Mother Nature You Are Spectacular!

If we were able to transport a person living in the year 1916 to our homes and walk them through our daily lives, it would be interesting to discover what they would make of our lifestyle. The changes over the last 100 years resulting from the massive expansion of knowledge in all areas of science are staggering – from how we spend our leisure and work time, what we eat and who makes our clothes, to how far and how easily we travel.

Delightful in some respects, our time traveller may think, and not so wonderful in others. But whatever their opinion of our lifestyle, we might be less than proud to admit that it is, in a word, unsustainable. The incredible advantages that science has brought to our world have come at a considerable cost – uncontrolled warming of the planet, pollution of our oceans and rivers on an alarming scale, loss of massive tracts of native forests and species extinctions at a record rate. The price of our lifestyle is, incredibly, the health of our planet.

As we consider the enormity of what needs to be done, and the reluctance of our decision-makers to take drastic action, it’s pretty clear that in the absence of radical new technologies, it will be up to us as consumers to change the way we do things. The tiny house movement, increased support for organic agriculture and a growing awareness of the health and environmental disadvantages of processed food are symptoms of radical changes in our thinking – changes that might bring us closer to the lifestyle experienced by our time traveller from 1916.

When it comes to skin care, our 1916 counterpart was at the dawn of the chemical revolution that gave rise to the mass production of skin creams – the so called ‘cold creams’ being the new ‘must have’ for the modern woman. Cold creams were so named because they were a water-oil emulsion which, when applied to the skin, left the skin feeling cool because of evaporation of the water component.

To make a cold cream, an emulsifier was required to permit the blending of water and oil. In the early days the emulsifier was traditionally borax, spermaceti (from whales) and sometimes beeswax. The oil component, which did the work of improving the skin’s barrier by reducing dryness and smoothing its appearance, was almond oil or similar which, because it tended to go rancid quickly, was later replaced with petroleum-derived petrolatum. The invention of preservatives such as parabens gave a long shelf-life to these creams, allowing mass production and its necessary counterpart -advertising. As the years passed, more sophisticated emulsifiers, thickeners, and other intangible ingredients were created to improve the ‘feel’ of the product on the skin. This is where we find ourselves today: a small amount of oil (plant or petroleum-derived) mixed with water and a range of synthetic ingredients.

To our minds, the error in thinking about modern skin care began around 100 years ago when it was deemed necessary to mix oil with water. The active part of a skin care formulation is the oil – the water dilutes it, making it easier to spread, but serves no other function. Our ancient ancestors understood and embraced the benefits of using pure oils on their skin. In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition, the value of massaging the skin with sesame oil has been known for millennia, where it was used to slow ageing as well as to treat numerous skin and systemic conditions. Coconut oil was used by Polynesians for thousands of years to soften and protect their skin, and as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain. In western Africa, shea butter was treasured for its ability to treat burns and wounds, inflammatory skin conditions and keep the skin supple in an unforgiving climate. In all these cultures, the oils were valued as food and medicine, in addition to their role in skin health. These people knew that what we apply to our skin should not be considered differently to what we eat. We now know that our skin is an organ that is nourished from the inside, and also readily absorbs a wide range of molecules that are placed on its outside, nutrients and toxins alike, depending on their chemical structure.

As we are slowly discovering, it is difficult to improve on nature when it comes to food – adding synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilisers, sugars and colourings to pure plant foods tends to reduce their nutritional value. Eating pure unadulterated fresh foods is our best bet for a healthy life, whether they be ‘superfoods’ or the humble but super-nutritious parsley or oatmeal. When it comes to skin care, it makes no sense to tamper with these wonderful ingredients by diluting, emulsifying and preserving them when their nutrients are just as available to our skin in their pure form.

This is the principle on which Mokosh skin care is based. We have decided not to be part of last century’s industrial revolution that has brought us to today’s synthetic-laden offerings. Simple is best – the safest, smartest and most effective approach for our skin and body health.  Best also for the health of our planet, removing the need to manufacture a swathe of synthetic substances. Embracing the perfection that is Mother Nature is one of many small steps we need to take in the right direction.

Making a difference – what can I do?

When looking at the environmental and political turmoil around us it can be tempting at times to give up, and ask ourselves what can one person do when the problem is so large? Because traditional activism is difficult to find time for in our busy lives, many of us have taken to joining campaigns through social media. It seems only the devoted few join protest marches, focus groups or make the effort to raise money for campaigns, though these methods can be extremely effective, because they drive issues forward, raising the awareness of other consumers as well as decision makers. A powerful alternative is to carry out a quiet revolution using our wallets – by spending our money on products that do not take an enormous toll on the environment, and do not exploit the world’s poorest people.

Bicycle riding smallThis approach may involve not shopping at a supermarket, instead supporting the local farmer’s market and organic grocery store. It might involve riding your bike more, not accepting plastic bags, and making more of your own food rather than buying packaged. It might mean paying a bit more to buy fair trade and ethically-made clothing and toys, and will certainly mean walking past the sweat shop-made ones. It might take time to find businesses that are trying to do the right thing – because, like ours, most of them are small and not very noticeable. But the up side is that lots of people making choices in the right direction will make a difference.

Kitchen volunteers shutterstock_184907453SmallMany of these businesses carry far lower profit margins than those that are less ethical. This is because costs of production are higher, but prices cannot reflect this since they need to remain competitive. At Mokosh, we’re proud of our products – we believe they’re not only the best skin care on the planet, but also the safest, most ethical and most environmentally friendly skin care you can buy. But we can’t afford a massive marketing campaign, or a fancy website upgrade every year. However, when you buy Mokosh products, you are voting for organic agriculture, fair trade, palm oil free, preservative free, and virtually plastic free products.

pouring creamsEthical businesses can thrive, but they need customer support – more support than a mainstream business taking the easier, more profitable road. We’re grateful that so many of our customers spread the word about Mokosh by buying gifts or a sample pack for their friends. This is the kind of activism a business such as ours needs to survive. Please, if you can, consider doing so for other ethical businesses you’d like to see thriving in our community. Remember that whatever you buy will be replaced with the same product – so buy only what you want to see more of. And never underestimate the power of your wallet – it is a world changer.

What is your moisturiser doing for your skin?

What is your moisturiser doing for your skin?

Skin moisturisers range in price from $200+ for a 20ml bottle, to the cheap and not-so-cheerful petroleum-based creams sold for as little as $5 per litre. To work out whether your moisturiser is really giving you value for money, it might be worth considering what a moisturiser can really do for your skin, and whether claims made in marketing campaigns can be believed.

How do moisturisers work?

The name ‘moisturiser’ conjures up the idea of adding water to the skin. However, most people are surprised when they realise that the water component of water-based moisturisers evaporates within around 15 minutes of application (1). Despite this, the aim of applying a moisturiser is to increase hydration and improve barrier function in the skin – specifically the outermost cell-free layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum (see image below).

Skin section

Microscopic cross section through skin. The dark dots are nuclei – note that  in the stratum corneum cells are dead and no nuclei are visible.

What does a healthy stratum corneum do?

