Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flax Seeds Benefits

When you think of acne treatment you probably think about something you put ON your skin to zap away the pimples. I know I was looking for that magic topical potion as I battled pretty moderate acne well in to my late 20s. But the thing that cured my acne wasn't a soap, a lotion or a toner. It was something that treated my skin from within: flax seeds.

Flax seeds are a triple threat against acne. First of all they're high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce inflammatory responses in the body, including the skin. Second they contain hormone-balancing lignans. Lignans have been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, an enzyme involved in the conversion of testosterone to DHT (its more active form). In other words, it helps to balance the production of androgens, which, in excess can cause acne. Third, essential fatty acids strengthen the skin's cell membranes, thus hydrating the innermost layer of skin. This makes skin less suseptible to hormonal fluctuations and more resilient to infection.

Why do we sell the FlaxPro Flax seeds? Because I've tried other brands without success. They didn't have the same benefits because they weren't as fresh and bioavailable. With air-tight packaging and a proprietary processing method that increases nutrient availability, these flaxpro seeds were superior. Plus they're easy to use. Because of their special processing, there's no need to grind! Why? Because the seeds are heated to a low temperature that's not high enough to affect the omega-3s, but just enough to reduce excess moisture in the seed. This makes them easeir for the body to break down and thus more bioavailable. (I know--sounds weird not having to grind flax seeds, but it's true!)

Flax Seeds for women's health
For years I struggled with estrogen dominance. Getting rid of parabens, phlalates, aluminum chlorohydrate and other xenoestrogens was a giant step in the right direction for me. [Note: Men--if you're squeamish about feminine issues, you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs.] Several years ago now, before I started this company I was using conventional chemical-filled body and skin care products and eating not-so-great conventional foods. My periods were way off kilter. I'd go for six months without a sign of a period, and then I'd spot for five months straight. Once I figured out everything I was doing wrong, became outraged with the chemical-filled products on the market, changed my lifestyle, and started Bubble and Bee, I stopped the extreme periods and was able to have one once about every three months. Then I met flax seeds. Hello regular periods! But how? Here's the science behind it.

Flax seeds contain high amounts of anti-oxidant compounds called lignans. Lignans are a group of phytochemicals that have weakly estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties. One study done at the University of Rochester found that women who ate flax seeds during the study had a higher raio of LP progesterone to estradiol. What does this mean? It means that flax seeds balanced the ratio of progesterone to estrogen. For women with estrogen dominance syndrome, this can mean a lot, including the diminishing of fibroids, cysts, PMS, and the regulation of periods. In addition, the study found that eating flax seeds lengthened the second half of the cycle (the progesterone-dominant half), leading to more consistent ovulation. In the study, all of the women who ate flax seeds ovulated every month for the three month study. Conversely, the women in the study who didn't eat any flax seeds did experience some anovulatory cycles. What does this mean in plain English? That daily use of flax seeds can help promote hormone balance and fertility. In addition, one study found that eating flax seeds decreased hot flashes by 60%.
Flax seeds can also help with diminishing cramps. The body turns omega-3 fatty acids into series 1 and 3 anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like substances made by the body from essential fatty acids). The prostiglandins are the body's natural defense against inflammation and pain. So flax seeds can actually help decrease cramps and may aid in curbing some of the symptoms of endometriosis, adenomyosis, and other inflammatory symptoms during a woman's cycle. Which brings us to...

Flax Seeds for fighting inflammation
These prostaglandins are also helpful in decreasing inflammation througout the body, and may help to control inflammatory diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis. [Personal note: I haven't had to use my asthma inhaler once since I started eating flax seeds].

Flax Seeds for bone health
In addition, ALA found in flaxseeds promotes bone health by helping to prevent excessive bone turnover-when consumption of foods rich in this omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet. (Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Nutrition Journal) Researchers think this is most likely because omega-6 fats are converted into pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, while omega-3 fats are metabolized into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. (Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances made in our bodies from fatty acids.) Studies also showed that eating about an ounce of ground flaxseed each day will affect the way estrogen is handled in postmenopausal women in such a way that offers protection against breast cancer but will not interfere with estrogen's role in normal bone maintenance.

Flax Seeds for hearth health and cancer fighting
Omega-3 fats are used to produce substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Omega-3 fats are also needed to produce flexible cell membranes. Cell membranes are the cell's gatekeepers, allowing in needed nutrients while promoting the elimination of wastes. While important for everyone, flexible cell membranes are critical for persons with diabetes since flexible cell membranes are much better able to respond to insulin and to absorb glucose than the stiff membranes that result when the diet is high in saturated and/or hydrogenated (trans-) fats. In the colon, omega-3 fats help protect colon cells from cancer-causing toxins and free radicals, leading to a reduced risk for colon cancer.

Flax Seeds for lowering cholesterol
In a study involving 40 patients with high cholesterol (greater than 240 mg/dL), daily consumption of 20 grams of ground flaxseed was compared to taking a statin drug. After 60 days, significant reductions were seen in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and the ratio of total to HDL cholesterol-in both groups. Those receiving flaxseed did just as well as those given statin drugs!

