You Are At The Archives for 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015 in , , , , ,

"Play" beauty products for kids - a gift with hidden health problems.

Little girls love to play with makeup and nail polish, but there is a more serious side to this issue than your favorite lipstick getting smushed.  (Though yes, I agree, that is a minor tragedy)

Littles love to do what mom does, and if mom is using color cosmetics they'll want to as well.  In order to prevent the toddler or tween tornado from twisting through your stash it may seem like a great idea to get them some stuff of their own.  They'll feel special, and the items even come marketed for the younger crowd so they know it's just for them.  Problem solved!  Your products are safe and the kiddos are happy.... but....

Unfortunately most people are buying their daughters, nieces, fabulous little boys and grandbabies very cheaply made products packed with hormone disrupting chemicals, synthetic colorants, petroleum compounds, and synthetic preservatives.  Even worse, the additional chemical load can affect kids even more than a fully grown adult.  Their systems are developing and changing quickly, and genes are being turned "on" and "off" by their environment and experiences.  Anything that can alter that is something to consider carefully.

Hormones especially are subtle compounds, and a little this way or that can cause a lot of change.  That is why hormone disrupting chemicals should have you acting like the bouncer at an exclusive nightclub keeping their skeezy selves out.  They'll ruin the party, if not right away then later as they try and pair up with all the pretty estrogen receptors.

Image credit: National Institute of Health and Environmental Sciences
Endocrine disruptors act as hormone mimics and blockers depending on the situation and the compound.  They can sit in the estrogen receptors and other hormone reaction sites and block hormones from chemically matching with where they need to be.  They can also turn hormonal functions on and off sometimes too.  This is big trouble for the littles.

The earlier in life that the human body is exposed to especially hormone disruptors like pthalates the greater the long term damage can be.  Eventual results with habitual exposure can include abnormal hormonal development, fertility problems, and eventually even cancers of the endocrine system.

(Want more details?  Read this in-depth article from Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just A Pretty Face, who has done all the research for you)

A future of chronic disease and pervasive hormonal dysfunction is not the kind of gift you want to bestow on the next generation.

Instead we highly recommend that you skip the toxin-laden "play" makeup and head straight for cleaner, endocrine disruption-free, natural options.  Get them products to play with, but give them something good quality.  That way when their face is smeared with it, or they are doing their nails for the third time that day you can simply say, "that looks great!" without worries about everything that might be leaching into their system

Nail polish is one of those products that little girls adore, and yet is the most insidiously harmful for health, as it has for generations been made up of solvents that otherwise would come with a litany of warnings.  Just as a sample let's review how Toluene, a solvent in conventional nail polish, would generally be labeled.

Toluene safety label text:
"Highly flammable liquid and vapor. Causes skin irritation. May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways. May cause drowsiness or dizziness. May cause genetic defects. Suspects of damaging the unborn child by inhalation. May cause damage to the central nervous system by inhalation."

My daughter has far more time to paint her nails than I do.  That means a lot more chemical exposure.

For your little ladies (or any polish lovers) we are delighted to share an upgrade that will let the kids feel pretty and you feel like they are protected.

AILA Cosmetics
a Physician-Formulated collection of nail colors, base and top coats, and natural, fume-free soy based remover.  They sell online and through stores like Blissoma Botanical Beauty.

AILA offers a lovely range of more than 25 colors in shades from reserved to rowdy that will make all ages happy.

Even their polish remover is nontoxic and healthy for nails.  It is completely odorless and made with soybean esters that gently remove polish from the nail and leave it nicely moisturized.

The big baddies in many widely sold nail polishes are:

- Toluene (industrial solvent and nervous system toxin)

- Dibutyl Pthalate (plasticizer and hormone disruptor)

- Formaldehyde (carcinogen)

- Formaldehyde Resin (allergen)

- Camphor (poisonous and causes yellow staining of the nail)

AILA is also free of:
- TPHP, another endocrine disrupting compound science has just been identified that is in even many 5-free polishes.  The lack of TPHP makes AILA unique in the nontoxic polish world.

How do all the junky chemicals get from the bottle into our bodies anyway? 
Your fingernails are not impervious surfaces.  You are not Lady Deathstrike and they are not made of adamantium, though I'm sure that we all often pretend like they are when attempting to perform tasks such as trying to use a fingernail as a screwdriver because despite having purchased an entire set none are anywhere to be found at times of need. (or is that just me?)  Fingernails are porous and can absorb chemicals that are put on them.  You also inhale the vapors during application - that characteristic smell is the aroma of nervous system damage.  OSHA even has a special mention on the health hazards that nail techs experience as part of their jobs being exposed to glues, polishes, removers and more. "Workers exposed to chemicals found in glues, polishes, removers, emollients and other salon products may experience negative health effects such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, skin disorders (e.g. allergic contact dermatitis), liver disease, reproductive loss, and cancer."