The role of the stratum corneum is to form a barrier against the environment. This barrier has two main functions – it slows down water loss through the skin and protects the body from contact with substances that could cause harm. The stratum corneum is formed as cells in the epidermis divide and move from the innermost layer of the epidermis outwards to the surface of the skin. As cells mature they produce lipids, keratin and a mixture of compounds collectively known as Natural Moisturising Factor, or NMF. At the level of the stratum corneum, the keratin and lipid components form a physical and water-repellent barrier, while NMF attracts water to itself, thereby locking water in the stratum corneum. Adequate hydration of the stratum corneum is essential for proper barrier function, and permits important metabolic reactions to take place, such as those which allow the normal shedding of the outer layer of the stratum corneum.

What happens when the stratum corneum is not formed properly?

Dry looking skin, characterised by flakes, scales, sometimes accompanied by redness and irritation, is a result of a poorly functioning barrier in the stratum corneum. This can happen when there is an abnormal maturation of cells in the epidermis resulting in an improper formation of the lipid, keratin or NMF components; or uneven or poor shedding of the superficial layers of the stratum corneum. It can be caused by internal or external factors, but irrespective of the cause, a breakdown in the skin barrier results in increased exposure to potential irritants, which may result in a progression to chronic skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.

How do moisturisers affect the skin barrier in stratum corneum?

There are 3 main ways that moisturisers help to maintain the skin barrier:

  • Occlusive agents – these form a film on the surface of the skin, thereby reducing water loss and increasing the level of hydration in the stratum corneum. They include most of the petrolatum and mineral oil, methicones, waxes and the plant butters. The most efficient of these are the petroleum-based oils which form a plastic-like film on the skin. For some, the occlusive efficiency of petroleum based creams is problematic, as they may trap bacteria and dirt under the skin resulting in skin infections. In a study of premature infants, petroleum cream-treated babies had a higher incidence of systemic candidiasis, a life-threatening fungal infection , than those who did not receive any moisturiser. It was considered that the occlusive petroleum-based cream provided an environment that allowed proliferation of these organisms. In a separate study of premature infants, babies treated with sunflower seed oil were 41% less likely to develop infections than those treated with petroleum creams (2). Because the fatty acids of plant oils form a less complete barrier, allowing the sebaceous and sweat glands to secrete more freely, some consider that they permit more physiological functioning of the skin whilst slowing down water loss (3).
  • Emollients – essentially this means creating a smooth appearance to the skin by filling in the spaces between the shedding stratum corneum, and improving the skin’s softness and pliability. In the medical literature, ‘emollient’ is interchangeable with the term ‘moisturiser’. A number of ingredients have both occlusive and emollient properties. Common emollients include plant and animal oils (triglycerides), as well as synthetic substances such as decyl oleate, isopropyl palmitate and cetyl alcohol. Note that plant-derived fatty acids have been shown to improve barrier function in the skin (4), probably because they penetrate through the stratum corneum and into the cellular layers of the epidermis, (5) helping to replenish lipids and contributing to the formation of a more effective lipid component of the barrier (4). In contrast, petroleum-based moisturisers remain on the skin surface (2). Interestingly, not all plant oils are beneficial – studies have shown that pure olive oil, soy bean oil and mustard oils damage the barrier, whilst sunflower oil may improve it. In olive oil, this effect was attributed to its high oleic acid content, whilst the beneficial effects of sunflower oil are considered to be due to its high linoleic acid content (6, 7).
  • Humectants – these are molecules which attract water to themselves, acting as water binders. When included in a moisturiser, they theoretically help boost the level of NMF in the stratum corneum, helping to maintain hydration and therefore barrier function. Commonly used humectants are glycerin, urea and propylene glycol. Humectants are water-soluble and so may be included in a moisturiser that has a water phase, but not in pure oil moisturisers. Some humectants are considered to have a counter-productive effect, drawing water out of the stratum corneum and epidermis and thereby having the opposite effect to what is intended (8). Therefore, in practice, not all humectants improve hydration of the stratum corneum, and require careful formulation to ensure they are achieving the desired effect.

What else is included in moisturisers?

Emulsifiers are present in all water-containing creams, since they are needed to allow the oil and water phases of the moisturiser to combine. It has been shown that some surfactants may weaken the skin barrier, increasing trans-epidermal water loss. In one study, (9), 5 out of 9 emulsifiers tested damaged the barrier in this way. When one considers that emulsifier molecules contain a hydrophilic (water attracting) and lipophilic (lipid attracting) component, a similar structure to detergents, it is conceivable that some of them may interfere with the all-important lipid component of the skin barrier.

Preservatives are included in all water-based creams, since water-containing products would otherwise permit the growth of bacteria and fungi. For some, preservatives are a source of skin irritation, and may result in skin reactions. There are also concerns about hormonal disrupting effects of some commonly used preservatives (10) as well as their potential effects on the balance of the microbial population of the skin.

Bioactives are molecules added to moisturisers with supposed beneficial effects on cells in the skin, usually with the promise of preventing or reversing ageing. Despite common claims on some internet sites, healthy skin is not efficient at allowing molecules to pass through it, and will not ‘absorb 90% of what is put on it’, since a healthy stratum corneum forms an efficient barrier to most molecules. In order to have an effect on the living cells in the skin, a bioactive must pass through the stratum corneum into the cellular layer of the epidermis or, with greater difficulty, travel through the epidermis and into the dermis, where the common targets of bioactives, collagen and elastin, are located. Simply adding a vitamin, anti-oxidant or other growth enhancing molecule to a cream does not mean it will reach a destination where it can have a cellular effect.

The Mokosh approach to moisturisers

Shea butter imageOur philosophy is to work with the body’s own healing and regenerative capacity. This means using no synthetic ingredients, drawing instead on a variety of biocompatible plant oils and butters for their occlusive and emollient effects, thereby delivering a rich and varied array of organic and unrefined plant triglycerides, fatty acids and other essential nutrients to the skin. Because our moisturisers contain biocompatible fatty acids, they are able to replenish the lipid component of the skin barrier, and simultaneously slow down water loss from the skin without occluding important glands, permitting them to function normally. This approach helps to fortify the skin, nurturing the processes that build a strong and fully functioning barrier.

Because our moisturisers contain no water, they contain neither emulsifiers, some of which are known to damage the skin barrier, nor preservatives, some of which may have adverse long term health effects, and may also alter the skin microbiome.

Finally, because our ingredients are grown and processed under certified organic conditions, they are not contaminated with potentially toxic solvents, and are naturally rich in a variety of anti-oxidants as well as vitamins A and E, some of which may penetrate into the cellular layer of the epidermis. These are the form of bioactives we prefer to use – those found naturally in plants grown and processed organically and with minimal refinement. In the same way that plants grown this way are more nutritious to eat and less damaging to the environment, so too they are the ideal food for our skin.

