Why Everyone Should Watch “Toxic Beauty” Documentary

white and brown plastic bottles on white textile

Brief summary of Toxic Beauty

Toxic beauty is a documentary feature film following a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, a renown household brand. We follow personal stories of whistle blowers, survivors and women in a race against time revealing a series of ugly cover ups in the beauty & cosmetic industry. Besides that, the film weaves in a human experiment conducted by Mymy Nguyen, a Boston University Masters student who measures her chemical body burden when using different cosmetic products.

“The cosmetic industry is destroying women’s cells.”

This powerful statement mentioned by an ex formulator of one of the biggest cosmetic brands hooked me on immediately. I’ve had sensitive skin and eczema when I was a child, and the prolonged periods of itchiness and rash were not fun. Since then, I’ve always been wary of chemicals I apply on my skin, always fearful of a reaction. Even though I outgrew the sensitive skin phase, my sense of wariness about products I apply on my skin never left me. While my peers were playing with make up and slathering themselves in an assortment of cosmetic products, I stuck to the most routine: washing my face with water and applying sunscreen. After the unpleasant realization that I end up consuming the wax like substance, lipstick on my lips, I resulted to eyeliner as the only form of make up I use.

three makeup brushes on top of compact powders

Granted, some of the times, the lack of available scientific information in the present results in health issues in the future and cannot be avoided. However, what shocked me was that renown household companies like Johnsons & Johnsons which specialize in a range of baby products was engaged in a lawsuit that unveiled a series of cover ups that spanned across decades. Bear in mind this isn’t a direct hit on Johnson & Johnson as talc is used rampantly in other products. However, a link between talc and ovarian cancer was discovered all the way in early 1980s by world renowned epidemiologist Dr Daniel Cramer. However, nothing was done. No warning label was placed on talc even after the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared Talc as a possible carcinogen. The cosmetic industry has had little change since 1936, and the way we regulate personal care products need to improve.

I’d like to believe I’m an over cautious person, however, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that point that conglomerates often use harmful chemicals and ingredients in products and sell them to unwitting buyers. Labels such as “fragrance“, “parfum” and “aroma” do not show the ingredients used and can conceal a range of potentially hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, the fact that we live in a world operated by a post- market regulatory system is hazardous as a product goes into the market and a regulatory system kicks in only when there are incidents. The fact that we are slathering ourselves with potentially harmful chemicals every day of our lives doesn’t sit well with me. In 2004, Dr Phillipa Darbre, a scientist from the UK found parabens in breast tissue. In 2018, a study by the National Institute of Health linked breast cancer to the use of personal care products. Furthermore, the use of certain products high in oestrogen were found to link to hormonal disruption in baby boys causing a myriad of side effects such as developmental delays, low sperm count, infertility, cancer, diabetes, obesity and skin disease. The idea that a lot of these “bodily malfunctions” are essentially self induced is worrisome. How do we make informed decisions? How do we know which product is okay to use?

black makeup brush, lipstick, and blush on powder

It is scary that our physical and mental health risks can be self induced through using products containing harmful chemicals. The documentary follows Mymy Nguyen who conducts a self experiment to measure chemicals in her body when she doesn’t use any self care products at all, when she uses all of her usual routine, and when she uses natural and clean products. It was shocking that when she used her products she’s been using for years eg shampoos, toothpaste, make up, the parabens and phthalates (toxic chemicals) found in her urine samples were higher than the 95th percentile of Americans. It is close to impossible to not use any personal care products as tasks like washing your hair or brushing your teeth cannot be avoided. She expressed her fear of not being able to have children and like the women we follow in the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson expressed the guilt that the health risks were almost like it was self induced. I disagree with the statement, as I feel the chemists and R&D part of companies should be more stringent and responsible about the types of ingredients they choose to use. But how do we make sure that the products we use aren’t harmful to us?

Regulatory bodies such as the FDA should aim to be more stringent with regulating cosmetic products instead of buckling under the pressure of conglomerates who promise to self regulate. Furthermore, consumers should take one step further and use ingredient analyzer platforms such as 1Source, EWG, and Incidecoder to make sure that the products they use do not contain harmful ingredients / chemicals. It is really simple to use, especially if your ingredient label is filled with long chemistry names we are unfamiliar with. Simply type the name of the product into the platform. A rating of the products will be shown and toxic ingredients will be flagged. By making smarter purchasing decisions, consumers can support clean businesses and put pressure on other companies to use cleaner ingredients. For starters, here are some toxic ingredients and chemicals to look out for in your personal products.

Different types of harmful chemicals

woman in gray sweater holding lipstick

Endocrine disruptors:

  • Mimic hormone activity with links to birth defects, reproductive harm and cancer
  • Found in hair, nail, sunscreen and baby products, makeup, lotions, toothpaste, soap, fragrance


  • Endocrine disruptors linked to developmental disorders, reproductive harm & cancer
  • Found in fragranced lotions, body wash, hair, skin, baby products, nail polish, perfume, color cosmetics.


  • Endocrine disruptors linked to reproductive harm, developmental disorders, cancer
  • A preservative found in deodorants, antiperspirants, soaps, hair, shaving, fragranced products.