For detailed information about the studies cited, visit these sources:


Where can I get FlaxPro Flax Seeds?
Made by NutraPro International, FlaxPro Flax Seeds aren't distributed in stores anywhere outside of Utah. The first and only way you can get these incredible seeds outside of Utah is through our website. We have chosen these flax seeds for their high level of freshness and nutrient availability. If you've ever tried other brands of flax seeds and found they tasted fishy, you weren't getting all the benefits of the seed. Rancid flax seeds do you no good. That's why we've chosen these special seeds that will reach you with optimal freshness.

Which ones are better? Golden or brown? I personally prefer the golden, but nutritionally they are identical. Taste-wise there's not much dirfference either.

How do you use the flax seeds? I recommend eating two tablespoons each day. You don't need to grind them like other flax seeds. They're very versatile--sprinkle them on soups or salads, add them to pastas, breads, or even on pizza. Put them in your morning smoothie or on your cereal. Or just eat them right from the canister--the possibilities are endless.

How much do you have to eat?
I recommend eating a minimum of two tablespoons a day.

Everyone's body and health is different, so I can't tell you that they're going to solve your particular problem. However, I can tell you that they've worked for me and countless others that have tried them.

This information has not been reviewed by the FDA. Neither the product nor this information is intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Truly Natural Hair Care

We've covered myths about hair care and talked about some chemicals to avoid--let's talk about caring for your hair without subjecting yourself to loads of synthetic chemicals. But first, we need to understand the physiology/chemistry of hair.

Hair is quite complex on a microscopic level. There are three parts of the hair strand--the cortex, the medulla and the cuticle. The cortex is the innermost layer of the hair, comprised of tiny coiled strands. The cortex is very important because it determines the shape and color of your hair. The shape of the tiny coils determine if your hair is straight, wavy or curly. When you style your hair through heat, you're temporarily re-shaping the molecular bonds of these coils within your hair. When you get your hair wet, it disrupts these molecular bonds and your hair goes back to it's normal texture. Perms and chemical straightening treatments permanently reconfigure these chemical bonds. The cortex is also the home of the pigment of your hair. When you get your hair colored, pigments are deposited in the hair's cortex.

The medulla is a hollow shaft that appears only in some hair strands. Scientists aren't quite sure of the function of the medulla, however, they do know that it does help determine how light and color reflect off the hair.

The cuticle is probably the most important part of the hair--it's the part of the hair that you see and feel. It protects the cortex and determines the strength of the hair. The cuticle is set up in layers, almost like scales (see photo). When hair is damaged, these scales are broken or lifted up. The more lifted the scales of the cuticle are, the more prone your hair is to damage. When the scales are lifted, hair feels brittle, dull, dry, and hard to comb through. (This is where the concept of "dry" hair comes from.) But when the scales are laying flat, the cortex is protected and the hair is stronger. So the key to healthy hair is simply to make sure that the cuticle is laying flat and tight. Okay, I'll admit--there is some moisture content of both water and oil to healthy hair, but you don't need a deep conditioner to get it there. Dry hair problems rarely have to do with moisture content--the problem is the cuticle is raised or damaged. Just getting your hair wet saturates the hair shaft, and typically the scalp creates enough oil to give the hair an adequate amount of lipids. The real key to healthy hair is to tighten up the cuticle so the moisture stays there and the cortex is protected. So, how do you get your cuticle to lay flat? It's actually quite simple.

When hair is alkaline, the cuticle is raised. When hair is acidic, the cuticle lays flat. When you get a color treatment, a strong alkali (like ammonia) is applied to the hair--this makes the cuticle open up so the colors can then be deposited in to the cortex of the hair. On a daily basis, you want to make sure that your hair is in an acidic state so that it is strong, shiny and manageable.

Most shampoos you find in stores are made with synthetic detergents. No matter how gentle they are, these detergents can break down the cuticle of the hair over time--that's why your hair feels so weird and hard to comb through after you shampoo, and why you have to use conditioner. Hair cuticle is made up of keratin--a type of protien. Conditioners contain hydrolyzed protiens, polymers (like polyquaterniums), and silicone products (like dimethicone and petasiloxane) to replace the broken down keratin of your hair. If you don't strip the hair with detergents in the first place, you'll find you don't need conditioner.

Here are a few TRULY natural options that don't strip hair, protect and acidify it.

Natural Saponins
One great option is to use an herbal rinse with herbs containing natural saponins. Saponins are naturally-ocurring compounds that act like soap, lifting dirt and oil. A few plants with natural saponins are soapnuts, soapwort root, and yucca root. You can make a tea with one or more of these herbs and rinse your hair with this tea. It won't give you much lather, but the tea will gently clean your hair.

The down-side: you have to make the tea every time you wash your hair

The upside: a really natural and gentle option.

Clay Shampoo
Clays are another great natural choice. Clays absorb oils and lift them off your hair without damaging hair. (You're probably all familiar with Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash). You just apply a big dollop of mud to your hair, massage scalp, and rinse out. It may feel weird not having lather in your hair, but it works!

The down-side: Clays are ever so slightly alkaline, so be sure to follow up with a diluted vinegar rinse so your hair is acidic. Also, can be a bit messy having clay in your bath or shower.

The up-side: No chemicals on your skin or down the drain.

