Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vegetarian vs Vegan: And What Do Bees Have To Do With It? (Vegetarian/Vegan Information)

Recently when I was in Philly my sister brought me to this "vegan" natural soap store. This store made me sigh for two reasons. First (in a good way), because it was a small cute shop in which the owner ran and also made most of the products, which were mainly natural (some were all natural, some were I guess around 70-90% natural). It was similar to something that I would maybe like to own and run myself someday. But then I read the ingredients of the soap, and I sighed (in a bad way this time) because while they used a vegan base, they also used ingredients like beeswax, goats milk, and silk protein; making the soap not vegan. I didn't confront the owner about this (which I kind of regret) mainly because I am not a vegan and didn't want to get into an argument on what's vegan and not. I did buy two soaps which were vegan, but they were not the store brand but other brands that they stocked. Anyways I thought it would be a good time to pull out a very old question that I answered a long time ago on veganism vs vegetarianism, and bee/insect products. Also more on my thoughts on crafting vegan natural products.

What is the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan? And why do vegans avoid products from bees?

I'm just vegetarian, and not vegan (not yet anyhow), but the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan is that while both will not consume meat and products derived directly from an animal (like meat, meat stocks, marrow, gelatin, carmine, fur, and fish--though some people who consider themselves 'vegetarians' eat fish or chicken (which I don't understand)--, and some vegeterians wear leather and some don't), vegans go even further and do not consume any products that come from animals, even if it does not involve the death of the animals (like eggs, dairy, beeswax, honey, lanolin). People are vegetarian because of a wide range of reasons (cultural, religious, environmental, animal rights, health), but (as I see it) most people that are vegan are vegan because of animal rights reasons (though some may be vegan because of other reasons too).

In beekeeping the majority of the honey made by the bees (some companies 2/3 of the total honey produced, some all of the honey) is taken from the bees, and they are then given a sugar solution to last the winter. Also some companies (not all) may kill the queen bee each year, because it somehow increases honey production. Also in removing honey, other bees may accidentally be killed too (they scrap the beeswax and honey from the screens they use). Also some vegans do not agree with disrupting the natural cycles of the bees (most 'beehives' in honey producing are wooden boxes with removable screens). Many vegans feel that animals, including insects, should not be exploited in any shape or form by humans.

My thoughts on vegetarianism and veganism:
When I first became vegetarian about a dozen years ago, it was mainly due to environmental and animal rights reasons. Nowadays, it has involved into more of an environmental/spiritual reason, and also because of health. Last semester I took a seminar on urban wildlife (one of my focuses of my research), and researching for one of the assignments made me get back to thinking about the animal rights side of things, and in some strange way, back to a part of me. I don't know if I can ever be vegan diet wise (since I already have so many diet restrictions and have low B-12 levels, and went through hell the last couple years due to health problems partially due to this) but I'm trying to be more humane in the rest of my life. I no longer consume honey (I'm also hypoglycemic), and am trying to craft vegan all natural cosmetics (I see it as a challenge, especially since it is hard to find a truly all natural all vegan company on the market). Currently I still use beeswax and lanolin to craft since I have a ton left, but as soon as I'm out I have no plans to buy it again. I have also stopped using honey in cosmetics, and over two years ago stopped buying products with carmine in them (once I realized what carmine really was!). I recently crafted my first vegan cream, and am so proud of myself! My sister tried it and told me I should definitely sell it oneday! :)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Naturally-derived/synthetic Detergents in Cosmetics and Cleaning Supplies (All Natural Cosmetics/Herbal Natural Cleaning)

What is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and is it really "derived from coconut oil"?

In my opinion, the phase "SLS derived from coconut oil" or most detergents "derived from coconut oil" in cosmetics is basically a marketing scam from companies to claim that their products are natural. Once upon a time ago most SLS was derived from coconut oil, but it was so processed, it could never be considered natural since the oil underwent so many chemical changes (hence becoming detergent). Nowadays, from my understanding, most SLS is derived from the Ziegler process--synthetic synthesis--and not from coconuts.

