Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is Your Vitamin C Serum Harming Your Skin?

Vitamin C in skincare is a big trend right now in the beauty world. And rightly so! This simple vitamin has been found to scavenge free-radical damage, helps to firm skin and even-out skin tone. But despite the promise that vitamin C brings, some vitamin C products could actually be damaging your skin.

See, the most effective form of Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. (In particular l-ascorbic acid.) This is the form of C that has been studied and found to be so beneficial. But ascorbic acid is a tricky thing. Once it's dispersed in water (or aloe, etc) it starts to degrade fairly quickly, and these products of degradation can end up damaging your skin with free radicals. To remain stable, ascorbic acid in solution needs to remain in a highly acidic state (Source) and also not exposed to air. So, while it is possible to have a stable vitamin C formula, it is difficult. (The formula will turn brown once this happens, so it's fairly apparent.)

So, formulators instead turned to ascorbyl palmitate--a form of vitamin C that's much more stable. Doesn't break down and it's oil-soluble so it's great to put in a serum. Or so we thought. Turns out, once asorbyl palmitate was actually studied, researchers found out that it didn't have the same benefits that ascorbic acid has. Ascorbyl palmitate has to be activated by enzymes in order to do its job as a vitamin, and they found that the enzymes in the skin just didn't do an efficient job of utilizing the ascorbyl palmitate. They also found that when exposed to sunlight, the ascorbyl broke down and created free radicals on the skin. So, the compound that you've been using to try to reverse damage could actually be damaging your skin! (Source)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why the Essential Oil "Crackdown" is a Good Thing

You may have heard the story--on the 22nd of this September 2014, the FDA sent warning letters to both doTerra and Young Living Essential Oils. (See the original letters here, and here.)

If you read sources like Health Impact News you might think that the government is "targeting" essential oils and natural substances and trying to keep us from using natural remedies. (Read their article here.) You might think that the FDA and Big Pharma feel threatened by essential oils. But today I'd like to offer an alternative and "inside" view as to what's really going on behind the warning letters and why they're actually a good thing.

The Law

According to US law, there are three categories of substances: Drugs, Cosmetics, and Supplements.

Any product or ingredient that claims to treat, cure, or prevent disease is considered to be a drug. All active drug ingredients must go through very specific testing procedures and the FDA approval process before they can legally become a drug. When you make a drug claim but the product/ingredient hasn't gone through the approval process, that product then is considered a "misbranded drug" by the FDA. This law was written several decades ago and has nothing to do with the current drug marketplace or corporations that have ties to the FDA.

Young Living Billboard in Salt Lake City
There are exemptions from drug testing requirements for herbs, supplements, and vitamins, but these substances have to be very clearly marked as supplements and have to use very specific language with their claims. For instance you can claim, "supports immune system" but you can't claim that something is anti-viral. You can claim "supports hormonal balance" but can't claim to cure PCOS. [This is from my understanding of the law; if you're selling supplements please make sure you do all your legal due diligence.]

The third category under the law is cosmetics. Cosmetics are meant to cleanse, moisturize, and beautify the body. (Skin, hair, teeth, etc.) As a company that manufactures cosmetics, we have to be careful in the claims that we make. For instance, we can make a cleanser that's meant for cleansing skin, however, saying that the product will treat acne would be making a drug claim. We can make a moisturizer with skin hydrating and softening properties, but can't claim it will be anti-aging, because that is a drug claim.

Are Essential Oils Drugs, Supplements, or Cosmetics?

Most essential oils haven't gone through the necessary testing and approval process to be drugs, so they're not seen by the law as such. Also, they're not intended solely for internal use (and shouldn't be!) so they're not supplements either. So, the category that essential oils are regulated under is cosmetics. Because cosmetics are not meant to treat disease, they cannot claim to prevent the common cold, treat the flu, cure ebola, or have antibacterial action. They are meant to simply smell nice, refresh your room, or perhaps calm your mood. This is why the companies received their warning letters. You can't state that essential oils are going to treat infections, prevent a cold, stop ebola, or cure cancer within the realms of the law. doTerra and Young Living have been marketing their essential oils illegally for years.

