What's In It Wednesday: "Who knows?!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Would you be surprised if I told you that there are people out there selling skin care products who have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what they are doing?

No? We've talked about similar subjects. Today I am sharing some conversations I have had with Etsy sellers regarding their bath and body products. I am going to share with you 3 sellers I found on Etsy and share my interactions with you:

Lisa from Oklahoma is a soaper, tart maker, and lotion seller on Etsy.



Not long ago, I asked her about her Lavender Flower lotion because I had concerns about preservation. She sent me this response:

"I start with a premade base and add goat's milk and honey to it. I also add extra grape seed oil because it is great for the skin and makes a great preservative. I do not know what is used in the base and have looked up each term and still cannot figure out which one it is. But here are all the ingredients to the lotions.

Water, Glyceryl Stearate, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylic/Capric Glyceride, Stearic Acid, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth 20, Soybean Oil, Shea Butter, Dimethicone, Sunflower Oil, Aloe Barbadensis, Goat Milk Extract, Hydroxypropyl Trimonium Honey, grape seed oil, Benzophenone, Methylparaben, Propylparabaen, DMDM Hydantoin, Triethanolamine Disodium EDTA."



YIKES! Holy cow. Grapeseed oil to preserve goat's milk????

Also--one cannot just add ingredients to a premade base. The preservative levels in the base are made specifically for that product. Once you introduce ANYTHING else to the mix, you are changing the proportions.  In almost every case, the preservative levels will need to be adjusted.

Let's put it in simple kitchen terms. Suppose you buy some dip. Any dip, really.  For this exercise, we'll say we're using French Onion dip (sour cream based). Now let us pour in milk and oil. Leave it for a while. Heck, leave it out of the fridge for months.  What will happen? Will you eat the dip?

NO WAY!

When Lisa adds goat's milk to this base, she is radically changing the composition of the base.  It is not a "simple add in" the way adding a couple drops of essential oils or fragrance oil would be.

Goat's milk is notorious for being tricky to preserve. You CANNOT just pour a milk product into a bottle of lotion, add in an oil, and, VOILA! -- goat's milk lotion! In fact, this is a health risk.

This business owner admits clearly that she is unfamiliar with ingredients. She states that grapeseed oil is a "great preservative". This is false. Selling this lotion is dangerous.

Lisa used to sell scratch-made products. Here is what she said about her product before the switch:

"I see I now I did not chang my description for when I made it from Scratch. The batched keep going bad so I switched to a premade bases and DR it up." 

Unfortunately, this product is no safer that the ones she was creating that she says kept "going bad". By "doctoring it up", she is selling a product that may be even more dangerous than the bad batches available before.

I had a lengthy conversation over the course of a couple days with another Etsy business owner.  Her name is Shannon and her shop is based in Kentucky.  Her specialties include selling homemade food items, lotion, painted wine glasses, baby tutus, wreaths, and canvas sneakers painted with team logos.

After speaking with her, I do see that she has removed the lotion and homemade salsa.

Shannon was selling an "all natural" body lotion on her site.  No ingredients were listed.

I asked her what was in her lotion via Etsy convo and here is her response:

"Water, grapeseed oil, essential oils, emuls wax, witch hazel, glycerin"

I asked Shannon if she was aware that her product was not properly preserved and, therefore, a health issue.

Her response:

"I have included that it is all natural and no preservatives!"

I explained that I was concerned about the health risk of not having a preservative.

Shannon said:

"There are health risks in everything. I have not sold one lotion on etsy. All of mine have been to friends and family and have not had one problem. and I have sold close to 100 bottles. If I did sell one on etsy, I would clearly list all ingredients and potential risks to the purchaser."

By this logic, it was A-OK to sell potentially harmful, unpreserved products and AFTER someone paid for the lotion, she would make them aware that they posed a risk of staph and other diseases.

Christina from Tennessee is selling  "ALL NATURAL BUBBLE BATH...Made from scratch, by hand, with earth and YOU in mind".

First of all, I was pretty confused yesterday when I went to look at the ingredients once more.

Why?  Well, just 10 days ago, these were the ingredients meeting the item description above:

Ingredients: Water, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, lauramide dea, lauryl glucoside, disodium edta, methychlorisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, citric acid, sodium chloride

Yesterday, the items title and description were exactly the same, but now the ingredients are different.

Here they are as of September 10, 2012:

INGREDIENTS: "Business name's" natural moisturizing handmade bubblebath base, olive oil, coconut oil, fragrance, citric acid, sodium chloride, vitamin a, vitamin d, vitamin e

I am so confused. At the end of August, I had been communicating with the shop owner.

I asked why she called her product "all natural"  when it is loaded with toxins.

Here is her reply from August 29:

"The ingredients are necessary to create the suds people love in bubblebath. The "chemicals" prevent mold growth and bacteria from forming in the base thereby allowing us to make a batch up ahead of time and store it in airtight jars until use. Then we add the color and fragrance to our handmade from scratch base. There are necessary steps required to prevent bacteria and mold growth helping to ensure customer safety. After all if you received bubblebath and it had black mold (the most harmful version of mold) in it you would be very upset and report the seller for not following protocol and health and safety regulations. Hope this helps." 

So, why are the ingredients completely different since August 29th?

According to the seller just yesterday:

"I have formulated everything and Vitamin E is an excellent natural preservative since you were or appeared to be quite upset over the other formula I re-worked it. I use Vitamin E as a natural preservative in many products and after extensive testing done prior and during our conversations it has proven sufficient at keeping the mold from forming even in summer heat. I have done my best to accommodate everyone's wishes for a more natural product."

I am dumbfounded, to be frank.  First of all, let me assure you that a serious formulator who is taking the necessary precautions can ABSOLUTELY NOT reformulate a bath and body product and have thoroughly had it tested for safety in less than 2 weeks. It is just not possible.  When I was formulating products for sale, product development (including me having them tested) was a process involving months before I knew it was OK to safely sell to the public.

According to this seller, then, her old formula had the chemicals because it was a safety issue and we had to prevent black mold. Now, she says that after giving it thought that she is able to have created a new natural recipe and knows that vitamin E is a safe preservative. Again, this shows why I no longer feel it is safe to buy these products on Etsy. We've said this so often here--VITAMIN E IS NOT A PRESERVATIVE! IT IS AN ANTIOXIDANT. THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT!  The seller states that she was able to conduct extensive testing with the vitamin E. Wow. Let me tell you that extensive does not mean two weeks, nor does it exlude challenge testing in the lab.

The C & G Bottom Line:

A couple of years ago, I showed you what happens when you buy something that has not been appropriately preserved. This was my own purchase, which was the beginning of the end of me ordering handmade items other than bars of soap or lip balm:






This issue is only on the upswing. More and more bath and body shops seem to be popping up overnight. People still seem to think that you can just says, "It's so easy to make lotion! Let's sell it on Etsy!" 

This is very dangerous and it makes no sense. Would you go to a restaurant and order food knowing that the chef isn't sure what temperature is safe for heating poultry? Or who uses expired milk or rancid oils in his sauces?  Remember--there are people out there (even those who have been selling for years adding to premade bases and thinking it is OK to do) -- who have no knowledge of ingredients or formulation.  It is up to you, as a consumer, to be sure you're safe until sellers take more responsibility for what's out there for sale. Caveat emptor!   
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