Bacteria are hot!

Photo credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN

Just a few short years ago, even as of today, we were buying products that resulted in the demise of “99%” of the germs on our hands, our skin, our hair, or in our mouth. Those nasty bugs on our bods create all kinds of havoc! They don’t deserve to live! Thus, an avalanche of antibacterial toothpastes and lotions and shampoos and dish soaps greeted us on the store shelves.

And, anyone looking for a product that did not include anti-bacterial ingredients had a tough time finding one.

Among the latest trends in cosmetics today is a recognition that bacteria are not purely harmful. Most of the bugs that call our skin and hair home are harmless and some are even beneficial to our health. Like the “probiotic” trend in foods, products that maintain healthy bacteria and yeasts in the gut, cosmetic manufacturers are now looking at a “probiotic” approach to creams and lotions. One track is “feeding” existing “good” bacteria through specialized ingredients or “prebiotics.” A second track is adding bacteria to cosmetics, a similar approach to “probiotic” foods.

In either case, the jury is still out on effectiveness. Skeptics say that evidence is insufficient to warrant adding live bacteria to cosmetics. In addition, they point to regulations that prohibit the sale of “contaminated” products and wonder how the intentional addition of bacteria will be permitted.

Photo credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN

We are in a new world where cosmetics are concerned, and consumers are curious about the prospects of healthier skin and hair through use of these products. Get ready to see “Beauty and the Bugs” at a cosmetic counter near you, as the big manufacturers are seeing a “healthy” market demand on the near horizon!

Eco-friendly cosmetics … a trend here to stay?

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

We noted in a previous post that sales of male grooming products are increasing. However, that is not the sole trend in cosmetics these days.

One other trend is the increasing awareness by consumers of ec0-friendly products. The conscious consumer is directing his/her money on products that are “morally” correct.

For example, the consumer today wants to buy organic, eat locally, recycle, etc. The consumer wants to “do no harm” to our planet, to our society, to ourselves. (We will discuss “conscious consumerism” in another post.)

What does this mean for cosmetic purchases?

First, it means sustainability of ingredients. Does the cosmetic contain ingredients made from animals or plants that are endangered or cannot be sustained? Is the technology that produces these products itself eco-friendly? Does the use of green technological raw materials guarantee high levels of quality, sustainability and longer lasting performances?

Second, eco-friendly purchases are very difficult to make. In fact, consumers are at the mercy of product marketers. For example, just because a label says “natural” or “green” or “organic” does not mean much. No one regulates the use of these, and other, terms. Thus, we have “green washing” – marketing of terms, rather than ec0-friendly products.

Still, the consumer wants to be part of the eco-friendly movement, spending his/her dollars on “good” products. Elizabeth Nichin, in her blog post in the Feminist Beauty Project (http://tinyurl.com/ycuganoc) recommends three ways that consumers can be vigilant in their purchases: buy small (e.g., look for artisans offering hand crafted cosmetics), read labels (how often have we said that!), and contact the companies that manufacture your favorite products. Ask them questions. Get the information you need.

The eco-friendly trend may be short lived, as the problems might be too overwhelming for the average consumer. Still, manufacturers are very aware of trends and need to adjust accordingly. Several large companies are slowly moving in that direction (perhaps more from an economic perspective than moral), while others (e.g., Dr. Bronner, Lush, American Provenance) have maintained their commitment since their beginnings.

Other trends will be discussed in upcoming posts.

Botwana Sunrise

Another beautiful morning here!

We found a blog post done by Liana Mehring back in 2012 (http://tinyurl.com/y7ofurxo), while she was a student at Georgetown and studying in Botswana for a semester. Her comments are very enlightening and offer anyone, with an interest in knowing more about this lovely country, an insight to its many aspects.

The blog post is printed in its entirety here:

“What can language tell us about a country? Botswana means “place of Tswana.” The Tswana are the dominant ethnic group in Botswana, and the citizenry of Botswana are referred to as Batswana, or the Tswana people. Setswana is the language of the Tswana people and the dominant national language. To recap, you have the Batswana people living in Botswana and speaking Setswana.

