popular in Korea and I have a Korean B.B. Cream that actually does work as a substitute for traditional foundation.  This boscia version does not.  I think the B.B. creams available in the U.S. are going to improve with time.  Until they do, if you are in the D.C. area you can try them out at Hmart.  You can also order them online.

Birchbox Breakdown: July 2012: Stila Lip Glaze

Since I started reading my makeup labels to scan for palm oil, I have started wondering what on earth I’m really putting on my body.  I decided to look up all the ingredients in the products I received in my July Birchbox.  Birchbox is extremely popular, so you probably know what it is, but just in case you don’t: it’s a monthly beauty subscription service.  You pay a flat rate and Birchbox sends you a box every month with deluxe samples of cosmetic products.  Everyone gets a different selection of products in their Birchbox.  You may not have the same products I have.  Hopefully, makeup consumers will find these posts informative even if they do not have these particular items.


I received a Stila Lip Glaze in the color Action.  I’m more into lipstick than lip gloss, because I like a lot of color.  So, I have never tried Stila’s Lip Glazes before.  I have been tempted, though. This one is a lovely plummy color with pink and gold shimmer.  It reminds me of Tarte Lip Surgence in Glisten, which I wear all the time.  Let’s find out what is really in it.

Polybutene—a plastisizer used to make things sticky.  Those things include gasoline, sealants, adhesives, engine fuels and. . .lip gloss.  Gross.

Hydrogenated Polyisobutene—No joke, this is a synthetic rubber.

Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer—a combination of three organic compounds:

  • Ethylene—an organic compound with a wide range of chemical uses.  It is also a plant hormone used to speed ripening.
  • Propylene—another organic compound with many uses.  Used to make films and caps for example.  Both ethylene and propylene are derived from fossil fuels.
  • Styrene—Hold the phone!  The National Toxicology Program has stated that styrene is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”  It is produced from the resin of the Oriental sweetgum tree.  Widely used to make synthetic rubber.  Styrene is described as a hazardous chemical, an irritant and potentially toxic.  Well, that’s just fantastic.  I’m so happy to find out that this compound is in lip gloss.  Extra gross.

Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer—another combination.  Butylene is polybutene broken down into a shorter chain of molecules, I think.  We already learned about ethylene and styrene.

Ethylhexyl palmitate—Whomp, whomp.  That’s right, palm.  This ingredient is a fatty acid ester used to enhance the texture of cosmetics and it is usually derived from palm oil.

Microcrystalline wax—a wax made from petroleum.

Silica dimethyl sylilate—a derivative of silica, the compound found in sand that is used to make glass.

C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate—I don’t know enough about chemistry to describe this ingredient.  Apparently it’s an ester and it makes cosmetic products feel less oily.

Phenoxyethanol—a chemical compound used as a preservative.  Considered an alternative to parabens.  Yet another ingredient commonly found in cosmetics even though there is no consensus on its safety.

Ethylhexylglycerin—similar to phenoxyethanol, a preservative used as an alternative to parabens.  It is derived from plant glycerin, but has been known to cause skin irritation.

Flavor—who knows?

Tocopheryl acetate—vitamin E.  It’s good for you!  Sadly, this is the first ingredient in this product that I feel comfortable having on my skin.

Tin oxides—yeah that’s tin.  I think it might be used to make the lip gloss red, as it is used to make synthetic rubies.

Calcium sodium borosilicate—I couldn’t find any information on this.  I don’t know what it is.

The rest of the ingredients are pigments.  What you should know about pigments is that they are probably not harmful, but some of them are not approved for the eye area, which means they must irritate the skin to some degree.

This was a very disappointing exercise.  I have always wanted to try Stila Lip Glazes, but I definitely will not buy one of these.  It contains palm oil and a host of petroleum products, including a probable carcinogen.  Remember, if you rub it on your skin it ends up in your body.  I think cosmetics should have more in common with food than gasoline or plastic.

I would like to add that these seems like an inefficient way to package 0.05 ounces of product.  So much plastic.  Stila could learn something from LUSH.


This product was purchased by me.  I am not affiliated with any brands.  My opinions are my own and they are just opinions.  I am not a medical/chemical/makeup expert or researcher.  I don’t KNOW what ingredients are safe.  I just want makeup consumers, myself included, to be more informed.  My statements are for information/entertainment only.