Parabens are Used to Make Sure Bacteria Doesn't Grow.
Parabens are molecules present in 85% of personal care products. They're simple to use, stable, and keep bacteria from destroying all the ingredients in personal care products. The bacteria they inhibit can irritate skin, too, so it's best to keep them at bay. However, there's a lot of gray area with the molecules, so we like to be cautious.
How do I Know if a Product Has Parabens?
So What's the Big Deal About Parabens?
If they're in 85% of products, they must be safe, right? Well...
The Truth is, the FDA's Pretty Unsure.
The Food and Drug Administration says they're investigating the molecule for "paraben-related health effects" and the "possible hazards of parabens." While they've approved parabens for use in cosmetics, they take a more liberal approach: innocent until proven guilty.
There's Some Strong Evidence for a Guilty Verdict.
WebMD reported on a recent study which found that when parabens were put into contact with heregulin, a compound present in breast tissue, cancer cells needed 100x fewer parabens to grow. This means that parabens were shown to stimulate cancer cell growth in breast tissue. And if you think about 85% of products having parabens in them, that's a lot of accumulation in the blood stream over time.
That's enough evidence for us to keep it out of our products. If one test in one lab showed that a compound stimulated cancer cell growth, we can use something else. In fact, we picked phenoxyethanol phe·nox·y·eth·a·nol (-fĭ-nŏk'sē-ěth'ə-nôl', -nōl'), a naturally-occurring compound in green tea and chicory. It's much safer than a paraben-based preservative.
We Love Phenoxyethanol. Really.
While it's the 1% that makes us 99% naturally derived, we're willing to live with it. In fact, it's approved by the much-more-stringent European Economic Community cosmetics directive and has been for over 20 years. This is based on stringent testing and no reports of irritation at levels up to 2.2%. Even Japan approves of it.
Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up just south of Kansas City in a place called Shawnee. It’s kind of an Everytown, USA kind of place where a lot of people will describe themselves as Libertarians but not many outright Conservative. I fulfilled my own version of Manifest Destiny (not to be dramatic or anything) by heading to the Berkeley for school to study Chemical Engineering. It was in the Bay Area where my vanilla upbringing was broadsided by a dose of granola and I started questioning everything from what I was eating to who I was dating to what I was putting on my skin.
So that’s how the skincare obsession started? Ha, not exactly. That was more of a slow burn. It actually all started when Kiehl’s reformulated a moisturizer that I loved. I couldn’t believe that they changed it and I hated the new version. So I set out to replicate it and eventually found that I could actually make one that was better for me and rid of any synthetic ingredients. I started replicating all the products that I was using with my own formulas, getting the exact SPF I wanted with the right mineral sunscreen, making the perfect after gym moisturizer, etc.
Cool, you can make what everyone else is making, why not save yourself the trouble and just buy it? Good point. 1. I was trying to eke out a living in San Francisco at the time and 2. I just liked what I was making much better. It’s like baking a cake and looking at the recipe and thinking “I can probably do this with less sugar and no margarine and make it taste better.” I liked the challenge, knew exactly what was in my products, and they were better.
How did you branch out? The first contract project I did was for a friend of mine heading to Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, NV. The soil is super alkaline there and a low-pH skin conditioner really helps counteract the harsh environment. We made probably 50 bottles of a custom formula that he gave out in exchange for various items as part of their “gift economy.” He paid me in dinner. I think we had lasagna.
I then did a few other custom formulas over the next few years for companies on contract, friends in need of a natural remedy—I made a nipple cream for a friend of mine who just had her first baby from all edible ingredients called “Tay Tay’s Ta Ta Cream.” I also helped out with the formulation of an eco-conscious product by LXMI, now sold in Sephora.
What inspired you to start Yucca? I mean, you can read about it in the About section of the site, but I’m fascinated by folk remedies and plants that grow where everything else dies. The Chemical Engineer in me is blown away by how much science backs up what shamans and chieftains hold so sacred.
I wanted to create products that honored folk remedies and gave scientific credence to the most resilient plants in the world. To create products that were both natural and effective, in formulas that were gentle on skin and could be used by people who had never tried anything else.
I love to travel, too. I remember one time driving through the Negev Desert in a Nissan Micra, stopping because the Acacia trees were so stunning against the Dead Sea backdrop. Just perched out in the middle of this salty desert, thriving. I particularly love marketplaces and the cultural exchanges that happen there. Everything from the branding on the products to the pricing, the bargaining, it’s exhilarating. You can tell a lot about a culture by the things that they sell.
What trip are you most looking forward to? Well there are two. In August I’m driving from Tulsa, OK to San Diego, CA along I- 40 and am so excited to visit Taos, NM, Albuquerque, NM, and Tempe, AZ as well as all the little towns along the way.
In January though, I’m planning to visit South Africa and Namibia with my partner and some friends. I’ve been dying to visit Deadvlei—a petrified forest—south of Windhoek in Namibia. Stay tuned.
Any new products in the pipeline? Well, that’s what these trips are for. I get inspired by the flora I see along the way and start investigating the molecular makeup of their extracts. I’m dying to make an eye cream and a facial scrub. So I’ll be keeping an eye out for more antioxidants and some natural exfoliants!
We're obsessed with plants can live in the harshest environments. Plants that are so omnipresent and sustaining that they're woven into the stories of the people that live among them.
We’re hooked when we come across tales of remedies made from the plants, evidence that there might be some science we can tap into for our products. That's when we dive in.
We mentioned that the entire basis for our brand was the Yucca dotting the deserts of southwestern North America. We dug a little bit more to figure out what kept Yucca sustaining in the harsh desert and investigated what it was used for.
Gabrielle Hatfield fortunately did a deep dive into the uses of Yucca in the Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine that we started in on. Yucca is used to treat earache, prevent baldness, treat dandruff, and even as a face mask to treat blemishes by native peoples all across North America from the Appalachians to the Sonoran Desert.
We read this and the chemistry sirens started blaring. What in the world is this magical plant? Good news: the National Institute of Health dug into it. Here's what's in the extract:
Resveratrol. This super compound is most commonly associated with the benefits of red wine but, as Men's Health mentions has been credited with everything from increasing mental sharpness to improving cardiovascular health.
Saponins. These little guys are the real crux of why Yucca is good for skincare. They're lean, mean, protozoa-crushing machines. Protozoa produce oxidants and and peroxides which in turn inflame and irritate skin. This is why saponins are anti-oxidants.
Yuccaols. These compounds inhibit the production of Nitric Oxide, another inflammatory agent.
These attributes made it a no-brainer to pack our moisturizer with Yucca Root Extract. It teams up with our other plant-based ingredients to add moisture to all skin types without feeling greasy or oily.
We get this question a lot. And the truth is, it's hard to find reliable information out there that explains why. The basic response is that we all want to age gracefully, and part of waltzing into the future is delaying the onset of fine lines and wrinkles. Moisturizer can help you with that.Read More