28 September 2009

Mineral Oil - good or bad?

Mineral Oil - sounds good right? Minerals are good, right? It is downright natural sounding. Well, almost. It is a petrochemical, and while crude oil is a natural product, found in the earth, few of us want to slather it on our skin. Furthermore, mineral oil is not usually found natural but is a by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline, and related to petroleum jelly. It is used as a moisturiser in lotions and ointments, as a makeup remover and is the primary constituent in baby oil. It is a known comedogen, that is, it plugs up pores and can cause a worsening of acne. But, one of the main reasons for not liking mineral oil is that during the refining process, unintended byproducts, such as poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other potentially dangerous and damaging chemicals can be produced, creating unwanted exposure.

Besides all this, it also can interfere with vitamin uptake in the intestines if taken topically and especially orally and has been linked to lipoid pneumonia. There are alternatives - mineral oil is cheap and so found in a myriad of products - but natural is better and there are so many wonderful natural moisturising agents out there such as cocoa butter, shea butter, almond oil, the list is almost endless...

31 August 2009

Parabens - Hype or a concern?

Parabens are used in cosmetics because they exhibit broad spectrum anti-fungal and antibacterial activity, that is, they kill fungi and bacteria that may contaminate and spoil cosmetics. You are most likely to encounter them in moisturisers, skin care lotions and creams, shampoo, sunscreen, gels and shaving creams. Parabens occur in nature (more about that later), but are mostly synthetically produced by the esterification of para-hydroxy benzoic acid (pHBA); hence, the name: paraben. pHBA is an organic acid found in most plants and used in many metabolic pathways by plants. Parabens are easy and cheap to synthesize, and therefore attractive to the cost-conscious cosmetic's industry. The most common are:
  • methylparaben
  • ethylparaben
  • propylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • isobutylparaben
Parabens have not been shown to cause cancer and the American Cancer Society disavows the rumours out there that say otherwise. So then, what is the concern? In 1999 researchers discovered that parabens and their precursor, pHBA exhibited estogenicity, that is, they mimic estrogen activity. Since upwards of 80% of all breast cancers rely on estrogen to fuel their growth, this is of concern. In 2004, Phillipa Darbre et al discovered parabens in breast cancer tumours. This was not a causal link, but warranted further study. Indeed, the EU limits parabens in cosmetics to 0.4% per paraben type and a maximum of 0.8% for a combination of parabens. There are no similar limits in North America. Search 'paraben' in the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database and you will find a wide array of concerns. Darbe followed up in 2005 specifically looking at the estrogenic activity of the paraben metabolite p-hydroxybenzoic acid (pHBA). She capped it off with the 2008 study, Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks and not only confirmed the intact transmission of parabens across the skin barrier into the blood and urine, but concluded that we simply don't know enough to declare parabens safe and as such the precautionary principle might be useful until we know more.

So, where does this leave us? Well, at the very least if you want to avoid parabens, you are going to have to read labels and ask questions. Companies may claim that parabens occur in nature. pHBA certainly does, but it's estrogenicity is thousands of times less than paraben esters. Methylparaben can be found in strawberries and blueberries - but in minute concentrations, far less than you will find in typical synthetic paraben ester laden lotions, potions, sprays and shampoos. If you are concerned about estrogenicity, you might want to avoid parabens, synthetic and natural alike, though synthetic paraben esters will be many times the concentration than those paraben precursors that are found in nature.

What we can look for is further research on the subject, with particular interest in whether there is a causal relationship between certain cancers and paraben (and/or other environmental estrogen mimics) exposure. Until then, there are many proven alternatives out there, so if you want to avoid synthetic parabens, it's not only possible, but relatively easy with a little homework and label reading.

22 August 2009

What is Soap anyway?

I get a lot of questions at Rocky Mountain Soap about, well ... Soap, as I guess I should since we sell more than 30 different kinds! The most common questions are: "What is soap anyway?", "Is your soap natural?" and "Do you have glycerin soap?", so let's address these here.

