Personal Care Product Preservatives, And The Truth (Part II)

Fancy Names to Fool You

According to our survey of 2300 people, on average, respondents use nine products daily. These contain 126 unique ingredients. One man in 100 and fully 25 percent of women surveyed apply 15 or more products each day.

Your grooming ritual probably includes shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you’re a man, and makeup if you are a woman.

And what about your children? Sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo and lotion are common kids’ products.

Most people use cosmetics and other personal care items without a second thought, believing that the government oversees their safety. Not so. No health studies or pre-market testing are required for these products.1

Wow! That is a lot of stuff we put on our bodies on a daily basis! So what’s in many of these products? This is the second part of a series of articles. You can read part I here.

Note: This article was written by both Tober and Rob, so if this article switches between “I” and “we” that is the reason.

All these “new” and “natural” preservatives out there sound wonderful for the lotion crafter and the user who may not want certain chemicals such as parabens in their products. But are they really all that great, or even safe?

I’m going to write about some of the most common ones found in use today, which include Germaben, Phenonip, Optiphen, Optiphen ND, NeoDefend, Germall Plus, LiquaPar, and Linatural. I’m also going to discuss sodium laureth and lauryl sulfates which are not preservatives per say, but I feel the need to include them, because they are so prevalent in all our soap products, including all natural ones.

Rather than repeating what is already a lengthy post in part I, I’m just going to reference part I. If you’re not familiar with some of the common chemicals used to preserve your lotions and why they are harmful to people, you can read part I of this article here. If you have not already read part I, please read it, or open in a new tab while reading this one so you can reference it easily. Go ahead, right click here, choose “open in a new tab”.

I ask you to do this, because as you will read below, all these new preservatives with shiny new names, are merely a combination of the old preservatives re-packaged, re-labeled, and reclaimed as safe. But are they safe? They are all claimed to be safe and wonderful for your skin care needs, so that no mold, bacteria, or fungus will grow. These are used by many lotion crafters and soap makers, and sometimes it seems I’m the only one that hasn’t succumbed to the preservative craze. But here is what they really are, and why I won’t use them.

First, A Word About “GRAS”

“GRAS” is an acronym that stands for “Generally Regarded As Safe” and it is a FDA designation that a chemical or substance is considered safe by “experts,” and so is exempted from the usual Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety tolerance requirements.2,3

Some people argue that using GRAS approved ingredients in personal care products is always perfectly safe because a regulatory agency (the FDA) decided that a particular chemical is “safe” to use. In some cases GRAS chemicals truly are safe, and in other cases they are not, or may not be.

It is important to recognize that regulatory agencies and scientific advisory boards are not perfect and they are often under significant political pressure from industry to “approve” ingredients as having GRAS safety status. As a result, the safety of end users is not necessarily always the only factor considered in such decisions.

In addition, such decisions often take a “weight of the evidence” approach – meaning that there is usually evidence both in favor of and opposed to the safety rating of a chemical ingredient. There are also considerations about dose and purpose included in these decisions which may not always translate correctly into personal care products on the shelf. Ultimately, these decisions are judgment calls made by people who may not be any more knowledgeable than you or I. And just because a political decision is made, does not mean the science is necessarily well defined or settled. There can be disagreement or dissension among individual scientists regarding such conclusions. Therefore, understand that the granting of GRAS status is as much of a political decision as it is a decision about the science.

At Nature’s Complement, rather than just mindlessly accepting the opinion of a bureaucratic organization, we prefer to evaluate the science for ourselves, and for you – based on the actual research, not based on the politics or economics. (In other words, we think for ourselves.) Therefore we may sometimes come to different conclusions about the safety of ingredients than what the “official” FDA opinion may be. If you see such differences of opinion reflected in these articles, that is why. I guess you can say that Nature’s Complement has developed a new (and yet a more traditional) standard in regards to the safety and efficacy of personal care products, which are based on scientific research, and not influenced by politics, money, or other factors.