Toxic ingredients and Chemicals to look out for

  • Shampoos containing formaldehyde have a high risk of serving as an endocrine disruptor, and bring about side effects such as allergies, depression, and cancer
  • Deodorants contain endocrine disruptors such as formaldehyde which causes hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and tumors
  • Skin cream containing mercury, coal and tar may serve as endocrine disruptors that causes tremors, insomnia, and/ or cognitive dysfunction
  • Soap containing coal, tar and 1,4 dioxane may serve as endocrine disruptors that causes allergies, infertility and heart disease
  • Fragrance often contain toxic chemicals that are not disclosed and may cause allergies, reproductive disorders, and cancer
  • Skin lighteners containing chemicals hydroquinone and mercury may cause skin disease, organ damage or cancer


“Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide, and Talc – IARC Publications Website.” https://publications.iarc.fr/Book-And-Report-Series/Iarc-Monographs-On-The-Identification-Of-Carcinogenic-Hazards-To-Humans/Carbon-Black-Titanium-Dioxide-And-Talc-2010. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

“The Film — TOXIC BEAUTY.” https://www.toxicbeautydoc.com/the-film. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

“TOXIC BEAUTY.” https://www.toxicbeautydoc.com/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

Hand Sanitizers Contain Carcinogens

person holding white plastic pump bottle

An online pharmacy, Valisure, raised alarm on a carcinogen found in hand sanitizers sold during the coronavirus pandemic. The pharmacy, Valisure, tested 260 hand sanitizer products for toxic chemicals and found high levels of benzene in nearly 44 products sold in the US. According to the 1Source database, Benzene is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products. Benzene can harm individuals through dermal absorption or inhalation.

Hazards (UN GHS):

yellow hibiscus in clear glass vase

1. May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways (H304)

2. Causes skin irritation (H315)

3. Causes serious eye irritation (H319)

4. May cause genetic defects (H340)

5. May cause cancer (H350)

6. Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure (H372)

7. Toxic to aquatic life (H401)

8. Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects (H411)

red and white UNKs restaurant

Products entered the market by demand due to a nationwide shortage of hand sanitizers. To meet the high demand for hand sanitizer during Covid-19 public health emergency, the FDA allowed an ” interim limit of 2 parts per million (ppm) for benzene in liquid hand sanitizers. Before June 2020, FDA banned benzene in the manufacture of any stage of drug products due to its toxicity. Despite the relaxation, Valisure reported that out of 260 hand sanitizer products tested, 17% contained benzene, with the highest level of benzene detected at 16.1ppm, over eight times the interim limit.

Some of the brands containing carcinogens include Artnaturals, which ironically describes itself as born from a “desire to free beauty from high prices, toxic chemicals”. Star Wars Baby Yoda themed bottle was caught in crossfires. New entrants which appeared to plug the market after household brands such as Purell and Suave sold out were noted to contain Benzene. Tainted sanitizers can be found for sale at Amazon and Target. Out of the 44 hand sanitizer products contaminated with Benzene, 2% are manufactured in Mexico, 50% in China, and 34% in the United States.

List of tainted hand sanitizers:

1. artnaturals9. beauty concepts
2. Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.10. PureLogic
3. huangjisoo11. Miami Carry On
4. TrueWash12. Natural Wunderz
5. The Creme Shop13. clean-protect-sanitize
6. Star Wars Mandalorian14. Puretize
7. Body Prescriptions15. Hand Clean 100
8. Born Basic

Besides that, Valisure also detected unacceptably high levels of methanol, and a acetaldehyde, defined by the WHO and IARC as ” possibly carcinogenic to humans” . The FDA stated that companies manufacturing hand sanitizers should not ” add other active or inactive ingredients”, for example to enhance the smell or taste. However, out of the 44 batches of hand sanitizers containing benzene, 20 of their product labels indicate the additional ingredients which fail to adhere to FDA guidelines. Enhancing the taste and smell is hazardous, as it may increase the risk of making product more appealing to be ingested by children.

In the letter, Valisure requested that all contaminated batches of hand sanitizer be recalled by the FDA and that they conduct an investigation of products and provide information to the public.


 “Phene; Benzene – 1Source – 1Source.com.” https://1source.com/ingredients/phene?lang=eng. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

“Carcinogen Found in Hand Sanitizers That Plugged Covid Gap ….” 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-24/carcinogen-found-in-hand-sanitizers-that-plugged-pandemic-gap. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

 “Some Hand Sanitizers Made During the Pandemic Have ….” 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/hand-sanitizers-made-covid-coronavirus-pandemic-carcinogen-benzene-2021-3. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

 “Some hand sanitizers found tainted with cancer … – Chicago Tribune.” 25 Mar. 2021, https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-covid-hand-sanitizer-benzene-carcinogen-20210324-xfnmhfztorfcflursbxdyd5esu-story.html. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

“Watch Fox News Channel and Fox Business … – Fox News Video.” 18 Jul. 2012, https://video.foxnews.com/v/5614615980001. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

 “Valisure Detects Benzene in Hand Sanitizers – Valisure.” 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.valisure.com/blog/valisure-news/valisure-detects-benzene-in-hand-sanitizers/. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

 “Valisure’s FDA Citizen Petition on Hand Sanitizer.” 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.valisure.com/wp-content/uploads/Valisure-FDA-Citizen-Petition-on-Hand-Sanitizer-v4.14.pdf. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021.