The prefixes change the meaning of the word Tswana, with bo referring to the land, ba to the people, and se to the language. The term Batswana, however, bears a double meaning. In official government rhetoric, Batswana is an all-inclusive term for the entire country’s citizenry. Ironically, the word contradicts this rhetorical inclusiveness by specifically referring to the ethnically Tswana people as distinct from the country’s various other ethnic groups.

This double meaning highlights a tension in Botswana between an official narrative of national unity on the one hand, and the reality of a diverse population dominated by the Tswana people on the other. This double meaning also perpetuates the dominant, albeit debatable, assertion that Botswana’s success and stability as a multiparty liberal democracy is rooted in its having a ethnically homogeneous population. Although this homogeneity is certainly a contributing factor to Botswana’s national success, I would argue that the responsible management of the country’s valuable natural resources, including its diamonds, is an even greater source of stability.

Linguistically supported fictions perpetrated by the government, however, contribute to the myth of a non-ethnic society despite the presence of minority ethnic groups, such as the Kalanga, Kgalagadi, Herero, and Yeyi. In the 1990s, these groups challenged the Tswana majority for both recognition and influence in Botswana. At its worst, the Tswana majority’s non-ethnic rhetoric is superficially harmonizing and ultimately supremacist in effect. At its best, however, such this language could be a means to realizing a genuine ideal of civic participation being open to all individuals regardless of their ethnic identity. Thus it is clear that double meanings abound in Botswana.

Pula is also a word saturated with meaning and symbolism. It is most immediately the Setswana term for rain, but it is also the term for the country’s currency. As a landlocked nation covered largely by the Kalahari Desert, rainwater is a scarce and extremely valuable commodity in Botswana. Pula is also a term for blessing or luck. As such it is the national motto of Botswana and is featured on their coat of arms. A single word encapsulates the rain that nourishes the country’s crops, as well as the wealth and blessings that follow from this rain.

Names in Setswana also bear a multilayered significance. Nicknames are common here, running the spectrum from the clever to the absurd. So far, I’ve either met or heard of people named Reptile, Touch, Oral, Laptop, Danger, and Swimming Pool. Nicknames like Kelly and John are often a Westernization of traditional names, mercifully offered for the benefit of foreigners like me. This is despite my best efforts to pronounce the guttural g’s and rolled r’s in Setswana, which are usually cut short with, “You can just call me Kelly.” But beneath every nickname and anglicization is the Setswana name given by someone’s parents, each one with its own unique significance.

For example, everyone knows one of my friends as Double O. Sitting with him on the benches outside the dorms, I’m likely to hear “Double O” shouted at random across the quad, identifiable amid a stream of rapidly spoken Setswana. Double O’s name is derived from his first name Omphemetse, which means “I saved you.” His second name, Mogomotsi, translates to “someone who offers comfort and solace.” These names fit his personality as someone who is a loyal friend to those who know him. The second “O” comes from his last name, Oneile, meaning, “he has given.” This fulfills Double O’s designation as a caregiver: Omphemetse Mogomotsi Oneile, a savior who has given comfort.

While talking about the significance of names in Botswana, Double O said that he believes names sometimes function as self-fulfilling prophecies. For example, he knows someone named Kenosi who is an old man without a wife or kids. His sole caregiver is someone who, in Double O’s own sympathetic words, “isn’t even a relative.” Kenosi in Setswana means, “I am alone.” Double O also has an uncle named Senatla, which roughly means, “someone who works hard and does that work perfectly.” Senatla’s name embodies his work ethic, and he is beloved throughout his village for working hard to plan weddings, funerals, and other important life events.

Double O was quick to add that these examples were merely his own observations. But now that I’m aware of this unproven yet intriguing phenomenon, I’m eager to discern the meaning behind every name. As for me, a couple of my local friends spontaneously gave me a Setswana name, Keitumetse, which means, ‘I am happy.'”

