A little knowledge

A thought for the wee hours

In the abscence of any major scare stories in the press I thought I would go looking for things to rant about in the alternative sector of my fair industry. You don’t have to look far to get the blood pressure rising!

This is a rant about “Ethical/organic/natural” type products marketed to the fully committed vegetarian or vegan.

Now I’m not saying anything against vegetarians or vegans. Its a perfectly valid lifestyle choice, and in some ways your average non meat eater has at least put some thought into what they stuff into their gobs. Quite often they have to as a diet without meat or in the case of Veganism, any animal product or derivative, can be be more challenging to keep balanced when the easy sources of stuff like iron and protein that come pre-packed at Tesco are not an option.

I’ve also eaten vegetarian meals, and liked them, but I do like meat as well, so its not a choice I’m likely to make just yet.

Now getting back to the topic for tonight. If you’re concerned on a political level about what you eat, its not unusual to consider what you wear and what you slap on your skin…

Now I have an interest in Sunscreens and SPF products. Its one of the things that I know a bit about, and the technology involved is a whole section of chemistry and physics all to itself. What gets to me is when the fads for naturalness and nasty-free get in the way of a good product. A good sunscreen is not by any measure a “Natural” “Feel-good” product. It’s there to do a specific job in a very specific way, and is tested in a very scientific manner. Its the most scientific that a toiletries bod is ever going to be. As a formulator you have a moral duty to do your best on one of these.
I give you exhibit a

Now have a read of what it says: there are a few tell-tales which are like a big red light to those of us in the industry

“Organic Hemp Seed Oil Sun Block combines the natural protective, moisturising and rejuvenating qualities of organic hemp seed oil with the most effective and least damaging chemical sunblocks to produce a safe and protective lotion that is vegan, free from parabens, harmful substances and unnecessary chemical additives”

OK, that bit is pure Marketing fluff. A bit of a red rag to the mainstream formulator, but this is a niche market, so the copy is appropriate and wouldn’t get the MHRA or trading standards pissed off.

“Hemp Sun Block Ingredients

Distilled water, glyceryl stearate, cetearyl glucoside, aloe vera, cocunut fragrance, organic hemp seed oil, potassium sorbate, vegetable glycerin, vitamin E, xanthan gel.

SPF 30: Active ingredients: octocrylene (8%), octyl methoxycinnamate (7.5%), zinc oxide (5%).
SPF 15: Active ingredients: octyl methoxy-cinnamate (7%), oxybenzone (3%).”

Ding Ding! This is an American product, not made in the EU or destined for there. The ingredient listing is technically illegal as it doesn’t conform to EU regs. Also only the yanks list the sunscreens separate with percentages. This is because in the good old US of A, a sunscreen (NOT A SUNBLOCK, thats not an approved description over here either buddy) is controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They treat sunscreen as an OTC (Over The Counter) pharmaceutical, so you have to list the active ingredients in percentages. They are also about 20 years behind us on what they allow in the monograph, so the average yank is not that well protected

For the ingredient listing to be fully EU complaint it would read something like this for the F30

Distilled water Aqua, Octocrylene, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, Zinc oxide, glyceryl stearate, cetearyl glucoside, aloe vera  Aloe barbadensis extract, cocunut fragrance Parfum, organic hemp seed oil Cannabis sativa seed oil, potassium sorbate, vegetable glycerin, vitamin E Tocopherol or Tocopheryl Acetate, xanthan gel. gum.

Well that is a bit better

Now looking at that, its not complex, uses a simple emulsifying system with only one stabilizer (Xanthan gum) so I wouldn’t want to be leaving it anywhere too hot. It only uses one preservative (Potassium sorbate) which isn’t all that effective on its own, and there is no way that is water resistant. No waterproofing thingies in there, so if you sweat its gonna come off.

Also did a few calculations, and the estimated SPF is around 20 with not brilliant UVA rating. I don’t think the big players have much to worry about.

So why get upset about it. Its only a few people who might get burned by this sort of stuff, and its not that important?

I had my thoughts reinforced for me when one of my young daughters little friends lost her dad 6 months ago to malignant melanoma. If he had used decent quality sunscreen, and protected his skin with decent product when he was younger, who knows.

Cheap sunscreen is available in all the supermarkets. Its good quality, so use it

and give these buggers a donation as well while you’re at it

Cancer research UK


One response to “A little knowledge

  1. Despite all the negative coverage, there are times when preservatives are your friends, for things that you eat and things that you slather on your skin. Yes, preservatives can trump natural for all the reasons that you outline so well.

    For those of us who are fair-skinned to the point of being beyond porcelain (but with freckles), sunblock is essential.

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