Uh, yeah.  So tell me again why we are letting our kids fool around with cancerous solvents?  I'm thinking "because it's pretty and that color is in season" is just not enough.  

Some polishes available at larger chain stores like Essie and even Sally Hansen have gone "3 Free" which means they are free of Toluene, Dibutyl Pthalate, and Formaldehyde.  That's better than nothing, but we were super excited to find a line like AILA that was brought to life specifically to bring us the fun of polish without the risks of the additional chemicals.  As well, when big lines eliminate chemicals that are getting bad press sometimes they do so without adequate research and care, which makes the attention that Dr. Cary, the AILA founder, has given her work extra special.

Note: It is not news to me as a formulator and chemistry-lover that there can be problems with some "replacement chemicals" that are quickly substituted into conventional beauty products without adequate research.  Firstly industry wants a fast replacement, and if there is no research there can be no direct harm proven, so they stick something in that isn't the old stuff.  Zippity-doo-da, it's new and improved!  The new compound may be a mimic of the old one and just go by another name, or it may be a totally new can of worms. 
This has been an issue as many mainstream brands have tried to go "paraben free".  They stick in a new ingredient like methylisothiazolinone which isn't a paraben, but is a serious skin irritant.  People then have rashes popping up and don't know why, but it's because the choice of preservative wasn't made with health in mind, but rather mass production

If you're buying a beauty gift for a little one this holiday season or anytime we want to ask you to please buy clean, natural, nontoxic beauty products.  Look for declarations like "5-free" on nail polishes for the cleaner options, or even better look for brands that declare TPHP-free (there aren't many yet besides AILA).  For makeup please look for plant-based recipes and no FD&C colorants.  A line that specifically declares their colors are solely mineral based is best.

And skip all the synthetically perfumed lotions, shower gels, and spritzy stuff (whether cheap or designer).  Synthetic fragrances are like taking a bath in Pthalates, one of the worst types of endocrine disruptors.  While nail polish companies have been working to remove it the fragrance industry hasn't budged much.  Pthalates allow them to make fragrances seem stronger and last longer, and it seriously screws with their product structure to eliminate it.  Pthalates do absorb through skin and should be avoided as much as humanly possible.  Drop the freesia body spray like it's hot.

Yes, cleaner products sometimes cost a little bit more and you will almost assuredly not find them at the mall, but the peace of mind they buy is priceless.  When the wrapping paper is off, the bottles are empty, and your children are grown you'll know that they didn't get left with nagging health problems as a result of prettying up.  Health and wellness is the best gift of all.

Sunday, November 29, 2015 in , , , , , , , , ,

Great leaps and Gratitude - Blissoma Botanical Beauty is open

For 5 months my life has been a whirlwind of soapy water, paint, wood dust, stain, polyurethane, glue, nails, screws and everything construction-related as I renovated the space that now holds the Blissoma Botanical Beauty Boutique.  I took possession on July 1 and quite literally right away I dove in headfirst to the work that needed doing.  I barely came up for air.  I've worked from home for years, and the immersion at the new location was complete.  I basically came home only to eat dinner, shower, and sleep most days.  My family was informed that I was essentially unavailable, given apologies, and asked to be patient for a bit with the greater good in mind.

This week the store finally opened after construction delays galore and slogging through all manner of unexpected problems including a basement full of smoke (turns out decades-old electrical circuits don't love being messed with), and staff having personal emergencies that took us down by one member.  Nothing about the second half of 2015 has been easy.  Having completed our first week open for business I feel more like I can reflect properly and meditate on the gratitude I feel. 

In 10 years in business I've watched dozens of small businesses (especially retail) start up and then really struggle and often fail for a wide variety of reasons. I have even seen it happen to friends, and it has been a cautionary tale for me. The cost of renting and running any kind of space capable of retail is high and so is all the pressure that puts on the business. It's a very real "sink or swim" test and you have to be ready for that level of intensity. Some people get into retail without really knowing what it will be like. I did not. 

I got in full well knowing the commitment of time, energy and money it would require after seeing the process many times over with friends and acquaintances. All those factors were reasons that I stayed incubated in my residential space for as long as practically possible. It was only when we were literally bursting at the seams and could not even store the supplies we needed to process the orders we were getting that I was ready to make this leap for our production and sales needs.

