Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is Your Flaking Skin Really Oily Skin?

Do you have:
  • Flaky patches on your scalp?
  • Flaky skin around your nose, mouth, and hairline?
  • Flaky skin in the eyebrows, or above the ears?
  • Patches of oily skin and patches of flaking skin?

You could be suffering from seborrheic dermatitis.

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an excess of oil your skin produces (aka sebum.)  Oil builds up and solidifies in creases of skin (such as around the mouth and nose) and on scalp.  This layering of solidified sebum creates flakes on your skin.  Yeast then can get trapped under those flakes and causes redness and irritation in the skin.  Then, you have flakes and redness, making you believe that you have excessively dry skin, when, in reality, the problem is caused by excess oil, not the other way around.

What to do about it:

If you believe you might have seborrheic dermatitis, visit your dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.  There are other skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea that act similarly to this, so a proper diagnosis is vital to treatment.

Some natural things to try:

If you do get the diagnosis of seborrheic dermatitis, there are some things you can try before you go on topical steroids, or that can work along with steroids to manage the condition.

  • Because the underlying cause of the irritation and flaking is caused by excess oil, it is very important to cleanse well and often, especially in the affected areas.  The less oil there is for the yeast to feed on, the less irritation and flaking you'll experience.  Using a natural soap and a warm washcloth to frequently cleanse your face throughout the day will help remove excess oils. Tea tree is reported to be an anti-fungal, so a tea tree oil containing cleanser like our Cool Cucumber may be helpful. (However, we cannot claim that our product will help to cure, treat, or prevent any disease, as it is not a drug.)
  • In addition to its mood-boosting, vitamin-D-creating benefits, sunlight can actually inhibit the growth of the irritation-causing yeast growing on your skin.  Getting 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight to the affected areas can help reduce the redness and irritation.  If you have irritation and flaking on your scalp, be sure to part your hair in different ways so the sun can get down to as much scalp as possible.  Of course, be judicious with your sun exposure and don't get a sunburn, as that will cause flaking issues of its own.
  •  Omega-3s.  Your excess oil production may be caused by an excess of hormones called androgens circulating in the body.  Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, and other foods, may help to protect your skin from androgens on the inside, and reduce androgens' effects on your skin.  They also help reduce inflammation throughout the body, and, if you're taking a high enough amount of omega-3s, may actually change the composition of the oils in your skin, making them less desirable to yeast.
  • Apple cider vinegar can also be helpful in controlling the yeast growth and in soothing skin.  If you're experiencing flaking and itchiness on your scalp, when shampooing your hair, massage your scalp firmly to remove the buildup of sebum, rinse out well, and then rinse your hair and scalp with either apple cider or distilled white vinegar, 4 tablespoons to a cup of water.  It may sting due to its acidity, but afterwards you will likely notice a distinct decrease in the itchiness of your scalp.  Using this vinegar solution on the affected areas of skin can also help.  Pour some on to a cotton ball and use as a toner solution after cleansing with soap.  
Of course, as with any medical condition, consult a medical professional for treatment advice.  This article provided for educational purposes only.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Helpful Herbs: Clove

Today's Helpful Herb: Clove
Clove is a popular spice used in foods and aromatherapy around the world.  The dried buds of the plant are ground to create the common spice we use in cooking.  The stems, buds, and leaves of the plant are steam-distilled to create an richly aromatic essential oil.  Both the spice and the essential oil have been found to have numerous health benefits.

A Nutritional Spice
The spice clove is a good source of dietary manganese.  It also provides a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, vitamin C and magnesium. (Source)

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Clove contains a compound called eugenol that has been found to have numerous benefits.  Clove essential oil contains a concentrated amount of eugenol.   This study shows that eugenol/clove oil is an immune booster that reduces inflammation in the body.

Anti-Cancer Benefits
Eugenol has also been fount to be a promising anti-cancer agent in numerous studies, potent against melanoma, skin tumors, osteosarcoma (bone), leukemia, cervical, breast, colon, and gastric cancers.

Pain Reduction
Clove oil is commonly used as a mild analgesic (pain-reducer) in dental products such as temporary dental fillings, toothpaste and mouthwashes, and has also been shown to improve memory.  (Source)

This study found eugenol to be an anti-oxidant and DNA-protector in liver cells.

This study found eugenol to be antibacterial, fighting the harmful bacteria Streptococcus mutans.

Feeling guilty for that pumpkin pie and gingerbread cookies this season!  Well, you can at least now rest assured that they contain one healthy component--the helpful herb: clove!

We use clove in a number of our deodorants, and in our Cool Cucumber Facial Cleanser!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are You Giving Yourself Dry Skin?

I'm a bath girl. Always have been. As a child, a shower was traumatic for me!  Shampoo burning my eyes.  Water constantly dripping in my face.  Tiny little water droplets teasing me with their warmth, but never really helping to warm me up on a chilly night. But baths--quite the opposite. You get to sit down. No water constantly spraying in your eyes. You can warm up every part of your cold, cold body. Plus, you get floating toys!