Sixth mass extinction: The era of ‘biological annihilation’

We read, with no small concern, a recent CNN article by John D. Sutter, columnist. He notes several statistics that should not be ignored, such as, “three-quarters of all species could disappear in the coming centuries.”

That is a scary thought.

For those of us with DLG Naturals, who live and work in Botswana, home of some of Africa’s most majestic animals, including the elephant, the idea of losing elephants, for example, is depressing.

Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, “On the one hand, you can say, ‘All right, we still have around 400,000 elephants in Africa, and that seems like a really big number. But then, if you step back, that’s cut by more than half of what their populations were in the early part of last century. There were well over 1 million elephants (then). And if you look at what’s happened in the last decade, we have been culling their numbers so fast that if we kept up with that pace, there would be no more wild elephants in Africa in 20 years.” (Emphasis added).

And that is just elephants.

Already gone:
In 2008, the Chinese River Dolphin.
In 2000, the Pyrenean Ibex.
In 1989, the Golden Toad.
And earlier in the recent past: Tasmanian Wolf, Bubal Hartebeest, Quagga Zebra, Cape Lion, Caribbean Monk Seal.

Probable upcoming extinctions:
Javan Rhinoceros, Snow Leopard, Tiger, Asian Elephant, Vaquita Porpoise, Mountain Gorilla, Sumatran Orangutan, Leatherback Turtle.

Several well recognized animals are at high risk, including the Panda, Polar Bear, Wolves, Jaguar. and others.

“…there is little disagreement among scientists that humans are driving an unprecedented ecological crisis. And the causes are well-known. People are burning fossil fuels, contributing to climate change. They’re chopping down forests and other habitat for agriculture, to the point 37% of Earth’s land surface now is farmland or pasture, according to the World Bank. The global population of people continues to rise, along with our thirst for land and consumption. And finally, but not exclusively, poachers are driving numbers of elephants, pangolins, rhinos, giraffes and other creatures with body parts valuable on the black market to worryingly low levels.”

The article concludes that time remains to remedy the situation. However, a desire to find solutions is required, and that desire is in question.

Butylated hydroxy…what???

Photo credit: Tyla’75 via Flickr.

Ever been to the store to buy a bottle of shampoo or lotion? How about a cosmetics counter at the local mall for a lipstick? Ever try to read the label for the ingredients? Oh, you need your glasses, you say? The font is so small as to be nearly illegible?

Or, worse, the list contains ingredients that are hardly pronounceable, much less recognized as commonly used words:

Butylated what???

If you are curious enough to continue reading here, we will provide a wee bit of useful information about butylated hydroxytoluene (also known as BHT) and its cousin, butylated hydroxyanisole (if you guessed BHA, you win the prize!).

Those two cosmetic ingredients sound like something from a chemistry lab belonging to Dr. Frankenstein, which is fairly accurate. Both are synthetic antioxidants used in cosmetics as preservatives, particularly in moisturizers and lipsticks.

No one likes moldy, slimy, unpreserved lipstick!  Bacterai, mold…. Yuck!

Unfortunately, neither ingredient is considered totally safe to use. BHA is often found in foods but is a possible human carcinogen. BHT is also a food additive but is also found in household products, industrial additives, pesticides, and plastic and rubber. BHT may interfere with hormone balances, affect kidney, lung, and thyroid function, as well as alter blood coagulation ability, and cause behavioral problems in children.

The European Union prohibits the use of BHA as fragrance ingredient, while California requires warning labels on products with BHA, as a possible cancer causing agent.

Maybe you are wondering if an antioxidant in your lipstick is worth the risk. You should wonder.

The David Suzuki Foundation notes, “U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks). Imagine what that does to your skin, and to the environment.” http://www.davidsuzuki.org

We recommend reading the list of ingredients for all your cosmetics. Knowing what you are putting in your hair, on your skin, on your lips and eyelids can make a difference in your life.

We will be looking at p-phenylenediamine in a future post.

