Ghanaians love smelling good no matter the cost to their health; until now I was no different. If you’ve visited our Dr. Kwasi’ O. website, you’d know that I had an infatuation with mainstream personal care products (PCPs). At one point, I was using a different antiperspirant and perfume each day of the week. Admittedly, my passion for mainstream PCPs was above and beyond a typical Ghanaian’s.
Prior to parting ways with antiperspirants, we had and still have, more than twenty in our cabinets. When my father-in-law visits and he’s up to a prank, he’ll grab a few pretending to use them in front of me – just to piss me off.
The fact is I knew very little about the chemical contents of synthetic PCPs. I didn’t know that on a daily basis the average person exposes his or her skin to between 200 and 400 chemicals through using PCPs, 60% of which gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Like many other people, I thought that I was invincible to the detrimental effects of their dangerous ingredients. Eventually, they helped broke down my defense mechanism, subjecting me to a whole lot of health issues, including allergies and acute chronic dermatitis.
By simply googling “chemicals to avoid,” you get a lot of useful hits so I told myself it wouldn’t be necessary to write a blog on the topic. Three things, however, changed my decision. First, Sonje came home from shopping one day, excited about how she’d finally found what she thought was an all-natural shampoo and conditioner; something she and the kids could now safely use.
I had a quick look at the ingredients. Listed among other hazardous ingredients was diazolidinyl urea, a formaldehyde-based chemical. I was quite surprised to see this given formaldehyde is a proven carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
Second, many mainstream PCPs and some so-called natural PCPs contain a bunch of nasty ingredients yet they’re advertised as free from aluminum, parabens, and phthalates, which incidentally are the usual dangerous ones everyone knows about. Manufacturers aren’t stupid; they’re aware of what the average consumer knows and doesn’t know. For this reason, they continually find ways to substitute known dangerous ingredients with new ones many of which are equally dodgy, if not dodgier.
Third, we’ve had the privilege of interacting with many people through promoting and selling Sankofa Forest Natural Deodorant Spray at the markets, festivals, and other public events. We’ve realized through these interactions that a lot still needs to be done to make people aware of the consequences of using antiperspirants and mainstream PCPs. At the just ended 2018 East Fremantle George St. Festival, for example, a lady came and bought two Sankofa Forest bottles. During our conversation, she mentioned that “I’ve always known about aluminum but never heard of phthalates. All of a sudden I’ve learned about it in five of the stores I’ve just visited.” I was quite surprised to learn that there’re still people out there who haven’t heard of phthalates.
Despite this experience, I’ll still assume that many people know to avoid chemicals like aluminum, parabens, phthalates, and sulfates so we’re not going to talk about them now – we’ll do so in later blogs. For now let’s focus attention on five of the many lesser-known and recently-emerging, dangerous chemicals. They’re chemical ingredients we’ll advise you to avoid now.
Aminomethyl propanol is usually listed as AMP, isobutanol-2-amine, amino-2-methylpropanol, 2-aminoisobutanol, or hydroxymethyl-2- methyl-1-propanol. AMP is an alkanolamine so it has both primary amine and primary alcohol properties. It’s a pH regulator that is often used to preserve and increase the stability of PCPs, such as aerosol deodorants, eye and facial products, creams and lotions, and hair sprays and dyes. It’s also used as an emulsifier and a corrosion inhibitor in cleaning products, industrial and automotive chemicals, polishes, floor maintenance products, etc.
Continuous exposure to AMP can cause serious irritant effects to your skin, lung, and eye, including blindness. It can also cause endocrine disruption and cardiovascular and central nervous system disorders. When ingested, it can irritate the mucous membranes of your mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and gastrointestinal tract. Inhalation can lead to respiratory tract edema and pneumonia.
As a primary amine, AMP doesn’t readily undergo nitrosation, i.e. it might not produce nitrosamines, a chemical considered carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, products containing AMP can get contaminated with secondary amines which can then cause nitrosation. This is problematic because there’s no way for consumers to know a product has nitrosamines unless it undergoes some testing, which might not happen because the manufacturers may not even be aware that there’s contamination.
For all intents and purposes, AMP is as an environmental hazard; it can have long-lasting, devastating effects on aquatic life.
Benzyl alcohol is an aromatic primary alcohol and has a pleasant odor. It may be listed as aromatic alcohol, benzal alcohol, benzylic alcohol, benzoyl alcohol, A-toluenol, benzenemethanol, benzenecarbinol, alcool benzylique, benzylicum, phenylmethanol, or phenylcarbinolum.
