Glycolic Acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a group of chemicals that are also known as fruit acids and are most commonly used in the form of chemical peels and anti-aging skin products. Industrial uses for glycolic acid are for removing rust and degreasing and therefore require high concentrations over 70% or more. These concentrations are considered to be very dangerous to exposed skin. Glycolic acid is also used as a tanning and dyeing agent in the textile industry and sometimes as a flavoring agent in food processing.
Since glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, it is considered a natural chemical and as a milder acid, is generally safe for personal use. There are other fruits from which glycolic acid can be extracted such as pineapples, unripe grapes, cantaloupe and sugar beets. Because glycolic acid so easily penetrates and reacts with the epidermis, it functions as an exfoliant or a pH adjuster (a buffer) in many skin care products.
Glycolic acid is a natural exfoliant in its removal of dead skin cells, is a natural skin brightener and has many anti-aging benefits including removal of skin discoloration. When applied to the skin, glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis by weakening the binding properties of the lipids holding the dead skin cells together. This reaction “dissolves” the outer layer of the skin and reveals the underlaying skin which has a smoother, unblemished, youthful appearance. Due to its powerful reaction to skin, the concentration levels of glycolic acid in skin products are generally restricted to low levels. If skin peels and exfoliants are used too often, they can have corrosive effects to the skin and is why it’s recommended for use only once or twice a week.
The EWG’s Skin Deep database lists glycolic acid with a score of 4 based on overall hazard and use restrictions.
Lycopene is a pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their red-orange color. Lycopene is classified as a carotenoid, naturally occurring orange-red to yellow pigment in plants which also assist in the process of photosynthesis. In animals, carotenes are converted to Vitamin A in the liver. Common fruits and vegetables containing lycopene are carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, red cabbage, grapefruit and watermelon.
Source: ea stewart
Recent studies have shown that lycopene is a great source of antioxidants which minimizes damage from free radicalsand is believed to reduce risk of illness such as cancer, macular degeneration (loss of vision) and cardiovascular disease. Due to its classification as a phytonutrient, lycopene is also believed to have photo-protective qualities that block UV light.
Due to its antioxidant properties and many health benefits, lycopene is also now a popular skincare ingredient. Lycopene allows for skin growth and repair as it protects from free radicals, anti-aging and UV radiation. It is also believed to improve skin texture.
Some natural and organic products with lycopene as an ingredient:
Out of all the color options in a seemingly endless rainbow of lipstick, my favorite lip color has always been a tried and true, classic red. Look at most food products or cosmetics with red coloring and you’ll probably find “Carmine” or “Carminic Acid” in the ingredients. Also commonly listed as Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake and Natural Red 4; carmine is a red pigment/dyederived from the scales of the cochineal beetle, an insect native to South America and Mexico.
Cochineal beetles are parasites that feed on cactus plants. The beetles are crushed to create the deep red pigment that you may find mixed in many cosmetics, food products and textiles. Carminic acid is highly concentrated in cochineal insects. Extracted from the insect’s body and eggs, the substance is then mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye, commonly used in coloring products and called, cochineal.
Traditionally, the Aztecs and Mexican Indians collected and used the powder of cochineal insects. The pigment interested the Spaniards who later exported the dried insects to Europe where the Europeans and the world became quite smitten with the bright, scarlet hue. Cleopatra was also an ancient beauty who favored using cochineal beetles to tint her lips red.
While the process behind extracting carmine may have a “gross” factor for some, it has been determined to be a safe colorant for humans and has only caused rare cases of allergic reaction. The EWG’s Skin Deep database lists carmine with a low score of 1 for toxicity.
After many complaints from consumers, in 2009 the FDArequired any food or cosmetics containing cochineal to be declared on ingredient labels.
Recently, Dannonand Starbucksmade headlines regarding their individaul use of cochineal for coloring in products. Like everything, consumers should use at their own risk based upon personal health and beliefs.
