Ingredients To Avoid

What Ingredients Should We Really Avoid?

What "No-No" Lists Are Just For Marketing?

What Is Surf Soap's Stand on Ingredients and What Do We Avoid?

If we want to learn about planet-safe ingredients, let's start with the mecca of all that is natural... the Whole Foods banned list. For this article, we are only going to talk about the lists regarding personal care products, and only the most prominent ones in the space today. Let's talk betaines, sulfates, parabens, and preservatives.

We also want to go over what makes soap a soap, and why, even though our name is Surf Soap, we don't use actual lye or sodium hydroxide (i.e. soap, which you'll find in many 'natural' shampoo bars) in our products.

For starters, let's go over a class of chemicals called betaines, which, if you've turned over many a natural body wash these days, you may have seen. They are the most common secondary surfactant (cleanser or foaming agent) used in shampoo, body wash, and soaps. 

Below is the betaine "banned" list. In order to get a product into Whole Foods, it cannot contain:

  • babassuamidopropyl betaine
  • betaine
  • cetyl betaine
  • coco betaine
  • Lauryl Amidopropyl Betaine
  • Lauryl betaine
  • lauryl glucoside betaine
  • oleyl betaine
  • Wheat germamidopropyl betaine

These are copied exactly as they appear on their list. With the help of our friends at The Chemist's Corner, we can suss out the possible reasons why this might be.

What follows is a great examination of some of the ingredients on the banned lists from other cosmetic chemists, and it should shed some light on these ingredients as well as help us all understand what they actually mean.

"Babassuamidopropyl betaine at first glance seems really random. Only a handful of products even contain that material. According to GNPD, there have never been more than eight launches per year that contain it. Upon further inspection, the major company using it is Aveda. Aveda is “natural” product competition for Whole Foods.

The next class is the amidopropyl type. There are three on the list (the first was already discussed) and I’ll group them together here – they are babassuamidopropyl betaine, lauryl amidopropyl betaine and wheat germamidopropyl betaine. The first thing to note is they have the INCI name wrong for one. It should be lauramidopropyl betaine. Is it OK if I just use it because it’s not technically on the list? Also, conspicuously missing is the ubiquitous betaine of this type, cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). Was there a major problem with their suppliers not being able to formulate without CAPB, or was it just an oversight? The funny part is the major component of CAPB is lauramidopropyl betaine. The same formulation trick applies as the previous paragraph. Feel free to use any number of amidopropyl betaines of varying carbon chain lengths not on their list to get around it.

The last one is lauryl glucoside betaine. This is a real head scratcher. I don’t even know what that is. It’s not in the INCI dictionary." (The INCI dictionary is the common names for cosmetic ingredients.)

"In conclusion, betaines as a class of molecule have been used for many years in the cosmetic industry and have been studied extensively for safety, biodegradability, and overall environmental impact. If made from a source such as coconut oil they are relatively “natural”. There are a whole slew of products less “natural” than betaines that aren’t on the banned list. Betaines are proven safe and relatively mild surfactants. " Source

Just by reading this small study, it should give you a nudge to perhaps take what you read with a grain of salt, it certainly made us curious.  When researching new ingredients, you may have seen the esteemed EWG website, which lists ingredients along with their toxicity.

If you haven't read by now, EWG has been scrutinized by scientists for its apparent lack of actual science-based fact, and instead more bias that works by way of ignorance from the consumer market at large. A neutral scientist with no monetary gain or loss from posting about the dangers of putting all of your eggs in the EWG basket said it well. 

"I would like to see my industry be better, be more sustainable especially, but to do this, we need to be relying on science and not pseudoscience. A call to action - be critical of your information sources. Even (especially) giant NGO’s can be guilty of spreading misinformation for financial gain?" (The Eco Well)
This post articulates much better than I could about the grey area that is NGO's, big cosmetic labels, and misinformation for financial gain. 
Here at Surf Soap, we have taken this information and check our facts with chemists and scientists who do not work for profit companies and research centers. And as a consumer, we thought this information might be good for you to know as well, as we all float through our options for hair and skin care. 

Surf Soap's Ingredient "No-No" List

Here is a list that we choose to not include in our products. I also scrutinize the products that I buy for my own family against this list as well. At Surf Soap, we believe that perfection in life is not the key, it is in fact, balance. So sometimes - yes, I have products in my shelf that may include these ingredients. It's probably because I'm constrained by family budget, or it's just the most accessible, least synthetic product available at the time.

  • Benzophenone-3, also know as Oxybenzone

  • Avobenzone, also a benzophenone

  • Cyclomethicone
  • Dimethicone
  • Silicone
  • Micro-beads
  • Formaldehyde, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin and Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Homosalate
  • Nano particles
  • Octinoxate / Octyl methoxycinnamate
  • Parabens
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Phthalates

  • Quaternium-15

  • Mineral Oil

  • Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES)

  • Sodium Coco Sulfate

  • Soya Lecithin

  • Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

  • Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Synthetic Fragrance
  • Synthetic Dye / Color

My goal here is to educate you, encourage you, and definitely not judge you! But I sure hope you'll have peace of mind knowing that when it comes to Surf Soap's products at least, the research has been done for you, either partnered with scientists or sitting on the couch next to Ellie while she watches Peppa Pig and I hurriedly type away. 

See ya out on the break!


Kayla @ Surf Soap

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