What is soap anyway? : in lay terms it is the product of an oil reacted with lye or potassium/sodium hydroxide. You take almost any oil - olive, coconut, and almond oils are very
common - and you mix it usually with KOH (potassium hydroxide) and/or NaOH (sodium hydroxide) and a gelatinous slippery material is produced - i.e. soap. KOH and NaOH historically were derived by pouring water through wood ash - this is rarely they case anymore - but the reaction is a natural one, and both materials occur naturally. Indeed, Pliny the Elder mentions this in his Historia Naturalis (AD 79), so we have been using soap for a long time. As you can see from the picture to the right, soap comes in solid form, but it also comes in liquid that is dispensed as is. Recently companies have been aspirating glycerin enhanced liquid soaps to produce a very luxurious and natural foaming wash. Of course natural soap may just be that, without any additions. However, for those that like texture or scents or colours, essential oils and extracts are used, such as lavender essential oil or apricot fruit extract to name but a few. Colours are usually natural earth minerals and textures such as pumice, seeds, grains and even coffee are sometimes added for look, feel or exfoliating purposes.

Is your soap natural?: If soap is produced in the above manner, it is considered natural. However, most 'soap' these days is hardly natural, and sometimes isn't even soap. Detergents, which contain no actual soap are often formed into bars with added moisturisers. Dishwashing liquid is also usually just a detergent with synthetic fragrances added. Most detergents contain harsh surfactants like SLS, SLES or Coco Betaine etc. Rocky Mountain Soap's products are all 100% natural. If you are unsure, read the ingredient list, if there is one. It should say something like saponified oils of coconut (insert oil of choice here) - but if it says something like "derived from" coconut (etc) oil, then you might want to question how it was derived...

Do you have glycerin soap?: All real soap has glycerin. The oil molecules that real soap is made from contain a component called glycerol on one end. In the saponification reaction, this is converted to glycerin. In commercial soap production, the glycerin is often skimmed off, and sold for industrial purposes, as it is quite valuable. Natural soap makers usually leave all the glycerin in their soap because it has natural cleaning and moisturising abilities. This is what helps give the soap its silky and slippery feel. It is also a natural humectant, that is, it attracts moisture - another reason that you will also find it in natural moisturisers. However, many people think of those clear, almost see through soaps when they think of glycerin soap. This is simply because alcohol has been added during the soap making process. Aesthetically, this might be more pleasing to some, but alcohol is drying and helps defeat the purpose of glycerin being left in the soap in the first place.

Soap is a pretty simple product - yet there are a variety of issues surrounding it. Read ingredient labels and when in doubt, ask your soap retailer for clarification so that you get what you really think you are buying. Natural matters!

10 August 2009

Are your Essential Oils pure?

Adulteration: the willful and purposeful addition of cheaper oils, oil fractions, by-products, isolates, natural and/or unnatural synthetics, to reduce the cost of the oil. Essential oils are becoming more and more popular with the general consumer. As holistic and natural health trends increase, people are becoming more interested in aromatherapy and essential oils and their benefits. I can remember 15 years ago trying to find chamomile essential oil and having to finally mail order for it. Now, the consumer has a reasonable expectation to find most common essential oils in their local heath food store, aromatherapy shop or even local mall. With rising popularity often confusion follows. Aren't all essential oils the same? Well they should be, but sadly, the adage caveat emptor is best followed. Because essential oils are, depending on the oil, comparatively expensive in small amounts, there exists the temptation to dilute them to make them go further. This is called adulteration.

Adulteration occurs in a number of ways. (i) Addition: invisible, where a vegetable or mineral oil is added to dilute the essential oil (EO) or visible, the addition of a constituent like alcohol, (ii) Mixture: with cheaper essential oils such as Rosemary EO being diluted with eucalyptus and/or white camphor oils, and (iii) Synthetic "nature identical" addition, such as when bergamot EO is adulterated with linalol and/or linalyl acetate. The only way to confirm if adulteration has occurred is through gas chromatography (GC) and manufacturers using essential oils should request an HPLC (liquid chromatography) test of the essential oils they are buying from their supplier to ensure strict compliance.

The reason for this is that the essential oils must be pure to provide the benefits that they promise and are expected. Adulteration can reduce and/or remove these properties and even introduce undesirable ones.
  • EO's contain many powerful antioxidants
  • Many EO's facilitate the release of endorphins
  • EO's are often immune system stimulants
  • Some EO's are natural chelators
  • EO's are often antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral
  • EO's can act as nutrient transport agents to cells
  • Most EO's contain terpenes that are beneficial to cellular function
As a consumer, ask your supplier of essential oils or your favourite natural personal care products store if they are sure that not only are their oils natural, but free from adulteration. If you make your own natural bath and body products, check with your supplier. For further information and as a starting point, I have found AromaWeb interesting and useful.