That said, there is a fine line about what is considered natural and what's not. For example, most "natural" liquid dish soap and laundry detergents are made from "naturally derived"/synthetic detergents and most people accept them as natural (since the product contains nothing but the detergent, essential oil, and maybe a bit of preservative and color, so no bleach and other toxic and irritating chemicals). It depends on how you define natural, as there is no set standard on the definition, and everyone has their own interpretations on what's natural.

I personally do not like ANY naturally derived/synthetic detegents in cosmetics (even the mild ones and non-toxic ones like coco polyglucose) because a) I've found that most naturally-derived/synthetic detergents remove too much of the natural oils from my skin and hair (much more than natural soap) and I have dehydrated skin and hair so that is a concern for me, b) some like SLS are irritants (when I use a "natural" toothpaste with SLS my gums bleed), and c) I'm just too anal in wanting to use and make all natural cosmetics or as natural as I can get. ;) (Though toothpaste is my bane, as nearly all brands have some form of naturally-derived/synthetic detergent, and the ones that don't seem to be too abrasive for my teeth to use on a regular basis).

I do use "natural" dish and laundry detergent though--the dish detergent cleans better than most natural liquid soaps I've tried (though I tend to wash my crafting dishes with liquid castille, which works fine for that), and natural laundry detergent doesn't leave my clothes feeling stiff or affect the color of my clothes (though some brands I've tried do). And most natural brands are biodegradable :) (though be sure to read the label as many synthetic detergents are made from petrochemicals, are not very biodegradable, and are pollutants).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Natural Facial Cleansers: What To Use and Where To Buy Samples (All Natural Cosmetics)

A few months ago someone asked on a forum where to buy samples of all natural facial cleansers. I decided to post my response to her here (edited and with additional information, of course), because like many people, I prefer to buy samples myself, before buying full size (though nowadays I craft the majority of what I use).

What are some brands of all natural face cleansers and where can I buy samples of them?

As I've mentioned many times before, my favorite facial soaps are the soaps from Heart Of Iowa . And J. Lynne Cosmetics sells samples of these soaps. Out of the many brands of all natural soaps I've tried these are the only soaps I will use on my facial skin (other natural soaps dry out my facial skin too much). They gently cleanse the skin, without leaving my skin tight and dry. Note to other all natural purists, some of the soaps do contain synthetic fragrances while others are all natural, so be sure to read the ingredients before buying. My favorite is the shea soap, but I also like the carrot soap (when my skin is less dry) and the dead sea mud soap as well (to remove toxins, when my skin is more oily).

Dr. Hauschka makes an awesome non-drying cleansing milk and cleansing cream that is perfect for dry and normal skin types, however this company is a bit pricey. They sell sample kits of their skin care, and you can find their products at places like Whole Foods or on their website. The sample kit is an economical way to try their products before investing in the full sized products. For the most part, many of their products are all natural formulations, though some of them do contain synthetics.

Aubrey Organics sells travel sizes of their skin care on their website, in their "travel a go-go" kits, which include cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and mask. They are offering them half price on their website now, which kind of worries me because I think they may be getting rid of their travel kits from their product line.

A great place to try all natural cleansers is Cosmetics Without Synthetics' website, which sells many different all natural or nearly all natural brands. They have samples of nearly every product they sell.

Terressentials also sells sample kits of their cleanser, toner, and facial creams/lotions. I actually haven't tried their facial care yet but have tried other products (like their hand soap) and met them at the D.C. Green Festival a couple years ago. This is a company with a conscious, and I'm going to try their facial skin care soon.

Another company I wanted to eventually try was Alexandra Avery's skin care line. Avery is a well known aromatherapist, and her skin care has won many awards. She sells a sample kit that includes many of her products.