Here are types of products you may find carmine to be used in: Food Industry – Frozen fish, meat, etc. Beverage Industry – Soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, etc. Alcoholic Beverages – Products with low pH requiring red or orange tones Dairy Industry – Yogurts, ice cream and dairy based beverages Confections – Candy, fillings, syrups, chewing gum, etc. Fruit Preparations – Canned fruits such as cherries, Jams, Pulp, etc. Cosmetic Industry – Dispersions close to eye area, eye shadows, lipsticks, etc. Others – Ketchup, powdered drinks, dehydrated soups, canned soups, etc. (Source: Gentleworld.org)
Willow bark is widely known as a natural pain reliever and has been historically used by herbalists to make medicine. Dating back to 400BC, Hippocrates left behind historical records documenting that patients suffering from pain and fever were advised to chew on willow bark or drink willow bark tea. Though still used today, willow bark was used for pain treatment throughout history by the Egyptians and by ancient Asian and European civilizations.
The herb is commonly used to cure pain (including back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, inflammatory conditions and also acne treatment. It can be found in supplement form, as an extract or as a tea. Willow bark is categorized as the bark from different tree and shrub species within the willow family. Native to Europe, Asia and some parts of North America. Commonly known species include white willow or European willow (Salix alba), black willow or pussy willow (Salix nigra), weeping willow (Salix babylonica), purple willow (Salix purpurea) and crack willow (Salix fragile).
Willow bark contains salicin, a chemical compound similar to aspirin and which when metabolized in the liver, becomes salicylic acid. Combined with the herb’s powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds, flavonoids, willow bark’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects is thought to be attributed to salicin.
Salicylic acid is also why willow bark’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a natural acne treatment. Tannins, catechins, and flavonoids in willow bark provide antioxidant, fever reducing, antiseptic and astringent properties. The FDA has approved willow bark as a topical acne treatment.
In the 1800s, acetylsalicylic acid or, aspirin was developed combining salicylic acid with other chemicals after researching the effects of salicin in willow bark. According to studies, willow bark appears to bring pain relief more slowly than aspirin yet its observed effects may last longer. Historians believe that willow bark contributed to Ludwig von Beethoven’s death. His autopsy report recorded Beethoven had ingested large amounts of salicin before his death and that he had a specific type of kidney damage that can be caused by salicin.
Taking willow bark as a pain reliever may increase the risk of bleeding yet less than when taking aspirin. There is little or no toxicity information on the use of willow bark, the EWG’s Skin Deep database rates the herb with low scores ranging from 0 to 2. It is advised that patients should monitor for blood in stool, nausea or vomiting and stomach or kidney irritation if using willow bark for pain relief.
Don’t expect any ominous spells or tricks from this witch…
Witch hazel (hamamelias virginiana), also commonly known as winter bloom, is a low-growing shrub found in many areas of North America and Canada. Witch hazel extract is used in many healthcare products today but use of the plant has been traced back to medicinal practices of the Native Americans. The shrub’s name is said to have come from using the twigs in dowsing, a mystical practice involved in finding water sources.
Traditionally, Native Americans boiled the leaf, bark and twigs of witch hazel to produce an extract used to treat swelling, inflammation and tumors. Today, this practice is still commonly used through distilled witch hazel extract which is included in many products functioning as an astringent. Astringents are substances or chemical compounds which shrink and constrict skin tissue. Witch hazel is also topically used to relieve many skin irritations like itching, pain, bruises, hemorrhoids and bug bites.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent due to the high concentration of tannins in the plant. Witch hazel can be used topically to tighten pores and remove excess oil which makes for a great natural toner and also for reducing acne. Specific tannins in witch hazel; procyanadins, resin, and flavonoids, all add to the plant’s soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.
While it is less common, witch hazel can also be ingested as a remedy for many ailments. Drinking witch hazel tea can relieve sore throats, diarrhea, colds and respiratory illnesses.
However, do NOT try to ingest common drugstore witch hazel products, which are usually distilled with isopropyl alcohol or similar chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (EWG) ranks witch hazel with a score of zero citing its low health concerns here.
Sorry, lots of time/blog posts to make up for but I have a few exciting things planned that have been keeping me busy! (Blog related too!)