So, it was a habit that I continued from childhood.  9.5 out of 10 times I choose a bath over a shower!  But, the other night I was in a hurry and had to take a shower. It was chilly in the house, so I turned up the heat in the shower, got all clean, and got out.  As soon as I got out, it felt like my skin was tightening up. Soon I felt itchy and so so dry and my skin was red all over! This was weird--I don't typically get dry skin. Was I having some kind of reaction to something? Then I realized it--that darn shower! I wanted to get warmed up, so I overcompensated with the heat of the shower! It was almost a first-degree burn that I gave myself. 

So, I learned an important lesson: hot showers = dry skin!

With heat, your pores open up and you lose hydration.  Plus, the hot water strips your skin of vital oils that keep hydration in. If you have dry skin that seems to get drier in the winter, of course the dry air in your home heating system is one culprit.  But an overly-hot shower could be to blame. No matter how gentle your soap is, a shower that's too hot will strip your skin of moisture.

So, here are some tips for preventing that itchy, dry, tight-feeling winter skin!

Bathe Instead
Take a nice warm, but not too hot, bath.  While you soak, your skin will absorb some needed hydration.  You'll relax and because you'll actually get warm, you won't have to overheat your water. 

Using a bath salt with moisturizing oils can do wonders.  Our bath salts have a small but noticeable amount of oil that you'll notice totally softens your skin and creates a small lipid layer on your skin that will seal in the hydration you took on in the water.

Of course, there are times when you may not have time to bathe and just need to take a quick shower.  Make sure that you keep the water just barely above lukewarm.  

Look At Your Water
Hard water deposits turn in to soap scum on your skin, and that can lead to that dry, itchy feeling.  We're all about water softeners here.  But also, water filters.  Using a shower head filter that removes chlorine can work wonders for dry, irritated, or sensitive skin. 

Using a humidifier can help to compensate for the dry air running through your furnace.  More moisture in the air means more moisture for your skin!

Of course, after showering or bathing, applying a rich, water-free body butter (like ours!) will help to hold in that hydration and moisturize your skin all day long.

Follow these tips and dry, itchy, flaky skin will be a thing of the past!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Helpful Herbs: Chamomile

Today's Helpful Herb: Chamomile

There are two common varieties of chamomile: German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile.  German Chamomile, Matriacaria chamomilla, is the most widely used, and is also known as Blue Chamomile.  Chamomile has been used for centuries for a number of applications, from a tea to help ease digestive problems, to a healing poultice for wounds. It's estimated that around the world, we drink over a million cups of chamomile tea a day!  But is chamomile's reputation as a helpful herb backed by science?  What are some of the proven benefits of chamomile?


Skin Benefits
Chamomile has long been used on skin to help heal wounds and soothe irritation.  And indeed, research has found it to be a helpful topical anti-inflammatory. It is thought that it inhibits the release of prostaglandin E(2) (an inflammatory hormone-like substance in the body), as well as certain enzyme activity that helps reduce inflammation in the skin.  One study looked at chamomile's healing effects on patients who had undergone dermabrasion of tattoos.  Chamomile significantly helped the patients' wounds heal more quickly. Another study also found chamomile sped the healing of wounds faster than corticosteroid medicines.  Finally, a double-blind study found that topical application of Roman Chamomile helped heal eczema better than hydrocortisone cream.  


A compound in chamomile called apigenin has been studied for its effects on skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers, with promising results. Chamomile extracts containing apigenin were found to have an anti-estrogenic effect on breast cancer cells (thus, not stimulating their growth.) A recent study found that chamomile was toxic to cancer cells, but not healthy cells, and a standardized chamomile extract was found to help shrink prostate tumors in both lab and in animal studies.  

Heart Health
Chamomile is rich in flavonoids, which are thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease.  A five-year study of over 800 men aged 65-84 found that flavonoid intake "was significantly inversley associated with mortality from coronary heart disease."  In other words, the more flavonoids in their diet, the healthier they were.  


Digestive Health
Chamomile extracts have been studied and found to reduce stomach acid output and increase the secretion of mucin, a protective mucus lining in the stomach, thus helping to protect from gastric ulcers.  Researchers found this extract lowered stomach acid as effectively as a commercial antacid.  


There are internet rumors that chamomile or chamomile essential oil is "estrogenic" and that women with estrogen dominance or other hormonal imbalances should avoid this herb. However, the opposite is true.  Chamomile has been found in numerous studies to be an
anti-estrogen that helps prevent bone loss.


Blood pressure, General HealthChamomile has been found to help normalize blood pressure and promote general wellness.

"The health promoting benefits of chamomile was assessed in a study which involved fourteen volunteers who each drank five cups of the herbal tea daily for two consecutive weeks. Daily urine samples were taken and tested throughout the study, both before and after drinking chamomile tea. Drinking chamomile was associated with a significant increase in urinary levels of hippurate and glycine, which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. In another study, chamomile relieved hypertensive symptoms and decreased the systolic blood pressure significantly, increasing urinary output."

