Why We Don’t Use Animal Ingredients

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Why we don't use animal ingredients

From the beginning, WEBA Natural Products has taken a firm stand with regard to the use of animal ingredients in our products. While many personal care, clothing and food manufacturers may think differently on this topic, it is an ethical and aesthetic choice that makes sense for us.

Many consumers have argued that some ingredients don’t involve hurting animals, but we feel that this is a slippery slope. After all, how do they know? Are they expecting the cow or goat or bumble bee to scream “Don’t take that!”? We’d be surprised if they did. Let’s explore this practice and we’ll tell you why we feel the way we do.

A History of Using Animal Ingredients
Animal products have a long history in the personal care industry. The first soaps were made as far back as 2800 B.C. almost by accident. The basic recipe called for using wood ash and tallow, which consists of rendered animal fat (usually beef or pork). Many commercial “beauty” bars still use tallow (often labeled sodium tallowate), as it is an inexpensive by-product of factory farming. The same goes for gelatin, which is rendered by boiling animal cartilage and bone.

At first, these ingredients would be used in order to avoid waste and to save money. Before factory farming, local farmers made use of whatever was on hand, and they no doubt sold these products for a profit. Back “in the day” there were very few options for cleaning and bathing. Once these ingredient properties were found to be beneficial, they became more popular in many products, from soaps and skincare to cosmetics.

Can We Avoid Using Animal Ingredients?
Absolutely! Today, technology has made it possible for us to utilize plant-based and synthetic alternatives for many of the animal products that have been used in the past. As more and more consumers embrace a cruelty-free lifestyle, they want to be sure that the businesses that they support don’t use animal ingredients to create their skincare and cosmetic products. Below is a list of common animal ingredients alternatives that you will find in the marketplace.

  • Tallow – many plant-based oils, including palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter, can substitute for this ingredient. We’ll explain at a later time why we don’t use palm oil.
  • Gelatin – Agar is a suitable plant-based alternative to this animal ingredient.
  • Lanonin – Derived from the wool of sheep mostly. Again, cocoa butter would make a good substitute, and it smells great!< .li>
  • Squalene – Extracted from shark livers – yuk! Luckily, olive squalene is perfectly fine.
  • Collagen – Derived from animal tissue. While very popular as an anti-aging ingredient right now, its effectiveness in building up collagen is questioned; it is a large molecule. Oils like olive and amla are suitable.
  • Allantoin – Found in uric acid secreted from animals (usually horses). Fortunately, there are plant-based sources of allantoin.
  • Alpha-Hydroxy acids – There are both animal and plant sources. It’s important to read the label or contact the company to know what source they use.
  • Royal Jelly – Derived from the throat glands of honeybees. Its value is questionable. A good alternative is aloe vera gel.
  • Retinol and Retinoids – This only comes from animals. It’s used in many anti-aging creams, however, and it can cause irritation and sensitivity. As an alternative, try rosehip oil or Vitamin C, and eat more beta-carotene.

The list can go on, of course, so please check the References below. We hope that you’ll consider using products (like ours) that are free of animal ingredients and rich in plant-based oils and extracts.

References:
One Green Planet post on common cosmetic ingredients
Crueltyfree.org post on animal ingredients
Article on Alternatives to Retinol

The Benefits of Using Essential Oils

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Eucalyptus essential oil

What Are Essential Oils?

Before we can get into the benefits of Pre essential oils, let’s duscuss what essential oils are. They are highly-concentrated essences derived from different parts of aromatic plants, including bark, leaves and flowers. Essential oils have been in use for thousands of years, dating as far back as Egyptian times where they were used in mummification. Frankincense and Myrrh are but a few examples.

A number of methods are used to concentrate the plant’s potent compounds into an essential oil. There is the cold-process method, which invlives applying high amounts of pressure to the plant material and collecting it (much like cold pressing olives). Other methods include steam distillation, CO2 extraction, solvent extraction, and others. The first two involve the least amount of manipulation and do not involve the addition of solvents.

Benefits of Using Essential Oils

Today, essential oils are used in the beauty, spa and perfume industries for their aromatherapeutic properties and to impart natural scents to products. They have been found useful and effective as insect repellents and are included in everything from pain relief ointments to cleaning agents to toothpaste. Many herbalists and holistic practitioners find essential oils useful to their clients. Properties of specific essential oils are listed below.

