Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eco Styler Gel: Love it or Loathe it

Have you ever used Eco styler gel? Numerous YouTube tutorials on natural hair recommend Eco styler gel. Why not? It offers maximum hold; contains 100% Olive oil and, has no alcohol! Thus, I decided to give this one a try.

As you all know [if you follow my blog] I always read ingredients. To my surprise, this one raised many flags.

Nonetheless I bought a jar for $3.99 [CDN] and left the store. Rule of thumb #1, if you can’t eat it don’t put it on your skin.

Upon getting home I compared my jar of Kinky Curly custard gel to ECO styler gel.  Kinky Curly custard’s ingredients are listed as follows:
Botanical fusion of water, horsetail, chamomile, nettle and marshmallow, organic aloe vera juice, agave nectar extract, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), pectin, citric acid, potassium sorbate and natural fragrance.

Quite easy to read and pronounce, right?

I’m always amazed at cosmetics that have the word “natural” highlighted boldly in front of the product, but when you start reading the ingredients you quickly discover that there is nothing natural about it. In the case of Eco styler gel, ECO [a prefix relating to ecological or environmental terms (11)] and 100% Olive Oil are emphasized, but olive oil is the 10th ingredient out of 15...which is way down on the list. Consequently, does this not represent green washing?

Green washing is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally friendly. (12)

Once again, curiosity got the better of me and I did some digging. This is what I found:

Here is a list of Eco styler gel’s ingredients, in order of percentage, and as they appear on the jar: Water, Carbomer, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, PVP, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hydrxymethylglycinate, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodium EDTA, Olive oil, Fragrance, Blue #1, Yellow #11, LOVE AND PRIDE.

For starters it has so many unpronounceable ingredients, but what do they mean??

Carbomers and water are the top two ingredients inside Ecostyler Gel. 

Carbomers are plasticisers used to thicken cosmetics. While they are safe ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, they are also cheap fillers. Carbomers make products feel luxurious on the skin and since the formula contains a lot of water, it will also appear to soak in quickly. (7)

Since there is a great deal of water, there is less room for oils and butters. Put simply, Carbomers are economical, so they are used to keep manufacturer’s costs down. (7)

PVP (polyvinyl pyrrolidone) is a petroleum-derived chemical used in cosmetics. According to the Organics Consumer Association, It can be considered toxic, since particles may contribute to foreign bodies in the lungs of sensitive persons. The Cosmetic Ingredients Review Expert Panel however considers PVP safe. (1)

What is of greater concern to me is why anyone would want to put petroleum (i.e. black oil derived from the ground) on his or her skin.

Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein: If you have Celiac disease you may want to avoid any cosmetics that contain wheat. (10)

As stated by the Organics Consumer Association, Triethanolamine is often used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, as well as with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a cleanser. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time. (1)

Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate is NOT a natural preservative. Its allergic reactions include skin and eye irritations and those with sensitive skin are advised to stay clear from it. In truth, there have been no studies on the long-term effects of this preservative on the skin. (5)

Polysorbate-20 is a fragrance component, surfactant, an emulsifying agent, and solubilizing agent. Why is it a risk?
Polysorbate starts out as harmless sorbitol, but then it's treated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide.  It's called Polysorbate 20 because it's treated with 20 "parts" of ethylene oxide.  The higher the number, the more ethylene oxide it has been treated with.  This substance is then combined with various fatty acids.  The Skin Deep Database rates it as only a "one" [meaning safe] and doesn't pick up on the risk that it could be contaminated with ethylene oxide, and subsequently, 1,4 dioxane.  In addition, it can be laced with heavy metals. (4)

Tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. It is also a penetration enhancer, meaning it breaks down the skin's protective barrier, going right into your bloodstream. Many companies trying to be "natural" will use Tetrasodium EDTA instead of parabens to preserve their products. It is safe to say, Tetrasodium EDTA is just as bad. (9)

“Fragrance” can be one or more of 200 chemicals.
Companies don't have to disclose the actual components of each fragrance, under the guise that their fragrances are trade secrets. Fragrance has been known to cause many side effects, including headaches and allergic reactions. Why put an unknown synthetic chemical on your skin when you don’t have to? The Environmental Working Group has an extensive database of cosmetic chemicals and their corresponding danger rankings. "Fragrance" receives one of the highest rankings possible in their score system. (1) (8)

Artificial colors, such as Blue 1 are carcinogenic. (2)

Yellow #11: suspected carcinogen. One is advised to avoid this if possible. (3)

Something else, a dear friend of mine [Yinka] used to set her hair with Aloe Vera as far back as ’97. She says the hairdresser would just use a tail comb to part the aloe vera leaf open and scrap out the gel. Then, she’ll apply it to her hair and roll it. It was sticky icky but it worked wonders.  In my opinion, I prefer aloe vera plant or kinky curly.

Finally, remember I simply share what has worked for me and the products I feel comfortable using. I do plenty of research, read ingredients and stay informed. You are free to do the same if you choose to and draw your own conclusions.

Proverb of the week:
“Simplify. Choose products with fewer ingredients, and choose fewer products overall."
 Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the campaign and author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. (8)


1. Hampton, Aubrey.  Ten Synthetic Cosmetics Ingredients to Avoid. Organic Consumers Association. N.D. Web. 10 January. 2012.

2. “Cosmetics and Parsonal Care Products Can be Cancer Risks.” Cancer Prevention Coalition, n.d. Web. 10 January. 2012

3. “List of More Widely Known Dangerous Ingredients in Body & Food  Products.” Pure Zing…for a better lifestyle, n.d. Web. 10 January. 2012.

4. “Polysorbate 20.” Chemical of The Day. Febuary 2, 2010. Web. 10 January. 2012

5. Dr. David. M.A. Ingredient Watch: Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate.  24 January. 2008. Web. 10 January. 2012.

6. “PVP.”  Cosmetic Ingredients Review Expert Panel, n.d. Web. 10 January. 2012.

7. Tuffy, Megan.  Read the label: Carbomers.  The Skinny. 1. 1. Page 1 (2008). Web.

8. Elejaide-Ruiz, Alexia. Saving Face. Don’t let your cosmetics cause you health problems. How to spot ingredients that irritate.  Chicago Tribune. 14 March 2010. Web. 10 January. 2012

9. Greenwood, Stephanie. “Top five Chemicals to Avoid.”  Bubble & Bee Organic bath and body. 23 August. 2007. Web. 10 January. 2012.

10. “New Cosmetic Regulations.” Canadian Celiac Association. Canadian Celiac Association, n.d. Web. 10 January. 2012.

11. “Eco.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 28 September. 2011. Web. 13 January. 2012

12. "Greenwashing." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 3 January. 2012. Web. 13 January. 2012

(c) Shakara Natural tips 2012