Traditionally, chamomile has been used to induce labor and many medical websites advise women to avoid it during pregnancy. Howevever, there are no studies that suggest that chamomile induces labor or causes miscarriages.  The science behind it would suggest otherwise, as chamomile has been found to reduce prostaglandin E2, a natural hormone-like substance that induces labor. So, if chamomile is indeed a labor-inducer, the function whereby is unknown.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/

This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Recommendations Part 5: Men's Care

Men's Care

Hey guys!  We didn't forget you!  Here are our top picks for products for you!

Shaving Cream
Dr. Bronner's Shaving Gel
Wow, a certified organic option!

Bubble & Bee Organic Bar Soaps
Our soaps work great for shaving!  Create a rich lather, apply and shave! You can pair it with a bristle shaving brush and create some crazy-good lather! The extra vegetable glycerin in our soaps give a nice glide for a clean, close shave.

Miessence After Shave Balm

Weleda After Shave Balm

One of our most frequently asked questions is "what deodorant works best for men?"  Well, first of all, we have to say that there's no one deodorant that works for a particular gender, as it's completely dependent upon body chemistry.  However, we can give you some recommendations for scents that are more masculine, and methods of application that are best suited for men.

Super Spray
This lovely blend of lemon, clove and patchouli is effective and smells great.  We recommend the spray because it gives great coverage over the hair and down to the skin.

Spearmint & Tea Tree Pit Putty
Fresh and minty, this one works great for guys.  With added baking soda for odor protection, and arrowroot powder to help absorb sweat.

Truly Herbal Stick
The first formula we ever made.  It worked then, and works now!  Guys like the ease of application and it's a blend that works well.  (Do note that over-application can stain light clothing.)

Body Spray, Cologne

Make a blend of your own with our Design-a-Spray

Recommended blends:

Spruce--Tea Tree--Spearmint




Lime--Tea Tree

Styling Gel

Intelligent Nutrients Styling Gel

Face Cream

Bubble & Bee Organic Men's Face Cream
A little goes a long way!  Apply lightly to a clean face.

Hand Cream

Bubble & Bee Organic Chai Guy Lotion Stick

Bubble & Bee Organic Unscented Lotion Stick

Body Wash

Bubble & Bee Organic Lemongrass Rosemary Shower Gel

Bar Soaps
Bubble & Bee Organic Mint Tea Soap

Bubble & Bee Organic Lemongrass Ginger Soap

Bubble & Bee Organic Unscented All Over Bar

Tough Guy Hand Scrubbing

Do you work in the garage or yard and get grease and dirt on your hands? A great way to get your hands seriously clean again is to use our salt scrubs!  The Peppermint Vanilla seems to be a favorite for this.
Bubble & Bee Organic Peppermint Vanilla Salt Scrub

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Recommendations Part 4: Hair Care


Of course I recommend our shampoo!  Have hard water?  E-mail me for a super-secret solution!  (And it has nothing to do with baking soda.) stephanie@bubbleandbee.com

Instead of using conditioner with our shampoo, we recommend a vinegar rinse (instructions included with shampoo.)  There are other options, like lemon juice or citric acid that you can use as well if you don't like the smell of vinegar.  E-mail me for more details!  

Also, there's:
Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Hair Conditioner
I have tried this product so I can tell you a few things about it. It is pricey.  Once you pay for shipping it's a $40 bottle of conditioner (and only 6 oz of product.)  Because of the lack of quats and other chemicals, it doesn't spread like other conditioners, and you end up using a lot of product in order to feel fully conditioned.  It does have a strong smell that lingers in your hair afterwards.  Some love it, some hate it.  I didn't mind it, although it was somewhat earthy and masculine to me.  (However, we all experience scents differently.)  The upside: totally certified organic conditioner, and it worked pretty well if you're looking for a vinegar alternative.

Note: My recommending a product, does not mean that I endorse the entire brand.  I never recommend on brand alone, only individual ingredients lists of products.  

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm pretty low maintenance.  I don't use hair products very often and haven't tried these so I can't give you a full review of how they work.  But, ingredients-wise, these are my winners!

Hair Spray
Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Perfect Hold Hair Spray

Aubrey NuStyle Organic Hairspray

Hair Gel
Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Styling Gel

Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Pomade

Styling For Ethnic Hair
Kinky Curly Curl Custard actually isn't too bad! 

You've probably noticed by now that I recommend Intelligent Nutrients!  These products I've listed are on par with our standards.  However, do avoid their Harmonic line of products, as they contain quaternary ammonium compounds and other chemicals.  

In the picture on the left, I achieved this hair style with no styling aids whatsoever.  I simply dried after washing until my hair was just damp, then used a curl dryer to finish my hair.  You could also achieve the same result with a larger barrel curling iron (2"). Dry hair until just barely damp, and then using the curling iron.  

My hair, once it's dry, is pretty difficult to curl.  I have to use the highest heat settings possible, and then an hour later it's flat again.  But, if I curl it when it's damp, the curl holds.  I prefer the curl dryer to a curling iron, as the hold seems to last longer, and I love anything that simplifies my routine.  Curling and drying at the same time...I'll take it!

This photo is from when my hair was a bit shorter, but I styled it simply with a straightening iron.  I recommend a ceramic straightener, preferably a Chi.  It doesn't tug or rip at my hair, it heats up fast, and works great, even on slept-on-when-wet wavy hair. I had a Hot Tools for a number of years, but once it gave out, I got a new Hot Tools.  The new one tore up my hair because the plates didn't meet up smoothly.  So, I replaced it with my Chi and haven't looked back.