Not a Government Conspiracy

There are hundreds of companies breaking FDA regulations on a daily basis. So many that the FDA really doesn't have the manpower to really regulate every single one. It's really only until a company has really hurt someone with their product or is reported several times that the FDA takes notice. And that is exactly what happened with Young Living & doTerra. With a growing list of people that have been injured by reactions due to bad advice from essential oil reps and a petition supported by Aromatherapy United that was circulated and submitted to the FDA, it's no surprise that after years of breaking the law, they finally got a warning.

NOT because the FDA wants us to stop using essential oils. NOT a government conspiracy to promote "Big Pharma."

The Fallout

Comments in response to the news of the warnings have ranged from supportive to outrage. One argument that I've heard is that it's unfair of the government to come in and stop companies from promoting natural substances, and that the essential oil market should be self-regulated. But, in my view, an industry can't be self-regulated if major players in the market are blatantly breaking the law. If you have an industry that's consistently following the country's regulations, the government is going to spend less time worrying about what you're doing. Clearing out the law-breakers from the industry is a step towards self-regulation.

One article in response to the controversy stated that the FDA "refuses to conduct any testing on natural or alternative therapies in order to find out whether they work or not." Well, yeah...that's because the FDA doesn't do ANY testing. Companies that are bringing a new drug to the market do the testing--not the FDA. The FDA simply reviews the studies that the companies submit to them and decide whether or not a substance is approved and how it should be labeled and marketed. (Listing of side effects, etc.)

Insider's View

Governor Herbert on a Young Living Wagon during the 4th of July Parade

I don't feel bad at all for doTerra and Young Living. These are companies based in my home state of Utah. I've seen their multi-million dollar headquarter buildings, freeway billboards, and the millions of dollars they rake in every year. With the business that they do around here, it's hardly the big mean government picking on the little guys. These companies have our local government in their pockets because they are major players in our state's economy. In fact, the Governor's Office of Economic Development gave doTerra a contract for a tax incentive to build their headquarters in 2013 and just announced a state tax credit and contract with Young Living. These companies may have been served with a slap on the wrist from the FDA, but they have the full support of the governor.

Bottom Line

I support essential oils and I don't have anything against the actual products doTerra and Young Living offers. I think it's great that people are looking for alternatives to drugs and are looking to live more holistically. However, I have seen dangerous advice being given out (ingesting certain essential oils, applying it IN people's eyes, applying it straight to the skin) for years by the reps of these companies and people have been hurt. The warning letters are a step toward safety and self-regulation within the aromatherapy community. As a manufacturer of cosmetics who tries to obey the law, I'd rather see a level playing field and everyone striving to label and market products that adhere to the laws of our country.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Looking Ahead to 2015

A few days ago I received this email asking if we were having troubles as a company:
I've noticed over the past year that you guys have been offering more sales than you had in the past.  I'm starting to get worried!  I worry that perhaps the sales are an indication that sales are down overall, and that the company will go out of business if things don't improve.  
We are so glad to have customers that care! Yes, we have been sending out more emails over the last year, but NO this doesn't mean that we're scrambling and close to closing our doors. In fact, it's the opposite! We're stronger than ever and have seen growth every year! There are a few reasons that we've sent out more emails in the past year:

Changes on Facebook
In years past, we were able to reach so many of our customers through Facebook. Commonly we did Facebook flash sales, contests, and other promotions that kept people involved. But with the changes that Facebook has made in the last year or so, we're lucky if 1000 people out of the 20,000 fans we have on our page see our posts. Paying to promote our posts hasn't been effective so we've re-tooled our strategies and focused more on our email newsletter system to keep people in the loop.

