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  • How exactly is body care not vegan?

    Have you decided to move toward a plant based diet and are diligently reading the labels of the packaged food you buy?  Maybe you have been Vegan for some time now.  Good on ya!  But have you applied the same degree of scrutiny to your personal care products?  There are some ingredients that will stand out as animal derived, then others you might not expect.

    Body care products are required by law to have all ingredients listed in descending order, just like food.  Unlike food they are only required to include the Latin names of those ingredients, aka INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).  Companies can choose to include the common name on the label along with the INCI name, but they don't have to.  This can be confusing to read and easy to give up on.

    If you do decide to dig in to label reading, what are you looking for on a personal care product?  The fastest and easiest indicator is the Certified Vegan symbol.  This takes out all the guess work and is easiest for the busy consumer.  On the other hand that symbol can only be used by companies who have had specific products evaluated, and have paid to put it on their label and in their marketing.  This expense can be financially burdensome to a small business, especially if they have numerous products to certify.

    The most certain way to avoid using non-vegan ingredients in your personal care products, is to read the labels, and familiarize yourself with what is animal derived. Many of the non-vegan ingredients INCI names are the same as their common names, like Goat Milk, Honey or Beeswax, but not all.  The following are ingredients found in various types of personal care products that would not be suitable for people adhering to a strict vegan lifestyle:

    • Lanolin is a wax that is secreted by wool bearing animals, like Sheep.  Lanolin can be collected without the loss of life for the sheep.
    • Tallow or Beef Tallow is rendered fat from a cow.
    • Similarly Lard is rendered fat from a pig.
    • Chitosan is a sugar derived from the exoskeletons of Shrimp, Lobster and Crabs.  It is used in skincare for acne prone skin, sunscreen, moisturizers, cleansers and more.
    • Egg can also be listed as Ovum.
    • Emu Oil is obtained from the meat of the Emu and can be found in soaps and moisturizers.
    • Honeyquat sounds like it could be plant based, but it is in fact derived from Honey.
    • Hydrolyzed Silk Protein or Silk Amino Acids are derived from Silk Worms and can be found in a wide variety of hair care products, as well as some skin care products like moisturizers.
    • Mink Oil is derived from rendering fats from pelts destined for the fur industry.
    • Squalene is Shark Liver Oil, while Squalane is from Olives.  The devil is in the details with this one.
    • Beeswax, Butter, Buttermilk, Buttermilk Powder, Goat Milk, Goat Butter, and Honey, Milk, Dry Milk all have the same common name as INCI name.

    There are also some products that can be a bit misleading.  For example, lecithin is a generic term that refers to yellowish brownish fats found in animal or plant matter. Generally speaking Lecithin has the potential to be animal derived, however it is typically Soy derived for use in the body care industry.

    Urea is found in urine as well as sweat and is used in products that address Psoriasis and Dermatitis.  Don't worry, in the body care industry Urea is synthetically produced in the lab.  I have no reason to believe this wouldn't be vegan, but if this knowledge has brought up some trust issues, maybe you should avoid it. 

    The moral of the story is to be diligent and always read labels on products to be sure you aren't getting something you won't use.  Apothecuryous is committed to  formulating all new products to a Vegan standard, and will revisit the few older products that include Beeswax or Honey. Apothecuryous also chooses to list the common names of ingredients, along with the legally required INCI name on its product labels. 

    This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of non-vegan materials in personal care products.

  • Honey Do!

    Honey is more than the delicious nectar of the gods to add to tea or smear on toast, it has wonderful benefits for the skin as well!

    Vitamin and mineral rich, honey even contains amino acids, enzymes, and proteins.  Honey can be beneficial for all skin types and has numerous qualities that improve the appearance of skin and strengthen its barrier function.

    Honey has been used topically to improve the skin's appearance for centuries.  Cleopatra, Hippocrates and Nefertiti regularly used honey to improve the quality of the skin or reduce scars.