If you have naturally curly hair, using a quality straightener on a semi-regular basis can actually make it feel more "healthy" because it smooths and straightens the hair shaft.  We have a tendency to equate smooth hair with healthy hair, when that may not necessarily be the case.  Using a straightener does have its advantages, however, you can end up damaging your ends, so I try to use it sparingly.  

Most of the time, though, I just let my freak flag fly, and just go with my natural wave/curl.  Humid days are the best for that!  I'll maybe touch up some spots and make some spiral curls with a curling iron if I want a more polished look.  I'll achieve this look by brushing it a little when wet and letting it just air dry.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Recommendations Part 3: Sunblock, Toothpaste, Hand Sanitizer


I've been doing a lot of birding lately, and most of the time while I'm outdoors I just wear my wide-brimmed hat.  But there are some times when I just need some sunblock.  On hot summer days, sometimes I don't feel like wearing long sleeves, so I need something for my shoulders and arms.  My top recommendation for sunblock is Badger.  Hands down.  This summer I bought a tube of Badger SPF 34 Lightly Scented.  One tube easily got me through the entire summer of outdoor activities. There are other brands around, however, Badger is my top pick because I know they have a sophisticated lab that can support the creation of a reliable product that's legally considered a "drug."  With sunscreens and zinc oxide, it can actually be quite difficult to get the zinc oxide distributed evenly throughout your emulsion. Plus, I know that it has gone through all of the proper testings  SPF-wise, preservative-wise, etc.  It's also pretty widely distributed and you can find it at most Whole Foods stores.  There's another brand that's top-rated with EWG, however it contains water and doesn't have an apparent preservative.  There have also been reports of it not giving reliable coverage.  (Likely due to the uneven distribution of the zinc oxide.) EWG doesn't take that in to account with their safety ratings.  So, that is why Badger is my one and only pick for this category. You can ask me "what about _______?" but my answer will be "Badger is better."

Earthpaste Natural ToothpasteFirst and foremost, we are still developing our toothpaste.  There are a lot of different factors that have slowed this project up, which I won't get in to here. (Too long!)  However, in the meantime, we found a great product that's also local to us.  It's made by the people who make Real Salt.  It's called Earthpaste.  It's not organic, but has really simple ingredients and actually tastes good too!  No SLS, no glycerin, no artificial flavors or colors.  

You can find it on our website here!

Hand Sanitizer
I recommend only using alcohol-based hand sanitizers.  Alcohol is the only ingredient that has a long track record of effectiveness, but also doesn't cause bacterial resistance (aka, superbugs).  I use Whole Foods 365 or EO brand, both of which I pick up at Whole Foods.  If you need something for your young kids, and don't want to give them alcohol-based sanitizers they could inadvertently drink, my recommendation is an alcohol-based sanitizing wipe, like these.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Picks Part 1: Makeup

One of the most frequently asked question I get is..."What do YOU use?"  People know that they can come to us for soap, deodorant, insect repellent, body butters and more...but for the products that we don't make, are there some that I recommend?  Here I have created my full list of product recommendations from dish soap to mascara, complete with handy links.  If you're wondering about additional products or categories, write in the comments and I'll try to add them to my list.  Because there are so many different products and categories I've split this up in to a series.  So, here's Part 1:

While there are no certified organic options on the market, there are a few that come close.  Now, keep in mind that there are no perfect options.  There will still be mineral pigments, micas, or other ingredients that aren't organic, but I've poured over countless brands and ingredients lists to come up with these recommendations.  Ingredients-wise, they are the best available.  Now, do keep in mind that I have not tried all of these products, so I can't speak for how they will work for your particular skin.  However, most of these companies offer sample sizes that you can try before you invest in a full-sized product. 

My criteria

In addition to the obvious ones...parabens, fragrance, artificial colors, phenoxyethanol, ethoxylathed chemicals, propylene glycol, etc, here are my additional standards for choosing these products:
  • No Grapefruit Seed Extract
  • No Japanese Honeysuckle Extract
  • No dusts that pose inhalation hazards
  • No essential oils on my "avoid" list
  • Adequately and safely preserved
  • No carmine
I also tried to avoid titanium dioxide, although there are some products that do contain it.  (I have noted below if they do.)

Do keep in mind, just because I recommend one product, does NOT mean that I recommend the entire line. 


Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Creme Foundation
This is what I use on the rare occasion that I wear makeup. It gives light coverage and has a nice silky feel.  It also doesn't irritate my skin like a lot of foundations do.  Natural Joy Beauty offers samples for $1 so you can try different shades and find out what works best for your skin.  Another great thing is that it contains non-nano zinc oxide, and, while it doesn't officially boast an SPF, the zinc oxide naturally offers UVA and UVB sun protection.  No separate SPF face cream needed!

If you've ever talked to me about makeup, you know that I love Lauren's line.  She's local to me here in Utah, and I've spoken with her personally and know the extreme care she takes in creating her products and choosing her ingredients.

