Spotlight: Parabens

Photo credit TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/explosivofilms/8355301288/

There are a few major types of preservatives that are safe for use and that are effective.  Parabens are one of these, and the focus of the spotlight for this blog post.

Because of a misinterpretation of a study done in 2004, parabens got a pretty bad name.  This is why “paraben-free” is a selling point for cosmetics, bath, and beauty products.  However, P. Darbre and the rest of the scientists who authored that 2004 paper have clarified that their study set out to detect parabens and that “no claim was made that the presence of parabens had caused the breast cancers”. (page 1, page 2).  There were no control studies to compare cancerous tissue against non-cancerous tissue.  Likewise, no studies were conducted to see if paraben concentration was spread through the body or only concentrated nearest to the armpit.

Cancer charities such as the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK have come out with statements saying parabens don’t cause cancer (and these folks are the preeminent researchers in those fields). If the presence of parabens wasn’t the cause of breast cancer, why was there a study to detect parabens?  It’s because parabens are suspected to be oestrogenic, which means they behave like estrogen in the body.  Estrogen stimulates breast cells, and higher lifetime exposures to estrogen have been linked to higher incidences of breast cancer.

However, estrogen treatment has also been linked to protective results against Alzheimer’s.  Hormone replacement therapy that is estrogen-only is linked to higher rates of cancer only if the therapy goes on for more than 10 years.  Parabens, while oestrogenic, are hundreds to thousands of times weaker than actual hormonal estrogen.

The scientific jury is still out on parabens, even though they have been convicted in the eyes of the people. Anthony Dweck has a very lengthy compilation of related literature in his Paraben Compendium. Bath Geek LLC has a small number of products that are preserved with parabens, because they are one of the few effective preservatives that are oil soluble, and it is a matter of choosing the least evil.  You can avoid products containing parabens simply by choosing the “paraben-free” filter when searching for products.

Coconut-Free Shampoos

Photo credit TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/explosivofilms/8355301288/

The holy grail of coconut-free products is a coconut-free shampoo.  My search for the perfect coconut-free shampoo has been a long one.  Every single detergent and surfactant I can find, bar none, is derived in some way from coconut and/or palm.  Making coconut-free soap is not hard (I sell a lot of it!), but honestly, even the best shampoo bars and liquid soaps aren’t recommended for hair over the long term because of the acidic nature of the human scalp.  It’s enough to make a girl want to shave her head!

A lot of blogs recommend using baking soda and water as a shampoo, and apple cider vinegar as a rinse/conditioner.  Unfortunately, as this blogger explains, the huge swing from the very-alkaline baking soda to the somewhat-acidic apple cider vinegar isn’t really helping our hair or scalp, either.

Is there any truth to the claims that the pH of shampoo makes a difference in scalp health?  The National Center for Biotechnology Information actually did a study and concluded that yes, shampoos with pH above 5.5 tended to irritate the scalp.  More importantly, the study concluded that as the pH of our hair is 3.6 but the pH of scalp sebum is 5.5, any shampoo over a pH of 5.5 was not good for hair (this includes water).

Note: this makes sense to me from a colored-hair standpoint.  I’ve always been told that water is the enemy of colored hair, and to retain the vibrance of hair color, it was important to wash my hair as little as possible.  Now I know why–because water’s pH is 7.0 and it’s much more alkaline than my hair or scalp!

“Blah blah blah,” I hear you say.  “Just cut to the chase already!”

Well, long story short, while I know of a shampoo recipe that will help people who need to avoid regular shampoos (ie. people allergic to coconut and its derivatives), unfortunately, it contains gluten.  Low levels of it, but still.  The quest for a coconut-free AND gluten-free shampoo continues!

Oh, and yes, I will be adding the coconut-free (though not gluten-free) shampoo to the shop ASAP!

New: Emulsified Scrubs

Four Emulsified Scrubs

Sugar scrubs and salt scrubs are lovely exfoliating products that pamper our skin while helping us get rid of dead skin cells.  The problem with regular sugar scrubs and regular salt scrubs, however, is that they leave everything so slippery when you’re done.  That’s where emulsified scrubs come in!

Emulsified sugar scrubs are basically a lotion-like product that combines the best of two worlds: the exfoliating goodness of a scrub, and the non-oiliness of a lotion!  Using an emulsifier in the scrub means that when you rinse off the scrub, the oils bind with the water instead of sticking to your shower, sink, or bathtub.  No more slippery tubs, no more falling in the shower!

Because I know allergens are a cause for concern, I’ve formulated a number of different scrub recipes!  Whether you’re allergic to nuts, shea, or avocados, I’ve done my best to ensure that no one ingredient is in ALL of my scrubs.  This way, even if you’re allergic to an ingredient in one of the scrubs, you can still use the ones without that ingredient in it.  As always, please use the tag system to filter out allergens you are concerned about.

A note about preservatives

Phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, and sorbic acid are all preservatives that are essential to keeping you safe and healthy.  All three of these used together are a great barrier against bacteria, yeast, and mold, which have a way of messing up anyone’s day.

Vitamin E and rosemary oleoresin extract (ROE), while popular antioxidants that greatly extend the shelf life of oils, don’t do anything against the really nasty microorganisms that can really make you sick (and at the bare minimum, gross you out a lot! No, really.) These are antioxidants, but they are not preservatives.  Vitamin E and ROE will not do anything against bacteria, yeast, or mold, and it’s amazing just how fast the little nasty buggers grow and reproduce! While I understand wanting to keep skincare natural, I also want to make sure that no matter how my products are used, no one gets ill or sick from using something I’ve made.  The responsible thing to do is to preserve my products so that you get the maximum enjoyment out of them.

