Article by: Perry Romanowski

Here’s another in our continuing series on dissecting the cosmetic label. By reviewing these labels it is our hope that you will develop the skills yourself. This is a key activity that all good cosmetic formulators should be able to do.

Today’s label is a product from Burt’s Bees called Baby Bee Tear Free Shampoo. Previously, someone had asked us to do a ‘natural’ product.

Ingredient list

First thing is the ingredient list as listed on

Water, Decyl, Lauryl Glucosides (Natural Coconut Oil, Corn, Starch, Sugar Soap Blend), Coco Betaine (Coconut Oil Moisturizer), Soy Protein, Coco Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate (Natural Sunflower, Coconut Oil Soap Blend), Surcrose Laurate (Sugar Ester), Vegetable Glycerin, Betaine (Sugar Beet), Glucose Sugar, Fragrance, Orange Oil, Anise Oil, Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonium) Oil, Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) Extract, Clove Oil, Xanthan Gum (Natural Thickener), Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperoxidase

It’s notable that while this source mostly gets things right they certainly make mistakes. In this label the second ingredient is wrong. There is no such compound as Decyl. More likely the compound is supposed to be ‘Decyl Glucosides’ as this is the only thing that makes sense.

It’s also notable that this list doesn’t follow proper INCI labeling because they include marketing words in the ingredient list. (Coconut oil moisturizer) and (natural coconut oil, corn…) are not proper INCI names.

The corrected label should look more like this…

Water, Decyl Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Soy Protein, Coco Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Surcrose Laurate, Glycerin, Betaine, Glucose, Fragrance, Orange Oil, Anise Oil, Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonium) Oil, Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) Extract, Clove Oil, Xanthan Gum, Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperoxidase

The most likely 1% line is after the Cocamidopropyl Betaine and before the Soy Protein.

Since Burts Bees is owned by Clorox, it is a bit surprising to me that they have this many errors in their ingredient lists. Perhaps the errors are ones.

Ingredient breakdown

Detergent system
These are the ingredients that are responsible for making the product clean hair.

Decyl Glucoside – Primary detergent
Lauryl Glucoside – Primary detergent
Cocamidopropyl Betaine – Foam boosting, thickening
Betaine – Foam boosting

Xanthan Gum

These ingredients are put in to offset the dryness of the detergent system.

Soy Protein
Coco Glucoside – Emollient
Glyceryl Oleate – Emollient
Sucrose Laurate – Emollient
Glycerin – Humectant
Glucose – Humectant

Preservative system
There isn’t an obvious preservative system but they use a number of extracts and oils that could provide enough microbial protection in a detergent system. These ingredients are likely adding to the preservative effect (in addition to providing odor and good label copy).

Orange Oil
Anise Oil
Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonium) Oil
Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) Extract
Clove Oil
Glucose Oxidase – Product stabilizer
Lactoperoxidase – Product stabilizer

No doubt this is a fine enough product and it avoids parabens, sulfates, and other ingredients that buyers of ‘natural’ personal care products would want to avoid.

With all the oils in there it will be a low foaming product and I would worry that exposure to too many different oils could increase the number of allergic reactions to the product. However, I’m certain Burts Bees has thoroughly tested the product so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.


  1. Avatar

    After having my baby I have done my best to become aware of which ingredients or chemicals to stay away from. I tried burt’s bee because it seemed all-natural. Unfortunately, my son had a bad reaction to this product, his skin was red (assuming from irritation) and had small bumps which made his skin feel rough. I am yet to figure out which ingredient might ‘ ve cause the reaction.

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      Did you ever find a solution or explanation as of to why your child developed a rash from this product?

      I find that some essential oils are too intense for the delicate skin of a child. The Clove Oil listed in the ingredients, for example, contains high amount of the chemical Eugenol, which can be highly toxic to children.

      In addition to that, even a citrus oil on the skin sounds irritating. I am kind of shocked to read the ingredients!!

      chemistscorner: thank you for sharing your knowledge; I greatly enjoy your website and content!

  2. Avatar

    I’m having a REALLY hard time finding these ingredients. I thought I would try copying this one. Are there any tips for finding distributors? It would be nice if they were all in one place, too! Is there a way I can alter this with (relatively speaking) more common ingredients? How does everyone else find their ingredients?

    1. Avatar
      Perry Romanowski

      Look at a Buyer’s Guide. Try

  3. Avatar
    ?noi ap suat

    2-3 tbsp Cooking oil. Another advantage of stainless steel
    pressure cookers is that they can absorb heat much better and
    lets you cook your food faster. If health won?t make you take a bit of time for yourself, maybe vanity will.

  4. Avatar
    Hamish Couch

    the biovert system has been around a while and i don’t believe it is classified as a preservative. Like Dr Straetmans pres. they are classed as anit microbial agents and therefore get away with legislation, particularly under the annexe of international preservatives. We had completed trials, and P.E testing and passed. It is heat intolerant and pH dependant so there are some considerations with handling. We were trialing it just under 1%. It has an interesting function with kill reduction on bacteria but there are definately challenges when doing larger batches

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    Hello, I’ve read that Glucose is suspected of causing skin or sense organ toxicity, so perhaps not a good ingredient to have in the shampoo?

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      There is no evidence that topical glucose will have any negative effects on skin.

      1. Avatar

        thats true.

