If your personal care section hasn’t branched out much beyond moisturizers and bar soap, you (and your shoppers) could be missing out on some up-and-coming product areas. Check out these skin and hair care categories, which are seeing increased interest from shoppers.
1. Bye-Bye Plastic Beads
At the tail end of 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law The Microbead-Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321), which bans the sale of products containing microbeads. Microbeads are tiny plastic bits used as exfoliators in soaps, scrubs and toothpaste. This bill, with thumbs up from many in the natural products industry, phases out their use and fully eliminates them by July 1, 2017.
“This ban is great news and should have happened a long time ago, especially with so many natural alternatives available that do not pollute our oceans and lakes,” says Adam Grossman, cofounder and CEO, The Seaweed Bath Co., Austin, TX.
To Grossman’s point, millions of plastic microbeads wash down the drain and enter the water system every year. This endangers marine life, which consume the beads by accident. The plastic could even enter our food supply in this manner.
As if this were not bad enough, Santosh Krinsky, president of Lotus Brands, Inc., Twin Lakes, WI, says plastic microbeads have other serious detrimental environmental problems, including the negative effects associated with petroleum and its byproducts.
“There is no need to use microbeads for exfoliation or even for esthetics when Mother Nature offers so many natural alternatives,” says Amy McKelvey, senior brand and communications director at Andalou Naturals, Petaluma, CA.
These physical exfoliation options from Mother Nature, she states, include papaya, kombucha and pumpkin puree for an enzymatic exfoliation.
Demara sugar is also good for scrubbing, as are dried fruit seeds like apricot, raspberry or strawberry, suggest Jess Piestrup and Whitney Acheson, owners of Moody Sisters Skincare, Cashmere, WA.
Meredith Soden, communications manager at EO Products, Corte Madera, CA, brings up another interesting option for sustainable alternatives to microbeads: candelilla wax. “Candelilla is a waxy powder that coats the Euphorbia cerifera plant, a succulent-like plant that is native to semi-desert climates,” she states. “The wax can be used in skin care products to provide texture for physical exfoliation.”
To this list, Grossman adds coffee grounds, which he says make “healthy, effective exfoliators without the negative consequences on our environment.”
Timothy Schaeffer, senior vice president of marketing at Mineral Fusion, Denver, CO, says his firm uses walnut shells combined with enzymatic exfoliants (papain and bromelain) in a scrub to offer deep exfoliation and promote soft skin.
Other natural exfoliants include external tools such as ayate washcloths, loofah sponges and bath brushes, says Krinsky.
Expect these options to get hot as companies focusing on synthetic products reformulate. Just be sure that shoppers are aware of the benefits of the real deal: natural exfoliators with no parabens, chemicals or synthetic fragrances in sight.
2. Don’t Sweat It
Fans of the WholeFoods What’s Selling page have likely noticed a common theme in our listing of popular HABA offerings: shoppers love natural deodorant.
To many consumers, the switch from the drug store variety to natural isn’t a hard sell. Soden explains why: “Drug store deodorants are full of toxic chemicals and ingredients that clog pores and prevent our bodies from sweating, which is a normal, healthy function.”
Hilary Orr McMahon, founder of Honestly pHresh, Huntington Beach, CA, elaborates on this point. She states, “It’s part of the body’s natural detoxification process. Sweat is also odorless. Only when mixed with the bacteria on our skin does it turn to body odor.”
Many antiperspirants contain aluminum, which blocks pores to prevent sweating. Several industry experts, like Soden and Orr McMahon, feel this is a very bad technique. Not only does it put a roadblock in front of a healthy bodily function, but it can also ruin clothing. When sweat reacts with the aluminum in conventional antiperspirants, it can cause unsightly stains to develop, especially on cotton materials.
“All-natural deodorants eliminate costly yellow pit stains on clothes and toxic ingredients,” states Amy Cazin, founder and chief executive officer, P3 Organics, LLC, Pflugerville, TX.
