Is Neutrogena’s New Naturals Line Legit?
Many of you have inquired about Neutrogena’s new line of “naturals” so we decided to investigate. We’re always happy to see mainstream indicators of the clean revolution, but we’re also wary of big companies putting out lines that allege to be natural when they’re not. So let’s take a look.
We noticed Neutrogena’s television ad, which features the very pretty Kristen Bell and points to the line’s very pretty website that makes explicit claims about what is not in these five products: no harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, dyes, petrochemicals, and—most notably to us—phthalates. Sounds great right? Let’s look a little further.
A review of the ingredients raises some red flags (or at least suspicious eyebrows). Three of the five products contain fragrance; and while it’s impossible to know what is in any given fragrance formulation without taking it to the lab, we know that many, many, many (most?) fragrances do indeed contain phthalates.
1. Phthalates, as some of you know are, hormone disruptors, and they’ve garnered a lot of negative attention, for good reason. When pressed, Neutrogena told us that their fragrance formulations do not contain phthalates. That’s possible, but we can’t verify it. We do applaud any company that eliminates phthalates, but there are plenty of other ingredients used in “fragrance” that remain a mystery—which we do not like. It leaves way too many questions open for us.
2. As for the sulfates claim, that one checks out—sort of. Sulfates are a buzz word right now, and we have seen lots of companies taking it out and then advertising about it. But what about the replacement ingredients? What is being used instead? Well, the second ingredient in their face wash—water is the first—is a surfactant called cocamidopropyl betaine. While this ingredient can be derived from coconut, it’s nonetheless a stripping cleansing ingredient that is shown to irritate skin and can be contaminated with other chemicals. Neutrogena says contamination was due to an older manufacturing process that has been rectified. Great stuff. But it’s still a foaming, stripping agent, and we personally generally try to avoid those on our faces.
3. Last but not least we asked them about propylene glycol (found in their face and body bar), which according to the world’s largest producer of the stuff, Dow, is made from propylene oxide and water. See the graph here. Because propylene oxide is produced from petroleum, we’d classify propylene glycol as a petrochemical. Neutrogena’s response to that was: It is not found in nature and thus not a petrochemical nor a natural product. It is a synthetic material. For a brand with “Naturals” in the name, this made us LOL, but it also made us want to slam our heads into a wall.
Some of the other ingredients in the line are unknown to us, and we’ll have to go through them one by one (um, where is our army of interns?!). That said, there’s no question that these products are cleaner than most of what’s out there—and the lip balm appears to be entirely clean. Kudos for that!
Nobody would be happier than us to see a truly clean line put out by a big company, and we don’t want to hate on positive movement. But at this time, we cannot recommend this line in good conscience. We’d like to encourage Neutrogena to go all the way: Ditch the fragrance, the PG and any other mystery ingredients and embrace this message from your own site: “Transparency is at the heart of Neutrogena® Naturals.”
We’ll be the first ones to champion you then.
Image from their site