ho·lis·tic (hōˈlistik) - characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.
Everything we introduce into our lives and consequently our bodies has an impact on us. This can be proven by all of the various ailments and maladies that we humans and even animals have begun to experience at higher rates than ever. When it appears that we are at the height of evolution; it seems to be at the cost of our overall health and well- being.
So what’s holistic about Holistic Blends Soap and why should you care? When our products are formulated; we first decide the purpose of the formula. For example: soap for dry itchy skin. Secondly we have to understand the reasons that skin may be dry and/or itchy? Is it an underlying health condition, perpetual dehydration, environmental allergen or emotional conditions? Lastly, we must identify how does dry itchy skin make a person feel? Irritated, depressed or agitated?
With the whole person in mind, a formula is then blended with natural ingredients (oils, milks, herbs) that will relieve the symptoms without aggravating them. Essential oils are chosen to further aid in soothing the body internally and externally while using their aromatherapy benefits to influence mood and overall well-being. We chose natural additives like chlorophyll or activated charcoal to provide additional benefits like aiding in the elimination of toxins.
The most important part of wellness that is overlooked is how something actually makes you feel. A wonderful scent and beautiful color can go a long way in improving one’s mood and making someone’s day a little brighter; which may in turn encourage them to pass on the happy to someone around them and improving their overall environment.
A part of taking care of the whole you is ensuring that we don’t put ingredients in our products that are counterintuitive to our purpose of enhancing your whole being. That means no synthetics, no harmful chemicals and ensuring that our products are environmentally responsible.
As lovely and skin loving as bar soaps are...it is often hard to convert liquid soap users over to the bar. Some people hate the goopy mess that can happen with a bar left in wet shower.
Solution: Use Soap Savers keep the bar out of direct sprays of water when not in use and let the bar dry out between uses. Simple.
But I have yet to come up for a solution for those folks that hate the feel of the slippery bar for hand washing or despise the look of that soap bar on the counter with the inevitable drainage puddle that occurs underneath "as it drains"...UNTIL NOW!
I ran across this little handy Soap Flake Dispenser by Nathalie Stämpfli which she has designed to solve all these issues. It's neat. No more wet bar. Easy dispensing. Nice Design. Atlas, the design never came to fruition.
But wait, these guys came up with an improved design. Super Shaver Soap Saver, but these guys have stopped selling and are reevaluating there production model.
So we will continue our search until we find one or build it ourselves.
What's In Your Natural Body Products
In this 3rd in our 4 part series on ingredients in your soap, I’d like to talk about essential oils and their benefits in soap. Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine that uses aromatic plant compounds to effect health and well-being. Scientific evidence and opinion goes both ways on the effectiveness of aromatherapy’s ability to heal, however studies have shown that many essential oils and other herbal compounds are effective antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and a slew more anti-benefits. The idea behind aromatherapy is that either through inhalation or topical application – pure essential oil is absorbed into the body to provide therapeutic benefits.
As I mentioned in part 2 of this series "Is the Fragrance in Your Bath Products Killing Your Natural Products?" essential oils are very volatile and should be used with extreme care. To learn more about how essential oils are produced, this article is a good start. Long before there was a pharmacy, there was herbal medicine where healers used botanical ingredients to heal man’s and beast’s ailments. Today, we have come to a place where holistic health includes western, eastern and herbal medicine to heal and keep our families healthy.
Of the many thousands of essential oils, many are used for their therapeutic benefits. These uses may include topical applications, ingestion or aromatherapy. When essential oils are inhaled, it is believed that the smell receptors in the brain trigger a bodily reaction to specific scents. This reaction may improve mood (i.e. uplift spirits, reduce stress). Most essential oils are applied to the skin using carrier oil (i.e. almond oil) to provide therapeutic treatments. Clinical trials have even been done on the benefits of aromatherapy on cancer patients (National Center for Biotechnology Information - Aromatherapy and Essential Oils).
In natural soap making, essential oils are used to scent soap and sometimes for their aromatherapy benefits. However, claims that a soap is “intended to treat or prevent disease, or to affect the structure or function of the body, it’s a drug” falling into the FDA drug category requiring FDA approval and extensive testing and studies and regulation FDA - Essential Oils. The manufacture and the practice of aromatherapy are currently unregulated, but the industry complies with current safety standards and practices which can found at the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. We use essential oils to fragrance our products and use special blends to aid in ensuring that skin types or conditions are not adversely impacted but soothed by our formulas. In some cases, individuals with allergies or special conditions should be careful when using products containing certain essential oils as they like other additives can aggravate certain conditions. Essential Oils are very sensitive to heat, light and air and some believe that they may lose some of their effectiveness in the soap making process, either through the initial chemical reaction phase or the curing phase. We like to think that as long as the scent remains the benefits remain and the ingredients that the oils DON’T have in them are just as beneficial as what remains in your beauty products. This is not an issue with leave on products like butters, lotions and massage oils.