Coconut-sensitivity alert

Coconut-allergic folks, I know you are desperately wondering if you can use these scrubs!  Sadly, the four new scrubs I’ve just made contain coconut-derived emulsifiers.  However, I have some ingredients on order that I think will be just the ticket (definitely not derived from coconut or palm), and I am eager to get my hands on them so I can work on the new formulas. Stay tuned!

Essential Oils at Bath Geek

Essential Oils

I’ve been asked a couple of times why, as a limited-ingredient allergy-friendly manufacturer, I don’t prefer to use essential oils, and instead use fragrance oils.  After all, essential oils are natural, they are quite popular right now, and as they are extracted from plants, it stands to reason that they’re better for your skin than fragrance oils, right?

Cocoa Butter Soaps

Cocoa Butter

At my last craft fair, a man came up to me and without even browsing, asked for my most moisturizing soap.  The only soap I had that was different from all my other soap was the now-sold-out Campfire, which contains shea butter.  He bought the last bar.

I’ve come to realize that even though olive oil soaps are extremely mild and gentle, they aren’t particularly known for being moisturizing.  Now, soap will never remove the need for good ol’ lotion and moisturizer, especially if you live in semi-arid Colorado.  That said, different soap ingredients bring different benefits to the table.  So I’ve started making some four-oil (and three-oil, and two-oil) soaps.  The big addition is cocoa butter, which I am now adding to about 20% of the new soaps I’m making.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am adding other oils to my soaps to branch out.  My four-oil soaps currently have olive, cocoa butter, almond, and castor oil.  I still make pure olive oil soap, and a lot of it!  But I am also making a bit more of a variety for people who are looking for more in their soaps.  Cocoa butter is an amazing moisturizer in its own right, and has a most endearing quality of melting at the temperature of the human body.  I wish it weren’t so expensive, though–it costs 4-5x what olive oil does, and making a 100% cocoa butter soap would mean selling it at a much higher price.

The first four-oil soap that will be available early February is called Coffee Lovers.  The cocoa butter lends a lovely whiff of chocolate aroma, and the soap is scented with a vanilla macadamia coffee fragrance.  I love going into my curing room and picking up a bar to smell!  It makes me crave hot chocolate, especially now that it is so cold as we head into the heart of winter.

I hope y’all like cocoa butter soaps.  As always, please free free to contact me with any specific requests!

 

Branching Out

Stock Photo Oil Soap Apricot

Specializing in hypoallergenic soap is one thing, but there is such a thing as too niche a specialization.  There are Castile soapmakers who do nothing but olive oil soap.  While I thought I would join their ranks, I find pure olive oil soap to be a little frustrating.  The reason for this has to do with cure time.

All cold process and hot process soap needs time to cure.  (Yes, even HP–the link explains that very nicely.)  The reason why making pure olive oil soap is frustrating is because until the soap is 6-8 months old, the lather from olive oil soap just doesn’t feel as nice as other soaps.  Unfortunately, this means that if I run out of stock in a certain kind of soap, I’m out of business for 6-8 months.  The alternative is to release soap at 4-6 weeks.  The soap is safe to use, but you really don’t get the absolute best experience with young olive oil soap that you do with well-aged (over 6 months) olive oil soap.

So what’s a responsible soapmaker to do?  For allergy-related reasons, I refuse to use coconut, palm, corn, or soybean oils, and I am still committed to keeping my soap vegan, so lard and tallow are out.  Other oils tend to have shorter shelf lives, so soap made with these oils have a higher tendency to spoil sooner.  However, there are still so many other vegetable oils out there!

I currently use shea butter and cocoa butter in my soap on occasion.  I will be adding other oils like safflower oil, canola oil, sweet almond oil etc to that list.  Don’t worry–I will always label the soap clearly and make sure that it is tagged correctly, so that you can still find soap you can use without fear of triggering allergies.  (Some of these are not ingredients I was using before, so there aren’t any tags for them at the moment… but there will be as soon as I am done writing this post!)

I will still be using my dual lye and sugar method–I find that it really helps the feel of the lather.

As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns… just ask!

Update on Glycerin

Photo credit TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/explosivofilms/8355301288/

[Image courtesy of TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr.]

This is an update to Working with Glycerin and Allergies.  After doing more research, I’ve learned a few things:

  1. Absent special equipment, making glycerin that is dissolved in a salt solution is easier than making pure glycerin.
  2. No matter what it is derived from, glycerin is always C3H8O3.  This means that soy glycerin, coconut glycerin, palm glycerin, and any other kind of glycerin will be chemically identical, so there is no reason to make my own as long as the purity is chemically guaranteed.
  3. Unless I want to greatly increase the cost of my products, I should leave well enough alone.

What this means is that I will not be setting up a glycerin manufacturing line any time soon!  However, I promise that my glycerin will always be kosher glycerin derived from soy, and my purchased glycerin should be composed of only glycerin (C3H8O3) and water (H2O).

Soap naturally contains glycerin, so most of my handmade soap will not work for someone who is allergic to glycerin.  That being said, I am working on a glycerin-free soap, and hopefully a laundry soap as well.  Stay tuned, I hope to have good news for you in the future!

Working with Glycerin and Allergies

Photo credit TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/explosivofilms/8355301288/

[Image courtesy of TJ Cosgrove @ Flickr.]

Glycerin is one of the ingredients I use when making bubble bath. Being an allergy-conscious maker of bath products, I know that glycerin can come from both animal and vegetable sources. Even when it is “vegetable glycerin”, it can be made from coconut, palm, soy, or any number of vegetable oils.  I won’t use palm-derived or coconut-derived glycerin; if you are allergic to coconut or palm, products derived from them can also cause an allergic reaction.  All the kosher glycerin I can find on the Internet is soy-derived.

Scroll to top
Positive SSL