What is in our Face Wash?

Bree Fabritsis
Jul 10, 2018 · 10 min read

I have always had really sensitive skin, therefore I’ve always had to be particular about what I put on it, especially my face. I’ve tried numerous amounts of face wash and soap, in doing so, it’s taken me awhile to figure out what is best for my skin. Your body is something that you constantly have to take care of day in and day out. One of the most important things is your skin and what goes on it and in it, you need to know what irritates it and what helps it as well as knowing the steps in keeping it healthy. Over and over again I would try a new face wash and break out or my face would end up really dry. I was annoyed that I kept finding stuff that hurt instead of helped but I soon came across a face wash that was better for me than the ones I was using but I was still questionable about it. I continued to use it and after a while, maybe two or three years, it started giving me the same reactions I used to get while I used other products. I was fed up, that is why I am digging deeper into what is actually in our face wash and why it can cause such horrible effects. After discussing that I am going to dive into the formula of my face wash, and point out 5 synthetic chemicals that were used in the making of it, that should be nowhere close to human skin. From there, I am going to give examples on what the main purpose actually is for some of these chemicals. Next, I want to suggest alternatives that can be substituted for all of these synthetic chemicals and how they have done so well for my skin. Lastly, I want to briefly talk about the cost breakdown and how you’re actually getting more for your buck and taking care of your face all at once.

Moving to Austin changed my perspective a great deal. One can call it ignorance but I had no idea about organic or natural products and when people would talk about organic or natural products, I would just laugh because I thought, if these products are so great, why is it now becoming such a big deal? Over the years of me being out in Austin, I have become so much more knowledgeable about the environment and ways in which we can substitute these synthetic chemicals with natural and organic products.

So what is exactly in these generic face washes that are so bad? Synthetic chemicals. Endocrine disrupting agents that are generally more accessible, less expensive, reliable, and easy to use. This is the majority of what is in some of these most well-known generic face washes. Not only are they in our face wash but most personal hygiene products, fragrances, deodorant, the water from the city, and more. If we can slim that down to organic products not only will it help your skin, but it will look even healthier than before. One of the reasons why manufactures are able to put such harsh chemicals in their products is because the Food and Drug Administration has no regulation on it. In other words, if a company deems its safe, it’s good enough.

This is worrisome to say the least because as I mentioned most chemicals used are endocrine disrupting chemicals. These endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause reproductive issues and are linked to an increase in risk of cancer and the more you are exposed to them, the more they concentrate in your body. In these endocrine chemicals, just like anything else you have your dose ranges. Starting with the physiological dose range for estrogenic activity. Next you have your toxicological dose range for acute toxicity. Lastly you have the environmentally relevant dose range which is related to current exposures (EHP 994). When we discuss the toxicological dose range we are discussing the ranges from a decrease in body weight or malformations in developmental studies, to extreme cases like death. Not knowing what is going on in your body or by what you inhale can be a scary thing because with these chemicals such large affects can come from small dosages. It’s scary to think these are the chemicals we’ve put on our face day after day.

Now, I want to discuss my face wash. I used to use a generic brand blemish control face scrub which advertised, “Great for your face” “All natural ingredients” but after doing my research that wasn’t at all the case. My face wash had 22 synthetic chemicals in it, five of those were chemicals that should be nowhere close to human skin due to the toxicity levels. The first chemical was Triethanolamine a chemical that is so strong it is meant to be a removal agent for shellac, casein, and rubber as well as removing any dark dyed stains on paper, fabric, and oily materials (J.Chem. Educ. Pg. 2238). When we think of emulsifiers, we certainly do not think of ethylene oxide nor do we know what that is. An emulsifier is a product that blends and holds ingredients that don’t normally mix. Ethylene oxide which is a huge component and essentially what makes up PEG-100 Stearate, the second synthetic chemical that should not be used on skin but is also a common emulsifier for the face. It has harmful impurities which can lead to uterine, breast cancer, brain cancer, and leukemia. Ethylene oxide is a highly toxic gas that is primarily used in the sterilization process of equipment too large for other techniques, and for sterilizing plastic goods, rubber, and other materials that are damaged by heat ( J.K Aronson, Pg. 198). The third is Cetyl acetate mainly used to produce nuts and bolts and should not be used as a fragrance which in my face wash it is used for. The fourth is Ceteareth-20 which should never touch injured, sensitive, or damaged skin as it can cause a numerous amount of side effects such as irritation, dry skin, inflammation, etc. Bingo! I think I may have figured out why my face has been dry all these years. This chemical goes into so many of the face washes we know today. The last one is Carbomer which is an acrylic acid used primarily in chemical factories, plastics, paints, and formulas and can irritate while being completely corrosive to the skin (Pubchem)