(1) Blichmann, CW, Serup, J and Winther, A. (1989) Effects of single application of a moisturiser: evaporation of emulsion water, skin surface temperature, electrical conductance, electrical apacitance, and skin surface (emulsion) lips. Acta Derm Venereol 69: 327-330 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2568053

(2) Campbell, JR, Zaccaria, E, Baker, CJ (2000) Systemic candidiasis in extremely low birth weight infants receiving topical petrolatum ointment in skin care: a case-control study. Pediatrics 105: 1041-1045 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/105/5/1041.short

(3) Darmstadt GL et al (2005) Effect of topical treatment with skin barrier-enhancing emollients on nosocomial infections in preterm infants in Bangladesh: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 365:1039-45 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15781099

(4) Mao-Qiang et al (1993) Fatty acids are required for epidermal permeability barrier function. J Clin Invest 92:791-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8102380

(5) Mao-Qiang et al (1995) Exogenous nonphysiologic vs physiologic lipids. Divergent mechanisms for correction of permeability barrier dysfunction. Arch Dermatol 131:809-16http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7611797

(6) Boelsma et al (1996) Assessment of the potential irritancy of oleic acid on human skin: evaltuation in vitro and in vivo. Toxicol in Vitro 10: 729-42 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20650257

(7) Darmstadt et al (2002) Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Paediatr. 91: 546-54 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12113324

(8) Kraft JN and Lynde CW (2005) Skin Therapy Letter Moisturisers: What they are and a practical approach to product selection. 10:1-8 http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/505759_6

(9) Barany et al (2000) Unexpected skin barrier influence from nonionic emulsifiers Int J Pharm 195:189-95 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10675696

(10) https://mokoshskincare.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/take-care-with-paraben-preservatives/

6 reasons you’ll be pleased to find unrefined shea butter in your skin care products

At Mokosh, one of our key ingredients is certified organic, unrefined shea butter, which is extracted from the fruit of a tree native to savannah Africa, Vitellaria paradoxa, formerly Butyrospermum parkii. We use it in all our Face and Body creams, our Pure Body Balm, 2 of our Lip Balms, and our 3 Shea and Cocoa Butter soaps.

Mokosh is one of a handful of brands using unrefined shea butter that is extracted using traditional, non-chemical methods. Refined shea butter is more popular in skin care because it is pure white and virtually odourless, allowing finer control over the colour and fragrance of the final product.

Unfortunately, although the refining process permits a pure white cream, it also removes varying amounts of the healing properties present in the unsaponifiable fraction of shea butter, like vitamin E (1), antioxidants (2), and possibly other medicinal fractions. What’s more, refining is frequently carried out using potentially harmful solvents such as hexane, a petroleum derivative. Hexane is a known human toxin (3), an air pollutant of concern in industrialised areas (4), and may also contaminate the product it was designed to refine.

Here is why we think our unrefined, nutrient-rich shea butter should be a regular part of your skin care routine:

1. Shea butter is a superb moisturiser, performing better than mineral oil at preventing water loss from the skin (5), and better than Vaseline at helping improve the symptoms of eczema (6).

2. A number of studies have shown that shea butter applied to the skin either alone or as a 15% mixture, has anti-aging activity (7), attributed to the non-saponifiable fraction, which is best retained in unrefined shea butter. The effect is considered to come from the anti-protease activity of triterpenes which may inhibit the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin.

3. Shea butter has well documented anti- inflammatory effects which are considered to be due to the effects of compounds in the non-saponifiable fraction (7). This means that shea butter will help calm itchy, irritated skin, reducing skin inflammation from almost any cause.

4. Allergies to shea butter are extremely rare, even though it is a nut butter. In fact its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce allergic responses in the skin (7).

5. Shea trees take more than 40 years to mature, and live for around 200 years. Because of their slow life-cycle, there are no shea plantations, and no insecticides, herbicides or fertilisers are used in production of shea butter. By supporting the shea butter industry, these trees will be protected, provide a living for local populations, and help protect the delicate savannah ecosystem (8).

6. At Mokosh our shea butter is Fair Trade certified, and produced by a cooperative of predominantly female workers. Fair Trade certification means workers are paid a fair price, have good working conditions, use sustainable environmental practices, and are also paid a Fair Trade premium which is used to fund environmental and community projects.

pouring creams

  1. http://mak.ac.ug/documents/Makfiles/theses/Omujal_Francis.pdf),
  2. Maranz, S., Z. Wiesman and N. Garti. 2003. Phenolic constituents of shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) kernels. J Agric Food Chem 51: 6268-6273
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexane
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1917064
  5. Bird K (2009) Moisturising power of Shea butter highlighted by scientific Cosmetics. Formulation & Science
  6. Belibi SE, Stechschulte D, Olson N (2009) The Use of Shea Butter as an Emollient for Eczema. JJACI 123: S41
  7. http://omicsonline.org/open-access/effects-of-oral-and-topical-use-of-the-oil-from-the-nut-of-vitellaria-paradoxa-2155-9600.1000327.pdf
  8. http://www.sheanetworkghana.org/#!about-shea/c1nuf

Soap Stories

Soap slab 2 small
Soap slab fresh out of its mold.

There is something gratifying about releasing a large slab of soap from its mold, still warm to the touch, the fragrance of its essential oils filling the room. Soap that is made by hand is a world apart from mass-produced soap, usually made using palm oil (read about the environmental disaster that is palm oil here) and sometimes animal fat. Petroleum derivatives are a common ingredient of mass-produced soap as are a variety of other synthetic ingredients including synthetic fragrances, synthetic preservatives, antibacterials such as triclosan which is a known hormone disrupter, and EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraaceticacid), a heavy metal chelator which can mobilise heavy metals in our waterways.

Shea butter small
Unrefined shea butter is abundant in the nutrient-rich ‘unsaponifiable’ fraction.

In addition to containing suspect ingredients, mass-produced soaps are often very drying to the skin, since they are frequently stripped of the moisturising glycerol found in natural soap, and may not be ‘superfatted’, which means they contain little free oil to moisturise the skin. Mass-produced soaps are also low on the valuable ‘unsaponifiable’ component, so-called because it is the fraction in oils which cannot be turned into soap. The unsaponifiable fraction contains most of the vitamin and phytonutrient components of the oil, which are nourishing to the skin when included in both soap and moisturisers. The unsaponifiable fraction is largely removed from refined oils: for example, unrefined shea butter may contain between 6-17% unsaponifiables, whereas refined shea butter typically contains less than 1%. Natural soap made using unrefined organic oils and formulated so that it is superfatted, will be rich in moisturising natural glycerol and nourishing unsaponifiables. This soap will gently clean the skin without stripping its natural oils.Soaps curing smallHow exactly do you make soap?

Soap is made using a classic acid-base chemical reaction, resulting in the formation of a salt, which is soap. Yes, soap is technically a salt! The acid part is provided by the weak organic fatty acids that make up vegetable oils (and animal fat). The base or alkaline component is known in soap-making terms as ‘lye’. Lye may be made using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to produce solid soap, or potassium hydroxide (KOH) to make liquid soap. The fatty acids in vegetable oils and animal fats exist mostly in the form of triglycerides, which are composed of a glycerol molecule bound to 3 fatty acid molecules.  A molecule of glycerol is relased as part of the acid-base reaction when the fatty acids react with the lye.

