A friend invited me to attend a trade fair recently. It was an informal, shopping event. Usually, I skip these events as I am not big on clothes shopping but she dangled the carrot that worked for this rabbit – There would be a lady at the event selling natural body products. Quick as a shot, I got dressed and found my way to the venue.
Let me just say that it was quite an anticlimax. The lady in question had some wonderful smelling Shea butter on sale. I was slightly confused at first because I could tell that the Shea butter was fragranced but on her ingredients list, she had stated Shea Butter as the only ingredient. It was only upon enquiry that she said that there was fragrance mixed in with the Shea butter. That is a total no-no for me. When I pick up a product, the first thing I do is flip to the ingredient lists to see what exactly I am getting for my money. An inability to see all ingredients listed means that I don’t know what is hiding in there and how it can affect my skin.
Anyhoo, I am not one to throw the baby out with the bath water so I asked if she had anything else for sale. She said that she also made and sold skin lotion but didn’t bring any with her. I was interested in that as well, so I asked what sort of preservative she used for her lotion. She hmm’ed and haaa’ed a bit and then said that she had just changed her preservative and could not recall the name of the new one. So I asked 3 more questions:
Why did you change preservatives? Because my supplier advised me to. He said that the new one was better. Better how? She couldn’t say. What preservative did you use previously? Answer: I can’t remember.
At that point, I thought: “This is too scary; I need to get out of here!” What do you want to bet that she did not even know the other ingredients she was mixing up in her lotion?
The reason for this post is because there are lots of people out there that make lotions and other products at home and sell them informally. I have heard in the past about women that would sell a jar of cream from their hair salons or beauty parlors that are supposed to lighten the skin among other things. I have no quarrel with that. However, bear in mind that for every person who actually knows what they are doing, there is at least one person who doesn’t. It is your job as the consumer to know what to look out for and what questions to ask. Don’t just accept a mysterious pot of cream as you may be doing yourself harm.
Here are some tips for buying homemade products:
- Ensure that all ingredients are listed. (This means that for a skin lotion, you need to figure out what the basics are: emulsifiers, diluents, emollients, occlusives, preservatives – there may be more than one diluents and more than one emulsifier e.t.c). I once picked up a lotion that did not have any emulsifiers listed. I dropped it like hot cake as emulsifiers are the only reasons why oil and water are able to mix and become a lotion. It was a clear indication that the manufacturer had not listed all ingredients.
- If you are buying at a fair, ask the maker of the product questions prior to buying. If she appears clueless about a product she purportedly makes, run far away. Maker of the product is not there at the fair? Take a number from her representative/salesperson and call her on her mobile.
- A very basic rule is that all water based products MUST contain preservatives. Anhydrous products (like whipped Shea butter or oils) don’t need them.
- There should be a “best-by” date on the bottle. Nothing lasts forever, especially when it is handmade.
I have spoken about this subject in many ways recently. I have a feeling that I am not quite done, but I am going to rest it for now.