Bottle or Jar?

You may have asked yourself why companies use a bottle or a jar for a particular skincare product. Does it really matter? The truth is that not all containers are created equal when it comes to particular formulations. Factors that affect the type of container used are:

  • Oil vs water based formula
  • Ingredients that go rancid quickly (e.g. argan, hemp oils)
  • Ingredients that degrade easily (e.g. botanical extracts, vitamins)
  • Exposure to light, heat and/or humidity
  • TSA package requirements
  • Shipping requirements

The best container for the job

When ingredients aren’t taken into consideration when choosing a bottle or jar, the result is often a less effective product. Many ingredients are expensive to source, so it makes sense for companies to choose the right container for skincare products. Here are a few quidelines:

  • For liquid formulations like soaps, gels, oils and lotions, a pump bottle works well. Opening sizes vary according to the viscosity of the liquid. It is a hygienic choice because hands don’t touch the product directly. This includes airless pumps, which introduce less air into the container, minimizing degradation. An example of this is our Vitamin C Face Creme with Niacinamide.
  • Plastic is preferable to glass if the product is used in the bath or kitchen in order to avoid having a product slip out of one’s hand and break. Check the bottom of the container to see which plastic is being used. Some are more recyclable than others. If a product is going to be heated (e.g. oil treatments), then glass is preferable, as it is inert and not likely to melt.
  • As a rule, if ingredients degrade or become rancid easily, a dark or opaque container is preferable to a clear one. Exposure to light will degrade many oils, vitamins and botanicals. As an alternative, keep the product either in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place.
  • For thick creams, body butters and scrubs, a tube works best. That’s because it minimizes the likelihood of touching the product directly. Jars are less preferable because of what’s known as “head space”, which sometimes necessitates the use of additional preservatives to minimize contamination. Possible exceptions are products that are oil-based with low rancidity like our body balms.  Another alternative is an airless jar, a recent innovation that reduces the chance of contamination.

If you are trying a product for the first time or if you’re using it infrequently, it’s best to buy the smallest possible size. Once opened, a product’s shelf life is limited to between 3 and 12 months. If, on the other hand, you’re buying a product that you use frequently, get the largest possible size to save money.

Travel Requirements and Skincare Products

The Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) has developed strict rules regarding what to pack when traveling. As a rule, any type of liquid must be 3.4 ounces or less and sealed in a quart-size airtight bag for carry-on luggage. Anything larger must be in a checked bag. Many companies sell sample-size products that will serve this purpose. As an extra precaution, it’s a good idea to cover the area between a bottle or jar and its dispenser with duct tape to prevent its opening. It’s also safer to carry products in plastic containers than in glass ones.

Should I Re-Bottle or Re-Jar a Skincare Product?

It’s not recommended that you re-bottle or re-jar a product once you receive it. Even if you are careful to sterilize everything, you’re exposing all of the product to the elements, which introduces airborne particles and other contaminants. Exceptions might be made for household products that don’t come in regular contact with skin, like dishwashing liquid or detergents. When it comes to skincare, however, it’s best to leave it to the pros.

References:
Allure article on skincare containers
Transportation Safety Authority liquids rules

which cleanser right skin type

Which Cleanser Is Right For My Skin Type?

There are three basic types of cleanser – 1)soaps; 2) surfactant (or detergent) cleansers; and 3) soap-free (or oil) cleansers. It may be difficult to know which cleanser is right for your skin type, with all of the choices available. Below are the basic differences to help you choose.

Soaps

Soaps can be divided into bar soaps and liquid soaps. Soaps have been around for thousands of years. Essentially, a soap is classified as a product created by combining an oil or fat with lye, or sodium hydroxide. If this process doesn’t occur, it can’t be called a soap. An example would be WEBA’s Lavender/Rosemary Bar Soap. Soaps tend to be more basic, with a pH between 10 and 12, depending upon how much sodium hydroxide is left behind and whether or not they are “superfatted.” Unlike our bar soaps, which retain glycerin and use premium butters like cocoa and shea, commercial soaps remove the glycerin for sale. It’s important to read labels; not all bar soaps are created equal. Bar soaps travel well and cost less to use than liquid soaps.

