Friday, June 9, 2017

USDA Uncovers More Organic Fraud

Last month we reported that our organic certificate had been taken from our website, photoshopped, and used in the creation of a fraudulent organic certificate.

At the time, the USDA had uncovered several other fraudulent certificates.

Other companies reported on the USDA website include a farm in Mexico selling watermelon and tamarind, a company out of Mexico selling eggs and lemon, a company out of China selling sandalwood essential oil, a tea producer out of Colorado, and a processor out of India. (Details here on the USDA website.)

If you haven't already, check out my article over on Grounded Organic on how to spot organic fraud.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Does Castor Oil Really Work to Re-Grow Hair?

You may have read online that castor oil can be used to re-grow thinning hair, patchy eyebrows, or sparse eyelashes. But is there any science behind this popular internet claim?

To find out, I started with a search of the National Library of Medicine (Pubmed)--a database of all published studies on substances synthetic and natural alike. Castor oil has been used for many years to help ease osteoarthritis, and there is a limited body of evidence confirming this practice. However, searching for any articles regarding its ability to re-grow hair came up empty.

After searching many variations of "castor oil" and "hair," through Pubmed and continuing to find no results, I took to the general internet and found this article. It says the science behind castor oil's ability to re-grow hair is such:
Accounting for more than 90% of castor oil’s constitution, ricinoleic acid is the single largest component, is mono-unsaturated and features 18 carbons. What renders it different is that its 12th carbon comprises of a hydroxyl functional group. It is courtesy of this structure of ricinoleic acid that castor oil derives its polar nature and hence is chemically more nourishing for the scalp. 
Hair growth is spurred by a lipid compound named Prostaglandin (PGE2) and it could be best described as a catalyst. While its presence in high concentration promotes growth of hair, its depletion causes hair loss and eventually leads to baldness. Castor oil’s principle component – ricinoleic acid – has been scientifically proven to stimulate the production of Prostaglandin (PGE2) when applied to the scalp. Enhanced production of this lipid, particularly in bald spots, enriches hair follicles and encourages regeneration of hair.
It sounds legitimate--there are chemical names and diagrams, and even sources cited. But the science behind the claims have been misinterpreted in more ways than one.

Yes, the fatty acids in castor oil are primarily ricinoleic acid. However, oils don't just contain free fatty acids. In castor oil, the fatty acids are arranged in to molecules called triglycerides: three fatty acids held together by a glycerol group. (Aka glycerin.) So, while castor oil can easily be broken down to extract ricinoleic acid, castor oil in its raw state doesn't contain free ricinoleic acid. Putting castor oil on your skin and hoping it will affect your prostaglandins is like putting a bottle of Aspirin on your head and hoping it will get rid of your headache. Essentially, the ricinoleic acid is still in its "wrapper" in castor oil.

I did find one study that shows how ricinoleic acid can affect prostaglandins, however, it was when taken internally. The digestive system is able to break down the castor oil and turn it in to free ricinoleic acid, which can interact with prostaglandin receptors and create a laxative effect and potentially be used to induce labor. Prostaglandins do have some kind of mechanism in the hair follicle, however, their function continues to be unclear. And the effects of putting ricinoleic acid on hair is also unclear.

Castor oil is a safe ingredients to use, and I am sure that there are reports that it appears to have helped re-grow hair for some people. However, there is no science to back these claims.

What about you? Have you tried castor oil to spur hair growth? What were your results?

Related material:
The downside to castor oil
5 Natural Remedies for Hair Loss

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Looking Back at 2015

We've been busy little bees over the last year! We wanted to take a look back at what we've done over the last year and put together a few highlights in case you've missed them or you're a new follower.

January--We chimed in on why the FDA crackdown on essential oil companies was actually a good thing, and questioned a dubious ingredients list of a popular "natural" cleaning product.

February--We exposed a children's bubble bath with a mysterious ingredients list and launched our hugely popular Almond Coconut Pit Putty Deodorants.

March--We noted how an antioxidant facial care product could actually be damaging your skin and launched another amazing Pit Putty Scent--Spring Lilac!

April--We introduced Spring Lilac Body Butter and started talking requests for deodorants for sensitive skin. We also exposed how their could be nanoparticles in your non-nano sunblock.

May--We exposed a natural-sounding ingredient for containing not-so-natural ingredients and talked about foods for protecting your skin from the inside out.

June--We introduced our first test batch of new "sensitive skin" deodorants.

July--We added Orange Vanilla to our options of "sensitive skin" deodorants.

August--We talked about the science behind the practice of oil pulling, and detailed 5 natural remedies for hair loss.

