Food Babe Links Her Own Product To Leukemia, Other Cancers

food babe meme

Abstract: Vani Hari (the “Food Babe”) does little to differentiate between “toxins” in the belly or applied to the skin.  According to Hari, toxins applied to the hair and skin are dangerous because they’re absorbed by the body.  The Babe is guilty of selling food and beauty products that contain the very same ingredients she falsely claims will harm her readers.  We’ll illustrate this fact here in a “Food Babe-style” investigation.


It’s payday.  My pockets are flush with cash and my cheeks are flushed with excitement–I’ve got some extra money to blow over on the shopping page!  My wife and I are still thrilled with the BHT-laden brown sugar body polish we recently purchased from Food Babe, and we thought we’d pick up a bottle of shampoo to go along with it.

Now, those of you who have previously gone on these shopping excursions with me know we adhere to a strict set of rules, taken from the Vani Hari playbook itself:

  1. Always read the product labels
  2. Consult and Vani Hari’s The Food Babe Way for advice
  3. Scream bloody murder if we find any “dangerous” ingredients

Wanna go shopping with me?  It’ll be an eye opening experience, I promise.  Let’s go!

As I mentioned, we’re looking for shampoo.  This offering from the Food Babe beauty shop looks good: John Masters Organics Evening Primrose:1

john masters organics food babe

John Masters Organics Evening Primrose Shampoo on

I sleep better at night knowing Food Babe isn’t just about food–she’s out there on the front lines fighting for safer beauty products as well:

“Being a Food Babe doesn’t stop at food. Once you’ve understood what chemicals can do in your diet – The next logical step is to understand what other chemicals in your surroundings can effect your health. Ever thought about what toxins are lurking in the cosmetic industry? Why there are so many chemicals in your shampoo or toothpaste?”–Vani Hari2

Vani goes on to explain to me exactly why I should worry about chemicals in my shampoo:

Your skin is your largest organ!  What you put on your hair, is absorbed into your blood through your scalp and face.”–Vani Hari3

Food Babe says unequivocally that what I put on my hair is absorbed into my blood.  I’ll try to keep this in mind as we shop, but I hope you’ll remind me.  You’ll do that, won’t you?  Great!

So about this shampoo Ms. Hari is selling: as Shakespeare might have said: “Soft!  What ingredient through yonder product breaks?” (click image to enlarge)

food babe sodium benzoate

This shampoo sold by Food Babe contains sodium benzoate, which she says is dangerous. (click/enlarge)

Why, it’s sodium benzoate, and the Food Babe Army is the pawn.

Vani Hari says this about sodium benzoate:

“one of the absolute worst preservatives out there.”–Vani Hari4

… because:

“when combined with Vitamin C this [sodium benzoate] can produce benzene that has been known to cause Leukemia and other cancers.”–Vani Hari7

All of a sudden, I’m all torn up inside.  I know Vani was writing about food when blasted sodium benzoate, and we’re only shopping for shampoo on her web site, but I’m haunted by something she said earlier.  You were going to help me remember, weren’t you, dear reader?  What was it Food Babe said?

“Your skin is your largest organ!  What you put on your hair, is absorbed into your blood through your scalp and face.” (emphasis mine)– Vani Hari 3

Yes, that’s it!

Now I’m a little worried.

But let’s not overreact.  Food Babe says we need the combination of sodium benzoate and vitamin C to produce her “leukemia-causing benzene”, and we’ve only spotted the sodium benzoate on the label.  There’s no vitamin C listed there.

Or is there?

To be safe, let’s put on our Food Babe Investigator Hatspatent pending and scan that ingredient list for a source of vitamin C:

food babe sodium benzoate vitamin C

According to multiple research papers, aloe vera is a source of vitamin C. (click/enlarge)

Oh dear.  We didn’t have to go far.  I’m not a biologist, but, according to multiple research papers written by experts, aloe vera is a reliable source of vitamin C.8,9,10

So Food Babe’s shampoo does contain sodium benzoate and vitamin C.

And she says this combination is toxic.

And she expressly forbids you from putting it on your hair, because she believes “toxins” will be absorbed into the body.

But she sells it on her web site.

the screamLook, the sodium benzoate/vitamin C scare is an old one, and I’m not going to give it credence by debunking it–not until Vani Hari explains why she’s selling multiple products with this combination while simultaneously claiming it’s dangerous.  Did I say “multiple products”?  Yes, I did–#FoodBabeArmy, I’ll leave it to you to do some label reading of your own.

The upshot of all of this is that John Masters is a fine company with a solid safety record.  They use products made of ingredients reviewed and approved by those far more qualified than Vani Hari (or myself), and it’s those experts I’ll be going to when making purchasing decisions.  In honor of John Masters’ solid track record, and based on the favorable reviews left by customers on Amazon, I’m going to be buying a bottle of this shampoo.

I just won’t be buying it via

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Your skin is your largest organ.  It covers and protects everything on your body. How you treat it is incredibly important to your health. However, the skin is one of the most unappreciated organs, and one that I used to totally take for granted, slathering products full of toxic chemicals on it day after day. When I look back at all the different potions I’ve tried, I shake my head in disbelief and wish I would have known better.”–Vani Hari5

Practice what you preach, Vani.

Image Credits, John Masters, and Food Babe screen snapshots are used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Dr. Evil meme courtesy Also used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

“The Scream” from WikiCommons, image is in the public domain because copyright has expired.

(1) Food Babe Shopping: For Your Beauty

(2) Be a Drug Store Beauty Dropout

(3) Holistic Health Care

(4) Food Babe–Jason’s Deli

(5) The Ingredients in Sunscreen Destroying Your Health

(6) John Masters Organics Evening Primrose Shampoo Ingredients

(7) Why Aren’t You Making Your Own Hummus?

Amar Surjushe, Resham Vasani, and D G Saple
Indian J Dermatol. 2008; 53(4): 163–166.
doi:  10.4103/0019-5154.44785
PMCID: PMC2763764

(9) Biologic Effects Of Aloe Vera Gel
N Kathuria, N Gupta, Manisha, R Prasad, Nikita
(Internet Scientific publications)

(10) Effects of Drugs Effect of an extract of Aloe vera on the biodistribution of sodium pertechnetate in rats
Holanda, Costa, Silva, et al
Acta Cirúrgica Brasileira – Vol. 24 (5) 2009