Friday, August 26, 2011

Dangerous Bubbles...

I was recently asked by a customer, “What makes your product better than everyone else’s?”  I wanted to say “Because it is, trust me” but that would not have answered the real question which was "Why us?"  Pretty packaging, fun scents, spa quality craftsmanship, customer service and enthusiasm aside I think the real reason to use The Brown Barn Bath Company’s products is safety.  We try our very best to bring you products that you can feel safe and confident using. 
When we design recipes we consult a number of research databases to determine the safety of each ingredient in the recipe.  Most databases rate ingredients on a 0-10 basis with 10 being the worst for carcinogens, skin irritants, metabolic disruption, allergens and more.  For products we make “from scratch” we use ingredients with a rating of 5 or less. 
We also use pre-made bases in some of our products. The reason we use bases is because we cannot produce as fine a product from scratch at as reasonable a price as the base maker, who makes barrels of the base and can bring ingredients in at the lower bulk cost, thus passing the savings on to us and our customers. Another reason we use bases is because we are too small a company right now to provide the man hours and space to properly produce all of the items we eventually plan to make from scratch. We also use bases for products that are patented or for which we cannot determine the recipe.  Our “Soap Sudz” whipped soap is a good example of this. 
Occasionally we find that a base may use a tiny amount of an ingredient with a 6 or 7 safety rating, usually as part of its preservative.  In this case we may choose to use the base while we search for a better alternative.  The decision to use the base in this case is determined by how much exposure the customer would have to the questionable ingredient and if the benefit/demand for the product is high.  If we feel the exposure is minimal and will not be enough to accumulate into a health risk, we choose to use the base.
Sometimes our commitment to providing a healthy product gets in the way of our ability to produce a quality product for the consumer.  In that case we may offer an alternative.  A good example of this is our Bubble Bath.  I feel it is impossible to make a high foaming liquid bubble bath that can compete in the marketplace without the use of the high foaming detergent, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).  We recently tried an all natural base from a reputable company that on the surface seemed a perfect solution to our Bubble Bath problem. The customers quickly disagreed, even bringing the bubble bath back with the complaint that it did not make enough bubbles. (Of course we happily refunded their money and then immediately pulled the product from the shelf.) We have been working on developing a solid bubble bath to use as an alternative.
So why not use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and just make a bubble bath?  Because that product is a known carcinogen with a host of other issues. There are a wide variety of opinions out there about exactly how bad SLS is and what it can or cannot do to your body if you use it.  Some “experts” say its fine to use this ingredient even though there is so much risk to it because the amount used is so small.  This may be true, a little bit won’t hurt you BUT SLS is used in SO MANY products!!
Right now, please go to your bathroom. Get your toothpaste, shampoo, liquid soap, face wash, bubble bath, body scrub, face scrub, foaming sugar scrub.  Then go to your kitchen sink and get your dish soap. Go to your kids bathroom and get the liquid hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste they use. Get your cleaning agents. Go to the garage and get the floor cleaner. I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing.
Have you gathered all of your products up? Look at all of their labels for the ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).  How many of them have this ingredient? I’m betting A LOT. I was stunned to read one article that stated that SLS can cause mouth ulcers and then to find that SLS was found in EVERY toothpaste on the shelf of my local grocer except Sensodyne. 
So no, a little might not hurt, but there is no way to know how much exposure a single person may have in the course of a day, week or year to SLS when it is found in so many products. Then think about your child. A five year old child uses shampoo, hand wash, bubble bath, etc. but weighs much much less than an adult resulting in a much higher ratio of SLS in their system versus their weight.
Need more information?  The following is a compilation of information about SLS that I found in one brief Google search:
-     Both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and its close relative Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

-     Unfortunately, both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are very dangerous, highly irritating chemicals. Far from giving "healthy shining hair" and "beautiful skin", soaps and shampoos containing sodium laureth sulfate can lead to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and even liver toxicity.

-     A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations of SLS as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation.

-     National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain SLS and SLES. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".

-     Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. This is highly characteristic of sodium laureth sulfate and almost definitely directly related to its use.

-    Both SLS and SLES are known to have many effects that can potentially be detrimental to health. Among the possible dangers are the following
·         Hormone Imbalance
·         Protein Denaturing
-    Another report states that "Other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact. This poses question of it being a serious potential health threat to its use in shampoos, cleansers, and tooth pastes."