Precautions with Using Essential Oils

While truly natural, pure essential oils are very potent, concentrated oils with hundreds of bio-active compounds. As such, they should never be applied directly to skin in their undiluted form. They are usually combined with a carrier oil before being sold for personal use. It is also important to do a patch test to determine whether or not one is allergic to a particular essential oils. Many oils can cause sun-sensitivity, or are inappropriate to use if one is pregnant or nursing. Finally, check the labels to see what the standardized concentrations are and what carrier oil is used, in order to avoid allergic reactions. If any oil causes redness or irritation, it should be discontinued. Essential oils are also expensive due to the work required to gather huge amounts of plant material for distillation. As a result, synthetic oils have been developed that do not contain the many active ingredients found in pure essential oils. Moreover, pure essential oil composition can vary depending on many factors, so standardized and synthetic versions are created to maintain consistency.

Phytoestrogens vs Xenoestrogens

There’s been some talk about the “estrogenic” activity of plants vs that of synthetic compounds. Many roots, seeds and grains contain what’s known as “phytoestrogenic” compounds – plant-based compounds that serve to reduce the amount of estrogen in the bloodstream. This can result in a reduction in menopausal symptoms in women, for example. “Xenoestrogens”, on the other hand, are synthetic compounds (like BPA) which can increase the body’s store of estrogen, with deleterious effects. If you have any doubts about using an essential oil, consult an herbal practitioner, particularly if you wish to use essential oils on young children.

Favorite Essential Oils

  • Eucalyptus Oil – A native of Australia, it contains the compound eucalyptol, a menthol found in rubs, inhalers, liniments, rash creams and mouthwashes.
  • Lavender Oil – There are a few varieties, with Lavendula Angustifolia being the most often used in aromatherapy. Its sweet, floral and herbaceous scent has been found to relax, sooth and refresh. It is very highly regarded in the beauty and perfume industries. It is also a wonderful culinary herb that likes sunchine and well-drained soil. It is the main essential oil in our best-selling “Relax” Botanical Handmade Bar Soap with Lavender and Rosemary Oils.
  • Lemongrass Oil – Cymbopogon Flexuosus has a light, fresh citrus aroma with earthy undertones. Rejuvenating, stimulating and balancing, it has been shown to improve mental clarity. It is also a popular culinary herb in Thai cuisine. It is the main essential oil in our “Purify” Botanical Bar Soap with Lemongrass Oil.
  • Sweet Orange Oil – Citrus Sinensis is naturally cold-pressed from fresh orange peels. It has a rich citrus scent that can be uplifting. It is high in the powerful antioxidant d-limonene and other antioxidants. It is the main essential oil in our “Indulge” Botanical Bar Soap with Orange Oil and Cocoa Powder and our “Awaken” Body Smoother Sugar Scrub.
  • Peppermint Oil – Mentha Piperita has a strong, clean, fresh minty aroma. Renowned for soothing digestion, it is popular in toothpaste and breath mints. It is one of the essential oils in our All Purpose Body Balm with Eucalyptus and Peppermint Oils. Avoid using on infants and young children.
  • Tea Tree Oil – Melaleuca Alternifolia is indigenous to Australia. It has been shown to contain compounds that can help soothe bites and other irritations, and has a wide range of uses. No medicine cabinet should be without it! It is one of the essential oils in our All Purpose Body Balm with Lavender and Tea Tree Oils and in our popular “Heal” Botanical Bar Soap with Tea Tree and Oatmeal.

References:
Organic Facts website
Essential Oils in the Ancient World, Part 1
Planta Medica paper on essential oils and estrogenic activity

Disclaimer: Statements made here are not intended to diagnose or treat diseases or medical conditions. Please consult a medical practitioner for assistance with these issues.

Self Tanner Dos and Don’ts

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Self tanner spray tan by professional

What is a self-tanner, and what are some Dos and Don’ts for their use?

A self-tanner is a cream or lotion containing chemicals that react with the skin’s surface to produce an artificial tan. They’ve been around for a long time, and no doubt most of us have tried one at least once. The FDA approved the use of the main ingredient, Dihydroxyacetone (or DHA), in the 1970s for use in self-tanners. Before this, people utilized the tannins found in tea leaves to stain the skin a darker color. Ugh!

Formulations have improved quite a bit since then. Unlike the products that made one look like a carrot, it’s now possible to have a fairly natural-looking tan (even tanning gradually) with the products on the market today.

