Friday, April 8, 2011

Ethyl Aldehyde By Any Other Name……

There are so many ways to skin a cat. One way to skin a cat, and not get nailed by kooks like me for cat-skinning, is to list it as something else on the label, say, felyinius ex-dermyfication. See how easy that was? I could come up with more, using more x’s & y’s, too!

I found an entry from a blogger that emphatically states, as scientific fact, that formaldehyde can NOT be an ingredient in cosmetics, since formaldehyde is, in fact a gas. So, duh!! You can’t put a gas in a face cream, morons! This scientist (yeah! No shit!) claims that if you ever see “formaldehyde” on a label, it’s a blatant freaking lie. (Also, that since formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance; whaaat? What are you all whining about? It’s natural!!!)

That’s when my whole blog-post got de-railed. See, here’s the thing: I know how to Google, and I also know how to read. Further, I speak fluent bullshit, and so does this “scientist.”

True, you don’t see “formaldehyde” listed as an ingredient. (Seriously. Do they even discuss marketing in scientist-school at all?) True. Much like our inability to catch a falling star and put it in a pocket/save it for a rainy day, neither can we mix up a gas with a face cream, slap a label (that says formaldehyde) on it/sell it. But come on, scientist! I have an art degree, and even I can figure this out.

In addition to throwing the bullshit flag, and in defense of the lab rats who developed the rare nasal cancer that this blogger refers to, I say, screw you, blogger. I’ve had cancer and it sucks. Until the blogger him/herself survives eight rounds of chemo and is THEN so cavalier about cancer causing agents, I don’t want to hear it. (Which, don’t let the casual attitude fool you; when a substance makes rats develop cancer, it’s a fucking carcinogen. It’s that simple.) To substantiate my claim that pretending formaldehyde is a poor, innocent victim of the organic whackjob regime, I present:

Which, I know you aren’t gong to read, so I’ve copy/pasted a couple of highlights:

(Short term effects:) When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure (1). Since that time, some studies of humans have suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen (2).

Formaldehyde is a “Volatile Organic Compound” (VOC), which means that at normal room temperatures, it becomes a gas. (More on this later.)

So, I’m going to give a point to the blogger here. You don’t see “formaldehyde” listed on any ingredient lists.  That’s either because some companies have even a cursory understanding of marketing, or because it’s used as part of compounds, or becomes part of another compound, or other sciency reasons, or some combination. So, you call it something else. (Seriously, blogger. This one is such a no-brainer. I can’t believe you are even making me go to the effort…)

Here is a quick list of names that indicate presence of formaldehyde as a part of a compound within a product:

Methyl Aldehyde
Methylene Oxide

I doubt that’s any kind of comprehensive list. Like I said, I have an art degree. That was a google search that consisted of this: “formaldehyde ingredient names” or something like that. (Yeah! That’s all you have to do!)

You may have noticed a little phrase from the passage I quoted that specifies that formaldehyde may be associated with certain types of cancer under “unusually high or prolonged exposure.” Here’s the thing about that: Formaldehyde (yeah, I’m callin’ it like it is, bitch!) is everywhere. It’s not just about face creams and nail polish. It’s in everything.

*Car polish and cleaners
Air fresheners
Cleaning fluid
Insulation batts
Ironing sprays and fluids
Particle board
Plywood veneer
Softwood products
Hair products
Synthetic upholstery
Old carpets (no longer used in carpet manufacture)
Smaller rugs

*Lifted this list directly from Green Living Tips

And precisely because it’s a gas, it escapes into the air, all the time. We touch it, we breathe it, we are in contact with it: All. The. Time. So, who is monitoring when our exposure becomes unusually high or prolonged? Damn straight.

So, back to the theory that, because it’s a gas it can’t be in personal care products: Again! J’Accuse!! If we want to believe gases cannot be contained for personal care products, then we also have to believe it for soft drinks. (And just like that, the Tooth Fairy dies.)

Certain cosmetic products contain “volatiles” (sound familiar?) which are chemical (hmm…) components that make our lipsticks/pencils combine with our skin with a vacuum-seal. Yes, the “volatile” component is released as it is exposed to the air, but it held our product together while it was in there. Now, exposed, it’s free to return to its natural (gas) state. Voila. (You can often tell these products because they are in an airtight container. For example, you know that “click” when you close a certain lipstick or eyeliner? It’s airtight.)