“But it must be safe!!  The FDA would never allow this!!” you cry. The FDA says SLS and SLES are safe…IN SMALL CONCENTRATIONS. Once again…how many times does the average Mom use products with SLS or SLES in the course of a day of cleaning, washing, etc.? I have been unable to find any studies showing the results of long-term usage of multiple products containing SLS by an average person. And also, consider that this is just ONE type of known problem-causing ingredient found in the cosmetics industry. Now add in your SLS and SLES to all of the other ingredients in your products and their potential to cause harm. 
The Brown Barn Bath Company has made a commitment to offer the safest alternatives we can locate and to work diligently to continually decrease the amounts of any ingredient that has even the slightest hazard potential. We use an all natural alternative to SLS called SLSa. It has a perfect safety recrod. We are happy to answer your questions about ingredients and to work with you to produce custom made products that do not use specific ingredients you know you are allergic to.  Please ask!
Have a great weekend and look for our new store in Tomahawk soon!  Chris

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chris and Alyssa's Cha-Cha-Chakra Adventure

Greetings!  Chris writing again this week...

As most of you know, Alyssa is my daughter and business partner.  One of the perks of our job is that we can justify any opportunity to get a massage and facial. One day a few months ago Alyssa returned to the store from the post office excited to have found a poster advertising a "Health Retreat" being held here in Holcombe. I immediately translated this into "opportunity to relax, get a massage and a facial"...I'm in! 

This was by far and above the most interesting spa related experience we have ever had. Alyssa loves yoga and we both are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (even though I struggle to actually follow thru with that interest...). The poster for the retreat advertised massages, reflexology (foot massage!) and Chakra Clearing with Number Readings. I didn't know what those Chakra things were but this sure sounded good to me.

The day of the retreat I prepared by scrubbing my feet using our Pumice Foot Scrub followed with our Hand and Foot Lotion (which left my feet tingling happily all the way to the retreat). I even shaved my legs in anticipation of a massage on the deck (I was envisioning a traditional full body massage). We arrived at a lovely A-frame home on a lake that is an off-shoot of the Holcombe Flowage. The owners welcomed us and made us feel quickly at home in their renovated walk-out basement/retreat center. They gave us a tour of their home and allowed us time to sit on their second story deck to enjoy the view and a refreshment while we waited for the other guests to arrive.

Eventually we all mosied on down to the retreat area where we settled into couches and chairs around a fireplace. At this time we were introduced and received instruction from each of the service providers who would be working with us that day.  It was great to learn about the services we would be receiving and I have to say surprising to find out what those services were!  Gary Hansen of Ladysmith gave an interesting lecture about Reflexology and what it can do to assist your body in detoxing and cleansing (as well as the awesome foot massage you get...), Carol Rudd discussed Amma Massages and how they help to re-energize you and she discussed Cranium Massage (which was given by Jane Wolf) and Mary O'Brien gave a very interesting talk about Chakra clearing.  (I'd never heard of Chakra clearing and didn't know anything about Chakras. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about Chakras in case you would like to learn more:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra ) Mary's daughter, Lisa, was also available to help us discover and decipher our Numbers.  That was something I found very interesting!

When lecture time was over we all signed up for the services we wanted.  Even though I had originally gone into this day expecting a facial and a massage I was hooked on the fun of experiencing new things so I did not sign up for the massages, instead opting for the Reflexology (yes, okay, that was a foot massage!!), Number Reading and Chakra Clearing.  First up was Number Reading with Lisa. I entered a bedroom where we sat across from each other at a card table with a pretty tablecloth. At first I thought this was going to be like a movie-style seance but it wasn't. Lisa is a farm wife from Ashland and very down to Earth. She asked for my birthdate and then figured out my numbers from there. I am a "5" meaning I was born in the fith year of a nine year cycle. She then explained to me that we live our lives in cycles of nine years and that I am in the ninth year of a cycle. When we reviewed the literature she had (and I got to take home) I was surprised by how accurately this reflected where I am in my life right now. Being in the ninth year of my life meant that I am moving into a new phase of my life. We have just opened our first store with a second coming soon...I guess that qualifies as moving into a new phase in my life!

I then wander out onto the porch where I find Alyssa, feet up and head down in the Reflexology chair.  She's reading the information while Gary works on her feet. Interested, I begin to strike up a conversation with Gary only to be quickly quelled by a look from my daughter that says something like "Hellooooo...trying to relax here...zip it!" So I do. 