Are Sugar Substitutes Better Than Sugar?

six teal icing cupcakes with sprinkles

Have you ever wondered how “sugar free” beverages or “diet” candies still taste sweet? Sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are replacing sugar and corn syrup across industries. You can’t have your cake, and eat it too, but trending sugar substitutes say otherwise. The demand for sugar substitutes are rising as science and mainstream healthy living sheds bad light on sugars. According to report by News Wire, the global zero calorie sweetener market was expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.40% from 2017 to 2021.

Table of contents:

Why is there a demand for sugar substitutions?

brown donuts on white tray

Weight gain: Eating too much sugar can cause a calorie surplus and lead to weight gain and obesity. This is detrimental to health as being overweight increases the risk of health problems such as cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Tooth decay: Sugar is one of the main culprits of tooth decay.

Diabetes: Artificial sweeteners allow diabetic patients to indulge in sugary food without the risk of spiking their blood sugar levels.

The origins of artificial sweeteners

coned ice cream with blueberries and flowers

Origins: The first artificial sweetener is saccharine, which was discovered in 1879. Saccharine was discovered by Russian chemist Fahlberg during his work on substitution products of coal tar. After forgetting to wash his hands after a long day in the lab, chemist Fahlberg discovered the coal tar product on his hands, Saccharin, made his dinner bread very sweet.

The rise: Artificial sweeteners or non-nutrient sweeteners shot to fame during World War I & II when sugar production was falling. Saccharin was a cheaper alternative compared to sugar. Since then, several artificial sweeteners have been discovered and produced, and are found in more than 6000 food products across the globe.

Different types of sugar substitutes

Sweeteners impart a sweet taste, which is highly addictive to many. Traditional sweeteners refer to the many forms of the carbohydrate, sugar, which gives out 4 kilocalories (kcal) per gram when consumed. Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that are being used instead of regular sugar sucrose. Sugar substitutes include sugar alcohols, natural and artificial sweeteners which vary in calorific value.

Artificial sweeteners

Monster Punch can

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. However, they may not be as artificial as we think as some are derived from naturally occurring substances such as herbs or sugars. Widely used in processed foods, artificial sweeteners can be found in soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, confectionery, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products. Check out our article on why “low sugar” labels on beverages are lies.

There are two branches of sweeteners, nutritive and non nutritive sweeteners. Non- nutritive sweeteners are chemical additives that are sweeter than sugar, but contain 0 kilocalories. They are sweeter than sugars and a tiny amount of sweetener can provide enough sweetness in foods. 1 gram of aspartame of 4 kcal, can replace 200 grams of sucrose which is worth 800 kcal. Nutritive sweeteners contain less energy than sugars but are not kilojoule free.

Illustrated is general information on low calorie sweeteners:

General information on low-calorie sweeteners
Source: Centre of Food Safety

Weight control: Artificial sweeteners have “virtually no calories”, hence if you’re trying to prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners may be an attractive option.

Blood sugar level: As artificial sweeteners are not carbohydrates, they generally do not break down into sugars and raise blood sugar levels. A 2018 study reviewing 29 research articles found that artificial sweeteners had no effect on blood sugars after consumption. Consult doctor or dietician before using any sugar substitutes for health reasons.

Health concerns: Artificial sweeteners, saccharine in particular has been tied to the occurrence of bladder cancer in laboratory rats in studies conducted in the 1970s, hence the label warnings that it “may be hazardous to your health”. However, the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies point out that there is no scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other health problems. Coupled with studies that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities in pregnant women, the warning label for saccharin was dropped and is permitted for food use in more than 100 countries to date.

chocolates with box on white surface

However, a 2020 study by a group of Yale researchers found that consuming artificial sweetener sucralose and a carbohydrate may disrupt body’s natural systems for regulating blood sugars although there is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial sweeteners cause diabetes.

What to look for: Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food additives, and have to go through a process of being reviewed and approved by the FDA, Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) for safety, with before hitting grocery stores. FDA declares a substance as “generally recognized as safe”(GRAS) after being met with either criteria:

  • “Substances has a history of common use in food and is considered generally safe”
  • “Qualified professionals deem the substance safe for its intended use on the basis on scientific data”

Sugar alcohols

woman in white crew neck shirt blowing bubble

Found in processed foods, chocolates, chewing gums and tooth paste, these carbohydrates occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, although they can also be manufactured. Although a natural substitute may seem healthier than sugar, its vitamin and mineral content isn’t significantly different. Sugar alcohols are hard to digest fully hence provide fewer calories compared to traditional sugars. Examples of sugar alcohols include xylitol (additive number 967), sorbitol (420), mannitol (421) and erythritol (968). When consumed in large amounts, sugar alcohols can have a potential laxative effect.

