Monday, October 21, 2019

Ingredient Highlight: Mineral Oil

This is an ingredient which has been demonized in the bath and body products industry unjustly. I find that when I need a super healing type of lotion which happens in the cool dry winters we have where I live I always want a lotion with mineral oil as one of the ingredients. I want to take the time in this post to simply lay out the facts of what mineral oil is and why it is beneficial to many products. 
Fun facts:
1. It's a natural ingredient as it comes from the earth
2. It's also a vegetarian and vegan ingredient as it contains no animal by-products
3. It's non-comdogenic (does not clog pores)
4. It helps skin to retain moisture (which is why it is so great in winter skincare products)
5. There are different quality grades of mineral oil going all the way up to food grade
6. The mineral oil found in skin and beauty formulations is very pure, it is also regulated by the FDA to ensure these claims
7. Some of the most high end skin care products in the industry have mineral oil as an ingredient

8. It gives excellent "slip" and helps products to slide across the skin
9. It is commonly recommended as a post surgical skin protectant after procedures due to its long history of safety and effectiveness

Ok so why all the hate? 
I did a little googling to see what others are saying about it, here is what I found:
1. mineral oil is toxic
2. mineral oil "may" be carcinogenic
3. mineral oil clogs pores
4. It makes your skin look more aged than it is
5. It damages skin
6. It dries the skin out
7. It sits on top of skin creating a film and "suffocating" the skin 
8. It blocks the absorption of vitamins into the skin

This information was obtained from websites that had no scientific evidence to back it up. Some claims did have links to scientific papers that theorized that maybe, possibly these facts might be true but the research was actually done on crude mineral oil which is used in industrial capacities and not cosmetic ones. Some sites quoted estheticians who have famous movie star clients, but that doesn't make them an authority on the matter, while they probably excel at giving a rocking facial they are in no way scientists. They  just happen to have a bigger platform to influence unwitting people who find these trash articles and take them as gospel.

The above "hater" points are completely unfounded, meaning I have NO clue where the writers contriver their information so I couldn't do further research. Other points I believe have been handed down over the years and are now regarded as fact. Just know that absolutely ZERO of the above points are true or accurate. 

Here are a few reasons that mineral oil is awesome in products. 
1. It forms an occlusive barrier to help prevent TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) Our bodies are in a constant state of water loss, to have a product available to help with this issue is pretty neat. I think of mineral oil containing products as a thin sleeve holding all the other fabulous ingredients close to my skin while they slowly sink in and work their magic.
2. It has been around since at least the 1700's and probably longer than that. The 1700's was the first time Merriam-Webster has record of the term Mineral Oil. The longer the history of use the more we have to go on as far as safety and effectiveness of an ingredient. 
3. It is inexpensive! This is actually a good thing. Even the highly refined very pure mineral oil is an excellent price. This is a great addition to a product and gives the formulator extra room in their budget to add other higher end ingredients to make your epidermis sing.
4. It ranks very low on the skin irritant scale, and if you are allergic to nuts and thereby nut oils this may be a great alternative for you

So there you have it folks, mineral oil, the forgotten hero in skin care. If you are having dry skin problems this winter give it a try and see what you think.


The "GO MINERAL OIL" articles

The nay-sayer articles:

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Reading and understanding Safety Data Sheets, aka SDS (formerly known as MSDS)

I had to learn about Safety Data Sheets (SDS) many different times throughout my schooling and then later in life in my professional career as well. It occured to me that maybe not everyone is familiar with them and I find them immensely helpful to refer to from time to time so I wanted to share what they are used for and why they may be helpful to you someday.

Safety Data Sheets were formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS, this terminology change was announced in 2013 and enforced in the end of 2015 to mid 2016 with the goal of making them more consistent and easier to understand across the board. They now adhere to something called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). There are even pictograms associated with this new system which is helpful for a quick reference.

There are 16 distinct sections to an SDS sheet:
1. Identification
2. Hazard(s) Identification
3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
4. First Aid Measures
5. Fire Fighting Measures
6. Accidental Release Measures
7. Handling & Storage
8. Exposure Controls / Personal Protection
9. Physical & Chemical Properties
10. Stability and Reactivity
11. Toxicology Information
12. Ecological Information
13. Disposal Considerations
14. Transport Information
15. Regulatory Information
16. Other Information

The first 8 sections are set up for quick reference for the people transporting and handling the chemicals as well as any emergency responders should there be an issue.
Sections 9-11 handles technical and scientific data. Sections 12-15 are not actually mandatory but they are required to be GHS compliant and section 16 will contain information on the SDS itself such as revision dates and changes since last version.

Employers are responsible for making sure there is an SDS sheet for every chemical on site and they must be available for employee reference in their immediate work area. These would most likely be for any cleaning agents in the workplace however essentially ANY product or raw material (i.e. base ingredients) can have an SDS sheet. 