Shortly thereafter it's my turn to get my feet done. All I can say is Wow! Sign me up for more!! Not only did I get a much needed half hour of relaxation and pampering I received a very interesting discussion from Gary about the benefits of reflexology and detoxification and had fun comparing our businesses as well. I fully intend to visit his shop up in Ladysmith soon. I struggle with chronic problems with my stomach, gall bladder and liver. When I'd feel something in these areas I would ask Gary what he was doing at that moment and he'd answer with something like "I'm working on your stomach center". Every time I asked it was accurate to the area of my body I was feeling something in. I'd recently gone thru a Homeopathic doctor to receive an eight week body cleanse that was very intense and used supplements to achieve. That night I went thru something akin to the same results as what I got with the supplements but this time it was 100% chemical free (and about a quarter of the price!) I can't wait to visit Gary Reflexology in Ladysmith for a full hour treatment soon.

Following my reflexology treatment I wandered back into the basement retreat area to find many of the guests gathered around the table in the kitchen area where Mary O'Brien was conducting Chakra cleansing. This looked really interesting to me but I decided to wait for Alyssa to finish her Cranium massage so we could experience the Chakra thing together. Alyssa returned from her massage describing it as extremely relaxing with a light touch, different from the more traditional type of body massages we usually get.

Reunited with Alyssa, I made a B-Line for the open chairs at the Chakra table. We watched Mary use a crystal pendulum to "talk to her higher self". She asked the pendulum a question and it answered yes or no by the direction it swung. We watched another guest get her Chakra's cleansed. First Mary consulted a sheet of paper with an outline of the human body with the seven Chakras outlined on it. She asked her pendulum if the woman's first, second, third, etc. Chakras were clear. The pendulum said yes or no throughout then Mary went on to have the woman stand while she used her hands and prayer to open the woman's chakras. Afterwards she again consulted the paper with the pendulum to find all of the woman's chakra's had been opened. Mary ended with a few words of wisdom, the ringing of Tibetan symbols near the woman's body and a hug. 

It was Alyssa and my turn next. First she asked if we'd like to purchase some pendulums of our own...You Bet!  We cannot ever resist things like this! I chose a yellow and crystal pendulum and Alyssa chose a pretty pendulum made of seven different stones to represent the chakras. We could not resist immediately trying them out but they didn't work for us like Mary's did for her. Mary told us to spend time with them and put them under our pillow for a night to see if that would help.

Next Mary had me come over to get my Chakras opened. I sat in front of her as she stood with her hand on my shoulder and consulted the Chakra chart with the pendulum. She tells me all of my Chakras are closed (I think one might have been open if I remember correctly). She also tells me that because my first/lowest Chakra is closed that is a sign that I am dealing with some type of issues from my childhood. I reassure her I've had a normal childhood with no known issues and she tells me perhaps it is something I've carried forward in birth. Mary then proceeded to use the technique of prayer and passing of hands over me to clear my chakras. I have to admit I did not feel much different during the process. She sat me down and yes, the pendulum says my Chakras are now open. Mary ends with prayer and ringing the Tibetan symbols. That feels pretty neat as I can feel the vibration of the symbols on my skin. I thought the best part was the hug at the end.

Even though I didn't feel much different during and right after Mary's Chakra clearing I have to say I did feel great after the retreat ended. I was relaxed and happy, not feeling a bit of my previous stress. So I will call the Chakra clearing a success, as well as the rest of the retreat! I even made arrangements with Mary to come and do something similar for a staff inservice sometime...and maybe see if she can do something about Bobbie Jo's relationship with the sewing machine surger....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Skin Care Primer

This week's blog post is brought to you by The Brown Barn Bath Company's on-staff licensed esthetician, Katie Giencke.  Katie is a graduate of the Aveda Institute in Denver, Colorado and works at Veda Salon and Spa in Denver. She also is The Brown Barn Company's skin care Research Analyst and Consultant. Katie is available for free consultations for Brown Barn Company customers! To request this service send an e-mail to thebrownbarn@gmail.com or call the store at 715-595-4570 to arrange for a telephone consultation.

Did you know that skin accounts for 15 percent of our body weight and contains half of the primary immune cells? In each INCH of skin there are millions of cells, 15 feet of blood vessels, 12 feet of nerves, 650 sweat glands, 100 oil glands, 65 hairs and 1,300 nerve endings.

Skin is the largest organ in the body which includes layers of skin, nerves, cellular functions, hair follicles and glands. It is meant to protect the body from outside elements in many complex ways such as with melanin, which protects from the sun, amazing self healing properties which fight against infections as well as trapping water into the body. The skin has sensory nerve endings which respond to touch, pain, cold, heat, and pressure which sends messages to the brain. The skin has heat regulation for the entire body using hair follicles, blood vessels and sweat glands to keep our bodies at the temperature it needs to be. Sweat glands in the skin excrete sweat and detoxify the body by discharging excess salt and unwanted chemicals. Our skin in constantly excreting sebum and oil onto the surface of the skin to protect and keep the skin soft. The skin also has absorption properties, which is limited but includes absorbing oxygen as well as products.