September marked the return of seasonal soap scents and Baked Apple Spice Salt Scrub.

October we took on some "experts" about breast cancer and aluminum.

November was our biggest month in Bubble & Bee history with our annual Big Sale and Black
Friday/Cyber Monday Sale. We also hosted a $200 Sweepstakes and spread the "buzz" about Bubble & Bee.

December--We introduced three new products for the season, talked about a hair loss controversy, and added Almond Coconut to our options of "sensitive skin" deodorants.

Hey, we've done a lotta stuff over the last year! We have some exciting things we've been working on behind the scenes over the last year that we'll be rolling out in 2016. We thank everyone for following us in 2015--make sure you're signed up for our email updates so you can be first to know about new products and information.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What Does Science Say About Oil Pulling?

Swishing a tablespoon of vegetable oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes to clean teeth--known as "oil pulling"--is the subject of many natural health blogs. It has been traditional practice for centuries in India where coconut or sesame oils have been used. But with all of its history and current popularity, is there actual science to back the reported benefits of oil pulling? Cleaning teeth is one thing, curing diseases as many claim it does, is another.

The Science Behind Oil Pulling

There are a number of studies that have shown the efficacy of oil pulling at cleaning teeth and improving oral health.

This 2015 study found that oil pulling with coconut oil decreased plaque formation and gingivitis.

This 2014 study concluded that oil pulling was as effective as an antiseptic mouthwash in decreasing bad breath. 

This 2011 study found that oil pulling reduced bad breath and bacteria as well as an antiseptic mouthwash.

This 2011 study discovered that during oil pulling, the oil will break down and emulsify with saliva, thus accounting for some of its mechanical cleaning action.

This 2009 study found that oil pulling improved gum health and reduced plaque in children.

This 2008 study found that oil pulling reduced cavity-causing bacteria. 

Other Claims

But, while the scientifically-backed benefits of oil pulling for oral health are clear, larger claims may not be. Reports of various diseases being cured by oil pulling have not been backed with scientific evidence. Balancing hormones, reducing arthritis, reducing insomnia, eliminating allergies, treating chronic pain, etc are some of the unfounded claims you may see. But, while research may not back these claims, some people may still see overall health benefits from oil pulling.

Oral health is strongly tied to our overall health. Patients with mitral valve prolapse (a heart condition that makes one susceptible to infection of the heart among other things) are advised to brush and floss regularly to avoid infections. (Source) Heart disease has been linked to chronic oral infection and inflammation. (Source)(Source) Research has also tied periodontal disease to depression. (Source) Scientists have also implicated periodontal bacteria in oral cancers. (Source) Because oil pulling improves oral health so well, the body may achieve an overall benefit by removing plaque, decay, inflammation, and bacteria from the mouth. What remains to be studied, however, is if there is a benefit of oil pulling over simple brushing of teeth. In some cases, oil pulling may be more effective--due to the amount of time dedicated to the cleaning process--in people that may not be getting their teeth clean enough from brushing. (Perhaps from worn toothbrushes, not brushing long enough, not brushing thoroughly, not flossing, etc) But for others with more thorough brushing and flossing practices, oil pulling may not show much of an overall health benefit.

What are your experiences with oil pulling? Has it helped you?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Foods for Protecting Your Skin

Getting the right balance of sun exposure can be tricky. On one hand, most people in the northern hemisphere are lacking in vitamin D (cholecalciferol, synthesized by the skin when exposed to the sun) which can protect the body from many cancers, in addition to many other health benefits. On the other hand, the sun is officially considered a carcinogen, with damaging UV rays that can lead to skin cancer. So, finding the right balance of sun exposure is a fine line, and is different for everyone depending on your skin's hue, where you live, vitamin D levels, and family history. (Consult your Dr. for recommendations that pertain to your health.)

But, one trick you can have in your arsenal to protect your skin is eating the right foods. UV rays oxidize the oils and other compounds in your skin to create free radicals and damages DNA. We associate sun damage with sunburn, but much of this damage is invisible, taking years to show up to the naked eye. It has been found that diets rich in phytonutrients, omega-3 and omega-9 fats, and low in omega-6 fats, can counteract some of these damaging effects by providing antioxidants to the skin. (Source) Let's take a look at some foods that are rich in nutrition to help support healthy skin.


Resveratrol, found in grape skins, and proanthocyanidins from grape seeds have both been found to have potent anti-oxidant properties. (Source) (Source)

Flax Seeds

With high amounts of fiber for detoxification, and a high omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, flax seeds are a healthy skin powerhouse. (Source)


Many studies detail the antioxidant properties of turmeric's active compound, curcumin. One study found turmeric extract to be toxic to certain skin cancer cells.

