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 Right Brain responds:
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.
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). Is it really a cause for concern? Of course not because they’re it’s in low concentrations and it’s reacted (or used up) so it’s 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?
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.
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.