We are born with the skin we are born with, that is an important thing to remember when treating skin. Genetics and ethnicity determine skin types although skin is very fickle and is forever changing. The body replaces billions of cells daily but it takes about six weeks for adult skin to completely turn over and show results of product usage. There are five different skin types: dry, normal, combination, oily and sensitive. Dry skin does not produce enough oil and needs assistance in creating a barrier to protect. Normal skin is balanced, it may be a tad oily or dry at times and is basically blemish free. Normal skin should be treated for maintenance and prevention. Combination skin is both oily and dry, either in different areas or with overall dry skin with too much oil production, overlapping. Combination skin needs to be balanced by either treating the separate areas differently or frequent exfoliation to break down dead skin and allow the oil production to balance out naturally. Oily skin has excess oil and sebum production and frequently has blemishes. Oily skin is tricky to treat because over maintaince can strip the skin and irritate it however it is important to find a balancing routine and one should seek assistance from a professional to determine a correct routine. Sensitive skin is easily irritated by touch or products. Sensitive skin should be treated with nonirritating, minimalist products to calm and nourish. Every skin type needs to use a sun protectant daily.

Aging skin is influenced by heredity, sun exposure, the environment, health habits and lifestyle choices. The sun causes about 80 to 85 percent of aging which is why we should be protecting our skin daily from birth. Aging skin is typically sensitive, dry and showing signs of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmintation/hypopigmitaion(dark spots/white spots). Elastin and collagen, which are what keeps the skin firm and smooth, do not replace naturally after time, however, there are product ingredients which stimulate elastin and collagen growth.

Healthy nutrition and a healthy mind is very important for skin. Diet and water intake directly effects the status of skin regulating hydration, oil production, and function of cells. A lot of acne, especially cystic acne, is caused by something going on inside the body and those with severe acne should seek assistance from a dermatologist.  The skin is the last organ to receive messages of stress and other emotions. Some skin shows signs of stress in many different ways such as “breaking out”. It is important if you do struggle with stress breakouts or other challenges from stress to take time out for personal wellness such as meditation, yoga, massage, facials or what ever it is that relaxes you.

At The Brown Barn Bath Company we strive to treat the skin with natural balancing products. We have products to assist all skin types in finding balance. There are products to target balancing acne/oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, aging skin and of course normal skin. For assistance choosing the correct products for your skin please stop in and ask or even email me with your skin challenges and description for a personalized routine. I can be reached at thebrownbarn@gmail.com.

The Brown Barn Bath Company wishes you a "blemish-free" weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Typical Day At The Brown Barn Bath Company

Hello!  Chris here this week!

I stewed and thought and fussed over what to write about in this week's blog.  I could not decide between a post about Bath Tools (I decided to wait on that until I do my spectacular definitive bath post!) or introducing our employees (I decided it would be more fun to have each employee write a blog about their job and introduce themselves that way). 

This morning I still had no topic! Then today happened and I suddenly had a topic: A Typical Day At The Brown Barn Company. I had intended on spending the entire day making Soap Suds to rebuild our alarmingly low supply, but here is what happened instead:

5:00am:  Wake up to my two cats purring on top of my head.  Fall back asleep.

6:00am:  Wake up to my Border Collie talking quietly in my ear, telling me she really needs me to get up.

6:30am: Check for web-site orders and e-mails.

7:00am: Arrive at the Lab to find I left my cell phone back home on the charger.

7:15am: Arrive back at the Lab, cell phone charged and in hand.

7:15-9:00am: Package twenty Three Flower Eye Creams; Make two pounds of Soap Suds in White Tea and Ginger (oh, heaven!!) with Sweet Almond Oil; Clean up the work station, take out the garbage.

9:00am:  Meet with Bobbi Jo (our Textiles Manager) to get the final kinks out of our herbal eye masks design and help her move into her new space in the offices at the Meadow Creek Mall.

9:10am: Watch Bobbi Jo's face as I tell her we'll need approximately 200 of these and about 600 other items in the next six weeks on her two days a week of sewing time, HA HA HA.  I love that stunned look!!

9:30am Inform Jessica (our Administrative Assistant and my Right Hand) that I have forgotten the password to the telephone answering system and she needs to call CenturyTel to let them know her boss is getting too old for this new technology (and change the password to one we won't forget). (Again...love that stunned look!)

10:00am: Work with Bobbi Jo to decipher the manual for the new Surger we purchased and to change the thread...Have you ever tried to do that????  I need an engineering degree!!!