For today’s Au Natural Factual Friday we’ll be looking at Grapeseed Extract.
It’s pretty simple, this is exactly what it sounds like: grapeseed extract is derived from the seeds of grapes (Vitisvinifera) and is produced by pressing the grapes, therefore an abundant byproduct of wine-making. Yum! For thousands of years, grapes have been acclaimed for their nutritional and medicinal value. It’s been documented that the Egyptians snacked on grapes, that the Greeks believed in the healing power of grapes in the form of wine, while Europeans folk healers used grapevine sap as an ointment to treat skin and eye diseases. Ahem, was this a precursor to that grape-lovin’, French craze we now know as Caudalie?
Grapeseed extract is considered to be a powerful, natural antioxidant for the many beneficial compounds it contains such as flavonoids, (specifically, oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes or OPCs), Omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and linoleic acid. Grapeseed extract can be found in a liquid/oil form and also in tablet or capsule form used as dietary supplements. Not to be confused with grapefruit seed oil or other similar sounding ingredients.
Though there is a lack of “high quality” scientific evidence, there are many claims that grapeseed extract can help treat or prevent numerous diseases and ailments such as cancer, heart conditions and aging skin. Grapeseed extract is an excellent moisturizer, can heal skin wounds and reduce swelling. We do know that using grapeseed extract increases the amount of antioxidants in the bloodstream and more antioxidants in our body is always a great thing! Antioxidants protect against and destroy free radicals in the body which may cause cellular and genetic damage. Free radicals are also known to result in not so pretty things like, premature aging, cancer and heart disease.
In addition to being a great source of antioxidants for the skin, grapeseed extract is now commonly used in hair, beauty and skincare products due to it’s moisturizing properties and the soft, non-greasy, satin finish the extract commonly gives off as an oil. As always when using products with certain natural ingredients, do your research on the company, how they process the grapeseed extract and if there are any other additives or chemicals mixed in with the product you are using.
Have you used any products contain grapeseed extract?
Popular organic or natural products using grapeseed extract:
“…perfect for those looking for a dermatologist-tested formula to wear overnight that delivers a gentle, hypoallergenic moisture…. Grapeseed Oil is an anti-oxidant rich emollient to help repair and moisturize skin while you sleep. ”
“Known as one of nature’s lightest oils, this mild and odorless emollient is perfect for massage. Grapeseed oil is also one of the healthiest ways to help your heart! This mild-tasting, odorless oil is perfect for baking. It’s great for sauteing as it has a high smoke point. Studies show that one ounce of grapeseed oil a day in place of other fats can help lower cholesterol…”
“All-over body wipes that sooth away stress and fatigue….Massage them over stressed-out temples, shoulders, neck and legs for mood-lifting, body-calming goodness, courtesy of a natural blend that also includes olive, jojoba, sesame, grapeseed and vitamin E oil”
“A sculpting paste that adds texture and shape to any hairstyle…This creamy styling balm is made with pure and organic botanicals that improve the health of your hair: shea butter hydrates, rosemary tones the scalp and Vitamin C-packed bilberry wards off sun damage. The vegan formula employs plant-sourced emulsifying wax and organic rice syrup to sculpt and smooth”
Cha-cha-cha-Chia! I’m not going to be talking about those cute plant creatures that grow in a tabletop pot, but Chia seeds, the seeds from those plants.
Chia seeds have been all the health-food rage since it’s 2012 induction, dubbed as a super-foods supplement, chia seeds are super-nutrients that helps control hunger and enhance one’s diet. Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and are also considered a concentrated food as the seeds are loaded with antioxidants, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium and protein.
It’s no wonder why I couldn’t turn a corner at work without seeing ladies spilling this into their yogurts, mixing it into their drinks, or just plain munching on some seeds. And it seemed my own encounter with chia seeds was inevitable as I walked to work and health-food promoters practically threw packets of free chia seeds to me on the street. (Seriously.)
