Acids and Skincare Blog Post

Acids and Skincare

A variety of acids are commonly used as part of a customer’s skincare routine. Science has demonstrated that alpha and beta-hydroxy acids, for example, confer a number of benefits to the skin when used regularly and appropriately. Here, I will dive into what makes these acids so beneficial and why it’s important to tailor products containing acids to your skin’s particular needs.

What Are Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids?

Alpha Hydroxy acids are water-soluble compounds that have two functioning groups separated by one carbon atom. They can be either naturally occurring or synthetic; they are very popular in skincare products. Well-known examples include citric, lactic, mandelic and glycolic acid. Citric and mandelic acid are known as fruit acids. There are many other fruit acids that have been used (tartaric, benzoic, etc.)

Alpha Hydroxy acids primarily work by loosening the “glue” that holds cells together, which enhances exfoliation. They can also help thicken underlying layers of skin, which promotes smoothness. Some are more penetrating than others, impacting their effectiveness. For example, glycolic acid molecules are very small; its enhanced penetrating ability means that it is highly effective at exfoliating and hydrating. However, susceptible individuals my have a reaction to it.

They are also found at varying concentrations of anywhere from 2-15% or more. The best products will tell you what concentrations they are using. They are used in over-the-counter and commercial peels, which can also cause irritation. If in doubt about the strength of a product, always consult with a dermatologist, especially if you have sensitive or problem skin. In addition, AHAs like citric acid can be unstable when exposed to the air, so which type is used and how the product is formulated is key to its effectiveness.

Beta Hydroxy Acids are oil-soluble organic compounds with two functional groups separated by two carbon atoms. The most well-known is salicylic acid, derived from white willow bark. These acids penetrate well and are more suited to individuals with problem skin due to their anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be found in varying concentrations, so always check labels before using.

Both Alpha Hydroxy and Beta Hydroxy acids can increase the skin’s sensitivity to light, so it’s always a good idea to use a sunscreen during the day or to apply them only at night. And always discontinue use if redness, itching and other forms of irritation develop, as you may need to adjust the concentration or you may be developing an allergic reaction to an ingredient.

These organic acids can be very effective skincare tools, providing many benefits that maintain healthy skin and enhance appearance. What you use is dependent on your skincare goals and your skin type. Feel free to experiment with different products and formulations, or consult a dermatologist for a custom-tailored regimen that will leave your skin healthy and glowing.

References:

Beeswax Honey Pinterest graphic Blog Post

Why We Avoid Beeswax and Honey

Why We Avoid Beeswax and Honey

There are a number of reasons why we avoid beeswax and honey – both in our skincare products and in our diet. Many of us grew up putting honey on our pancakes and burning hand-rolled beeswax candles. We may even have tasted a real honeycomb. But times have changed. Colony collapse disorder is threatening to render the honeybee, as well as many other native bees, extinct. For a species that has been around for tens of billions of years, this is truly concerning.

It is important to understand the role that bees play in agriculture. Yes, they pollinate our flowers, but they are also crucial to the production of about 30% of the world’s crops. That includes such crops as berries, avocados, apples, citrus fruits, sunflowers, and the list goes on. Without bees, most of these crops would cease to exist. While other animals are known to transfer pollen, bees are the workhorses of the agricultural world.

Why Are Bees Dwindling in Number?

There are many theories; here are a few:

  • Large agricultural operations with hundreds of acres of a single crop require a huge number of bees in order to produce a large harvest. To do this, they often “rent” bees from individuals who truck them in from far away. Prolonged travel puts a tremendous strain on the bees. Feeding on just one type of crop can suppress their immune system, leading to disease.
  • Bees involved in large commercial operations are often fed poor diets consisting primarily of high fructose corn syrup during these long trips across the country, which leaves them weakened and susceptible to disease.
  • Environmental factors like high levels of pesticides, excessive heat and a changes in flower growth patterns leave the bees with less food and damaged immune systems.

To learn more about these issues, watch the documentary https://youtu.be/CBmlwx_6A8Q on Youtube.

What Can We Do To Help The Bees?