I must say that I find it irritating when someone disguises (and poorly so, obvs,) an agenda as science. Seriously? If I can poke these holes? You’re phoning it in, here. The only thing worse than that is when people believe it.

OK, I honestly didn’t intend to do an entire post about formaldehyde, and I didn’t, really. This post is as much about the way people will distort logic and straightforward information in order to get you to believe something. Either this “blogentist” has an agenda, or he/she is not well informed. Read with a cynical mind, everyone wants you to believe them, and not the other guy.

“But, Cassie,” you say, “aren’t you doing the same thing? Aren’t you presenting information to present your own point?” I reply: “Yes. I am (beeyotch).” But here’s the difference: I don’t have an agenda to promote. Nobody’s paying me to get you to believe shit. (You can tell by the way I didn’t dismiss/or pretend non-existence of pertinent statistical data, and by the way I dress for shit.) If I’m wrong, please tell me so. I don’t have to have a formaldehyde hate-fest, really. If someone can show me that Dr. Blogentist is right and I’m wrong, bring it. But make sure to explain the whole “look! Your shoe’s untied!” tactic, because that always pisses me off. (Why not just call your blog “I think you’re stupid, and here’s why…” and be done with it?)

A dear friend commented (regarding my blog,) that she doesn’t care about cosmetics, face creams, and other crap that she’s not interested in, but does want to know more about personal care products, and what’s in other products she comes into contact with. And I completely understand that she does NOT intend to be derogatory to those of us who are interested in those things, she simply doesn’t use them. It provides me with a fabulous opportunity, though, and if I didn’t exploit it, I’d be derelict.

All of it matters to all of us. If it’s in my eyeliner, it’s in your water. If it’s in your perfume, it’s in my body.  Now. Does that mean we all have to react to this information unilaterally? Hell, no. Good luck trying with that. Be outraged about it, or be indifferent to it; but be aware of it. I’m not into cars, but I can no more divorce myself from the chemicals in auto-body finishes than the auto-body finisher can from my Botox. The economy, ecology, and sociology are all bound together, and yes, the problem is that big. I’m not saying that we here are the ones who have to solve the problem, but I’m saying that we can no longer pretend that my problem is separate from yours.

Next post, I’ll try not to get hijacked. I want to talk about the ingredients that aren’t listed on any label, the hidden sleeper-cells that, due to legal wranglings and chemical reactions, don’t even have to introduce themselves, even by an alias!


  1. NICELY DONE! I'm eagerly awaiting the next one discussing "legal wranglings." That's going to be interesting.

    And I had NO IDEA about flippin' formaldehyde in my MAKEUP. What's a girl to do?! Not wear makeup (that's not possible - I like to look cute)?? What makeup/perfume/etc. doesn't have that junk?

    Spill the beans, Cassie!!!

  2. Too right, Cassie: the problem isn't just individual (i.e., I don't use mascara so why should I care), it affects everyone, regardless of whether or not one uses perfume or dryer sheets or whatever. The stuff is out there and we aren't even aware of its presence. I deal more on my blogs with the crap that's in food, but it's the same damn thing everywhere you look.

  3. Just a small tid bit ... Like you said formaldehyde is a gas, but when it gets hydrated (in water) it becomes methanediol (aka methylene glycol). So watch out for those words as well, its still formaldehyde just in solution.

    The main ingredient in the Brazilian blowout is methylene glycol, which of course is a cause of concern for people who want to avoid formaldehyde.

  4. Did you see the news today about the Brazilian Blowout? Not mentioned in the article is the fact that at least one woman has died from asphyxiation after the BB.

    The thing about formaldehyde that's tricky is that in order to apply it, it's pretty much inevitably exposed to air, isn't it? Plus, it's just so... everywhere. I personally try to limit my exposure where I can. (I realize that certain nail products have it, and again, I try to limit or avoid those products, but I don't always know which ones they are.)

    I don't see you much on MUA! Where you been?