Saturday, October 4, 2014

Skincare Dissection #2: Nivea In-Shower Skin Conditioner

What Is Skincare Dissection?
In a single sentence, skincare dissection is about learning exactly what is in our skincare products, and what effects it has on our skin and health.

Often times when we want to purchase skin care, we tend to prioritize convenience and fall for promises of fast or instant results. We scan for pretty looking packaging, and go for products that smell nice ( yes I know we all do the sniff test if we can, even I do!). The last thing we do is read the ingredients list right?! You make a quick scan, see words that are hard to pronounce and even harder to understand (hated chemistry with a vengeance in school)... oh well... if it looks pretty and smells ah- mazing, there's no harm applying it on our skin right? 

Well the only way to know the truth is to dissect that ingredients list and find out!

Note - For easy reference: 
  • green coloured ingredients are considered safe and very good for your skin, 
  • brown coloured ingredients are considered safe or have no known toxicity but have neutral skin benefits (these are usually fillers, emulsifiers or cheaper oils), and 
  • red ingredients are considered toxic.
If you have any skincare product you want me to dissect, just email to Pics and ingredients list supplied will be very helpful as well!

Disclaimer: I will list information here based on my online research, but it is ultimately up to you to decide on whether a product is good or bad. My intention is not to discriminate against any skin care products, but merely to educate you on its contents. In fact, I have many commercial skin care products lying around in my home, and the main reason I have them is because they are affordable and easily available. As much as I'm educating others, I'm also educating myself in the hopes that we all can make informed choices and consciously purchase products instead of just mindlessly grabbing them off the shelves purely based on appearances. Any views on products is my personal opinion and should not be construed as facts.

Nivea In-Shower Skin Conditioner


Currently I'm using pure virgin coconut oil (VCO) and I apply it all over on wet skin after my shower. It is actually quite easy and does not take long, although it does take a little bit of getting used to if you are not familiar with this method. I love VCO and use it in many many ways and would love to share them with you, but I will save it for another blogpost.

So I came across this product from numerous blog reviews, and all had said that this product was wonderful and moisturized their skin very well. You see, what really bothered me was the application process of this skin conditioner....

You apply it in the shower, and then rinse it off and your skin is magically soft, supple and moisturized! I don't doubt this but I know that for a product to stay on the skin even after it has been rinsed off ( and not feel oily or greasy), it must contain certain synthetic ingredients that may not be skin friendly at all. It was just a hunch, and so I decided to investigate further and dissect its ingredients list to find out the truth.

Before I start the dissection, I'd just like to add that my process of applying VCO oil as a body moisturizer is actually  much easier, and is also 2 steps shorter! It is basically just Step 1 and 2 like in the pic above, and that's it! No need to rinse or even towel dry!

Anyways,  just a note that I did not purchase this product and have not tried it ( and don't intend to). All pictures are courtesy of Nivea's website ( 

The Ingredients List:

Aqua, Cera Microcristallina, Paraffinum Liquidum, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Stearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol, Parfum, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil, Sodium Carbomer, Sodium Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylisothiazolinone, Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, Benzyl Alcohol, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Citral

Aqua - water
On the list of ingredients, water is often listed as "aqua." If everyone knows it is water why do they still bother? In Canada and the US, cosmetics ingredients are labeled using the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) system, "a system of names for waxes, oils,pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of soaps, cosmetics, and the like, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words." In Latin, water is called "aqua". So if you're using INCI to label your products, you use "aqua" on your product labels.
It does not state what type was used. Is it purified? Is it clean? Is it distilled? Is it treated? Is it tap water? We will never know...

Cera microcristallina - wax made from petroleum
Microcrystalline wax is a hydrocarbon wax derived from petroleum. It is classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful" and classified as "medium human health priority" in regards to human organ system toxicity according to the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List.
(personal note: This product should contain a significant amount of this wax since it is the second ingredient in the list. This also may explain how you get that 'moisturized feeling' since being a wax, it coats your skin in a thin film and does not get washed away. I have read in a review on that this waxy film can build up on the skin over time, makes shaving very difficult, and causes painful in-grown hair as well.)