Now back to our shiny new ingredient list:


According to wikipedia: Germaben is “used to inhibit microbial, yeast and mold growth in cosmetics and other personal care products. It contains propylene glycol, propylparaben, methylparaben, and diazolidinyl urea. It is a Registered Trademark of International Specialty Products”.4

“Germaben II is used primarily by small businesses or home hobbyists who make soap, lotions, shampoos and other body care products”.5

“Germaben II contains parabens, some studies have raised concerns that these substances may be carcinogenic owing to their effect of mimicking the body’s hormone estrogen”.6,7

Ok, so Germaben contains parabens. Pure marketing genius, but an ethical failure. They mixed in known toxins of parabens with something else and gave it a different name! Because you know, re-naming it will also magically reduce the toxicity. I already wrote about the various dangers of parabens and diazolidinyl urea in part I of this article. You can find more information about these ingredients here.

Germaben II

I couldn’t find the MSDS for Germaben, but I did find one for Germaben II, which according to the MSDS contains diazolidinyl urea, which is also an eye irritant.8 However I did not see any other ingredients listed, just the diazolidinyl urea.

Diazolidinyl urea along with imidazolidinyl urea, are basically formaldehyde releasers.9 In other words, they are compounds that slowly release formaldehyde. And when do they release formaldehyde? Well, that’s dependent on the matrix according to this study.10 And to the best of my knowledge, the cosmetic makers have not tested if formaldehyde is released in their combination of oils and waters. And without testing, their guess is as good as your or mine.

Information about the dangers of formaldehyde releasing chemicals such as diazolydinyl urea has become more widely available (and is also discussed in part I), and more people have been choosing to buy products without such additives. So to fool the public, now someone comes out with repackaged forms of these ingredients just under a different name? Disgusting.

My decision? You won’t find Germaben or Germaben II in my products.


Phenonip is a combination of phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, butylparaben, athylparaben, and propylparaben. Notice all the parabens? So basically phenohip is a bunch of parabens mixed in with phenoxyethanol. As mentioned previously in part I Phenoxyethanol,also known as ethelyne glycol phenyl ether,11 is a glycol ether, and glycol ethers are usually solvents used in paints and cleaners,12 as well as preservatives in cosmetics and medications.

As stated previously, Phenoxyethanol is part of a family of chemically related compounds known specifically as ethelene glycol ethors,of which research shows that there is evidence that this chemcial is liver and kidney toxic,13 and can lead to anemia.14

Refer to part I of my series for more information about the dangers of ethylene glycol ethers and it’s family members. Part I also discussed the dangers of the many varieties of parabens.


Optiphen is a fancy name for a combination of two ingredients, Phenoxyethanol and Caprylyl Glycol. We already talked about phenoxyethanol, so what about caprylyl glycol? Well, the fact that I wasn’t able to easily find safety information about it should be a red flag right there. If it’s a common ingredient it should be easily found right? Not so. It took a lot of digging to find useful information. Fortunately I found the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) name here,15 which told me that caprylyl glycol is actually ethylhexylglycerin.

Wikipedia wasn’t much help, it just says a topical ingredient to treat eczema.16

However in digging through studies on PubMed we found many studies that showed ethylhexylglycerin can cause contact dermatitis:

Ethylhexylglycerin: a low-risk, but highly relevant, sensitizer in ‘hypo-allergenic’ cosmetics.”17

Ethylhexylglycerin-a contact allergen in cosmetic products.”18

Allergic contact dermatitis caused by ethylhexylglycerin in both an ointment and a skin aerosol.”19

Allergic contact dermatitis from ethylhexylglycerin in sunscreens.”20

Allergic contact dermatitis to ethylhexylglycerin in a cream.”21

Allergic contact dermatitis from ethylhexylglycerin.”22

Allergic contact dermatitis to ethylhexylglycerin and pentylene glycol.”23

If this ingredient so commonly causes contact dermatitis, why would people want to use it on their skin?