Lye     +    triglyceride =    soap  +  glycerol

Base   +    acid            =   salt     +  glycerol

This chemical reaction is called ‘saponification’, which means ‘the process of turning fatty acids into soap.’ Heat is released as part of the process – that’s why a freshly made slab of soap is warm. In mass-produced soaps, the valuable glycerol fraction is removed from the mixture and used in other skin care formulations like moisturisers, as well as in the food and pharmaceutical industries, which is one of the reasons mass-produced soap is so drying.

Isn’t lye harmful to the skin?

Lye is a strong alkaline solution that will ‘burn’ the skin on contact. The beauty of the soap-making reaction is that when performed correctly, all the lye is consumed in the process, so that there are no remaining free lye molecules in the soap. The product is the stable salt which is soap. So yes – lye is harmful to the skin, but a correctly made soap does not contain lye. In fact, most handmade soap will contain an excess of oil which ensures that all the lye is consumed, and ‘superfats’ the soap, providing additional moisturising properties.

Pouring soap 2
Pouring soap into molds.

The process – solid soap

Handmade bar soaps can be made using either the ‘cold process’ or ‘hot process’ method. Both methods allow retention of most of the beneficial components of the oils. In cold process soap-making, the process we use at Mokosh to make bar soap, the lye solution is prepared by adding a predetermined amount of sodium hydroxide to distilled water. When the lye solution has cooled, it is added to oils and butters which have been heated to between 40-50°C . The two are blended using a whisk or electric stick blender until the mixture thickens. At this point essential oils and plant extracts may be added. The mixture is then poured into moulds and covered in blankets for insulation, and left undisturbed overnight to allow the saponification reaction to proceed. The next day, the soap is solid but still warm, and ready to be cut into bars. At this point, the soap is quite soft, similar in consistency to cheddar cheese. The bars are then cured for a minimum of 4 weeks, which allows excess water to evaporate, which makes the bars firm and adds to their quality.

It is possible to make bar soap without true soap as an ingredient, using synthetic detergents instead – these are ‘non soap’ bars some people use instead of true soap. However, most mass-produced bar soaps are made using the same oil-lye reaction used in natural soap-making. Following saponification, the mixture is boiled in water to remove the glycerol fraction, which is used in other products, after which the soap is solidified by adding salt (sodium chloride). The soap is then vacuum-dried to form pellets which may be blended with a variety of ingredients, usually synthetic detergents, fragrances, plasticisers and other compounds. The mixture is then homogenised in a process called ‘milling’ which is essentially pressing the soap through rollers. You may have seen ‘triple milled’ soaps which have undergone this milling process, which simply means the soap has been ‘well mixed’. The resulting mixture is then extruded and stamped in a soap press.

The process – liquid soap Liquid soap paste

Natural liquid soap is made using the ‘hot process’ method. Lye is made from potassium hydroxide, rather than sodium hydroxide, and blended with the oils and butters until it thickens. It is then cooked at just under 100°C over a few hours – thus the term ‘hot process’. When the reaction is complete the soap forms a transparent paste (see photo on right). The paste is then mixed in distilled water to form a liquid, and essential oils are added. Most commercial liquid soap is not really soap at all, but a blend of synthetic detergents, most commonly sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulphate (made from palm oil), and they may also contain triclosan, an antibacterial which is a suspected hormone disrupter, and a variety of other synthetic ingredients.

Mokosh bar soaps Soap stack

We love our bar soaps – they are luxurious to use, lather beautifully and those containing essential oils make you and your bathroom smell beautiful. Although most people don’t like the thought of using soap on their face, many of our customers find them so gentle, they can happily do so. Equally, many eczema sufferers find they can use our bar soaps, whereas standard soaps dry out their skin, resulting in eczema outbreaks. Our fragrance-free olive oil soap is particularly mild, being extremely high in glycerol. It seems that 100% olive oil soaps are the gentlest, because they result in the release of the most glycerol. Glycerol is a humectant, which means it attracts water, and therefore draws water to the skin, rather than drying it out. Our shea and cocoa butter soaps are also extremely mild, glycerol-rich, and high in nourishing unsaponifiables. Because they contain coconut oil they form a richer, creamier lather than our pure olive oil soap.

Shaving soap curing small
Shaving soap curing

Because all our bar soaps are naturally rich in glycerol, they need to be stored on a soap rack to dry between uses, so that they do not absorb water and go soft. When looked after, one bar will generally last around 4 weeks when used by one person.

Mokosh liquid soap Liquid soap squat bottle small

Made using coconut and olive oils, and fragranced with organic essential oils, our liquid soap is free of preservatives, synthetic additives, palm oil derivatives and potentially harmful additives like triclosan and EDTA. It is a stronger soap than our bar soaps, and recommended for hand and body wash, rather than as a face wash.

Palm oil is found in most soap

If you pick up any bar soap in a supermarket aisle and look at the ingredients list, you will likely see the words ‘sodium palmate’ and ‘sodium palm kernelate’ near the top. These are the terms for palm oil and palm kernel oil that have undergone the saponification reaction. Currently, Indonesia and Malaysia are burning rainforest at an alarming rate to clear land for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is a multi-billion dollar industry resulting in the destruction of rainforest to satisfy our demand for cheap vegetable oil in our soap, skin care products (read more here) shampoos and conditioner (read more here), and the majority of packaged foods. The forest fires cause massive pollution problems and release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Deforestation is likely to result in the extinction of the endangered orang-utan and Sumatran tiger and numerous other lesser known species, and is causing a humanitarian crisis in displaced indigenous populations.

Essential Oils – how safe are they?

Rose petalsEssential oils are natural aromatic substances extracted from plants. Although they are oil-soluble, they are strictly not ‘oils’ since they do not contain the fatty acids of a plant-derived oil. They consist of a mixture of compounds including alcohols, phenols, ketones and others. They have been used since ancient times by the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Chinese and Indian cultures both in medicine and for their aromatic properties, although it is likely that they did not exist in the highly purified form in which they are used today. Essential oil production was refined during the last few centuries when the method of steam distillation was perfected. Today essential oils are used in aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, the food industry, perfumery and natural skin care.

How are they made?

The most common method of extracting essential oils from plants is by steam distillation. This method involves passing steam through plant material, which vaporises volatile compounds from the plant. The resulting vapour is then collected and separated into the water fraction, which is termed a ‘hydrosol’, and the non water-soluble part which contains the essential oil.

The other 2 methods of extracting essential oils are ‘cold pressing’ and ‘solvent extraction’. Cold pressing is used to obtain the citrus essential oils – the oil is simply squeezed from the peel and then purified. In contrast, solvent extraction involves the use of chemicals to dissolve delicate compounds that would not survive the heat of the steam distillation process, examples being essential oils extracted from the petals of jasmine and neroli. The disadvantage of solvent extraction is that solvent residue almost always contaminates the final product, which is known as the ‘concrete’ or the further purified ‘absolute’. This is a particular problem when potentially toxic substances such as petrochemicals are used as the solvent. More recently a method known as ‘CO2 critical extraction’ was developed. This is considered a cleaner solvent for extraction of delicate essential oils, since at the end of the process the CO2 evaporates, and has the additional benefit of requiring no heat for extraction.

