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Does Farmaesthetics make greener products?

Amy asks…I’m looking for natural products just as many other people are. I read about Farmaesthetics new Almond Blossom Organic Body Wash and it sounds fantastic (and expensive!) Is this product green or not and is it worth the money?

The Beauty Brains respond

Farmaesthetics bills themselves as the “creators of 100% natural fine herbal skincare preparations.” They claim that their products are “100% natural; there are no chemicals, fillers, dyes, fragrances, natural identicals or petroleum products.” A 16 ounce bottle of their new Almond body wash will set you back $45 which makes it one of the more expensive products we’ve seen in quite a while. Is it really green? Is it worth that much? Let’s take a look.

Are the ingredients more “green?”

If you look at the ingredients (see below) you’ll notice a couple of things. First the good news. As they claim, this product doesn’t include any synthetic surfactants – the only cleansers it contains are soaps made from olive, coconut and jojoba oils. However, they failed to mention that these plant oils are mixed with either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide to form soap. Gasp! Aren’t these dangerous, caustic chemicals? According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, sodium hydroxide is “very hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, irritant, permeator).” Are these ingredients really a cause for concern? Of course not because they’re used in low concentrations and they’re reacted (or used up) so they’re neutralized in the finished product. But in the interest of being transparent why aren’t these ingredients listed? Is the company trying to portray the product as being more “green” than it really is? Let’s look at another example.

This body wash also contains organic aloe vera gel. But what they don’t tell you is that aloe vera gel is preserved with potassium sorbate as a mold inhibitor. And where does potassium sorbate come from? It can be made from berries but “most of the Potassium Sorbate created today is synthetic and not natural. Commercial sources are now produced by the condensation of crotonaldehyde and ketene.” (see reference 2). That sure makes potassium sorbate sound like a “natural identical” to us and it doesn’t seem consistent with Farmaesthetics’ claims of “no artificial preservatives.”

(Note to Farmaesthetics, if your aloe supplier does use a berry-sourced potassium sorbate, or if you have any other ingredient information that contrasts with what we’re saying in this post, please let us know and we’ll make corrections right away.)

Ok, not to make too big deal about it because I’m picking on a preservative that comes in as part of another one of the ingredients they use. They’re not even adding potassium sorbate directly to their finish product. But I’m trying to make a point here: where do you draw the line? If you’re going to take a stance that you’re not using any “synthetic” ingredients yet one of the ingredients you use contains a synthetic, or a “natural identical” then isn’t that just as bad?

The company is tweaking how they list their ingredients to skew your perception of their brand. If there’s really nothing wrong with these ingredients then why not list them and explain to their consumers why you’ve chosen to use them?

Is “Green” good for skin?

Now that we’ve gotten past the games you can play with ingredient lists, let’s just concede that this product is more “natural” then most body washes on the market based on it’s choice of surfactants. That means it should be better for your skin, right? Well, while coconut oil soaps are certainly more natural than synthetic detergents it’s well-documented that (some, not all) synthetics are actually milder than coconut soaps. If you don’t believe us check out reference 3.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Farmaesthetics seems to trying very hard to market “natural” products but even the best intentioned companies are not always transparent when it comes to disclosing all the chemicals used in their ingredients. As usual it always comes back to the fact that there are no standard definitions of what green, organic, or natural means. If having a product that is “organic” means a lot to you then Farmaesthetics may be the brand for you. But if you care more about a reasonably priced product that is mild to your skin, there are plenty of other products to consider.

Almond Blossom Organic Body Wash Ingredients

(as listed on website) Saponified oils of olive*, coconut* & jojoba*; vegetable glycerin; aloe vera gel*; honey absolute; orange* & bergamot* essential oils; pure almond extract; rosemary extract (certified organic ingredients*)

References
1. http://www.thealoeverastore.us/aloe-vera-gel-32-oz-2p322.html
2. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5067082
3. J. Soc. Cosm. Chem., 39, 355 – 366 (November/December 1988) “Forearm wash test to evaluate the clinical mildness of cleansing products”

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Kevin December 27, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Isn’t “Saponified” just a fancy way of saying “soap?”

    • Randy Schueller December 28, 2014, 8:40 am

      Hey Kevin. “Saponified” is the technical term for turning an oil into a soap.

  • Eileen December 28, 2014, 10:32 am

    First off let me say that I have the utmost respect for people who are looking for products that are gentler and kinder to their skin and the earth. “Good for you; good for the earth.” is a marketing cliché that should be a reality rather than a slogan–especially when you consider the tons of harmful waste we generate every single day in our quest for healthy bodies. Unfortunately, though, manipulating ingredient lists and advertising products as being “green”, “natural”, “organic”, “free of . . . “, etc. is misleading because, as you pointed out, those terms are essentially meaningless and do not insure the products are going to be safe, gentle, efficacious, etc. For example, belladonna can be “green”, “natural”, and “organic”, and cause hallucinations, fever, convulsions, blurred vision, high blood pressure, intestinal blockage, etc.

    Once again, thank you injecting a dose of reality into the conversation about marketing claims.

    Happy New Year to you and all your readers!

  • eastvillagesiren December 29, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Anytime a marketer states or even implies “no chemicals,” I automatically count them out because a) they’re wrong and b) I’m not dumb enough to think they’ve created the first chemical-free product. Does the FDA have any legal authority to fine companies who state they’re chemical free? It would be a good thing and would separate the decent “green” companies from the greenwashing companies.

    • Randy Schueller December 29, 2014, 1:54 pm

      “Chemical free” claims don’t fall under the control of the FDA but I suppose the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) could do something if they wanted to. Unfortunately they have bigger fish to fry.

      • eastvillagesiren December 31, 2014, 10:28 am

        Thanks for the reply. And thanks to the Beauty Brains for making us smarter about the beauty industry. Happy New Year!

  • Christi May 23, 2015, 9:06 am

    Education empowers us. Loved your article. Thank you! The industry is known for it’s lack of transparency & marketing gimmickry. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our health for the sake of beauty. I joined Beautycounter to help educate others and advocate for change in the personal care industry. We all deserve better. The last regulation was in 1938. The EU bans almost over 1300 ingredients, the U.S. only 11! For those who’d like to educate themselves further, check out the “Know Everything” tab on my website at Christi.Beautycounter.com

    • Randy Schueller May 25, 2015, 10:39 am

      Hey Christi: The sound bite is that the EU has banned over 1000 ingredients while the governing body in the US (the FDA) has only banned 9. Can this be true? Is the US really that reckless compared to Europe? When you look at the EU laws that govern cosmetics you’ll see that their list of 1000+ ingredients include chemicals that are not used in cosmetics AT ALL (such as the picric acid, which is explosive, and radioactive substances.) These ingredients would never be used in cosmetics in the US because they are not safe, so even though they are not banned they are not legal in the US. Many of the banned ingredients in Europe are only banned if they contain contaminants. As long as the ingredient is purified, it’s allowed to be used (just like in the US.) So the fact that the EU “bans” more ingredients does not mean that they have safer products.

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