Archive for the ‘Ingredients’ Category

Plantation crops roses. Roses used in perfume industry.

We’re pretty much rose-obsessed here at Cocoon Apothecary which is pretty obvious when you walk into our headquarters and see giant rose wallpaper adorning our wall and as well as six of our skin care products formulated with its petals and seeds. We’re not the only ones in love with this universal symbol for love, beauty, the divine feminine. Rose is the most classic beauty ingredient in the world, spanning continents and centuries. There isn’t much in recorded ‘his’tory about this but Cleopatra reportedly bathed her skin in rose water. There’s a reason why it has been a staple in skin care for so long. It has amazing properties that are cooling, soothing, purifying, and anti-aging.

The most popular type of rose used for skin care is Damask rose (Rosa damascena), which hails from the Middle East but is produced in the highest quantities in Turkey. It is a pink flower with a powdery, floral, citrus aroma that is also a favorite in the perfume industry.

There are two different types of rose petal products we use here at Cocoon:

Rose absolute: An aromatic similar to essential oil that’s solvent-extracted from rose petals. In my opinion, it is a better choice for skin care than rose otto (the essential oil from distillation) because it contains higher levels of antioxidant phenols, beta-carotene, and vitamin E, which repair and protect skin from free radical damage caused by the sun, stress, and pollution. It is also high in phenylethyl alcohol, which acts as an effective anti-microbial, keeping skin free of harmful bacteria. We add it to our Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream and Today Moisturizing Serum.

Rose hydrosol: This is the water left over after rose petals have been distilled. It is more similar to rose otto than rose absolute in biochemistry so it’s all about the cooling, soothing, anti-inflammatory properties thanks to geraniol, citronellol, and nerol. It is also astringent, helping to tighten and refine pores. It is the only ingredient in our Rose Dew Facial Toner.

Rose isn’t just a pretty flower. It’s a hardworking, bioactive beauty ingredient that helps nourish and protect the epidermis while reducing pore size and calming redness. Not to mention the soft, romantic aroma that permeates the air it’s released in. With an ancient history of caring for skin, it continues to be the most precious beauty ingredient in the world.

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Myth: Rosehip oil causes your skin to be more sensitive to the sun i.e. it’s phototoxic
Fact: There are absolutely no studies that indicate this. The confusion may be because rosehip oil contains a natural retinoid (vitamin A) so some would assume that it would have the same characteristics as isolated, synthetic versions such as Retinol. This is false and we must understand that chemicals found within nature do not act the same as synthetic or isolated versions.

Myth: Rosehip oil has a short shelf life – 3 to 6 months.
Fact: The rosehip oil that we just received was produced in October 2013 and has an expiry date of October 2016 so it’s more like 3 years.

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ImageOrigin: Italy

Scent: Light citrusy floral with a hint of honey. Relaxing and uplifting.

Neroli essential oil is extracted from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium amara) by steam distillation. The name neroli was coined in the 17th century by the princess of Nerola, Italy, who introduced the essence as a perfume for gloves and baths. It is a beautiful aroma, highly sought after by the perfume industry.

Neroli’s main constituents are linalool, limonene, nerol and geraniol. It is a purifying essential oil with antiseptic and antifungal properties. It has anti-aging properties on the skin that aid in cell generation and improve circulation. It is an astringent making it ideal for oily skin types.

The main use of neroli in aromatherapy is to stabilize the nervous system especially in regards to anxiety. It is also used to treat postpartum depression, facilitate birthing and prevent stretch marks. It is a digestive stimulant.

You can find neroli essential in our Orange Blossom Facial Cream and Neroli Natural Perfume Oil.

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Rose ProfileOrigin: Bulgaria

Scent: Romantic, sweet, honey, powder, floral, soft. The scent of rose is uplifting, soothing and anti-anxiety.

Roses have been part of human history for a very long time. They are the symbol of love, beauty, femininity and the Divine. They are used medicinally, culinarily and in perfumery around the world.

Rose hydrosol is the water that is created when extracting essential oil from the petals by steam distillation. It contains water with a soluble amount of essential oil. The therapeutic components of the hydrosol are approximately 80% phenetheyl alcohol, an antimicrobial. It is produced from the pink rose plant called Rosa Damascena, member of the rosaceae family indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. Rose hydrosol has high levels of antioxidant polyphenols to fight aging and cellular damage in the skin. It is soothing, cooling, anti-inflammatory and very astringent, making it ideal for aiding puffiness in the eye area.

Rose hydrosol or ‘water’ has been used in beauty preparations for thousands of years all over the world. In Ayruvedic medicine it is used as an eye wash and to tone and cool the skin.

Organic rose hydrosol can be found in our Rose Dew Facial Toner and our Eyewaken Eye Cream.