A couple of these Chia Shots were thrown to me while walking to work…
Chia seeds are derived from a flowering plant known simply as the Chia plant(salvia hispanica) which arenative to many areas in central/southern Mexico. The use of chia seeds date back to the times of the Mayans and Aztecs when chia seeds were also eaten as a staple food and believed to be an energy booster. It’s still used in Mexico today as a nutritious food source, ground or sprinkled into drinks or on food.
Not only are these super-nutritious seeds good to eat, they’re also a beneficial natural beauty ingredient. When chia seeds are cold pressed into an oil they have proven to do wonders for skin. Chia seed oil is very moisturizing and hydrating to the skin and can also calm redness due to a high level of vitamin B3, a natural anti-inflammatory. The antioxidants in the oil also help protect skin from free radical damage such as aging and UV rays. Since Chia seeds are rich in omega 3-fatty acids, as an oil, the acids aid in encouraging collagen and elastin formation, allowing skin to stay firm and supple.
Although I’m not hooked on Chia seeds in my daily diet, I think they are a beneficial health supplement. I’ve seen so many more natural/organic beauty products using Chia seeds or oil as an ingredient and I’d love to try some out in my skincare routine! Would you add chia seeds or chia oil to your beauty and health routine?
I received a sample of this balm with a recent order from BeautySage and I love it! It’s great to moisture the skin, remove makeup and a favorite use of mine: tame flyaway hairs! I think I’ll purchasing a full-size in the future. The One Love Organics skincare line mostly features Chia seed oil.
I have to make up for lost Au Natural Factual Fridays, sorry! Today’s ingredient is Jojoba Oil.
Jojoba oil is a liquid wax derived from seeds of the Jojoba plant (simmondsia chinesis), a shrub that grows in dry regions of the southwestern US (Arizona and California) and in northern Mexico. Jojoba oil is increasingly used in makeup, skincare and hair products as a natural ingredient due to its emollient properties and similarities to the sebum produced in our own skin which makes it moisturizing.
Jojoba plant with seeds
The shelf life of jojoba oil is much longer than synthetic ingredients as it also has natural fungicide properties. Also used in its pure state, jojoba oil is a natural skin soother and can be applied directly to the skin to aid in acne, psoriasis, sunburn and chapped skin.
Pure jojoba oil is also a great natural hair product used for moisturizing, conditioning and smoothing hair. Some people believe jojoba oil can decrease balding as it also unclogs hair follicles, which may encourage the regrowth of new hair.
Jojoba oil is known as a natural alternative to petroleum jelly and its nasty derivatives like cetyl alcohol. It’s a more sustainable alternative to petroleum jelly since it’s derived from plants rather than fossil fuel, plus there no whales harmed in the process! (And whale blubber isn’t included in your products.)
Some popular organic products which contain jojoba oil (of some form)as an ingredient:
If you’re like me, an average 20-something-consumer trying to be healthy in the midst of false advertising, empty product promises and sneaky trade secrets, you didn’t question any personal care products on the local drugstore shelves nor truly thought about the ingredients because after all, if they can be sold to the public then they’re safe, right?
So very wrong, but my old mindset and educating myself on this topic truly showed me how social awareness is at a shocking low when it comes to knowing more about harmful ingredients in personal care products and why our government and brands we trust have ignored the facts and not taken sufficient action. Just accepting what is placed on shelves is not enough. Reading great books like No More Dirty Looks, listening to health experts and researching ingredients is an eye-opener.
I suggest everyone do their own research and self-education because it is not enough to just expect our lawmakers and billions of profit-seeking companies to control our consumerism. YOU can make your own decisions, so make some healthier ones.
Which brings me to this Friday’s Au Natural Factual: Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) & Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES).
Queen Bey’s infamous locks: having hair like Beyonce’s is probably not a result of totally natural products.
Did you know that your scalp is the most absorbent part of your body? All of those hair products that you use to tame and clean your mane seep right into your scalp, into your bloodstream and most of those chemicals (though a percentage will be excreted) stay in your body for good.