Even with an existing sales base, reasonably reliable cash flow (for our size) and a talented staff the growth step we've taken is still a major risk. Everything I have done since around 6/1/15 (when the lease was signed) and through at least that time in 2016 is important. I have to be on my game at every moment, operate efficiently, and use my time and energy wisely. There is no room for serious errors. I can't afford to take my eyes and intention off my vision.

Even with the fact that I know for sure that we are offering products and services that people truly need one still has moments of dire doubt. It did my soul so much good to see so many friendly faces walk through our doors this week. Some were my dearest friends who have helped support me and talk me through moments of crisis, big and small. Some were people that I've never seen in person but have followed us online, and some were totally new clients that discovered us for the first time. All of these gave me so much hope and truly refilled my emotional tank, and their consciously spent financial resources will contribute towards our practical survival. Both of these things were necessary right now, and I feel extremely grateful and lucky for both.

Despite the fact that sales is a totally learned skill for me I have sold products in many environments. I spent years doing demos in natural foods stores, which in general was just painful for me and also not the greatest energetic interaction with clients (though that had nothing to do with what I put into it!). Even if you have something great to offer people you still have to offer it in the right way and at the right time. The recipient has to be ready or defenses go up and they will likely reject it.

Seeing products sell in another dear friend's natural beauty store several years ago was one of the key things that helped convince me that there was a better way to sell my type of product - better for me and for the client. It is so much more effective to give people the space they need to desire an interaction, and to willingly enter into it. Prioritizing service and education helps people choose for themselves rather than having something shoved at them. It was a beautiful thing seeing so many people thoroughly embrace clean self-care and health sustaining products this week through our gentle and respectful sales process.

People left our store feeling better about their appearance, more like the version of themselves they are delighted to present to the world, and like they knew what to do with what they purchased to positively impact their daily lives. I am truly honored to be instrumental in helping create that feeling for our clients. As much as I'm happy about seeing my business grow and flourish, this impact on people is the thing about which I feel best.

Many small businesses would not have had the blessing of such a solid first week of sales. I know this is partly good planning on my part, but it is also partly good fortune and the goodwill of our community. It gives us the chance to keep going and to do much more.

I am thankful to so many people for putting up with me through what has arguably been one of the most important and stressful 6 months of my life. It has not been an easy ride, and I wouldn't have made it through without each of the people that spent time and energy helping make it happen. I did a lot, but I'm more aware than ever of how much I need everyone around me to be the best version of me that I can be. To my family, my friends, and my clients I continue to owe my absolute best. I will continue to give it.

Blissoma Botanical Beauty is located at 2730 LaSalle Street, St. Louis, MO 63104 in historic Flower Row.  We are open 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday and 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday currently.

Our skincare pros and makeup artists are available for consultations, color matching, and assistance creating your unique look with nontoxic, healthy beauty products every day.  Please come visit us

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 in , , , ,

The Ugly .01% Secret of Active Ingredients in Skincare

Unless you hold a chemistry degree shopping for skincare can be confusing.  Consumer labeling standards have at least helped to clarify what is actually in each mysterious bottle of lotion or potion.  You can always check the ingredients panel to try and discern if the sales pitch matches the pith of the product, but even this area is a place that manufacturers play games.  They know many shoppers will breeze past grand claims of transformation and head straight to see what active ingredients are included in the nitty gritty, detailed list.  Some legal standards apply, but there's still plenty of room to manipulate. 

The ingredients list can both reveal and conceal.  In many cases the ingredients list itself is a smokescreen, obscuring that most skincare products don't have optimal, effective concentrations of the ingredients they claim are in each bottle. 

The reality is when you buy most drugstore and even many department store skincare products what you're buying is mostly emulsifiers, solvents, and water even when trendy actives appear in the ingredients list. 

The skincare and cosmetics industry is largely powered by marketing. Most companies spend far more on their promotion, advertising, and the perfect sales pitch than they do on the actual ingredients in the product they are selling to you. They capitalize on vanity, fear, and the customers’ lack of knowledge about chemistry. They prey on the fact that many people will pay dearly and believe marketing pitches that sound more like fairy stories than like chemistry.  While I love a good fantasy tale I'm not looking for one in my facial products.  Stories of rare and exotic ingredients create fervor and a mystic quality to a cream or serum… Sadly the story is often all they are actually selling, as the product inside is but a pale shadow of what is advertised. 

