Do a quick web search on grapefruit seed extract, or GSE, and you’ll find multiple infomercial-style articles touting its benefits. All natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal! Natural medicinal properties! What your search might not disclose is the fact that this “all natural” product may not be all that natural.
GSE’s Dirty Little Secret
What your “all natural” GSE may be hiding are some really nasty chemicals, such as diphenol chloride and benzethonium chloride. Look these babies up! You’ll find numerous scholarly articles researching GSE and potential contaminants. After extensive tests, a European advisory committee ultimately determined that benzethonium chloride should not be used in cosmetics due to skin irritation, and ddiphenol hydroxybenzene may have similar effects. Disturbingly, commercial preparations of GSE may be comprised of up to 60% diphenol hydroxybenzene!
How these compounds work their way into GSE isn’t clear , but it may be through the proprietary manufacturing process. What is clear is that commercial preparations in particular may contain chemicals that you wouldn’t choose to put on your skin or in your body. On top of that, some studies show that GSE without these contaminantsisn’t as effective as an anti-bacterial. So why use it at all?
But it’s Organic!
“Organic” is a term we find everywhere these days. We have a seemingly good understanding of what makes food organic – no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, etc. So you would think that this sort of definition would pretty much carry over to cosmetics, right? Wrong. It turns out that “organic” certifications other than those issued by the USDA aren’t very well regulated. Manufacturers can claim “all natural” or “organic” personal care even though their products contain substances such as benzethonium chloride. It may surprise you to learn that some “natural” products may contain as little as 1% natural ingredients.
But Wait, There’s More!
Many manufacturers disguise known harmful preservatives, and because they aren’t as carefully regulated as food, beauty products can contain some nasty chemicals. So long as a product contains less than 1% of a preservative, it does not necessarily have to be disclosed in the ingredients. These chemicals can include phenoxyethanol, parabens, benzyl alcohol, DHA and others, which are anything but good for your skin and may be hazardous to your health. A safe rule of thumb is to only buy products containing ingredients you understand and only from a responsible manufacturer.
Consumers and organizations interested in a greener and more natural lifestyle should demand that cosmetic and personal care manufacturers come clean with truthful labeling. Supporting responsible manufacturers is one thing we can all do to make truthful labeling a reality.