Weight control: Sugar alcohols range from 1.5-3kcal per gram and are less sweet than sugars, hence one puts on fewer calories than when consuming regular sugar, making them seem like an attractive alternative.

Blood sugar level: Although its calorific value is lower than traditional sugar, it is still a carbohydrate and therefore is capable of raising blood sugar levels. However, as the body doesn’t metabolize all the sugar alcohol, the effect on blood sugar level is lower compared to other sugars, but not non existent. Be sure to consult your doctor or dietician for guidance.

Natural sweeteners

honey jar with honey comb

These sugar substitutes are promoted as “healthier options” compared to the others, however, these “natural sweeteners” often undergo processing and refining before reaching supermarket shelves. Natural sweeteners are considered “added sugars”and are generally safe, but when broken down by your body into simple sugars (glucose, fructose) it is nutritionally similar to sugar. Although marketed as a healthier and au natural alternative, “they are basically just ‘sugar’ and have been extracted and sold in concentrated form.” according to a report online.

Consuming too much sugar can lead to health problems such as tooth decay, weight gain, poor nutrition and increased triglycerides.

Natural sweeteners approved by the FDA:

  • Fruit juices and nectars
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Stevia
  • Monk fruit (luo han guo)

Moderation is key

vegetables and fruits display

Be it to lower the amount of calories consumed, to steer away from sugar, or to avoid a spike in blood sugar levels, sugar substitutes are appealing for a number of reasons. A 2019 review concluded that there is no strong evidence linking artificial sweeteners to any positive or negative outcome as there is not enough evidence available to draw a conclusion. When choosing sugar substitutes, remember that food marketed as sugar free isn’t necessary calorie free and can still cause weight gain. Furthermore, processed foods containing food substitutes don’t provide the health benefits as whole fruits and vegetables.

A two pronged approach is advised: to replace sugary foods and drinks with unsweetened substitutes and slowly cut down the amount of sugar consumed. The end goal is for the food trade to reduce the sweetness levels in products while the public “adapts gradually to lighter flavored food”, hence altering their dietary habits and pioneering a better approach to healthy living.


“Artificial sweeteners vs sugar (stevia, aspartame & more) | CHOICE.” 12 Jun. 2020, https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/nutrition/sugar/articles/sweeteners. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

“Global Zero-Calorie Sweetener Market Trends and Analysis 2017 ….” 28 Mar. 2017, https://www.newswire.com/news/global-zero-calorie-sweetener-market-trends-and-analysis-2017-2021. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Sugar: the facts – NHS.” https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

“Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners … – The BMJ |.” 2 Jan. 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.k4718. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Low-Calorie Sweeteners | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “The truth about artificial sweeteners – Are they … – ScienceDirect.com.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019483218300142. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021

“Constantin Fahlberg – Discovery of Saccharin.” https://todayinsci.com/F/Fahlberg_Constantin/FahlbergConstantin-Saccharin.htm. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Sweeteners in Food – Centre for Food Safety.” https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_08_02.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

Masks: Crucial Tips You Can’t Forget in Covid Times

With up to 55.1 million cases and 1.33 million deaths, the surging demand for surgical masks have created a global shortage for masks and spiked anxiety among the public to stock up masks. Masks have since become a necessity for people when venturing outdoors as some shops may even bar a person’s entry if they do not don on masks. Here are some things to keep in mind to protect yourself and you’re loved ones!

Never reuse surgical masks

Given its shortage and short term usability, people have been trying to find ways and means to maximize its use. There have been rumors popping all over the internet that bacteria can be killed after steaming, boiling or poaching masks at high temperatures. However, none of these are true.

A study was conducted by the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, Hong Kong Consumer Council, Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, Hong Kong Science Park, and the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering of the City University of Hong Kong to find out the level of filtration of both surgical and DIY masks after the above attempts of sterilizing and cleaning.

Masks were sterilized using two approaches:

  • The outer layer of surgical masks was sprayed with 75% alcohol- based hand rub.
  • Surgical masks were washed with soap water at 60 degrees.

The results were analyzed using a scanning electron microscope.

Test 1- Observation of the water resistant layer:

  • After the outer layer was sprayed with alcohol, the structure of water resistant layer was recorded to have been damaged.
  • After a 60 degree wash, the water resistant layer was recorded to have shrunk.

Test 2- Observation of the filtration layer:

  • The middle layer for filtration was observed to be damaged after sterilized with alcohol.
  • After the soap wash, the middle layer was observed to have shrunk and was deformed.

Moral of the story, don’t reuse masks. Using a contaminated mask is as bad as not using one.

How to dispose surgical masks properly

As the pandemic surged, masks have been used and incorrectly disposed. In March 2020, groups of environmentalists in Hong Kong raised awareness about the increasing number of masks appearing on beaches. Not only are surgical masks a threat to marine life and wild life habitats, incorrect disposal of masks may lead to bacteria and or other viruses to multiply and spread.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends discarding masks into its designated bin directly after use. Masks or other protective gear used in the pandemic should not be thrown away in your general household rubbish as to prevent the virus from multiplying.