Irrespective of the method used, essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts, each requiring different quantities of plant for their production. For example between 1,500-10,000kg rose petals are required to extract 1kg rose essential oil, making it one of the most expensive essential oils, whereas around 200kg lavender is required to obtain 1kg lavender essential oil.

What are the beneficial properties of essential oils?

Some of the compounds found in essential oils perform the same protective functions in humans as they do in the plant from which they were extracted, including antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic and insecticidal properties. Many of the essential oils are considered to have these antiseptic properties, one of the best-known being tea tree oil.

Foot massageA range of medicinal properties is attributable to various essential oils, and they are used in the practice of aromatherapy to treat conditions ranging from stress, anxiety and depression, through to arthritic pain and menstrual disorders. Because essential oils are potent, considerable knowledge of their use is required before considering their use to treat medical symptoms, and should be carried out under the guidance of a reputable aromatherapist. High quality, preferably therapeutic grade essential oils are generally used in aromatherapy.

In perfumery and skin care, essential oils may impart a state of well-being through their mood-enhancing effects – for example lavender has relaxant properties, helping insomnia and stress, rosemary and frankincense enhance the ability to concentrate and focus, whereas rose and the citrus essential oils are uplifting. There is considerable cross-over amongst the essential oils in their mood-enhancing effects, and essential oils may have synergistic effects when used in combination.

In addition, certain essential oils commonly included in natural skin care may also help with skin imbalances. These include enhancing oil production in excessively dry skin, for example, patchouli, frankincense and palmarosa, and reducing the production of oil in excessively oily skin, such as geranium and lavender. Others help combat the effects of acne, for example tea tree oil, while others supposedly reduce the incidence of wrinkles, such as frankincense and sandalwood.

A note on synthetic fragrances

After working with essential oils for a short period of time, the ‘artificial’ character of synthetic fragrances is clearly discernible to most people. They do not deliver the mood-enhancing and beneficial physiological effects of essential oils.

Although we discuss below the dangers of certain essential oils, it is worth pointing out the potentially greater hazard from synthetic fragrances, represented on product labels as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. It is possible to create a wide variety of fragrances from synthetic substances that cannot be obtained as an essential oil. These fragrances include strawberry, fig and honeysuckle. Synthetic fragrances are also manufactured to mimic the expensive essential oils like rose and jasmine. Because they are so much cheaper than essential oils, synthetic fragrances are used extensively in perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries, cleaners and air fresheners.

Unfortunately the synthetic ingredients used to make these fragrances result in sensitisation in up to 1 in 50 people, resulting in an allergic reaction with subsequent exposure, sometimes for life. In addition, they frequently contain phthalates, known hormone disrupters that have been associated with infertility, and some components are suspected of being neurotoxic. In addition, the synthetic musks used in fragrances are now also thought to be possible hormone disrupters.

Because of labelling laws, it is not possible to determine the constituents of synthetic fragrances. Despite this, synthetic fragrances are extensively used in common household products and in toiletries recommended for babies, children and during pregnancy.

Essential oils are extremely potent

In aromatherapy, essential oils are delivered most commonly by inhalation, although some essential oils may be administered orally. An alternative method of delivery is by application to the skin, since essential oils easily penetrate the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, and from there enter the bloodstream. Because tiny quantities of essential oils act rapidly on the body, they need to be used in carefully measured quantities, and most cannot be safely applied to the skin unless diluted. Inhaling, ingesting or topically applying essential oils beyond the recommended dose may result in toxicity. Some commonly encountered problems are detailed below.

Skin irritation

Some essential oils are known skin irritants, causing inflammation and itchiness when applied to the skin. This is seen most commonly in essential oils containing high levels of aldehydes or phenols. Examples include essential oils of cinnamon, clove, oregano and thyme, and these essential oils should never be used in topical applications.

Photosensitivity

Compounds known as furanocoumarins present in some essential oils are known to react with the skin in the presence of ultraviolet light, resulting in varying degrees of redness, and occasionally hyperpigmentation and vesicle formation. These compounds are present in high concentrations in citrus essential oils, the most potent of these being bergamot, as well as angelica root, lemon verbena and cumin essential oils. Topical application of skin care products containing these essential oils should be used with care, particularly when applied to skin that will be exposed to sunlight.

Contact sensitisation

Some essential oils that are innocuous on initial contact with the skin produce irritation after repeated application. These essential oils induce an immune response which may result in redness, irritation and sometimes vesiculation following subsequent contact with the skin. Essential oils which are frequently implicated as sensitisers include essential oils of cinnamon, bergamot, clove and verbena.

Carcinogenicity

Two components present in sassafras essential oil, known as safrole and dihydrosafrole, have been implicated in the development of liver tumours in rats, and so this essential oil is generally avoided.

Neurotoxicity and abortive properties

Essential oils containing high levels of certain types of ketones, oxides, or phenolic ethers when used above certain concentrations are considered to be both neurotoxic and abortive. These include essential oils of wormwood, sage, parsley seed, mustard, sassafras, pennyroyal, turmeric and numerous others.

Liver toxicity

Essential oils containing high levels of aldehydes may cause liver toxicity, particularly when taken over a long period of time or in high doses. Liver toxicity may also occur when essential oil components are metabolised into toxic chemicals.

Kidney toxicity

Low doses of some essential oils that are considered to be stimulating and beneficial to the kidneys in aromatherapy may be toxic with excessive or prolonged use. Large doses of essential oils of savin, wintergreen, sweet birch and sassafras fall into this category.

Pregnancy, babies, children and sensitive skins

girl feet resizeIn addition to avoiding the potentially neurotoxic and abortive essential oils during pregnancy, most aromatherapists would recommend that essential oils be used at half the normal rate during pregnancy, since essential oils pass through the placenta to the foetus. As little is known about the effects of essential oils on the foetus, many people prefer to avoid exposure to essential oils during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester.

Newborns are also vulnerable, and most aromatherapists would recommend avoiding exposure of babies younger than 3 months old to essential oils. After the age of around 3 months, lavender and chamomile essential oils are generally considered safe, and at later times certain other essential oils may be safely used in children.

Our approach to essential oils in skin care

Having worked with essential oils for many years, we are convinced of their beneficial effects both on the skin and on the psyche. However we have always taken the cautious approach, using them at concentrations of 0.5-1% in our skin care products, thereby reducing the risks associated with excessive exposure. We do not use the potentially harmful essential oils like parsley seed and cinnamon, and limit our use of potentially photosensitising essential oils like citrus to wash-off products, our bar and liquid soaps.

EOF groupOver the years, a number of people have requested that we introduce a range of essential oil free products, mostly because they or their family members have extremely sensitive skins, or because they wish to be able to use our products while pregnant, or on their babies and young children. We are delighted to introduce our Essential Oil Free range, which we declined to call ‘fragrance free’ since they are naturally fragranced with the natural fragrances of the unrefined oils and butters they contain. Made with 100% certified organic ingredients, without preservatives or synthetic ingredients, they are the purest and mildest products you can find, suitable for everybody.

