Glossary of Terms
A to P

Glossary of Terms - A

Anticaking agent – A substance/chemical sometimes added to powdered or granular food or cosmetic products – like flour, and salt that keeps the product flowing freely and not clumping together (if kept in dry/optimal storage conditions)

Antifoaming agent – A substance/chemical sometimes added to powdered or granular food or cosmetic products to reduce foaming. Also used to reduce formation of scum (foam adulterated with other constituents) and through its foam reducing action, reducing the possibility of products boiling over during manufacture.

Antimicrobial – A substance/chemical sometimes added to cosmetic products to reduce the activity and proliferation of microbes when applied to the body.

Antioxidant – A substance/chemical added to food or cosmetic products to reduce the spoilage effect that can often occur when the product is exposed to oxygen (in the air) after opening. Antioxidants may be natural or synthetically manufactured.

Azo dyes – A class of dyes that incorporate phenol and diazonium compounds. This large and common type of dye, which may be used in foods, is now believed to be carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Glossary of Terms - B

Buffer – A substance/chemical sometimes added to foods or cosmetics to balance/stabilize the acidity or alkalinity of the product.

Glossary of Terms - C

Carcinogen – A substance that causes cancer. Carcinogens can be categorized 1,2 or 3 – where 1 = confirmed; 2 = probable; 3 = possible. Generally you would want to avoid any products that are at all classified carcinogenic.

Coal tar dye – An 'old-fashioned' type of dye derived from coal tar. These dyes often contained toxins and impurities. Dyes are synthesized by modern commercial methods these day – but such colorants need to be treated with circumspection (see, for example, Azo dyes).

Cytotoxin – The prefix "cyto - " refers to cells. Cytotoxins are toxic to cells.

Glossary of Terms - D

Denaturant – A chemical added to the alcohol used in some cosmetics that makes it poisonous to discourage/prevent the possibility of consumption.

Glossary of Terms - E

Emollient – Substances that have properties which soothe and soften the skin.

Emulsifier – A substance/chemical sometimes added to food or cosmetic products to establish a consistent and stable mixture. Particularly used where naturally 'difficult to mix' ingredients are used – like oils and water.

Emulsion stabilizer – An additional ingredient used to stabilize emulsions and improve shelf-life.

Endocrine disrupter/toxin – The endocrine glands include: hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenal, ovary, and testis. Disruption of the crucial functions of these glands can lead to many, varied health problems. Hormones released from the endocrines system play key roles in physical development, brain development, behavior, temperature regulation, sexual development including the production of sperm in males, and ova in females and more. Endocrine disrupters are chemicals that 'interfere' with the working of one or more endocrine glands – they may be synthetically manufactured, or can be naturally occurring phytoestrogens (plant-derived estrogens). Some of the synthetic chemicals are well known from adverse media coverage – such as DDT, Phthalates, Poly Brominated Bi-phenols (BPP's), Poly Chlorinated Bi-phenols (PCB's) amongst more than 500 other 'suspects'. They can be very persistent in the environment. Some chemicals that are suspected or known 'endocrine disrupters' are sometimes routinely used in formulations of personal care products as, for example, preservatives – e.g. Parabens (ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-, butyl-)

Ethoxylation – The process of adding oxygen and ethyl – a gas derived from ethane – to a detergent/degreaser with the aim of reducing its abrasiveness and increasing foam.

Glossary of Terms - F

Film former – A chemical additive that may be used in personal care or cosmetics to assist the product in creating a continuous film over the skin, hair or nails.

Fragrance – A huge category of of complex compounds 'disguised' under apparently 'innocuous' one umbrella term – A fragrance may contain up to four thousand separate ingredients, many of which are known to be toxic and even carcinogenic. Symptoms caused by some fragrances include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and skin irritation. Clinical research has shown that fragrances can have neurotoxic effects including causing depression, hyperactivity, and irritability. Avoid synthetic chemical fragrance in particular – we advise that all chemical 'aromatizing 'products – (sprays/plug-ins/free standing gels and sticks, etc.) should be discarded to avoid creating a potentially toxic atmosphere that you, your family and visitors will otherwise be constantly breathing in in your home. Prefer/choose ONLY products with simple natural, and 'aroma therapeutic' scents and replace all synthetic 'aromatizers' with 'candle-light' natural oil/incense burners (e.g. Use natural lavender oil, natural rose oil, natural herb oils, etc.)