Paraffinum liquidum - mineral oil (from petroleum)
An extremely cheap & common petroleum derivative (refined crude oil petrochemical) which is found in 98% of skincare products sold in the US. It functions as an occlusive skin emollient. HEALTH RISK: Petrochemicals contain neurotoxins which damage the nervous system. Mineral oil forms a film on the surface of your skin that can not be absorbed, thereby blocking the pores and the skin’s natural respiration. It traps dirt and bacteria and blocks the absorption of vitamins/minerals/botanicals that may be in a product. John Hopkins University named mineral oil in cosmetics and moisturizers as the number two cause of aging (first being direct exposure to sun). It may also cause allergic reactions and dryness, as well as promote acne and other skin disorders. Even if you want to rubbish the health risks of using mineral oil, I would still avoid it if possible because it is such an inferior oil without any nutritional value to it, unlike other natural oils that contain skin nourishing and protecting vitamins and fatty acids.

Glycerin - Skin conditioning agent and humectant
A naturally occurring ingredient (also synthetically made) that balances the water levels in skin to facilitate moisture. Simply stated, glycerin attracts water to skin and helps skin to feel smoother and softer. However, studies have found that it not only attracts water to the skin, but also helps skin cells mature properly. According to a study done by The Medical College of Georgia, Glycerin works as a signal to help direct skin cells through their four normal stages of maturity. In the endless cycle of skin-cell production, the youngest cells move up from the deepest layer and switch from replicating as their main function to eventually becoming mature surface cells that spit out lipids to help form the skin's protective barrier.

Cetearyl Alcohol - emollient and emulsion stabilizer
A fatty alcohol that's either produced from the end products of the petroleum industry, or derived from plants (palm oil-palmityl alcohol). Works as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener and carrying agent for other ingredients contained in a cosmetic solution. It keeps the oil and water parts of an emulsion from separating, and gives products good spreadability. As a thickening agent and surfactant, it helps alter the viscosity and increase the foaming capacity of non-aqueous (i.e. lotions) and aqueous solutions (i.e. shampoo). It is often misinterpreted as an "alcohol" related to ethyl or rubbing alcohol, both of which can be extremely drying to the skin. The truth, in fact, is quite the opposite, as cetyl alcohol is well known to effectively condition and soften the skin and hair. Because of its multi-functional capabilities, this ingredient is used in a wide range of personal care products such as moisturizer, face cream, shampoo/conditioner, anti-aging treatment, hair dye, sunscreen, cleanser and lipstick. The FDA includes cetyl alcohol on its list of permitted food additives. The EU Cosmetics Directive allows it to be used in cosmetics as long as it's derived from plants. (personal note: My best guess that the cetearyl alcohol in this product is petroleum based). The CIR Expert Panel has assessed this ingredient as non-sensitizing, non-toxic and safe to use in cosmetic products.

Despite the fact that the CIR Expert Panel recognizes this ingredient as non-irritating, many dermatologists recommend that individuals with sensitive/irritated skin avoid it. Many medical experts believe that cetyl alcohol, and many other fatty alcohols, have the ability to altercate the lipid bilayer of the epidermis (protective barrier) and cause allergic dermal reactions in some (see article in 1999 issue of Contact Dermatitis). There are many other medical studies supporting the potential irritation associated with this ingredient. Considering this information, it's best that sensitive skin types perform a patch test with any product containing this ingredient, particularly anyone suffering from a skin condition such as Rosacea or Psoriasis.

Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides - skin conditioning agent made from highly processed coconut oil
Processed using highly toxic metal catalyst such as nickel, and so carries risks of toxic metal contamination. This process strips the oil of most, if not all, of its natural nutrients and alters its fatty acid structure, but it is done mainly because it prevents the oil from going rancid. It is well documented that hydrogenated oils can cause cancer and heart disease if consumed, although studies on its effects in skincare products are still ongoing and inconclusive. If you are the type who avoids unnatural and risky ingredients in your skin care, then you may want to avoid this. Margarine is an example of a hydrogenated oil, would you want to slather it on your skin if you had the choice? 

Stearyl Alcohol - emulsion stabilizer and conditioning agent
Stearyl Alcohol is a naturaly fatty alcohol derived from stearic acid, coconut oil or vegetable fatty acids, and is used to soothe and soften as a conditioning agent and as an emulsifier. It is often found as a hair coating ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, and an emollient in creams and lotions for the skin ( and Wikipedia). It can also be used to thicken formulas, adding body and viscosity.
The Cosmetics Database finds Stearyl Alcohol to be a low hazard ingredient, despite cancer, irritation, and organ system toxicity concerns and strong evidence that it is a human irritant by the CIR (especially for products used around the eyes, and on the skin). One or more animal studies show tumor formation at high doses.

 Myristyl Alcohol - An emmolient, emulsion stabilizer, skin-conditioning agent, surfactant, viscosity increasing agent, foaming agent and fragrance Ingredient
Myristyl Alcohol is a fatty-alcohol used as an emollient in cosmetics and skin care products (Source). According toresearch, it is primarily used to inhibit a formula from separating into its oil and liquid components. However, Myristyl Alcohol can be drying, as can most fatty-alcohols.A study published by Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology in 1966 showed Myristyl Alcohol to be a carcinogen and cause skin tumors in multiple tests, but only in high doses given to animals, primarily mice. It’s also been shown to be an irritant in animals. Studies published in Contact Dermatitis in April and November of 2006, both done in Europe and both concerning patch testing and cosmetic allergies directly resulting from Myristyl Alcohol found that it was an irritant, but only in patients with highly sensitive skin. It is approved by the FDA as a food additive, and by the CIR for use in cosmetics (Cosmetics Database). If you have extra sensitive skin, consult a dermatologist for the most appropriate skin care product to use. Young children and infants that do have sensitive skin should also seek a consultation with a dermatologist for a milder and gentler skin care product to use.

Parfum - fragrance
The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.

Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil  - Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet Almond Oil is commonly used as a skin conditioning agent to lubricate and soften the skin or as a lubricant in hair products to promote shine and manageability. It acts as an emulsifying agent, binding water and oil together. This oil features a light consistency and is not oily, so it is readily absorbed by the skin. It has been included in formulas designed to reduce fine lines on the face, moisturize the skin, soothe dry, chapped lips, and relieve itching. It is a rich emollient that moisturizes the skin with renewed hydration, helping to minimize signs associated with premature aging. It creates a glow to the skin when absorbed, can be used to reduce discoloration or inflammation, or to neutralize skin and hair irritations. It is frequently used in fragrance, lipstick, sunscreen, skin care, night skin care, and cleansing formulas. (personal note: If Sweet Almond Oil is listed after parfum (fragrance), I doubt there's much of it since fragrances are usually added at 0.5% - 2% concentration. This means that the actual concentration of Sweet Almond Oil is less than 2%.)

Sodium Carbomer - film forming/ holding agent
A blend of sodium (salt) and carbomer that functions as a stabilizer and film-forming agent. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on the skin at all. If you rub a neat carbomer gel into your skin, once it has dried you don’t notice it. It doesn’t make your skin tacky. It doesn’t make it feel tight. You just don’t notice it. It isn’t there to give any benefits, just to make the formulation elegant and enjoyable.The chemistry of carbomer is totally synthetic (petrochemical derivative) and bears no relationship to anything in nature. A natural alternaive to carbomer would be Xantham Gum.