    Honey is an anti-oxidant which fends off free radicals and helps to slow the signs of aging. Free radicals are abundant in our modern world and we encounter them through environmental pollutants, industrial chemicals, and exposure to ultraviolet rays.  Just taking a walk down a street with traffic going by introduces free radicals into your system.

    Honey is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-septic all of which contribute to its ability to clean pores.  Acne and blackheads are often a result of bacteria paired with dirt residing in the pores and blocking the skin's normal secretion of sweat or sebum. Since honey is such a powerful anti-bacterial substance it is able to dislodge the bacteria and clear the pores, leaving you with a radiant complexion.

    Honey is a humectant, which means that it attracts moisture from the air and retains it on the skin.  Applying honey to the face is a wonderful way to moisturize your skin and achieve a glowing appearance. Applying honey to the skin increases elasticity and makes the skin look more youthful.  Application of honey also reduces the appearance of scars.

    The Honey Moisturizing Mask & Cleanser from Apothecuryous contains raw organic honey, organic sunflower seed oil, organic beeswax and Vitamin E.  The addition of the sunflower oil reduces the sticky-ness of honey and beeswax makes the mixture easier to handle.  

    Sunflower seed oil protects elastin and collagen, reduces redness and will not clog the pores.  For this reason it can be used by all skin types.

    Beeswax itself is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory.  It is also an occlusive which means that it creates a protective barrier on the skin (while still allowing your skin to breath) that reduces moisture loss and enhances the skin's barrier function.

    Because these potent ingredients have so many healing attributes this cleanser can also be used on problematic areas.  Consider using the Honey Moisturizing Mask & Cleanser as a spot treatment for eczema or psoriasis, or for cracked or broken skin on elbows, feet or hands.

    While Apothecuryous strives to make as many vegan products as possible, the benefits of honey are too numerous to pass up.

  • The many benefits of Witch Hazel

    You may be familiar with Witch Hazel or you may not.  In this article we are going to explore some of the many uses of Witch Hazel and why it should be in everyone's bathroom cabinet.

    First a little background.  Witch Hazel is an extract sourced from the leaves and bark of a North American deciduous shrub (Hamamelis Virginiana), often distilled and preserved with alcohol.  Witch Hazel contains tannins which help reduce swelling, fight bacteria, and remove excess oils from the skin.  This astringent property makes Witch Hazel a great natural solution for people who are battling acne.

    Witch Hazel has many applications and can be used to topically to tighten pores, reduce inflammation, calm the irritation of bug bites, soothe sun burnt skin, or used as an aftershave, among other things.

    Using Witch Hazel on your face after washing will remove any residual makeup, or environmental grime encountered during the day.  If you are someone who wakes up with puffy eyes in the morning, be sure to get as close to your eye as possible (without getting it in your eye) when using Witch Hazel at night.  This practice will help to reduce the puffiness you experience in the morning.

    Because Witch Hazel has astringent properties it can be used to reduce hemorrhoids (yes I just went there).  Unfortunately most people have had hemorrhoids at some point in their lives.  They are common for pregnant women or people who have insufficient fruits and vegetables in their diets.  Even if neither of those apply to you, its possible you can have that uncomfortable experience anyway due to genetics.  Not to worry!  Simply apply Witch Hazel to a cotton ball and dab the effected area.  Witch Hazel is safe to use on mucus membranes and will cool and reduce the inflammation quickly.  Alright, enough of that...

    If you are a mosquito magnet and end up with some maddening bug bites after your outing to the lake, the game, or picnic, simply apply Witch Hazel to the bites and let the Witch Hazel calm the itchy burning skin.  Reapply as needed.  Similarly Witch Hazel can be used on Poison Ivy or Poison Oak rashes or Chicken Pox blisters.  The cooling effect of the Witch Hazel will reduce the burning of the skin and provide some relief to the person effected. If only I'd known this when I got Chicken Pox the second time in Middle School! (It is possible to get Chicken Pox more than once if the first case wasn't severe enough to develop resistance to future exposure.)

