Monday, 24 November 2014

Green-washing in cosmetics: Why do they do it?

When I was 16 I was an extreme level young hippie. John Lennon was my Jesus, I genuinely wanted World Peace more than anything in the world and wished I could save every starving kid and abused animal on the planet. I refused to drive a car because I didn't want to contribute to pollution, I bought all my clothes from Value Village and the Salvation Army because I wanted to rebel against norms and not feed into the fashion machine, I was Vegan when being Vegan wasn't trendy yet (10 years ago, most people didn't even know what the word Vegan meant). And having problematic skin and hard to manage hair, but a very hippie personal ethos, led me to try to formulate my own cosmetics at home so I would know they were truly natural and not green-washed.

When something is actually made by a kitchen chemist, like we would all love to believe all our products are, it's not exactly aesthetically appealing. I made my own Aloe and ACV hair rinses, way before it was cool. These products were not very cosmetically elegant- nor did they work as magically as the internet told me they did. I made my own Rhassoul Clay face wash and mask, but this did not cure my acne as the internet said it would. I had unrealistic expectations, to say the least. I thought they would work better than products I had purchased at stores (because I was using high concentrations and not "watering it down" with synthetics). What I had failed to realize was that the synthetics I thought of as filler, were what was making commercial products feel great, absorb and spread well, smell great and last longer than a week in the fridge. Not that I had never read this anywhere, but I simply didn't want to believe it, because in my hippie little heart I genuinely believed that nature had all the answers for us if we just looked hard enough.

 We consumers drive what cosmetic companies do, whether we believe it or not, they truly are trying to give us what we want. What most consumers want boils down to the following few points:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Product Review: Deborah Lippman The Cure Cuticle Cream

Available at Sephora for $29.00 CDN
Their description:
What it is:
An ultranourishing formula that repairs cuticles. 

What it is formulated to do:
This creamy product returns softness and moisture to dry cuticles with a patented combination of soothing, luxurious raspberry stem cell extract, red algae, shea butter, sodium hyaluronate, and vitamins A, C, and E. This powerful treatment offers immediate relief from roughed-up cuticles and offers long-term protection from dryness with daily use. 

What it is formulated WITHOUT:
- Parabens
- Sulfates 
- Phthalates 

Their instructions:
-Massage a small amount onto each nail and the surrounding cuticle area. Apply frequently throughout the day to maintain softness and prevent dryness. 
-For extra pampering, apply Cuticle Oil to soften and hydrate, then follow with The Cure to deeply condition, nourish, and protect while sealing in moisture. 
-Allow to penetrate overnight for baby soft cuticles by morning. 
-For beautifully groomed hands, use Cuticle Remover and Cuticle Oil in your weekly cuticle care regimen.

Confession: The one really bad beauty habit I can't seem to rid myself of is cuticle abuse. I'm one of those people who is constantly twitchy, stressed and craves doing something with their hands. The something I tend to do when I'm thinking through a problem, is picking at my cuticles and sometimes biting (I know, criticize, I deserve it). My cuticles tend to look ragged almost all the time and I have tried dozens of different products trying to repair them. This cream, which I like to call my cuticle mortgage (30 dollars in Canada, for cuticles....but I fork it over), is the only thing that works in one application.

Every other product I've tried requires at least a few days of constant re-application and enough personal discipline on my part not to go at my cuticles and render my efforts useless. This stuff, one application and within 10 minutes my cuticles look like new no matter what I've been doing. The effect is so addictive that I actually find myself way less tempted to pick at my cuticles after application.

  1. Water: A water based cream... naturally
  2. C12-20 Acid Peg-8 Ester: An emulsifier made of several chemically bonded saturated fatty acids
  3. Butylene Glycol: This is chemically classified as a solubilizer, it's added to cosmetics to keep textures consistent and consistently slippery and easy to apply
  4. Hydroxystearic/Linolenic/Oleic Polyglycerides: This is our workhorse, similar to lanolin in it's emolliency and barrier protection. It's a polymer made from several different types of triglycerides and skin with an impaired barrier function (like my ragged cuticles) benefits immensely from application. Concentration is probably between 5-10%
  5. Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter: Off course, you could use pure shea butter, which I frequently do when the pocketbook feels light. It will still condition and protect cuticles, but I don't find the effect nearly as efficient as applying this cream just once.
  6. Coco-Caprylate/Caprate: an ester of coconut fatty alcohol, caprylic and capric acids which has a lot of glide, similar to siicone

Thursday, 13 November 2014

About Ingredients: Behentrimonium Methosulfate

Behentrimonium Methosulfate or BTMS is a commonly used quaternary ammonium compound. It is lab-bred from modified rapeseed oil and is classified as a surfactant or an emulsifier if it's only being used to mix oil and water. In its raw ingredient form, it looks like little white waxy pellets, as shown in this picture. It is typically paired with Cetyl or Cetearyl alcohol (these are the moisturizing alcohols) in formulations, because these fatty alcohols enhance it's thickness and moisturizing ability. Typically the raw ingredient form carries a pH between 5-7 depending on the manfuacturer and lab process. As a surfactant it acts as a fantastic cleansing conditioner ingredient, it is CG friendly and rinses off clean. As an emulsifier, it helps combine the water and oil phases of products and give us that smooth creamy texture we like.