Liquid soaps are made by combining fats or oils with potash, or potassium hydroxide. This is a “hot process” reaction – the ingredients are heated for a period of time until the reaction is done, after which water is added. If less water is added, you have a gel. More water produces a thinner formula. These also tend to be more basic. A major difference between liquid and bar soaps is that with liquid soaps, a preservative must be added due to the high water content. Again, read labels to see what preservatives or other ingredients are used.

Soaps, because they clean so well, are generally fine for people with combination or oily skin, although soaps can have ingredients added to them which make them more moisturizing for all skin types. Many also find liquid soaps convenient and more hygienic than bar soaps. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

Surfactant (detergent) cleansers

Surfactant cleansers include detergents (e.g. dish detergent, laundry detergent) and are generally synthetics (made in a lab). Many of the “Beauty Bars” are, in fact, a combination of surfactants formed into a bar under high pressure. Some surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate have fallen into disrepute lately, but there are other naturally-derived surfactants like Coco Betaine, which cleans more gently compared with soaps. These tend to be better for persons with problem skin (acne, ezcema, etc.). This class of cleansers is popular in shampoos, as well, because many have conditioning properties.

Soap-free (oil) cleansers

Soap-free cleansers can include oil-free cream and oil cleansers. They are good for dry, combination and oily skin and are good at removing makeup. Oil-free cleansers consist entirely of surfactants, some synthetic and some naturally-derived, with perhaps a wax and conditioning agents. Reading the labels on these products can be confusing because of the chemical names. What is polyethylene? (A plastic resin). What is Methyl Lactate? (A solvent.) It can also be difficult to determine whether ingredients come from plants or animals. Most have water as their first ingredients, necessitating a preservative. And just because these products are soap-free doesn’t mean that you can’t react to one or more ingredients. Companies are required to provide common names on their labels; you can search for information about an ingredient if you’re not sure what it is.

Oil cleansers are also soap-free, but usually contain a combination of oils along with other beneficial ingredients. Again, check the label if you want to be sure that you’re not sensitive to an ingredient like nuts or certain essential oils. One example of an oil cleanser is our Whole Earth Body Actives Gentle Facial Cleansing Oil and Makeup Remover. Ours is free of essential oils, perfumes and dyes. These also tend to be used exclusively for the face, unlike other cleansers. They tend to be less irritating to the eyes.

Our recommendation? It’s probably best to use a variety of cleansers, depending on your family’s skincare needs and their particular use. For travel, bar soaps are best. When skin is dry, try a cream cleanser. To remove makeup and excess oils, try an oil cleanser. Regardless of which you choose, always check labels so you know what is going on your skin, and to avoid irritation.

References:
Aussie Soap Supplies article on surfactants
FDA webpage on ingredient names and labeling

Why We Don't Use Palm Oil Blog Post

Why We Don’t Use Palm Oil in Our Products

The Palm Oil controversary continues and shows no sign of letting up. Why is this raw ingredient so controversial, and what, if anything, can the consumer do about it? It may help to point out the history of palm oil and its growth in popularity over the years. Only then will it become clear why we don’t want to use palm oil.

History of Palm Oil

Elaeis guineensis, or the African Oil Palm, is one of the most common and prolific raw materials grown today. It has been around for thousands of years. Originating in Africa, where it is a common cooking oil, it is now grown throughout Southeast Asia and South America. During the Industrial Revolution, it was used as a lubricant. Both palm fruit oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fat (49% and 81%, respectively), which makes it a popular shelf-stable ingredient in processed foods. It is also relatively low in cost. In fact, palm oil is found in everything from baked goods to personal care products to gasoline and biofuels. As a result, palm oil plantations have exploded in growth over the past ten years.

Because it does not contain trans fats, its use exploded after trans fats were declared unhealthy by the Food and Drug Administration. However, there is some controversy over whether palm oil is a healthier substitute for trans fats in our diets. After all, palm oil is high in saturated fat, which is implicated in higher LDL and triglyceride levels than, say, polyunsaturated oils like olive oil.

Environmental Impact of Palm Oil

Oil palms are grown by the thousands as a monocrop. As with any such operation, large quantities of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides are often used, which leaves an indelible mark on air, water, soil and farmers’ health. Another serious problem has to do with deforestation. The world’s rainforest are hosts to hundreds of animal species that rely on them for their survival. The rampant deforestation taking place in places like Indonesia (the largest producer), Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra threaten keystone species like the Orangutan. They are now at risk for total extinction. This should not be. Rainforest destruction also results in an increase in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere through clear-cutting and burning. We need our rainforests to sequester CO2 and to contribute to biodiversity and habitats for many endangered species.