The chief types of aluminum in deodorant—aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium—are actually classified as drugs, says Eric Rabichow, senior vice president of French Transit, Ltd. (maker of Crystal Deodorants), Burlingame, CA. He asks, “Did you realize you were putting a drug on your skin every day? Most consumers do not.”
He calls this a “cheap and antiquated way of solving the age-old problem of body odor.”
There’s another major problem with aluminum-based products: some believe antiperspirant use may be linked with diseases like breast cancer. One study published in 2005, for instance, found that aluminum-based compounds applied regularly near the breasts may be absorbed through the skin and cause estrogen-like effects (1). Estrogen is said to promote breast cancer cell growth. One study found that cuts made in skin during underarm shaving may allow the passage of aluminum and other chemicals even more readily to tissue with estrogen receptors (2).
Meanwhile, other research suggests that the parabens found in many synthetic health and beauty aid (HABA) products are also endocine disruptors, another possible factor in the development of breast cancer (2). One 2004 study found parabens in 90% of human breast tumors tested (2). Combining various types of parabens may be even worse for the body (3).
Experts at the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and elsewhere have assured the American public that there’s nothing to worry about, with the belief that any aluminum absorption from antiperspirants is extremely minimal. But, many shoppers would prefer to eliminate the risk altogether and choose a natural product.
According to Piestrup and Acheson, there’s more to worry about: synthetic fragrances. “A fragrance can contain up to 100 different synthetic chemicals—many of which are known skin irritants,” they say. “Fragrances may also contain phthalates, which studies have linked to hormone changes, diabetes and thyroid irregularities…While your drug store variety deodorant may be cheaper, there can be a great cost when risking your health with chemical deodorants.”
So, what’s available for your shelves as an alternative? Plenty.
In addition to ingredient and scent variety, you will find several product formats. Stick deodorant is popular for its convenience. “I think the advantage of using a stick is the ease of application,” says Orr McMahon. “Most people prefer this method and when switching to a natural option, most consumers would opt for the stick for familiarity.”
Adds Katie Shaw, licensed esthetician and education manager at Nature’s Gate, Chatsworth, CA, “[Stick deodorant] applies evenly and smoothly to the underarms so you can feel confident that you are covered throughout the day.”
Companies are also branching out to other formats. EO, for instance, makes organic aerosol spray deodorants that are safe for the environment. “These are a healthy alternative to drug store deodorants, the only difference being that some people need to apply more often,” says Soden.
Another format available on the natural market are deodorant wipes (from companies like EO Products), which are intended for shoppers that travel or want to use them on-the-go.
You may also have noticed the trend toward jarred, spreadable deodorant. Orr McMahon says one key advantage to this format is effectiveness.
In addition, says Cazin, “Spreadable deodorants make it easier to control the amount and coverage of the deodorant and they tend to apply much better—and at least for ours—outperforming traditional sticks.”
Application of spreadable products is straightforward. Remove a pea-sized amount of product from the jar (many come with a spatula), use the fingers to warm and soften it, and then gently apply a thin layer.
Some say the spreadable format is more economical than other forms of deodorant since less product is needed, but shoppers tend to apply more than is actually needed.
Also speaking of economical products, Rabichow says his firm’s rock deodorant can last for a year or more. “The idea that natural deodorants are more expensive than mainstream deodorants is actually a misconception,” he states.
For shoppers that have never tried it before, tell them that rock deodorant must be dampened or applied to wet skin for use.
Piestrup and Acheson say one of the most under-rated deodorant types is a powder that can be applied with a soft powder puff all over the body and layered with other products. “Powdered deodorant can also be a little messy to apply at first, but the greatest benefit is that it can be applied over cream or spreadable deodorants for dual protection,” they say.
There’s another point about natural deodorants to consider beyond format. Many use baking soda as their chief active ingredient to neutralize odor. “Baking soda works wonderfully for most, but can cause awful rashes for some people—even those that don’t typically have sensitive skin,” explain Piestrup and Acheson.