I immediately knew we could be putting something so much better on our faces and those products happened to be natural and organic, shocking right? You need five important things when making a face wash, you need emollients which serves to protect skin from aging and prevent dryness. Humectants which keeps the skin moist. Emulsifiers which blends and hold together the ingredients that do not normally mix. Surfactants which is your active surface agent that holds the dirt in suspension and dissolving oil, so that way it can be rinsed away with water. And preservatives which protects the product from bacteria and mold to give it a longer shelf life.

Plant oils such as shea butter and palm oil used as emollients.
Water used as a humectant
Nuts, berries, and plant waxes such as lavender oil and virgin coconut oil used as emulsifiers.
Rosemary extract and spearmint oil used as surfactants.
Tea tree oil and Hemp seed oil are used as preservatives.

These pictures are pictures of all the substitutes I can use in place of the synthetic chemicals and it’s amazing that more companies don’t do this. Why don’t they? The most important reason, they are not educated on the subject nor are some of the consumers that keep them in business. There’s also another reason and that’s money. The money they’re making and also the money that it takes to construct this product.

All five of those things mentioned which make up the 22 synthetic chemicals in my face wash can be replaced by eight or fewer natural and organic ingredients with much better affects for your body and the environment. These natural products are important to have in skin care products, given the inherent economic advantage in the exploitation of natural resources in ecosystems, plant extracts such as ones in the pictures, can be used in cosmetic science to beautify and maintain the physiological balance of the human skin. On the other hand, compared to synthetic cosmetic ingredients, herbal products are mild and biodegradable, exhibiting low toxicity. Nowadays, massive amounts of by-products are obtained without economic value but are potentially recoverable. These occurring natural plant extracts either from plants that occur in nature and wastes from plants processed industrially can be used to obtain new natural topical antioxidants, lighteners and preservatives, maximizing the utility of products currently underexploited or discarded which I’ve mentioned later as some of the key ingredients (MDPI). Using these plant extracts in place of chemicals can be safe and a great cost-effective alternative.

Like I said, since I’ve moved to Austin, I’ve tested out now many products that have done wonders to my skin. I’ve tried a good amount of natural bar soaps from companies that are local, and I’ve found that I am not only getting my money’s worth out of it, but my skin feels great and looks even better. I want to de-bunk the “natural products are more expensive” claim. In some cases, this is very true which is why it is very important to become knowledgeable about such topics. I did the cost break down of my face wash and of a bar of natural soap and if you were to take the cost of each product and ounces of each product and do basic math. For example, my face wash is 8 ounces for about $6.00 or $7.00, essentially that would be 75 cents per ounce and in a bottle that has about a months’ and a half worth of uses, you’d get about 16–17 cents per usage. Now if you take into consideration a natural bar soap that is $6.00 for a 4-ounce bar soap that can last me twice as long as the leading face wash (usage wise) and is better for me, you then have $1.57 per ounce but since there are more usages in the bar, each usage will only be 4 cents, which in time would make the natural bar soap cheaper. This would also be applied to a natural bar soap that is bigger in size as well, lasting double of the original for $8.00. This breakdown is what I have experienced hands on with both face wash and natural bar soap when it comes to costs and usage and for that reason therefore I believe this product is more efficient for skin, the environment, and our wallets. As mentioned in one of the journals natural products vs. synthetically modified chemicals to mimic natural products are found cheaper but only in the sense of it being an abundance amount and readily available.

Everything has a good and bad side to it, that being said we cannot fix everything. But we can come to some middle ground on the issues and form something from there, which is why I chose soap/face wash. It’s a common ground to start on that everyone uses day in and day out. It’s something that takes such little change. It’s important to know what is in our face wash and many other products because we need to know what is going into our body and on it. Half of the reason why medical attention continues to rise is because people are uneducated on what these chemicals in our everyday products can do to our bodies, let alone our faces. That alone should catch every one’s eyes but it simply doesn’t until something bad has already happened.


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The PubChem Project. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/





Treeusable 2018

Healthy products for healthy people and planet

Bree Fabritsis

Written by

Treeusable 2018

Healthy products for healthy people and planet

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