Many essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy and citrus oils may cause photosensitivity. Essential oils are beneficial in many ways in body products:
· Soften Skin
· Moisturize Dry Skin
· Free of Artificial Chemicals – so less damaging to the skin
· Soothing Itchy Skin
· Deep Cleansing
· May Cause Less Skin Reactions to Sensitive Skin
· May Improve Mood
· Some Essential Oils May be Absorbed Into the Skin and May Impart Topical Application Benefits of the Oils
· Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal and Antibacterial
· And They Smell WONDERFUL!
A little research always goes a long way in determining the products that are best for you and your family.
In this second part of our 4 part series on “What’s in your "natural" skincare products?” I want to talk about product fragrance additives. Since the beginning of time, history has shown us that fragrance or perfume has been around “scenting” our lives. The word perfume is derived from the Latin word; per fumum; which loosely translated means smoke. It is said that Stone Age man discovery of fire and the scent of burning wood began man’s exploration and use of “scent” originally used to pay homage to the gods and later with the Egyptians initiating its use for personal enjoyment.
What's really in your "natural" skincare products?
Fast forward to present day and we still use fragrance to bring enjoyment, medicinal purposes and covering up not so nice “odors”. The human olfactory system (our sniffer and our brains) consists of receptors that detect particular molecules and responds to them with an electrical impulse to the brain. No worries, I won’t bore you with the biology and chemistry lesson. BUT, I do want to show that a fragrance or scent is more than just a smell, but a chemical and biological stimulant resulting in some sort of reaction from the human body.
So how does fragrance in body product affect us? And why should you care? On the most basic level, we use the “scent” of bath and body products to either effect our own senses or those around us either by making us respond in a positive way (either making us feel good or preventing us from feeling bad, think how deodorant prevents those around us from feeling bad J). Then there is the aromatherapy aspect which indicates that either the inhalation or absorption through the skin of certain herbal scents will have a mental, physical or emotional influence on one’s health (we’ll talk more about that in our next article).
Early on, the “scents” used in bath and body products were botanical in nature. Rose water always comes to mind for me. People used herbs and flowers to “scent” themselves to either attract others or cover up not so pleasant body odors when bathing was done as frequently as we do now. Later, as we became more advanced and our appetite for greater variety of “scents” for the body, chemist began mixing compounds together trying to duplicate existing natural scents and create new “perfumes”. Today, we bath and body product developers have a plethora of natural and man-made options for “scenting” our products.
Bath and Body “scenting” options usually fall into 4 categories: Scent Free, Fragrance Oils, Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Since we’re talking about scent today, we’ll only be discussing the fragrance oils, essential oils and hydrosols. Fragrance oils are usually a combination of aroma chemicals, essential oils and/or aroma resins. What’s really in fragrance oils? Well we don’t know exactly. Fragrance oils and perfume ingredients fall under the FDA’s Trade Secret regulations and do not need to be disclosed in product labeling (http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/labeling/regulations), so it’s very difficult to define exactly what ratio of man-made vs. plant derived ingredients are in a fragrance oil. However, all ingredients must be approved safe by the FDA individually, but that doesn’t necessarily give me the warm and fuzzies considering all of the other chemicals that have been shown to not be so safe and are approved for use by the FDA. What we do know is that fragrance oil are usually a combination of hundreds of synthetic and natural aromatic ingredients that either come in liquid, powder or crystalline form. (Nature's Garden has great article on how fragrances are manufactured if your curiosity is peaked.)
The resins and crystalline ingredients must be dissolved into liquid form using a solvent. One such solvent that has been used for the last 50 years and is now being phased out is DEP (Di Ethyl Phthalate). Although it has been declared safe by the FDA (See what I mean?) it is considered toxic by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) www.atsdr.cdc.gov It can affect the liver and reproductive systems. Because this substance is known to be toxic, we consider fragrances with this ingredient a no-no for our products.
There are many fragrance oil manufacturers that are also saying no to DEP in their formulations and I applaud them for this. In an effort to make more “natural” fragrance oils, other companies are manufacturing blends using compounded natural aroma isolates – which are single odor molecules that are extracted from raw material using distillation. You can’t get more basic than a single molecule and we like this idea that the distillation method must also be chemical free.
Lastly, hydrosols are basically less concentrated essential oil made from steam distillation of plant material – you probably know it better as floral water. In the distillation process – essential oils from the botanical ingredient is collected and the fragrant water that remains from the steam process is the hydrosol. Unlike most essential oils, hydrosols can be used directly on the skin because of their mild nature (but the rules of safe plant material still must be followed – as the hydrosol may still carry the toxic or medicinal impacts of the plant ingredient).
As you can see there is more to the fragrance in your product than just its lovely aroma. As a naturalist, I try to use products that are as close to the botanically derived product as possible while ensuring that the method used to make the product is as chemically free as possible. For this reason – I chose to use DEP free and natural isolate fragrance oils and essential oils in our soaps and body products. At one time I vowed never to use fragrance oils, but am quite pleased with the more naturally derived products that have been made available in the last few years. I am still very careful in choosing my vendors and making sure that I know from where and how my ingredients are derived. But personal care products are a matter of personal choice and only you can decide to be informed of what goes in and on you and your family’s body.
