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      Is Beeswax a Healthy Choice in Personal Care?

      Is Beeswax a Healthy Choice in Personal Care?

      While ago, I was sent this column by an agent provocateur (for good), eco-branding genius and all around one of the coolest people I know, Lisa Borden.

      Lisa gamingly asked for my opinion on the content, I was critical of this article suggesting it was myopic and missing the most important point that few seem to touch on. I thought I would share my concerns especially as I see now this article was actually meant to promote Burt’s Bees and Clorox under the guise of balanced reporting.

      First of all commercial beekeeping is neither natural nor healthy, and if you care about critter welfare or even give it a thought, you will be sad to learn that these gentle and amazing creatures are quite possibly treated worse than factory farmed cattle (if that is even possible). A fundamental flaw in the conventional beekeeping practice is that the very sustenance (honey) that is required to keep bees healthy is entirely ripped out of their ecosystem and replaced with GMO corn syrup or white (sometime GMO) sugar-water. You may have heard about the antibacterial properties in honey, this store is what the bees need to eat during the long winter months to protect them from the disease. Honey also contains micro-nutrients and important enzymes that allow bees to flourish naturally.

      The next big issue is the management of apiary disease, again in my opinion what takes place is another agri-biz solution to another man-made problem. Bees have become increasingly weakened and endangered due to pesticide residues with special mentions to Monsanto and Bayer CropScience (1) with other speculated contributing factors such as pollution, EMF’s and poor commercial hive management. Sulfa compounds and antibiotics are the most notable unnecessary drugs used on the bees namely Sulfathiazole, streptomycin, dihydrostreptomycin, terramycin, fumagillin.

      Another commonly encouraged commercial beekeeping practice was (and still is to a lesser extent) to let the hive die i.e fumigate with calcium cyanide every winter as it was more profitable to take their honey ($300-$400) and buy a new artificially reared hive in the spring ($100-$200). This is the general mindset of industrialized farming. Get as much out of whatever they are farming for the highest profit regardless of the human and environmental health costs.

      Lastly, bees are moved around 100’s of KM bi-weekly depending on the flowering crop.

      Add up all these factors and scientists and beekeepers wonder why their immune systems are weak and they are stress and malnourished.

      Honeybees are considered an indicator species and they are certainly right now reflecting human health and the health of our planet. Skip the urge to buy Burts Bees, if you really like the feel of beeswax on your skin and go to the local farmers market and buy organically and ethically harvested beeswax. You will certainly notice the difference.

      If you are like me and are fond of bees in your backyard, plant a few of these and you will be sure to make new furry friends this Spring – fennel, calendula, lemon balm, echinacea, dandelion, sunflower, borage, and lavender.



      As a mindfulness practice each day, I like to stop and think about things that I am grateful for. I would sincerely recommend this as a great way to cultivate a positive state of mind or as I hear the term used “abundance thinking”.
      The quote from my fav guru says it all,

      “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
      – Lao Tzu

      I often feel grateful for the work that I do, to make healthy, effective environmentally responsible products that really help people is what I have always wanted to do with my life, really I could think of nothing better.  All sounds peachy right? So here is the truth… there are often parts of running a business that isn’t so much fun like paying bills/accounting and the myriad of forms/documents and decisions that need attention.

      One rainy Spring afternoon I found myself particularly consumed with a larger than usual amount of these tasks, looking for a diversion I went to get the mail. Lo and behold we received a handwritten letter from someone that had used our SHO Natural Bio-Active Skin Healing Ointment. It completely made my day, so much so I wrote a letter back with the free sample of the SHO Skin Healing Ointment.

      We often receive emails from customers with praise for our products for which we are extremely appreciative, this one I received back in May I wanted to share.

      “Dear Sir/Madam

      From an article in the Toronto Star, I obtained SHO Skin Healing               Ointment - Thera Wise.
      I have never found as good a cream in 90+ years or trying.
      This was a gift and I would appreciate knowing where I can purchase
      more in Markham Ontario.

      Congrats and Thanks.


      Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Safe Sun Exposure

      Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Safe Sun Exposure

      We would like to discuss a bit about the safety of “Zinc Oxide” and “Titanium Dioxide” in sunscreen.

      Tips for sun safety – to wear light clothing, hats, make or use of shade and to plan your day around the sun.”

      We feel it is really important to mention the importance of increasing vitamin D levels through safe (gradual) sun expose. Sunshine is good for you!  More and more research is being presented on the benefits of vitamin D and in fact, it is estimated that you can prevent as many as 16 types of cancers by having sufficient vitamin D in your body (i.e. pancreatic, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers). Interesting to note that receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in almost every cell in the body.

      I am concerned when I see mothers apply sunscreen/sunblock if they see that their child is going to be out in the sun for any length of time, I truly believe this practice is doing much more harm than good. At the beginning of the season limit sun exposure to 5-10minutes a day and gradually increase the time so that in a few weeks an individual can experience normal sun exposure without concern of burning or doing damage to the skin.

      If you have to use a sunscreen, “non-nano” or “non-micronized” zinc oxide seems to be the next best option available although not without some risk.

      Most of the zinc oxide in sunscreens have been micronized or developed into nanoparticles with a width of 7-15 nano which poses a serious problem to your health and the environment.  At this size especially the zinc oxide can cross to the blood-brain barrier leaving plaques in the brain/body that will never metabolize. Even worse are the zinc oxide nanoparticles can enter any part of the body, including the lungs and nervous system, which can cause not only irritation and rashes but worse consequences such as DNA damage to the cells.

