Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fragrances, irritants, allergens and sensitivity

A number of frangrances are recognized to be both allergens and sensitizers (26 main ones). I am very sensitive to hexyl cinnamal and cannot use a shampoo with that fragrance additive in it. One can react to a fragrance additive and think that they are reacting to something else in a cosmetic formulation. My symptoms were an itchy, "burning", painful scalp. By comparing ingredient labels I was able to identify exactly what caused my symptoms. Any shampoo with that fragrance in it caused the same reaction.

"Risk management by labelling 26 fragrances? Evaluation of Article 10 (1) of the seventh Amendment (Guideline 2003/15/EC) of the Cosmetic Directive"
"... It was found that more than 50% of these cosmetic and washing and cleansing products contain at least one of the 26 substances above the thresholds for labelling ... Regulations are not effective if they load the major responsibility for risk management on consumers, instead of on authorities and manufacturers. ... "

Here is the list of the 26 fragrances. Hexyl cinnamaldehyde, a synonym for hexyl cinnamal is on it.

The article below is most disturbing because children suffered for far too long before the correct diagnosis was made. This underlines 2 things I have touched on before, pH being important in hair and skin products and reading labels and hopefully identifying an offending ingredient. Quaternary ammonium compounds are in all conditioners, some shampoos and many other products and many quats are known irritants. It is how one reacts to them and the concentration used that can be problematic. While one cannot change what products are used in schools, public restrooms or hospitals, one can be selective about what products one uses at home.

"Scrubbing Away Germs Can Backfire on Backsides"
" ... toilet-seat contact dermatitis ... incidence of this condition is rising in North America because of a resurgent popularity of exotic-wood toilet seats and frequent use of detergents that contain highly irritant/sensitizing compounds such as quaternary ammonium compounds ... detergents used in public restrooms and in hospitals are potentially more irritating to the skin than those used at home ..."

I reacted to an improperly formulated hair conditioner years ago (that was subsequently reformulated because of the number of bad reactions to it) and I cannot to this day use a product formulated with the quat behentrimonium chloride, no matter how far down an ingredient list it is on the label. I became that sensitized to it. I could not find information on it at the time and used other conditioners with it in them before I was sure it was the problem. Each time I was exposed to it my sensitivity became worse. From the MSDS on behentrimonium chloride, "Skin Contact: can cause skin irritation upon prolonged or repeated exposure."

The full version of the report above is available.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shea butter, allergens and product labelling

Sometimes you can get a reaction to a product or ingredient and not realize that the ingredient is fairly well known as an allergen.

People often ask me what I know about an ingredient because they know I will search for the information if I cannot reply right away. I was recently asked about what someone recalled regarding shea butter and could not find in the current LHC threads. That is because that particular thread is archived. This is it, the LHC thread, where quidscrbis describes her severe allergic reaction to shea butter, a painful rash that lasted weeks.

Update November 16, 2012
Unfortunately, the LHC link above no longer works and at this time, I am unable to update it. Shea butter being a natural botanical product will have variations in constituents.

As it turns out, there is more to shea butter than is commonly known. I have seen warnings online that it should not be used on broken skin. See this link for peer-reviewed information on shea butter and its safety and cautions.

Then there is the question of labelling. This company, puts a warning on its label, for unrefined shea butter with essential oils.

As to reports online that shea butter is good for irritated skin, this 1996 study reported that canola oil actually worked better than the other lipids tested, which included shea butter.

Added June 27,2015
See also regarding shea products quality
"Effect of storage conditions on microbiological and physicochemical quality of shea butter"
"The effect of storage duration and packaging materials on microbiological and physicochemical qualities of shea butter revealed the necessity to change some packaging materials used in the production sites."

"Nutritional composition of shea products and chemical properties of shea butter: a review."
"Fat extraction is mainly done by traditional methods ... roasting and pressing of the kernels ... fat (butter) is used in food preparation and medicinal and cosmetics industries ... biochemical properties indicate some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Large variations are observed in the reported values for the composition of shea products. Recommendations for future research are presented to improve the quality and the shelf-life of the butter ... more attention should be given to the accuracy and precision in experimental analyses to obtain more reliable information about biological variation."

"Coping with the Upheavals of Globalization in the Shea Value Chain: The Maintenance and Relevance of Upstream Shea Nut Supply Chain Organization in Western Burkina Faso" 
"If mandatory labeling implies stricter social and environmental requirements by the final buyers, it may also entail a shift in the organization of the shea value chain."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An update on my catnip cosmetic use and information on certified organic labelling

I recently tried catnip buds as opposed to a mix of leaves and buds. However, after using buds only twice (I used a bit more the 2nd time) my hair has actually been drier both times. It seemed softer at first. I needed to see how my hair reacted and felt over the weeks between washing and treating. I used the buds the same way I used the mix. The Catnip blog post.

I prefer a mix. I just bought another tub of Hagen Catit Catnip Garden. The label states that it is 100% organic and pesticide-free. There is something about the leaves and buds together that is better for my hair. I wanted to see if there was any real difference. I have in the past used organic leaf and flower or leaves and buds mixes with very few buds. Now I know what my hair needs and likes best, which as I thought is a more balanced mix. The Hagen brand is what I have used for the past 3 years approximately. I trust if for consistent quality. There are I am sure, other pet store brands that are excellent too.

Hagen is a Canadian Company, and their products are available internationally. One thing I like to do is check out the brand behind what I buy. I have spoken with a Hagen representative in the past about their catnip. Not all companies behind a brand of catnip grow their own product. What I like about pet supplied catnip is that the companies know about their product and can answer questions with knowledge. I have read enough research on catnip to know when a company does not and I have not had that happen with pet suppliers of catnip.

I have seen and read what some non pet suppliers of catnip have said about their catnip. Some know very little or nothing about what they actually offer for sale.Their prices for quantity per recommended single use packages of catnip for cosmetic use are to me, ludicrous (overpriced). The quantities I have read recommended for single use are wasteful and way too much, even for the longest, thickest hair. I have been buying catnip and using it cosmetically for hair and skin for almost 5 years. Catnip is extremely economical to use for personal care.

Having bought and used organic bulk catnip from health food stores with a huge variance in quality, I will not go back to spending my money on catnip of questionable quality and source again. Since I use catnip on my hair and skin, I will only purchase it from a pet supply company that has been around long enough and is still competitive in that business. That is no different to me than people questioning the quality and source of the henna they buy. If I were to grow catnip myself, there is a lot of information I would need to make sure that what I grow would meet the same standards of quality of an excellent quality, pet supplier catnip.

Some information on certified organic labelling - I find this most interesting.

Updated October 25, 2012 

What seal to look for when buying organic products.
"Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations."

Organic does not mean the same as pesticide-free. For use on my hair and skin, I prefer catnip to be pesticide-free too.

Naturally sourced pesticides are still pesticides.

Organic Products - 2015

The following exactly matches what the Hagen representative told me when I asked why their catnip was not labelled "certified organic".
"2009 Organic Products Regulations, Questions and Answers, updated 2014 Q2 Are non-food products, such as aquaculture products, cosmetics, fibres, health care products, etc., included in the Canada Organic Regime? The regulations apply only to food products, animal feed and products used for the cultivation of plants. Each sector not included in the application of the regulations may continue to make organic claims. However, these products must also meet all other relevant federal legislation"

Certified organic labels worldwide
"There are more than 400 bodies claiming to offer organic certification services. Some are governmental agencies while most are private organizations."