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.
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!
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.