A blog chronicling skin care, DIY beauty products, wishes and daydreams, life transitions, and other random stuff...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Natural Products, Science, Preservatives and My Products

I've been making scrubs, balms, facial masks and more for over ten years.  I'm a self-proclaimed Bitchen Kitchen Beautician.  Almost one year ago, I decided to leave my full-time corporate job to pursue my passion for skin care.  I educated myself by getting my esthetician's license and attending product seminars to get a deeper insight on the anatomy of skin and a broader understanding of ingredients.

As a student, I've learned a lot about scientific breakthroughs and trends, as well as old-school ingredients and facial methods that still work.  I believe that nature's ingredients are great on their own, but science and safe chemicals boost the effects of those natural ingredients.  I use 99% natural ingredients in my bath and body products.  I depend on the safest chemicals to preserve my lotions and scrubs.  Without preservatives, products containing water will last a few days, at most, then rapidly grow bacteria, mold and fungus.  I'd rather have a tiny amount of tested, safe preservative on my skin than bacteria or mold!  So I use only .05% of preservative in my lotion recipe.  The rest is all luscious, natural, organic oils, butters and herbs.  

My products have a shelf life of one year.  The products that you buy at the drugstore or pricey department store counter will last four or five years.  Why?  They are often so full of water and fillers that they need a lot of chemicals and preservatives to keep them "safe" from bacteria, fungus and mold.  But the trade-off is paying for a product containing very low-quality, inexpensive ingredients and fancy marketing.   Read the ingredients list:  There's usually a lot more water and chemicals in the product than the trendy new magic ingredient highlighted on the label.

That being said, there are amazing ingredients being produced in science labs that are also safe and extremely helpful in skin care, so don't be intimidated by every long Latin ingredient name.  Many natural ingredients provide excellent benefits, but their molecules are too small to penetrate the skin in the most effective way.  Scientists can break down those molecules so that we will receive the most value from a plant.

Regarding the controversy over PARABENS:  well, I believe that parabens have a slightly bad rap.  As a product creator, I've done a lot of research on safe preservatives and parabens.  I've found that there is no concrete evidence that they cause breast cancer in humans.  A test was done on mice, injecting ridiculous amounts of pure paraben in to the little lab mouse, and they found an accumulation of parabens in their breast tumors.  We'll never ingest that amount in our entire lifetime.  

Parabens exist naturally in food.  I've read that we consume ten times the amount of parabens from food than skin care products. Natural foods such as strawberries, mangoes, alfalfa sprouts, royal bee jelly or split peas contain parabens.  Almost all processed foods contain them, such as bacon, cereals, cake mixes and frosting.  But I see people very happily ingesting strawberries, bacon and cupcakes and terrified of a tiny amount of paraben in their lotion.  

In regards to anything in life, use everything in moderation.  That being said, I'm still not 100% convinced that parabens are 100% safe, and I figure most consumers would rather be safe than sorry.  This month, I'm switching to a new paraben-free preservative with my next batch of lotion and will send that to a lab for microbial testing.  The catch?  A lot of scientists are coming up with new preservatives, but their ingredients have not been tested as thoroughly as paraben-based preservatives.  The long-term effects are not well known at this point.

My choice is to avoid loading my products with anything very controversial or untested.  Therefore, I deal with costly manufacturing challenges by making products in small batches that can't sit on a shelf for five years.  I use the minimal amount of preservative so that the product is pure, clean, bacteria-free and safe.  

The link below is a little nerdy article about parabens in our food and our cosmetics:
Parabens in Food and Cosmetics - Futurederm article