Castile Soap Shampoo

This is the method that great-grandma used! A soap, not a detergent, cleans the hair. You still get that lather that you're used to, and you don't have to worry about chemical preservatives, detergents, or coatings. Wash with a gentle castile soap and then follow up with a vinegar rinse. Soap is naturally alkaline--that's why we recommend using vinegar after our shampoo. The vinegar tightens up that cuticle, making the hair strong, smooth and shiny again.

The down-side: if you have hard water, soap creates soap scum in your hair. (Although there are some workarounds)

The Up-Side: great lather with no chemicals.

One note--some castile-based shampoos add vinegar or lemon juice to the shampoo to lower its pH. However, you're still going to need to use a vinegar rinse if you want your hair to be acidic. When you add an acid to the soap, a chemical reaction ocurrs and the alkali is neutralized. If the overall pH of the soap reaches neutral or acidic, the soap is rendered completely useless and it turns in to slime. So just because the castile soap shampoo has vinegar or lemon juice added to it, it's still alkaline.

No matter what method you prefer, when you switch from a conventional shampoo and conditioner, there is a hair detox period where the previous chemical coatings you've been using are being removed. During this time your hair may be flighty or just feel funky. The detox period usually lasts about a week to ten days. But after these chemical coatings are removed, your hair will be soft, shiny and truly healthy. Because these chemicals are being removed, some damage may be revealed. Don't think that the natural shampoo is damaging your hair--it's simply revealing the damage. If you do notice that you have split ends or damage--get a trim. Your hair will instantly feel healthier.

Have more questions? Visit this page.

NOTE: Be sure to rinse the shampoo out with water first before you do the vinegar rinse. Otherwise the soap turns to slime in your hair that's hard to get out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

5 Hidden Hair Care Chemicals

You probably already know the basics of which chemicals to avoid--SLES, parabens, phlalates, and "fragrance," so today I thought I'd go a little deeper and get in to some chemicals you may not be quite as familiar with.

I mentioned this chemical in my article yesterday, so I thought I'd flesh out more details today. A common ingredient in hair coloring treatments, PPD is a strong contact allergen. Some people have severe allergic reactions to PPD, even resulting in death. According to the EPA, PPD "may cause severe dermatitis, eye irritation and tearing, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and coma in humans." Yes, you read that right--coma! PPD is created from coal tar and is used in the manufacturing of rubber chemicals and textile dyes. Certain people have severe allergies to PPD, and can even be sensitive to black inks and clothes. And PPD is sneaky--sometimes companies add it to henna to create a darker hue. So you may think that you're using a safer product, but a "henna" can be just as bad as a synthetic dye. There are also "natural" hair dyes without ammonia, but they still contain PPD. So when choosing a hair dye, even if it's a henna, read the ingredients to make sure you're truly getting a natural product.
Found in: Aveda Hair Colors, Clairol Herbal Essences Hair Colors, L'Oreal Preference, Creme of Nature Hair Color, Dark & Lovely (to name a few).

#2 Butylated Hydroxytolulene (BHT)
BHT is a suspected carcinogen, a skin toxin, an immune system toxin, a neurotoxin, an endocrine disruptor, and is bioaccumulative. It's found in shampoos and conditioners as a masking and fragrance ingredient, in addition to a preservative. And wait a sounds a little too familiar. Dang it--it's in my Trident gum! I guess that's going in the trash.
Found in: Bumble and Bumble Dehydration Therapy Complex, Tigi Bed Head Stick, Africa's Best Organics Hair relaxer Products (to name a few.) It's also in numerous facial creams.

This preservative found in shampoo, conditioner, hair colors, hairsprays, and scalp treatments, is a skin toxin that can cause an immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments. It was first introduced as a cosmetic ingredient in the 70s, but after it caused chemical burns, it had to be restricted to wash-off products only. A couple products it's found in: Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Colors, Revlon Colorsilk Ammonia-Free Hair color, Huggies Detangler Shampoo, modern organics shampoo, Avon Kids Bubble Bath.

#4 Isobutane
This common hairspray propellant is not only flammable, but can also cause skin, eye and lung irritations. According to the Environmental Canada Domestic Substance List, it's suspected to be carcinogenic, genotoxic, and persistent. It can also be contaminated with butadiene, which is a known carcinogen. It's most harmful when it's airborn, which is exactly the form it's used in with hairspray. Some products it's found in: Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, Elizabeth Arden Mousse Foundation, Tigi Catwalk Extra Strong Mousse, Herbal Essences Mousse, Dove Foam Conditioner Volumizing Color.

#5 Triethanolamine
Also known as TEA, this ingredient used in styling gels can be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines. In addition, it can aggrivate asthma, is a skin sensitizer that can cause blistering and burning and is also a known immune system toxin. In addition to being in styling gels, it's found in makeups and facial care products. Found in: Neutrogena Original Formula Facial Cleansing Bar, modern organics molding cream, Vaseline Intensive Care Conditioner, L'Oreal Studio Line Head Lock to name a few.

There are thousands of chemicals out there in hair care products that can cause serious side effects. And while companies claim that they're used at small concentration, or it doesn't matter because you're just washing it off, or that they're only in your hair, not on your skin, you have to think about the daily repeated exposure to these chemicals.