10:30am: Telephone conference between myself, Alyssa (my daughter and business partner) and Steve (my husband and business partner) for weekly general planning meeting and report for both of our businesses (Steve's is located in Abbotsford). 

11:00am: Print labels for Three Flower Eye Cream and take them to the store for Jessica (who clerked the store today) to apply and inventory. Be informed by Jessica that a large group came in.  They had called ahead with a courtesy call to us to warn us they were coming...but unfortunately the call was on that answering machine that I had forgotten the password for!!

11:30am: Alyssa and I travel to Ladysmith for a bite of lunch, a planning meeting for the Honest Approach line (Alyssa's pet project which will be unveiled this Fall...so EXCITED!) and a supply run at Walmart.

1:00pm:  Return to the office, pick up boxes to be shipped.  Go to Post Office.  Receive a certified letter (was that REALLY necessary???) from the Town of Holton "Smart Growth" planning commission requesting I appear before them to tell them our plans for the Abbotsford farm.  Evidently someone has been spreading rumours that we are going to sell the farm!!We had a small portion zoned commercial two years ago when we first started out, however things have changed and I have put off letting Marathon County know they can change the section back to Ag land.  In my defense I did tell them last Spring that I would not know our final plans until this Fall and August is NOT Fall.

1:15pm:  Call Marathon County Zoning office to have a lengthy discussion with the Director about our plans and what we can and cannot do under different zonings.  Finally agree to allow the parcel to go back to Ag land.  Inform the Director there will be a letter forthcoming with my thoughts on the process....

1:45pm: Come out to the sewing area to find Bobbi Jo ready to throw the new Surger out the security door.  There is a problem with the locking stitches and she's been struggling since I went to Ladysmith.

2:15pm (or later):  We finally figure out that we've somehow managed to mis-thread the machine...again confirming my need for an engineering degree to use the Surger.

2:30pm: Alyssa and I purchase plane tickets and make hotel reservations/plans for Alyssa's journey to Steamboat, CO next week to scope out store sites and our trip to San Francisco, CA in October where we will become certified in making all natural fragrances, product testing and much, much more! (We cannot wait for this!!!!)

3:15pm  Cindy (our Print Media Manager) stops in to get approval to go ahead with entering Kid's Items on the web-site.  We all exclaim over how cute the Bunny Pouf looks on the web-site. (Cindy is my personal Elf.  I rarely see her as she works from home but every night wonderful new things magically appear on the web-site!)

3:45pm Go into outer office to stop Bobbi Jo from detonating the Surger with a hand-sewn bomb.  The Surger has now sucked fabric into itself and is gagging on it.  Bobbi Jo performs CPR and gets it back running smoothly.

4:15pm Drive to Lab to check for deliveries. None yet but we know they are on their way!

4:30pm My son, Tommy, shows up at the office with the deliveries.  He happened to see them sitting outside the door as he drove by...I just missed them!

4:45pm Open cases of bottles, Fall Scents, Candle Wax, Candle Jars and more....Jessica says it's like Christmas every day at the shop....I roll my eyes.....

5:00pm Load up the van, bid farewell to Bobbi Jo who is now petting the Surger and saying sweet nothings to it because it is working well again and say Good-night to Jessica who is wielding the heat sealer like a gun slinger at the O-K Corral as she seals jars of Three Flower Eye Cream.

5:15pm Unload van at the Lab, excited to dig into the new bottles of scents for a quick sniff before I head home. 

5:18pm Realize I left the box with the bottles of scents at the store.

5:35pm Return to the lab with the bottles of scents.

5:45pm Oooooooo,  Aaaaaaahhhhhhh, Yuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm  I love the new Fall Scents

6:00pm Make it home just in time to make dinner and enjoy a little down-time with my son before I settle in to write this blog.

7:00pm Realize we have 401 "Likes" on Facebook (YAY) and talk on Facebook with a new customer who has a great scent suggestion.  (I love Facebook, all of you who write nice things are genuinely making my day...no matter how hectic it is to come home to this makes it all so much fun, thank you!)

9:40pm DONE!! and Happy!!

Does this sound like an atmosphere you'd enjoy?  We are currently advertising for one full-time employee to work full-time in our Lab as a Formulary Assistant.  If you have good computer skills, can work independently, enjoy activities like baking (i.e. can follow a recipe), and perform well under pressure this may be a job you'd enjoy!  Call 715-595-4570 for an application!  (Pay is $10/hour with review after 6 months, confidentiality contract required).

I hope you all have a Fun and CALM weekend!!  Chris