      My other concerns with zinc oxide is that does not allow the skin to breathe (blocks pores) or eliminate toxins etc (especially non-nano/micronized).  It is sticky and cakes on like a geisha’s makeup albeit protecting you from the sun but is ultimately unhealthy to have this substance on your skin all the time, all day.

      Even though it is wise to avoid the chemical sunscreens (methoxycinnamate, padimate o, oxybenzone, avobenzone, etc.), mineral physical sunscreens have been found to generate free radicals when exposed to sunlight, which then can attack the nuclei of your skin cells and cause mutations (skin cancer) just like the chemical sunscreens.

      There is a book available called “Sunscreen Photobiology: Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Aspects” which describes;

      “Illumination of titanium dioxide suspensions with sunlight can degrade organic materials and purify drinking water, while illumination with short wave UV kills human cells. This work shows that the distinction between ‘chemical’ sunscreens and ‘physical’ sunscreens, attractive though it may be to those who market them, is not based on any significant difference. Both varieties have the potential to produce reactive species that can attack biological materials (human skin cells) when they are exposed to normal sunlight… What is established is that particles of titanium dioxide as large as 220 nm can enter human cells in culture, and so it seems entirely plausible that if titanium dioxide does pass through the skin it could enter cells under the skin (carrying with it the absorbed UVA and UVB radiation and hydroxyl radicals).”

      Another source from “Cosmetics Trade Journal” states,

      “Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are commonly used in drug and cosmetic products. Contrary to belief, Sayre and co-workers (Cosmetics & Toiletries Oct. 2000, 75) have shown that these physical sunscreens are not photochemically inactive. Although adequate coating can reduce the risk, an increase in the destruction of photolabile skin lipids is not desirable. The photo-peroxidation of unsaturated skin lipids may result in perturbation of the lipid environment of viable cell layers and degrade skin surface lipids. “

      Zinc Oxide is also widely used in mineral makeup and baby diaper creams, really everyone needs to investigate this further.

      What makes this even more concerning is that there is no law requiring companies to disclose the use of nanoparticles in personal care making it use at your own risk proposition.  Canada is still looking to catch up on the technology while the EU has already implemented strict rules for its use in personal care (coming 2013) – As usual, the US FDA is the wild West of regulatory safely catering to corporate requests. In the US Nanoparticles are prohibited in Soil Association certified products, but are yet to be prohibited by the USDA National Organic Program.

      Currently, non-nano/micronized zinc oxide with the plant-based base formulation is the safest option in sunscreens. However, I would strongly recommend using only a moderate amount if really needed especially considering some of the risk factors.

      Another interesting option is the oral supplement astaxanthin which is a potent antioxidant that when taken can allow you to stay in the sun longer without burning.

      Yikes! Temporary Tattoos

      Yikes! Temporary Tattoos

      Our daughter used to love face painting and temporary tattoos.
      As the opportunities to have either of these are infrequent, I would turn a blind eye as I sometimes do with candy or other unhealthy snacks that she manages to acquire while playing with friends.
      It wasn’t until we were celebrating Canada Day in Vancouver when we received a small Canadian flag temporary tattoo (from McDonald). I am actually very grateful that McDonald’s chose to list the ingredients in the temporary tattoo as most do not.  Well needless to say I am not ‘lovin it’ as the slogan goes.  I should have known better but here goes the list of ingredients:
      Vinyl Acetate, Butyl Acrylate, Methacrylic Acid Polymer, Propylene Glycol, Petrolatum, Linseed Oil Soybean Oil, Mineral Oil, Iron Oxides (CL77499), Blue #1, Aluminium Lake ( CL42090-2) Yellow #5, Aluminium Lake (19140:1) Yellow #6,  Aluminium Lake ( 15985:1), Red #7 Calcium Lake (CL 15850:1) , Titanium Dioxide.
      As we now know, just because it says ‘non-toxic’ or ‘FDA approved’ does not mean that these materials are safe to place on the skin especially as is the case with colourants.  For reference, the lake pigments are colours bound to an insoluble metallic salt, in this case, aluminium oxide. Many colourants are suspected of being carcinogens, teratogens (pass through the placenta into an unborn child) or toxins. The colourant with the highest level of concern is the D&C listed ones meaning they can be used in drugs and cosmetics but not food. It is especially recommended to avoid Blue Aluminium Lake 1 and 2, Red No. 19, Aluminium Lake dies in general, Zirconium Lake and Yellow No. 8.
      Lastly The Environmental Working Groups (EWG) Cosmetic Data Base has done a nice job of outlining the hazards and toxicity concerns of the most concentrated ingredient in the temporary tattoo – vinyl acetate

      Profound simplicity and Lao Tzu

      Profound simplicity and Lao Tzu

      Whenever I get asked the silly question if you could have anyone over for dinner dead or alive who would it be I can’t help thinking about Lao Tzu. A Chinese philosopher whose real name no one knows and who lived sometime between 300 and 600 BC. Lao-tzu advocated a life of simplicity, naturalness, and non-interference with the course of natural events in order to attain a harmonious life. If he actually did exist he was certainly an enlightened individual.

      I came across this brilliant quote this week.

      “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.” -Lao Tzu