Approaching the Bench…

The Green Makeup Artist Weighs in on the Japanese Honeysuckle Extract  Debate:

On any given day, from the watercoolers to the online forums, from the academic publications to the costumed courts, debates will RAGE, on a veritable smorgasbord of topics.

The extent to which we, as individuals, participate in these debates depends a great deal on the personal stakes we feel we have in their outcome, as well as our loyalty to an ideal.

I have said before that everyone must draw the green line for themselves.  It is not for me to decide for you what you will put on your face or in your body.  I am just some chick. Sure, I have ideas of green, and you have ideas of green, too.  Furthermore, the BEAUTY industry has ideas of green, and there will be times when none of us agree on the meaning of green~  it’s how everything works: McDonald’s says “healthy” is their grilled chicken salad.  Some people will agree. And some people will insist the meat must be organic and some people will say there can be no meat, and some people will say there can be no dairy, either.  And some people only eat what they grow.

We have to draw our own lines. We have to determine for ourselves what we are willing to put up with, in order to get what it is we think we want.  Health, beauty, love, democracy–whatever.

Here’s a debate you may not know is simmering away on the green front: Japanese Honeysuckle Extract. Good or bad? A reader recently asked my opinion on the topic, and I figured this was as good a place as any to answer.

If you haven’t yet heard the rumblings, you may want to pop over to “Chemical of the Day”, a blog on Bumble and Bee Organics website. Japanese Honeysuckle Debate  The main issue seems to be whether Japanese Honeysuckle Extract (used as a preservative by some natural companies) mimics synthetic parabens in the body, whether it qualifies as a true paraben itself, and if, indeed, it should be treated as the party crasher of otherwise healthy and green products.

After checking out Skin Deep  (The Cosmetic Safety Database put out by the Environmental Working Group), and finding NO data on JHE use in cosmetics, and therefore no safety ranking, I read what some scientists and researchers themselves had to say about the ingredient.

For me, at least, the jury is still out.  And while I am very disappointed with 100% Pure’s response on the topic (they seem to be avoiding dealing with it head on) I think Hugo Naturals approached the issue well, and it became clear to me that these are not companies which are attempting to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.  I just think the answer is yet to be determined.

I once worked in a natural beauty store that sold supplements and teas, creams and tinctures. Women who came in often assumed that because our products were “all-natural”, they were all “safe”.

Ladies, arsenic is natural.  Now, taken homeopathically, arsenic can do some good, sure, but we ought not go about willy-nilly, ingesting arsenic, natural or otherwise, for the fun of it, nor out of sheer ignorance.

So am I making a point for the prosecution?  Poor JHE.  The thing is, I am not entirely convinced that it affects the system as a paraben would, and, further, I feel that my toxic burden is not heavy at this moment because of it.  There are FAR fewer products on the market with JHE as a singular questionable ingredient than there are products with THREE OR MORE KNOWN toxic ingredients. Let’s prioritize, shall we?  Let’s triage this trial.

I understand the fuss, and I’m glad about it.  Research must be done!  (she says, shaking her fist at the sky)

So let’s do it.  And then when we know, we know.   At the end of the day, I’m just one KIND of green chick.   Maybe I’m naive.  I want to give credit to companies like 100% Pure and Hugo Naturals, and many others, who have operated in GOOD FAITH, in an attempt to do something new and green, and frankly HARD–let’s face it, it’s HARD to be the voice of dissent, to knowingly shrink your consumer audience by drawing certain lines, and year after year attempt to fight the good fight when it would be SO MUCH EASIER to slack.

Maybe I just see these companies as the little guys, in all this.  And I’m unwillingly to believe that when they spend so much time trying to get it right, that they would knowingly include a toxic ingredient.  I want to believe that if research shows JHE acts like a paraben,  these guys will be ALL OVER THAT.

I haven’t seen that research yet.

We draw our green lines based, at least partly, on knowledge.   But knowledge is not finite, and we must concede that we as consumers, as researchers, and as educators may be relatively ignorant or misinformed at ANY GIVEN TIME.   We have to do what we can with what we know, or what we think we know.

It becomes more abstract from there.  We base decisions on personal experience (experience which relies on those slippery ingredients, memory and emotion).  We are further influenced by aesthetics.  By packaging.  By marketing.  Our ideals are the water of soup stock, but all of our soups will taste different in the end.

The important part is that we’re sitting at the same table, and talking.


3 thoughts on “Approaching the Bench…

  1. Thank you, for your post. I appreciate hearing your two cents worth on the subject. You are a very entertaining writer!! I agree that the jury is still out on this. I’d also love to hear what you think about Potassium Sorbate as a preservative sometime.

  2. Marcie,
    The JHE blog started out last night, in the comments section, simply as a response to your question…and then it became unwieldy:) So THANK YOU for the question! I do plan to do another blog on preservatives, in general, and I think the JHE debate is a great intro to that.

    I was talking to a friend of mine last night about bio-identical compounds, and we marveled about how scientific opinion has changed in the past few years on this front. I think that’s probably another blog. Fragrance is something we will always want, we’re girls, at the end of the day, however crunchy we may be– we want to smell good. Which means that deodorant is always going to be a question that has to be answered as well. Lavanila was the first company that made me believe that ‘natural’ deodorant could work. But, like everything else, each ingredient is subject to further inspection….

    You Canadians ask good questions. Thank you.

  3. Hello, I just happen to come across your blog after researching more on Japanese Honeysuckle. I am a new grandma and very close to my 1yr old grandson. Well as the internet had enabled me to know more things, it has also caused great stress. Since I watch my grandson everyday I figured we should make all homemade food and then of coarse with all organic ingredients. And surly all his products need to be as clean/natural/organic as can be. Oh, can’t miss that he should sleep on this type of mattress or that he shouldn’t have that type of bathmat for bathing…or what should we store his food in…or should he just have sprinkler cause of pvc in pools.

    So, back on point…I had been buying him California baby products and then heard they changed ingredients and didn’t inform. So, then I went out and bought Shea Moisture products because it sounded so clean…until I read the Honey Suckle issue!!! UGGG back to the expensive drawing board again, so went out and bought all new products from Bobo Botanicals…another $100! This is madness we are putting ourselves through and I have been left with a more out of control feeling rather then a in control feeling. I am drawing my GREEN LINE and will spend the appropriate amount of time looking into what I feel is good or bad and let the rest fall to the side…cause I am not in control of what people hide or don’t know themselves!

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