The Movember Foundation

We mentioned the Movember Movement in a previous post pertaining to male grooming. The Movember Foundation has a keen interest in men, but not merely for personal grooming. The foundation is tackling major health problems that affect men, e.g., testicular cancer.
The foundation notes on its U.S. website, https://us.movember.com, “The state of men’s health is in crisis. Men experience worse longer-term health than women and die on average six years earlier. Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years.” (One in eight women in the US, but one in seven men will develop prostate cancer.) “Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year. That’s one every minute.”
The organization had its birth in Australia in 2003, when two guys, Travis Garone and Luke Slattery, wondered if they could bring the mustache back into fashion. In their effort, they started raising funds for charity, specifically oriented toward men’s health concerns.
In 2004, they established the Movember Foundation.
By 2006, New Zealand became active, and the two countries raised over $8,000,000 with 29 men’s health projects being funded in three years.
By 2008, seven countries were participating, raising $46,000,000 and 152 projects funded.
21 countries were involved by 2012, with over $400,000,000 raised since 2003
The foundation, via it international efforts, has raised over $700,000,000 in its lifetime and funded over 1200 health projects, all as a result of a conversation about mustaches.
For more information and how to participate in events or donate, please go to www.movember.com

Hey, You Guys, Say Goodbye to English Leather and Hello to Anti-Fatigue Eye Gel

In the world of personal care and cosmetics, several trends are becoming apparent. First, men – who have historically been more concerned with underarm deodorant and after-shave colognes – are becoming increasing interested in personal grooming. Mounting sales are occurring in concealers, skin whitening solutions, sun screens, anti-aging creams, and moisturizers.

Photo credit: FashionBeans.com

Of course, for the bearded and mustached among us (see the “Movember Movement”), balms and oils are also popular. We must keep that facial hair properly coiffed!

Why this change? The rise of the metrosexual and “ubersexual” (that “manly man,” who displays all the good qualities of the gender), plus targeted advertising across all realms of media and celebrity endorsements, have pushed male grooming into a new sphere of relevance. We are witnessing a crossing of boundaries of age, economic status, gender, and geography where cosmetics are concerned.

Further, and very important for those of us in the naturals products industry, increasing interest is also noted in natural and organic ingredients. Men believe that products containing fewer synthetics and chemicals may be better for the skin.

The trend is not limited to the United States. International sales of male grooming products are expected to exceed 40 billion dollars by 2020, with Europe the largest market. And, the big corporations have taken notice. Men (and the women who love them!) can expect to see many more products on the store shelves in the near future.

Beta-Sitosterol and why cosmetic companies should know about it

Anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory; these are some of the effects exhibited upon the consumption of a certain phytosterol called Beta-Sitosterol. Beta-Sitosterol is found in many plants, and therefore is also found in many natural cosmetic oils.  Although there has long been serious consideration and discussion about the effects of applying Beta-Sitosterols directly to the skin, it wasn’t until recently where an important study was published that states the success of this phytosterol when applied as a skin serum.

The first study that was done was completed in 2014 and focused specifically on Beta-Sitosterol’s effect on atopic skin lesions that resemble dermatitis.  The group of scientists conducting the study noted that Beta-Sitosterol has been proven to have positive health effects when consumed, but there has been little to no research testing its application to skin. After observing and testing skin lesions using Beta-Sitosterols and a control serum, they confirmed their hypothesis saying that Beta-Sitosterol “can be helpful in treating allergic inflammatory diseases including atopic dermatitis.”

So how does this pertain to us?  Well it turns out that natural oils from South Africa contain impressive levels of Beta-Sitosterol.  For example, our Marula oil contains 287 mg/100g of b-Sitosterol, our Baobab oil – 438 mg/100g, and our Kalahari Melon Seed oil contains an impressive 486 mg/100g.  For comparison, olive oil, on average, has 80-97 mg/100g of Beta-Sitosterol.  We are hopeful that as further research becomes available on this specific phytosterol we will be able to collectively understand more about the positive effects of Beta-Sitosterol.

Virgin or Cold Pressed – Which is it?