According to Iberdrola, the Brazilian Sanitary and Environmental Engineering Association has compiled the ideal way to dispose used masks and gloves. The items you want to dispose should be placed in two small plastic bags, one after another, then tied and thrown with your usual household waste. Take the initiative to write “risk of contamination”, should you have been in contact with an infected person.

How to dispose of masks correctly.
How to dispose of masks correctly. Credits to IBERDROLA

Cloth masks can save the environment

The 3 ply design in surgical masks is comprised of 3 layers, the water resistant layer, middle layer, and inner layer to absorb moisture, and is crucial to protect one’s self and the people around them. However, surgical masks is made of plastic, which is harmful to the environment and can only be used once. Check out our article on how plastic can end up harming us. Hence, many people opt for cloth masks as a more sustainable option. But, just how effective are cloth masks? Do they protect us enough?

Cloth masks and surgical masks are both considered contaminated after use, but surgical masks are meant to be disposed off while cloth masks can be washed and reused. A study conducted among Vietnam health care workers in 2011 showed that if cloth masks were washed in hospital laundry, it can be as effective as surgical masks. The study also showed that health care workers who hand washed their own masks had up to double the risk of infection compared to masks washed in hospital laundry.

The World Health Organization recommends washing masks with laundry detergent in a washing machine at 60 degrees Celsius for the wash to be effective.

Some are worried that some fabrics, structure and design of certain cloth masks may not be enough to ward of pathogens, however, experts say that unless you’re a frontline worker, there isn’t much to worry about. The primary function of the cloth mask is to protect other people by containing respiratory droplets before they are expelled into the air.

A laboratory study used laser light scattering methodology to visualize respiratory droplets of different sizes. The research found that blocking the person’s mouth with a damp cloth blocked out nearly all of the “particles”. A real case scenario involved an infected man in Wuhan who flew to Toronto. Although he was tested positive for Covid, no other passengers contracted the illness as he wore a mask throughout the flight. A more recent case involved two hairstylist in Missouri who worked for a total of 140 clients while infected with Covid, however, due no clients tested positive for the illness as the hairstylists wore masks.

These studies are convincing cases to emphasize and encourage the use of masks. A recent study used publicly available data to observe the correlation between the growth rate of Covid-19 after mask mandates in 15 states and the district of Columbia between March and late May 2020. Researchers found a strong positive co relation between mask mandates and the decline in Covid cases. Researchers estimated that mask mandates may have prevented up to 450,000 cases of Covid. Although masks can never be 100% effective, in combination with other prevention methods such as social distancing and sanitizing regularly, we can keep each other safe and get through this together. As perfectly summarized in an article by MIT Medical:

 “Your mask protects other people; their masks protect you.”

“Low sugar” labels on beverages are lies

As people become more health conscious, many of us opt for healthier options when doing our shopping. We choose “low sugar” and “zero sugar” options to try to cut down our sugar intake, however, studies show that these labels are fallacious claims.

sugar-y drinks

The Consumer Council tested 51 beverages with sweeteners with zero calories, however the results of the research showed that many samples were still rich in sugar despite the addition of sweeteners. The beverages tested included 18 non-alcohol carbonated drinks, 16 sports and energy drinks and 17 other drinks ranging from fruit juices, yoghurt drinks and flavored bottled water. The Council cross checked the sugar contents of the samples against its nutrition labels and tested the amount of sweeteners it contained.


Samples do not comply with “low sugar” regulations!

Food and Drugs (Composition and labelling) Regulations states that products with “low sugar” or “zero sugar” should not contain more than 0.5g -5g of free sugar per 100ml. However, The Council’s research shows that up to 36 samples abused this guideline, with sugar ranging to 14g per 100ml, more than double than what was stated in the regulation.

Two drinks easily takes us over the sugar limit!

The recommended daily intake for sugar is 50g, according to the World Health Organization, however, 40% of the samples had nearly half the level of recommended daily sugar intake in just one can.

Issue of laws and legalities

  • According to the Sweeteners in Food Regulations in Hong Kong, food manufacturers and food importers can only use or sell food products using 10 permitted sweeteners, however there is no regulation on the amount of different sweeteners used.
  • Some sweeteners detected in some samples did not match with nutrition labels.
  • Some samples lacked identification of sweeteners as required by the law.

Health risks:

Sweeteners are a “sugar substitute 100x sweeter than sucrose” that is neither digested nor absorbed by the body, according to Hong Kong Consumer Council. 4 types of sweeteners were tested in this study, including acesulfame potassium/ACE-K, aspartame, sucralose and steviol glycosides. Although it has no calories and does not affect blood glucose levels, research shows that it still poses its own health risks.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted a study of over 400, 000 individuals and found that people who consumed sweetened beverages more frequently faced a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Those with a regular consumption of at least 2 cans of soft drinks with sweeteners per day had a 26% higher mortality rate than those who drink less than one can per month.