Two harmful ingredients in many personal care products are Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and Sodium lauryl ether sufalte (SLES) and because they are so commonly used are often referred to as sulfates. These 2 sulfates are classified as surfactants or detergents (compounds which lower the surface tension between liquids or between liquids and solids) and are the 2 most commonly found sulfates in personal care products like shampoo and conditioner for their cleansing and emulsifying properties and because they are relatively inexpensive to use. SLS and SLES can be found in many other products that foam and cleanse such as, toothpaste, body wash, soap and exfoliators.
Due to their harsh penetration properties, SLS and SLES can strip hair and skin of moisture and are common eye, skin and scalp irritants and can also result in acne, rashes and canker sores. Sulfates are also endocrine irritants and can be a possible carcinogen after repeated and prolonged exposure. The biggest concern with SLS and SLES is that when blended with other chemicals (included in your personal care products), they can produce hazardous by-products. Two contaminants that can blend with sulfates and are of the most concern are 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. 1,4 dioxane is a known carcinogen with research citing it is also toxic to the respiratory system and an irritant to skin, eyes and/or lungs. Ethylene oxide has also been classified as a carcinogen and more specifically, a developmental and nervous system toxin.
Like every chemical and the possible risks, we should try to avoid products with potentially harmful chemicals like SLS and SLES.
There are many good organic and natural hair products in specific, that do not include SLS and SLES in their formulation.
The more we use products with these chemicals, the more we are stripping and corroding our hair and skin of its moisture and natural state.
Avoiding sulfates can reduce your reliance on harmful aftereffects and will result in healthier, vibrant hair and skin.
I love the products the ladies of No More Dirty Looks list for hair that are sulfate-free and are good for your hair! Check out some of their ideas here
By now we’ve all heard about argan oil one way or another as it’s having quite a moment in the natural and mainstream beauty communities.
Known for its many nutritive, cosmetic and medicinal properties, argan oil is derived from the kernels of the argan tree, which is endemic to Morocco. This is why the oil is now also widely known as Moroccan oil. For centuries, the people of southwestern Morocco specifically, the Berber tribe, have traditionally used argan oil as a staple food ingredient and for medicinal purposes.
Map of Morocco
Besides being adaptable to the harsh environmental conditions of Morocco and the Sahara desert, the argan tree is also listed an endangered plant species and is under the protection of UNESCO (Unite Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). As it is derived from an endangered plant and only grows in such a small, specific location, argan oil itself is considered one of the world’s rarest natural oils.
An argan tree in Morocco
With its growing appeal and many nourishing benefits for skin, hair and body, argan oil is currently in high demand from companies all over the world. Claims in using argan oil are that it strengthens hair, revitalizes and moisturizes skin and is a delicious addition when cooking food. The main ingredient in argan oil is Vitamin-E, a great natural resource for healthy skin, and also comprised of 80%fatty acids.
As with all natural oils, there are also many products on the market claiming to be “Pure Argan Oil” but also include a mixture of chemicals. Be aware of false claims and research products carefully. Check out this list of what to look for in recognizing impure argan oil here.
Traditionally, the Berbers collected undigested argan pits from the waste of goats that climbed argan trees and ate the fruit. Mainly a job for women, the pits were ground and pressed to make the oil used for cooking and in cosmetics. Today, the argan oil you will find in most cosmetic and personal care products are from harvested nuts straight from the tree. (No need to worry about the goats!)
Berber women processing argan oil
The sustainable sourcing of argan oil and the Fairtrade connection that has been created with the local Berber women adds a positive light to the idea of using argan oil and its environmental impact.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the social and economic benefits from the argan oil industry in Mororco could also be life changing for many locals. “It’s hoped that poor rural women in particular would benefit from expansion of the argan oil industry in an arid region with few industries and employment prospects.”
With this newfound hope for the argan oil industry, Bloomberg Businessweek states an increase in exports and eventual sales in Morocco:“Morocco’s exports of argan oil have more than doubled in the past five years, to more than 700 tons”. However, due to the endangered status and slow-growing nature of the argan tree, scientists are challenged with the future of argan oil’s overexposure and rising demand.
Have you tried any products containing argan oil? I’m looking forward to purchasing some pure argan oil for my hair!