28 July 2009

Product Swap Results

The results of the Rocky Mountain Soap Company Product Swap in Victoria are in. It was a smashing success. Of the 522 products that we received, 3 were completely natural [epsom salts (2) and a deodorant (1)], 98% had more than one synthetic ingredient, greater than 90% had at least 3 unnatural ingredients. The worst had 17 synthetic ingredients, and one lotion had 5 synthetic parabens. The most common synthetic ingredients were propylene glycol, parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl, iso-butyl), SLS, SLES, cocamidopropyl betaine, perfume, fragrance, colorants, aluminium chlorohydrate, dimethicone among many others. Of course the were most likely phthlates in the perfumes, but unfortunately perfumes don't usually list ingredients, so we can't confirm that suspicion. Many people asked about the ingredients and how and why they were 'bad' for them. This was par for the course, but what surprised us was the vastknowledge of consumers out there and their desire to "go natural". Many customers new to Rocky Mountain Soap grilled us on our ingredients and challenged us to demonstrate that they were natural. This was immensely satisfying. There is a lot of knowledge out there, people know what they want, natural does indeed matter. Now that we have the products swapped, many customers have asked what we are going to do with these products. The products will be disposed of safely and the packaging will be sent to the local recycling depot. Many customers expressed their thrill at cleaning out cupboards and cabinets with the knowledge that they would be replacing their synthetic bath and body products with natural ones. This was very satisfying for us as well. Natural does indeed matter to many people. Below is a list of exactly what came in:

27 July 2009

Fruit Extracts

There has been a trend in the use of natural fruit extracts in shampoos and conditioners for a few years now, but more and more we are seeing them in soaps and other bath and body care products in lieu of perfumes and fragrances. With the notable exception of the citrus family, essential oils cannot be derived from most fruits. Those interested in natural body care products tend to shun fragrances because they are usually synthetically derived and until recently, if they wanted natural, they were often out of luck. If you are an ingredient list reader, look for parfum, perfume, fragrance - these are usually manufactured from artificial esters and not natural. Common esters used in the production of artificial fruit fragrances are ethyl butyrate and ethyl acetate. Ethyl butyrate is also sometimes added to orange juice - to make it more orange-like in flavour.

So, we have been left with the vast array of non-fruit essential oils like lavender and rosemary, among others, to scent our favourite soaps, shampoos and moisturisers. However, the industry has been inundated by consumer demand for not only fruit scents, but natural ones. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is the most natural way to isolate natural fruit extracts, which are becoming much more commonly used and available. And not only is the scent isolated, but often the polyphenols, vitamins and other anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals are too, allowing the manufacturer the ability to impart those benefits and qualities.

Whether you use banana pineapple soap or traditional French lavender, make sure you check the ingredient list if you truly want natural. Just because the label has a pretty flower or picture of a fresher-than-life piece of fruit, doesn't mean that the contents are completely natural. Read labels, ask staff at your favourite bath and body store, contact manufacturers with your questions. Be real, be kind, be natural.

17 July 2009

Rocky Mountain Soap Product Swap!

Are you an ingredient reader? I am. I find so many incomprehensible ingredients in personal care products these days. This is another reason that I fell in love with Rocky Mountain Soap Co.'s natural products - the ingredients. They only use natural ingredients and natural isn't greenwashed. All their ingredients come from nature, in their natural form. They don't mess with the molecular structure, they don't use petrochemicals. Pthalates, PAH's, synthetic sulfates and parabens are simply not found in any of their products.

Rocky Mountain Soap simply believes that there are too many synthetic ingredients found in bath and body products that are questionable as to their long term health effects. They believe that if there is an ingredient that could potentially be harmful or could have negative long-term effects on your health, that if is probably best not to use it when there are healthy and safe alternatives out there.

From Thursday July 23rd to Friday the 25th, we are officially launching our Natural Matters campaign. To highlight the fact that many personal care products contain chemicals that you might not want your skin absorbing, we will have a Product Swap at our store in the Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria, BC. The rules are simple, bring in a used or unused and unnatural personal care product from home such as a deodorant, perfume, moisturiser, soap etc and we will replace it with a comparable one of our own at 50% off the retail price.

What will we do with the products that are exchanged? The packaging will be delivered to a recycling depot and the contents to a hazardous waste disposal depot.

I can't wait to see what you have to exchange. So, please bring in your:
  • Deodorants
  • Face creams
  • Moisturisers
  • Perfumes
  • Hand soaps
  • Body washes
  • Lip balms
  • Toners
Chemicals Add Up. Natural Matters.