Even "natural" products such as Dr. Bronner's Soap has SDS sheets as well as base ingredients such as Olive Oil. I am pointing this out because I have heard misinformed people many times refer to the information on an SDS sheet of a raw material while trying to make a point about the safety of the entire product. This is always going to be inaccurate because the SDS sheet is informing about the raw material in its most concentrated form and not as the material as used within a formulation in a diluted form. I have read countless times someone who pointed out that the person handling "xyz" ingredient has to wear a respirator or hazmat suit or face mask to handle the ingredient so that must mean it's not safe. WRONG! This reasoning could not be further from the truth. I wear gloves and sometimes a respirator when mixing sodium hydroxide which is a necessary part of making handmade soap but that in no way means that the soap is dangerous or unsafe simply because sodium hydroxide was used in the making process. It simply means that in its concentrated form I am aware that it could cause me harm so I protect myself. 

So there you have it, SDS sheets in a nutshell. Links are below for further reading if you wish.

Stay wise my friends, 
~Your Soapsmith

Friday, October 11, 2019

Ingredient highlight: Aluminum

Well hello again. I've been a busy bee these past few months and have been lax on posting. But I have been thinking about topics I wanted to research and write about so here I am for a long overdue ingredient highlight on Aluminum. I have been wanting to know more about aluminum in body care ingredients for awhile. They are one of those "scary" ingredients and I wasn't completely sure why so I went on a quest. 

Let's start with the basics. What is aluminum? Aluminum (Al) is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic metal. Aluminum is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by mass of the crust. Aluminum metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and it is usually found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminum is bauxite. 

In what products is aluminum primarily found? Aluminum-containing raw materials are used safely and extensively in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. In cosmetics, they function as pigments and thickening agents. Aluminum compounds also function as active ingredients in OTC drugs such as antacids and antiperspirants. Because aluminum is present in soil, most exposure comes from foods we eat and the water we drink.  Studies demonstrate a negligible potential for Aluminum salts to penetrate the skin. Any small amount absorbed from the use of cosmetic products, would be tiny in comparison to the amounts we consume in the foods we eat daily.

Next I asked the Google "How does aluminum work in anti-perspirants?" This answer popped up: Aluminium-based antiperspirants work by blocking the sweat ducts, thereby reducing the amount of sweat that reaches the skin's surface. ... When they are applied to the skin and come in contact with sweat, the pH rises causing the aluminium salts to precipitate out and form a plug over the sweat glands.

Then I navigated over to and typed in "aluminum". Have you ever been to this site? It seems good, they present information in a very neutral way which I like. On their site they first outline the claims that are going around and then they proceed to address them with facts that are backed up by scientific studies. If the studies that they reference are weak (or later disproven as it sometimes happens) they are up front about that as well, all in all I like this site. Anyway I digress back to my findings on the site about aluminum. In a nutshell through all the solid studies that have been done there is no link between aluminum and breast cancer. The information they had there was extremely insightful and there was quite a bit of it too, instead of repeating what they have written I am adding the link and encouraging you to take a look at the information there, it's a great read >

Another concern I read about was aluminum exposure and a possible link to alzheimer's or dementia. This is of particular concern and interest to me because I have older relatives that have suffered with this affliction and we really don't know what caused it. So I dug in on the site Their information was neat because it spoke of aluminum use in multiple capacities from being in the drinking water to being in anti-perspirants. At this time all research is pointing towards the fact that neither of these diseases are caused by aluminum. I am dropping the link to their site below for your reading pleasure as well.

Now I think it would be abundantly easier on society as a whole to just find that "bad" or "dangerous" ingredient that causes all the ailments what make people sick and just eliminate it but things will never be that easy. Certainly there have been recalls of products and ingredients which were believed to be safe then found later to either be unsafe or ineffective or highly allergenic or otherwise unusable to the public at large but it's not that common. Why you may ask? Well simply because before an ingredient is even available to be used in a formulation it's been tested extensively and exhaustively to know the safety data. Staple ingredients like aluminum are then placed on a list by the FDA of acceptable to use for _____ in this case I am referring to its use in antiperspirants. Aluminum is, in fact, the ONLY ingredient that the FDA has listed as approved in creating a product that acts as antiperspirants do.
You can search through product recalls here>>>

It seems that there were more issues with food or drug items being recalled due to contamination or concerns over sterility (in the case of drug manufacturing) than over an ingredient that was going to cause cancer or some other disease.

As always I encourage those in my tribe to be informed consumers and know the relevant data backed resources in which to pull information from when trying to make a decision about the health and safety of yourself and your family. There are great resources available to us in this day and age thanks to the internet. There are also terrible resources available because every "Karen" and "Chad" with an internet connection can just write whatever pleases them and some are convincing enough to sway public opinion which I think is a real shame. When I am looking for answers I turn to science and I always will. I hope that whatever resources you trust are ones that are keeping you and yours on a safe and happy path in life.

'Til next time
~Your (science nerd) Soapsmith