Bell Peppers

Vitamin C has been found to suppress the growth of skin cell tumors; as one of the foods richest in vitamin C, bell peppers are not just delicious in a fajita, but great for your skin.
(Source) Other foods rich in vitamin C include cherries, kale, broccoli leaves, and blueberries.

Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cabbage)

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain a compound called sulforane, a potent antioxidant that's being studied as, among other things, a skin cancer treatment. (Source)

Brazil Nuts

A recent study found that patients with skin cancer had lower levels of zinc, copper, and selenium than those without skin cancer. Brazil nuts have the highest known levels of selenium than any other food, plus a 1 oz serving (6 kernels) supplies you with a quarter of your RDA of copper and 8% RDA of zinc.

Of course nothing is a substitute for a broad-spectrum physical sunblock (or a hat!) when going out in the sun for longer periods of time. (We recommend Badger's line of sunblock products.) But now you can protect your skin from within with some healthy (and delicious) foods.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Benefit to Lead?

By now we've all heard about the controversy of lead in lipsticks and other cosmetic items. And you may be familiar with the fact that in ancient Rome and Egypt, lead compounds were used as primary ingredients in makeups. But you may not know that the Egyptians actually used lead for its benefits. Wait, benefits?

Some ancient texts suggest that lead was used purposefully to treat eye illnesses and skin ailments. So researchers in France decided to delve further in to this mystery. They took samples of ancient makeup from Egyptian tombs and put it under the microscope. An ultramicroelectrode, to be exact. They found that the Egyptians actually synthesized special lead salts, laurionite and phosgenite--not found in nature--specifically for cosmetic use.  Researchers tested these compounds and saw that once applied to skin, the lead ions created a stress response in the keratinocytes (a type of skin cell). Under this stress, the skin cells created an abundance of nitrogen monoxide--a compound known to stimulate a general immune response. Through this this mechanism of stimulating the immune system, researchers concluded these lead compounds may have actually been used to treat eye and skin conditions. (Source)

What does this mean for us in modern times? Not much. There's no action or change I'm suggesting. I'm not proposing the use of lead makeups or medicines and am not contesting the fact that it's a harmful substance. I just found the study to be interesting, historically and biologically, an insight in to the complex mechanisms of the body and its reactions to the toxins around us.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Are There Nanoparticles in Your Non-Nano Sunblock?

Without potential endocrine-disrupting properties like avobenzone and oxybenzene, and free-radical forming properties like titanium dioxide, plus UVB and UVA protection, zinc oxide is the winning choice when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun.

But there's a problem. Zinc oxide imparts a pasty white hue to your skin when you put it on. Manufacturers wanted to harness the power and reputation of zinc oxide but get rid of the whitish hue. So, they started making zinc oxide in nanoparticle form. These tiny particles could be suspended in a cream and are so small that they go on clear. But, we found out that these tiny particles may not be good for your skin, potentially damaging the DNA within skin cells (source). Because they are such small particles, the theory is that they are able to penetrate the skin further and if light bounces off these particles in to the surrounding cells, damage can occur. (However, other studies have found them not to be harmful.)

The public demand for non-nano zinc oxide is large-however people still don't want to look like they've seen a ghost when wearing sunscreen. So, manufacturers continued to develop products. One was micronized zinc oxide. Particles that are smaller than raw zinc, but not small enough to be called nano. While their small size does help, it still does create a whitish hue on skin. Finally, a company out of Australia came up with truly clear non-nano zinc oxide. But there's a caveat--it contains nanoparticles.


This new clear "non-nano" zinc oxide works like this. They broke down the zinc oxide in to nanoparticles. Then, they glued the nanoparticles together, making the overall particle size large enough to be considered non-nano. Misleading? A bit. Harmful? We don't know yet. Probably safe. The larger particle size would keep the zinc from penetrating the skin deeper, but would the sunlight reflecting off the individual particles be harmful? Preliminary studies by the manufacturer has not shown any harm, however, the long-term safety is yet to be seen.

So, the next time that you use a clear "non-nano" sunscreen, know that it's most likely those glued-together nanoparticles.

My top choice for safe sunscreens has always been, and continues to be Badger. I have been in contact with the formulator in charge of their sunscreens and know personally the care they take when formulating their product. They have the resources and equipment necessary to make sure that the zinc is evenly distributed throughout the formula and they go above and beyond with the testing they put the sunscreens through. You can read more about the zinc they use and even see photos of the glued-together nanoparticle zinc oxide here on their website. Badger is a competitor of ours in some categories, but they really are such a standout company, actually have organic certification, and just do things *right* so I don't mind giving them a little publicity.