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Rose ProfileOrigin: Bulgaria

Scent: Romantic, sweet, honey, powder, floral, soft. The scent of rose is uplifting, soothing and anti-anxiety.

Roses have been part of human history for a very long time. They are the symbol of love, beauty, femininity and the Divine. They are used medicinally, culinarily and in perfumery around the world.

Rose absolute is extracted from the petals of the pink rose plant called Rosa Damascena, member of the rosaceae family indigenous to Europe and the Middle East. Rose absolute has high levels of antioxidant tocopherols, phenolics and beta carotenes to fight aging and cellular damage in the skin. It is soothing, cooling and anti-inflammatory making it ideal for sensitive skin, rosacea and broken capillaries. It is antibacterial and astringent keeping pores clean and refined. Its main constituents are phenethyl alcohol, geraniol and citronellol.

The petals are used traditionally in Europe to aid digestion and as a tonic to the nervous system and the endocrine system. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses them to remove blood stagnation, nourish the skin, and improve digestion.

Rose is currently being researched for its anti-cancer abilities likely due to its high level of geraniol, which has be shown to prohibit cancer cell growth.

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We received this email recently with a very interesting question about our products that contain neroli (orange blossom) essential oil.

“I realized that the neroli essential oil contains two components that I’m not too sure about:
Linalool: 16%, which has a ewg rating of 5.
Limonene: 20.30%, which has a ewg rating of 6.
I know that these compounds are naturally present in just about any neroli oil, but I have some reservations about using a products with these components.”
Good question, and I can see the why the confusion exists. If you visit the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database, you will notice that neroli essential oil is rated a 0 (safe) but, as stated above, two of its components are rated 5 and 6 (not safe) due to being allergens. There are a few things that can explain the difference in safety.
1. When aroma chemicals such as limonene and linalool are listed on labels, it usually means they were produced synthetically from petroleum rather than extracted from a plant (but this can get super-confusing since the European Union requires companies to list these chemicals even if they are within an essential oil). Many times they aren’t listed at all because they get grouped into the ingredient ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’. Contrary to what most people seem to believe, there ARE variances in synthetic versions of aroma chemicals vs. their natural counterpart. This is proven by the fact that there are several tests used in the essential oil community to determine if a product has been adulterated by ‘nature-identical’ synthetics, which are easily disguised as natural components. They can find synthetic markers such as dihydrolinalool and variances in isomers.
2. Essential oils are synergies of many aroma chemicals that can offset each other. For instance, citral can create a reaction on the skin on its own but when limonene is added, it does not. Methyleugenol, which is considered carcinogenic on its own, is safe within rose and citronella essential oils because there are enough anti-cancer chemicals to balance it out.
3. The dose is often much smaller in an essential oil than when added to a perfume as an isolated ingredient.
This doesn’t mean that some people won’t be allergic to certain essential oils such as lavender, neroli and rose but I believe that the chances of reaction are much higher in the high dose, synthetic version of chemicals used by the fragrance industry than by natural, unadulterated plant extracts.

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It is estimated that chemicals from personal care products are in 80% of the water in the United States. Some of the effects of this pollution include male fish being feminized and coral reef being destroyed.

Here is a list of the top chemicals to avoid:

Chemical sunscreens – The WTO estimates that 6000 tons of chemical sunscreen ends up in the coral reefs “bleaching” it of life-sustaining algae. The most common one used is oxybenzone. Look for for physical (mineral) sunscreens such as zinc and titanium. To find this information on the label, look for ‘active ingredients’ where it will list the sunscreen.

Nanoparticles – When choosing a physical sunscreen, look for ‘non-nano’ zinc and titanium. There are many concerns about nanoparticles’ effect on algae and aquatic life.

Synthetic musk – A carcinogenic ingredient that is contained in many perfumes and is toxic to aquatic life. Not good for humans either so avoid it! If you want to smell beautiful, look for natural perfumes and products scented with pure essential oils.

Triclosan – An anti-bacterial agent that is very toxic to algae and bio-accumulates in fish. Soap is all you need on your hands. For extra antibacterial properties, choose one with tea tree or lavender essential oils.

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I got a massive headache yesterday from being around too much department store perfume in a closed setting. I find this disconcerting because I am not a sensitive person otherwise. It leads me to believe that this is an extremely toxic substance and could be contributing to numerous health problems in people. The Environmental Working Group rates synthetic fragrance as an 8 out of 10 for toxicity.

The problem is that it is in basically everything – from household cleaners to hair mousse – but what  I find particularly offensive is when ‘natural’ companies put it in their products and give their customers the misleading idea that they are using something non-toxic. You have to be a smart shopper. If there is a label to read, look for ingredients listed as parfum, perfume or fragrance. If it is an essential oil, it will be listed as the Latin botanical name with it’s common name in parenthesis i.e. Lavendula angustifolia (lavender).

