How hard is for a woman to walk away and never look back to mainstream brands when these are the ones that tell us the coolest and most glamorous stories about lifestyle? C’mon! It’s haaard! Who does not want sparkle in their lives? ... But, what’s the ticket price for the fith-ave-hollywood-star high life destination?
I was a firm believer; I thought that buying the ultimate perfumes, the ultimate high-tech skin care I’ll feel more in tune with my dreamed lifestyle. I was working in fashion industry as a model and this is what it was all about, fashion, trends, exclusive brands, travels and glamour lots of glamour. Thus, I couldn’t understand why I was suffering from skin problems; I was doing everything right as Dior God dictated! Why then?!?!? If I was a good Elisabeth Arden fellow, I only bought top high La Prairie foundation, only YSL lippies and CHANEL mascaras...I was sure I was following the right pathway... but was I?
Mum suggested showing me how to do my own beauty products like nanna did and my great granny and so on... but that wasn’t glamorous, that was “homey”. And this went on until I had to humble myself and learn what all this things were about. Anyway that was my experience, so I hope I save you some time with this blog post and help you make better choices when shopping, cos it’s all about knowing, isn’t it?
Why does a cosmetic expire? A natural cosmetic is usually a formula based on plant substances that are mixed to improve skin condition. Some of these active ingredients may degrade over time; and in addition, the formula itself deteriorates as well losing its therapeutic properties. For example, a cream is a two-phases product, an hydrophilic (aqueous) phase blended to a lipophilic one (oily) bonded by an emulsifier (usually a wax) giving birth to a cream, lotion or emulsion depending on the dosage used for each phase. Opposite to petroleum derivates used in mainstream cosmetics, each natural element composing an organic beauty product has its own live or expiring date leading to the loss of their therapeutic properties- at the end of the day they are living beings-. Whether the product has been open or kept unopened at the warehouse the process of degradation will occur eventually at some point. The expiring date will be determined by the capacity of the formula to be effective, two years is the average time for most natural formulas. Once open and due to exposure to oxygen, pollution and temperature changes among others the process of degradation accelerates turning the average recommended expiring date from three to six months for optimal consumption.
What is exactly what happens to the different substances for expiring? Let’s have a close up and see where the tricky element is. Fats The lipophilic phase is made of the fatty substances: vegetal oils and butters. Bacteria live and develop in water, oily and fatty substances might be hydrolysed over time releasing fatty acids and triglycerides which may develop an oxidation process, forming peroxides and hydro-peroxides compounds toxic to the skin. In English please? Yes. This is when the oil gets rancid acquiring the characteristic musty smell we all know making the oil losing its beneficial properties and producing skin irritation.
Essential oils These are the substances used as preservatives, fragrance and/or flavourings. However they cover a wider range of beneficial properties such as antiseptic and antibacterial elements as well as a potent mood tuner due to their ability to arouse different emotions. However, part of their value lies in its ability to expand in the atmosphere thanks to its high volatility; making them futile at the same time and therefore reducing its concentration till to an eventual disappearance. Antioxidants and Emulsifiers Some natural substances have the property of preventing chemical oxidation. Therefore they are used to avoid rancidity on fatty substances -as described previously- yet protect skin from free radicals and prevent premature ageing. The function of emulsifiers is to bond the aqueous phase to the oily one that would not occur in other way as oil is not soluble in water. They might also lose effectiveness over time getting the two phases again apart, like a broken mayonnaise. (Did you know that mayo is originally from Spain? Yes the original recipe was created in Mahon, Menorca and in Spain is still often called mahonesa as per the original name)
Chemical and bacterial contamination Once a cosmetic is open it is exposed to different sources of contamination. For example the oxidation due to oxygen exposure triggering processes previously mentioned such as rancidity. However, the most frequent is bacterial contamination. Because are in contact with your hands and thus the bacteria that inhabit them regularly. Bacteria degradation occurs changing the cream composition. Natural preservatives such as anti-oxidants are used on the making of a natural cream to avoid this bacteria growth.
Heat and temperature changes Did you know that you are shortening your sunscreen life by carrying it to the beach and exposing it to the radiation and heat? Yep, exposing natural cosmetics to high temperatures increases the formula degradation and accelerates the oxidation increasing bacterial contamination.
Thus, which cosmetic expire first the mainstream one or the organic/natural one? Which one is safer? The key resides in the amount of water or aqueous phase that contains as here is where bacteria grow and other “bad” microorganisms that degrade a cosmetic. You’d be surprised by the high amount of water contained in mainstream cosmetics; furthermore most conventional cosmetics have a myriad of substances many of which we don’t have much experience with- this is the reason why they test on animals as some are dangerous substances-. Besides, watch out for how long was that mainstream cream stocked as today we know that long periods of time cause strong chemical reactions between synthetic molecules and other components contained in conventional creams creating high toxicity.
In conclusion it’s all about what you choose to be in contact with, plants or synthetic? At the end of the day creams are made in very similar ways, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re looking for a vegetable oil/butter or a petroleum derived mineral oil/jelly to feed your skin with. It is also important to understand that everything explained here doesn't apply only to creams but also makeup products, baby’s hygiene range and bath products. So here's a tip: for optimal performance, natural and organic cosmetics should be kept in a cool, dry and dark place to keep them “unaffected” as long as possible. With natural you’re always in good hands.
I still believe that women cosmetics should be luxurious; the difference now is that I firmly believe the content is far more important than the container. Today I find the sparkle in real things, in being true to myself and embrace the good natural things this planet has to offer.