How palm oil sneaks into your skin care products

HandCreamby Marion O’Leary

Many people are now aware of the environmental and humanitarian disaster that is occurring in south-east Asian rainforests as a result of the world’s seemingly insatiable demand for palm oil. They have heard about the massive deforestation, the displacement and imprisonment of local people attempting to protect their land, the use of child labour to work on palm plantations, and the devastating impact on orang-utans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, and other endangered wildlife. Because of this, consumers are increasingly avoiding packaged foods containing palm oil, and also ‘vegetable oil’, as this is most likely to be palm.

Palm oil is the vegetable oil of choice in packaged food because it is both cheap and, being a highly saturated fat, resistant to rancidity, which provides longer shelf-life. Currently, Australia’s food labelling laws do not require manufacturers to specify the type of vegetable oil they use. In practical terms, the only way to try to find out if a product is palm oil-free is to consult one of the websites that lists palm oil free products, eg this one, or ask for a written answer from the company involved. Even then, some companies provide disingenuous answers to consumer concerns or do not respond at all. What you can be sure of is that every food aisle in your supermarket will be stacked with products containing palm oil or its derivatives.

What surprises many people is that this is also the case for the supermarket aisles containing toiletries and cleaning products. In these, palm oil is most often used as the vegetable-based building block for the synthetic ingredients that are required for the manufacture of soaps, detergents and most skin care products.  Once an ingredient has been altered synthetically, it is identified by its chemical name, and its source no longer needs to be stated.

We have previously described how palm oil is used to produce the key ingredients of shampoo and conditioner and made our conclusion that there is probably no palm oil-free shampoo or conditioner in Australia.  Read it here.  The only palm oil-free alternatives to shampoo are palm oil-free soaps, or non-soap methods of washing hair (see our summary below). So what about skin care? Why do most moisturisers and cleansers contain palm oil derivatives?

Emulsifiers

OilWaterAny moisturiser that contains water, or has a water base such as aloe vera juice or hydrosol, requires an emulsifier to mix the water with the oil. Without an emulsifier, the product would ‘separate’ into its water and oil components.  Until recently, the only two palm oil-free emulsifiers available in Australia were lecithin, which is derived from soy, and beeswax.

A new emulsifier called  glyceryl stearate citrate has just become available on the Australian market, with claims of being palm oil free , but to our knowledge no Australian manufacturer has yet incorporated it into their products. Of course, if a moisturiser is water-free, there is no need for an emulsifier.

Some emulsifiers commonly used in organic skin care include cetearyl olivate, sorbitan olivate, sorbitan stearate, cetearyl glucoside, ceteareth-20, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate and  glyceryl oleate. Currently, palm oil is used in the manufacture of each of these. Until recently, manufacturers that used  cetearyl olivate and sorbitan olivate as emulsifiers believed these ingredients were derived solely from olives. In fact, palm oil is also used to manufacture these ingredients, and they are not palm oil-free.

Thickeners

As one might expect, the addition of water to oil means the end-product is going to be very thin, especially when one considers that moisturisers contain up to 85% water. Thickeners are almost always added to moisturisers to improve the viscosity and ‘feel’ of the product.

Thickeners that are commonly used in skin care include guar and xanthan gums, carageenan, glycerine, glyceryl caprylate, cetearyl glucoside, sucrose stearate, stearic acid and cetearyl alcohol. Of these, only carageenan, guar and xanthan gums are not derived from palm oil, although it is now possible to obtain palm oil–free glycerine.

Skin cleansers

SurfactantMost cleansers are based on surfactants, which are compounds that have a detergent action, and are the same synthetic ingredients that are used in shampoos.

Examples we found in organic skin brand cleansers include cocobetaine, sucrose cocoate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, sodium cocoyl glycinate and coco glucoside. We reviewed all these products in our blog on shampoo and conditioners. Read it here.   All are palm oil-derived, despite the claims by manufacturers of some of these ingredients that they are from coconut. See our discussion on this misrepresentation in the same blog.

Mokosh has avoided using palm oil-based surfactants and other synthetic ingredients by producing a non-detergent cleanser based on oatmeal, neem powder, lemon peel powder and other organic plant ingredients. Miessence is the only other brand we could find that produces a palm oil-free cleanser – it contains yucca extract, which is a natural source of saponins, or naturally-occuring detergents.

The not so beautiful conclusion

To our knowledge, there are very few Australian skin care brands that don’t contain palm oil-derived ingredients. Unfortunately, if you look at palm oil-free shopping guides, many palm oil-containing brands are still listed as palm oil-free. This may be because compilers of palm oil-free guides tend to rely on statements from manufacturers, many of which do not dig deeply enough to determine where their ingredients come from.

As we discovered when researching ingredients in shampoo and conditioners (read it here), it is in fact difficult to determine the true plant origin of synthetic ingredients – many are advertised by ingredient manufacturers as ‘from coconut’, whereas they are in fact derived from both coconut and palm oils.

Skin care manufacturers need to be more pro-active in understanding where their ingredients come from, especially if they wish to make palm oil-free claims. Compilers of palm oil-free lists need to be more discerning about the products they include so they do not inadvertently mislead consumers.  Finally, the consumer needs to read and understand ingredients on labels, ask questions of manufacturers, and thereby become empowered to make informed choices about where their spending dollar goes.

Below is our guide to shopping for palm oil-free toiletries:

Palm oil-free skin care:

Miessence – moisturisers contain lecithin as emulsifier, and xanthan gum as thickener. Cleansers based on yucca extract. However, their shampoos and conditioners contain palm-derived ingredients.

Mokosh – moisturisers are water-free and so do not require emulsifiers or thickeners. Cleanser based on oatmeal, neem, clay, and other natural ingredients.

VEGAN palm oil free – uses a palm free emulsifier, that is neither beeswax nor lecithin.

Indah water-free skin care, therefore does not require emulsifier

Palm oil free hair wash:

1.Palm oil free soaps – eg Beauty and the Bees, Maclyn Naturals, Alex’s Handcrafted Soaps Note: Using soap to wash your hair is a completely different experience to using a shampoo! You should rinse afterwards with diluted apple cider vinegar to remove soap salts. For a guide, see http://frecklestotoes.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/soap-shampoo-experiment-initial-results.html,

2.Baking soda –  (also known as ‘bi-carb soda’ or ‘sodium bicarbonate’) followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse – there are many converts to this, who state their hair has never looked better. The most comprehensive site we have found as a guide is: http://almostexactlyblog.wordpress.com/no-poo/ Also, see our blog summarising how to do this here.

3.Mud shampoo – see how to make your own here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngX_ZdwQSk0 If you can suggest other brands that are truly palm oil-free, please let us know – we’d love to make this list longer!

Why Mokosh doesn’t follow the crowd … and how it is so easy to be green-washed when it comes to the ingredients in skin care.