They say this can turn off first-time natural deodorant buyers. “If they don’t know that baking soda is the culprit, they may try a few natural brands and then just give up on natural deodorants altogether and go back to the commercial chemical-laden brands.”
The pair says one gentle natural alternative is bentonite clay, “which helps neutralize the odor-causing bacteria and pull toxins away from your skin.”
3. Mud Mouth
This past fall, WholeFoods Magazine covered the growing trend of charcoal, mud and clay facial products. But, have you ever thought about using them on your teeth?
Some consumers are strong believers in it. “Our Earthpaste is easily the most interesting new product in the oral care department,” says Darryl Bosshardt, business development at Redmond Trading Company, Heber City, UT. He admits, “Mud-based toothpaste sounds crazy, but it really works.”
His firm combines water, Redmond clay, Real Salt, essential oils and xylitol (most products) in its brand. Don’t expect it to foam (there’s no sodium lauryl sulfate) or be sparkling white (it’s tan or brown). But, Bosshardt says customers and oral health professionals have given the line positive feedback.
Meanwhile, another company working in this area, My Magic Mud, says its “mud” tooth powder detoxifies, removes plaque/stains and whitens. This dark powder can be scrubbed on the teeth for two minutes and then slowly spit near the drain to avoid splatter. Then, consumers can rinse their mouths again with water. Some use it in the shower. The firm believes the product works even better with prolonged use and is suitable for those with sensitive teeth. The product is a combination of activated coconut shell charcoal, calcium bentonite clay, organic orange peel extract and organic mint extract.
Meanwhile, Cazin says her firm has a tooth powder (Tough Teeth) with natural detoxifying clays, salts and antimicrobial oils that are “great for oral health and make your teeth truly feel more clean than the pastes that can leave a yucky film.”
4. No Flakes
Flaky hair is never in style. There are a variety of reasons why shoppers have this issue, but many shoppers have trouble getting to the root of the problem.
“It’s unfortunate that so many consumers believe that they just happen to have a sensitive or troubled scalp,” says McKelvey. “Itching and flaking are some of the most common side effects of using chemical hair products.”
DEA, MEA, TEA, formaldehyde, synthetic colors, dyes and fragrances, phthalates and parabens, she says, are all irritating, and can cause a “chain of reactivity that that causes inflammation and uneven oil production on the scalp,” says McKelvey.
One ingredient that Krinsky says poses real problems is the sodium lauryl sulfate found in most commercial shampoo. They are said to strip the hair and scalp of natural oils, dry them out and cause irritation.
The scalp needs some oil on its surface to be healthy, but when production slows or becomes uneven from harsh topical products, problems occur. “Toxic chemical based shampoos strip all the natural oils (sebum) from your hair and scalp and can be the lead culprit attributing to dandruff and itchy scalp,” says Cazin.
Synthetic chemicals can also seep into the body through the skin and hair follicles, potentially negatively affecting the body. Says Bosshardt, “For some, simply switching from chemical based products to a simple natural formula is all it takes.”
Natural products are often gentle, nourishing and soothing, and there are many options on your shelves to help shoppers with itchy scalps.
Says Caity Stuart, educator at the W.S. Badger Company, Gilsum, NH, “Depending on the ingredients, natural haircare products can be a gentle and effective way to curb dryness and itchiness of the scalp.”
Oils like argan have inflammation-balancing properties, says McKelvey, as well as nourishing vitamin E to calm the scalp. Soden also says that fenugreek extract has anti-inflammatory properties and also nourish and soothe scalps. And Krinsky says rosemary and tea tree oils in shampoo “can be of great benefit as well.”
As for tangerine oil, McKelvey says it “gently cleanses and brightens, invigorating follicles and circulation.” Lavender can help refresh the scalp, she says, and support healthy circulation.