  • Contrary to popular belief, artificially sweetened beverages don’t help your weight loss journey. Studies revealed that they increase sweet cravings and make people desire sweeter foods.
  • Sports and energy drinks have connotations to health and fitness brand. However, this study found that many sports and energy drinks contained sweeteners irrespective of natural sugar contents. Consider diluting energy drinks with water and refrain from drinking excessively.
  • Beware of caffeine and other stimulants in your drinks!

1Source Rates Common Body Lotion Products

Summer is officially over in the northern hemisphere. As we near cooler days and shorter evenings, we start stocking up moisturizers and body lotions to protect our skin against harsh weather. However, with so many products lining supermarket shelves, how to choose the most suitable products?

20201010 at a popular chain store in HK

We got you! Our team recently compiled a list of common body lotion products found in local drug stores and supermarkets in Hong Kong. From budget prices to high end brands, 1Source has analyzed the product contents through its system and came up with a Potential Risk Index and short description for each product.

Body Lotions we analyzed:

Popular products in Hong KongPotential Risk Index®
Cerave Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream10
Chloe Love Story Body Lotion10
Collagen by Watsons Shea Butter Softening Body Lotion10
Nivea Body Moisturising Mousse10
Philosophy Living Grace Firming Body Emulsion10
The Body Shop Vegan British Rose Body Yoghurt10
Aesop Protective Body Lotion SPF506
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Stress Relief Lotion 6
Johnsons Body Care Lotion6
Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair6
QV Skin Lotion Repair Skin6
Cerave Moisturising Lotion For Dry to Very Dry Skin5
Locccitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream5
Nivea Intensive moisture Body Milk 48H5
Crabtree Evelyn Gardeners Body Lotion New4
Derma 365 Gentle Lotion4
Kundal Body Lotion4
Cetaphil Pro Ad Derma Skin Restoring Moisturizer3
Physiogel Daily Moisture Therapy Body Lotion3

QV Skin Lotion Repair Skin

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 6


  • Contains methylparaben , which is proven to be carcinogenic when bound to human estrogen receptor

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Stress Relief Lotion (Lavender, Chamomile, Ylang- Ylang)

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Stress Relief Lotion, With Lavender, Chamomile + Ylang-Ylang 艾惟諾 天然薰衣草舒緩保濕乳

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 6


  • Contains benzyl alcohol which is found to be strongly linkedin to the incidence of brain damage among infants

Kundal Honey & Macadamia Body Lotion, Baby Powder

Kundal Honey & Macadamia Body Lotion, Baby Powder 蜂蜜堅果保濕潤膚乳 爽身粉香

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 4

Derma365 Gentle Lotion, Suitable For Eczema, Dry And Itchy Skin

Derma365 Gentle Lotion, Suitable For Eczema, Dry And Itchy Skin

Potential Health Index:

potential risk index 4


Cetaphil PRO AD Derma Body Skin Restoring Moisturizer

Cetaphil PRO AD Derma Body Skin Restoring Moisturizer 舒特膚 倍加護潤膚霜

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 3

Comments: No ingredients rated above 4



Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 3

Comments: No ingredient above rating 4

Cerave Moisturizing Lotion For Dry To Very Dry Skin

Cerave Moisturising Lotion For Dry To Very Dry Skin

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 5


  • Contains phenoxyethanol, a potential irritant to skin and banned in all sunscreen products from January 1 2020 by the Republic of Palau to protect its coral reefs and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Contains methylparaben , which is proven to be carcinogenic when bound to human estrogen receptor

Cerave Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream

Cerave Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


Nivea Intensive Moisture Body Milk 48H

Nivea Intensive Moisture Body Milk 48H

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 5


Nivea Body Moisturising Mousse Fresh Cucumber & Matcha Tea Fragrance 48H

Nivea Body Moisturising Mousse Fresh Cucumber & Matcha Tea Fragrance 48H

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


  • Contains phenoxyethanol, a potential irritant to skin and banned in all sunscreen products from January 1 2020 by the Republic of Palau to protect its coral reefs and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Contains Butane which is on the Canada Ingredient Hotlist of ingredients prohibited for use in cosmetic products in 2019

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Body Lotion

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Body Lotion

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 6


  • Contains phenoxyethanol, a potential irritant to skin and banned in all sunscreen products from January 1 2020 by the Republic of Palau to protect its coral reefs and UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Contains methylparaben , which is proven to be carcinogenic when bound to human estrogen receptor

Johnson’s Body Care Aroma Milk, Rose & Jasmine

Johnson'S Body Care Aroma Milk, Rose & Jasmine エクストラケア アロマローション

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 6

Chloé Love Story Body Lotion

Chloé Love Story Body Lotion

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


  • Contains colorant red4, which is prohibited in cosmetic products according to EU CosIng Annex II in 2017 and 2018
  • Contains oxybenzone, functions as physical sunscreen that is banned in 2018 for commercial uses as it is found to be a serious water contaminant to coral reefs under Hawaii Senate Bill 2571
  • Oxybenzone may cause skin irritation and allergic skin reaction
  • Contains Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, which functions as sunscreen and is found to behave as an endocrine disrupter

Aesop Protective Body Lotion SPF50

Aesop Protective Body Lotion SPF50

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 6


  • Contains octocrylene, which functions as a chemical filter and is found to be a strong allergen leading to contact dermatitis in children and mostly photoallergic contact dermatitis in adults