    Once I was selling at an event and a woman, who was also a vendor, approached me and asked if I had anything for bug bites.  Her teen-aged daughter was helping her and had played in a marching band at a game the night before.  She had been seriously snacked on by mosquitoes and the woman was desperate to find something to bring her daughter relief.  I suggested the Witch Hazel, which she bought without blinking.  The next day she found my booth before the event opened, and told me how well it worked.  Her daughter was grateful, and I could see that the woman was as well, not to have to endure 8 eight hours with a miserable and itchy teenage girl.

    Witch Hazel can also be used to prevent ingrown hairs and reduce razor burn.  This is why it is used as an aftershave.  Using Witch Hazel after shaving will also slow bleeding from any nicks from the razor.  Witch Hazel can also be used after getting an area of the body waxed to reduce inflammation, clean the pores, and reduce the chance of developing ingrown hairs.

    If you get a sunburn apply Witch Hazel to the affected area and allow to air dry.  Witch Hazel will cool the skin, reduce inflammation, and condition and moisturize the skin so that it may heal.

    As you can see there are numerous uses for Witch Hazel, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.  There are internal uses for Witch Hazel as well, but I encourage you to search for an unscented option if you are looking to use it that way. Always be sure to bring Witch Hazel with you when you travel because as you can see there are so many uses for it, you won't want to be without it!  I hope you learned something and found the information useful.

     

     

     

     

  • Are your personal care products making you sick?

    In the United States there are 11 substances that are banned for use in the personal care industry, while in Europe there are 1300. There are as many as 57,000 chemicals used in personal care products and only 10% of them have been tested for safety.  This number includes chemicals found in make-up, nail polish and perfumes. The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate the chemicals that are included in personal care products, but instead leaves it up to the manufacturers of those products to regulate themselves. 

    There's a chance you've heard of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or seen product statements that indicate there is no SLS in their formula.  This is an ever present substance found in shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, and more.  It is a detergent, emulsifier, and mostly a foaming agent.  Don't be fooled, that foam isn't making you cleaner, its just playing on the psychology that if something foams it makes you clean.  In the process of manufacturing SLS it is left with a residue of 1,4 Dioxane, which is linked to organ toxicity and breast cancer.

    Some of the other chemicals used include Formaldehyde, which can cause skin irritation and headaches in the short term, and cancer over long periods of use.  If you are savvy and read the ingredients on your personal care products this will be listed as one of the following: DMDM Hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quaternium-15.

     Phthalates are hidden within the term "fragrance" and are endocrine disruptors that are linked to birth defects, breast cancer, and low sperm count.  Parabens mimic estrogen and create hormonal imbalance.  They are linked to reproductive issues, including infertility and developmental disorders or slow growth of children.

    These substances are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. Repeated exposure can lead to serious health issues, and considering these substances are found in daily use products, repeated exposure is built in.

    The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act  was adopted in 1938 and has allowed the cosmetic industry to self-regulate, largely unchecked, ever since.  Thankfully there is an increasing consumer awareness of harmful chemicals in personal care products, and demands for regulations are increasing.  In 2015 legislation was introduced to make manufacturers more accountable to the Food and Drug Administration.  The Personal Care Products Safety Act was submitted by senators Diane Feinstein and Susan Collins and was supported by the Personal Care Products Council which represents 600 of the best known brands.

    If you are interested in learning more about the products you have at home I recommend going to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website here: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/  There are numerous products for this organization to evaluate and as of this writing they have reviewed over 69,000 products and 2,000 brands.

    I strongly suggest starting the practice of reading the ingredients labels on your personal care products if you aren't already.  This can help you avoid putting a chemical stew on your body as well as give you an opportunity to learn the function of certain ingredients.  For example Cetyl Alcohol is a stabilizer that imparts a velvety feel to a cream or lotion.  Cetyl Alcohol can be derived from either natural plant materials or petroleum products.  Apothecuryous only uses Cetyl Alcohol sourced from Certified sustainable palm.

