Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why is it important to be chemical free?

It’s funny that I am completing this blog today given the work I had to do to calm a customer down a few moments ago. She had just read an article which directed her to a website that made her panic about all the “ingredients that cause cancer” in her cosmetic and household cleaning products. She told me the story of how she wept over throwing out all kinds of favourite products as she was terrified for her life and the lives of her children. She dumped a pile of products on my counter and begged for help so she could understand what she had to throw away.
I did manage to calm her down, and taught her a little about how to read labels, and offered better websites to look at and sent her on her way with some organic shower gel, unscented shea butter and some custom scented blood orange lotion to get her started with some simpler things.

In 1993 when I was making the plans to start a bath product company I was pretty naïve. I never thought much about the things that companies put in bath products; I was all in this for the fragrances. If I liked the scent, I liked the product. When I started manufacturing I got lucky and my first suppliers of raw materials were chemical free. I became aware of going chemical free early enough that lots of people thought I was bananas for researching it and insisting on it.

As soon as I started to import products from small companies like TerraNova (the original USA Body Shop until 1989) Lather and Virginia’s Soap I learned more and more about good ingredients and company integrity. The words “all natural” had only just started to be used and were mostly only used in small stores. I had been a Body Shop product lover since the early 80’s when it was already in Canada when we made the pilgrimage to the Toronto Eaton Centre to buy chunks of hand cut Glycerin soap and Banana Shampoo(The Body Shop did not come to the USA until 1989) so I knew that “no testing on animals” and natural ingredients were something that appealed to me. Little did I know many of the companies were not telling us the whole truth about the “natural” ingredients they were using.

The first step in becoming chemical free is to learn to read labels and ask questions, but as we should learn from the woman here this morning DON'T PANIC!
Over the years I have developed a list of chemicals that are on my avoid list(note I said avoid, not freak out and throw everything you own with these ingredients into a landfill, just don’t buy much more unless it falls into your 10% category):

Petroleum and all its other names and derivatives: Mineral oil, petrolatum etc- are pretty much useless for the skin and hair and come from non renewable resources. I prefer Shea Butter based body moisturizers like my
Double Rich Body Butter and vegetable oil based lip balms like the Badger Balm Lip balms to replace your petroleum based stuff.

Animal Fats –For most of history soap has been made with animal fat. It was cheap & readily available on the family farm, but with all the processing meat goes through and the hormones often injected into the animals not to mention the pore clogging behaviour of the animal fat (yes, pore CLOGGING) I would rather avoid using it to make my skin care. Vegetable Based soap is a good choice, Vermont soap is my favourite. Watch for my personally handmade soap in the store on occasion too!

Silicones –A man made chemical in many skin and hair products. Mostly useless for skin in a similar way as petroleum is, and especially useless for hair. A little in your makeup won’t hurt you, but man made chemicals should be avoided as much as possible.
For hair, the newest Deva product called Mirror Curls is the most awesome silicone shine product substitute I can imagine!

Parabens- preservatives that have been loosely linked to breast cancer, although the studies are inconclusive. But better safe than sorry (I already had Breast Cancer, I don’t wanna go there again) as a precaution many companies like ours have decided to avoid them in their products. Use products that use alternative preservatives like our ellënoire Boutique Brand Lotions or ask me about products that need no preservatives!

Sulfates – cheap detergents found in shampoo, toothpaste, bodywash, bubble bath, dish soap, and engine degreasers. Frankly, anything used in engine degreasers really shouldn’t be in the bulk of your skin care products. Did you know these harsh detergents dry your skin/scalp out so much you could have a skin condition that would never have existed 100 years ago? You should try a soap or shampoo that actually hydrates as it cleans, or at least leaves natural, vegetable based moisture behind that the skin can absorb. The occasional bubble bath is fine and falls into my 90/10 rule of product and ingredient choices. Try a Deva Hair and Scalp Cleanser (not just for curly hair, just ask me for more info) like NoPoo or LowPoo, and an Organic Shower Gel

I hope this helps, I know this is all kind of hard to understand. Trust me, I have to do my research all the time to make sure I know what I am talking to you about and sometimes I still cannot believe that companies that want us to trust them are using ingredients that could be harmful, or cause skin reactions just because they are cheap... but skin care is a huge industry and you have to do your best to find companies you can go to to ask questions so you can decide who to trust.
I will always be here to help, just ask...