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.