ON! Juniper™ has been busy at Christmas markets in Surrey and Richmond this month. While our lip balms have been very popular, some parents are hesitant to purchase because their daughter or son has a stockpile at home! With two daughters of my own, I get it – we need to put a limit somewhere! What I want to ask though – and I don’t say as to not offend – is what are your kid’s lip balms made of?
I’m betting that you probably have the same popular brands that we had – colourful, delicious fragrance, cute pictures of animals or popular TV/movie characters?
A couple of years ago I sat down and read the ingredients listed in my daughters’ lip balms. Know what I found? Either a lip balm that didn’t have ingredients listed on the tube (had thrown out the accompanying packaging a long time ago) or a lot of ingredients that I definitely did not want on my daughters’ lips. I had fallen into a false sense of security because the lip balms were marketed to kids and they were popular among other parents.
So which are the questionable ingredients found in many lip balms marketed to kids? See below for a snapshot of some key ingredients that you may want to be weary of. I’m a mum and founder of ON! Juniper. I want to give our kids the healthiest and safest options when it comes to personal care products.
Some Common Lip Balm Ingredients
1. Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
Lanolin is the waxy substance collected from wool shearings. Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol is produced when a lanolin and alcohol mixture is combined with acetate. Most experts consider this chemical to be good and acceptable for use and is widely used as an emollient (soften skin). That said, it is high on the comedogenic scale, which means it easily clogs pores. As a mom this is something I’d try to stay clear of when buying for a teen or one prone to break-outs or sensitive skin.
You also need to check the ingredient list to see if the product is marked natural/organic. If it doesn’t specifically state that it is natural, it’s probably synthetic. The synthetic version may be more likely to cause allergic reactions.
ON! Juniper does not use acetylated lanolin alcohol and has no intention of using it.
2. CI's (e.g.: 15850, CI 45410, CI 42090, CI 19140, CI 77891….)
CI stands for ‘Colour Index”, an internationally recognized classification system grouping colours by chemical structure. There are 23 categories of colours ranging from CI 10000 to CI 77999, including natural and synthetic chemicals. Some are safe to use and others, not so much. Coal tar dyes for instance are artificial colourants made from the distillation of bituminous coal or from petroleum distillates. Although widely used, and ranked on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Model List of Essential Medicines for medicated shampoos, there is also evidence to link coal tar dyes with learning difficulties in children (ADHD, hyperactivity) and cancer.
I’ve researched colourants a lot because kids like their products to be colourful. I’ve held back however on most and currently only use natural colourants that have not been linked in any way to health or environmental concerns.
There are enough variations within the Colour Index that it requires a blog of its own. In a forthcoming blog I’ll be looking deeper into the 23 CI categories to explain what’s what.
3. “Fragrance”, "Scent", "Parfum"
If a product includes the word “fragrance”, “scent” or “parfum” it likely includes a plethora of synthetic chemicals or a mixture of synthetic and natural chemicals. This means you can never know what exactly is in your product. Not knowing what has been used to fragrance your product can make it difficult to predetermine your chances of an allergic reaction or skin irritation.
Also, if you see the words “fragrance”, “scent”, “parfum” contained within a product that is advertised as organic or natural, don’t be fooled into thinking the wonderful smell coming from that container is all-natural. Unless there is specific wording denoting that the fragrance is 100% natural, it isn’t! (In a future blog I’ll talk about the legislation – or lack thereof – governing how the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are applied in the UK.)
It is much cheaper for companies to use synthetic fragrance rather than natural. At ON! Juniper we don’t sacrifice quality to increase profit margins. ON! Juniper uses only natural flavours in all of our products and these flavours are certified organic. If you buy strawberry lip balm for example your getting a mixture of strawberry extract, essential oils in a vegetable oil base, not a cornucopia of synthetic chemicals.
Mica is a metal mined from the earth. It provides slip, help products adhere to the skin and the majority of times is the ingredient that provides the glimmer or shimmer in our make-up, whether it be women’s foundation or shiny lip balm marketed to girls.
Lovers of mica say it is safe because it is a natural, pure mineral. Maybe or maybe not. Just be wary of greenwashing – uranium is a pure substance extracted from the earth and I don’t think too many of us will be smothering our selves in pure uranium anytime soon! A further cautionary note, there is always the chance that mica is mined in an area that naturally has a lot of heavy metals. If the refining process does not compensate, then a high level of heavy metals can remain within mica. On the flip side, mica should be routinely tested to ensure the heavy metal count is within safe levels. These safe levels don’t however always take into account bioaccumulation in the body and this may be an important tidbit if you use mica continuously over years. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals in the body can be linked to a variety of serious health concerns.