One of the ugliest, dirtiest secrets of the skincare world is that mass market formulators are actually *taught* how to basically defraud customers in designing recipes. Experts teach how to use the minimum quantity of an herbal or "active" ingredient in a formulation just to be able to put that ingredient on the label for marketing purposes. That means that even though you may see "Coenzyme Q10" or a list of fancy extracts on the label the dilution is taken so far as to render them completely ineffective. In chemistry and biology it often takes an optimal concentration of a compound before any noticeable effect is achieved, so this deliberate limiting of actives strips all the benefits from products. Well, at least all the benefits to the client’s skin. 

The cost savings from putting in the minimum of actives means bigger profit margins for brand owners. Actives are often the most expensive part of a recipe and also the most desirable to clients because of their benefits. If a product appears to have valuable actives in it then it will command a higher price and likely sell better, especially if the active ingredient is trendy. The combination of higher retail price and lower production cost is a set of practical, profitable business assets that many company owners find it hard to ignore. When profits are more important than people many ugly decisions are made in the name of “beauty”. 

Sometimes the skincare entrepreneur doesn't even know the optimal concentrations of ingredients.  The prevalence of contract packaging firms means many beauty company owners are far removed from the actual design of their recipes.  It's really rare that the company owner is actually the chemist.  Generally a chemistry buff and a marketing brain don't exist simultaneously in the same skull.  The beauty entrepreneur may select a base emulsion and then instruct the contract manufacturer to add several botanicals or extracts because they know those ingredients are "hot", but they've never actually researched what concentrations will provide true benefits.  The disconnect in this situation is immense, and only serves to create further confusion for customers.

Here is actual advice given by a mass market cosmetics formulation "expert" from a skincare industry group, paraphrased by one of the chemists who partook in the lecture: 

"* since your customer doesn't distinguish whether there is any extract (expensive ingredients used only for claims) in the product or not, you can reduce its concentration to the lowest possible concentration, let's say 0.01%, just to mention it on the label but you don't need higher concentrations that would unnecessarily increase the costs of the product without any function 

** increase the solvent concentration and reduce the active ingredients concentration to reduce the costs: water concentration in water based products MINERAL OIL or PG in non-aqueous product" 

This is the reality of the majority of products available through mass market sales venues.  Promises are peddled and broken on a daily basis, with profits continuing to flow into the pockets of duplicitous companies.  

In addition filler ingredients are not "neutral" for many people.  Many will likely cause skin irritation for many customers, prompting the inflammation, acne, and other problems the item was purchased to fix.  Silicones often cause breakouts as they form a film over pores. Petroleum fillers and synthetic emulsifiers can confuse and clog skin, damaging its protective barrier and microbiome. And water? You can get that from the tap for free.

You deserve so much better.

That is why the staff of Blissoma gets up every single day to make potent, authentically plant-based skincare. We don't put in the minimum of active ingredients. We put in the maximum. Every single recipe is absolutely packed to a point where we can't even fit anymore extracts, healing oils, and vitamins in without the emulsion coming apart or actives not staying in solution. Our potency is why our products heal, brighten, firm, hydrate and truly rejuvenate skin. 

Our potency is egalitarian. We pack in the actives because we believe everyone deserves to feel and look their very best. Good skin nutrition is key to achieving that end. Nutrients yield results so we make sure that our products are like a gourmet, whole food, herbal supplement for your skin. We’re gorgeously genuine and radically respectful of our clients. We don’t tell slick stories. We just want you to have a real daily romance with powerful plants. 

In our new store opening Fall 2015 in St. Louis we’ll be able to proudly show people our uniquely concentrated herbs extracting in jars, the pure, nutritious seed oils awaiting blending, and all the other healing ingredients we keep on hand. Our production area will be available to view so clients can get an intimate peek at what we do each day to earn your trust. Blissoma’s “put in the maximum” philosophy will be on display every day. 

Don’t be sucked in by the .01% secret. You are more than a number, more than a profit margin to the team at Blissoma. Get into a real relationship with your skincare brand and make sure you’re getting the actives and the results you deserve.

Monday, April 6, 2015 in , , , , ,

12 Questionable (and possibly toxic) beauty trends from the late 90’s and early 00’s. Were you a victim to these untimely blunders?

12 Questionable (and possibly toxic) beauty trends of the 90's and 00's.  Teenage beauty mistakes, teenage beauty blunders.

Let’s be honest - teenagers aren't always the most savvy shoppers, they over enthusiastically respond to pretty models, celebrity endorsements, slick packaging and empty promises. Feeling nostalgic, I was inspired to create one of my own lists to reminisce about the chemical-laden beauty products of my underinformed youth. 

