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Three Ingredients That Sound Scary (But Aren’t)

The label "natural" has reached an exalted state in recent years. It seems that anything labeled as natural is immediately deemed better and, in some cases, the best. Meanwhile, any ingredient that sounds complicated or is difficult to pronounce gets labeled toxic. We've all seen those ingenious commercials featuring little kids struggling to read the ingredients of some of their favorite food products, implying that what cannot be easily pronounced is of course unnatural, unhealthy and possibly unsafe.

Yet we often forget that even the simplest, most natural ingredients, like salt, have chemical names that may seem intimidating to anyone unfamiliar with the term. Sodium chloride can sound as scary as any other long-lettered ingredient on the back of a box. We can also consider things like poison ivy or poison oak. They're both absolutely natural, but you wouldn't rub one or the other all over your face and body, or ingest it, now would you?

The bottom line is, not all natural things are good for you, and not all unpronounceable ingredients are necessarily bad or even unnatural. Being informed takes the guesswork out of figuring out exactly which ingredients one should embrace—and which to avoid. The following three ingredients certainly fall into the difficult-to-pronounce and "scary" categories, but they're not to be feared at all. In fact, embracing them can make for healthier, happier skin. 

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM is an organic sulfur compound occurring naturally in plants, vegetables, animals and humans. Sulfur is essential in helping to form connective tissue. MSM is the name given to sulfur in supplement form, and it helps form connective tissues like cartilage, ligaments and tendons.[1]

MSM is often given to people suffering from arthritis in order to both improve physical function and reduce pain. One study consisting of 50 participants found that 6,000 mg of MSM improved pain and function symptoms without any notable side effects.[2] Another study featuring 118 participants also found MSM effective in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis, as opposed to a placebo treatment.[3]

MSM can also be found in some skincare products, with the claim that it provides deep hydration to make skin smooth and supple, plumping it up and erasing fine lines. If you see it in any of your anti-aging products, don't be intimidated or put off. This is a naturally-derived ingredient that has been shown to be both effective and safe.

P-Anisic Acid (Draconic Acid) 

This acid is derived from anise, a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. It has a flavor similar to licorice, and has been used in different cultures to add flavor to certain dishes. 

P-Anisic acid, also called draconic acid, is used in cosmetics as a natural preservative, often in place of harsher and potentially toxic substances like parabens. If you’re suspect about parabens in your cosmetics, P-Anisic acid can be a better alternative. P-Anisic acid has a very low hazard warning, and is considered non-toxic and safe for use in humans.[4] It is further known for its antiseptic properties, which also make it an excellent preservative.[5]

Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside / Lauryl Glucoside

This is another naturally derived substance that can be found in a number of cosmetic products. Derived from coconuts, it's deemed safe to use on the skin and has a low-hazard profile.[6]

In cosmetics, it is known as a "surfactant" and is often used in soaps and cleansers thanks to its natural foaming reaction when put in contact with water. It is considered a much safer alternative to sulfates, which are also known for that foaming quality associated with shampoos, soaps and other cleansing products. Sulfates, however, can be rather harsh, stripping away essential oils on the skin and scalp a little too well. This can lead to skin irritation and cause hair to become overly dry. With caprylyl capryl glucoside, you won’t encounter this problem.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Ingredients Label

We’re increasingly being conditioned to fear foreign-sounding ingredients. That's why it's important to keep in mind that all natural substances have scientific or chemical names that can spook the average person. A good rule of thumb is to always do some extra research to ascertain whether a long, complicated name is truly something to steer clear of, or if it simply has more bark than bite! 

 

[1] http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/sulfur

[2] http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/msm.php

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17516722

[4] https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/721234/P-ANISIC_ACID/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20447363

[6] https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/701069/CAPRYLYL%3B%3B_CAPRYL_GLUCOSIDE/

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