Monday, July 18, 2011

Let's talk about Triclosan

Triclosan is an ingredient which is found in multiple household items. It is a common ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and some cosmetics as well as being incorporated into clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

While this ingredient is not known to be harmful to humans there have been several new studies released and the FDA and EPA have collaborated and are re-evaluating its effects on the environment as well as humans in light of these studies.

This question is posed on the FDA web site which I found to be very interesting:

Does triclosan provide a benefit in consumer products?

For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. 

There are other studies are investigating the possibility that use of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

According to the EPA:

Current as of March 2010

Triclosan (2,4,4’ –trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a chlorinated aromatic compound. Its functional groups include both phenols and ethers. It is used as a synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969.

Triclosan is also utilized in many industrial settings for machinery and equipment in order to prevent microbial growth.

Based on monitoring, triclosan was found in at least 36 US streams which were close to some sort of water treatment plant (sewage, sludge etc. plant) and is believed to be contributing to the occurrence of triclosan in open water. While it currently appears that fish are not affected it has been determined that aquatic plants are affected (which would lead me to believe that fish may eventually be effected via the food chain).

The EPA admits that it does not know how much triclosan is being released into the environment from industrial sites and is amending some rules and regulations as well as labeling regulations for these institutions to begin being able to monitor this pesticide better.

There are a list of "Nest Steps" listed on the EPA site about it's plans for triclosan:

Next Steps

  • Given the rapidly developing scientific database for triclosan, the Agency intends to accelerate the schedule for the registration review process for this chemical. Currently, the Agency intends to begin that process in 2013, ten years earlier than originally planned.
  • EPA and FDA are collaborating on research projects that will help both agencies to better characterize the endocrine-related effects of triclosan, including toxicological effects, human relevance, and the doses at which they occur to determine if levels of human exposure are safe or not. The Agency will pay close attention to this ongoing research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.
  • The Agency is also updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan exposure using the newly released 2005-2006 NHANES urinary monitoring results and will incorporate those results into the revised risk assessment.
  • The Agency will continue to participate in the Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and evaluate information that results from that activity, and will continue its cooperative efforts with the FDA to share information on triclosan and discuss future research efforts and needs that will best meet the needs of the two agencies. 
Why am I writing about this particular ingredient? Simple, this ingredient is used in many if not most of our every day products and there are just now numerous studies coming out with information stating that this may not be the best thing since sliced bread. For starters, you really can't kill it, it kills things and therefor itself is very hard to render ineffective.

I was really surprised when I learned that it was first registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is now in my toothpaste......toothbrush fibers.....some cosmetics.....and pretty much anything labeled anti-bacterial. I saw on another site that it can stay active in your skin for up to 12 HOURS! I am still working to confirm this bit of info with a scientific based source, but if this is true it pretty much means that we all eat triclosan daily in addition to eating it when we, yuck! Just the simple fact that the EPA is moving their assessment timetable up for this ingredient by 10 years raises some red flags with me.

Anytime there is an ingredient that is used so heavily in such a variety of ways I am instantly curious and want to know more about it. Conveniently the EPA and FDA have also decided that they are curious and want to know more too so I will be keeping a close eye on this topic and report back what is published as I learn more. I always find it particularly interesting that through so many of these studies the FDA still stands behind the study that washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective, so it leaves me wondering why to the big corporations add the extra chemical and dump so  many millions and billions of dollars into marketing something that may not even be necessary?

Stay healthy my friends
~Your Soapsmith

My resources:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ingredient Highlight - Neem Oil

Neem Tree
In this fascinating industry there is always something new to learn about. I heard about neem oil quite some time ago and even bought some to experiment with but somehow never got around to it until recently. There was recently a fantastic article in an online magazine I subscribe to called Saponifier on neem oil. That was my inspiration to get in gear and play around with this magical ingredient.

The neem tree is described as an evergreen which is native to India, this is a vegetable oil which is extracted from the tree as opposed to a nut oil. This oil has been used for a very long time as antibacterial, antivirul, antifungal and insecticidal. It can also soothe irritated skin and I have seen it in products which are formulated to help with acne too.

An ingredient this great should really be in more products, don't you think? Well I thought so and set off on my little adventure with the elusive neem oil. I will say this, it has a VERY distinct scent, very strong and not particularly my favorite scent for sure. But like with many things that are good for you they sometimes smell or taste not so good, broccoli comes to mind (yuck!).

I made a simple soap, small batch because I am just experimenting at this point. The article in saponifier said that it is most effective when used at a rate of 20%-40% so I went with the lower end of that and used it at a rate of about 25% to start with. Since this is such a healing oil I wanted to make sure my other oils would be very complimentary so I also added some shea butter and other totally skin loving oils and to finish it off some lavender essential oil. I was hoping the lavender would help cover some of the scent but also lavender is a wonderful and healing essential oil.

This soap got very hot in the mold and hardened fairly fast too, it was interesting. The next day I unmolded and was inspecting the soaps, they smelled faintly of.....peanut butter??? It's kind of peanut butter colored too. So strange, a few days later that scent is dissipating and I swear I can smell a tad of the lavender.