And of course, you could always miy! Great all natural cleansers are honey and/or clay. You can mix them up or use them separately. I prefer rhassoul clay (a clay from Africa that is used in many spas) since that is non-drying, and has actually been shown to reduce dryness. You can get it at Garden of Wisdom or Mountain Rose Herbs. Monave also sells a clay-honey cleanser (you can buy samples of any Monave product, if it's not on the website, just e-mail them to ask). I don't clean my skin all the time with clay and honey since it's picky and I'm trying to use only vegan cosmetics now, but when I used to use this, it worked great and made my skin feel so soft! For vegans, I've tried using agave nectar, and it seems to clean as well as honey, and also made my skin soft. However I am not sure if agave has as much nutrients as honey, since it is mainly frutose.

I also used to use yogurt (with or without honey) to clean my skin, which works great for all skin types. Be sure to get plain, unsweetened, organic yogurt.

An infusion of soapwort root (an herb) can be used in place of soap, which may work for you. It is very gentle. It doesn't sud much but it will get your skin and hair very clean. I've been using soapwort this winter since my skin has been quite dry this season. I just bought soapnut, and hope to also try yucca root soon too.

You can also use a carrier oil to clean your skin. Some people with dry to normal skin may be able to clean with an oil, tone, and then moisturize, but if your skin is oily or dehydrated and prone to clogging then you may want to follow it with a soap, because otherwise your skin may become too greasy and your pores may clog. If you just want to use a cleansing oil, I suggest kukui nut or camellia oils (my favorite oils, both very light and fast absorbing). Some people also love olive (a medium weight oil), or almond or apricot (both light weight but not as light as camellia), and extra virgin coconut (used for dry skin, and some people with normal skin) to cleanse. Some people also prefer to use cold cream, but it is hard to find an all natural cold cream on the market (I need to retry the formula for Galen's cold cream eventually, and I actually just made a non-greasy, clean rinsing cold cream. I am so proud of myself).

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Review of Aubrey Organics Rosa Mosqueta Skin Care Line (All Natural Skin Care)

I've tried about 80-90% of Aubrey Organics' products, including nearly all of their skin care line (I think there may be two specialty creams I haven't used).

First I'd like to say that I greatly admire Aubrey Hampton. He has a background in both chemistry and herbalism so really understands both sides of the cosmetic industry (he has a degree in chemistry and worked as a cosmetic chemist before starting his own company, and he learned herbalism from his mother and a neighbor). He understands what herbs work best for what skin type. It was actually his books that got me first interested in natural cosmetics.

Aubrey Organics is also one of the only truly natural lines available in health food stores (most claim to be natural but contain synthetics).

Review of the rosa mosqueta skin line: I really like their cleanser but didn't care too much for their toner because it contains witch hazel extract (I can't use any alcohol in toner because it dries out my face too much but this would be perfect for other skin types). Their body lotions are my favorite out of any brand (the rosa mosqueta lotion makes my skin so soft, and all of their lotions are fast absorbing). Their face lotions are highly absorbent and non-greasy which some people love, though personally I need something that not only absorbs fast and doesn't leave my skin greasy, but also I need something that forms a breathable, non-clogging barrier to prevent water loss; so their face lotions for day time use don't work so well for me. But I love their rosa mosqueta night creme, which is a mix of shea and rosa mosqueta which works great for my skin. I also love their eye cream, which is the only eye cream I've ever used that actually works. As for the 100% rosa mosqueta/rose hip seed oil, it is way over priced; it's better to get it at Mountain Rose Herbs or Garden of Wisdom. The rosa mosqueta mask is one of my favorite masks/scrubs of all time. It leaves my skin so soft!

I recommend getting the travel kit, which is a great deal (you get the cleanser, toner, lotion and mask for under $15; right now it is half price for under $8 on their website). Also if you buy through their website and spend over a certain amount, you get a free product (it isn't always advertised on their website but you should see the free product in the shopping cart). But I don't think they are doing this now, as they have other free deals now.

I haven't used their facial mist; but I believe it is a best seller.