30 June 2009

Why are Phthalates bad?

Ever seen 'phthalate' listed on a cosmetic ingredient list? Probably not - they aren't required to be listed under ingredients in many countries. So why are they in your cosmetic products like perfume, nail polish, moisturisers and hair spray? They are there because they fix scent, that is, they make it last longer in its original intended form without degradation. They are also found in many other products, that can be found in the home, such as kid's toys, functioning as plasticizers in the plastic - to make it soft. However, we are concerned about them in cosmetic products because of the skin's ability to absorb all manner of chemicals and ingredients put on them. Studies show that your skin can absorb up to 90% of a given chemical that is topically applied - in other words, it is a giant sponge. Phthalates and parabens can show up in the urine a mere 20 minutes after application of a cosmetic or body care product that contains them. It depends on the chemical of course - and phthalates are one group that readily absorbs into the body.

Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and estrogen mimics. For this alone, one would want to avoid them where possible. They've also been linked to metabolic disorders and hepatocarcinogenicity.
When choosing a cosmetic product, natural really does matter. There are alternatives - just because it isn't listed on the label, doesn't mean that it is absent. The next time you are in your favourite bath and body products shop, ask if your favourite product contains phthlates, then you can make an informed decision. Natural Matters!

For more information, check out www.nottoopretty.org, the source of the image to the right, and the report on phthalates, by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

22 June 2009

Organic Islands Festival 2009

On July 4th and 5th we will be exhibiting at the fifth annual Organic Islands Festival here in Victoria, BC. There will be over 150 local businesses, farms and community groups showing natural products from honey to hand-made soap, clothing to sustainability initiatives. They've expanded the venues again this year and have included a Children's Village and Play Zone, where the little ones can muck about and learn about the natural community that we live in through interactive exhibits, storytelling and they even have a section that includes eco-friendly children's products.
The festival is held at Glendale Gardens and Rocky Mountain Soap is located in The Village area. Advance tickets can be had for a 25% discount online at organicislands.ca or at Rocky Mountain Soap in Mayfair Shopping Centre. Come on out and enjoy the robust program of seminars, product demonstrations, music and panel discussions - fun for the whole family. LIVE GREEN. DO GOOD.

10 June 2009

So what's wrong with SLS?

There is a fair amount of misinformation out there with respect to SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and its relatives as to why it should be avoided. The big one is that it apparently causes cancer. There is no peer-reviewed data that suggests that it is carcinogenic. At worse, these chemicals are strong skin irritants, and of course not natural. Upon closer examination though, we find that this is not the only story.

SLS belongs to a group of chemicals called surfactants. These lower the surface tension in liquids, allowing them to spread more easily, and in the case of soaps and shampoos, to make lots of foaming bubbles. There are a variety of surfactants used in bath and body care products, some of the more common ones being:
  • SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate)
  • SLES (sodium laureth sulfate)
  • ALS (ammonium lauryl sulfate)
  • SDS (sodium dodecyl sulfate)
  • SMES (sodium myreth sulfate)
  • BAC (benzalkonium chloride)
  • Cocamide DEA and MEA
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine
These are often made with coconut oil (or other natural vegetable oils) as the base and so you may see something like "derived from coconut" on the label. That should be a red flag and warrants further investigation. It is what they do to the coconut oil that is of concern. The oil is ethoxylated, that is, to put it simply, reacted with ethylene oxide and a strong base such as potassium hydroxide (KOH), to produce the surfactant. Ethylene oxide is produced from the hydrocarbon ethene (ethylene) - an obvious petrochemical. This is where the problem comes in. A by-product of ethoxylation is 1,4 dioxane, a potent carcinogen. It is the unintentional by-product that is the carcinogen, not the foaming agent itself, such as SLS. Nonetheless, if 1,4 dioxane is found in your personal care products, this is probably not a good thing.

That being said, it is probably a good idea to check your shampoo, lotion, toothpaste brand to be sure that if it does contain a surfactant, like the ones above, that independent testing has at least shown that it is not also contaminated with 1,4 dioxane. Additionally, because these surfactants are very strong skin irritants, its use, by people with sensitive skin and/or some form of contact dermatitis such as eczema, would seem to be contraindicated, and thus avoided.

