Sunday, March 26, 2017

Colorado Lavender Growers

Lavender growing in Colorado has dramatically increased over the past 10 years and this weekend we celebrated a get together of lavender growers in Colorado.

From what I know, the first lavender farms started appearing in Colorado 10 years ago, about 2007/2008. We planted our first small field in 2008. At the time it was difficult to find good information or to network with other lavender growers. The Lavender Association of Western Colorado was formed in 2009, but I live on the front range of Colorado. The United States Lavender Growers association was founded in 2012, giving lavender growers across the country needed support. Our get together was for Region 4 of the USLGA. We were happy to host 18 people from across Colorado. 

It was an information gathering that started at our store, Colorado Aromatics. We talked about what type of business models we have and how we market the products we have. Lavender scones were a highlight! We then did a farm tour at our farm and talked a little about soil fertility and being part of the community.

We also enjoyed a great lunch! After that we headed to Heritage Lavender in Berthoud where Trudy showed us her lavender, greenhouse, still and bud cleaner.

 It was a full day that ended at the Pumphouse for dinner and beers. There is nothing like networking in person with growers that face similar climate/weather challenges and learning from each other.

We'll be attending the Lavender Festival in Palisade in July - hope to familiar faces there.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Everything Lavender

We headed to Mesa Arizona last month for the United States Lavender Conference (USLC) in Mesa AZ with my husband. This was the 3rd conference put on by the newly founded United States Lavender Growers Association (of which I am a founding member by the way). We had three tracks of speakers; for beginning growers, experienced growers and for people who may or may not grow, but do use lavender. Lavender is used extensively in aromatherapy, cooking and in skin care products as well as for crafts and availability of US grown lavender is growing.

Lavender can help with stress, anxiety and promoting sleep.  These are important applications because trouble in any one of these areas can lead to a host of other health problems.  Our keynote speaker, Nancy Baggett just released her cookbook, “Cooking with Lavender” which you can actually purchase in our store in Longmont now.

During the conference there was much focus on a common pathogen that is affecting lavender in our country now, Phytophthora. The goal is to stop the spread by controlling it at the source; small plants that are purchased for field planting. We learned about making products with lavender, cooking with lavender and more.  We learned about marketing our products from one of my mentors, Indie Business Network owner, Donna Marie Johnson. 

I gave a talk on cosmetic regulations for people who are making skin care products with lavender; “Your Product Smells Great, but is it Compliant?”  Maybe not the most stimulating topic there is, but one that indeed makers need to know about. Here is a brief overview:

Even though we know lavender is wonderful and a valuable contribution to skin care, the FDA requires that we make no claims, either for aromatherapy benefits or skin care benefits.  Doing so categorizes lavender as a drug and that is not approved by the FDA.

A cosmetic label has several requirements;
it must contain the name and use of the product
it must contain the weight of the product
it must contain the company name and contact information
it must contain the ingredients of the product.

I also addressed how to make a safe cosmetic, the use of preservatives and antioxidants (they are not the same thing) and good manufacturing practices.

Some of the best moments of the conference were the unscheduled moments when we learn from each other, by talking and networking.  There was a pre-conference farm tour as well as a farm dinner that we did not make. It would have been interesting to see farms in such a different climate than ours.

And then of course there was hiking in the Superstition Mountains. You can read about that on our other blog here.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The pH of Skin

The surface of human skin has a naturally acidic pH in the range from 4-6, probably averaging 4.7. This acidic nature of skin is called the acid mantle and is vital for the proper functioning of skin. The low pH helps to protect the skin from bacterial infection, protects the barrier function of skin and helps the skin enzymes function properly. If the pH varies greatly, skin problems arise which may include infection, dehydration, dermatitis, roughness, acne, irritation, and noticeable flaking.

For a refresher, the pH refers to the concentration of hydrogen ion. It is a logarithmic scale that goes from 1-14 with 7 being neutral, less than 7 acidic and higher than 7 alkaline (basic). The pH of a solution can be measured with a pH meter, pH of skin is more difficult to measure and requires more specialized equipment. Read more here.

 What can affect the skin's pH?
The most common thing that we do that can change the pH of the skin is cleansing the face with soap or other cleansers that have a high pH. Healthy skin can come back to its normal pH after a few hours, but not all skin can tolerate that challenge. Face toners are often used after cleansing to restore the skin pH back to acidic. Toners should always have an acidic pH for that reason. I like to use herbaldistillates/hydrosols for a toner.  Modern face cleansers though are typically not soap and are buffered to be an acidic pH. Soap however has a basic pH of about 10 which cannot be changed, that may work great on most of your body, but if you have problems with skin on the face, do not use soap there. You can find a good face cleanser here that is pH balanced to skin.