Many companies are using this ingredient as an alternative to parabens and claim that it’s from natural sources. While the starting material for this may have been vegetable glycerin, it goes through a multi-step chemical synthesis process to get to the end result. According to the patent:

“The synthesis technology at least comprises the following steps: step one, carrying out condensation reactions: mixing isooctanol and alkali, adding a phase transferring agent, dropwise adding epoxy chloropropane to carry out reactions in a cooling condition, washing, and layering to obtain an intermediate (1); step two, performing ring-opening reactions: mixing the intermediate (1) with a ring-opening agent, heating to carry out reactions, washing, and layering to obtain a coarse product (2); step three, refining: making the coarse product (2) go through a rectifying column to carry out separation to obtain qualified product (ethylhexylglycerin). The provided synthesis technology has the characteristics of short synthesis route, low cost, high yield, and high product quality.”24

Finally, according to the MSDS sheet:





Okay, no Optiphen in my products if I’m to continue with my tradition of safe, all natural skin care products. Optiphen is clearly not “natural”, and the degree of safety is certainly in question in my opinion. If nothing else, it is certainly a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, not to mention the effects of phenoxyethanol.

I also can’t find any completed studies on the safety of mixing phenoxyethanol and ethylhexyglycerin.

Optiphen ND

I already showed that optiphen by itself is concerning, so how is the ND different in this supposedly “advanced and better” Optiphen? I had to find the INCI name again: it contains Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid, and Dehydroacetic.26

So basically the difference between optiphen and opthiphen ND is that the ND version has benzoic acid instead of caprylyl glycol, and it also has Dehydroacetic acid. I went ahead and researched Dehydroacetic acid. Wikipedia says it’s structurally classified as a pyrone,27 but that is not really helpful for our purposes.

Apparently it is used as a fungicide, a bactericide and a plasticizer.

There was not a great deal of research on this chemical on PubMed as it relates to cosmetics or personal care products. However one study found that it is increasingly being recognized as an allergen.28

We also found that if it is ingested orally (such as when it is used as a food additive), it functions as an anticoagulant, and that it seems to work by inhibiting Vitamin K. One study found that, “Repeated oral administration of DHA-S in rats induced severe hemorrhage in multiple organs and prolongation of blood coagulation factors.[…] [A] prolonged prothrombin time (PT) and an activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) were observed in rats when DHA-S alone was administered, while only a slight change was observed in animals that received a single injection of vitamin K2 following the DHA-S dosing. These results suggest that DHA-S-induced hemorrhage is caused by a deficiency of vitamin K.”29

While it is not clear that that skin exposure would produce any of the same effects, if people are putting it on their hands and then eating food it seems likely that at least some of this chemical would be ingested. This is certainly concerning enough for us that we choose to not use this in our products because we want to be certain they are safe.

Finally, the benzoic acid that replaced the caprylyl glycol? Benzoic acid is naturally occurring in many food plants, although at very low levels. So while many companies considerer benzoic acid relatively safe, and the FDA has granted GRAS status,30 there is evidence that under the right conditions it can be potentially harmful, particularly at higher doses. For example, one study found benzoic acid to be genotoxic on lyhmphocytes (white blood cells) in vitro.31

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a very comprehensive paper available here that includes the following conclusions that are relevant:

  • Benzoic acid is irritating to the skin and eyes.
  • High dosage ingestion of benzoic acid causes disorders of the central nervous system including pathological changes to the brains of lab animals.
  • “Cases of urticaria, asthma, rhinitis, or anaphylactic shock have been reported following oral, dermal, or inhalation exposure to benzoic acid and sodium benzoate. The symptoms appear shortly after exposure and disappear within a few hours, even at low doses (Maibach & Johnson, 1975; Clemmensen & Hjorth, 1982; Larmi et el., 1988; Ring, 1989; Gailhofer et al., 1990; Aberer et al., 1992; Lahti et al., 1995; Anderson, 1996; Bindslev-Jensen, 1998; Coverly et al., 1998).”32

While regulators have weighed the potential risks and have concluded that this chemical is acceptable to be used in consumer products. Here at Nature’s Complement, we came to a different conclusion.


NeoDefend, like the others, isn’t a single chemical. It is comprised of several chemicals. According to the MSDS it is comprised of the following: Glucono Delta Lactone, Sodium Benzoate, Calcium Gluconate.33,34

Let’s take a closer look at these shall we?