01 June 2009

Farmer's Market

We've been asked to participate in a farmer's market, to be held here every Wednesday from 4pm at the Mayfair Shopping Centre, right through to September. I was hesitant at first, but someone pointed out that Rocky Mountain Soap products are all natural and hand-made, often from the very same natural ingredients one finds at a farmer's market.
A little research confirms that farmer's markets in BC are plentiful and increasingly popular. I was surprised though to find that they have a large economic impact, to the tune of 3.1 billion dollars in BC. That's a lot of lettuce, onions and hand-made soap. And beyond the economic impact, it is somehow satisfying to buy products direct from the people that had a hand in making them, growing them, creating them. Connecting with like-minded individuals is also an added bonus. Speaking of which, if you are in the Victoria area, check out Green Drinks, an informal network of green-minded people connecting together to share ideas. They also have other groups in other cities internationally.

If you are in the area on Wednesdays, June through Sept from 4 to 8pm, stop by and ask for a soap sample. We will probably be cutting soap, chatting with the other vendors or at the very least sun-tanning our toes.

28 May 2009

Essential Oil Extraction

It is pretty common in the bath and body products industry to go natural these days. One of the ways that companies have found successful is to eschew fragrances and perfumes, which are, by and large, synthetic and opt instead for essential oils. This results in not only a more natural end-product, but one that is often more delicately scented. However, before we can use essential oils in soaps, lotions, perfumes or other cosmetics, we have to extract them from the source plant, whether it be lavender, chamomile or vanilla. The extraction method has an effect on the essential oil - it can change it, or even contaminate it, in which case the claim of natural cannot be maintained.

There are a number of ways in which essential oils can be extracted. All, except expression are solvent based, however we will separate them out, and refer to the solvent method as using something unnatural, resulting in solvent residue.

Distillation refers to water or steam distillation. The base plant material is permeated with water and essentially boiled at 100 degrees C. Similarly in steam distillation, steam is injected, often under pressure to separate the essential oil from the plant material. This happens at temperatures above 100 degrees C. Because of this, constituents in the essential oils can often decompose into oxidative products. However, this process is considered to be natural and the yield is high, little is wasted.

Expression is often referred to as 'cold pressed'. Olive, coconut and avocado oils are often cold pressed. No heat is used, so volatile constituents remain unchanged. Yield can be low though, so this is often not a very efficient or cost effective method. There are several methods of expression that we won't go into here, but citrus oils are uniquely suited for this extraction method.

Supercritical CO2 is carbon dioxide above 31 degrees C and under extreme pressure (>72.9 atmospheres) that is used as a solvent. The supercritical CO2 bonds with the essential oil constituents in the plant material and extracts them. When the pressure is removed, the CO2 simply evaporates, leaving the pure essential oil. Since no heat is employed, the essential oil is unrefined and in its natural state. Often the scent, potency and crispness of the essential oil are enhanced as compared to steam and water distillates, scenting more closely to the original plant. While more expensive, the essential oil often goes further. The oils produced by this method are, like those extracted through expression, the purest and most natural.

Solvent extraction for our purposes here is where an organic, but not necessarily natural, solvent such as alcohol, petroleum ether or hexane (among others) is used. Often used because of cost effectiveness, it is also used for very delicate essential oils or where the essential oils are found in very minute quantities, such as rose or jasmine. This type of extraction produces a waxy substance called concrete. This concrete is then heated and dissolved into alcohol. This is then distilled in a vacuum, resulting in an absolute. Absolutes are generally very expensive. The problem for the natural community is that after extraction, quantities of the solvent may remain, often in large percentages. Hexane extraction leaves 8-10 ppm of hexane (a petrochemical) in the essential oil. This method is not viewed in the natural community as being natural and is avoided by those companies that are truly committed to natural products.

It is important to know the extraction method of an essential oil to determine not only its quality but if it can still be considered a natural product. Essential oils on an ingredient list do not guarantee natural and are often used in greenwashing exercises. The good news is that the demand for really natural products by consumers has opened up essential oils to serious scrutiny.

18 May 2009

Avocado Oil

We hear a lot about the benefits of this oil or that oil in personal care products. One such oil that I have noticed popping up lately is avocado (Persea americana). So what's good about avocado, besides being delicious in salad or guacamole? Avocado oil is similar to olive oil in that it is not derived from the seed; rather, it is pressed from the flesh around the pit - and strictly speaking it is a fruit oil, very thin and therefore deep penetrating. It is a rich emollient with high concentrations of oleic, linoleic and alpha-linolenic fatty acids. There are many claims that it is also very rich in potassium, vitamins A, B6, C, D, E and K among others. This does not seem to be entirely truthful and much depends upon how the oil is extracted. It certainly does contain A and E as investigated by Bastista et al. Regretfully, many natural cosmetics companies have used avocado data interchangeably with that of avocado oil - there is a difference.