People have often asked me about cleaning their face with baking soda. This is a big no no because baking soda has a high pH between 9-10 (similar to soap) and is sure to disrupt the pH balance of skin due to its alkalinity. Even plain tap water can affect skin pH. Theoretically, tap water should be pH 7, but it is typically closer to pH 8 because of impurities.

Age also affects skin pH, increasing as we age. For this reason it is important that products for mature skin have a pH from 4-5. Skin moisture, sweat, sebum, anatomic site, and genetic predisposition also affect skin pH.

The skin's pH is maintained by secretions from the glands of the skin; both eccrine and sebaceous secretions.

Understanding the anatomy and function of skin can help you be a better formulator. If you would like to learn more, download our ebook “The Nature of Skin.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?

Fractionated coconut oil (FCO) is often used in aromatherapy and cosmetics because it is a very light, odorless oil. Massage therapists like FCO because it leaves less of a stain on clothing and sheets than other oils. It is also used in cosmetics because it gives a lighter feel to a product as well as a glide. FCO is a very stable oil in that it will not go rancid quickly giving it a longer shelf life than other oils. FCO is also used in cooking and is said to not contribute to a rise in cholesterol. 

Photo credit: Peter Davis/AusAID, CC BY 2.0,

But how does it compare to other Coconut oils? Besides FCO you can readily find coconut oils referred to as 72 degree and 92 degree.

Coconut oil 72 degrees means that it is oil pressed from the copra (meat) of the coconut and melts between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of this is then refined and deodorized and labeled RBD, but unrefined coconut oil is also available. Virgin coconut oil is typically made from the milk rather than the copra.

Coconut oil 92 degrees melts at about 92 degrees Fahrenheit. It is similar to the 72 degree coconut oil but has been hydrogenated (hydrogen added across a double bond) so the melting point increases. It is possible to get coconut oil of higher melting point but these are less commercially available.

Fractionated coconut oil refers to only the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil. Fatty acids which make up triglycerides, come in different lengths most fall between 4 carbons to 28 carbons. Short chain fatty acids are defined as less than 6 carbons, medium chain fatty acids defined as 6-12 carbons, long chain as 13-21 carbons and greater than 21 carbons are very long chain fatty acids.

This is how the fatty acid profile of regular coconut oil breaks down:
Long chain, saturated fatty acids:
Myristic acid (C14) 19%, palmitic acid (C16) 8%, stearic acid (C18) 3%

Long chain unsaturated fatty acids:
Oleic acid (C18:1) 5%, linoleic acid (C18:2) 2%

Medium chain saturated fatty acids:
Caprylic (C8) 8%, Capric (C10) 7%, lauric acid (C12) 48%

Fractionated coconut oil refers to just two of the medium chain fatty acids; caprylic and capric fatty acid. The INCI (International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients) for FCO is Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride. The lauric acid with 12 carbons is borderline long chain and not extracted into the FCO or also called MCT for Medium Chain Triglycerides. 

So how are they separated? The ‘fractionating’ is done first by hydrolyzing the triglyceride to separate it into glycerol and fatty acids. This is the same reaction a soapmaker uses to make soap. The fatty acids are then gradually heated so that the lower carbon chains melt first and the various fatty acids are ‘fractionated’ or separated.  This actual separation is done through distillation. Once this is finished the result is MCFA for medium chain fatty acids, rather than a triglyceride. The triglyceride is then reformed by esterification with glycerin/glycerol to reform the triglyceride or MCT for medium chain triglycerides, also the fractionated coconut oil. Fractionated coconut oil is commonly referred to as Mixed Chain Triglycerides (MCT). It's INCI name is

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride which refers to the carbon chain length of the fatty acids.

These reactions that occur (hydrolysis, distillation, esterification) are generally found to be acceptable in natural products and green chemistry products. The resulting product is a triglyceride that is formed from the medium chain fatty acids; caprylic and capric acid. This FCO is lightweight and absorbs well into the skin, is odorless and has a long shelf life. It is used as a carrier oil for herbalists and aromatherapists, as a dietary supplement and as a cosmetic ingredient.


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