Some Truth about the Cosmetics Industry. ~ Joshua Scott Onysko

Via elephant journal
on Apr 19, 2011
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Photo: Alexander Persona Grata

What are our skin cream companies hiding from us?

Ed’s note: Pangea is, for one month, a sponsor of elephant. We’re proud of that: we only work with sponsors we can vouch for personally. That said, in any case, this article is offered as editorial, and we regard it as genuine editorial, and would publish it (or not, if we didn’t believe in it) whether or not Pangea sponsored elephant this month. ~ ed.

I get asked about this a lot [Josh is CEO, founder of Pangea Organics. ~ed.] so I’m going to try and break it all down in this article.

The cosmetics industry is completely unregulated, except if they are making medical claims such as “acne treatment” or “SPF” etc., etc. These products are not regulated for safety, just for effectiveness of the claim, and even that is suspect.

There are over 100,000 chemicals being used in the cosmetic and cleaning industry in the U.S. Less than 10% of them have ever been tested for human safety, and next to none have been tested for safety when combined with other components, which is exactly what a cosmetic product is—a cocktail of ingredients.

How does the industry work?

Well, like most things, it’s based on fear—fear of aging, and fear of not being beautiful enough. These fears are preyed upon by slick marketing campaigns and false claims. The average cosmetic product is 95% petroleum filler with an active compound to give you the desired effect for about six hours; long-term effectiveness is not part of the plan. Within that formulation, there are generally about 12 known carcinogens. The average person uses 12-15 products a day.

Photo: sunshinecity

If you do the math, that’s over 144 chemicals per person, per day!

What is a carcinogen, exactly? Carcinogens may increase the risk of cancer by altering cellular metabolism, or damaging DNA directly in cells. This interferes with biological processes, and induces the uncontrolled, malignant division, ultimately leading to the formation of tumors.

This is unfortunate, because most people believe that if you can buy something from a retailer, it must be safe, right? We have been programmed to believe this, but it’s not true.

Or maybe it means the products are effective: if we die before we age, well then that is “anti-aging,” isn’t it?!

In fact, in my 11 years of research, most products on the market today are actually causing long term effects, like premature aging, skin thinning and of course, cancer. All for six hours of reduced fine lines and wrinkles.

Here are a few more examples of lies from the cosmetic industry:

You know when you go to a nice hotel, and you see your favorite cosmetic brand in tiny little bottles? Well guess what—those are not what you think they are. Even 5 star hotels are only willing to spend about $0.20 per bottle for amenities.

Here’s how it works. There are a few companies that license the brand names, and then create an even more toxic cocktail of carcinogens and make it look and smell like the brand name original, but it’s really not the same at all. Chemicals are cheap.

Photo: paz. ca

How do they get away with this? “Not for resale,” that’s how. If you can’t buy it, they don’t have to list the ingredients. Pretty slick, eh?

You’re probably reading this and saying, “Wow! Good thing I buy all natural products.” But being natural or organic when it comes to skin care means nothing. Again, there is nobody regulating the use of these words, so you can still find plenty of carcinogens and formaldehyde donors in the “natural” aisle.

It’s very tricky. Many cosmetic ingredients are manufactured by component companies, and they come up with great names for things like “vegetable emulsifying wax.” That’s just peas and carrots, right?

Nope. It’s 78% petroleum.

In the last few years, there’s been a lot of buzz about parabens. Well, what do you think replaced parabens? Answer: sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate, a known formaldehyde donor.

But wait, there’s good news…

Understanding the skin is quite simple, really. Your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs up to 80% of what you put on it. Feed it a healthy diet. Aging can be understood very simply: when you are born, your skin produces new skin cells about every 30 days; this keeps us youthful. As we grow older, this process slows down; this is called aging. By the time we are 70, it can take up to 120 days to produce new skin cells.

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt

Inflammation also has a lot to do with skin health, both external factors, (i.e. sun, smoke, environmental pollution and of course, toxic products), as well as our diets affect the PH of our body and our skin. Our diets are loaded with acidic foods, coffee, soda, alcohol, pretty much all animal products, etc.

So the way we formulate at Pangea Organics—and how skin care should be formulated—is to treat the skin as we should treat the body. 100% of our ingredients are active; therefore, if an ingredient isn’t doing something positive for your skin, we don’t use it. We don’t use fillers. We fill our tubes and bottles up with powerful antioxidants (did you know that organic foods have 30% more antioxidants than conventional?).

We use ingredients that speed up skin cell regeneration, and we use a lot of anti-inflammatory ingredients. We feed your skin what it thirsts for. What do you get in return? Healthy skin, and products that outlast, outperform and outdo all of your expectations.