All in all it was great working with such an interesting ingredient, I look forward to sampling the soap and seeing how the scent ends up working out in it too.

The lovely neem soap

Well this soap has a few weeks to go before I can really take it for a spin, I will update once I try it out.

Until then stay bubbly my friends,
~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Which product would you rather use?

As I sit here in the studio I thought it would be fun to post a little about ingredients. I wanted to know which product you would rather purchase and use based solely on the ingredient list.

Product A: Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil, Beeswax, Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter, Cocos Nucifera Oil, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil,  Tocopherol

Product B: Sweet Almond oil, Beeswax, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Vitamin E Oil

At a quick glance product B probably looks more appealing because you can instantly recognize all the ingredients. BUT what if I told you that they are the same product? That's correct, this is a lip balm that I make, for A, I used the INCI names and for B, I used the common (English) names which are easily recognized.

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients and it is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of soaps, cosmetics, and the like, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words.

It is a system which is easily recognizable throughout the world so if you are shopping in the streets of Italy (lucky you) you can recognize ingredients in a product even if the rest of the label is in Italian.

So many times I hear people say "I won't use a product if I can't recognize or pronounce the names of the ingredients" and so many times they are referring to the INCI names which look strange and foreign, unless you were a Latin major or a chemist in college. While I understand the thought behind that of not wanting to put potentially dangerous chemicals on one's self just remember that sometimes you cannot pronounce or recognize a name simply because it is in Latin. Case in point, the INCI name for Shea Butter is Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit, something I certainly cannot pronounce and would never guess except that I deal with these ingredients daily.

So there you have it, INCI is not scary, it just takes a little research to know what the ingredients are when they are labelled accordingly.

Here is a helpful link to INCI names for your reference:

Rock on my friends
~ Your Soapsmith

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hair care pantry raid!

While surfing the net I came across some fun home hair care recipes. With the fun of summer and heading to the beach and pool you will need to give your hair some extra love to keep it from becoming too dry and damaged.

There are many items that you will find in your kitchen that can provide some great nourishment and only take a few minutes to make. I found a nice one on youtube that includes one of my favorite ingredients, avocado! I love all things avocado, I love to eat it, put the oil in my soap and wear it in my hair. This fruit has so many benefits it's crazy, another blog I came across described it as the world's most complete food. Avocados are deeply penetrating and rich in vitamins A and D, lecithin, potassium as well as vitamin E

Here is the recipe for the whipped avocado hair treatment:
1 pitted avocado
1/2 can coconut milk
1 oz coconut oil
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 oz pure aloe
1 tsp castor oil (you can sub almond, grapeseed or more olive oil for castor if you don't have any)

Place all ingredients in the blender and whip until it has the consistency of a mousse. Once that is complete, you can put treatment in your hair, using a comb may help. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, put hair in plastic shower cap if you have one, then rinse out in lukewarm water, you can shampoo if you'd like to or skip the shampoo and simply condition for the ultimate treat.

A really simple treat that you may like is an olive oil mask. That's it, just olive oil, warm it slightly (not hot) and start at the ends of your hair working to your scalp. Give your scalp a good massage and leave the olive oil on at least 15 minutes but you can leave it on up to an hour before rinsing out, shampoo and condition as normal.

Have some hair product build-up? Mix baking soda with some water and rinse through your hair. About 1 1/4 tbsp per 1 c water should do it, you can clean and style as normal.

*This was part of my original blog notes from 2011. Since then I have learned more about the hair and it's pH. I left the note in for people to read but no longer recommend alkaline products for haircare (anything above a pH of 7, including handmade soap). The hair is typically an acidic pH in the 4.5 to 5.5 range. Unlike the skin it cannot adjust it's pH if it is taken out of range. For this reason I recommend Hair Care products that are properly formulated for hair or ingredients that fall within a pH range that will compliment the hair. ~April 26, 2020

Do you love eggs......from your head down to your legs? Well maybe you will after this treatment. Eggs are packed with nutrients, protein and lecithin all ingredients that your hair wants and needs. I found a couple of treatments using eggs to help make your hair shiny and beautiful, a couple of sources also sited that it will make your hair grow faster but I have my doubts since hair growth and hair patterning is genetic and body dependent.

This simple recipe calls for 1-2 egg yolks (depending on hair length) and 1 tbsp of honey. Honey is a humectant and will draw moisture to your hair, this is not great for all hair types because some hair will just become puffy and frizzy, usually hair with tight spiral curls will become too frizzy, you can just skip the honey and do the egg portion. Work the egg mixture onto your hair massaging your scalp well, rinse off after about 10-15 minutes make sure to use warm water so to not cook the eggs (yikes!) Shampoo and condition as normal, this can be done as often as once per week.

Some essential oils can be added to any of these treatments, some that are great for hair are tea tree, rosemary, peppermint and lavender, click here for more information on their benefits. When using essential oils it is important to know that they should never be used directly on your skin, always mix with a carrier oil. Also some essential oils should not be used on people with certain health conditions, including pregnancy and epilepsy, please consult a physician with questions.

Alright, go raid your pantry and have a good time!!!

Yours in shiny hair