We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on) themselves with the help of an expert.
1) Glycerin: Glycerin is often used as a thickening agent. It’s also what’s called a humectant, according to Sharad P. Paul, a skin-care expert, skin-cancer surgeon and author of The Genetics of Health. “Humectants are ingredients that are hygroscopic — that is, they absorb water and bind to skin,” he previously told us. That’s why they’re usually used in skin-care products: They keep moisture in the skin by reducing water loss, and in this case, help your hands glide effortlessly across a hot bod.
2) Propylene Glycol: Propylene glycol, which acts as a humectant and a preservative — and is responsible for the mild warming sensation that this massage oil promises — has a bad reputation among consumers since it’s a main ingredient in antifreeze. But it’s used there in a much larger dosage than would ever be found in something meant to be consumed by the public. Both the FDA and Paul claim that the small amounts found in many foods (Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix), beverages (Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey), pharmaceutical (Colgate Total Toothpaste) and cosmetic products (Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser) don’t warrant concern.
That said, Paul does recommend testing small amounts of newly purchased cosmetics containing propylene glycol on a small area of the skin away from the face and other… sensitive areas (cough * buttholes * cough) before using it, as some people are sensitive to the ingredient.
3) Aroma (Flavor): While I can’t say for certain whether this aroma is natural or artificial (I’m going to guess it’s artificial, since manufacturers are usually more than happy to boast about natural ingredients on their labels), this is the ingredient behind the strawberry scent (and flavor) emitted by this massage oil.
Artificial or otherwise, physician and biochemist Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, previously told me that ingredients like this are nothing to worry about: “They’re not killers because they’re added in very, very small quantities to food [and in this case, massage oil].”
4) Sodium Saccharin: Did we mention that this stuff is edible? That’s why it contains sodium saccharin, which is the solid form of an artificial sweetener called saccharin. During the 1970s, controversial studies performed on rodents found the ingredient to be carcinogenic, though subsequent studies on both people and primates found that saccharin was indeed safe for human consumption. One of those studies, published in the Journal for the National Cancer Institute in 1998, even found that primates exposed to saccharin on a daily basis from birth showed no adverse effects.
Overall, Strawberry Warming Gourmet Massage Oil by Exsens seems like your standard massage oil, albeit an edible one. It’s unlikely that any of these ingredients would do you much harm — just take the man’s advice and try it out on your forearm before you go slathering it on your quivering hog.