The demand for both beeswax and honey continues to grow. In much the same way as palm oil (which we also avoid), these products are found in everything from skincare products to furniture wax to candies, candles, etc. This can only fuel in increased use of bees in ways that leave them vulnerable to disease and death. While there are thousands of bee species, the few that produce honey are the ones that are relied on to produce ever increasing amounts of honey and beeswax. Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Avoid the use of pesticides. Not only have they been implicated in colony collapse disorder, but repeated exposure may put your health at risk, as well. Use natural means like vinegar (for killing weeds), diatomaceous earth (avoid inhaling), and hand picking to eliminate pests. Use companion plants (e.g. tomatoes and basil), which will encourage good bugs to take care of pests. After all, pesticides can kill beneficial species like bees as well.
  • Avoid products containing commercially-produced honey and beeswax (Cera alba). Although honey, propolis and royal jelly have been touted for their health-promoting properties, these products are not essential for good health and these claims have not been substantiated scientifically. Moreover, more and more consumers are experiencing sensitivity to beeswax. Harvesting these products disturbs the bee’s habits and habitat in some way – which is something that we’d like to avoid. There are many substitutes for honey like maple syrup, agave nectar, and simple syrup made from organic cane sugar. Instead of beeswax, we use candelilla wax, carnauba wax, sunflower wax, and (in the future) bayberry or non-gmo rapeseed wax in our products. For example, we have been using sustainably-harvested candelilla wax in our Body Balms since Day 1. So check your labels or go online and find out what ingredients are in your skincare products. And look for plant-based, vegan and gmo-free products.
  • Buy local whenever possible. That includes local produce, seeds and flowering plants. If you can grow your own food, do so organically. Plant flowers that attract bees like bee balm, purple coneflower and sunflowers. And if you must enjoy honey and beeswax, buy local honey from reputable independent beekeepers. They are more fully committed to preserving the bees’ habitats and health.
  • Learn more about the indigenous bee species that live in your area. Many bee species do not produce honey, but their important role as pollinators should not be ignored.

Let us strive to co-exist with these workhorses, while helping them to thrive and grow in number.

References:
The Kind Life blog post on beeswax
Article on market demand for beeswax
Smallbones Studio article on beeswax candles
PETA article on factory-farmed bees
BBC Earth article about bees

DIY skincare products and how to preserve them

DIY Skincare Products And How To Preserve Them

So you want to make DIY skincare products.

If so, you have lots of company. The main question here is how to preserve them. This is even more important if you are thinking about making skincare products using natural ingredients and botanicals. Even DIYers should have a basic knowledge of how to preserve their products if they want them to remain safe and effective over time.

Why Is Preservation Important?

  • The ingredients themselves may have been contaminated by the supplier during extraction or transport.
  • You might inadvertently contaminate the product depending on where and how you create it (airborne particles, non-sterile utensils or containers, etc.)
  • The product may be improperly stored (high heat, improper container, exposure to sunlight, etc.)
  • The product may contain ingredients that require preservation like botanicals, clays and hydrosols, and there is none (more on this below
  • The product may have the right pH level for optimal growth (e.g. between 3 and 8)
  • Which Contaminants Do Preservatives Work On?

    There are three main contaminants – bacteria, yeast, and mold. The most common contaminants are:

    • Staph aureus – bacterium
    • E. coli – bacterium
    • Pseudomonas Euruginosa – bacterium
    • Candida albicans (yeast)
    • Aspergillus niger (mold)

    These organisms have the potential to cause serious problems – even more so if you are making DIY cosmetics which go near the eyes. Regardless of where they go, who wants to spread these little guys on the skin?!

    While there are some chemical compounds that protect against all three – like bleach – these are not candidates for skincare products. What usually happens is that manufacturers use a combination of preservatives that, when combined, effectively prevent bacteria, yeast and mold from growing in a formulation. Basically, wherever you have water, you have the potential to have one or more of these contaminants in your finished product. These organisms love water. Therefore, oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions MUST be preserved. Even if your product is refrigerated, the shelf life will be relatively short. You could get around this by using small containers (1 oz or smaller). However, if your product was already contaminated due to the situations mentioned above, these organisms can multiply in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind that our skin hosts bacteria, so every time you dip your finger into the product, you are introducing contaminants. Why not be on the safe side?

    Which Preservatives Are Effective Against Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold?

    This requires that you do a little homework. There are many alternatives available to DIY crafters, and it’s important to review the details of each and to know the amounts that must be used. You may be asking if essential oils can be used as preservatives. The short answer is “No”. Essential oils are very potent plant extracts, and as such are difficult to standardize. They can also cause irritation in higher quantities, which you would probably need in order for them to work as preservatives. Thus, an essential oil combination that is effective against all three contaminants may be too overwhelming to be used in a skincare formulation. You will find a list of common preservatives in a link in the References.