Extra virgin avocado oil is cold pressed (non-virgin being heat and solvent extracted) - which means that the avocado is mechanically pulverised, the resulting constituents decanted and centrifuged. This should leave you with a green coloured oil, because of the remaining chlorophyll. Unfortunately, this sometimes undergoes the refined bleached and deodorised (RBD) process which removes natural peroxides and chlorophyll, leaving a highly stable, but tasteless and pale yellow oil. This is usually done through the use of solvents and high temperatures. Do you know how that avocado oil, that you are using in your cosmetics or on your salad, is processed? Are the benefits still there?

In my opinion, besides the incredible moisturising value of avocado oil, the two most exciting properties are those of the unsaponifiable components and glutathione. Unsaponifiable constituents seem to inhibit lysyl oxidase activity and thus cross-linking in collagen - resulting in better skin tone, texture and strength. Glutathione, an amino acid with incredible anti-oxidant properties recharges spent vitamins C and E, neutralises free-radicals, is critical to the immune system and even assists in DNA repair. Unfortunately, glutathione levels decrease as we age. Thus, since your skin is a huge sponge, what better to moisturise with than avocado oil, and at the same time reap these added benefits.


Batista Cedeño, A., et al (Persea americana, M). Valor nutricional y composición. Alimentaria, 1993; 63: 63-69.


10 May 2009

Thank you!

We had a great turnout at the Open House Event this past Thurs, Fri and Saturday - thank you to all who made it out. We had a great number of walk-by customers who saw all the fun and decided to come in and see for themselves. Over 80 people who had never been in the store discovered natural at Rocky Mountain Soap over the past three days.

The make-your-own brown sugar scrub was quite a hit. Everyone had fun mixing up their own to take home. For those interested, here is the recipe that we used:Natural Brown Sugar Body Scrub

1 cup (250mL) granulated light brown sugar
1/4 cup (63mL) sweet almond oil
3 – 5 drops of your favourite essential oil

1. Combine sweet almond oil and the essential oil(s) in a bowl.
2. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Scoop mixture into a glass jar with lid.

• Almond oil is a skin softener. The amount of almond oil you use will depend on your personal preference and skin type, experiment with more or less oil until you get your perfect mix.
• You can substitute sweet almond oil with pure un-roasted sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil or any other oil you like that is suitable for the skin.
• You can substitute the brown sugar with white sugar, but brown sugar is preferable for sensitive skin and exfoliates better.
• Choose an essential oil to enhance the mood you’d like to create:
Orange, lemon, or rosemary for a stimulating energy boost. Lavender for relaxation. Lemongrass for a refreshing lift.
• Optionally, you can add a little honey for extra moisturising on dry skin.
• Optimally use within 2 weeks. Store in cool, dark environment.

• Do not use a body scrub on face or irritated skin (sunburned, a rash, or open cuts)
• Avoid sun exposure for 12 hours after you use citrus essential oils (eg: orange, lemon). This could result in burns or discoloured sun spots.
• If you are pregnant, it is best not to use essential oils or consult with the aromatherapist for safe essential oils during pregnancy.

Rocky Mountain Soap Company carries sweet almond oil and a variety of top grade pure and natural essential oils.
We had spearmint tea from Silk Road and a variety of cookies that were a hit with the kids - and Scott. Many of you got to try a couple of the iterations of Awake and Sleep aromatherapy roll-ons that are currently under development, thanks for the feedback! Jane, from Rocky Mountain Soap in Canmore, came out to lend a hand and she was quite the chatterbox - entertaining our customers with testimonials to natural, we were sad to see her leave on Sunday - thanks Jane!

A heartfelt thanks to everyone that helped make this event a success and again to our valued customers who had the time to drop by.

05 May 2009

INCI names - what are they?

You might have noticed that on your personal care products that there is a bunch of Latin in the ingredient list. In short, that's INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients) naming which assures consumer safety because everyone is on the same page with respect to a particular ingredient and so the consumer can look up essential oils, preservatives and other components of a cosmetic product easily and compare them with others, even if they come from different provinces, regions or countries. It is required under the law to have the INCI name for ingredients on cosmetics and personal care items in Canada, the USA, Japan, the EU and many other countries.