Tomorrow--there is hope! We'll talk about the truly natural alternatives and I'll give you some tips for natural, beautiful hair without all the chemicals.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bubble & Bee now Certified Organic!

We did it! Bubble & Bee is now Certified Organic!

It's taken us a while now, but we did it! What does it mean to be certified organic? 

Well, here are a few things that we do as a certified organic processing facility.
Extensive Paperwork Has to be Submitted Every Year
Keep a detailed paper trail

For all our products designated as "100% organic" "organic" or "made with organic", we keep a detailed paper trail of where each ingredient came from, and who certified it as organic. All of these ingredients have to be grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and processed without chemicals. For each batch we make, we write down the supplier of each ingredient, the invoice date, the invoice number, and the certifying agency. The batch sheets are then kept on file.

Have an organic pest control plan

This means we don't use synthetic pesticides on our facility and use organic methods of pest control, like regular sweeping and removal of debris in and around our facility, and the use of certain essential oils and herbs to repel insects.

Ensuring organic integrity

This requirement isn't hard for us, as most of our ingredients are certified organic. However, we have to make sure that every ingredient is marked organic or conventional. For instance, we use both organic and conventional orange essential oil. We use the organic in the lip balms and bath salts, and the conventional in the soaps and shower gels. We have a big orange label on the conventional that says "CONVENTIONAL: shower gels and soaps only!" That way, there's no chance that the conventional doesn't accidentally get in to something it's not supposed to. We store herbs and other bulk ingredients in air-tight containers so there is no co-mingling of organic and non-organic. Scoops and utensils are washed between uses so there is no possibility of cross contamination.

Labeling requirements.

Our products can now bear the USDA certified organic seal! We also must include our certifying agency, the Utah State Department of Agriculture on a specific portion of the label.

Cleaning logs.

Every time we vaccuum a floor, wash the mixer, or wipe down the shipping table we have to record it in the log. There, we state the date, the cleaning method used, any cleaning materials used, and who did the cleaning. Any surface that comes in to contact with an organic product has to be thoroughly rinsed so there is no trace of cleansing residue. We typically use organic castille soap, organic sunflower oil, or organic vinegar for cleaning so we're always clean and green!

Shipping logs.

Any time we ship out a product, we keep a log of where it's going and what batch it was from. That way, if someone came to us with an invoice number, we could tell you which batch it was from, where each organic ingredient was from, and who certified that ingredient.

Production map of every product we make.

For each certified organic product, we have to create a production map. This describes where the ingredients are stored, where in our facility it's made, how it's made, how it's packaged, and labeled from start to finish.

Product Profile Sheet

We submit a product profile sheet to the department of agriculture that details each product, it's composition, and its label.

It's a lot of work, but we're proud of the extra work we do to make sure that our products are some of the cleanest and greenest around!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hair Care Myths: Exposed

Billions of marketing dollars are spent year after year to sell cheap chemicals as hair "care" products. Most of them are unneeded, and even dangerous. Today, I've exposed five hair care myths:

Myth #1: You can repair hair.

You've seen the commercial: "X shampoo strengthens hair, getting rid of split ends and repairing damage." Hair is dead. There is no way to repair it. Once you have a split end, it's split. Once it's damaged, there's no fixing it. It's like saying you'd be able to take an old dried out piece of driftwood and "re-hydrate" it to make it look new again. It's just not possible. So, how are companies able to claim they "repair" hair? These shampoos and conditioners use chemicals that coat the hair shaft, making it feel or look like it's repaired, but underneath it's still the same old strand of hair. It's like dipping the driftwood in tar and saying that it's been repaired. Yes, the damage may be hidden, but underneath it all, it's still an old piece of wood. So the next time you see one of those TV commercials about "repairing hair" just replace "repair" with "coat with chemicals" and you'll get the true picture.

Myth #2: The concept of "Dry" hair

Okay, let's break this down here. What's the opposite of dry? Wet, obviously. What causes something to be wet? Well, water, of course. So, when you're "moisturizing" hair, are you adding water to it? No. You wouldn't want that because when hair is wet, the hair shaft is very weak because the cuticle has absorbed water and the overall bonds of the keratin are weakened. What about oil? Is it oil we're moisturizing with? No, it's not that either. Oily hair isn't any stronger or more manageable. Oily hair is dull and limp. So, "dry" (meaning waterless and minimal oil) hair is actually a good thing. So, what are we doing when we "moisturize" hair? Same as "repairing" it. We're just coating it with chemicals so that it feels softer. Hair doesn't need to be moisturized like skin does. A little bit of oil helps add sheen to hair, but you don't need much.

So, what are we really feeling when we say we have "dry" hair? There is such a thing as damaged hair. There is wiry hair. There is frizzy hair. But there is no such thing as "dry" hair.

Myth #3: Your natural hair color is unattractive.

Dishwater blonde anyone? Yes, that happens to be my natural hair color. The corporate cosmetic conglomerates and their decades of marketing efforts would have me feeling mousy for parading around with my (shock) natural hair color visible to the entire world. You need some "drama," "depth," or "luminescence" to your hair color in order to look beautiful, they would have me feel. I notice all the girls with their fashionable blondes, streaks, frosts, weaves, ombres and other expensive color treatments. And for a moment, I do have to admit that I feel inferior for not coloring my hair. But then I have to remind myself that I'm only feeling this way because billions of dollars are spent every year to make me feel this way.

