I N T H E K N O W
Ok, so we can appreciate that understanding the contents of a product; why it's bad and what it will do to the planet or your body, is complicated.
There are a lot of acronyms, and long words that don't really mean much.
We at A N N I E - V want to help you with this, and so we have compiled a glossary of commonly used terms and phrases, where you can check out something before buying.
B Corporation is a certification given to for-profit companies, by a non-profit orgaisation, B Lab. B Corp companies are assessed on social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a plasticizer that can leach out of the material and enter the food chain.
For example TEA, DEA, MEA, are found in cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaning items, and have been linked to liver tumours. The European Commission has actually banned DEA in cosmetics.
Fair Wear Foundation
The international verification initiative FWF made it its mission to improve the working conditions in the garment supply chain worldwide. www.fairwear.org.
Many companies do not include a list of the ingredients that comprise 'fragrance' in products. Yet, some are known to be linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
These are a type of preservative found in cosmetics and release a small amount of formaldehyde over time, to stop products spoiling. They are considered safe and effective in the UK, Europe & the US.
This is a hydrating agent found in cosmetics, and used in small amounts to prevent ingredients from melting or freezing in extreme temperatures. It also helps products to penetrate the skin. While in large quantities propylene glycol could be harmful, studies have shown that the amount found in cosmetics, and when applied on the skin, does not pose a risk.
Short for genetically modified organism, GMO products are engineered in the lab to incorporate genes from other organisms - usually for the benefit of production (e.g. for a longer shelf life).
Lyocell is a cellulose fibre made from fast-growing eucalyptus and other woods from sustainably managed forests where cultivation requires only 5% of the water used in traditional cotton farming. The fibre is produced in a closed loop process, in which almost all of the water and chemicals are reused.
Another preservative found in personal care items, MI is increasingly linked to allergies in some people, and many companies are phasing out their use.
Modal is a type of viscose, a fibre made from the pulp of a beech tree that grows in Europe. Modal is known for its extreme soft hand feel, also it is an exceptional ecological alternative.
Within the wool industry, particularly with merino sheep, they have wrinkly skin which means more wool per sheep. However, when it's hot, the folds of skin around their bum can collect urine, moisture and faeces, causing flies and maggots to breed. To prevent this, many farmers carve out a piece of skin around the tail which is less likely to attract flies. It is done without anaesthetic, and often lambs have their feet tied together and prevented from moving. This practice is still being done, despite huge outcry from (mostly) European countries.
The world’s leader in testing fabrics to regulate harmful substances, and make sure every fabric’s origin and contents are totally up front for the consumer.
These are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, moisturisers, hair care products and shaving products, to prevent mould or the growth of other harmful bacteria (these are not the same as formaldehyde donors). While low levels in the body are tolerabe, cumulative exposure has shown links to 'hormone disruption' and breast cancer. The EU banned parabens in 2012, but the US still sell products containging them. Water-based products require preservatives, and so using oil-based products is a suitable alternative.
Derived from petroleum and natural gas, petro chemicals are found in many different products, with common names such as: propylene, ethylene, butadiene, benzene or xylene. They are often used to extend the shelf life of a product, help the product to spread on the skin, or disperse fragrance thoughout the product. There is much debate about the ill effects caused to the body, but they are thought to be irritants and can clause pores to block.
These are used in plastic to soften products that would otherwise snap or bend. Phthalates - pronounced 'tha-lates' - are found in numerous personal care items, and are used to help lubricate, penetrate and soften the skin, and help fragrances last longer. They're also used in loads of other products (toys, cleaning products, household items etc.), and as such, we have many opportunities to absorb them. As always there's debate over the impact on humans, but preliminary research has found links to asthma, timing of puberty and childhood obesity.
Commonly used in PVC, plasticizers improve the durability and flexibility of plastic. Phthalates are the most common type.
Real name recycled polyethylene terephthalate, or recycled polyester. By recycling PET plastic containers and creating rPET, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. With rPET we can make carpets, leggings, swimwear, t-shirts, and reusable shopping bags. But every time we wash synthetic fabrics, hundreds of thousands of plastic particles are released into the water, which eventually make their way into lakes, rivers, and the ocean. These can be then ingested by aquatic life and enter the human food chain, ending up inside of us too.
SA 8000 Certification
SA8000 is a social accountability standard and certificate developed by Social Accountability International (SAI). This organization created this certification to help and protect workers worldwide by providing a standardised guideline to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. SA8000 overlaps with Fair Trade certification in factory working conditions, but while Fair Trade is predominantly used for farming, SA8000 is a certification used in factory conditions.
These are used in products to give that glossy, or smooth application feel, as they are very good at conditioning skin. You might find them in shampoos, hair conditioners and styling products, moisturisers, skin protectants and antiperspirants. Silicones are derived from a natural ingredient used to make the Earth's crust, but compounded into a new ingredient, The most common silicones used in personal care products are dimethicone and dimethiconol. The most commonly used silicones in home care products are polydimethylsiloxanes. There is some debate about certain silicones that build up in aquatic sediment and affect water creatures.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
This is a chemical found in many hygiene products (think: shampoo, toothpate, soap, detergent) that separates molecules in order for them to interact better with your hair, skin, whatever. It's the stuff that causes products to lather. There has been some speculation about a link with cancer, but these have been positively unsubstantiated. The worry with SLS is that is causes skin irritation, hormone imbalance when residul levels rise in the body and poor eye health in children.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
SLES is also a chemical found in many hygiene products (it's what causes all the bubbles in washing up liquid), but it can be contaminated with dioxane (usually during its synthesis), which is a known carcinogens.
A natural, man-made fibre made from wood pulp. A non toxic solvent is used to transform the wood pulp into a fibre.