Can We Eliminate Palm Oil?


This would be a challenge because palm oil and its by-products are everywhere. It is easier to find palm oil in processed foods than in cleaning products or personal care products, because its byproducts have many names. Many product labels will not list palm oil specifically, but will list an ingredient by its chemical, or INCI, name. For example, Stearic acid, a common skincare ingredient, is derived from palm oil. Some beauty bars and cosmetics may list sodium palmate, which is another name for saponified palm oil. Squalene and some tocopherols, also common in skincare products, may be derived from palm oil. The curious consumer would have to contact the manufacturer to find out if palm oil byproducts are being used. One way to do it is with the help of the Codecheck Food & Cosmetics Scanner app, available on iTunes and Google Play. At WEBA Natural Products, we have made every effort to source sustainable raw materials that do not contain palm oil. Our bar soaps are one of the few manufactured in the United States that are free of palm oil and palm kernel oil. Luckily, there are alternative raw materials available that are sourced from olive, sunflower and coconut oils instead of palm oil. These ingredients may cost more, but we believe that saving our precious rainforests more than makes up for the added cost. We believe that our consumers will think so, too. References: Grist article on palm oil and rainforests
Saynotopalmoil.com information
Wikipedia information about palm oil
FDA page on the use of palm oil
Harvard Health Letter article on palm oil
Palm oil fruit from oil palm plantation
What is lurking in your yoga mat?

The question of what is lurking in your yoga mat may not have come across your mind recently. After all, yogis are into their practice, and give only a passing thought to what they are sitting on. As a woman who tends to perspire profusely during and after a workout, I tend to want to keep my mat (and other equipment) as clean as possible without  adding to my body’s burden of chemicals. And a recent article published in Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrating a link between the use of flame retardants in plastic yoga mats and fertility outcomes raised some concerns. Another study found pathogenic bacteria in large quantities on yoga mats that were not regularly cleaned. Considering how many times my face and hands touch my mat, this gave me pause. So what’s a practitioner to do? Let’s begin by looking at the types of mats out there.

Types of Yoga Mats

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)  – PVC mats often had plasticizers added, which increased the number of chemicals (namely lead, dioxin, and phthalates) employed in their manufacture. All of these chemicals are of known toxicity. These mats are not earth-friendly or biodegradable. Some mats may also contain latex, which some are allergic to.
  • Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), which is a more environmental and health friendly  alternative. TPE is a combination of rubber and plastic and is said to be biodegradable and recyclable.
  • Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA), thinner than PVC and TPE, considered less toxic than PVC. Its manufacture does not require the use of a plasticizer like PVC, and is BPA-free. It is acceptable for use in baby products like teethers and in shoe soles.
  • Natural Latex Rubber – A naturally derived product extracted from rubber trees. It tends to be thicker and heavier than the other materials, and can take longer to dry when washed. It also contains latex, so those who are allergic to this material should avoid it. It is a more biodegradable and chemical-free alternative to synthetic materials. Just remember that it can degrade in sunlight or with the use of certain essential oils.
  • Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (NBR) – A synthetic rubber-like compound (what nitrile gloves are made of).
  • Natural Cork – While sustainably sourced, they may not be as “sticky” when dry, necessitating spraying before use. They look beautiful and are a little more expensive.
  • Organic cotton/jute – The most natural and earth-friendly alternative. They can be a little scratchy, but provide sufficient friction. Some can be put in the wash. These can also be more expensive.

Given all of the alternatives out there, it behooves us to ask the right questions and find out how companies manufacture their mats if you want to avoid harmful out-gassing of chemicals from your yoga mat.

Cleaning your Yoga Mat

Specific yoga mat cleaners are available, but it’s really easy to make one yourself from 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar to which a few drops of essential oil are added. (This is less drying than rubbing alcohol.) Tea Tree, Lavender and Eucalyptus are favorites. Let dry in a well-ventilated area.

Let’s find out what’s lurking in our yoga mats and take steps to stay healthy and buy earth-friendly products. Namaste!

References:
Article in Gymgearinfo.com about PVC and TPE mats
Article in TypeAYoga.com re: what you need to know