Your natural hair color, yes, even gray, is beautiful. What's even more beautiful is not having to subject yourself to toxic chemicals every six weeks. Permanent hair dyes contain carcinogenic acrylamines, which are absorbed through the skin during the hair treatment. Genetically, some individuals are able to produce very efficient protective enzymes that render the acrylamines harmless and eliminate them quickly through the urine. In others, the process is less effective, and these people are at risk of bladder cancer.

Other chemicals found in hair dyes are phenylenediamine, heavy metals such as mercury, and coal tar. (Check out this great article for more on this and stay tuned for tomorrows post for more chemicals to avoid.)

Growing old is not a sin. Gray hair is a badge of honor. You've made it this far through life, why not wear it with pride?! Not quite ready for that? Henna is the most safe and natural option out there. And hey--it was good enough for Lucille Ball. And you doesn't love Lucy?!

Of course, I respect every person's decisions to do what they want to look and feel their best. Just make sure that you're not coloring your hair because you're ashamed of your natural hair color. 

Myth #4: Your hair needs to be straight.
Do you ever see a shampoo commercial featuring someone with tight curls? No. It's usually straight or slightly wavy hair that glistens and gleams under carefully-placed lights for the camera. For years these commercials have brainwashed (some of) us in to thinking that curly or kinky hair is unhealthy and un-sexy so they can sell us straightening irons, chemical straightening treatments, and heavy conditioners. I hear so many women who think that they need to condition their tight curls because they don't feel soft. They think that their hair is "dry" when really it's just coarse hair. Just because your hair doesn't feel or look like corn silk, doesn't mean it isn't healthy hair. It's just the nature of your hair--embrace it. Don't subject yourself to the marketing hype and gallons of harmful chemicals that you expose yourself to "conditioning" or straightening your hair.

Myth #5: Your hair needs vitamins.

Remember, hair is dead. Vitamins do nothing for hair. Vitamins are only beneficial if they're absorbed in to the body, a living thing. The body uses vitamins in metabolic pathways to create energy, fight free-radicals, or build or repair tissue. Pro-V, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin E and all these scientific "vitamin complex" ingredients--they're just in the shampoo for label for appeal. You're just pouring them on and washing them down the drain.

Find out our tips for Natural Hair Care Here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lavender & Tea Tree Estrogenic????

You may have heard reports that Lavender & Tea Tree essential oils are estrogenic and caused young boys to grow breasts. Concerned myself with xenoestrogens, I decided, of course, to look in to the subject.

Even though the story is all over the news and the Internet, there is actually only ONE study that makes these claims. So, I took a closer look at the study.

Originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study details three young boys who had developed gynecomastia (breasts). The doctors treating the boys learned that each of them were using products with lavender or tea tree essential oils, and once they stopped using these products, the breasts went away. The researchers then took these case studies and decided to test the essential oils on human tissue in a lab. According to their study, the essential oils acted estrogenically, and thus could have been the cause of the breast development in the boys. However, I, along with numerous researchers and doctors have found some major flaws in the study.

Before I get in to more specifics--just a quick note. Looking at the footnotes of the study, you'll notice that all of the doctors who conducted the research are sponsored by numerous drug companies. 'Nuff said.

Three doctors (Kathi J. Kemper, M.D., M.P.H., Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157; Aviva J. Romm, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510; Paula Gardiner, M.D., M.P.H., Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215) wrote a commentary on the study:
The study by Henley et al. (Feb. 1 issue)1 raises many questions. Product names were not provided. Did the authors contact manufacturers to report concerns or ask about constituents? The variability, adulteration, and contamination of herbal products have been widely reported,2,3 as have discrepancies between labels and contents.4 Plastic containers may contain phthalates, known endocrine disrupters.5 What was actually in the products cited in this report?

None of the hormonal testing showed abnormal results, except in Patient 2, who had elevated levels of testosterone (not estrogen). There was no report on ultrasound examination or needle biopsy, nor were subsequent weight changes reported. Might the patients' gynecomastia have reflected another pathophysiological process that resolved spontaneously?

Traditional use and clinical trials have not suggested estrogenic effects of tea tree or lavender oil, though estrogenic effects have been reported for other essential oils and plants. Are occupational exposures to lavender and tea tree associated with estrogenic symptoms? In vitro testing alone is not adequate grounds for indicting traditionally used products and may raise public fear.
The doctors bring up a few great points here, number one in my book is, what other estrogen mimickers were present in these products used on the young boys? Parabens? Phalates? The ingredients are not documented and could be a number of things--even from using bottles made with BPA.

But what about the laboratory tests they did on petri dishes of human cells? If you look carefully at their study, you'll notice they didn't apply pure lavender or tea tree essential oil on the cells they were testing, they used a solvent to dilute the oils. The solvent is dimethylsulfoxide---which, as it turns out, is an estrogen mimicker! (as documented here.)

