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“My lipstick contains soy!” And Other Soy-Laced Beauty Discoveries

An alarming discovery:

Soy is contained in most cosmetics, hair products, and skin care products.

WHAT?! So, I’ve been poisoning my allergic-to-soy skin with various beauty products for years and years? No wonder my skin has been so irritated and unhappy. This could explain my adult acne and eczema. What’s more – my LIPSTICKS contained soy which means I’ve been ingesting small doses of soy all day long. Actually, after all the research I’ve done about soy in our foods, I can say that about more than just my lipsticks. But I digress.

A few weeks ago, I posted a small blurb about soy in cosmetics to my Facebook friends, just days after learning nearly every beauty product I owned contained soy. It was shortly afterwards that I realized I needed to start this blog.

The soy-laced cosmetics I've been using for years

The soy-laced beauty products I’ve been using for years.

This picture speaks volumes. First, ladies, can you imagine how much money I have invested in all these products?! I’ve used some high-end brands, and over the years this collection has cost me a pretty penny. Each of my products contain an ingredient shown as “soy” or “tochopherol” (which is most often derived from soy, but can be derived from wheat, cotton seed, olive oil, and others). The tocopherol ingredient has many names: Alpha-Tocopherol, a-Tocopherol, D-Alpha-Tocopherol, Vitamin E, D-MIXED-TOCOPHEROLS, O-Tocoferol, E 307, Tokopherol, Soy Tocopherols, Pflanzliches Vitamin E.

Many cosmetics companies use a soy-based tocopherol, yet they are not required to share the source of the tocopherol on the ingredients list. This bothers me. Does it bother you? I know I’m not the only one with topical allergies to soy – it would be so helpful if I could easily determine if I am allergic to the product before I buy it. Plus, lipstick is ultimately ingested…shouldn’t companies be required to state clearly that a known allergen is contained in their lipstick?? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect cosmetic companies to alert the customers to a possible allergy risk, whether it be for those allergic to soy, gluten, or any other known allergen that might be in the product.

Anyway, because there is a high probability that the tocopherol ingredient used in the product is derived from soy, when I’m shopping for makeup or skin care products, if I see the name tocopherol (or any one of it’s alternate names), I just assume it’s derived from soy and move on to another brand of makeup. Makeup is expensive, my time is valuable, and I don’t want to take any chances.

However, I did contact the companies who make the makeup I’ve been using (MAC, NARS, Bare Essentials Bare Minerals, and Laura Mercier) to see if they use soy in their products, and asked what their tocopherol is made from. Here are the responses:

  • From the Consumer Care Representative at MAC: “In regards to Tocopherol (Vitamin E), we are unable to determine the exact derivation of the ingredient as there are varied sources and vary from formulation to formulation…the Vitamin E could be derived from various sources such as synthetic, soy, etc.” In other words, MAC isn’t sure where their tochopherol is derived from at any given time…it could have soy in one batch and no soy in another. To be safe, avoid any MAC product containing the ingredient tochopherol. The MAC products that I owned that definitely contain soy (as confirmed by a MAC chemist) are the eye shadows, paint pot, powder plushes, sheer tone shimmer blush, mineralize blush, several lipsticks, and all the products in the Prep + Prime line. The Frost lipstick and Sheertone blush did not contain soy.
  • From NARS Cosmetics Customer Service: “Please be advised that NARS Sheer Glow and Sheer Matte Foundations and the Larger Than Life Lip Gloss currently contain soy. The other products you requested information on [blush, eyeshadow, and powder] do not contain soy derivatives as a synthetic vitamin e is used.”
  • From Bare Essentials Bare Minerals Corporate Office (as explained to me over the phone): “The tocopherol ingredient (vitamin E) is derived from soy.” This means that each of the products in the skin care line are off-limits for those that need to avoid soy. In fact, anything that is not a loose powder mineral product is off-limits too (those products in liquid, pancake, or lipstick form). The good news is, soy avoiders CAN use the loose powder mineral foundations, eyeshadows, and blushes (see more about this below). Please be sure to check the ingredients to ensure tocopherol is not an ingredient in the product you buy.
  • From Laura Mercier Customer Service: “Laura Mercier lists the ingredients for their products on the website so you can print, review and discuss with your doctor. The source of our Vitamin E (tocopherol) is bioengineered and not derived from any plant or animal.” This means the tocopherol is not made from soy. Great! However, I should note that after not using my Laura Mercier products for 3 weeks, I wore it last weekend and ended up with a terrible bumpy rash on my face. I checked out the ingredients list of the foundation and found the ingredients list to be more than a page long in MS Word. Apparently, while their products are soy free, they are not sensitive enough for my skin.

So…I am giving away my soy-filled beauty products to a friend (I’m wondering if maybe that isn’t a nice thing to do). What have I replaced them with? First, a disclaimer: please read the labels before you buy anything! Companies can change the ingredients at any time, so don’t just take my word that a product is soy-free. Double check for yourself before you make the purchase.

For makeup, I use Bare Essentials Bare Minerals loose powder foundation, eye shadow, and blush. I’m pretty happy with this choice of makeup. Beware though, the loose powder is messy and you can expect a bit of countertop cleanup after your applications.

