Sunday, May 31, 2009

an educational sunday post

denise from summerland scrubs on etsy (who makes my favourite lotion) wrote this up when i asked her what to look for or avoid in bathroom-y products. it's rife with really good information. enjoy.

What to Look for in a Bath & Body Product(When You're Trying to go Au Naturale)

There are soooo many ingredients in bath and body products nowadays, it can make your head spin. It is easier, I find, to eliminate choices by ingredients you feel(or that have been proven to be by scientific testing) to be harmful to you, or your environment for that matter. Then, once you have found a fairly wholesome product or two, you can contrast and compare the ingredients by what they do for your skin, hair, etc.(like cocoa butter verses shea butter).

To start off with, I will go over some ingredients that are both unneccesary and harmful in one way or another in bath and body products. Also, it's good to know that the closer to the top of your ingredient list an ingredient is, the more there is of it in the finished product.


You will see these on your shampoo or lotion/cream's ingredient list as Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, and the like. Parabens are a group of compounds that include an alcohol. They are mostly used as preservatives. The dangers of parabens have been outlined by scientific researchers. They are close to estrogen in their makeup. Estrogen applied externally (as in shampoo or lotion) has been linked to breast cancer. These can cause problems in a growing child's reproductive system and cause problems in men as well. And, they irritate the skin in a big way. Anyone with sensitive skin should never use products with these in them. The worst version is sodium methyl-paraben. It has been banned in Europe, yet some companies in the states still use it (one of which is known for being GOOD for the skin and clearing acne. Part of the name sounds like "newt"). Parabens also cause premature aging and skin cancer by increasing production of free radicals, which are unstable atoms that constantly rob your body of nutrients to try to make itself whole. So, free radicals are bad as well. But, those are in your environment and can be squelched with a lot of healthy antioxidants.

Mineral oil-

While mineral oil isn't necessarily bad for you, it's bad for your skin. Once on your skin, it keeps your skin from breathing and causes it to break out. It also can cause dryness if you use a product with it for a long time as your skin will become dependent upon it and then stop producing it's own oils-just like people who use lip balm all the time seem to suffer more from dry lips. It also causes premature aging as a result. Mineral oil also goes by the names liquid paraffin, paraffin wax, or petrolatum.


Synthetically derived from coconut. This often contains 1,4-dioxane, which is a chemical known to the State of California and the federal government to cause cancer. Very bad stuff!


There are bad fragrance oils out there, but I see them less and less. The ones you want to stay away from contain phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften plastic for industrial use-they are found in a lot of high end fragrances(it gives the scent staying power). The best way to avoid phthalates is to buy items scented with essential oils, or buy unscented products. If it just says "fragrance", you're best off to avoid it. Or buy from someone who uses phthalate-free fragrances- like me! But, they have to mention it, or you have to sometimes ask. But, most people who use them will advertise it.


- Ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and SD alcohol. Simply, they dry your skin and make you more susceptible to molds, viruses, and bacteria. And, they STING like the dickens if you put them on your legs after shaving.


-Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is the main one you'll see, is a detergent. It is what makes your shampoo or body wash foam up. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology has reported that this detergent breaks down the skin even if used lightly, and keeps the skin's proteins from rebuilding (the skin will not regrow properly and age prematurely, i.e. collagen is a protein). It is used around the world in clinical studies as an irritant-they actually use it for the purpose of irritation! And, just like the alcohols, it makes you more susceptible to infections (like you can get sick more often because of it.) Last, but not least, if mixed with certain chemicals it can become carcinogenic, i.e. cause cancer. These effects were found on skin, hair, and eyes. So your skin will break down, hair will fall out, and you could go blind. And, the substitutes for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate aren't much better. Sodium laureth sulfate, cocamide DEA or lauramide DEA or look for the prefix, word, or syllable PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, eth (as in sodium laureth sulfate), or oxynol. These are "gentler detergents". But, they are often combined with our old friend 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer. Also, according to a 1998 report from the federal National Toxicology Program, two DEA-based compounds‹cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA‹ have been demonstrated to be cancer-causing in at least in one species of animal. According experts on the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel (established by the Cosmetic Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, a cosmetic industry trade association), both sodium lauryl sulfate and its close chemical cousin ammonium lauryl sulfate "appear to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin."

Whew! That was a long one. But I want you to be informed after you read this. Armed with knowledge, and all that.

That's alot of the stuff you want to stay away from. If you see something on a label you don't recognize, Google it. It will come up somewhere-at the very least, on Wikipedia. You should at least be able to figure out if you want it in the product you're thinking of buying. And just because something is derived from natural sources doesn't mean it's safe. Now, here are ingredients you may want to look for, and I use them in my products as well.

Cocoa Butter-

Coming from the cocoa bean, this is one of the best moisturizers you will find. It readily absorbs into the skin and imparts a sheen, treats eczema and dermatitis, protects sensitive skin from the environment and keeps skin moisturized. It is naturally rich in vitamin E which helps to soothe, hydrate and balance the skin and provides the skin collagen which assists with wrinkles and other signs of aging. It can be applied straight to hair and wrapped up after a day at the beach for a few hours, wash it out-and repair all the damage you did that day. Best used for dry hair as it can be greasy or weigh hair down with other hair types.