Meanwhile, meadowsweet balances sebum production and counteracts bacteria. McKelvey also speaks of other scalp-support ingredients like camelina oil (nourishes), sweet orange oil (revitalizes hair follicles) and milk thistle extract (detoxifies the scalp and hair shaft).
Stuart adds that jojoba oil “quickly moisturizes and hydrates the scalp by penetrating deeply into the roots.” Plus, essential oils like rosemary and tea tree help cleanse the scalp. Some shoppers also like peppermint oil because it offers a cooling sensation.
Schaeffer adds that shampoos with salicylic acid are good ideas for shoppers concerned about flakes. “It’s a natural ingredient and part of the FDA monograph for antidandruff products,” he explains, noting that one antidandruff shampoo from his company contains 2% salicylic acid and mineral rich clay to help control flakes. “In addition to the flake-reducing properties, our natural ingredients help to stimulate the scalp and follicle while aiding in healthy cell functioning,” he states.
5. Ask for a Mask
Masks are huge in skincare right now, and for good reason. They do wonderful things for the skin.
“Toxins bombard the skin (the largest organ of the human body) every day,” says Stacy Broff, Diamond Girl Media, spokesperson for Larenim, Worthington, OH. “Masks draw out toxins and other wastes, helping skin stay healthy and clear.”
Clay, especially bentonite, is a big ingredient in this area, especially for those looking for benefits specific to acne, fine lines, sun damage and more. Bosshardt calls this ingredient “the single best ingredient for a mask…A natural, clean, simple, clay mask (just clay and water) is a great way to clean the pores, increase circulation and improve tone.”
Broff explains why this works: “As a [bentonite] clay mask dries, it firms and tightens, drawing out toxins and impurities which have embedded beneath the surface of the skin. This tightening process can also enhance the revitalization process by increasing circulation to the top layer of skin.”
Piestrup and Acheson are fans of bentonite clay, but also like Dead Sea mud masks. They say, “Dead Sea mud improves the appearance of your skin by boosting elasticity and refining pores—both of which help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Bentonite clay and Dead Sea mud are both known to have an abundance of minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.”
The pair adds that boosting masks with minerals “not only detoxifies and purifies the skin, but also accelerates the natural exfoliation and restore the pH balance of skin.” Masks with extra vitamins and antioxidants are also great for the skin, they state. “Antioxidants protect skin by limiting the production of free radicals, which can damage skin cells. Silk amino acids, vitamin E and amber extract are some of our favorite antioxidants to add into facial masks.”
For a soothing and beneficial mask, Grossman is a fan of seaweed, noting that he and his firm has spent the past year researching the best species of seaweed to use in a mask.
Also soothing and nourishing, “Pure avocado makes for an uber moisturizing mask,” says Shaw.
Some masks also help reveal healthy glowing skin cells hiding under dull dead cells. For this, McKelvey says her firm uses Fruit Stem Cell Science along with fruit juice enzymes, AHA, organic superfruits, collagen elastin producing amino acids and rich organic plant oils.
Masks can also be layered, and McKelvey offers an example for how. First, one could use an enzymatic mask to “gently dissolve and lift away dull surface cells.” Then, one could apply a deeply hydrating masks. “We love to cocktail our masks and do two in one evening—or on a luxurious weekend morning,” she says.
One last tip from McKelvey: properly cleanse the skin before using a mask and apply a serum afterward to intensify the results and nourish the skin. “Skin appears plump, smooth, hydrated and glows with a fresh inner health and the spirit is revived from rest and pampering,” she states. WF
Published in WholeFoods Magazine March 2016
1. P.D. Darbre, “Aluminium, Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer,” J. Inorg. Biochem. 99 (9), 1912–1919 (2005).
2. National Cancer Institute, “Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer,” www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet, accessed Jan. 25, 2016.
3. M. Heid, “You Asked: Can Deodorant Give You Cancer?” June 17, 2015, http://time.com/3922814/deodorant-cancer, accessed Jan. 25, 2016.