Glucono Delta-lactone:

According to WikipediaGlucono delta-lactone (GDL), also known as gluconolactone, is a food additive35 and at first this sounds promising since this ingredient appears to be quite safe.

However: “The yeast Saccharomyces bulderi can be used to ferment gluconolactone to ethanol and carbon dioxide. The pH value greatly affects culture growth. Gluconolactone at 1 or 2% in a mineral media solution causes the pH to drop below 3…”36

If yeast can ferment it, meaning it can eat it, then it is not a very effective preservative. In fact, a search of PubMed did not povide much of any evidence that it is an effective preservative either.37

In addition, Glucono delta-lactone is made from sugar.38 What kind of sugar is not clear, and here’s the thing, much of our sugar comes from corn or beets, which are both mostly genetically modified in the US. So we really don’t know if the Glucono Delta Lactone added to this product is made from GMO plants or not, though it is noted here that it could come from genetically modified maize.39 And my rule always is, if I don’t know, I don’t use it in our products

Sodium Benzoate:

Sodium benzoate is the salt of benzoic acid, and a food preservative.40 This too initially sounds promising. But further investigation revealed that a known human carcinogen (benzene) can form from the chemical reactions of sodium benzoate with other ingredients, particularly ascorbic acid (Vitamin C):

“In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen. When tested by the FDA, most beverages that contained both ascorbic acid and benzoate had benzene levels that were below those considered dangerous for consumption by the World Health Organization (5 ppb).[19] Most of the beverages that tested higher have been reformulated and subsequently tested below the safety limit.[19] Heat, light and shelf life can increase the rate at which benzene is formed.”41

Sodium benzoate by itself is also mutagenic and genotoxic. According to this study cells are affected by sodium benzoate through mutations and chromosome breaks.42 Not good things you want happening to your beautiful skin cells.

Not only does it affect your skin, but it also impairs your nervous system according to this study done on rats.43

Calcium Gluconate:

Calcium Gluconate is commonly used as a mineral supplement. It is basically a neutralized gluconic acid ionically bound to calcium carbonate.44 Okay, good start so far. Gluconic acid itself can occur naturally in certain foods. I have not found any research showing toxicity. So let’s say this one is okay – BY ITSELF – not mixed with sodium benzoate and Glucono Delta Lactone.

So NeoDefend is out. I may consider looking further into calcium gluconate to see what kind of protection it could provide for my products by itself, and make sure when mixed with my ingredients there are not any negative effects. But as a combination of yucky ingredients, NeoDefend is out.

Germall Plus

According to the INCI name, Germall Plus consists of propylene glycol,diazolidinyl urea, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.45 Oh boy, where do I start? Lets start with propylene glycol (AKA 1,2-Propanediol) which is what’s listed on the actual MSDS under the hazardous components section.46

I already discussed that glycols are basically solvents, like paint solvents, but the degree of safey of propylene glycol is in dispute. The mainstream view is that this is relatively safe. However I am not completely convinced of that. In low concentrations it is probably not too bad, but in higher concentrations it can certainly become toxic. However, in addition, it can be a skin irritant and can cause contact dermatitis in some people, so it certainly does not fit in with the goal and philosophy of Nature’s Complement. lists the following concerns:

  • Listed as a suspected immunotoxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant, and skin and sense organ toxicant (EDF)

  • Chronic exposure to propylene glycol may cause lactic acidosis, hypoglycemia, stupor, and seizures. (HSDB)

  • Chronic exposure to large doses may cause central nervous system depression. Chronic ingestion may cause lactic acidosis and possible seizures. Exposures to propylene glycol having no adverse effects on the mother should have no effect on the fetus. Birth defects are unlikely. (MSDS)

  • Frequent skin exposure to propylene glycol can sometimes irritate the skin. (ASTDR)47

According to

“Propylene glycol has a number of safety issues associated with it. It is commonly known to be an irritant to the skin and eyes, and cause contact dermatitis and rash in humans. However, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry dispute the level of toxicity and says “propylene glycol rarely causes toxic effects […] Despite this the FDA has it approved for general use under the number E1520 and can be used in cosmetics according to limitations in concentration (Cosmetics Database).