I was explaining to the store-owner on the end of the phone about the difference between Mokosh products and standard skin care. ‘… and our skin care is preservative-free,’ I said, ‘which is unusual.’ ‘But I already have plenty of organic skin care,’ the owner stated. ‘We wouldn’t have anything with preservatives on our shelves.’ She listed the brands stocked in her store, and I was familiar with the ingredients contained in each of them. Some of them were certified organic brands, others claimed they were ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ but in fact contained only a small proportion of certified organic ingredients. All of them contained preservatives of some kind. One of the brands contained paraben preservatives (read about paraben preservatives here). ‘Each one of those brands contains a preservative – because all of them are water-based,’ I explained. ‘Even certified organic skin care that contains water must have a preservative added. Our skin care contains no water.’ ‘As I said,’ she replied, ‘we’re happy with the brands we have at the moment.’ Our conversation effectively ended there – she was unconvinced, and I recognised a brick wall when I ran into one. Still, I was a little surprised that the owner of a store that stocked a large range of certified organic foods, whose customers are discerning label-readers, conscious of what they are consuming for both health and environmental reasons, was convinced that all her skin care brands were preservative-free. The reason she thought this? I don’t know – but I suspect it’s because of the presence of the word ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ on the label, which in her mind should not be linked with the word ‘preservative’. The word ‘preservative’ has negative connotations, probably because there have been links between preservatives and various health issues. Some preservatives are probably quite safe, whereas others could well have long-term negative health effects. Preservatives in certified organic brands Every certified organic skin care brand we have looked at includes some water-based products, whether in a moisturiser, cleanser, shampoo or conditioner. The water will be listed on the label in the form of ‘water’, ‘aqua’ or ‘aloe vera juice’, or perhaps as a hydrosol such as ‘rose distillate’. The watery medium allows the growth of bacteria and fungi, and therefore needs a preservative to prevent this growth. As far as we are aware, there is no truly ‘natural’ preservative – and by this we mean ‘as found in nature’, and therefore no preservative may be listed as a certified organic ingredient. Therefore, for a product to fulfil the criteria of organic certifying bodies, it must be amongst the allowable percentage of non-certified organic ingredients, and must be approved by that certifying body as safe. Each certifying body will make its own decision on whether a non-certified ingredient can be approved for use in a certified organic product. We have seen the following preservatives in certified organic products: –          grapefruit seed extract –          bitter orange extract –          ethanol or grain alcohol –           potassium sorbate –          sodium benzoate –          Naticide – may be listed also as ‘parfum’, or ‘vanilla and almond extract’, since its manufacturer has been able to have it categorised as a perfume, although it is used for its preservative activity. Companies that use this preservative may state that their product is ‘preservative free’. –          sodium levulinate – a preservative that also acts as a skin conditioning agent –          sodium lauroyl lactylate – an emulsifier and foaming agent, also with preservative action, which allows a manufacturer to claim a product is ‘preservative free’. Note that some organic certifying bodies will allow preservatives to be included that others consider unsafe, just as different certifying bodies have different allowable percentages of non-certified organic ingredients – but that’s another story. Preservatives in non certified organic brands A skin care product that is not certified organic does not have to go through any safety assessment by any organisation, yet may still have the word ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ on its label. These products may include preservatives such as parabens (see our story on parabens), DMDM hydantoin – a formaldehyde releaser, diazolidinyl urea – another formaldehyde releaser, benzyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.  All these preservatives have large question marks over their safety, yet are still allowable in skin care products – yes, even for babies. And yes, even if they have a green label! Mokosh’s stance on preservatives We could have followed the path of other mainstream skin care manufacturers and added water to our products, preserving them with an ingredient approved by an organic certifying body.  We decided against it for the following reasons: –          We were unable to find a preservative that has not been synthetically altered in some way, even though some of them are of vegetable origin. We wanted to keep our skin care completely natural, without synthetic ingredients. –          Many preservatives once considered safe were found not to be so in the long term (see our blog on Parabens) – we believe it is not worth taking that risk. –          In order for a preservative to be effective in skin care, it has to be a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. We believe it is not a good thing to put this type of agent on the skin on a daily basis, because of the potential to disturb the skin’s microflora. In the same way that ingesting low doses of antibiotics over the long term can change the intestinal flora (read more about this here), we believe the same could occur with preservatives present in skin care products, possibly causing skin problems in the long run. –          Standard skin care is an oil:water emulsion – a blend of 20-50% oil with 50-80% water. To keep the water and oil phases from separating, an emulsifier must be added. We have found no emulsifier on the market that is not derived from palm oil, which we do not use for environmental reasons oil (see our stance on palm oil). –          Why should we add water to our oils? The active ingredient in a moisturiser is the oil – the water component evaporates after application to the skin. This is why the skin may feel dry an hour after you have applied a standard moisturiser which may contain up to 80% water.  The purpose of the water in a lotion or cream is to dilute the oil so that you get a thin spread – the water is not retained in the skin.  With our products, you get the same effect by applying to lightly damp skin. The water on the skin helps to spread the oil thinly. –          Because our moisturisers are water-free, they are up to 5 times more concentrated, and you can use one-fifth the amount for the same effect. This saves money, packaging and transport costs while avoiding synthetic ingredients, palm oil and preservatives. Skin care choices If you are serious about simplifying your life, eating fresh, unprocessed food, free of synthetic ingredients, you may also want take a closer look at what you are putting on your skin. If your skin care is not certified organic, we suggest you read the ingredient list very carefully, and understand what each ingredient is, and why it is there.

Good Hair Days the Ayurveda way

hair photo 2 smallby Marion O’Leary

For hair to be strong and beautiful your body needs to be in a state of homeostasis (that is, all is functioning well) and receiving the nutrients it needs. Factors such as trauma, stress and anxiety affect our hair because they reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to the scalp.

Hair growth begins beneath the skin surface in a little bulbous structure called a follicle. There, a clump of cells called the papilla produce the keratin, a specialised protein, which becomes a shaft of hair. The growth and health of every hair depends on these papillae receiving rich supplies of oxygen and nutrients. When circulation to the scalp is reduced for any reason, the papillae receive fewer nutrients and less oxygen, and hair suffers.

Scalp massage is one of the most beneficial treatments for maintaining beautiful hair. In Ayurveda, scalp massage is traditionally carried out daily but benefits are gained by performing massage only once a week. Oils have been traditionally used for nourishing and feeding the scalp to assist in restoring and maintaining healthy hair and condition.

In Ayurveda, scalp massage involves using oils to massage the marma points on the scalp which are considered to connect and stimulate health in other body regions.  In our Balancing Hair Treatment, we have blended the traditional Ayurvedic oils, coconut, sesame, neem and hemp with other hair restoring oils macadamia, argan and rosemary, to create the perfect nourishing treatment.

Practiced regularly, the following procedure will bring a beautiful lustre to your hair and long-lasting health benefits.

