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9.21.2010

Johnson's and Johnson's: does their motivation matter?

Recently I saw an add in a parenting magazine for Johnson's Natural. It was a four page spread (obviously printed on recycled paper, that was obvious because the paper had a different texture and they said it like three times in the add).

So I did some research. I checked the website listed in the add. It was a pretty transparent site- the ingredients and their purpose are listed for each product. So I was able to check each ingredient in the EWG cosmetics safety database. And here is what I found.

First of all, so far as I can tell, they have removed all formaldehyde releasing "stuff" from at least the lotion (I only checked the lotion, because I'm busy, and lotion is usually the worst offender). I was pretty pleased with the ingredient list overall. I don't understand why they need SO MANY different ingredients to maintain thickness and to preserve, but at least the ingredients they chose scored low on the EWG scale. The only concerns were two ingredients that scored 3's ( Benzoic Acid and Glyceryl Laurate) and Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil. Sounds benign, right? Well, it scored an 8. Why, you may ask? You may or may not know that conventional cotton growers use a ridiculous amount of chemicals. The concern with hydrogenated cottonseed oil is that many of these chemicals have been found in it, and may be absorbed into the skin especially when used in lotions, which have absorption aids in them. Further, I emailed Johnson's to ask if they test their HCO for contaminates and no one got back to me.

Another thing that bothered me greatly is on their website- they state that (to paraphrase), while they have "evolved" and produced a product that doesn't contain any parabens or phthalates, they don't see anything wrong with these ingredients. I guess if they DIDN'T say this, by putting out this more natural product they would be condemning their old products, which of course they still want to sell. Also on their FAQ page (which includes the above stance) they explain what standards they followed in developing this products- they began with the Natural Products Association. But they are not certified by the Natural Products Association, which makes me suspicious. And the way they double talk about their "Aller-free fragrance" also makes me suspicious. My mom-tuition is prickling. So while I may pick up this product to test it further (to report back to you!) I won't be using it on my kids.

But this leads me to a question- do their motivations matter? I mean, let's assume that they test and their HCO is contaminate free, and their proprietary fragrance is totally natural and safe. Part of me feels like this product should still be avoided because, overall, they are still producing baby products full of chemicals and are only making this new product in response to a demand for it (and are probably secretly making fun of us nutty moms behind closed doors). Their heart isn't behind it. Why would I support this company when I can buy California Baby or Earth Mama Angel Baby products- both of those companies are producing higher quality products because they believe they are better, not just in response to consumers. So is it good that a big company like Johnson's and Johnson's is bending to our consumer will? Is it a step in the right direction? Or are they simply taking advantage of market trends? What do you think?

BTW, my next post is going to cover frugal and natural products you can use on your baby. Stay tuned and happy Saturday!

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