Maybe I’m a little hungry, or maybe I’m a little crazy, but this pizza perfectly illustrates the skincare concepts that I want to talk about today. And if you are vegan, please use your imagination and pretend this pizza is made with soy cheese and tofurky pepperoni… everything I say will apply to your pizza also.
Bloggers across the world are extolling the virtues of skincare products with fewer ingredients (somehow five seems to be the maximum acceptable number), and telling us to avoid all ingredients that we cannot pronounce. “Chemical” is becoming synonymous with “toxic” and “naturally derived” has become a code word for “safe”. Broad categories of ingredients are labeled as “bad”, regardless of what the ingredient really is (isopropyl alcohol is an entirely different animal from cetyl alcohol) or the purpose of the ingredient (preservatives will be tackled in the next blog). Next we will take a closer look at some of these concepts.
Skincare Products Should Have Five or Fewer Ingredients
Why? I’m really not sure where this concept came from, but let’s take a look at our pizza for help. At first look our pizza perfectly fits into the five ingredient criteria… crust, cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni and olives make five, right? Ummm, not really. Pizza crust contains flour, oil, yeast and salt, and if white flour is used it will most likely contain niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. Uh oh, we’ve passed the five ingredient mark and haven’t even put a topping on our little pizza yet. Does that make pizza a bad food? Never!
For the same reason an abundance of good ingredients make our pizza better, an abundance of good ingredients enhance our skincare products. At Daisy G’s we take pride in our formulas, using as many ingredients as it takes to create products that effectively perform their desired function. Although we do make one soap for extremely sensitive skin with only three ingredients, our standard soap recipe uses our exclusive blend of four oils and two butters. Each of these oils and butters was selected for a specific reason, and we are happy to explain our choices whenever asked!
Some skincare companies will hide ingredients, much as listing “crust” on our pizza would hide an assortment of ingredients. Listing a combination of ingredients such as “essential oil blend”, “soap”, or “colorants” as one ingredient is not only deceptive, it is illegal. The FDA provides strict guidelines on cosmetic labeling. These guidelines can be complex at times, however proper labeling is crucial to helping consumers make educated and safe choices.
If You Can’t Pronounce an Ingredient it Isn’t Safe
Back to our pizza, did you know that most black olives have added ferrous gluconate? Some people may see this on a label and look for another brand of olives, only to find that upon opening the new can that the olives are somewhat greyish and not black as expected. Some people understand that the ferrous gluconate is iron that has been added to keep the olives a bright black color. And I’m sure most people just buy the can of olives that is on sale!
The fact is, ingredient safety is not tied to pronounceability. Many of our customers struggle with pronouncing “jojoba” and “verbena“, and that’s OK. Just ask, and we will be happy to help you pronounce these or any ingredient names you are struggling with, it’s our job. We will also be happy to tell you why each of our ingredients makes the product better… if an ingredient doesn’t make a product better we would simply not include it.
Chemicals are Toxic but Natural and “Naturally Derived” Products are Safe
Yikes! This is a real minefield, I can’t believe I’m actually tackling this one. First, let’s get some definitions out of the way. Our bodies are made of chemicals, we breathe chemicals, our food is made of chemicals, and so on. But I understand that many people define “chemicals” as “lab created” or even “toxic” so I’ll try to be as clear and specific as can so there is no ambiguity.
The easy part of this statement to disprove is that “natural” means safe. Rattlesnake venom, oleanders, rabid bats and arsenic are all natural and all toxic. There is nothing inherently safe about natural substances. Additionally, there is no universally accepted definition of what cosmetic ingredients are “natural” and what are not. At Daisy G’s we define “natural” as one step of refinement from start to finish. For example, lavender essential oil is lavender plant material that has been distilled to extract only the oil from the plants. We consider this a natural ingredient. Soy wax, on the other hand, is considered natural by many people, however the manufacturing process requires the oil from the soybeans (which are genetically modified) to be extracted with hexane, then hydrogenated by a chemical process to form hydrogenated soybean oil, or soy wax. At Daisy G’s we do not consider this to be a natural ingredient (and by nature of being derived from a genetically modified plant we do not use it). Many of our products are made entirely from natural ingredients, and are clearly stated on the front of the label.
The flip side of this side is the safe use of artificial ingredients. In some cases there is no natural ingredient to give the desired effect in a product, so safe lab created ingredients may be called for. One of these cases is in the case of preservatives, which will be addressed in our next blog post. Another example is the allantoin that we add to our lotions and creams. Allantoin is found naturally in our bodies, however we use a lab created version to ensure purity. Allantoin is used to increase the water content and improve the appearance of skin by smoothing the outer layers of the skin. Natural oils can form a barrier, but because they do not contain water it is impossible to actually moisturize the skin. We fully believe that our lotions and creams are superior to non-moisturizing oils.
How does this relate to our pizza? Well, did you know that tomatoes in our pizza sauce are in the same plant family as deadly nightshade? Belladonna (deadly nightshade) is both a deadly toxin, and a powerful medicine depending on how it is used.
Broad Categories of “Bad” Ingredients
Some categories of ingredients are considered by many to be “bad” in the entirety: alcohol, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and formaldehyde are some categories that are commonly mentioned. Product labels boldly proclaim “alcohol free”, “paraben free”, and so on. At Daisy G’s we do not use parabens, sulfates, or phthalates and we will not address the safety of these ingredients (although many forms of these are entirely safe to use in proper amounts).
The ingredient of ours that draws the most skepticism is our cetyl alcohol. Consumers tend to equate alcohol with rubbing alcohol and are unaware that there are a wide range of alcohols. Cetyl alcohol is a “fatty alcohol”, a solid waxy substance derived from vegetable material. I call cetyl alcohol my “fluffifier” because it provides a thick but “fluffy” feel in a lotion or cream as opposed to a stiffer feel that is more difficult to spread on the skin.
And if you want to avoid parabens, you will need to pass on eating any of our pizza. Both onions and tomatoes (along with strawberries, blueberries and many more foods) contain parabens.
Our next blog post will tackle the issue of preservatives, if you are interested in learning more please subscribe to the blog!
Compound Chemistry: Natural vs. Man Made Chemicals http://www.compoundchem.com/2014/05/19/natural-vs-man-made-chemicals-dispelling-misconceptions/
Are You Eating Parabens? http://www.herbhedgerow.co.uk/are-you-eating-parabens/
Cosmetic Ingredient Review http://www.cir-safety.org/
FDA Cosmetic Labeling Requirements https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/labeling/