Growth in Our Company
We have big plans! A couple months ago we expanded our warehouse to a second building and are working on three more in the same complex. We are currently building the infrastructure to grow our business in some really exciting ways. There is SO much still that we want to do, but simply haven't had the room to do it in. Expanding our production and warehousing will allow us to add more products, build efficiencies so we can do an even higher volume. There will be production equipment we'll be investing in, we're currently working on a new order picking system with software and scanners so orders ship even more quickly than their normal same-to-next day turnaround. We can't get in to a lot of details because our big plans are going to be a surprise. Our new website was only phase 1. The sale's we've been offering keeps cash flow moving, allowing us to invest back in to our company without the need for outside investors.

Fresh Inventory
We always base our sales on current inventory levels. And with more production capabilities than in years past, we have more products to provide. We always strive to send the freshest products possible; when you order from us, the product has in most cases, been made within the last week to a month. Keeping inventory moving is key to freshness, so we may run sales from time-to-time to keep from possibly overstocking an item.

Spreading the Word
The holiday season is a great way that word is spread about our company. Through promotions in the holiday season we're able to reach new customers by word-of-mouth through gifts. So, during the holidays we run some sales. We're wrapping up the holidays and the new year, so you won't likely see storewide sales with the deep discounts we've offered over the last few months. However, we continue to come up with creative ideas for promotions and new products. Plus, we'll continue offering discounts on certain categories so you can always try something new!

Thank you to everyone for your support over the years! This Spring will mark our 8th year in business thanks to our (very!) loyal customers! We are always working to bring you the best of the best organic products and look forward to an amazing 2015!


Bubble & Bee offers the largest line of USDA certified organic products on the market. Many customers have been willing to pay full price to support & ensure that our company will continue to be able to offer these products. Especially when considering the value of the items (with deodorants that last a long time, shower gels that can be diluted, concentrated face cream, etc.) But as the stability of our company increases and we're able to offer higher volume, we can start to afford to offer more discounts. We have always wanted to make organic approachable for everyone, no matter what kind of budget they're on. So, speaking of discounts...here's a coupon code! Use code JAN5 at checkout to save $5 off your order over $35. (Expires Monday Jan. 12 midnight MST)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Dark Side of Mica

If your makeup has a sparkle or a shimmer, most likely you're using an ingredient called mica. Mica is a natural mineral that is mined and broken down to create a sparkly dust. While it creates great color, skin feel, and sparkle to cosmetics, there are some downsides to using this ingredient.
photo by blmurchvia PhotoRee
Skin Irritation
There is some evidence that mica can lead to skin irritation. Mica comes off in micro-thin sheets, (like what you see above) and when it's broken down to a powder, these sheets can be jagged, depending on the grade of the material. Theoretically these jagged particles could create microscopic lesions on your skin, leading to redness and irritation. There have been no studies on, this however, there is some empirical evidence that it does act this way for some people with more fragile or sensitive skin. Additionally, in order to create color with shimmer, micas are coated with colorants, many times synthetic dyes, so there is a risk of irritation from allergy to a mica.  

Chemical Processing
Most micas are not just used for shimmer, but for color. In order to impart color to micas, they undergo much chemical processing. They can be coated with mineral oxides (titanium dioxide, bismuth, iron, etc) but also with synthetic colorants. Some micas are then coated with silicones or other fatty materials to then reduce exposure to the dyes and reduce irritancy. So, while mica is a naturally-occurring mineral, calling it "natural" is a stretch of the word because of the intensive processing it underoges. However, it's generally accepted that when coated, it's an inert ingredient that's relatively safe. (Although breathing in the powder should be avoided.) 