It does occur naturally in many plants like castor, tea, fruits, and a range of essential oils (hyacinth, etc.). However, the benzyl alcohol of your PCP will likely come from synthetic sources, prepared cheaply from benzyl chloride and sodium hydroxide.
Benzyl alcohol has wide applications. Apart from its fragrance properties, benzyl alcohol is a useful preservative for suppressing bacteria populations in many PCPs including antiperspirants, blushes, perfumes, soaps, skin lotions, eye makeups, facial cleansers, shaving products, and shampoos. Additionally, it’s used as a solvent and viscosity-decreasing agent when formulating the above products as well as formulating inks, epoxy resin coatings, waxes, lacquers, and paints. It’s also used as a degreaser in the cleaning industry. Benzyl alcohol kills nits and lice easily by depriving them of oxygen.
Benzyl alcohol is a sensitizer at 10% or higher concentrations. Skin exposure can produce anesthetic effects, severe irritation, urticaria (hives) and allergic reactions characterized by weals, erythema, and pruritus. Prolonged or excessive inhalation can result in eye irritation and damage, headaches, muscular and respiratory paralysis, convulsions, hypotension, narcosis (unconsciousness) and even death. Gastrointestinal irritation may ensue on ingestion, followed by nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea. The toxic effects of benzyl alcohol are more severe in infants and children.
There’s evidence linking benzyl alcohol with cell genotoxicity, i.e. it has the ability to damage genetic material and cause mutations. It does react with other PCP chemical ingredients and converts to formaldehyde and other aldehydes, which are carcinogenic.
CAPB may be listed as cocamidopropyl, coco betaine, cocamidopropyl dimethyl glycine, cocoyl amide propyldimethyl glycine, cocoyl amide propylbetaine, tegobetaine L7, coconut oil amidopropylbetaine, and cocamido betaine.
CAPB is a derivative of glycine betaine and cocamide, which is amine-based. As previously explained, amines can pose a considerable health risk. Although CAPB can be derived from coconut, it’s still considered a synthetic chemical.
Like other amidopropyl betaines, CAPB is an amphoteric compound, i.e. it’s capable of reacting with both acids and bases, making it a useful ingredient in antiperspirants and many PCPs. Amidopropyl betaines are generally high-foaming detergent and cleansing agents. They can be used as surfactants to mix oil and other immiscible ingredients, co-surfactants, viscosity-increasing agents, and skin conditioners.
It’s unsafe to leave CAPB-containing products on your skin for long periods of time unless it’s in small concentrations, preferably <3%. If the concentration hasn’t been specified, it’d be best to avoid the product.
As CAPB is an amine, it does react with certain ingredients in your product, and then undergoes nitrosation to produce carcinogenic nitrosamines, as has already been explained. Another concern is that CAPB can be contaminated with amidoamine and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine and cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis, and allergic reactions or sensitization.
Because of the widespread nature of CAPB’s allergic reactions, the American Contact Dermatitis Society voted it the “Allergen of the Year” for 2004.
Note that amidopropyl betaines are also environmentally toxic.
Sometimes listed as Alcohol Denat. or SD Alcohol, denatured alcohol has several names, including methylated spirit, grain alcohol, denatured rectified spirit, and fermentation alcohol.
Denatured alcohol is a fast drying chemical prepared by adding toxic additives (denaturants) to drinking alcohol to render it unfit for consumption. This way, manufacturers are able to evade the heavy excise duties some countries impose on alcoholic beverages.
Some toxic chemicals used as denaturants are benzene, kerosene, mercuric iodide, boric acid, formaldehyde, camphor, coal tar, hydrochloric acid, gasoline, iodine, chloroform, wood naphtha, ethyl acetate, pyridine, denatonium benzoate, acetone, isopropyl alcohol, methyl ethyl ketone, and methanol.
Denatured alcohol may be Completely Denatured (CD) or Specially Denatured (SD). CD alcohol is denatured with crude or partially refined products whilst high-quality denaturants are used for SD alcohol.
Denatured alcohol is present in a wide array of natural and mainstream PCPs, including antiperspirants, perfumes, soaps, shampoos, hair and scalp products, mouthwashes, and lotions and creams. It’s used in these products as a cheap mild solvent, astringent to shrink pores and tighten the skin, penetration enhancer, preservative, and fast-drying agent to produce a cooling effect.
Once exposed, denatured alcohol acts as a penetration enhancer, stripping away your skin’s barrier, allowing irritants, allergens, bacteria, and viruses to attack your skin. Moreover, the disruption of the barrier allows your skin to absorb dangerous chemicals from your PCPs and from the environment. Denatured alcohol can cause redness, irritation, dermatitis, and dehydration of your skin making the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles more obvious.