We know you have heard all about virgin oils and cold pressed oils, but what do these labels really mean?  Let’s start with the similarities.  Both virgin oils and cold pressed oils are obtained by mostly mechanical procedures, as opposed to chemical procedures that may alter the nature of the oils.

Fresh Marula Oil straight from the press.

Examples of mechanical methods of obtaining oil include expelling or pressing.  Upon extracting the oils, they typically incur multiple stages of further purification which can include techniques such as settling, filtering or centrifuging.  The striking difference between these two oil classifications is the application of heat.

While extracting and refining virgin oils, applying heat is the only non-mechanical method that may be used to purify the oils.  Heat might help degrade pesticides in oils being pressed from harvested fruits or vegetables (virgin olive oil being the obvious example), but the result is highly dependent upon the pesticides used.

In contrast, as the name suggests, when extracting cold-pressed oils, the use of heat is forbidden.  Researchers have shown that the use of heat can alter the structure of the oil itself and cause it to lose valuable antioxidants that protect and give nutrients to the skin.  This is what makes cold-pressed oils so sought after in the natural cosmetics industry.

At DLG Naturals BW, a supplier facility of DLG Naturals, Inc. in Botswana, our production of Marula oil is 100% cold pressed.  The abundance of wild-harvested Marula that thrives without the use of pesticides allows us to produce a natural and safe cosmetic oil without the use of heat.  Our cold-pressed Marula oil maintains its characteristic high concentration of oleic fatty acid throughout the entire process –it’s like applying the oil directly to your skin, from the kernel.

10 Days, 36 Tons of Marula

Ten days ago, a middle-aged man from Gabane knocked on DLG BW’s factory door.  He asked for the manager saying he’d heard that “people here buy wild harvest Marula fruit.” Hungara, our manager at DLG BW, smiled and nodded in response to the man’s question.  While the man only had 150 kilograms (about 330 lbs.) of Marula fruit to offer, he had taken a major logistical piece of the supply chain out of the equation.  Typically, DLG BW sent their representative to villages far outside of Gabarone to collect Marula fruit and transport them back to the factory.  This is an important strategic step, however it accumulated expenses from transportation, hotels and unexpected vehicle repairs that can often occur on the unpaved roads of northern Botswana.

Marula Fruit flows into the DLG BW Factory

The very next day, a few more individuals showed up to the factory saying they had wild harvested Marula to sell as well.  Collectively they offered ½ ton of natural Marula.  A few days later, we received 3 tons, a few days after that; 6 tons, and yesterday; 12 tons.  The word has spread throughout the Gabane area and people are bringing more and more Marula by whatever means available to them.

 

At one point, Hungara looked out at the factory gate to see two young boys pushing a wagon with two large bags of natural Marula.  Hungara spoke with them, learning that they had pushed that wagon 4 kilometers to arrive at the factory.

A Truck-Full of Marula Fruit

Another day, Tris Lahti, one of the owners, looked out the window to find two men pushing a pickup truck filled to the brim with Marula fruit.  They were on their way to our factory when their pickup ran out of gas.  Their solution was to push the pickup to our site, sell the Marula and use that money to refill their truck.  They were thrilled when their compensation far exceeded the cost to fill their tank of gas.

In merely ten days, DLG BW has received over 35 tons of natural, wild harvested Marula from over 50 individuals which pumped over P40,000 (about US$4,000) directly into the local economy.  In a country where the unemployment rate hovers around 25%, this is a significant opportunity that many locals have capitalized on.  Additionally, with the influx of local

Hungara with the Natural, Wild Harvest Marula Fruit

residents approaching us with Marula, this allows us to pass along those logistical savings to the local population, raising their compensation per kilo of Marula. With the Botswana school year beginning soon, and the end of summer in sight, this extra income can be used to pay for school fees, winter coats and gloves or food to feed their family for a couple weeks.  This high response rate from local villagers is promising and helps us all envision how DLG’s processing of Marula will help fulfill our mission of empowerment through commerce.