The bottom line is that lavender and tea tree essential oils have been used for thousands of years with no history or evidence of estrogen mimicry. They're probably the most widely used essential oils in baby products, so of course the three boys in the study were using them. If lavender and tea tree essential oils were truly estrogen mimickers, we would have known about their effects long ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunblock Recommendations

I'm in the process of developing a Bubble & Bee Organic sunblock...but in the meantime, here are my recommendations:

Badger Balm



Look for sunscreens that use non-nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as the active sunblocking ingredient. Nanoparticles can absorb in to your bloodstream and skin, causing unknown side effects--they haven't been studied much!

Stay away from chemical sunscreens like avobenzene (for more chemicals, check out this previous blog post).

And of course, look for as many organic ingredients in the "inactive" ingredients section as well. Our sunblock will have 100% organic inactive ingredients, and we're going to use non-nano Zinc Oxide as the active sunblocking ingredient. Great stuff. We have to put it through a lot of testing in order to get an "SPF" and we're hoping to launch it in time for next Spring. Stay tuneD!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vegetable Emulsifying Wax

I've talked about how, although it's a great starting point for learning about chemicals in personal care products, the Cosmetics Databse is not the end-all source for determining product safety. Today, I'm going to show you how an ingredient that scores a "0" in the database, should really score much much higher.

Vegetable emulsifying wax is used in a lot of products, from lotions to conditioners--even makeup--to make oil and water combine in to a lotion form. It's the emulsifier of choice for home crafters and larger companies alike because it's easy to work with and it's relatively cheap. At first glance it looks natural (after all, it's made up from "vegetable" material, right?) but once you learn what it really is, it's not so great after all.

I did some digging and found out what vegetable emulsifying wax is actually comprised of:
Cetearyl Alcohol (a blend of cetyl and steareth alcohol)
Polysorbate 60
PEG-150 Stearate
Let's look at these chemicals one by one.

Cetearyl Alcohol
Although cetearyl alcohol scores a "0" risk score in the Cosmetics Database, the two ingredients that it's made up of, Cetyl and Steareth Alcohol, both score a "1" for a mild risk of skin irritation and tumor formation at high doses. Not a terrible score, and I'm not particularly outraged by this ingredient. However, is it a synthetically produced chemical? Yes. Is it truly natural? No.

Polysorbate 60
Also scores a "1" risk score for possibly being a reproductive toxin and for tumor formation at high doses. When it's in small amounts in a lotion, you're probably pretty safe. That said, it's the same story as the cetearyl alcohol--it's not truly natural and it's still a chemical.

PEG-150 Stearate
This is where it gets hairy. PEG is short for polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is an ethoxylated compound, meaning that it's been processed with ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen. Traces of this compound can be left in the product, along with byproducts such as 1,4-dioxane, also a known carcinogen. (Read more about the latest 1,4-dioxane scandal here.) PEG-150 Stearate scores a 4-7 risk score in the cosmetics database, "depending on product usage." So, in a product that would remain on your skin, like lotion or deodorant, I'd imagine that they'd give it a "7".

Even though this ingredient only scores a "1" in the database, it too is an ethoxylated compound, and can also contain traces of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. It's created by taking stearyl alcohol (a naturally-ocurring fatty alcohol) and combining it with ethylene oxide. The number following the "steareth" is how many units of ethylene oxide reacted with the stearyl alcohol. So, steareth-20 has been reacted with 20 units of ethylene oxide. There are a lot of steareths that range from 2 on up. Steareth-20 is the highest--meaning it's been processed with the highest amount of ethylene oxide.

So, how does this happen? How does an ingredient with all these chemicals end up with a "0" risk score in the Cosmetics Databse?

How this happens
The Cosmetics Database is just that--a database. When an ingredient is entered in to the database, it searches about 50 other databases for safety information based on the key words of the ingredient. When "vegetable emulsifying wax" is entered, the database searches for studies with those words. It doesn't take in to account the fact that there are separate ingredients within the one ingredient. There are little to no studies on "vegetable emulsifying wax" as an overall blend, so no information comes up and the ingredient passes with a "0" score. This happens all the time. ("Coconut fatty acid cream base", anyone?)

How to avoid ethoxylated compounds

Compounds created with ethylene oxide (or ethoxylated compounds) are pretty easy to spot. Any time that you see an "eth" you can be sure it's ethoxylated. Sodium Laureth sulfate, sodium myreth sulfate, steareth, ceteareth, polyethylene. PEG is short for Polyethylene Glycol, so those are culprits as well.

Safer Alternatives
These lotion products are 95% or more organic, and contain no "vegetable emulsifying wax" or iffy ingredients.

Trillium Organics Organic Body Butter
Bubble & Bee Organic Body Butta
Nature's Paradise
Oracle Organics

Friday, March 27, 2009

What I Use...Your Questions Answered

I get asked the question all the time: Stephanie, what do you use for (fill in the blank)? Well, in this blog post, I'm going to bare it all!

What I Use: Hair Care

Shampoo & Conditioner: I switch between using the Unscented All Over Bar followed by a vinegar rinse or our Peppermint & Tea Tree shampoo. This week I've actually used the Lemongrass & Rosemary shower gel on my hair and I'm getting some great results with it as well. I use just plain ole distilled white vinegar in my vinegar rinse. To make sure I don't get the oilies, I make sure to keep my water softener filled with the right level of salt.