Miessence Translucent Foundation 
I have not tried this product.  It is a bit on the pricey side, but it also has a great ingredients list as far as makeup is concerned.  


RMS Beauty Un-Cover Up

I have not tried it, but it gets some great reviews. (Some shades contain titanium dioxide.) She doesn't list the ingredients on her website clearly for each product (just a master list of ingredients used overall) so here is an ingredients list that I found on another site for our perusal:
*Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, *Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (non-GMO), *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract. May contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide CI 77891, Iron Oxides CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499
*Certified Organic
Lauren Brooke Creme Concealer
This is what I would use on the rare occasion that I wear makeup.

Earth's Beauty Concealer
Really simple ingredients list!

Miessence Concealer
Also a really simple ingredients list.

Eye Shadow

Lauren Brooke Creme Eye Color

RMS Beauty Cream Eyeshadow


Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Eyeliner Pencils
(This is what I use.)

100% Pure Creamstick Eyeliner
I hesitate to recommend anything from 100% Pure because of their use of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract, among other issues (labeling inaccuracies, preservative issues).  However, this product appears to be good.  Lauren Brooke is my top pick, but if you couldn't do it for some reason, this would be okay too. 

Liquid Eyeliner

100% Pure Creamy Liquid Eyeliner
See above for my opinion on 100% Pure.


Real Purity 


Meisha Cream Blush

RMS Beauty Lip2Cheek

Except for the "smile" shade which contains synthetic colorants.  Again, hard to find full ingredients listings on their website, so here it is:
For all Lip2Cheek except Smile: *Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, *Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, *Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, *Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernal Oil, Tocopherol (non-GMO), Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Propolis Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract. May contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide CI 77891, Iron Oxides 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499, Mica CI 77019
Some shades do contain titanium dioxide.  You may want to e-mail RMS and find out if there's a shade you're interested in.


Miessence Lip Creme

Lip Colors by Lauren Brooke

Coastal Classic Creations

Lip Gloss

Botanical Lip Gloss by Lauren Brooke

Lip Liner

Lauren Brooke Lip Liner Pencils
*Note: some colors contain carmine.

I don't have any primers that I recommend.  That's because they are primarily used for loose powder foundations, which I don't recommend because of the potential to breathe in the mineral dust.

Nail Polish
A really tough one because even the "good" brands contain questionable stuff.  But, the bottom line is, you're putting paint on your nails.  It's a very unnatural thing in and of itself, so some chemicals are needed.  My standards for nail polish are completely different from those of my other makeup items because there are no nail polishes that would possibly meet the standards.

Aquarella is probably one of the best ingredients-wise.  However, it does take some special care to use it.

Honeybee Gardens is another option along the same lines.

Keeki Pure and Simple is another good one.  It's marketed more for kids and teens but can be used by anyone.

Finally, there's Scotch Naturals.

All of the above fall in to the water-based formulas that are somewhat high maintenance.  Adequate cleaning of the nail beforehand, doing numerous light coats, giving it a really long cure time, etc. And even then, it seems to quickly peel. 

If you're looking for a nail polish that acts more like a "regular" nail polish, I've been impressed with the Mineral Fusion brand that I found at Whole Foods. (Can't find it online for some reason to link to it.)  It dries quickly and is way easier to use than the watercolor brands.  The only downside is that it does contain some bad ingredients like phenoxyethanol. But it is at least tolulene-free. 

Any other categories in makeup?  Comment below and I'll do my best! If you'd like me to take a look at a product for you, I'll be happy to do so.  Please either post the ingredients list, or provide a direct link to the product.  

Tomorrow: Part 2--Cleaning Products

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Understanding Sensitive Skin

Do you get frequent skin reactions to new products, or even those you've been using for years? You stop using the product and start thinking, "I guess I have sensitive skin!" Contrary to what might be expected, the phrase "sensitive skin" is not a medical term, but is used colloquially to describe a number of skin conditions.

We get asked a lot...do you have products for sensitive skin? Will your products be good for my sensitive skin? As simple a question this might seem to be, it's literally impossible to predict. There are so many different medical conditions that live under the umbrella of "sensitive skin." Some skin sensitivities are caused by contact allergies. Some by eczema, acne, rosacea or psoriasis. Others have a condition called dermatographism, when the skin reacts in hive-like bumps to simple touching. Internal conditions like anemia or hypothyroidism can also cause skin sensitivity. Certain medications can also create the side effects of skin sensitivities, dryness, peeling, etc. Food allergies are also a big culprit that cause eczema and acne. Hormonal imbalances, fatty acid imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, candida overgrowth, immune system impairment--all of these contribute to skin problems. Because there are so many individual factors that come in to play, there is not one product that will work for everyone. Not even water. (Someone with dermatographism could rub water on their skin, rub it just a little too hard and they'll break out.)

Our first inclination when we start to experience skin issues is to think about what we can put ON our skin. Having dry flaky skin that's peeling? Our first thought is to apply lotion. And then when that doesn't work, we try another lotion and another lotion until maybe you find something that will somewhat manage the symptom. But, until you figure out what's causing the eczema on the inside, you're only covering up the symptom and not treating the problem.