This concentration currently stands at <50% according to the Cosmetics Ingredients Review, although research has shown that the body can be sensitive to the ingredient at levels as low as 2%. The Cosmetics Ingredient Review has shown that propylene glycol inhibits collagen contraction [an important function of skin]. As of yet there has not been enough research conducted to be able to determine whether propylene glycol is carcinogenic (Safety Assessment of Propylene Glycol).”48

Since collagen contraction is an important aspect of wound healing and tissue remodeling,49 and because propylene glycol/Propanediol inhibits collagen contraction, it is possible (this is speculation) it may inhibit skin wound healing and proper tissue functioning.

One of the most concerning studies we found on PubMed shows that both ethylene and propylene glycol produce reproductive and developmental toxicity.50

The common “wisdom” is that propylene glycol is less toxic than ethylene glycol, but less toxic does not mean “non-toxic.” Since I’m not interested in using “less toxic” (only “non-toxic”) ingredients in my products, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that anything glycol, will not go into my products.

I already covered diazolidinyl urea in part I of this series, and I’ve already decided I won’t be adding Germall Plus to my products. But let’s look at the third and final ingredient anyway.

Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is a water soluble preservative used in lots of stuff, including presreving paints and coatings.51 It is also a member of a family of insecticide chemicals known as carbamates,52 which have a mechanism of action of inactivating the enzyme acetylcholinesterase.53 We covered this ingredient in part I, and here is what we wrote there:

“In researching this preservative I was surprised to find a large number of studies in regards to contact dermatitis. It is a culprit of such indeed. Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is actually a carbamate family of biocides meaning it is a family of chemicals that function as a insecticide that inactivates a specific enzyme (Acetylcholinesterase), which acts as a nerve agent and kills the insect. However, I must point out that insects are not the only species that require that enzyme. Humans utilize that enzyme too, especially in brain and muscle tissue OK, at this point, I don’t think I need any toxicity studies to tell me that I don’t want this in my skin creams. But I read on and researched anyway.

The Environmental Working group has a good summary which I have quoted below:

‘Per — Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate does show ‘Limited evidence of gastrointestinal or liver toxicity’ per the US EPA; that there is strong evidence of ‘Human toxicant or allergen’ affects, by Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments; that it is ‘Suspected to be an environmental toxin’ from Environment Canada Domestic Substance List, and that at least ’50 studies in PubMed Science Library may include information on the toxicity of this chemical,’ NLM PubMed.’“54

To the above I would add that this chemical has restricted use in many countries and is not permitted to be used in ways that might cause it to become inhaled as it has toxic respiratory tract effects.55 It was apparently approved for cosmetic use in 1996, though there is a mention of “when used properly” – which I would presume means don’t inhale it and don’t ingest it. So ironically, to be safe, one would have to wash off any lotions or creams with this ingredient prior to eating. It would also probably be safest also to not smell the lotion on your hands or touch your nose. Our conclusion was putting this ingredient into personal care products is absurd and we certainly aren’t going to use it.

LiquaPar Oil

LiquaPar Oil is a mixture of Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, and Butylparaben.56 Umm… these are all parabens. Need I say more? Here is the actual MSDS.57


Oh this was a fun one to research. First, there doesn’t seem to be just one Linatural. There are variations of Linatural from Linatural™ MBS – 4 to Linatural™ MBS – 8 and a whole bunch of Linatural’s in between.

According to Lincoln Fine Ingredients, here are the various Linatural formulations and what’s in them.58 Then I will quickly cover any chemical ingredients not already covered.