Glossary of Terms - G

Glossary of Terms - H

Herbicide – A chemical used for killing-off invasive plant species that might reduce crop yields. Used in non-organic/modern farming practice and may result in chemical residues being found in the products (food, skin care, cosmetics, etc.) manufactured using the crop that has been sprayed with it.

Humectant – A Substance that may be used in food or skincare that 'retains moisture' – resulting in keeping the product moister for longer.

Hydrogenation/Hydrogenated – A process of adding hydrogen, under high pressure to fats and oils. This results in the fats becoming solid at room temperatures (most margarines – 'yellow fats' – contain hydrogenated fats as do many off-the-shelf cosmetics/skincare). Hydrogenated fats/oils are now recognized at contributing to a number of serious health problems including heart disease, blocked arteries and cancers. YOU SHOULD CHOOSE TO AVOID THEM as much as possible!

Glossary of Terms - I

Glossary of Terms - J

Glossary of Terms - K

Glossary of Terms - L

Glossary of Terms - M

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) – Data sheets about commercially available chemicals that describe any health risks and safety hazards they may pose, and how to handle them safely.

Mutagen – Anything that can cause mutations in genetic material. Mutagens can disrupt DNA, and set in motion a chain of events that can lead to inherited health problems. This may not happen in the next generation but could appears several generation down the line...Skincare and cosmetics made with mutagenic ingredients COULD lead to serious health issues emerging in your family – make it a priority to 'KNOW' these ingredients and avoid products that contain them. Chemicals, pesticides and radiation are amongst the things that have been shown to have 'mutagenic' properties.

Glossary of Terms - N

Nanoparticles – Sometimes referred to in 'cosmetics' advertising, as a 'breakthrough' that makes products even better. These are VERY small particles, less than 100 billionth of meter in size. They are extremely easily absorbed by the skin, they can easily pass across the blood/brain barrier – their potential to cause harm is unknown and largely un-investigated... Another innovation marketed as a wonderful feature to get you to 'BUY', which could yet prove to make some syntheticchemical based products even more dangerous!

Neurotoxin/Neurotoxicity - Toxic substance that interfere with the functioning of the peripheral or central nervous system. A neurotoxin may result in various symptoms from a feeling of 'muscle weakness', loss of feeling, impaired motor control, shakes or tremors, and many other nervous system related problems.

Nitrosamines – Substances formed when a 'NITROSATING AGENT' reacts with other chemical compounds. Such 'agents' are often found as common ingredients in personal care/cosmetics ingredients – such as:
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Formaldehyde
- DEA, MEA, TEA compounds
- Imidazolidinyl Urea
...amongst many others (pick up our FREE copy of our 'Toxic Ingredients Directory' for more details) Nitrosamines are known to be HUMAN CARCINOGENS – Avoid products with these ingredients whenever possible.

Glossary of Terms - O

Oxidising/Oxidizing Agent – A substance which adds 'oxygen' to a compound changing its nature in the process – often used in both foods and personal care/cosmetics products.

Glossary of Terms - P

Photosensitivity – The condition that occurs when skin is sensitized to sunlight, resulting in rashes, blotchiness, swelling, erratic pigmentation changes or other effects. This can occur when certain chemicals are either consumed, or absorbed through the skin on contact.

Plasticiser/Plasticizer – A compound or substance that can be added to a product to make it more malleable/workable – but which does not change the basic nature of the product itself.

Preservative – A substance added to food and personal care/cosmetics to extend shelf life and suppress/inhibit the growth of mould, bacteria, fungi and other microbes. Synthetically manufactured, and widely used preservatives in skin care and cosmetics products include the family of Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, propyl-) which are a nasty group of toxic chemicals (More details about parabens HERE).

(August 27 2006 - more to be added soon)

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