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The Toxic Truth: Misplaced Faith In A Buyer Beware World

Botanical Bee Apothecary's all natural artisan skincare concentrate collection in a Yarrow field on our farm on a sunny day.
Botanical Bee Apothecary logo and pics of founders on their family farm where they make all natural artisan skincare products



As a species, we are naturally and rightly inclined to value our overall health, wellness and happiness. Large and powerful industries offer a dizzying array of products to satisfy those inclinations, everything from luxurious creams to magical serums promising eternal youth and beauty. As I’ll explain, the heavily marketed and engineered allure of flawless, ageless skin and eternal youth hides a hidden peril and a terrifying truth: despite claims to the contrary, many commercial skin care products are, in fact, toxic to our health and our environment. In a buyer beware economy, the duty is on the overworked and overwhelmed consumer to find healthy alternatives. That task has been purposefully engineered to be nearly impossible.


You Are Outgunned


These truths are self-evident: We live in a consumer society. We are consumers. Our economy and way of life is based on constant consumption. Purchasing goods and services is an essential and ingrained part of our daily lives. From the moment we wake and look at our phone or turn on the t.v. we are bombarded with commercials and advertisements using persuasive imagery and arguments specifically designed to entice us to buy ... something ... anything ... everything.


The skincare industry is an economic titan. The global skincare market was valued at $146.7 Billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $273.3 Billion by 2031, growing at an annual rate of 6.7%.1 That’s a lot of money and big companies spend billions on expensive marketing professionals with vast technical resources, massive databases and well honed expertise to create sophisticated strategies designed to penetrate our mental defenses, tap into our biggest hopes and fears and trigger a buying response. In the skincare industry, that strategy typically involves promising easy solutions for complex skin care problems, from acne to psoriasis to reverse aging. Sophisticated marketing teams create, shape and influence consumer demand while an army of industry lawyers lobby against consumer protection laws and re-define words you thought you understood until they mean almost nothing or, worse, the opposite of their common meaning. Through this strategy, terms like “all-natural,” “organic,” and “non-toxic” have become virtually meaningless and utterly unreliable when featured on product labels or glitzy marketing. What hope do individual consumers have to unwind these complex marketing strategies to find the line between truth and fiction, reality and marketing, healthy and toxic.


Reject Their Premise And Learn To Love The Skin You’re In


Beyond all the glossy marketing and shiny labels lies a deeper societal narrative engineered by this same health/beauty industry—one that teaches us from a tender age to covet and pursue youth, beauty and perfection at all costs. We are conditioned through a blizzard of visual imagery, music and targeted messaging to adopt unrealistic beauty standards and expectations of eternal youth. Skincare products are marketed with young, naturally beautiful people with flawless complexions and million dollar smiles (often digitally enhanced) to subconsciously suggest that if you buy that product, you’ll look like that and live that lifestyle. Marketing purposefully distorts reality and misdirects consumer expectation from reality to fantasy, inevitably leading to disappointment as we come to grips with the fact that no matter how much of that damned cream we rub on our face, we’re just not going to look like that model or end up on her boat in the Caribbean.


The point of this critique is not to paint as a fool’s errand those who seek their most healthy, happy and beautiful version of themselves; quite the opposite. Everyone should love the skin they are in and strive to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible. But doing so with unrealistic expectations based on misplaced beliefs in false promises of magical cures and potions is a recipe for disappointment. If we are not more careful in how we choose the products we buy to achieve those goals, we may be doing ourselves more harm than good.


With so many millions of dollars poured into increasingly elaborate and often misleading marketing campaigns promising results that are inconsistent with reality and the actual ingredients used in those products, what’s a conscientious consumer to do to find high quality, all natural, nontoxic and effective skincare? How do we penetrate a sophisticated and complex web of greenwashing and purposefully opaque and vague ingredient labels that obscure the truth about the ingredients of the skin care products we are being sold? It was those kinds of questions and the uncomfortable answers I found that prompted me to start my own all natural skincare company and write this blog.


During my research, I came across a recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) that documents the pervasive use of personal care products (PCPs) in our daily routines and the fact that many of these PCPs have harmful ingredients often times not disclosed in the product marketing or labels.2 From hair (shampoo, soaps and conditioners) and skin care essentials (lotions, creams and serums) to baby products (powders, balms and creams) makeup and perfumes, these PCPs are ubiquitous worldwide. The harmful properties of these products are obscured through incomplete and ambiguous labeling practices made possible by lax regulation and slack marketing practices engineered by the manufacturers themselves. The potential harm is not limited to humans. Because PCPs are ubiquitous and available worldwide, their constituent parts eventually find their way into wastewater systems, landfills, aquifers, rivers, lakes and oceans, where they continually release biologically active and inactive ingredients into the atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere, leading to adverse effects on humans, wildlife and marine life.

According to the NCBI a huge percentage of women are unaware whether their PCPs contain endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). EDCs are known to cause a variety of unwanted ailments, including allergies, skin conditions and reproductive issues. Nearly 80% of women expressed uncertainty or doubt that their PCPs included any EDCs, while simultaneously admitting they would definitely want to know that information. Manufacturers resist clearly and understandably disclosing accurate information about the harmful nature of these ingredients because doing so automatically cools consumer enthusiasm, reducing market share and profits. That kind of non-disclosure is legally permissible in the United States because these same companies have lobbied to make it so. While over 1,500 chemicals are banned or restricted from use in PCPs by the European Union and 800 are restricted from use by Canada, only 12 are prohibited or restricted in the United States!
3 There are nearly 300 different chemicals used in U.S. PCPs for artificial fragrances, alone. Even products labeled "natural fragrance" often contain only trace amounts of actual botanicals, and only to justify that marketing claim, only to be combined with a mixture of laboratory engineered chemical compounds linked to a variety of health problems.