Philosophy Living Grace Firming Body Emulsion

Philosophy Living Grace Firming Body Emulsion

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


Collagen By Watsons Shea Butter Softening Body Lotion

Collagen By Watsons Shea Butter Softening Body Lotion

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream

L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 5


Contains phenoxyethanol, a potential irritant to skin and banned in all sunscreen products from January 1 2020 by the Republic of Palau to protect its coral reefs and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Crabtree & Evelyn GARDENERS BODY LOTION (New)

Crabtree & Evelyn GARDENERS BODY LOTION (New)

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 4


The Body Shop Vegan British Rose Body Yogurt

The Body Shop Vegan British Rose Body Yogurt

Potential Risk Index:

potential risk index 10


  • Contains colorant Red 4 which is prohibited in cosmetic products according to the EU CosIng Annex II 2017 and 2018

Here is what we learnt about body lotions:

  • A product may be popular or has a good reputation but contain unsafe ingredients within certain products
  • Higher pricing does not guarantee products with safer ingredients
  • Just because a product is common and you see it everywhere does not mean all its ingredients are safe

Just because a brand is popular or has a good reputation doesn’t mean that all its products are completely safe. This is because ingredients within a product varies among different products, hence the importance of using an ingredient analyzer site to scan product ingredients to ensure the safety of you and your family.

Caffeine: How Much Should You Be Drinking?

Do you find yourself reaching out for a cup of coffee to kick start your day? Do you stock up energy drinks and soft drinks with high caffeine levels to pull an all nighter for college exams? Do you follow it up with high caffeinated beverages throughout the day to stay sharp?

80% of the world’s population consumes at least one caffeinated product daily, and this number increases to 90% for adults in North America. Businesses seized the opportunity to churn out energy drinks, traditional coffee and soft drinks laden with caffeine, but what is caffeine and why is it such an indispensable part of our daily lives?

How does caffeine affect you?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee, tea, and cacao plants, kola nuts and guarana berries. Caffeine stimulates the the brain and nervous system and keeps us awake by binding with adenosine receptors without activating them. Fun fact, adenosine receptors the brain and is the culprit of making us feel tired.

Daily dose of caffeine!

How much caffeine should you take?

According to the studies at the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA), caffeine can be part of a healthy diet for most people, but too much caffeine may pose dangerous effects to our health. The FDA recommends a maximum intake of 400 milligrams a day (that’s about four or five cups of coffee).

However, the amount of caffeine in beverages vary depending on the type of beans used to how the product was processed. As a general rule of thumb, the FDA compiled a rough list of reference on caffeine content in selected beverages.

  • 12 ounce can of caffeinated soft drink: 30-40mg
  • 8 ounce green or black tea: 30-50mg
  • 8 ounce coffee: 80-100mg
  • Caffeine in energy drinks per 8 ounces: Ranges from 40-250mg

FDA listed common symptoms of overconsuming coffee as :

  • insomnia
  • jitters
  • anxiousness
  • fast heart rate
  • upset stomach
  • nausea
  • headache
  • a feeling of unhappiness (dysphoria)

1Source decided to take a closer look at popular caffeinated beverages consumed by the public and empower consumers by listing out their caffeine content. Check out Caffeine Informer to find out the caffeine content in your fancy cup of coffee.

Starbucks Coffee

Starbucks coffees are ultra strong, with up to 270mg of caffeine packed into a single small cup. 2 cups and we would be over our daily limit.

McDonalds Coffee

A 12 ounce cup of McDonalds coffee contains 109mg of caffeine. Handy if you prefer something to sip on throughout the day!


A shot of espresso contains up to 71mg of caffeine. These pack a punch!

Black Tea

Contrary to popular belief, not all teas lulls us to sleep. Black tea packs about 67mg of caffeine, less than coffee or a can of Red Bull.

Red Bull

A single can of red bull contains 80mg of caffeine, which is less than a standard cup of coffee and roughly one third of the caffeine level in a 12 ounce Starbucks according to Business Insider.

Coca Cola

Caffeine in coke? What?

A can of coke contains 34mg of caffeine. Do not be fooled by the low amount, drink a few of these in a day and it all adds up!

Why You Should Avoid Protein Supplements

The popularity of protein supplements have skyrocketed over the past few years. We’ve seen the industry shift from focusing on the fitness industry to penetrating the “ordinary people” market. Our generation places a heavy emphasis on health, and companies feed into this narrative by advertising their products as ” metabolism booster”, ” organic” and ” all natural” to cater to the larger market.

According to BBC News, Wing-Co, a chocolate-flavoured high-protein drink aimed as a snack alternative for men in their 30s and 40s who “aren’t sucked in by lots of marketing rubbish“, while Upbeat drinks were promoted as a snack replacement for “post-pregnancy mums and vegetarians”. Many companies and brands have since jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck.

Why you should be wary of protein supplements?

Protein supplements can look pretty!

According to the National Center for Health Research, the FDA does not regulate dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Furthermore, there is no requirement that supplements should be tested to make sure they’re contents are the same as what is printed our on the ingredient label.