Last year I had a strange problem. My lips started peeling and wouldn't stop. Soon it developed in to a bright red ring all around my lips. It was extremely embarrassing, as here I make lip balm for a living! I learned that the condition is called cheilitis. After trying numerous things I finally visited a Naturopath. Turned out that it was caused by hormonal imbalances! I got them back in line by starting up on my flax seeds again (don't know how or why I would have been failing to take them!) and taking some supplements that she recommended. Two weeks later my lips were back to normal, along with my hormones.

Now, it just so happened that we came out with our pomegranate kiss lip balm at about the same time that my problem started. For months I thought that I was allergic to this lip balm. But now that I've gotten my internal balance back in check, I can use it, and every one of our lip balms, with no issues whatsoever. It wasn't the culprit, but, again, we always have a tendency to look to the external when it comes to skin conditions. When a skin condition pops up, we tend to think "what did I put ON my skin that caused this?  When in fact, in so many cases, the products that we've been applying to our skin have nothing to do with the problem or the solution. Our skin is an organ that's kind of the great indicator of something that's going awry inside our bodies. (Of course there are plenty of exceptions and many true contact allergies, but the point still remains that we need to look at the body as a whole, and not just at the one organ that has visual symptoms.)

Many times drugs are to blame. Accutane is one of the biggest ones. The use of accutane and similar drugs will treat acne, but later in life, it can cause skin sensitivity, especially to sunlight, where skin becomes easily burned. In fact, any drug can cause eczema, hives, or other skin eruptions. "Almost any medicine can induce skin reactions, and certain drug classes, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics and antiepileptics, have drug eruption rates approaching 1–5%" (Source.) So, if you have developed mysterious skin issues, you may want to visit with your doctor about the medications that you are taking.

Another consideration to dry, itchy, sensitive or irritated skin, is the water in your home.  Chlorinated water can cause a host of skin problems.  Hard water can also leave irritating deposits on your skin.  Simple shower head filters can make a big difference (or a whole-house filtration/softening system as well.)

Of course, everyone's skin is different, and there are true contact allergies to substances, whether they're synthetic chemical or an organic herb.  But always keep in mind that our skin is a reflection of what's going on inside the body, and my suggestion is to look at internal, as well as external causes when you're dealing with sensitive skin. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Importance of USDA Organic Certification

Wow, it seems like "another one bites the dust."  First there was the reformulation of the baby products, now one of our organic competitors have decided to drop their organic certification.  What's next!?  Instead of talking about their possible motivations, though, we thought we'd take this opportunity to clarify a few things about USDA organic certification, and to talk about what organic certification really means to you, as the end-user of these products. 

In their explanation of why they're dropping their certification, the "other company" says:
"This year the USDA Certifying Agency has raised their annual fees dramatically.  By them doing so it caused most of our USDA Certified Organic Suppliers to have to increase their prices."
I found this kind of strange (improper capitalization aside) for a few reasons.  First, there are always price fluctuations based on supply and demand.  Some ingredients have increased in price, like jojoba oil, due to a worldwide shortage, but we haven't noticed any huge overall increases. Second, there is no such entity as "the USDA Certifying Agency."  There are many organic certifying agencies, but their statement makes it seem like there is just one giant agency that certifies everyone.  Organic certification just doesn't work this way.

The USDA National Organic Program certifies third-party certifying agencies, like QAI, Oregon Tilth, etc.  Then, the certifying agencies certify the farms and production facilities under the USDA regulations.  The USDA does not directly certify any farms, products, or facilities.  It's all done through the certifiers who answer to the USDA.

For a full list of third-party organic certifiers, visit this link: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5074486

The "other company" makes it seem like it's the government that's charging them, but, as you can see, it's the certifying company that they hired that they're paying, not the government.  The government isn't seeing any of their money.  If their certifying agency has increased their prices, all they would need to do is find another certifying agency.

They say "We decided that until the government can change the regulations and charge those poison companies instead of us organic and safe companies, that we no longer want to partake in funding the USDA Agencies."  While this may sound like a good argument, it's flawed because the government isn't charging them; it's the certifying agency.  And it's not as if someone just came in and slapped fees on them; it was their choice to earn USDA organic certification in the first place.  And the fees for certification can always be shopped.  If you feel that your current company is charging you too much, you can get a quote from any of the other hundreds of companies.  If you really want organic certification, you can find a way.

While it may sound like they're taking some kind of stand against the "poison companies," in reality, they're hurting organics.  Each ingredient they switch to conventional takes business away from organic farms that use sustainable growing and harvesting methods and, instead, supports farms that use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs and the like.  What if all companies did this in the name of lowering prices? We would end up with our entire food (and body care) supply being "conventional," loaded with genetic modification, pesticides and synthetic fertilizer residue, and deplete from nutritional value. It would be 1994 again, when organic wasn't even a choice.  We wouldn't know how our foods were grown or if they were genetically modified.  If you really want the cost of organic ingredients to go down, you support them. You use as many organic ingredients as possible.  You hold fast and find ways to negotiate with your ingredient suppliers, buy in bulk, and shop around for the best prices.  The greater the demand for organic, the more competition there is, more land is used for organic agriculture and prices go down.  Eschewing organic certification and ingredients doesn't do anything to make organics more affordable. It only allows you to lower your prices in the hopes of getting more sales.