Buyer Beware Of These Common Toxic Skin Care Ingredients


The skin is the body's largest organ! The skin is also the primary protective barrier between our internal organs and the external environment. What we put on our skin does not simply stay on or bounce off the surface. Water, chemicals, oils, pollutants and poisons are absorbed through the skin and metabolized into our bloodstream and internal organs. This transdermal absorption process highlights how important it is to be mindful that the products we put on our skin are actually healthy and have a positive, not negative, short and long term impact on our overall health. In this buyer beware landscape, informed decision making is imperative to reliably achieving health and wellness. Here are five specific chemical compounds that are particularly prevalent in commercial skincare products that you can look for and avoid.

Synthetic Fragrances


Many common skin care products contain synthetic fragrances, which is another way of saying chemical compounds engineered in a laboratory to mimic the odor of other things. Artificial fragrances are often generically identified as "fragrance" on ingredient labels. That is a red flag. Even products labeled "natural fragrance" often contain only trace amounts of botanical oils combined with an undisclosed cocktail of artificial chemical compounds designed to mimic the natural botanical flower. Sometimes those compounds are safe, sometimes they are not. Best practice is to look for labels specifying “no artificial fragrances.” Then if it smells like lavender, you can be sure it’s lavender oil and not 3,7-Dimethyl-1,6-octadien-3-ol, aka Linool.4



Phthalates are chemical compounds used to make plastics more durable5 but are commonly used in skin care products to enhance texture and ease of application. But Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors linked to reproductive, respiratory, neurological, and developmental system disorders. Some studies have recently suggested a correlation between phthalates and behavioral issues in children, emphasizing the need for stricter regulatory oversight and safer alternatives.



Parabens are a family of chemicals used as preservatives in skincare products.6 Chemical preservatives are necessary because almost all commercial skin care products use water, both as a volumizer (to make the bottle bigger) and to dilute the ingredients and make application easier. Parabens have come under increasing scrutiny due to their known potential health risks. Parabens mimic estrogen in the body, contributing to hormone imbalances and increasing the risk of breast cancer, obesity and infertility.

Glycol Ethers


Glycol Ethers are chemical compounds used in industrial solvents, but also in soaps and cosmetics. Glycol Ethers are associated with reproductive toxicity, developmental defects, and central nervous system impairment. Difficult to spot on labels, the most common listings are 2-methoxyethanol (EGME), diethylene glycol (DEG) and 2-butoxyethanol, aka, ethylene glycol butyl ether (EGBE).7

UV Filters


Many products tout their UV protection rating. While UV protection plays a crucial role in protecting the skin from sun damage, not all are created equal. Some UV blocking chemical compounds are more harmful than others, disrupting hormonal balance and negatively impacting reproduction and development. If you’re unsure about the safety of the brand of sunscreen you’re using or considering buying, a great resource is the Environmental Working Group (EWG) where you can check the safety rating of sunscreens and other products. I trust the EWG to check products I don’t make. They rank products and ingredients on a toxicity scale of 1-10, 10 being most harmful. Toxic UV filters are also linked to environmental degradation in heavily trafficked reefs and beaches.




You want healthy skin. You want to do right. You want to spend your hard earned money wisely. You don’t want to be poisoned or disappointed. It’s so hard. There is a blizzard of misinformation and misleading marketing carefully crafted to crack your code and separate you from your money. I hope through this blog that we’ve given you a little insight and a few tools to understand and avoid those pitfalls.

Botanical Bee Apothecary's all natural artisan skincare concentrate collection in a Yarrow field on our farm on a sunny day.


At Botanical Bee Apothecary (BBA), our mission is rooted in the belief that the overall health and well-being of our skin is more important than chasing  false promises of eternal youth and beauty. We recognize the importance of transparency and integrity in skincare formulations, which is why we have committed ourselves to crafting all natural artisan skincare concentrates using pure, natural and nourishing ingredients. We do not make empty promises of miraculous transformation and reverse aging. Instead, we give you the knowledge and tools to correctly balance and optimize the health and happiness of your skin, regardless of your age. We never use artificial colors, synthetic fragrances or chemical preservatives. We don’t need to. We grow powerful botanicals known for their natural healing and restorative properties on our own farm. We supervise the process, start to finish, hand harvesting at peak bloom and using an 8 week solar infusion process to ensure we get the best nature has to give. If you’re as concerned as us about making sure you have healthy, happy skin, the all natural way, please check us out, read our reviews and give us a try.

Botanically Yours,


Dena S.
Founder, Botanical Bee Apothecary

BBA founder mixing botanicals grown on their family farm for use in their all natural artisan skincare concentrates.

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2  Khalid, Madiha, and Mohammad Abdollahi. “Environmental Distribution of Personal Care Products and Their Effects on Human Health.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR vol. 20,1 (2021): 216-253. doi:10.22037/ijpr.2021.114891.15088






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