Linatural CO-NLP-1 (Sounds promising)

Certified Organic Orange / Lemon Grass / Sunflower Oils / Natural Alcohol Denatured Naturally

Linatural MBS-1 (Not so promising)

Propanediol (All Natural) / Ethylhexyl glycerin / Potassium Sorbate

Linatural MBS-2 (Nope)

Caprylic acid / Propanediol (All Natural) / Lauric acid / Potassium Sorbate

Linatural MBS-3 (Not impressed)

Caprylic acid / Propanediol (All Natural) / Lauric acid

Linatural MBS-4 (No thank you)

Propanediol (All Natural) / Ethylhexyl Glycerin / Benzoic acid

Linatural CO-NLP-1 (Could be promising)

Certified Organic Orange / Lemon Grass / Sunflower Oils / Natural Alcohol Denatured Naturally

Linatural MBS-1 (Not interested)

Propanediol (All Natural) / Ethylhexyl glycerin / Potassium Sorbate

Linatural MBS-PRO-1 (Not sure yet)

Glycereth-2 Cocoate (Naturally Derived)/Natural Benzyl Alcohol

Linatural NLP (Maybe)

Curry Leaf Oil / Cinnamon Leaf Oil / Natural Alcohol

Linatural NLP-O

Orange / Lemon Grass / Sesame Oils

So let’s explore some of these potential ingredients.


Depending on which form of propanediol, this is another name for propylene glycol which was mentioned earlier in this article. Some forms of propanediol have a slightly different chemical structure from propylene glycol. However in most cases of personal care products the names propanediol and propylene glycol can be used interchangably. For additional information on this ingredient refer back to the section on Germall Plus and propylene glycol.

Ethylhexyl glycerin

As mentioned earlier in the section under Optiphen, this also goes by the name Caprylyl Glycol. I’ve already mentioned previously that this ingredient is a common cause of contact dermatitis and skin irritation. For numerous studies on the adverse skin reactions this ingredient can cause, refer back to the section on Optiphen. I personally try to avoid this ingredient and will not use it in Nature’s Complement products.

Potassium Sorbate

This is completely safe and I wouldn’t worry about it. I don’t think it is a super effective preservative, but mildly effective, and very safe. But in combination with the propanediol and ethylhexyl glycrin, I don’t find Linatural MBS-1 to be safe.

Caprylic Acid

Caprylic acid is commonly used as an antimicrobial.59 Nothing bad found here.

Lauric Acid

Lauric acid is a component of triglycerides.60 Nothing bad found here either.

Glycereth-2 Cocoate

I’m actually quite frustrated with all these names for a mixture of ingredients, and I don’t like that companies can list an ingredient that sounds innocent, yet be a combination of toxic ingredients. I had to look up the INCI name for this one, and discovered that Glycereth-2 cocoate is a combination of “Coconut Acid (q.v.) and a polyethylene glycol ether of Glycerin (q.v.) containing an average of 2 moles of ethylene oxide.”61 polyethylene glycol (PEG) was covered in part I of this article, and the final conclusion was no thank you.


I skipped over the actual natural ingredients including orange, lemongrass, etc., because they are natural, and my goal in this article is to cover the potentially toxic chemicals. I plan to cover some of the true natural preservatives and their method of action in part III of this series. Please note however, that just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s fully safe. For instance, while orange and lemon will change the pH of your final product, making it inhabitable for bacteria, the compounds themselves can be photo-sensitizing, which can cause phototoxicity if exposed to the sun.62 In other words, these natural ingredients could lead to serious sunburns.

As far as Linatural is concerned as a preservative that is added to your products, I’m finding a few problems with it. My biggest problem with Linatural is that most of the ingredients I have seen, do not specify which Linatural ingredient was added. That means you could have anything from orange to propanediol. And even if you do find that your skin cream has the least bad of all the linatural options, you still might need to be careful if out in the sun, and you have to be wary of any products that might change which Linatural ingredient they decide to utilize in the final product at any given time.

My conclusion on Linatural? Depends on which one it is. I may consider it for some of my overnight creams, though at this point, I’m finding that sterile processing technique, along with refrigeration, seems to work just fine for preserving my products, rather than trying to memorize which fancy name is the safe one to use.

