With the exotic oils series completed, I have decided to follow up with a mini series of sorts. This one has to do with the various additives that we find in soaps and other cosmetics. Before we can do that though, we need to know the meanings of some words. So we will begin with the definitions, then we will start today with the Aloe Vera plant!
A Preservative stops germs and molds from growing and spoiling your products, making them unsafe to use. There are many preservatives, some work in water products, some work in oil based ones, and some only work in certain ph ranges. Some preservatives are considered formaldehyde producing, while others (most) contain parabens. This is an area of great debate and one that every user and creator should thoroughly investigate before deciding the best one for their product. For sure though, the alternative is not a pleasant one!
Antioxidants delay fats (read the word "oil" here) from going rancid, thereby extending the shelf life of these products. Another plus is that they often contribute some of their own properties to formulations they are added to. Vitamin E is one of the top natural antioxidants.
Emulsifiers allow for the incorporation/blending of ingredients, namely oils and liquids/water, and they also prevent separation.
Colorants are just as they sound, ingredients used to make the product a color that it would not naturally be. These colorants can be natural, from the color of herbs, oils, and other additives, or the colorants can come from chemicals, such as FD&C colors (think along the lines of food coloring). There are also micas and oxides and other lab colors as well, but more on these another time.
Herbal additives can be in the form of the herb itself (either the flowering part, or the leaves), the herb (root, leaves, or flowering portion) dried and ground into a powder, or either of these can be infused into the oils or water used in the recipe.
So.....Here we go! The first additive I want to look at is a fairly common one, especially with summer here. It is the aloe vera, botanically known as, aloe barbadensis. This can be used straight from the plant, or you can purchase it in powder form, or as a juice or a gel, all of which come from the pulpy inside of the leaves. While the liquids generally last from 6 months to several years with proper preservatives, the powder has a shelf life of about two years.
While the aloe vera plant looks like a member of the cactus family, it really belongs to the lily family! The name actually comes from the Arabic word alloeh, which means "bitter" , stemming from the bitter taste of the liquid that is found in its leaves. The aloe vera is about 96% water, but it contains other active ingredients such as steroids, minerals, vitamins, essential oil, glycoproteins, amino acids and enzymes. Research has shown that the aloe vera gel penetrates human skin almost four times faster than water does. Therefore, it is a highly effective additive in moisturizers, shampoos & conditioners, soaps, and other products. It is also quite useful in the treatment of acne and other dermatological problems. The aloe vera gel, extract and oil is said to encourage skin rejuvenation, promote healing of various skin disorders including ulcers, lesions, and general wounds. They are effectively used to treat burns, skin rashes, insect bites and chafed nipples (from breast feeding).
This additive is considered safe to use and is without any known side effects. Aloe vera is probably the most widely known and used additive. Many families even keep a bottle of aloe gel in the refrigerator year round, for sunburns and kitchen incidents. While its powdered form is frequently used in facials, body wraps, bath salts, milk baths, soaps, body scrubs and more.