Shea Butter-

Comes straight from the shea or karite tree from seeds inside the nuts that this tree bears. There is a particular "belt" in Africa where this tree grows wild, so therefore all shea butter starts out organic. It is quite plentiful, so there's no need to farm it. The best kind is unrefined, which means the oil is pressed from the seeds, filtered for impurities, and that's it. It is beige colored naturally and has a pleasant light scent. Benefits of this butter include: Evens skin tone & returns luster to skin & hair; Absorbs quickly without leaving greasy residue; Shea Butter moisturizes & protects skin & scalp-especially over processed & heat-treated hair; shea butter doesn't clog pores or block hair shafts; revitalizes, softens & maintains skin moisture; naturally rich in vitamins A, E & F which are some essential vitamins needed for good skin balance; penetrates deep into skin to help restore elasticity; benefits your skin by keeping it clear & smooth; shea butter benefits include soothing some scalp & skin irritations. This is a middle of the road moisturizer - it's not as greasy as cocoa butter but it offers extra moisturizing over light moisturizers containing no butters.

Avocado Oil-

Coming from one of my favorite fruits(guacamole, Mmmmm!), avocado oil is also one of my favorite oils. It's not as heavy as your run of the mill olive oil, the smell isn't as strong and fruity as olive oil, and it has wonderful moisturizing properties. It is a favorite of massage therapists, and you will find it in many a massage oil. It is full of vitamins A, B, D, E, protein, and lecithin. It is high in sterolins, which fade age spots and repair sun damage-these sterolins also are responsible for the softening and super moisturizing effects; it is excellent for rejuvinating and regeneration of skin. In a study done at the Department of Food Engineering and Biotechnology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in 1991, it was found that avocado oil significantly increases the amount of collagen in the skin; helps relieve the itch of psoriasis and eczema; it is easily absorbed into deep tissue; it also has anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. This is one of my favorite oils, and I use it whenever I can.

Goat Milk

-The natural ingredients in goat's milk nourish and replenish the skin. Goat's milk products have been proven safe and beneficial for people with many kinds of skin problems including acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. Studies in nursing homes have shown that goat's milk soap is beneficial for the skin care for elderly people. Great for babies' skin, too! Goat's milk has many beauty benefits.

Goat's milk is high in vitamins and minerals and contains lactic acid. Lactic acid is a colorless natural substance, derived from sour milk, and non-bovine sources such as fresh goat's milk. It was discovered over 200 years ago in fermented milk. It is known that Cleopatra and other women used to bathe in sour milk to obtain beautiful skin. Benefits of Lactic Acid are: intense hydrating properties; helps with photo-aging and sun damaged skin; acts as an exfoliant to the skin, leaving it softer and rejuvenated; stimulates collagen production; acts as an antibacterial agent; acts as an astringent; is used for skin problems such as acne, impurities, oily skin, breakouts;and is used by dermatologists and surgeons in chemical peels, in higher concentrations.

I use organic goat milk since I do not have a goat farm nearby to buy it from. But, it's just as good.

Wakame Seaweed-

This is a new addition to my line, but I've been very pleased with the results when using it in masks. It is the favorite used by the Japanese people due to its health and beauty benefits-it's used in Miso soup, which I have tried and it is quite good. I use it dried and then ground to a powder mixed with honey and aloe gel as a mask, and then add a little water when ready to use it. It leaves my skin very soft and smooth. My skin even felt soft and smooth upon rising the next morning-my hubby couldn't stop stroking my face. Its benefits include its antioxidant properties as well as its nutritional value; it is a rich source of B vitamins and contains minerals like iron, sodium, potassium and calcium. Additionally the algae contains a chemical called sulfated polyfucose which is an antioxidant that shields skin from environmental pollutants that would cause the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for various forms of skin aging, including sagging and wrinkles. Wakame moisturizes, smoothes and heals. It does this by limiting hyaluronidase, a process that breaks down skin's hyaluronic acid. This acid serves to keep skin firm by acting as an adhesive, keeping collagen and elastic fibers intact. Without hyaluronic acid, skin may sag and dark circles may appear around the eyes. I honestly did not believe the claims, but upon using it just once I was a believer-I even used it under my eyes. I will be listing some Wakame Skin Smoothing Mask in early June. I have it made up, I just have to list it.

Coconut Milk-

I have been substituting coconut milk for goat milk in a bunch of my products lately so that Vegans can also enjoy them. Coconut Milk is actually the white liquid obtained from compressing fresh coconut meat-not the liquid people often drink when opening a fresh coconut, as I often did as a kid. Coconut milk contains, instead of the lactic acid found in goat milk-lauric acid. Half of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk are composed of lauric acid, which is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. It has been confirmed by skincare experts that topical use of coconut milk can help cure some skin conditions. Coconut milk, when used with cleansers can take away dirt and oil from the skin. It creates a clean, soft, and smooth complexion. Plus, it smells nice in a plain lotion. The kind I use is just coconut milk and water, plus a natural preservative. I don't use coconut milk which contains thickeners like guar gum and the like. It also makes any soap it's used in sudse up quite a bit more, making it a great choice for use with hard water. That is why I use it in my Coconut Milk Smoothie Bath Gel.

Kokum Butter-

Kokum butter is obtained from the Indian tree Garcinia indica. It is used in skin care products because of its ability to soften skin and heal ulcerations and fissures of lips, hands and soles of feet. Kokum butter helps reduce degeneration of the skin cells and restores elasticity. Use kokum butter is soaps, balms, belly balms, foot care products and other emollient skin treatments. I don't presently use this butter, but you will see me use it in the future. Most likely as a foot balm and the like.

That is pretty much the skinny. If you ever have a question on bath and body ingredients or products, please feel free to convo me through my Etsy store, I'm always looking into new and interesting things-I would even be willing to make you a custom product if there's a certain butter, milk, extract, or oil that you would like to try in a product. Or, if you find a recipe you'd like me to whip up for you-I can do that, too. I have quite a stash of ingredients and always like to try new things.

Come by and check out my products! Thank you for reading this little article, and thank you for posting this!

Have a great summer!

Denise Van Winkle, Owner and Soapmaker, Summerland Bath & Body

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