Though you gotta admit, the name itself can fool you. Linatural sounds like lovely natural linens to sleep in or something. Just goes to show you, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in this case, don’t just an preservative by its name.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) & Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS/SDS)

To clarify, these chemicals are not preservatives, but they need to be discussed, because they are so prevalent in our liquid soaps, (dish and dishwasher), shampoos, liquid hand soaps, and any other liquid soaps that a lathering effect is preferred.

We’ve grouped these two chemicals together as they are similar in a number of ways. Sodium laureth sulfate is actually a contraction of sodium lauryl ether sulfate, hence the acronym SLES. Sodium lauryl sulfate is also known as Sodium dodecyl sulfate, so uses either SLS or SDS as acronyms. These both function as detergents, surfactants, and foaming agents, and are commonly used in soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, and are sometimes used in pharmaceuticals and household cleaning products.63,64

While some health care advisers have claimed that SLS/SDS is often contaminated with either dioxane or nitrosamines, (for example here),65 we could not find any actual scientific research evidence to support these claims. If anyone has actual research evidence to support these accusations, preferably studies that quantitatively show contamination, we would love to evaluate such research. Because if true, this is quite serious indeed. Both dioxane and nitrosamines are carcinogenic, and if found in SLS/SDS or SLES, it would necessitate a complete reassessment of the safety of these chemicals.

In the mean time, we did not find significant evidence in the PubMed research literature suggesting that SLES and SLS/SDS are carcinogenic or toxic, other than their affects and effects on skin and eyes. See:

Final report of the amended safety assessment of sodium laureth sulfate and related salts of sulfated ethoxylated alcohols66,67

The above summaries state:

“Acute animal skin irritation studies of 0.5%-10% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused slight to moderate irritation. Applications of 10%-30% detergent caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. […]

“In acute ocular tests, 10% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused corneal damage to the rabbits’ eyes if not irrigated, or if irrigation was delayed. A Draize test of a product containing 5.1% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused mild irritation.”

Since these chemicals are both detergents, they both show ample evidence that they cause substantial skin and eye irritation, particularly if they have contact for an extended period of time. See additional research below:

Susceptibility of atopic dermatitis patients to irritant dermatitis caused by sodium lauryl sulphate.68

Abnormal skin irritancy in atopic dermatitis and in atopy without dermatitis.69

Skin susceptibility of atopic individuals.70

Allergic contact dermatitis from a dish-washing liquid containing lauryl ether sulphate.71

Shampoo dermatitis due to cocobetaine and sodium lauryl ether sulphate.72

Sodium lauryl sulfate and triclosan: in vitro cytotoxicity studies with gingival cells73

One thing we find particularly concerning is that we found a number of research studies showing that these chemicals can damage skin in such a way as to make the skin more permeable to other chemicals.74,75,76,77

This is very concerning, because if you’re making your skin more permeable to other chemicals, then you are greatly increasing the risk that they will get into your bloodstream. By weakening you body’s natural defense barrier, also known as your skin, you are is making yourself vulnerable to other problems due to exposure to other chemical ingredients.

So using these ingredients in combination with other toxic ingredients could increase the risk of harmful effects – since SLES and SLS/SDS will likely increase the amount of those other chemicals that get through the skin barrier and into the bloodstream. If these are combined with other chemicals that are carcinogenic, they could greatly increase the risk of cancer.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) & Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS/SDS) clearly have overwhelming evidence that they cause skin irritation, damage, and dermatitis. Since the purpose and goal of Nature’s Complement products is to improve skin condition rather than make it worse, once again we see no benefit to our customers to use these ingredients in our products. This means that we have to give up the rich lathering effect of liquid soaps, but in doing so, we are trading health for lather, and at Nature’s Complement, health has always, and will always, come first.

Conclusion To Part II

After researching these “new” ingredients, here is my hubby’s chemistry based opinion on many of these latest and greatest “safe” preservatives:

“These people are scumbags. They are putting shiny new marketing names on the same sh*t that is in the mainstream products that people are trying to avoid, in an attempt to deceive the public.