Importance of Organic

Organic is so widely used now in marketing that sometimes we can forget about the real importance of choosing organic products.  Organic isn't a meaningless marketing term just to make something seem more natural or to hike its price.  There are real reasons to use organic products and foods.  Organic ingredients are grown without the use of a group of toxic pesticides called organophosphates.  Organophosphates kill insects by affecting their nervous systems. Unfortunately it can do the same thing to us, hurting our brains and nervous systems, and they can be used as biological weapons.  (Organophosphates have been used as nerve gas in warfare. Source) Herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup) are toxic in moderate to high doses in humans, are a suspected reproductive toxin (xenoestrogen) and are highly dangerous to aquatic life.  (Source) Non-organic foods and ingredients contain traces of these poisonous substances.  And yes, these are small traces, and the dose does make the poison, but think about daily exposure from your foods and personal care products combined.  The exposure can build up.  But also, these pesticides and herbicides are sprayed year-after-year on fields, permeating the soil and leaching in to groundwater that affects all those around it, closely, and far downstream.  When you stop supporting organic, you're perpetuating the use of these toxins in the world around us.

Then there are GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms.  These crops have been altered with DNA from a strain of bacteria created to be resistant to glyphosate (so they can spray as much as they want) and to contain toxins that kill insects when they try to eat the crops.  These crops can also be harmful to us, possibly leading to infertility, digestive issues and malabsorption of nutrients.  (A lot of info on this here.) [Won't get in to the whole Monstanto preying on small farmers and developing countries, but watch Food Inc. and you'll know what we're talking about.]  When we choose non-organic, we support GMOs and the companies behind them. 

Distrust of USDA

Each time the USDA approves another genetically modified crop by Monsanto, it loses credibility with many people.  Couple this with the bizarre school lunch requirements that count french fries as vegetables (although this seems to be changing with new regulations) plus deep-seeded corporate ties and you have a bad reputation on your hands.  I've seen comments on social media from people saying "I don't trust the USDA so the USDA organic seal means nothing to me."  On the surface this may seem like sound logic, but really, if you look in to it, it's quite a contradictory statement. 

The NOP (National Organic Program) is one very small office inside the USDA.  It doesn't work with or answer to any other offices within the USDA.  Because the regulations are set forth by the independent council of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the NOP doesn't answer to anyone else inside the USDA, just the NOSB.  NOP regulations are very specific, so there is little room for misinterpretation, corruption, or influence.  If a company breaks the rules, they're fined and/or stripped of their certification.  Distrust of the (general offices of the) USDA to protect our food supply from GMOs and harmful pesticides would be the exact reason to choose organic.  Choosing organic is the only way you can know that you're buying products that don't expose you to these harmful substances.

The organic industry is set up with checks and balances between government and private agencies.  If a third-party certifier breaks the rules, the USDA will fine them $10,000 per infraction.  This could be as simple as not keeping the right paperwork on file. Certifiers work very carefully not to make mistakes or let things slide because their entire business is on the line.  The same goes for an organic farm or organic processing facility.  Speaking as one myself, our certification isn't something that we take lightly.  Additionally, if a farm or operation is going to go through the trouble of getting certification, it usually means that they have true dedication to organic principles.  Organic farming isn't easy.  There is much more work involved than with conventional farming where you would just load the ground up with fertilizer, plant seeds, and spray pesticides everywhere. With organic farming, crop rotation must be planned, compost created properly, natural pest control methods decided upon and documented.  This could mean going tree-to-tree distributing handfuls of ladybugs.  Weeds would have to be pulled by hand or sprayed individually with approved substances like a clove essential oil mixture.  This is why organic ingredients are more expensive; it's labor intensive. And usually there's less yield.  Organic farmers will, a lot of the time, grow a variety of crops that are rotated to keep the soil fertile.  Some crops are more profitable than others.  And while a conventional farm might be able to dedicate all of their land to the most profitable crop, only a portion of an organic farm can be dedicated to the cash crops.  So, when it comes to certification, there's a lot on the line.  If a farm decides to use an unapproved substance, or even mistakenly does so, and they lose their certification, all of the hard work they've done is down the drain.  So, on the side of the farmer, processor, or certifier, there's a lot at stake to follow the rules.  And plus, most of the people in the industry that have chosen to go organic have done it for a reason, because they know it's the right thing to do.  It's not easy, but it's their passion.

Organic Cheaters

All of this said, we do acknowledge that it's not a perfect system, and we can't say that there aren't organic cheaters, people who illegally use the seal.   Check out our previous article that will help you spot organic cheaters.  (One that we pointed out back then has now been forced to take the USDA Organic seal from their website and products due to its illegal use.)  There are ways that you can spot organic cheaters.  The biggest thing is to look for the seal of their third-party certifying agency.  You can also look up a company here to verify their certification.   