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    Just to defend the Biovert system, it works pretty well if handled correctly and can work just as long as chemical preservatives. If Burts Bees products are going off, which I haven’t seen myself, the problem is likely to be in their production department rather than in the selection of the preservative.

    The ingredient that raised my eyebrows was the sodium benzoate. It is a decent enough preservative but it does tend to attract a lot of skin sensitisation reactions, so not the one I’d have selected for a baby shampoo.

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      Thanks for the info Colin! It’s good to hear from a cosmetic chemist ho has actually worked with it.

  7. Avatar
    Carol Quezada, Ph.D.

    This is from
    Looks like th proper format. Probably just got it worng.

    Aqua (Water) , Decyl Glucoside , Carthamus Tinctorius Oleosomes (Safflower) , Glycerin , Sodium Cocoyl Hydrolyzed Soy Protein , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice , Coco-Glucoside , Glyceryl Oleate , Avena Sativa Kernel Flour (Oat) , Aniba Rosaeodora Wood Oil (Rosewood) , Coriandrum Sativum Fruit Extract (Coriander) , Cedrus Atlantica Bark Oil , Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil (Sweet Almond) , Xanthan Gum , Citric Acid , Glucose , Sodium Chloride , Sodium Benzoate , Glucose Oxidase , Lactoperoxidase , Linalool

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      Hi Carol!
      This one also makes no sense. It contains “linalool” which usually comes from a fragrance allergen without listing any fragrance! Secondly, Sodium Benzoate seems to be the preservative here, why then add the enzymes? All in all I think this is a good example of that we (cosmetic chemists) shouldn’t take the ingredient list too seriously and use common sense as well!

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        Good points. Although I think Linalool could be coming from one of the essential oils.

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        It’s also likely that they weren’t getting enough protection from the enzymes so they had to add the Sodium Benzoate for extra preservation.

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          Thank you Perry, didn’t think of that an allergen could have its origin from an essential oil. Regarding the sodium benzoate I agree, but on the other hand the sodium benzoate would probably have done the job without the enzymes (if the pH is right) . That leaves the enzymes as…what you call “puffery”.

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          Can sodium benzoate come from some liquid ingredients, in this case e.g. Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice? I always wonder if one should listed preservatives which are part of some liquid ingredients on the label of a final product?

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            If you know an ingredient is in the formula (e.g. it comes from a raw material) then you should list it in the final product.

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      Yeah, it is probably an old label that had. I didn’t think Clorox would let Burts Bees continue to mislabel their products.

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    I found this on their homepage, it looks like the same product to me, but with slightly different ingredients. This one also has a fragrance.

    Ingredients: aqua (water, eau), decyl glucoside, coco-betaine, lauryl glucoside, sucrose laurate, glycerin, betaine, coco-glucoside, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, parfum (fragrance), glyceryl oleate, sodium chloride, xanthan gum, glucose, citric acid, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase, benzyl benzoate, geraniol, linalool.

    ..and shouldn’t “coco glucoside” belong to the surfactants?

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      I’m also thinking about coco glucosida being a surfactant (detergent). Isn’t that something like decyl and lauryl glucoside, but made of all fatty alcohol derived form coconut oil? And according to this pdf file from Cognis: coco glucoside is both secondary surfactant and refatting agent.
      Also sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein could be a surfactant here, this kind of so called foaming polypeptides is produced by e.g. Sinerga. I’ve found it in Aubrey Organics shampoos where is probably a second surfactant.

      Isn’t betaine a humectant and hair conditioner rather than a foam booster?
      Shouldn’t glucose be listed as a preservative since it’s part of Biovert system?

      1. Avatar

        As this example shows, dissecting an ingredient label is not an exact science. Sure coco glucoside can be considered a surfactant. It is. But it’s effect will be overwhelmed by the other surfactants in there. That’s why it is most likely in the formula for its emollient effect. And while glucose is in the Biovert system at the concentrations used in this formula, it is not going to have any preservative effect.

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          Thanks, this explanation is very helpful.

          As for Biovert – do glucose oxidase and lactoperoxidase act as a pro-oxidant,I’m asking because they sound kind of like one? And if so, can they be somehow affected by antioxidants in a formula?

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            Glucose Oxidase and Lactoperoxidase are enzymes which have specific effects on metabolites in the microbes cells (theoretically). So they can’t really be thought of as generally pro-oxidants.

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    Thanks Perry for doing a natural product too!

    I totally agree about the wacky INCI. The essential oils like Orange, Anise seed and Clove should also be followed by their botanical names like Citrus sinensis, Pimpinella anisum and Eugenia caryophyllata.
    Plus in the EU the perfume allergens should also be mentioned.

    And Mark is totally right about Biovert, although I haven’t tried that one yet, it does sound promising!
    I did read on make-up alley that many burt’s bees products tend to go bad pretty quickly, maybe because of the preservation?

    1. Avatar

      “I did read on make-up alley that many burt’s bees products tend to go bad pretty quickly, maybe because of the preservation?”

      Based on the preservation system of this shampoo, I’m not surprised.

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    Mark Fuller

    Argueably it does contain a Preservative system with the Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperidoxase. This is Biovert by Arch Chemicals. It was one of the earliest “Natural” preservative systems and has been endorsed by NPA.

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      Good point Mark. Thanks!

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