Sodium Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer - film forming/ thickening agent
Determined safe for use in cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations - Safe for use in cosmetics with some qualifications. Considered safe based on assumption of low absorption. There are concerns of cross contamination with highly toxic ingredients such as Ethylene Oxide and 1,4-Dioxane.

Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate - Absorbent; Anticaking Agent; Viscosity Increasing Agent
Determined safe for use in cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations - Safe for use in cosmetics with some qualifications. Contamination concern - Aluminium powder

Phenoxyethanol - preservative
Phenoxyethanol, also known as Ethylene Glycol Monophenyl Ether, is a glycol ether and bactericide (that functions as a disinfectant, antiseptic or antibiotic) that is primarily used as a preservative in cosmetics and beauty products. It is also seen as a fragrance additive, a fixative for perfumes, an insect repellent ingredient in sunscreens, a topical antiseptic ingredient, and solvent (Wikipedia).
Studies have shown that Phenoxyethanol can be an extreme irritant to the eyes and skin, and can even cause blistering; it is hazardous in the case of ingestion and inhalation as well. The Cosmetic Database rates it as a moderate hazard and notes cancer, allergic reactions, skin, eye and lung irritation, organ and neurotoxicity as possible effects of using products containing Phenoxyethanol. It has shown effects on sensory organs even at low doses, and brain and nervous systems at moderate doses in animals, and causes cell mutation.
According to research, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) data sheets show “chromosomal changes and genetic mutation effects in testing as well as testicular atrophy and reproductive damage in mice.”

Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, Citronellol - fragrance
Naturally extracted scent ingredients. Some are known human immune system toxicants or allergens that are banned in the EU.

Benzyl Alcohol - solvent and preservative agent
Has been associated with contact allergy. Classified as toxic or harmful (only for products for use around the mouth; products for use on the lips; products that may be aerosolized (airborne)) in Canada and the EU.

Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone - Fragrance masking ingredient
Possible human immune system toxicant or allergen and falls under the EU Fragrance Banned and Restricted List. Suspected to be an environmental toxin according to the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List

Hexyl Cinnamal - Fragrance masking ingredient
It is associated with allergic reactions and is classified as a Possible human immune system toxicant or allergen according to the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrance List.

Butylphenyl Methylpropional - Fragrance ingredient
Lilial (butylphenyl methylpropanal) is a synthetic scent ingredient associated with allergies and contact dermatitis. it is rated as a moderate to high toxicity concern on the EWG databse. It is associated with allergic reactions and is classified as a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen according to the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrance List.

Benzyl Benzoate - solvent, preservative and fragrance ingredient
It is associated with allergies and contact dermatitis. It is associated with allergic reactions and is classified as a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen according to the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrance List.

Benzyl Salicylate - Fragrance Ingredient, UV light absorber
Associated with endocrine disruption, and is a known human immune system toxicant or allergen according to the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrances list. Rated a 7 out of 10 (moderate to high) on the EWG's toxic scale. Benzyl Salicylate can cause irritations, sensitization and allergic reactions.

Citral - Fragrance Ingredient
Citral is a naturally occurring scent ingredient; manufactured synthetically on a large scale; associated with allergies and contact dermatitis. It is a known human immune system toxicant or allergen according to the according to the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrances list. Rated a 7 out of 10 (moderate to high) on the EWG's toxic scale. Classified as irritant (skin, eyes & lungs) according to the European Union - Classification & Labelling board. In Europe, Citral is included on the list of "allergenic" substances. The European Cosmetics Regulation requires manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products to indicate the presence of certain "allergenic" substances in the list of ingredients if they are present above certain levels in the product. The presence of Citral must be indicated in the list of ingredients when its concentration exceeds: 0.001% in leave-on the skin products 0.01% in products that are rinsed off the skin.


1 comment:

  1. honestly i have tried this product and throw away after using it twice as i developed skin irritation.
    the main reason i pick this up was "ohh new technology, moisture while shower.." without going through the ingredients list and doing some reading on it i resulted to that situation. never ever again..
    good write up and good sharing.