It also serves another purpose: it is naturally cationic/negatively charged, meaning it loves to bond to positively charged molecules. One type of molecule that carries a positive charge is a damaged hair cuticle, which means that BTMS functions as a temporary repair agent, however the effect eventually wears off. This is still good news for those suffering from chemical, heat or mechanical damage; any set of raggedy ends will appreciate a product with a high BTMS concentration. These temporary bonded sites are the only portions of your hair which would retain BTMS post-rinsing, meaning that those fearful of any buildup can rest assured, everything that your hair doesn't use will wash down the drain. It has another feature which differentiates it from its close cousin, Behentrimonium Chloride, it's known to be very gentle on sensitive skin, so it makes for a fantastic leave on option which is very unlikely to irritate the scalp. This is the active ingredient in Kinky Curly Knot Today, probably one of the most beloved natural hair products on the market.

 It's my personal favorite conditioning ingredient. It's very commonly used in leave-in water based conditioners, deep conditioners and regular detangling conditioner. Why I personally love it comes down to detangling, it is so slippery that tangles just melt beneath the fingers. I have used many conditioners which feature it high on the ingredient list and have almost never been disappointed in the slip. At lower concentrations you don't see as great of an effect and it may only be in your product to serve its emulsifying purpose.

Long story short:
Pros- Detangling, slippery, rinses cleanly (except from damaged ends), CG friendly, not prone to buildup or weighing hair down, gentle enough for use in leave-on products
Cons- As a raw ingredient, it is pricier than most other Quats, so stingy manufacturers often use it in very low quantities, if at all. However, many natural hair companies are on the BTMS bandwagon and know how much curly hair loves it, so they are more generous.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Shea Moisture Yucca & Baobab Thickening Growth Milk Review + Ingredient List

Claims: Detangles, conditions and strengthens while increasing volume for thicker, full bodied hair.

Directions: Apply as a no-rinse protective and styling cream to damp, towel dried hair as needed. Style.

My thoughts/My Results: 
This stuff does have a light floral fragrance, I definitely smell the Honeysuckle. The texture is exactly that of most hair milks, thin and somewhat runny. Knowing the texture of most cosmetic Shea Butters and the fact that it's second on the ingredient list, I would postulate that the Shea Butter is approximately 10-20% of the overall composition. It behaved on my hair as I would have predicted-Left my hair very moisturized and bouncy, with a light shine and very soft to the touch. My hair type is best described at 2C/3A in texture, very thick and dense, low porosity and tailbone length. I am Mediterranean in ethnic origin and my hair is very typical of curly hair types from this region. One thing that I look for in all my leave ins is for them to make a positive effect on my ends, which is the last of my heat damaged hair, while making the majority of my hair smooth and shiny and not weighing down my roots and crown too badly. This did all that and my next detangling session was also very pleasant, meaning that it kept my hair from tangling excessively, which is usually the type of characteristic that leads me to repurchase products.

Notes on how this would behave depending on porosity:
This product leaves a light flexible film of oils and butters in a water solution on the hair. It doesn't contain any cationic polymers which would aid in closing the cuticles, therefore works well on its own for low porosity hair such as mine, which is well moisturized and just needs a light seal, which is what this would do. For more porous hair, it can be used as step one in a good LOC or LCO regimen, as it would likely absorb into the hair shaft, make the hair more bouncy and pliable (as it did for my porous ends) but it would need additional sealing as it is quite light and water based.

Who else might this be good for: 
Tighter curly hair types might also benefit, anyone with hair within the type 3 range would probably enjoy this and women with tighter curl patterns within the 4A-4C range might like it with other styling products, definitely not enough moisture on it's own. Those who have looser patterns than I do, women with typically wavy or straight hair, I would consider trying it as a leave-in when not heat styling and would definitely recommend it for thicker hair rather than thinner. It didn't weigh me down but my hairtype naturally has a lot of body of its own. Use with caution.

Full ingredient breakdown and science based thoughts on hair growth and strengthening claims