For example, on the label of Rocky Mountain Soap's Foot Butter, the ingredients are:

Vegetable oil, Alberta beeswax, cocoa butter (Theobroma cacao), and carrot tissue oil (Daucus carota sativa root extract), with essential oils of grapefruit (Citrus grandis), fir needle (Abies sibirica), patchouli (Pogostemum cablin) & lemongrass (Cymbopogon schoenanthus)That is, the common name in vernacular use is listed first and in brackets the INCI name, based on scientific, Latin and English components. Whatever the language, the INCI name will be the same. This also relieves the confusion of which species is being used in a product. For example there are over 50 species of lemongrass. In the Rocky Mountain Soap Foot Butter, we can easily verify that the lemongrass used is one of the varieties that is found in N. Africa through to India and South Asia.

As a consumer, if you are confused about what an ingredient is, simply google (or use some other search engine) the INCI name and you will easily find information on that ingredient. Alternately you can consult the
International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, which is available at research libraries - most manufacturers have a copy handy too - which lists all ingredients with their common name and INCI name. It is in its 12th edition as of 2008, and at over 5000 pages and listing 15,000 INCI names, cross-referencing over 60,000 common names, it isn't a light read.

28 April 2009

3 day Open House May 7-9, 2009

The team at Rocky Mountain Soap in Victoria would like to invite our valued customers to a three day open house promotion: Free Gifts, Fantastic Discounts, a chance to try New Products in development and give feedback... exclusive and just for you, our way of saying thank you.

With the purchase $50 or more - 10% off
With the purchase $100 or more - 20% off
With the purchase $150 or more - 30% off

Free gift for you and your guests:
Customers in the rewards program/point system will receive a free gift (value $14) at the event. Friends who sign up to the rewards program will also receive a free gift. Bring your friends!

We will have refreshments, an opportunity to make your own Sugar Scrub, and a chance to discuss why natural matters to all of us.

May 7th (Thur) 9:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
May 8th (Fri) 9:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
May 9th (Sat) 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

These offers are available at the Victoria store only. Check here for updates.

Thank you for your continued support of Rocky Mountain Soap!


Victoria Store Team

Located at Mayfair Shopping Centre: (t) 250.382.7070.

26 April 2009

Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB)

Today I got a flyer from a local well known grocery store advertising how they now had natural and earth friendly products. I was intrigued and so I checked to see if there were any personal care products. They listed one company with Natural Shampoo, Conditioner or Soap. This was good, natural is going mainstream. I checked the website of the manufacturer and looked up the ingredients. They said that their shampoo was a:NEW AND IMPROVED FORMULA - 99.9% Naturalthen they listed the ingredients and for the second listed, I was surprised to find:
COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE (FROM PLANT SOURCE)But, this is not a natural product at all. So, how they can claim the 99.9% natural moniker, I have no idea. More greenwashing at best, purposefully misleading at worse. Oh sure it is made from coconut oil which is natural, but they neglect to tell you what they do to the coconut oil.

To make cocamidopropyl betaine one reacts coconut oil with 3-dimethylaminoproplylamine (DMAPA) producing cocamidopropyl dimethylamine, which is then allowed to react with sodium monochloroacetate to get CAPB (cocamidopropyl betaine). CAPB can still contain varyng amounts of the initial reactants and intermediate chemicals, including amidoamine a known allergen. Natural? You decide.

CAPB is an obvious contributor to contact dermatitis and thus in addition to the fact that it is not natural, should be avoided if one is looking for natural products, in my opinion.


Foti C, Bonamonte D, Mascolo G, Corcelli A, Lobasso S, Rigano L, Angelini G. The role of 3-dimethylaminopropylamine and amidoamine in contact allergy to cocamidopropylbetaine. Contact Dermatitis. 2003 Apr;48(4):194-8. PMID 12786723

Fowler JF Jr, Zug KM, Taylor JS, Storrs FJ, Sherertz EA, Sasseville DA, Rietschel RL, Pratt MD, Mathias CG, Marks JG, Maibach HI, Fransway AF, Deleo VA, Belsito DV. Allergy to cocamidopropyl betaine and amidoamine in North America. Dermatitis. 2004 Mar;15(1):5-6. PMID 15573641

24 April 2009

What's 'Greenwashing'?