While mica doesn't pose a large health risk, the environmental impact of mica creation seems to be substantial. Here's a description of how, after it's mined, it's processed:

Initially, ore is crushed to a fine powder to liberate the various mineral components of the ore, and then it is slurried to form an aqueous mineral dispersion. This crude dispersion is deslimed and separated according to particle sizes of the dispersed solids using a variety of mechanical classifiers. Desliming involves the addition of process chemicals such as sodium silicate to disperse slimes of hydrated clays, e.g., kaolin, which interfere with processing operations.
The separated fractions are then subjected to froth flotation to isolate the mica flakes from the kaolin, quartz and feldspar byproducts. Froth flotation entails diluting and agitating the mineral slurries in solutions of surfactants under acidic, pH = 2.5–4.0, or alkaline, pH = 7.5–9.0, conditions to entrain the desirable mica fractions in the resulting foam or froth. The mica-laden froth is then separated, concentrated and dried to recover the mica flakes, while the byproducts may undergo further treatment and isolation steps for use in other applications.
Flake mica may be converted to ground mica by dry or wet grinding.4, 5 Wet grinding is typically employed to obtain the higher quality ground mica used in cosmetics. The wet process yields exceedingly flat mica flakes with small particle sizes, high aspect ratios and smooth edges. In wet grinding operations, mica flake is ground in the presence of 20–35% water, dewatered, dried and then screened on sieves to segregate the various particle size fractions prior to bagging. Micronization techniques may be employed to produce even more finely ground mica particles. In this milling process, mica particles are propelled into each other at high speeds using jets of superheated steam or compressed air, causing a grinding action that effectively reduces particle size and thickness.- See more at: http://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/chemistry/premium-Profile-of-Mica-209695521.html?c=n#sthash.JQmggUZi.dpuf
Unethical Mining Practices

In addition to the environmental impacts of strip mining, there's a human element as well. Mica suppliers and mines are being called in to question for child labor, especially in India. States one article: "the industry here is little better than a black market, dependent on a huge unskilled workforce, forced into working for lower and lower prices. Profits are made off the backs of children." Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/indias-mica-mines-the-shameful-truth-behind-mineral-makeups-shimmer-20140118-311wk.html#ixzz3K6x41I2t 

Makeups are probably the most difficult-to-find products when it comes to finding something that's truly organic. We have high expectations of our makeups: brilliant colors, shimmer, staying in place, feeling good on our skin, smelling mild, not clogging our pores. Mica is an ingredient that not only gives brilliant color and shimmer, but can even help absorb oil and give a silky feel on skin. However, there is a "dark" side to mica that one should consider when making an informed decision when choosing products. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do We Have Aromatherapy All Wrong?

A discussion in an essential oils forum sparked some thoughts for me in general about aromatherapy, scents, and essential oils. The woman in the forum was experiencing migraine headaches, however, if she smelled a leather wallet, duct tape, or a sandalwood patchouli candle, the headache went away. What was the common denominator between these three things?

When you think about it, a leather wallet, duct tape, and a patchouli candle (probably a synthetically-fragranced one) all have a similar scent...leathery, musky. There may even be a particular scent constituent that's similar across the board. So, if we can isolate this compound, does this mean that we've discovered the cure for migraines? And, what if it is a synthetic fragrance chemical? Aren't those supposed to be bad for us?

Let's take a look at a study about those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. With MCS, suffers will respond negatively to scents, getting sick from just a whiff of a particular scent. The study found that the mechanism of the illness may lie not in the scents themselves, but in how their brains perceive and process the scents.

So, then if a scent could trigger illness, it makes sense that a scent could cure a headache. Scent is a highly individualistic perception, tied to emotion and memory. Perhaps the woman with the migraines has a positive association with a leathery, musky scent. Perhaps a comforting father figure, or a special place she visited in the past. When her brain processes that scent, it stimulates a relaxant response and ends up curing her headache.  Even if it's a synthetic chemical.

So, what am I getting at here? Well, we see aromatherapy books and blogs listing out essential oils and their particular properties. Lavender always listed as relaxing. Geranium as an antidepressant. Grapefruit as a stimulant. Lemon for calming. But are we going about this all wrong? When we consider how each of our brains process scents differently, how we all have different memories and emotions tied to different scents, how can we say that any one particular essential oil is going to act the same for everyone? Well, aromatherapy charts are general guidelines. If you're trying to calm yourself through sniffing essential oils, don't just go off what your friend tells you works for her. Try several essential oils and figure out exactly how your body responds to each one. What cures one person's headache may cause a headache in another.

