When Science and Sense Collide

Today we are going to talk about Natural and Organic Skin Care and how it can be confusing as well as daunting to try to take care of your body in these “Green” controversial times.

The nation today as well as the world is becoming more “GREEN” conscious everyday. It has turned into a sort of Commercial Buzz-word and like so many other ‘big’ advertising sometimes the message can get lost in the big lights and hullabaloo of ‘Coolness’.

Personally I am delighted that people are waking up and taking an interest in their well-being. What I am not so delighted about is the way some are attempting to go about it!! I was talking with a customer of mine the other day who mentioned that they were dismayed to learn that all the big supermarket chains got most of their ‘organic’ vegetables from another country where no regulations were enforced and where the general thought was that if only 20% of the crop was grown without pesticides than the whole crop could be considered organic and thus sold at a much higher price.

While I understand somewhat of corporate marketing and making a living – how does one make sense and really know? When did ‘we the people’ lose our ability for choices and integrity?

Today we keep ourselves so busy that we tend to give our power away…….we give 10 or more hours of time a day away in exchange for money, we give our children to someone else to raise, we give our health to our Doctors to manage, we give away so much……

And now I think a vast majority are waking up to that fact and starting to ask the hard questions and I am personally delighted.

Getting back to our original topic of Natural & Organic Skin Care – for several years Nutrition and Health has been the ‘main or in’ issue on everyone’s mind. They ‘eat right’, drink water, exercise, take their vitamins, the list goes on. But not a lot of people have addressed the other vital and important issue of what I call – “Outside Body Care.” By the time most people get off the Elliptical in the morning they have done their exercise part – they have drank that glass of orange juice – and then step into the shower to pour potions over their bodies that consist mostly of chemicals and very little if any of the good stuff.

If one is looking for a total package of health – one has to think of what is going onto their skin!! So how does one do that without having a Science Degree? Become INFORMED. Read labels, get friendly with someone who makes their own products, ask questions, do research. In this day and age of lightening speed internet, questions can be asked and answers found within minutes. Start taking back your power of choice!!

You will find as you start this journey that there are lot of opposing sides. Some will say that unless there are no fragrance oils used or preservatives you don’t have a “Natural or Organic” product. Others will go the way of the “Corporate World” and put a little goodness and a lot of chemicals in their product. Become INFORMED.

My hope is that with time Cosmetic and Natural Beauty will find a balance. There needs to be a mixture of Science and common sense when choosing your body care items.

The first and most important thing is LABELS. Read your labels, read the website you are buying from, ask questions…..become INFORMED!

Look for labels that are easy to read, look for products where ingredients are familiar and easy to pronounce. Today most website owners and buyers are more worried about how safe The Lost Book of Herbal their commerce site is rather than how safe their products are!! Ask questions, don’t ‘impulse buy’ from a new site, send e-mails, look for telephone numbers and TALK with these people!!! You will soon get the sense of who is doing this as a craft and who is SERIOUS about their business.

Try to stay away from those who use commercial chemicals in making their soaps (even if they are handmade!

Lye, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Stearates etc. while made from organic compounds – they draw moisture out rather than to the skin and can become skin irritants over time. Lye, especially to the new soap maker can cause severe skin burns if not mixed properly through out the soap batch or too much is used.

When buying Glycerin Soaps – look for those using vegetable glycerin as opposed to just glycerin. Glycerin is a by product of soap making so great care should be given by the soap maker to KNOW where their glycerin is coming from. Large commercial soap companies tend to sell this by product and it can be found in most local craft stores.

“Vegetable glycerine comes to us through a very complex and sophisticated method of extraction known as Hydrolysis, and the end product that we refer to as “Vegetable Glycerine” is usually the by-product of another oils production. The basics of this system is that the fats and oils of a raw ingredient (usually palm or coconut oils) are split into crude glycerol fats, under the combined action of water, temperature and pressure. These temperatures can exceed 400 degrees and the material is usually kept under pressure for 20-30 minutes. What is actually occurring is a sort of “counter-flow” where the water absorbs glycerol from the fatty acid phase of the oil production. After this phase this glycerol is isolated and further distilled to give buyers a standard 99% Glycerine product.

Vegetable Glycerine is a clear, colorless, and odorless liquid with an incredibly sweet taste having the consistency of thick syrup. It is used as an agent in cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoos, soaps, herbal remedies, pharmaceuticals, and other household items. Because it is soluble in both, water and alcohol, its versatility is a major benefactor in its purported growth and popularity within the manufacturing sector. It is invaluable as a natural source ingredient with emollient like properties which can soften and soothe the skin and it assists the outer epidermis is retaining moisture. This helps to explain why it is one of the most popular cosmetic additives used today. Other uses include its solvency action which aides herbalists in extracting botanical properties from plant materials without the use of alcohol. This is especially helpful for those with alcohol sensitivities as most liquid herbal extracts contain alcohol. But given its severely limited shelf life, extracts made from Vegetable Glycerine typically have a shelf life of 14-24 months whereas alcohol extracts can have an extended shelf life of 4-6 years.”You will also find in your search – that there is huge controversy over preservatives. Parabens, Formaldehydes, etc.

Let me take you on a brief and very layman’s science spin:

Organic vs. Inorganic Compounds – Organic compounds are made up of chemical compounds( chemical compounds are substances that consist of 2 or more elements that are bound together in a fixed proportion by mass.) so organic compounds are made up of chemical compounds whose molecules are made of carbon.

Inorganic Compounds are considered to be of mineral, not biological, origin.

Complementary, most organic compounds are traditionally viewed as being of biological origin. An important subset of organic compounds is still extracted from natural sources because they would be far too expensive to be produced artificially.

Parbens are basically organic compounds that can be often found in natural plants and some insects. They are esters made up of acids.

So….why preservatives?

“Preservatives are substances that kill bacteria and fungi (or at the very minimum make it very difficult for “living things” to survive), and have no effect on the shelf life of the oils. Bacteria, fungi, yeast and other potentially dangerous microorganisms typically avoid waterless compounds (such as balms, salves, pomades and oil-only blends) and also substances with a relatively high pH (such as soap), but thrive in humid environments. For this reason, soaps and oil-based skin care applications do not need preservatives – but unlike these, creams, lotions and any other compound where water is present require adding a preservative if the shelf life and integrity of the product need to be extended further than 2 or 3 weeks.

It is important to understand that the efficacy of preservatives relies, by definition, on their ability to kill live cells; in other words, their toxicity is an unavoidable component of their reason of being. A number of natural extracts, plants and essential oils contain substances that have the power to effectively kill bacteria, yeast and fungi; however, in many cases these substances are or can be toxic for humans, too. A typical example are citrus or grapefruit seed extracts: although these have natural antimicrobial properties, some of their constituents are thought to be responsible for life-threatening hormonal imbalances. Also, citrus seed extracts are not approved for cosmetic use in Europe and in Japan, and are therefore not an option in those countries.

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