There has also been concern in the media about the mica particles being so small that they can be inhaled and cause lung inflammation and disease. One expert disqualifies this indicating that mica use in make-up can’t be this small; if it was it would never adhere to the skin and provide coverage. Others say that some companies use nano-sized particles.
In my view, there is currently insufficient evidence to indicate that mica is completely safe. (You may have guessed this with all the good and bad news!) I don’t know about you, but when there is no hard evidence to sway one way or the other, I’ll bear on the side of caution - not use mica - and not put my kids at risk. This is the same reason that ON! Juniper does not include mica in any products. If I am not comfortable in having my kids use an ingredient, it doesn’t make it into ONjuniper products either.
Parabens are a family of preservatives including methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethyl-paraben that easily absorbs into the skin. They are known skin irritants, linked to contact dermatitis and allergic reactions. More recently, the world has learned that parabens can mimic the hormone, oestrogen, which in turn can encourage the growth of breast cancer cells.
Bottom line, stay away from any product containing parabens.
ON! Juniper formulates products without the need for synthetic preservatives. You will never find parabens within our product range.
Mineral Oil / Paraffin
This substance falls under a range of names, including liquid paraffin, paraffin oil, paraffinum liquidum, white oil, etc… It is a byproduct from petroleum refining. Some uphold it’s benefits as a miracle oil (doesn’t clog pores, inexpensive and odorless). Others say mineral oil does clog pores and doesn’t contain nutrients to benefit the skin. It may also create such a strong seal to lock in moisture that it messes with the body’s natural moisturising mechanism, leading to drier, chapped skin. Definitely not what you want out of your lip balm!
Whatever your take, one thing remains the same, it is a byproduct of petroleum and petroleum extraction/reliance isn’t the best thing for the environment. There are other products out there that have similar benefits of being non-comedogenic and moisturizing whose production leaves a smaller and less invasive footprint on the environment.
When ON! Juniper formulates products, we look at a number of factors to ensure we are choosing the highest-quality ingredients for you. This includes: 1) ingredient manufacturing processes to ensure a more natural state rather than overly processed; 2) ingredient composition to determine benefits to the skin and body; and 3) environmental impact of an ingredient from the collection of the raw material to the final processing.
This is a synthetic substance derived from mineral oil. It is widely used as a thickener, lubricant and binder in cosmetics. Echoing my conclusion to it’s relative, mineral oil, polybutene is still a byproduct of the petroleum industry. There are other products out there that are natural and when produced have less impact on the environment and more benefit to the skin and body.
At ON! Juninper we are committed to using only use organic and natural ingredients that are skin-friendly.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
Propylene Glycol (PG) is a synthetic chemical manufactured from either biodiesel or petroleum byproducts. Being colourless, odourless and an inexpensive substitute for natural vegetable-based glycerin, it is widely used in cosmetics to thicken, moisturize and maintain a product’s soft texture over time).
Although considered safe to use in cosmetics at a concentration of 50% or less, some studies have shown concentrations under this amount can still cause allergic skin reactions. Some dated studies (20-30 years ago) rated PG as toxic with repeated, small doses – something you may want to know if reapplying lip balm. In the UK propylene glycol is limited to mostly non-food applications.  That said, I know many kids who, after applying lip balm lick it off, apply more, lick it off again, and…hopefully you get the idea!
There is a natural alternative to PG, vegetable glycerin derived from sustainable sources, such as coconuts or soy. This is what we use when we require ingredients with properties like PG. (Please note ON! Juniper doesn’t use glycerin derived from palm oil as it is highly unsustainable).
Synthetic wax is used in cosmetics as an emollient, stabilizer and to control viscosity. It is made through combining various synthetic chemicals, and in some cases also includes natural waxes and this combination is the problem. Product ingredients will list ‘synthetic wax’ as the ingredient without going into more detail about what synthetic or natural products have been used to make the wax. You may try your hardest to ensure that your products don’t contain Ingredient A or Ingredient B, but with a catch-all phrase like synthetic wax, you can never really be sure.
ON! Juniper does not use synthetic materials of any sort within our product formulations and we use clear, conscise labelling with regard to our product ingredients. So, with ONjuniper products, you know what you are getting and you can make an empowered choice.
ON! Juniper is a surrey-based business that formulates and handmakes bath and body products for girls with only organic and natural ingredients. Check us out: www.onjuniper.com or join us on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest
 S.D. Williams, W.H. Schmitt. (1992) Chemistry and Technology of the Cosmetics and Toiletries Industry. Springer Science + Business Media, LLC. New York, USA.