But it also calls in to question the issue of essential oil purity. An essential oil with a synthetic adulterant may be just as calming as a pure essential oil. Many of us grew up with synthetic fragrances all around us and may have positive associations with those chemicals, so our brains may respond positively to these scents. Not to say that there aren't many harmful synthetic fragrances, or that I support adulterated essential oils--just that it's all an individual experience and we should keep this in mind as we consider others around us who may be in love with their synthetic candles or lotions.

One of my partner Stevie "B's" favorite smells is a combination of black licorice and diesel exhaust. What? Well, when he was a kid growing up in southern Illinois, he and his family would cross the bridge to go in to St. Louis, always to do something fun, like going to the museum or six flags. On the way home they'd get stuck in traffic on the bridge next to the big licorice factory. The busses spewing out diesel exhaust swirled together with the black licorice smell from the factory to create a positive memory for him. Probably not the healthiest scent to love, but a powerful one nevertheless. (And also one of the main reasons we make our Black Licorice soap!)

We get questions from time to time about our products like: "Is the smell too sweet? Is it a mild scent? Which is stronger, the geranium or the lime? Which one smells the best?" These are impossible questions to answer because we all perceive scents so differently. We can share our own personal perceptions, but what's too sweet to one person is another person's favorite heavenly scent. But it is interesting to think--it's all, quite literally, in our heads.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Healthy Harvest: Pumpkin

The mighty pumpkin...is actually a fruit! From the same family as cucumbers and melons, this healthy and useful gourd is good for so much more than fall-time decorations!

Pumpkin Flesh

Pumpkin flesh is nutrient-rich and low in calories. One cup of pumpkin puree contains only 83 calories (compare to sweet potato which has three times as many calories). It's also high in fiber (7 g per serving) has more potassium than bananas, is a good source of magnesium and iron, and provides 763% RDA of vitamin A!


  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of iron and can thus help with anemia. (Source)
  • They're also a good plant source of tryptophan, which can aid with insomnia. (Source)
  • Extracts from the seed have also been found to be a powerful antioxidant. (Source)
  • A combination of flax and pumpkin seeds have been found to promote heart health and liver function. (Source)

Pumpkin seed oil

Men's Health

  • Pumpkin seed oil has been found to reverse male pattern balding at a dose of 400 mg per day. (Source
  • It's also been found to inhibit prostate enlargement (Source) (Source)

Women's health

  • Pumpkin seed oil has also been found to help reduce symptoms associated with menopause, reducing hot flashes, etc. (Source)
  • Has also been found to help lower blood pressure and improve lipid profiles in animal studies, helping to improve health in low-estrogen states. (Source)

photo credit: valkyrieh116 via photopin cc

For educational purposes only; not intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Helpful Herbs: Lavender

Since our new Lavender Vanilla Body Butters and Pit Puttys have been such a hit, I thought I'd write about some of the benefits of today's Helpful Herb: Lavender.

Reduced Stress

Thus study found that bathing with lavender reduced stress and enhanced sleep in mothers and their infants. This study found that lavender and rosemary essential oils helped nursing students relax during testing.


This study found that inhalation of lavender essential oil reduced the symptoms of migraine headaches. Nintey-two out of 129 headache cases improved with lavender, whereas only thirty-two out of sixty-eight of the placebo group improved.


The scent of lavender has been found to help with insomnia and depression. (SourceSource) "According to the study results, it can be concluded that the lavender fragrance had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in women college students. Repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression."


Lavender essential oil has been found in lab tests to be effective against candida albicans (Source) and to be antibacterial against certain strains of staph. (Source)

Reduced Menstrual Cramps & PMS

One study found that inhaling lavender (diluted in a 2:1 ratio in sesame oil) helped reduce menstrual cramps. (Source) Another study found lavender oil aromatherapy to help ease some symptoms (mood, energy) in PMS. (Source)

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. For educational purposes only; not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.