Styling Aids: Stevie "B" uses more hairspray than I do! I personally hate the stuff and don't use anything on my hair. On days when I actually pay attention to how I look, I'll heat style with a curling or flat iron. In this photo I'm completely product-free. I just used a curl dryer. I dried my hair with a regular dryer about half way, and then when it was still damp, used the curl dryer. I'll also let you in on a little secret--you can use our lotion stick to tame flyaways and dry ends. Just rub some on your fingers and then rub on hair!

What I Use: Makeup

Mascara: I'm currently using the dark brown mascara from Real Purity.

Eyeshadow: I'm using a brand that's made locally here in Utah called Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques. She has this great cream eyeshadow that's fun to put on and has great staying power. Plus it's as chemical-free as you can get with a mineral makeup.

Foundation: When I feel like I need a liquid foundation I use Physician's Formula Organic Wear. I just picked it up in a pinch at my local grocery store. I don't think I'll be buying it again because it feels really heavy on my face and seems to clog my pores. But then again, I don't like wearing much makeup anyways.

Loose Powder: Most of the time I'll skip the foundation and just use this. I'm currently using the powder from Physician's Formula Organic Wear, although when I run out I'm going to get Lauren Brooke's. I ordered a sample and liked it a lot.

Eyeliner: I'm using the dark brown eyeliner from Real Purity. It's a softer formula, so you have to be really gentle with it. But I like it pretty well.

Nail Polish: Honeybee Garden's Water Colors. These chip very easily and you have to let it cure overnight. The trick is right before bed to apply one very light coat, let it dry, and then apply another light coat. Let it dry and then go to bed. Otherwise you'll pretty much chip it immediately. I ordered a darker mauve color and a light pink. I prefer the light pink because it doesn't seem to chip as easily and the chips don't show as bad.

What I Use: Toothpaste

This is my deep dark secret--the one product I haven't gone organic on! All the health food store brands still contain SLS (hello Tom's of Maine!) I currently use Biotene because at least it's SLS Free.

I did try A Wild Soap Bar's tooth soap--it was interesting and kinda fun. I would recommend it if you want something completely chemical-free.

What I Use: Facial Care

Face Cleanser: I just use our soap! In the summer I like the Oatmeal Spice or the Orange Peel. In the Winter when my skin's a little drier, I use the Unscented All-Over Bar because it has added rosehip seed, jojoba and sunflower oils.

Toner: Every once in a while if I feel like I need a toner, I'll use a little diluted Apple Cider Vinegar.

Moisturizer: I use a face cream of my own invention. I have a little batch of it made up if you want to try it. Click here to order a pre-release sample!

Anti-Acne Treatment: 2 Tablespoons of FlaxPro Flax Seeds every day!

What I Use: Sunscreen

A hat. ;-)

What I Use: Lip Balm

I go back and forth between all of our flavors. I seem to be gravitating towards the Karma Apple lately, which is weird because it was never my favorite, but now it is!

What I Use: Hand Lotion

I go back and forth between the Sunflower Lotion Stick and the Coconut Lime Lotion Stick:

What I Use: In the Shower

My favorite is the Organic Orange Peel Soap. I'll rotate between that and the Lime Shower Gel. for some reason I like having both the bar and the gel.

What I use: For handwashing

Right now I'm using the Red Raspberry Jam Heart Soap we made for Valentine's Day. We tested a few bars before we launched the product--they've lasted so long they're still at the sink more than a month later!

Have more questions? Need more recommendations? Comment below and I'll do my best!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good News!

The Utah State Organic Program is up and running! We're getting our application in this week!

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Organic Snag

For months we've been working with the Utah State Department of Agriculture to become a certified organic processing facility. It's a great state program, in fact it's the only one in the nation that has the power to certify farmers and producers and to enforce NOP (National Organic Program) rules. It's inexpensive for businesses to get certification, local, and saves the hassle of having to fly an inspector out. It's a very thick packet that I work on in-between every thing else that I do (accounting, answering e-mails, developing new products, overseeing production, get the picture). Back in January, I was getting close to sending it in and was ready to fill out the final part of the application. I sent an e-mail to the person who handles the department with a question. He wrote me back saying that the legislature had canceled the organic program. Now what?!

This was discouraging news, as now I would have to start all over with the application process, and incur thousands of extra dollars in costs to get certification through a private agency. In fact, certification through a private organization was going to cost us $8000, as opposed to the $1500 the state program would cost. The Salt Lake Tribune also caught wind of the story and interviewed me for it. Click here to read the article.

Being the easily fired-up person that I am, I called the State Legislature trying to find out exactly what was going on and when the issue was or would be voted on. I spoke with the Secretary of the Executive Appropriations Committee and he said that it wasn't even in a bill yet to be voted on. By reading the article and from the response at the Agriculture Department, it seems like the program has already been cut. But according to the legislature, no budget cut has been made, and the subject is still up for discussion. The Secretary told me the issue would be presented first to the committee as a possible budget cut. The budget cut will then be added to a bill and the bill will go through the state Senate and the House and voted on in to law. So, we're five steps away from the program being cut, and by all laws, there still is an organic certification program in the State of Utah. So, why did the head of the organic program tell me that "unfortunately, the program has been cut"? Well, inside sources tell me that the federal government was increasing their fees to charge the state for their organic certification and the state didn't want to pay those extra fees.