I also want to point out that these chemicals can and often will react once mixed with other chemicals, which results in the formation of harmful chemicals such as benzene. Another example of this type of unknown reaction is provided by Dr. Mercola, who quotes an article in the Wall Street Journal and then provides his own commentary:

“‘A study cited in the Wall Street Journal (November 1, 1988) linked SLS to cataracts and nitrate absorption (nitrates are carcinogens—or cancer causing substances). Apparently, this absorption occurs when the SLS becomes contaminated with NDELA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine) during processing. This contamination comes about as a result of SLS coming into contact with any number of chemicals including TEA (triethanolamine), which is a commonly used ingredient in shampoos as a detergent.'”

“So, the SLS combines with the TEA, resulting in NDELA, which is a nitrosamine and a recognized carcinogen. The biochemistry is very complex due to the ‘chemical cocktail’ that is your shampoo or hand wash. When these chemical ingredients come into contact with each other, all sorts of molecular bonds begin to form and new and unintended chemicals are produced. Unfortunately, some of these unintended chemicals are nitrosamines. As the above article points out, there is no way the FDA can possibly test all of the combinations of chemicals available, in every unique blend. So, while the individual ingredients may be considered safe, once you mix them up into a brew, all bets are off. Just because SLS doesn’t contain nitrogen, doesn’t mean it can’t GET a nitrogen from the chemical soup and bond with it to form deadly nitrosamine.”78 [emphasis added]

I think it is extremely important that these considerations be made when adding any of these “all natural” chemicals to your all natural products, because you can have certain chemical reactions occur that can end up being harmful. This is a step that is often skipped when formulating creams/lotions and even soaps. Why? Well, chemistry is not easy. Hiring a chemist is relatively expensive. And researching these things yourself can take a very long time. As an example, my hubby and I spent every evening over several months researching ingredients (and we’re not done yet). This is a time consuming task that often leaves you feeling like you might as well add nothing, which is pretty much what I did with all of the Nature’s Complement products currently available.

Yes, I get it, no preservatives = short shelf life. Thus why I refrigerate my products, encourage smaller size containers, and encourage you to refrigerate your products once in your posession. Likewise, only use clean hands when dipping in to prevent adding bacteria/fungus/mold to your jar, and thus extending the shelf life of your product.

You can read about how I keep my products from needing any of these stabilizing chemicals in part I of this article here. Basically I clean my kitchen from top to bottom and then I make the products. I steralize containers with concentrated ethanol, use extreme caution when transferring product to jars, and seal them tightly. None of my jars are clear, they are usually opaque glass, dark glass, or opaque plastic to prevent light from coming in. (I am trying to get rid of the plastic containers, but some folks don’t mind the plastic and prefer to save a few dollars – so I offer the plastic jars for them.) Of course, it is impossible to keep 100% of contaminants out, so our products are made on demand, and refrigerated until shipping, which is usually less than a week. After that it’s up to you to maintain your products the best that you can. Keep refrigerated those that direct to refrigerate. Only use clean hands to dip into your jar, and be careful when sharing with your friends. Of note, I have tested products made a year after but kept refrigerated, and discovered only a slight amount of oxidation on the top layer of the cream. The rest, was as good as new.

When I started Nature’s Complement (at the time it was Tober’s Traditions), it was never intended to be a get rich scheme. It started out of necessity for myself. It was only when I discovered others like me who learned that I make my own products and wanted to buy them, that I realized there is a significant need. But because a large percentage of the population doesn’t have adverse reactions (at least noticable ones) like some of us do, I don’t have to develop products that can sit on a shelf for months at a time. And my customers are perfectly happy to keep their products refrigerated if that means they will have safe, effective products that do not cause them to have reactions, or other long term effects as a result of using some of the chemicals mentioned above.

For Health,


*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

References Cited:

1 Available at: Accessed August 25, 2016.

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2 thoughts on “Personal Care Product Preservatives, And The Truth (Part II)

  1. […] depth in our articles “Personal Care Product Preservatives, And The Truth” Part 1 and Part 2. However there are still many more chemical ingredients we still need to write about, such as […]

  2. […] is safe because it has GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status by the FDA. But as we haveexplained previously (a few paragraphs down in the link), decisions on GRAS status have as much to do with politics as […]

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