We put the question out there on our Facebook page: Which products would you like to see us make in 2010? Many people responded that they wanted a "normal" body lotion. I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about why our manufacturing standards keep us from making a more typical "body lotion."
I have to start out by saying that we do actually have a body lotion--It's our body butter. It's lotion. It's for your body. So, really, it's body lotion. However, the market has come to equate the term "body lotion" with a more watery, less concentrated lotion.
What we know today as "body lotion" is an emulsion--or water and oil mixed together. Most body lotions are what they call an oil-in-water emulsion. Basically 80% water with a little bit of oil. So, why can't we do that?
In order to create an emulsion, you need an emulsifier--an agent that will combine water and oil. The most common way of doing this is with a chemical emulsifier like stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, PEGs, or vegetable emulsifying wax. These emulsifiers will give you that typical mayonaise-like texture that you would expect in a lotion. We refuse to use these chemicals in our products. While many other companies claim they're "natural" or "derived from coconut" that's not acceptable to us. They're still synthetic chemicals, we can't get them in a certified organic form, and many of them are commonly contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.
There are a few organic ways that we could combine water and oil. A blend of organic lecithin and GMO-free xanthan gum would be one way. But we've tried this before in testing, and used other lotions that use this emulsion system and it's just not that great. It gives a really slippery, slimy feel that ends up leaving a sticky feeling once it's dried. There's also the beeswax-borax method of emulsion. But borax doesn't score that great in the EWG skin deep database, and we don't want to use an ingredient if it has a question mark. The main issue with borax is when it's inhaled, so even though it wouldn't really put customers at risk in a liquid lotion, our employees would be exposed to it in high quantities. We don't want to take that risk. I don't advise against making your own beeswax/borax lotions at home--the quantities are small enough to not be a problem. But on a larger production scale, a large amount of borax could create quite a cloud of irritating dust.
Next, there's the problem of preservatives. Any time you have water in a formula you have the potential for pathogens to grow. Bacteria. Fungi. Mold. So, if we made a water-containing emulsion, we'd have to use a preservative. And that usually leads to chemicals---parabens, urea, methylisothiazolinone. And of course we avoid these.
There are some organic ways of preserving--blends of essential oils or with organic ethanol. Blends of preservative essential oils have a tendency to be quite strong-smelling, so they end up taking over the scent of the product. A raspberry lotion doesn't end up smelling very good blended with clove, thyme, lavender and eucalyptus. And with many of our customers preferring unscented options, it just isn't feasible. In addition, they're not a fail-safe method. I've tried organic products preserved with essential oils and have seen mold grow before my eyes.
Organic ethanol is what the "big brands" of certified organic lotion use. If you've ever used these before (Dr. Bronners and Nature's Gate Rainwater), you know the problem--ethanol dries out your skin. Now, the oils in the product do counteract the effect of the alcohol, but I've talked to plenty of people with dry skin that can't use these lotions because they just dry them out more.
3. We don't think it's right
Yes, we could probably make a body lotion--preserve it with ethanol, emulsify it with xanthan gum and lecithin--but we don't think it's right. A product like that is 80% water. We don't feel it's right to charge people for a product that's mostly water, and then have it dry out their skin more.
However, we do understand that it is nice to feel that instant "hydrating" feeling that a water-based lotion brings. But you can achieve the same feeling with our body butter. Just turn on the tap, wet your hand, and pat on water to your skin. Then, apply a small amount of our body butter. You'll have that lotion-ey feel that you're used to, and it will make your body butter last even longer. (Just be sure to keep water out of the body butter jar.) Your skin will thank you.