MidBrain asks…I noticed in the comment section on my post about a replacement term for “Chemical Free,” someone suggested “food grade.” She also provided a link to her site where she sells organic products. Is it really possible for cosmetics to meet food grade standards?
The Right Brain responds:
It seems a little incestuous to have one Beauty Brain ask a question and have another Beauty Brain answer it but, what the heck, let’s give it a try.
What standards do we measure naturals products by?
Can you make a food grade cosmetic? Sure, you can slap almost any ingredients together and call them a cosmetic. Just mash up an avocado with some wheat germ oil and smear it on your face. It will certainly hydrate your skin but will it FEEL like a moisturizer should? I think the question should be: “Can you make a food grade (or natural) cosmetic that’s of comparable quality to a “regular” cosmetic? ” That’s where it gets a bit tricky because in many cases it’s difficult, if not impossible, for truly natural ingredients to provide the same level of performance as a synthetic ingredients that have been specifically engineered to deliver a desired benefit. That doesn’t mean natural products are bad, it just means you should expect them to be different. And, you need to ask yourself if this difference is acceptable and worth paying more for.
Let’s look at two examples from the website in question (organicglow.com) and assess how well they would be expected to perform based on their ingredients. For the sake of discussion we’ll look at two hair care products: shampoo and a hair gel.
Miessence Dessert Flower Shampoo Ingredients
Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis (aloe vera) Leaf Juice, Coco Glucoside , Yucca Schidigera Extract, D-panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), Non-GMO Xanthan Gum, Citrus Aurantium Amara (bitter orange) Fruit Extract, Certified Organic Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil, Certified Organic Citrus Aurantifolia (lime) Essential Oil, Citric Acid. Certified Organic Persea Gratissima (avocado) Fruit Oil, Certified Organic Equisetum Arvense (horsetail) Extract, Certified Organic Urtica Dioica (nettle) Extract, Certified Organic Arctium Lappa (burdock) Extract, Certified Organic Rosmarinus Officinalis (rosemary) Leaf Extract, Certified Organic Salvia Officinalis (sage) Leaf Extract
First we feel compelled to point out that this company is taking some liberties with the ingredient labeling laws since aloe is the first ingredient instead of water. This is a trick that many companies use because it makes their product look more concentrated because there’s “no water.” In reality, the water comes in from the Aloe Leaf juice, which is 99.5% water and only 0.5% solids based on industry standards. (reference: Active Organics). But by including the water they get to list it first on the ingredient list instead of at the bottom so it looks more appealing to potential consumers.
Based on the composition, we’d guess this product should stack up pretty well against a standard shampoo. It should clean your hair just fine and the coco-glucoside should provide adequate lather. Most of the other ingredients will just rinse down the drain, though. And, if you’re used to using a moisturizing shampoos that contain silicones or cationic polymers, you’ll notice quite a difference in hair feel with this one.
What about styling ? Creating a natural styling product is much more of a challenge because styling products have to hold hair in place under a variety of environmental conditions. That’s why hairsprays, gels, and mousses are made with hard holding polymers. Let’s look at their own styling product, a gel.
Miessence Shape Hair Styling Gel Ingredients
Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis (aloe vera) Leaf Juice, Certified Organic Ethanol (sugar cane alcohol), Organic Fermented Grain Extract, Certified Organic Rosa Rubiginosa (rosehip) Seed Oil, Chondrus Crispus (carageenan) Gum, Non-GMO Xanthan Gum, Certified Organic Pelargonium Graveolens (geranium) Essential Oil
The product descriptor contains the term “shape” and the website describes it as providing “medium body and hold for most hair types.” Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to expect this product to hold like a typical gel would. Unfortunately, a review of the ingredients does not reveal any fixative. This product certainly not won’t provide the kind of hold one you would get from a gel formulated with acrylate polymers (which most of the industry uses). The natural gums in this product will provide some style retention but they don’t have the humidity resistance or proper film forming properties to really hold hair in place. It would appear this would be much better positioned as a hair-conditioning leave in treatment rather than a shaping product to provide medium hold.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Again, we stress that it’s all about your expectations. If you would rather spend more money to ensure your products are free of synthetic free product and you’re less concerned about matching the performance of “regular” products, then Miessence may be good deal for you. And bravo to Miessence for providing alternatives to consumers alternatives. However, they need to be careful not to imply that their products will function just as well as those with “evil” synthetic ingredients. While food grade cosmetics are a possibility consumers need to be aware of potential trade-offs before spending a lot of money on them.
Image credit: http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/02/63/47/2634796_d0e23e6d.jpg
What do YOU think? Would you be willing to sacrifice performance to get more “natural” products? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.