The Deal with the Seal

What it means to you when you see the USDA Organic seal:
  • Ingredients grown and processed with only organic-approved substances, (no organophosphates, etc)
  • No artificial colors (colors from juices, etc, only.) 
  • No artificial flavors
  • No GMOs
  • No contact with sewage sludge
  • No contact with ionizing radiation
  • Non-agricultural ingredients in a product must be on the approved substances list (like baking soda and salt) and have to be GMO free and not processed with sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.  
  • Ingredients on ingredient list are exactly what's in the product and verified by a third party.  (Otherwise you're trusting the company to tell you the ingredients. Without certification you end up with ingredients lists with things like "natural cream base" or shampoos that don't disclose the exact detergent they're using.) 
The USDA Organic seal is the gold standard for organic certification in the world.  And there is no separate certification standard for personal care products.  The same rules that apply to foods apply to us as well.  We are proud to make our own USDA organic products in our certified organic facility and are committed, more than ever, to these important standards.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Companies Reformulate

Right now the internet is all abuzz about a certain popular baby personal care company reformulating their products and adding the preservative sodium benzoate. The company in question has responded and defended their decision. But the question remains: WHY? Why would a company change their formulas when everything seemed to be just fine before?

Now, I can't speak for this company or their particular decisions. But, I can suggest a few ideas that could be a factor in their decision making process. And the answer is the same for this question: "Why are truly USDA organic products so hard to find in stores?"

It all has to do with the way the industry works...

Most of the time cosmetic manufacturers sell their products through distributors. Manufacturers sell their products to a distributor for below-wholesale prices. The distributor then sells the products to the store at wholesale, and the store sells the product for "retail" or the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price.) The retail price is what you see on store shelves.

When a brand is carried in large retailers nationwide, there are a number of requirements that the manufacturer must meet. Some stores will charge for shelf space. Some stores require something called "free fill." This means the store gets a certain number of products for free from the manufacturer. In the cosmetics sector, this usually is six free units per item. So, say a chain of 300 stores came to a company like ours and said "we want to carry your products!" Well, we'd initially be thrilled....but then comes the free fill. Say the store wanted to carry ten different deodorants of ours. That would be 60 free deodorants per store that they'd receive...times that by 300 stores and that's 18 THOUSAND free deodorants that they'd require, just to be carried in their chain.

So, on top of the tens of thousands of dollars of free product, now you need to make sure that the product is selling so that the stores will order again and you can start to recoup the initial cost of the free fill. And the way that stores want you to do this is by a certain number of required "demos." A demo is when you send an employee out to the store with a table to hand out free samples or product information to try to sell the products. They typically require three demos per store in the first month, and then one every month following that. So, somehow you have to get employees to all three hundred stores, three times a month...so you have employee labor costs and travel costs, and the costs of the free samples and product information, and you haven't made a single dime yet. Keep in mind that on top of all this, some retailers will actually charge the manufacturer for their shelf space.

So, in order for a company to be large enough to fulfill that initial order and cover all those costs, they would have to take on investors. The sole goal of an investor is to make money. They don't care about the quality of ingredients--they want to get their money back, plus some. So, if a company has taken on investors, they're going to have immense pressure to be as profitable as possible. This means cheapening the ingredients, eventually leading to the phasing out of organic content in favor of water, cheaper conventional ingredients and synthetic fillers.

Then there's demographics...

While the organic sector is growing exponentially, most people don't know the difference between a fake organic product and a certified organic product. So, of the perhaps 10 percent of people in a conventional grocery store looking for organic products, only a half of a percent are really looking for USDA organic certified. They're going to shop by price, packaging, scents, and other factors. So, because USDA organic products are typically priced higher because they cost more to make, their sales will be slower to the general public. Most people also don't pay attention to an ingredients list. They figure if it's in a health foods store, it must be okay.

Then, there are specials...

The manufacturer receives pressure from retailers to do specials all the time and there is always pressure to permanently lower their prices. And if a company is relying on that retailer for the majority of their business, they're going to basically have to do what they're told. In order to stay in business they have to find ways to make their products cheaper. Sometimes this means getting them produced overseas. Sometimes this means cheaper packaging. Other times, this means boosting the water content of the product and adding stronger preservatives.

As a company we have carefully chosen the stores we are in. In fact, every store that we are carried in has come to us wanting our products, not the other way around. Harmon's has been a fabulous local partner to support our local business, not charging for shelf space or requiring free fill. The Rocky Mountain region of Whole Foods has done the same. We love all the independent shops and salons around the country that carry our products and believe in the importance of USDA organic. If there is one near you, we encourage you to support them.

Bubble & Bee Organic has purposefully chosen to be a company that does most of our business by selling directly to customers, so we don't have immense pressure from retailers. This way, we can be flexible and offer fun new products for the seasons, package deals, and surprise sales. We have chosen to be completely self-funded, so we don't have pressure from investors to always be making a profit. (No matter how much they wanted in, but that's a story for another day.) In this way, we continue to keep our integrity and values, have control over which ingredients we use, and give customers truly certified organic products that they want! We're so happy with our customer base that sees the difference in what we do. As our little beehive grows you will never have to worry about us changing our standards or back-tracking on our morals. Support our business and we'll never let you down!

Read about our organic certification here.