Inhalation of denatured alcohol may cause watery eyes, pupil dilation, spotted vision, respiratory tract irritation, dizziness, headache, nausea, convulsions as well as central nervous system effects. Denatured alcohol promotes programmed cell death or apoptosis in skin cells even at low concentrations. It worsens the condition of acne and has been linked with reproductive and birth defects.
Apart from formulating PCPs, denatured alcohol is used in removing stains and dirt (such as inks, greases, glues, waxes, and paints) which traditional cleansing agents have difficulty removing. It mixes well with varnish or shellac to protect wood. It’s also used as fuel for alcohol burners and camping stoves.
Denatured alcohol is well used in the formulation and processing of fungicides, insecticides, lacquer thinners, liniments, rockets, explosives, detonators, brake fluids, disinfectants, embalming fluids, incense, photographic films, and fuels for automobile, jets, rockets, and airplanes. One good question to ask yourself is whether you want something that’s used manufacturing such products on your skin or body.
Diazolidinyl urea is prepared from formaldehyde, allantoin, and sodium hydroxide. It may be listed as germall II, germaben II (mixture), II-E, tetramethylolhydantoin urea, or N, N1 – bis (hydroxymethyl) urea.
Diazolidinyl urea is a microbe inhibitor. It functions as a preservative by releasing into the product formaldehyde which the US EPA and the IARC consider carcinogenic.
In certain jurisdictions like the European Union, manufacturers are required to label that their product contains formaldehyde when the diazolidinyl urea content is >0.05%. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends the content of diazolidinyl urea be no more than 0.5% in order to ensure that the level of formaldehyde released into the finished product doesn’t exceed 0.2%.
Some health authorities want people to completely stay away from PCPs containing diazolidinyl urea. However, because of the difficulty of avoiding the ingredient due to its widespread use in PCPs, they suggest that if diazolidinyl urea-containing products are to be used, they should be thoroughly washed and not left on the skin.
Exposure to diazolidinyl urea can cause contact dermatitis and allergic skin irritation and reactions, producing mild and aggravated symptoms such as burning sensation, redness, swelling, itching, fluid-retaining blistering, flaking, and scaling. It can also cause serious eye irritation as well as reproductive effects. Other effects are irritation of the mucous membranes, joint and chest pain, chronic fatigue, ear infections, dizziness, headaches, immune-system dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and impairment of the nervous system (neurotoxicity).
If you mean to avoid diazolidinyl urea, then you better also stay away from other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like imidazolidinyl urea (germall), quaternium-15, broponol, glydant (DMDM hydantoin), sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate, and trimethylolnitromethan.
Luckily, there’s hope if you decide to avoid these dangerous chemicals. There are many natural deodorants out there you can use. The unfortunate thing, however, is that some of the natural ones still contain denatured alcohol, aluminum in the form of alum to stop sweat, and several other hazardous ingredients.
More so, natural deodorants can be so crap. Many just don’t work, i.e. they’re unable to suppress the odor-producing bacteria in your underarms and other sweaty spots requiring you to need several applications a day.
That’s where your Sankofa Forest Natural Deodorant Spray comes in very handy. One unique thing about Sankofa Forest is that it is absolutely effective. Indeed no natural spray can beat Sankofa’s effectiveness.
Not only that: Sankofa Forest is very easy to use by kids and adults. No hassles, unlike the other natural deodorants that come in a paste and you have to use the fingers to smear it into your underarms, which can be embarrassing especially when doing this in public. Or some roll-ons which you have to apply and wait around for many minutes to dry. This reminds me of an experience one of our stockists shared with us regarding the use of his natural roll-on deodorant. According to him, he had to wait for five minutes after applying the natural roll-on he was using for it to dry before he could wear his clothes.
Unlike roll-ons and pastes, Sankofa is suitable for all sweaty spots including the underarms, feet, groin area, and between sweaty skin folds. And you can use it for years without your body nullifying its effectiveness as it happens with other natural deodorants.
People have found other uses for their Sankofa Forest, including washing their hands after eating at restaurants with just warm water and spraying Sankofa on them to remove the smell, instead of washing them with those cheap and hazardous, mainstream, liquid soaps.
Merry Christmas to you and to all our Sankofa Family Members. Have a blissful New Year’s celebrations. We love you all!
But don’t go yet! We always want to hear what people think. Make sure you leave us whatever comments you’ve got. And be kind and share with us what other ways you use your Sankofa Forest Natural Deodorant Spray, okay?