Standard Pages (they don't change often)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cosmetic Chemophobia

Certain words seem particularly charged with emotional meaning - they trump reason. One of them, apparently, is "chemicals". Chemophobia is this irrational fear and trepidation from using scientific chemical terms, because of some perceived notoriety - be it ethylene gas, or glutamate, or dihydrogen monoxide.

You'll see it in all sorts of advertising - that a particular product is "all natural" and "free of chemicals" - even though, technically, all food is chemicals. From proteins, to fats, to carbohydrates. Such blanket fear is useless without knowing which specific chemicals are to beware of - and even then, we'd need to know the amount and circumstance. The ridiculousness, however, can extend beyond food. Into, say, cosmetics - not unusual due to the close relationship between ingredients used in both.

This is the label of a box of soap from a small cosmetic producer; I blurred out the actual brand name. But I am pointing out the claim that it is 100% No harmful chemicals. 

A close look at the ingredient label reveals the use of sodium hydroxide - in conventional circles, that's drain cleaner. It's a very caustic ingredient that can dissolve most biological material. I'd say that is pretty harmful. Except, of course, that soap itself cannot be manufactured without some kind of harsh alkali like sodium hydroxide. 
I am not pointing this out to be pedantic about the label of this particular soap — my point is to highlight the folly of marketing to chemophobes. And this is just about stuff that is present in the product.

And then there's gluten-free cosmetics - for items that aren't even going to be ingested. 

No comments:

Post a Comment