Self Tanner Dos

There is the obvious reason for using a self-tanner: you avoid excess sun exposure which is known to damage the skin. One also gets instant gratification; instead of tanning for hours, an instant tan can be had with very little effort. For someone looking to look sunkissed for a special event, it is a quick and easy way to achieve the look without the risk of sunburn. Some self tanners also contain erythrulose, a carbohydrate that helps to produce a more natural-looking tan.

Self Tanner Don’ts

So what are the downsides to using a self-tanner? For one, some individuals may be sensitive to the main ingredient DHA. It has been shown to cause contact dermatitis in some individuals. More importantly, some studies have shown that sun exposure within 24 hours of applying DHA can cause free radical formation, thereby damaging skin cells. Therefore, it’s important for consumers to know that when using self-tanners containing this ingredient, they should avoid sun exposure for a period of time.

Many individuals also use tanning booths where the self-tanner is sprayed onto the skin. This increases the likelihood of inhaling DHA and other ingredients, which can have negative effects over time. Long-term effects of inhaling these ingredients is unknown. The dyes used in these products could also cause allergic reactions. In addition, many of the other ingredients found in self-tanners like fragrances and preservatives may also cause reactions in some individuals.

So can one find a self-tanner without DHA? Alternative ingredients are being developed for self-tanners that do not produce the same type chemical reaction. For example, the amino acid Tyrosine has been shown to possibly enhance melanin formation in the skin. Other ingredients like this include Vitamin D metabolite, retinoids, and Forskolin (derived from the Indian Coleus root). It may be some time before they are commonly available.

Alternatives to Self-Tanners

Another idea that involves zero commitment is to use cosmetics to create a temporary glow. Many cream and powder bronzers are available on the market that can be used on the face and body to provide some color. Ingredients used in cosmetics in the U.S. are regulated by the FDA. Even so, a patch test is always a good idea if your skin is particularly sensitive. Powders tend to have fewer ingredients than creams and lotions.

Regardless of which product you use, it’s always a good idea to obtain an ingredient list and to perform a patch test before using it all over. Read reviews and exercise caution when going out into the sun. With a little experimentation, you will be able to find the right self-tanner to give you the sunkissed glow you’re seeking.

References:
Wikipedia article on sunless tanning
Huffington Post article on self-tanners
Compound Interest article on the history of a fake tan

Health and Beauty Apps to Try

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Health and Beauty Apps to try

Health and Beauty apps are here to stay.

But which ones to try? With all of the app selections out there for iOS and Android phones, it can be difficult to pinpoint the ones to try, even when they are free. Here, we’ve focused on those apps that we found appealing based on their focus. Rather than sifting through a myriad of apps designed to encourage you to shop for a particular product, we’ve selected apps that do something else. Below is a list of interesting apps that help you make healthier, more ethical choices.

  • Healthy Living App – created by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to better health and the environment, it contains a database of approximately 120,000 personal care products and gives consumers an assessment score based on perceived toxicity. All you need to do is to enter a product name or scan its barcode. Products verified under its EWG-Verified label are also included. The app is free; for iOS/Android.
  • Think Dirty App – a journey that began with Founder and CEO Lily Tse’s family history of breast cancer has culminated in a project that has the support of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Breast Cancer Foundation, among others. With over 550,000 products listed in its database, it’s a good place to start if you want to know exactly what is in your personal care products. Free in the App Store and Google Play.
  • Cruelty-free App – created by the Coalition for Consumer Information in Cosmetics, this app allows you to search for products in their database that are certified cruelty-free under their “Leaping Bunny” program. As of this writing, reports are that the scan function needs work, but if you merely want to see which companies are listed, it’s a useful tool.
  • Good on You Ethical Fashion App – we thought to include this app here, although it is not related to beauty products. After all, why avoid harmful chemicals in your skincare if you wear a t-shirt made with pesticide-laden cotton, or made using child labor? Here you can find over 1,000 brands that maintain transparency in their manufacturing practices, so that you can feel good about what you put on. Want to know which of your favorites is playing dirty? You may find them here. Free in the Apple Store and in Google Play.
  • Zeel App – If you would love to have a massage, but often have to travel far or you can’t get away, here is a cool solution. With this app, you can schedule a massage in the comfort of your own home. Available in many locations throughout the U.S., you can sign up for a membership discount if you choose, or just schedule a massage as needed. What could be better?

We hope that these apps will help you find healthy products for yourself and your family. Do you know of another useful health/beauty app? Feel free to comment below.