Bare Essentials Bare Minerals

The loose powder mineral foundation, eyeshadow, and blush by Bare Essentials Bare Minerals is soy free. Beware of their other products – the tocopherol ingredient is always derived from soy.

Sephora store has several brands of lipsticks that are tocopherol-free. The brand I went with is Make Up For Ever.

Make Up For Ever lipstick is tocopherol-free.

Make Up For Ever lipstick is tocopherol-free.

I ditched my old face cleanser and my moisturizers since they were soy-infested. I am fortunate to have found Dermalogica, which carries SOME soy-free products: Ultracalming Cleanser, Ultracalming Serum Concentrate, Ultracalming Mist, and Active Moist (not in the Ultracalming line).

The Dermalogica has a few great soy-free products: Ultracalming Serum Concentrate, Ultracalming Cleanser, Ultracalming Mist, and Active Moist (not in the Ultracalming line).

So, now I’ve found makeup and skin care products that keep me happy. In fact, the few soy-free products in the Dermalogica Calming line actually do seem to calm my skin when I have low-grade itching. If I have a full-blown itchy flareup, these products won’t touch the problem…so I will resort to my dermatologist-prescribed medications. By the way, Dermalogica has body washes in the calming line too! I’ll be ordering some next month. My back will thank me…my wallet will not.

My shampoo and conditioner advertise as vegan and natural (Abba)…but they contain hydrolyzed soy. Instead, I replaced them with Bumble and Bumble Seaweed line of shampoo and conditioner. I am quite happy with this switch. Note 1/22/14: A reader of mine posted they contacted Bumble and Bumble and found out that the products do contain ingredients derived from soy! I have recently been experiencing irritated skin and I didn’t know why. This may be it. 

Bumble and Bumble Seaweed Line is soy-free

Bumble and Bumble Seaweed Line is soy-free…and I love what these products do for my hair.

Here are some great products for kids (and adults too!): The Original Sprout line is soy-free. I used the shampoo and conditioner for a while and it left my hair a bit too dry for all the blow-drying I do. The Natural Hair Gel works well enough. The Scruptious Baby Cream has a yummy vanilla scent and I use it as my body moisturizer. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is also soy-free.

Great soy-free products for kids (and adults)

Great soy-free products for kids (and adults) by Original Sprout and Johnson & Johnson

I should mention that my soy-free replacements have been costly. Surely there must be more non-salon brands that are soy-free! Please feel free to post some of your finds down below.

One last thing. The U.S. Department of Health has a website called Household Products Database that allows you to do a search on household or personal products containing soy (or any other ingredient for that matter). It doesn’t seem to be an exhaustive list, but perhaps it can be a good start for checking the items you use.

In wellness!

Avoiding Soy at the Spa

(video blog above)

So, what was my experience?

1) Glen Ivy mud is red clay. No soy. Don’t laugh. Yes, I actually considered there might be soy in the mud bath…I’ve been finding it EVERYWHERE (makeup, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving gel, moisturizer, cleansers, etc.), so who could blame me for not being sure! According to the Glen Ivy website, “Red clay has been used as a purifying agent since ancient times. It draws from the pores, absorbs impurities, and releases waste and dead skin cells while tightening and revitalizing the skin.” I don’t know if it actually did all that…but it sure felt great to bake in the sun. Fortunately, my skin was not irritated by it in the least.

Mud Bathing

Mud Bathing at Glen Ivy

2) The massage therapist originally would have used her default massage oil containing vitamin E (soy based). She and another therapist consulted and found a 100% pure sesame seed oil instead. It was a heavenly 50-minute Swedish massage, by the way. Ahhhh.

3) The several brands of sunscreen that the spa store sold each contained soy. Actually, I am presuming they each contained soy. Recall that most products that claim to contain vitamin E use an ingredient called “tochopherol”. Tochopherol is most often derived from soy and the cosmetic companies are not required to share the source of the tochopherol. The only sure way to know if the tochopherol is truly derived from soy is to contact the company directly. I have just done this for all my makeup products and I will report on this soon. Anyway, the sales clerk sent me on a trip to a different spa salon where I found ridiculously expensive tochopherol-free SPF. Surely, there must be cheaper options somewhere?! Sigh. My lack of planning that I would need such a thing at the spa combined with having sunburn-prone skin meant I had no choice but to buy the costly sunscreen. I wore it and had no skin reactions…and I didn’t burn…so it did it’s job.

Coola Moisturizing Face Sunscreen - SPF 30

Coola Moisturizing Face Sunscreen - SPF 30 - is tochopherol-free.

4) Lunch. I ordered a salmon salad, which was yummy. Most of the salad dressings contain soy, but fortunately they had a soy-free balsamic vinaigrette.

Man-oh-man. Have I become high maintenance or what? I’m checking labels and asking questions everywhere I go. Most people are quite nice about the questions and are happy to help as much as they can. It’s a good thing, else this whole process would be rather depressing.

Seven hours at the spa went by very quickly! Massaging, sauna lounging, mud bathing, sulfur soaking, pedicuring, and Facebooking by the pool left me no time to read any of the four books I brought (yes, I brought 4 books — I wasn’t sure which one I’d be in the mood to read). The best part, of course, was enjoying lots of girly time with my friend. What a blessed day!