    How To Prevent Contamination With DIY Skincare Products

    • Make your product oil-based or anhydrous – without water. Organisms cannot grow in an oil-based medium. The balms are all-purpose, super-moisturizing formulas containing antioxidants like Vitamin E and Rosemary oil, but no synthetic preservatives. Check out our body balms
    • Don’t introduce water into your product – whether it is oil-based or not. With oil-based products, once you introduce water, if they are not preserved, then organisms will grow. This is especially true for products like sugar scrubs. Although many are oil-based, if you use them in the shower and get water into them, they have become
      contaminated.
    • Use tubes or airless containers for your products. This is becoming more popular among major skincare retailers for their water-based products, and for good reason. Products in tubes and airless containers are not exposed to dirty fingers or outside contamination. This allows them to last longer with less rancidity.
    • Adjust the pH of your product. One of the reasons why bar and liquid soap do not need preservatives is that their pH is generally 10 or above – not a friendly growth environment. The same goes for a pH below 4. It’s important to know what pH your final product is so that you can choose the right broad-spectrum preservative.
    • Use high-sugar, high-salt or glycerin in your products. Most bacteria and yeast need water to grow, and sugar and salt draw water out of product it’s in. Glycerin works similarly, but must be in too high a concentration (70%) to provide a pleasant feel. However, its moisturizing properties make it a popular ingredient in skincare products.

    Making your own skincare products can be instructional and fun. If done properly and with the right preservatives, you can craft something that you can be proud of, while ensuring safety. So whatever the reason for DIY skincare – whether it’s to avoid problematic chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, or fragrance, make sure that you do your homework and use techniques that will keep your product contaminant-free.

    References:
    Making Skincare website article on preservatives and resources
    Scientific American article on salt and sugar preservation
    Natural News article on parabens

    Silicones in skincare and haircare

    Pros and Cons of Silicones in Skincare and Haircare

    Why Silicones in Skincare and Haircare?

    You may have noticed that many different silicones can be found in skincare and haircare products today. There are a number of reasons why formulators – and customers – like products containing silicone. With many names, some ending in “oxane”, they are in cosmetics, as well. There are also reasons to be cautious when using skincare and haircare products containing silicone. It’s important to know, first of all, what silicone is and how they are used in skincare and haircare products.

    What Is Silicone?

    Silicone – also called polysiloxane – is a synthetic polymer derived from the element silicon and oxygen atoms. Silicon is extracted from common sand with a variety of chemicals, most of which are recycled or inert (e.g. water). It’s been used in personal care products for more than 30 years, which comprises about 15% of all uses for silicones. It is now used in everything from breast implants and beauty blenders to products found at Home Depot. Because it repels water, it’s useful for projects that require a waterproofing substance. Two types of silicone are commonly used; water soluble and non-water soluble.

    Silicones In Skincare

    If you look at the labels on most skincare and cosmetic products, you’ll find ingredients like Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane and Cyclohexasiloxane. These silicones are not water soluble. Silicones are popular in primers for their ability to leave skin feeling silky smooth, and they tend to reflect light. Most recently, polymers like Polybutene and Polyisobutene may appear on your product labels. It’s becoming more difficult to identify silicones in beauty products. For those of us who are looking to avoid synthetics, it’s becoming almost impossible to avoid them in skincare products. That, in and of itself, is troubling. Consumers should be able to choose whether or not to use products containing synthetic polymers that don’t benefit the skin in any long-lasting way.

    So what’s so wrong about silicone in skincare? The answer often depends on your skin type and personal preferences. The moisture-trapping nature of silicone may mean that it also traps other substances (like dirt and oils) that may cause breakouts. And while everyone loves smooth-looking skin, it’s a short-lived effect rather than the result of a product’s impact on the skin. Their water-repellent nature can also make them more difficult to remove, which requires more intense cleansing at the end of the day.

    We’ve decided to avoid using silicones in our Whole Earth Body Actives Vitamin C Face Cream. Instead, we’ve incorporated isoflavones derived from bamboo to smooth and enhance the skin’s appearance.

    Silicones in Haircare

    At first, the benefits of using silicones in haircare may seem obvious. They serve to smooth our frizzines, and who doesn’t love that? However, the water-repellent nature of most silicones can cause them to accumulate in their hair, making it heavy. Removing this product from their hair then requires the use of a deep-cleaning (e.g. harsher) clarifying shampoo. For dry, curly hair, this can do more harm than good. For many, the use of a nourishing oil like coconut or argan would be preferable to smoothing a synthetic all over the hair. Recently, some products formulate with water-soluble silicones that are easier to wash out. Examples are hydrolyzed wheat protein and ingredients that begin with PEG.

    Finally, there’s a question of sustainability and eco-friendliness with this ingredient. Petroleum by-products are used to create silicones, which begs the question: do we want such a by-product in our skincare and haircare products? There may also be a question of bioaccumulation in the environment and what this means for wildlife. Given the furor over the use of plastic beads, it’s something to think about.

      References:

    Silicone discussion in Wikipedia
    Dow Corning Information about Silicone
    Health Canada’s webpage on the safety of cosmetic ingredients