So, we rallied. Organic companies throughout the state rallied around Neutraceuticals, a large organic company here in Utah that makes supplements. Bruce Hough of Neutraceuticals became our spokesperson and proposed a fee increase instead of cutting the program. He presented our case to the appropriations committee, and it looks like now the program will be saved!

But the State Department of Agriculture still won't take our application---We still have to wait for the legislative session to end in order to solidify the continuation of the program.

So, in other words, as soon as the program's back up and running, we'll be slapping our application on their desk! In the meantime we're keeping up with all our organic requirements--strict documentation of all ingredients and products that go in and out of our facility, not using pesticides or chemicals in or around our building and so on. We'll keep you updated as the process moves forward!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Update on Makeup

In my last post I mentioned that we were developing makeup products. Lots of you have been asking me for an update, so here it is, in all it's glory...

A couple days after my last post I received my organic color compounds. I couldn't wait to start working on the makeup line. I unpacked the box, grabbed all the little bottles and ran to my test kitchen to get started. I began by testing the colors--some were oil soluble, some water. Once I figured out which colors would work, I started adding them to arrowroot powder and jojoba oil. The colors were very difficult to blend in, so I started mixing them with a stick blender.

The stick blender started working, but the problem was that it would get jammed up in the bottom. I was mixing and mixing but it just wasn't blending enough. Frustrated, I turned it off and stuck my finger down in the bottom to clear out some off the compacted powder mix. Well, just as my finger was in there, I accidentally tapped the very sensitive power button....I let out a gasp and sang a little song...."I just hurt my finger really bad!" I sang out, feigning a positive attitude while knowing I had just severed off a nice chunk of flesh. Steve could tell there was something wrong so he came running. I rushed over to the sink and started rinsing off my finger which had now started to gush blood. "We have to take you to the hospital!" urged Steve. "No, I'll be fine," was my automatic reply. "No, you need stiches!" So, my finger wrapped up in a few layers of paper towels, Steve rushed (and I mean rushed!) me down to the insta care.

Five stitches and a tetanus shot later (which I was opposed to, but they talked me in to it under my state of duress) I was all patched up.

It has been a few weeks now and the bandages and stitches are all out now. The finger's pretty well healed except a funky looking battle scar. I guess when they say you give your blood, sweat, and tears to a business, they really mean it!

I got a new little blender that will hopefully not tempt me to stick my finger in it. The ingredients are there..the equipment is ready. Now all I need is the courage to start blending those dubious colors again.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 Bubble and Bee News

Hello everyone! Bubble and Bee has some exciting new developments for 2009 and we want to share them with you now!

First of all, we're opening our own store in the heart of Salt Lake City. Located in Trolley Square, a 100 year old trolley station that has been turned in to a mall, it's the perfect full-of-character location for us. We're going to be making all of our products right there in the store. We're hoping to do a "soft open" on February 6th. We'll be continually improving the store and are shooting for a "Grand Opening" in June. Once it's in full swing, you'll be able to come down and make your own soaps, sit in our reading area and learn about organic products, and even invite your friends to a Bubble and Bee party where we teach your group how to make great organic and natural products. Stay tuned to the website for solid dates and times as they may be subject to change.

Second, we're expanding with Whole Foods. I know some people call Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck," but we absolutely love Whole Foods. We try to do most of our shopping there, because, believe it or not, their prices are lower and their selection of fruits and vegetables is much fresher and abundant. That aside...they have been an extremely great company to work with. We get personal attention from the regional buyers and they believe in us. It's pretty unheard-of for Whole Foods to take a full line of an unknown brand in to their stores---but they see the potential in our company. They do everything they can to support our business without squashing our company with the demand. Currently, we're in 21 stores, and we have plans to expand to 29 in the first quarter of 2009. They work by starting you out in your region. We're in the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas. When we feel comfortable that we can keep up with the demand, the regional buyers want to help us expand nationally. If you have a Whole Foods or other health food store near you, let them know that you want Bubble and Bee! For a full list of the locations that carry our products, click here.

Third, we have a ton of new products in development. We're working on a fabulous 100% organic shea body butter, 100% organic facial creams and face washes, 100% organic body mist, and organic makeups. If you're on our newsletter list, you'll be the first to know when these products come out. We've had a lot of requests for these products, and we can't wait to bring them to you.

Fourth, we're launching our Chemical of the Day blog. It has been a while in development, but it is coming soon! Every day we'll tell you about a new chemical, what products it's in, why it's used, and why to avoid it. There are going to be some surprises--a few chemicals that rate a "0" risk on rank a "7" with me! Stay tuned to find out more. To sign up for daily alerts, just send an e-mail to with "sign me up" in the subject line.

Thank you so much for all of your great support and e-mails. I just updated the testimonials page and it seems like it's miles long. Thank you to everyone who wrote in to sing our praises! We are a small company and each and every order and e-mail means a lot to us. We thank all of our great customers who have helped us have an amazing 2008 and look forward to an awesome 2009.

Stephanie, Stevie "B," and the Bubble and Bee crew