Method:

hair sketch 4i)                    Apply oil to the whole scalp by parting the hair in sections.

ii)                   Massage the oil into the scalp then gently tap the head all over with the pads of the fingers

iii)                 Gently pull small tufts of hair from the roots and twist firmly a few times

iv)                 Place a finger on point 1 (see diagram) and massage in a clockwise motion for 20-30 seconds, moving skin firmly over the bone.

v)                  Repeat the procedure with points 2 and 3 (see diagram).

vi)                 Comb the oil through the hair

vii)               For best results leave the oil at least an hour, covering with a shower cap and a warmed towel. In Ayurveda, oil may be left in for days!

viii)              Wash the oil out of the hair using shampoo or soap. In Ayurveda, conditioners are not considered healthy for hair as the build-up tends to trap dirt and block hair follicles. A cider vinegar rinse is a great alternative.

Benefits:

In Ayurveda, this traditional scalp massage is considered to:

–          Promote hair growth and health, promoting a glossy shine

–          Relieve tension in the neck and back

The marma points 1,2 and 3 are considered to be connected to the pituitary and pineal glands, helping to regulate hormone secretions, helping reduce stress, regulate blood pressure, and enhance the mood.

Nourishing Face Treatment – an all natural skin superfood

by Marion O’Leary

What is Nourishing Face Treatment?

Girl nourishing faceSWe have chosen the most nutrient-dense superfoods and blended them with powerful medicinal herbs, bringing an broad range of beneficial phytonutrients in their natural form. We wanted to create a special product – something fresh and raw, intensely nourishing, without contaminating synthetic ingredients.

Designed as a nutritional boost for the skin, Nourishing Face Treatment may be used weekly, or whenever the skin is in need of a revitalising treatment. Because this treatment is in powder form, the precious innate nutrients are more stable than in a water-based medium. Addition of water to the powder immediately before use activates the nutrients so that they ‘come to life’ on your skin.

Why is it so good for the skin?

This treatment brings a broad range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and other nutrients to the skin. The addition of water just before use is as close as it gets to applying the fresh fruit or leaf to your skin. Because the ingredients are unrefined and raw, Nourishing Face Treatment contains many still unidentified phytochemicals which act synergistically to both protect and promote the activity of the active components. As such, this product is a complex, whole food in a natural, bio-available form that cannot be replicated synthetically.

How to use it

The powder is mixed with water or Pure Hydrosol Toner to form a paste, and then applied to the skin of the face and neck. Approximately 1 heaped teaspoon of powder is sufficient – place in a small bowl and trickle water slowly into the powder so that it does not become too runny, then apply to the skin and neck, avoiding the eye area. The paste can be left on the skin for 15-20 minutes. We suggest spraying the face with water or our Pure Hydrosol Toner mist to keep the mask hydrated, and the nutrients active. To remove, rinse briefly with lukewarm water and remove using a moist cotton flannel. Follow with a light moisturiser.

How will my skin feel?

Fresh, invigorated, stimulated, incredibly soft and smooth. Once you have tried this you will want to use it regularly for the uplifting benefits.

Our reasoning

Sometimes we look at what goes into this product and think how privileged we are to work with such precious ingredients. We love the fact this product is presented in a form that preserves the integrity of the ingredients. They reach you in their whole, natural state – we have not contaminated or diluted them by mixing with water or synthetic chemicals. In the same way a healthy diet is based on raw, natural foods made from scratch, your skin care should be undiluted, fresh and active. We believe it is our responsibility to take care of what comes through our hands, and ensure the ingredients achieve their maximum benefit where it counts – on your skin!

About the ingredients

Nourishing Face Powder contains Kakadu plum powder,  rosehip powder, acai berry powder, aloe vera powder, gotu kola powder, olive leaf powder and wheatgrass powder. It is certified organic with NASAA with 100% certified organic ingredients.

Kakadu plum powder

Kakadu plumThe Kakadu plum grows in abundance across northern Australia. It has a short fruiting season, and a license is required to harvest the wild fruit. To date, it has not been successfully cultivated. Following harvest the fruit is freeze-dried using technology that retains their outstanding nutrient profile. Kakadu plum has the highest known content of vitamin C – up to 5%, compared to around 0.05% for an orange. It has extremely high antioxidant activity, attributable to both vitamin C, as well as polyphenol antioxidants. It has also been shown to have anti-bacterial activity, although the compound responsible for this has not been definitively identified, although its high content of  ellagic and gallic acids which have known anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity, may be responsible. These same substances are also known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Kakadu plum is also a good source of a wide range of minerals. The fruit has been used for centuries by indigenous Australians, predominantly as a medicine.

Rosehip powder

RosehipsSRosehips are the fruit of the rose, best known for their naturally high content of vitamin C, an antioxidant. The powder is formed from the dried rosehip, and retains the majority of the nutrients of the fresh fruit. In addition to their high vitamin C content (up to 2%), rosehips are rich in vitamins A and B, and polyphenol antioxidants. They also display anti-inflammatory activity, thought to be derived from their galactolipid content, which also has anti-tumour properties. Recently there has been interest shown by the medical community in its use as an orally administered anti-inflammatory treatment in cases of osteoarthritis, as well as for treatment of type II diabetes and obesity.

Acai berry powder

Acai berryS

Acai berries are the fruit of a palm from South America, with good levels of polyphenol antioxidants, amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamin A.

Aloe vera powder

Aloe veraSAloe vera powder is made from the freeze-dried pulp of the aloe vera plant, a succulent that probably originated in Africa. The characteristic mucinous gel consistency of the sap of this plant is due to its high polysaccharide content. To date, over 75 potentially active compounds have been identified in the plant, and it may be that its beneficial effects are due to a synergistic activity of a range of compounds. It contains B vitamins, vitamins C and E, and a broad range of minerals and anti-oxidant compounds.  Its best known effects are topical pain relief from itching and burning, presumably due to anti-inflammatory effects. It has also been shown to reduce healing time of skin wounds. It is also considered to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory functions.

Gotu Kola Powder

Gotu kolaSGotu kola is a low growing leafy plant widely distributed throughout the tropics, and is one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.  It is probably most well known for its use in improving memory and cognitive function, as well as reducing anxiety and helping to promote a meditative state. Its active constituents are considered to be compounds known as triterpenoids, which are considered responsible for its effects on the mind, as well as effects including improved circulation, increased levels of anti-oxidants in wounds, anti-inflammatory effects in chronic skin conditions, reducing scarring and preventing or reducing stretch marks in the skin. The triterpenoids are thought to have antioxidant effects, and also stimulate collagen and glycosaminoglycan production, both of importance for regeneration of connective tissue.  Gotu kola also contains vitamins B, C and K, minerals, and flavonoids.

Olive leaf powder

Olive leafSThe olive leaf has been used medicinally since ancient times, is advocated as a medicine in the bible, and was used by the ancient Greeks to treat fever. In the 1840’s it was reportedly used with success to treat malaria and various fevers. Olive leaf is known to possess extremely high antioxidant activity, is anti-inflammatory, and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Its anti-oxidant activity is amongst the highest yet tested. Its primary active constituent is oleuropin, a compound which is present in higher concentrations in the leaf than in the fruit or other parts of the tree, and is considered responsible for most of the therapeutic properties of olive leaf.

Wheatgrass powder

Wheat grass image shutterstockWell known as a rich source of chlorophyll, vitamins A, B, C, E and K, a range of minerals, enzymes, and anti-oxidants.