Nobody does it like we do it.

I hope this all helps. By the way, there’s no better time to toss the toxins than this month. All Pangea products are 25% off on our site, as well as in select stores nationwide. We’re all about accessibility: though we use quality, hard-to-source ingredients, you can find other such deals through the year by following us on Facebook or getting our newsletter.

Please feel free to post any questions you may have below, I’ll answer best I can.

Cheers to healthy skin!


Joshua-Scott Onysko, a longtime friend to elephant, is founder and CEO of Pangea Organics. You can read more from Josh here. Click here for 25% off through earth day.


About elephant journal

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32 Responses to “Some Truth about the Cosmetics Industry. ~ Joshua Scott Onysko”

  1. Sue says:

    I love your product, just started using it a few months ago when I won your Friday giveaway. I love the balancing oil the most! I have one question, why is there alcohol in your face cream? It burns when I put it on! Doesn't that create a drying affect?

  2. joshua says:

    burns? you mean you feel it? The alcohol is a Organic Lavender alcohol and does not dry out the skin, actually the Alcohol acts as a menstrum and works as a co-preservative and delivers all of the amazing beneficial ingredients to the skin at a cellular level. All in all, I have never heard of it burning,

    PS I love the oil too, its actually a miracle oil…serious results.

  3. Liana says:

    I'm not a chemist, but a conscious consumer who reads labels. I have always believed that there is nothing non-natural about vegetable emulsifying wax and if a reputable company claims that their Ewax is vegetable I have no reasons to doubt it.
    Bottom line: Vegetable Ewax is a blend of fatty alcohols (like Cetyl – vegetable or petroleum derived) and nonionic emulsifiers (like Polysorbate 60/80). Vegetable fatty alcohols are derived from vegetable oils like coconut and palm oils; nonionic emulsifiers derived from ORGANIC compounds polyethoxylated sorbitan and oleic acid.
    My personal advise to all consumers is to READ labels and do some research. There are way too many companies who claim that their product is THE BEST, you should only trust your own judgement.

  4. Dace says:

    Fresh air, exercise and water are the best cosmetics.

  5. amcquinn says:

    Over 16 years ago, I realized it made no sense to bath my newborn in a tub scrubbed with harsh chemicals and this is precisely why we're adamant about using products free of harmful chemicals on our skin and when scouring the tub 16 years later. Saponetta Divino at and Naturally For Life, The Eco Store has you completely covered in both regards. They both have the highest standards for beauty, bath, hair, cosmetics and cleaning products and they will both ship worldwide!

  6. Michelle says:

    I'm confused, is this a legitimate article about the cosmetic industry or an ad for Pangea?

  7. Readers seem to have some confusion about alcohols in cosmetics. Read this article from an expert cosmetic chemist which explains the difference between ethyl alcohol and fatty alcohols, both of which are commonly used in personal care products.

  8. Joey says:

    What would your advise be regarding sunblock? I don't think there is an all natural, good-for-you, sunblock out there that I know of. I'm a fair skinned Scot that loves to spend as much time hiking and being outside as I can. Any advise would be great! Thanks,


  9. hi joey,

    heather from pangea here. we find the Badger sunblock to be clean and effective.

  10. tanya lee markul says:

    Thanks for this – excellent information. I am ALWAYS in the market for finding earth friendly and human friendly products. I'm glad you shared some background and insight – it's important!

  11. Maryanne says:

    You have included a photo of a shelf of Weleda products with this article on lies of the cosmetics industry. I have thoughts that Weleda products were pure and chemical-free. Are you implying by inclusion of the photo that Weleda's skin care products contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens? I use three lines: Pangea, Weleda and Dr. Haushka– and now am wondering if I should eliminate my use of Weleda. Thanks!

  12. Maureen Miller says:

    Interesting! I've been thinking a lot lately about the products I use and wondering what folks recommend for a mascara product?

  13. Balancing on Two Feet says:

    Interesting article. I agree that most products out there are complete junk and have spent many years wasting my own money in spite of growing up with a father who is a dermatologist. In fact if you are going to go the drugstore route it is best to stick to very simple face washes and creams, as lotions are a total waste of money, especially the stuff that smells good since it is mostly alcohol and colorings.

    Even the pricy department store stuff is usually nothing more than a watered down version of other stuff that really works. In my own personal experience the things that work best are a couple organic brands, a few cosmeceuticals that are only available from a licensed esthetician, drinking lots of filtered water, and eating healthy fats and lots of greens!

  14. thanks for the getting the truth out there.

  15. des says:

    tried to buy product but checkout does not ship to europe, ireland for me.

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