The transition to adulthood is frought with experiments with our appearance that make our tender inexperience even more glaring. You actually can be any age to enjoy this - we are all victims of past era's beauty mishaps. But I have a feeling if you are roughly between the ages of 25-32, this list may hit pretty close to home. Here are 12 questionable beauty trends from my pre-teen and teenage years when social media wasn't really a thing yet (thank God!) and if you needed to reach me, you could call me on my Nokia cell phone. Don’t forget the bonus at the end of the list!
  1. Sun In: Those orange streaks looked super real…

  2. John Frieda Blonde Shampoos: Because it would make your hair blonder right? But which type of blonde? Platinum or honey…Let’s spend at least 15 minutes in the aisle debating this! 

  3. White eyeliner and/or eye shadow: How was this even a trend? Was it a real trend or just my friends and I? 

  4. Concealer on lips: THIS was the sexiest, coolest thing ever. Lips that were flesh toned. If you really knew what you were doing you added a frosted lip gloss over it. 

  5. Using any drugstore as the go to source for a skin and makeup routine. 

  6. Caking on foundation and powder: Not using any blush or bronzer to contour my face. Nope. Ghostly cakey skin was totally cool as long as you couldn't see any pimples. 

  7. Discovering bronzer: Annnd now I’m an oompa loompa!

  8. Coloring hair with Kool-aid packets: I preferred to use the red packets to give me that natural strawberry blonde look.

  9. Over using hair spray on bangs and messy buns: Pulling out two skinny strands of hair to frame each side of my face and still hairspraying those. Hairspray on everything

  10. Layering a collection of lotions and/or sprays from Bath and Body Works and LOVING the overpowering, synthetic fragrance lingering from them.   You know it's enough once you smell like a synergy of mango-strawberry-melon-sweetpea-sugar, and not one drop less.

  11. Clinique Happy, Curve and CK1…became sophisticated and a step up from Bath and Body Work’s sprays and glitter lotions that pre-teens enjoyed.  How tastes do change...

  12. Cover Girl Products: All the gorgeousness that babysitting money can afford. 

Bonus…For the boys! Don’t think I forgot about you. You know what’s coming don’t you? FROSTED TIPS.

Who would have thought the boys from middle school actually created reverse ombre? Wise beyond their years I guess?

I couldn't be happier to say that these days my beauty routines stick to natural makeup and haircare.  The hormone disruptors, aerosol propellants, synthetic colors and more can take a hike.  Who needs 'em?  Now I let the real, toxin-free me shine through, due of course to the wisdom I've gained over time.

See you another time, perhaps with more memories you wish you could forget!

Lauren Merten - Blissoma Staff Esthetician

Friday, March 27, 2015 in , , , , , , , , ,

Why Some Skin Types Should Stop Using Coconut Oil - the mixed results of this otherwise healthy oil

Coconut oil may not be right for your skin type - coconut oil causes breakouts, coconut oil makes my skin dry

Coconut oil has gained a big following in natural beauty circles in recent years.  This oil does have a significant list of benefits including the fact that it is readily available at many natural food stores, affordable, shelf stable, 100% natural and nontoxic, and not environmentally problematic.  Books such as The Coconut Oil Miracle tout its extensive health benefits as an immune system support, weight loss aid, digestion and nutrition absorption aid and many other traits.  A simple Amazon search pulls up over 10 guides to the benefits of coconut oil including one specifically dedicated to pets and another for oil pulling.  I've personally found it to be fantastic for cooking and the flavor of virgin coconut oil makes a delectable popcorn topping for a Saturday evening movie at home.  Combine it with a bit of truffle oil, salt, and onion powder and you've got a mouth party like you've never known before.  

With all those delightful qualities you might be surprised to hear me say that in skincare coconut oil gives extremely mixed results.  Coconut oil is used in a starring role for everything from a makeup remover to a general moisturizer, and is frequently one of the first natural oils people experiment with for home recipes and DIY beauty.   Unfortunately for very dry skin and acne prone skin the results of coconut oil often skew towards breakouts and increased dryness. 

This incredibly popular post has been updated and reposted on the home website blog in two sections.  We have added fresh research that can help you figure out how to fix your skin if you think coconut oil may be causing you problems.

Post #1: Is Coconut Oil Causing Dry Skin?  What You Need to Know.

Post#2: Is Coconut Oil Good for Acne? Surprising Info on the Popular Skin Care Ingredient.

Thank you so much for all the amazing response we have gotten over the years on this post!  Because of your many comments and incredible feedback we knew it was worth the effort to edit and share it in a permanent spot on our home site.  We hope you enjoy reading it there.

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