    Apothecuryous makes every effort to use ingredients that are chemical-free, sustainably sourced and Certified Organic.  Apothecuryous products are scented only with Essential Oils, many of which are Certified Organic.  

  • Benefits of the Bath

    Balneotherapy is defined as the treatment of disease by baths.  While these diseases might be arthritis, skin conditions, or illness, it could also be used to treat dis-ease, as most people are more at ease after taking a bath.  Bathing in mineral waters like hot springs or mineral pools has been practiced around the world for centuries.  If you have ever gone to a hot springs or sprinkled Epsom Salts in your bathwater you have practiced Balneotherapy.  Who knew?

    While I am not a medical professional and this information should in no way be interpreted as medical advice, Balneotherapy is an easy and pleasurable custom to add to your personal care routine (and your vocabulary). It's very relaxing to soak in hot water and sometimes its even hard to bring ourselves to get out of it.  Maybe because it reminds our subconscious of being in the womb, where the stress of life has not yet taken hold on our consciousness.

    The practice of soaking in thermal springs or mineral pools dates back many centuries, across the globe. The Greeks were attracted and intrigued by thermal springs and endeavored to study their effects, properties, and benefits for the body.  Herodotus was the first to establish the specific practices of Balneotherapy.  A bit later Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote extensively about the beneficial properties of bathing in thermal waters.   While the Greeks were studious of the healing water of the thermal springs, the Romans made work of creating elaborate architectural bath houses.  Remnants of a "Great Bath" in modern Pakistan dates back to 2500 BCE.  Meanwhile in Japan the first recorded Onsen (thermal bath house) dates back to 712 AD.  Then, of course, there is the Dead Sea where the water is 29% salt compared to the water in the ocean which is 4%.

    There are more benefits to soaking in these waters than just putting yourself in an adult "time out".  Using bath salts is a terrific way to replenish minerals in your system.  Several minerals, specifically Magnesium, are easily absorbed through the skin. 

    Magnesium is considered a "Master Mineral" as many of our bodily functions need Magnesium in order to perform optimally.  It is utilized by the Nervous, Cardiovascular, Immune and Muscular systems of the body, and more.

    In our modern world where mono-culture dominates (growing huge amounts of a single crop year in and year out), and "conventional" agriculture uses chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc., the mineral content of the soil has been depleted.  If the soil that our food grows in doesn't have adequate minerals, then the food that it produces also doesn't provide us with adequate minerals.  Magnesium deficiency shows up in a variety of symptoms like physical weakness, anxiety, calcium deficiency, muscle cramps, poor heart health, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, fatigue, poor memory, muscle cramps and more.  Does that sound like you?  Does that sound like everyone you've ever met?  It's quite possible it is.  Magnesium deficiency is experienced by around 75% of the population of the United States.

    There are various ways to boost your Magnesium levels, like eating foods that are rich in Magnesium like avocados, nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, fish, bananas and dark chocolate (yay!), as well as others.  You can apply Magnesium oil topically in an easy-to- use spray application.  Of course you can also practice Balneotherapy, your new favorite word (and mine). 

    Apothecuryous' Mineral Soak is a blend of Epsom Salts (not actually salt but a compound of Magnesium and Sulfate) which draws toxins from the body and improves circulation; Dead Sea Salts contain 21 minerals including Bromide, Iodine, Sulfur, Potassium and, of course, Magnesium; Himalayan Pink Salts (which contain over 80 minerals and trace minerals); Colloidal Oatmeal which improves the skin barrier function and contains antioxidants not found in other plant sources; and Sea Kelp Powder which is rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins that are not found in land plants, like B12.  This blend easily dissolves in water (unlike Himalayan Pink Salts by themselves), and is relaxing and invigorating.

    While I can justify eating chocolate by reminding myself it is high in Magnesium, I certainly won't shrink away from a reason to soak in the bath.  Maybe I'll eat chocolate while soaking in a bath filled with the Mineral Soak by Apothecuryous.

     

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