Pt 1 of 4 Natural vs. Synthetic Bath and Body Product Colorants
“All natural”. A simple statement, but what are you really getting in your products? According to Wikipedia natural skin care is defined as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_skin_care
“Natural skin care is the care of the skin using naturally derived ingredients (such as herbs, roots, essential oils and flowers) combined with naturally occurring carrier agents, preservatives, surfactants, humectants and emulsifiers (everything from natural soap to oils to pure water). The classic definition of natural skin care is based on using botanically sourced ingredients currently existing in or formed by nature, without the use of synthetic chemicals, and manufactured in such a way to preserve the integrity of the ingredients.”
There are no regulations on the word “Natural” and a definitive description of what products or methods of producing a product this includes. Designating a product as natural seems really simple, but it’s not. There is a fine balance between developing a product that only uses naturally sourced and naturally derived ingredients and giving people their desired product. A customer once told me that she only uses all natural body products and her favorite was whipped peach body butter! Yes, peaches do occur in nature, but there is no essential oil, hydrosol or other natural ingredient that will give your body butter a peach scent. So, although the ingredients in the body butter may have been all natural its fragrance, preservatives and colorants may not be.
So, my dilemma is “How do you give the people what they want without compromising your product’s natural integrity?” Fragrance is not the only area where product “integrity” can be questionable. A lot of these beautiful aquamarine and neon hues that are so visually appealing and fun looking; come from synthetic pigments and dyes. Many of these FDA approved manufactured colored are labeled “Natural identical” which is defined as “consisting of the same chemical make-up of their natural counterparts”, but are created in a lab. Once again the dilemma “It’s not natural if it’s created in a lab”.
Part 1 of a (4) Part Series on Natural Bath and Body Ingredients
Product Colorants are regulated by the FDA under cosmetic colorants, so they should be safe right?
Manufactured colorants are regulated by the FDA include pigments, FD&C, oxides, minerals, micas and ultramarines. Botanical colorants and clays are not regulated as they are derived from mineral, plant or animal sources.
Pigments – Previously mined but due to environmental impacts are now manufactured in labs. Some pigments are still mined but there is controversy on the purity of these products due to toxic metals that may pollute the product (lead, arsenic, mercury to name a few)
Oxides – inorganic compounds created from purified oxidized iron or zinc
Titanium Dioxide – natural occurring oxide of titanium
Ultramarines – blue inorganic mineral pigment composed of sodium, aluminum, silicate and sulfate
FD&C Colorants – colorants manufactured in labs
Micas – inorganic, silicate mineral coated with FD&C colorants, pigments or both to achieve color
Botanical – naturally occurring animal, plants or minerals
Clays – very fine particles of earth that consists of one or more minerals, metal oxides and organic material.
Plant parts – used dry or infused in oils to release color
Mineral colorants are natural, right?
Most cosmetic mineral colorants are manufactured in labs. They were previously mined but due to environmental impacts or “safety issues” are now manufactured in labs. These safety issues revolved around the purity of the minerals being contaminated by metals that may pollute the product (lead arsenic, mercury to name a few). However, in order to manufacture these products they use synthetic ingredients for the most part to make a “chemically identical” product. So, by our definition of natural…these mineral colorants do not qualify. But, the question that bugs me is whether the use of “natural” minerals would have been more harmful or less than using there synthetic replacements?
We have dedicated ourselves to providing customers who want chemical free body product with products that contain naturally derived ingredients in their most basic form. But we too struggle with balancing our customer requests with the limitation of nation. As soap makers we are not required to disclose our ingredients on our soap, but we do so to enable our customers to make the most informed decision about what they are putting on and ultimately in their bodies.
After thorough research, we have opted to only use botanical ingredients in our bars as colorants. We feel that the visual appeal of a bar can be accomplished without using synthetic ingredients. Does it cost us more time and money to produce our products? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely!
We've moved! Little did you all know that over the last year, we have been looking for a new location to be the home of Holistic Blends Soap Company. Our new forever home needed to be out of the haze of the Sacramento Valley, have room for our gardens to expand and be located in a small community.
Well, welcome to Holistic Blends new home in Pollock Pines, CA! Located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains approximately an 60 miles East of Sacramento and 45 miles West of South Lake Tahoe.
Now that the move is complete, we are in a mad dash to get the soap rooms complete and the land cleared for our garden areas. Sadly, it is highly likely that we won't be able to get our gardens planted until next year. Due the the higher elevation and winter snow...we think it's wise to experience a full season before planting our herb gardens. Not to mention all the brush we need to clear to lay out the gardens!
About Our Blog
Join me in my quest for natural alternatives in beauty and healthy living. I am passionate about my craft and strive to continuously educate myself and others on natural ways to care for ourselves and our families. I am thankful for the ability to educate others and formulate bath and body products to enhance one's overall well being.