The Oxford definition is as follows:
greenwash: (n) Disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Derivatives greenwashing (n). Origin from green on the pattern of whitewash. The Tenth Edition of the Concise Oxford English DictionaryThis is something akin to calling a car 'green' - and no car is completely green, as we know. Even some countries in the EU refuse to allow car companies to call their products green.

has a more interesting and comprehensive definition:
green*wash: (gr~en-wosh) -washers, -washing, -washed 1.) The phenomenon of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets by posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to eradicate poverty. 2) Environmental whitewash. 3) Any attempt to brainwash consumers or policy makers into believing polluting mega-corporations are the key to environmentally sound sustainable development 4) Hogwash. CorpWatch DefinitionSo, what is a consumer to do? Well, the first thing is to use our common sense. The second is to investigate claims made by companies such as: eco-friendly, green, natural - all valid adjectives and all subject to abuse unfortunately. There are even sites out there that rate claims, such as the Greenwashing Index, where you can find the good, bad and the ugly, see how others rate ads and claims, and rate them yourself.

When I am looking for an environmentally friendlier alternative for something and can't find a local source, I usually check out Real Goods to see what they have. It's a constant struggle to sift through what's real and what's not, but a worthwhile one at that.

Be real, be kind, be natural!

21 April 2009

Earth Day April 22nd...

We celebrated Earth Hour back in March - turned out all the lights and pretended we were camping at home, my diligent five year old even had the wind up flashlight ready in case of any emergencies. Andrea, our eco-sustainability expert at our Edmonton Southgate store, informs me that over 4000 cities participated around the world and that Victoria reduced electricity consumption by 3.1%, though the eco-friendlies in Edmonton beat us with an impressive 5.2% reduction.

Tomorrow is Earth Day in Canada and the northern hemisphere, and I got to thinking about what we are doing here at the store. We, and all the Rocky Mountain Soap stores, use Bullfrog Power as well as using 100% recycled paper with more than 50% post consumer waste content, vegetable based inks and packaging that is 100% recyclable. We only use natural ingredients that are sustainably sourced. It is a small start, there is certainly more to be done. For individuals, Andrea sent me the following great ideas to help celebrate Earth Day tomorrow - thanks Andrea!

Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day:

1) Get the most bright out of your light! Dust or wipe off your light bulbs.
2) Donate worn towels and blankets to your local vet or animal shelter.
3) Shorten your shower and save 10L of water for every minute reduced.
4) Bring your coffee from home in a to go mug or thermos.
5) USE your reusable bags and stroll proudly past the plastic bags.
6) Rinse your toothbrush in a cup rather than under the tap.
7) Air dry your heavier laundry items such as jeans or towels.
8) Plant a tree or a shrub.
9) Go on a nature walk.
10) Check out the live webcam of Bald Eagles on Hornby Island B.C. It's amazing!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

20 April 2009

Is that Lavender or Lavender?

One of my favourite scents is lavender. I grow it in my garden and we have it in many different products here at Rocky Mountain Soap. It is one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly onto the skin. It has been called "blue gold", has sedative properties and is very relaxing. It is anti-microbial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. It is of course used in cosmetics, bath and body products and as a delightful fragrance in French cooking and chocolate. The nectar from the flowers also produces a deliciously scented honey. So, with this in mind, I thought I knew everything that I needed to know: all lavender is produced in France, it is easy to grow and all lavender is the same.

I was wrong on two of the three counts. Lavender is not exclusive to France. Eastern Europe is a major production area, and there are lots of lavender farms in BC - in the Okanagan, Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Islands, as well as in Sequim, WA just across the Juan de Fuca Strait. And while it is easy to grow at home, and you can get plants already started at your local gardening centre, be aware that not all lavender is created equal.

There are over 40 different species of lavender. English lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), the most sought after lavender essential oil, known for its delicate and subtle fragrance is the most common. However, Lavandin (L. x intermedia) a clone of a hybrid cross between English lavender (L. augustifolia) and Spike lavender (L. latifolia) is becoming more common because of its larger flowers, often deeper colour, much stronger scent and ease of cultivation. Indeed, it takes about 130kg of English lavender to produce 1 litre of essential oil versus 40kg of Lavandin flowers to get the same amount of essential oil. Lavandin is not true lavender however and is often referred to as 'Bastard Lavender'. It produces an essential oil, strong in camphor (about 6-8% versus the less than 1% composition in English lavender essential oil), and can be found more and more in large scale applications. While its flowers are beautiful, its essential oil is considered to be inferior to of L. augustifolia, lacking the subtle lavender scents associated with fine English lavender. I was wrong, not all lavender is created equal!