Here is a list of scents that are likely synthetic because there is no common way of extracting it from nature:

Non-citrus fruits: apple, banana, coconut, mango, papaya, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, grape, pineapple, pumpkin, watermelon, peach, pomegranate, fig, cherry, melon.

Desserts & Sweets: Caramel, butter cream, coffee cake, creme brûlée, maple sugar, cake, coconut cream, candy, amaretto, bubblegum.

Some Flowers: Lilac, lily of the valley, orchid, plumeria, freesia, peach blossom, cherry blossom, sweet pea.

Other misc. scents: Rain, ocean, fresh laundry, amber, musk, cucumber.

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First of all, I would like to say that I have lost three people to cancer in the last month – my uncle, my friend and my stepfather’s sister. All of them far too young to be leaving their spouses and children behind.  With every death, I became more frustrated with the fact that they died and no one knows why. How do we not have any definitive answers to the cause of cancer? We know carcinogens exist but there seems to be such a political battle over what to be concerned about – especially in the cosmetic and skin care industry.

Case in point, parabens, the cosmetic preservative that is used rampantly by many of the large cosmetic companies.  On January 12 of this year, a report was published by the Journal of Applied Toxicology that measured the amount of parabens in different sections of the breast by testing tissue samples from the mastectomies of 40 different patients. Of the 160 tissue samples tested, 158 had parabens in them. That’s 99%. Also, the levels of parabens were found to be significantly higher in the region closest to the armpit which contributes to the suspicion that they are originating from antiperspirants (although 7 of the 40 patients had never used underarm products). This propelled a slew of media about the subject including an article by The Sun in the UK.  In response to this article, three breast cancer charities have published a letter rebutting this article and the study behind it. As they put it, “This research has serious flaws and provides no proof to suggest that women should be concerned about parabens”. I was puzzled by this letter. Why would the people that are paid to find the causes of breast cancer make statements of this nature … who are they protecting? I really got suspicious when I read this line, “Despite the fact that Professor Sharpe comments, ‘The study does not address whether parabens contribute to risk of breast cancer’, we feel by the nature of the rest of the article the damage to concerned women will already have been done.”  What damage? The only damage I can think of would be to the companies that still formulate with parabens. This got me digging and lo and behold I found what I suspected – a corporate sponsorship by Avon, the maker of cosmetics with parabens galore. See what I mean by politics?

I know that I’ve said this before, but until we get some answers about what is causing people to develop this life-threatening disease, everything is suspect – especially a chemical that is found in the breast tissue of mastectomy patients! These are people’s lives we are talking about and they are a lot more important than the profits of companies that don’t have the ethics to formulate responsibly.

If you are concerned about this chemical, look for the following on your cosmetic and skin care labels – butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben; methylparaben and propylparaben.

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I am not a cosmetic chemist but I do formulate products. I don’t have a degree in microbiology but I have deep respect for microbes and what they can do to enhance or destroy my formulas. I am an artist, a crafter and an alchemist. I procure botanicals then I melt them, mix them, and bottle them. In this process, I must adhere to strict sanitation codes, ingredient safety knowledge and the very serious and challenging issue of preserving the products.


I’ve noticed some talk on the net that I find very offensive from cosmetic chemists. I’ve run into it several times and I have even had a heated argument on Linked In (I know, lame). Some chemists feel that natural products are a joke and that small artisans have no right to exist. They paint us as snake oil salespeople with dirty dungeons filled with cauldrons and cobwebs (double double  toil and trouble).

Listen nerds, if you didn’t make crappy petroleum laden products and test on billions of animals, I suppose you wouldn’t be feeling so threatened right now.

The truth is that skin care, body care, cosmetics and perfume have always been made by artisans – for thousands of years. It was only in the last century that industrial age of petrochemicals took over and everything became about patents and profits (while poisoning everyone and everything). Fortunately, just like the food industry is veering away from processed junk in favor of whole foods, the beauty industry is becoming reacquainted with ingredients we have always used…and big beauty is not part of this. It would be impossible to swap their ultra cheap petroleum byproducts that they buy from BF Goodrich for botanicals from farms around the world. It would be a financial disaster so they keep pumping out new science (with animal testing), old generic formulas and HUGE marketing campaigns.

You have break it down to this – your skin is a living, breathing organ that can be nourished into looking great for a very long time. How do you nourish the rest of your body? By eating mineral oil tinkered with by scientists. Do you get your food from a lab? It’s the same thing. If you are serious about having beautiful, healthy skin, you’ll feed it what it craves – botanical oils, extracts, butters and waters.

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