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Are There Chemicals In This? What is a Chemical?

This blog post is a continuation of the topic we discussed last week, Is It All Natural? We hear are asked and hear comments from time to time, and see articles online about how there are all these nasty chemicals in everything you buy (which I am sure they do because sensationalization is what sells, but that's a post for another day).

Image via Mahivory

So do we have chemicals in our soap? Yes. Absolutely. Almost everything we make contains Dihydrogen Monoxide. Scary huh? Oh, wait...that's just water (H2O)! And that leads us to the question of the hour...What is a chemical? The short answer is everything. Chemicals are the building blocks of everything in the world we know, as long as it contains matter.

Since one of the things my sister and I love so much about Pig and Peacock is the combination of chemistry, cooking and creativity, I must admit, this question kind of irks the chemist in me.

We should not fear chemicals, without them we wouldn't have air to breathe, water to drink, or diamonds. We'd be lacking some vital nutrients that allow our bodies, worse yet, we would cease to exist.

So the real question you should be asking instead of "Is that a chemical?", or "Are chemicals dangerous?" is this:
Is the chemical you are using, safe to be used in it's specific application?
This means that we are using the correct amount of water, the correct amount of oils and the correct amount of applicable preservatives to protect you from some of those really nasty "natural" things that can grow if you do not use the right amount to make a product safe.

I recently read a fantastic article that clarifies why you shouldn't be worried about chemical per se, but the safe and appropriate use of them. I think this excerpt sums it up pretty well:

"On April 10, a group of health and environmental groups launched a national campaign asking ten major retailers to phase out “potentially” toxic products.  Aren't all products “potentially” toxic? A chemical’s toxicity depends on its concentration in a product and route of exposure, not simply its presence. Most chemicals can be toxic at high enough levels, including such common items as salt, aspirin or vitamins. Should it really be retailers’ job to pull items from their shelves when numerous regulatory agencies around the world, including several in the US, oversee chemical safety and have the authority to remove products when the evidence justifies it?"

We are always careful to make sure all of our ingredients (whether their name sounds chemically or not) are used with precise measurements and made to be safe for anyone and everyone to use.

It was really important to us to post these two articles, not to ruffle feathers, but to inform shoppers and separate pseudo-science from the fact.

Read the entire article, The Presence of a Chemical is Not the Same as the Presence of Risk here.

Some chemical names of everyday substances:
Magnesium Sulfate - Epsom Salts
Glycerol -  Glycerin
Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate - Baking Soda
Sucrose - Sugar
Ascorbic Acid - Vitamin C
Transcinnameldehyde - Cinnamon
Theobromine - Chocolate

And the following are the official INCI names (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) of other commonly found bath and body ingredients that may sound chemically but really aren't:
Butyrospermum Parkii - Shea Butter
Tocopheryol - Vitamin E
Melaleuca Alternifolia - Tea Tree Oil
Simmondsia Chinesis - Jojoba Oil



Is it All Natural?

One of the most common questions we get is "Is it all natural?"

We love natural ingredients like essential oils, shea butter, soy wax, and many more. But it sometimes concerns us that people believe that natural always means safe and good for you.

Not all natural things are good for you. You know, things like bacteria, mold, and sharks. Even though these are all natural, you don't want them in your beauty products. Bacteria and mold can irritate your skin or cause infections. (We don't want to give sharks a bad rep here, but they can cause irritation and infection too, usually at the site where they bite you...)

The most common, non-natural ingredient we use is the preservative Phenonip. All water based products, like lotions and body butters, should have a preservative to inhibit microbial growth. A little non-natural additive to keep unhealthy natural growth out of your skin care regimen isn't a bad thing.

Some people say vitamin E and citric acid are natural preservatives. Vitamin E and citric acid have some benefits and they can extend the shelf life of oils in bath and body products, but they are not preservatives.

There are lot of beauty product myths out there. If you are concerned about an ingredient in your soap, lotion, or other bath and body product, do some research or ask some questions before you dismiss a product because it's not all natural or use a product because it is.

In defense of bacteria, mold, and sharks, they all play important roles in our ecosystem, just not in your beauty routine.