The Clean Label Project: Heavy metals and BPA in protein supplements

The Clean Label Project, a non profit organization, conducted an independent study on the contents of protein shakes in 53 leading brands. Their study revealed that top-selling nutritional protein powder supplement products contained heavy metals and BPA. Another shocking result from the study showed that plant-based protein powders contain higher levels of heavy metals compared to non-plant-based protein supplements.

Vanilla protein powder? YUM.

Results from the independent study as published on their page:

  • Approximately 75% protein powders contained lead. The laboratory discovered that the plant-based protein powders each contained on average twice the amount of lead per serving of other products.
  • In addition to lead, the plant-based protein powders contained mercury, cadmium and arsenic, in several cases above health-based guidelines.
  • 55% of protein powders tested had measurable levels of BPA, a known endocrine disruptor.
  • Certified organic products averaged twice as much heavy metals.
  • 10% of whey-based protein powders contained lead levels above health guidelines
  • 28 out of 134 of the protein powders contained twice the regulatory limit (3 micrograms) of BPA

Plant based protein powders were theoreticized to contain twice as much heavy metals due to the possibility of plants ingredients being grown and sourced from contaminated soil with high levels of heavy metals.

Plant based products

Other risks:

  • Milk based protein supplements may cause digestive stress to those with dairy allergies or who are lactose intolerant
  • May be high in sugar and calories, (as much as 23g per scoop), causing weight gain and spike in blood sugar levels
  • Our meals provide us with sufficient protein

The global protein supplement market size was USD 17.55 billion in 2019. With more health conscious people driving up dietary supplements sales, the market is project to expand even more. However, the lack of regulation by the FDA gives companies legal room to bypass health and safety regulations is concerning. It is imperative for us to advocate for ingredient transparency. 1Source aims to empower consumers with knowledge to make smarter purchasing decisions for the health and safety of the public.

The Dark Side of Maybelline’s Superstay Matte Lipstick

Lipsticks have evolved over decades and now it’s become an irreplaceable part of our beauty routine, be it to feel pretty or to condition lips and prevent it from chapping. Personally, I’ve never really used lipstick due to the fact that I was worried about the chemicals in lipsticks getting into my body during a meal or when I lick my lips.

I came across raving reviews and shiny posters advertising Maybelline’s Superstay Matte Lipstick which had gained a cult like following from women from all walks of life. Many claimed they only had to touch up their lips once a day and that it remained on their lips for a very long time. Was this it? Is this product the solution for not ingesting as much lipstick?

Maybeline’s Superstay matte lipstick features:

  • Stays on for 16+ hours
  • Does not smudge on masks

I decided to verify this product myself and vlogged myself using the product for a few days. I was still iffy about putting it on my lips so I swatched in on my arm. True to its claim, it stayed on for more than 5 days through various showers and washes. In fact, it stayed on so long and effectively that a Superstay remover was needed specifically to remove the product. Using common make up removers just doesn’t cut it. Check out this video snippet featuring 1Source’s resident pharmaceutical chemist, to learn more!

Snippet of video:

Why does this specific brand stay on for so long?

C30-45 Alkyldimethylsilyl Polypropylsilsesquioxane is a long, synthetic hydrocarbon chain specially designed to replicate wax for long lasting lipstick.

Why does only a special type of make up remover work?

The longer the hydrocarbon chain, the more non-polar a compound is. As C30-45 Alkyldimethylsilyl Polypropylsilsesquioxane is a fairly long compound, it requires a similarly long hydrocarbon solvent, such as Octyldodecanol to dissolve or remove it. Common make-up wipes / removers tend to consist of short hydrocarbon chains, like ethanol, which are ineffective.

A closer look at ingredient components:

I use ingredient analyzers to vet the safety of my products and a quick search on the 1Source database yielded a detailed list of ingredients in the product. I was shocked to learn that a number of products were rated 7 and above, meaning toxic if ingested and swallowed on the Potential Risk Index, and that up to two ingredients were banned in some countries.

Ingredients banned in certain parts of the world:

Colorant: Red 22 Lake; CI 45380

Colorants are pigments or dyes that are added in order to change or enhance the color. This particular colorant, Red 22 Lake, has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products, particularly hair dye products. *For the sake of consumer safety, 1Source interprets and extends this to all cosmetic applications.

PRI for Phenoxyethanol

Preservative: Phenoxyethanol

Infamous in the cosmetic industry for being a preservative and disinfectant, the overall rating for phenoxyethanol is 4, however it is very damaging towards aquatic life, hence earning it a 10 in environment.

This ingredient, also found in Kylie Skin, is an environmental pollutant chemical toxic to sea creatures. The Republic of Palau has since issued a new law that banned sunscreen products containing phenoxyethanol since January 2020.

Seeing as how certain ingredients have a high rating on the Potential Risk Index, I feel uneasy about using this line of lipsticks. Yes, its long lasting and anti smudge features are attractive, meaning less of it will be consumed, however, ingredients are banned for a reason, and personally, I would not want them in my body at all.