Monoi Oil

Q. What about monoi oil? Is it as good as they say it is?

-Sally via Facebook

A.  That's a great question, Sally!

True monoi oil is made by soaking gardenia flowers in coconut oil.  Over time the compounds are released from the flowers and in to the oil.  The main compound that gives monoi oil its skin soothing powers is methyl salicylate, the same compound found in wintergreen oil and icy hot patches.  Topical overapplication of products containing methyl salicylate have resulted in death.  (Source) It can be safe at low doses, but I would suggest using caution with this product.  I would also suggest avoiding it during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Imitation monoi oils can be made artifically by adding methyl salicylate to an oil along with other fragrances and compounds.  So, ask if it's a true monoi oil, how it was made, and for its full ingredients list.  But keep in mind that natural monoi oils may not be safer than imitation oils. 


Red Raspberry Seed Oil SPF?

Q: I read somewhere that red raspberry seed oil has rather high SPF (28-50) qualities and has a long shelf life. Although a little pricey, it seems too good to be true. Is it? And if true, is it safe to use regularly as a face or body oil? Why aren't more companies like yours using it as a natural alternative sunscreen? There must be a catch!

-Stephanie B. via Facebook

A. Yes, we've read this as well. I've personally tried it in the sun as a preliminary "test." I was working in the yard one morning and I applied it to one shoulder, and then nothing on the other. It seemed like the shoulder with the raspberry seed oil was more burned than the other. So, don't know if maybe it rubbed off or if perhaps its spf properties are exaggerated or untrue. I did try it on my face another time and it did seem to work a little there...but it's hard to say one way or another without actually sending it out for spf testing in a lab setting.

From a legal standpoint, sunscreens are classified as drugs. So, they must have active ingredients that are on the approved list. Raspberry seed oil is not on that approved list, and it takes literally about a million dollars worth of research and legal fees to get an "active" on the approved list. So, even if it does have some kind of spf, it would take the backing of a large company to get it approved...and then to recoup their investment, they would have to sell millions of units of sunscreen to earn their money back. Well...the world's red raspberry seed oil really isn't available in such a quantity, and it's highly expensive, and it really doesn't have a shelf life that large manufacturers consider to be acceptable (they need at least 3 years) so it can't really be used at such a scale that a company would be able to make their money back by getting it, it continues to be an ingredient with a rumored spf, but that will likely never become an active sunscreen ingredient.

The internet sites that state the spf of red raspberry seed oil are all based on one study done in 2000. I have read the study and it appears to be credible...however, much more needs to be known and studied before any definitive spf can be attributed to the oil.

As for if it's safe as a face and body oil--absolutely!
It is very high in antioxidants and is fabulous for your skin.


Sodium Coco Sulfate

Q. What is sodium coco sulfate?

-Charlotte via Facebook

A. Sodium coco sulfate is pretty similar to sodium lauryl sulfate. Basically, with sodium lauryl sulfate, they start out with an isolated fatty acid (from coconut or other oils) called lauric acid. The lauric acid is reacted with sulfuric acid, and then again with sodium carbonate to create sodium lauryl sulfate. Well, with sodium coco sulfate, instead of starting out with one fatty acid (lauric acid) they use a blend of fatty acids from the coconut oil, react them with sulfuric acid, then sodium carbonate, to create sodium coco sulfate. So, sodium coco sulfate actually is a blend of sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium caprylic sulfate, sodium capric sulfate, sodium oleic sulfate, sodium stearyl sulfate etc, and instead of naming them all out with all of the fatty acids from the coconut oil, they just call it sodium coco sulfate." It would carry the same risks of skin irritation, eye irritation, stripping hair of natural oils and forming nitrosamines in the presence of triethanolamine as SLS does.



Q. Stephanie what do you know about ceresin?

-Paz via Facebook

A. Ceresin is a mineral wax that comes from ozokerite--a type of waxy mineral that's mined from the earth. It is not a vegetable wax, but more closely related to paraffin wax (petroleum wax). There are no published medical studies that look possible side effects of ceresin, but they are made up of a family of compounds called isoparaffins. Isoparaffins have been found to cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation: This study states that isoparaffins are possible carcinogens:


Grapefruit and Estrogen

Q: Stephanie, do you know if grapefruit essential oil, or pink grapefruit essential oil, increases estrogen in the body?

I have read that eating grapefruit can, because there are compounds in grapefruit which can inhibit the liver's ability to expell estrogen.

But is this true for the essential oils as well?

-Megan via Facebook

A.  That's a great question, Megan, and one that has proven to be a complex issue.  Here's an article that describes how eating grapefruit can interact with certain medications and possibly lead to an increase of estrogen in the body by inhibiting certain liver enzymes:

And there are some studies that have found grapefruit consumption to increase estrogen:

But other studies have found that certain compounds in grapefruit are able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells:

And indeed, this human study found that there was no increase in estrogen-dependent cancers in women who regularly ate grapefruits.

Parenthetically, this study found that Grapefruit decreased risk of heart disease:

So it appears that while grapefruit may increase estrogen levels, it also seems to inhibit some of the side effects that high estrogen levels create (breast cancer, etc).  There is no definite answer to the question:  should women with estrogen dominance issues avoid grapefruit or take it for its positive benefits? My suggestion is that each person should carefully consider the question with their naturopath or doctor, and perhaps try diets of both with and without grapefruit and see if there is an effect on their symptoms either way. 

So this brings us back to the question these effects apply to grapefruit essential oil?

The quick answer is no.  It is believed that the compounds that affect estrogen are flavonoids, which are not present in grapefruit essential oil.  So, using a product with grapefruit essential oil wouldn't affect estrogen levels.  Now, grapefruit seed extract...that's a different story...

One note of caution with grapefruit eo, however.  Grapefruit eo contains a high amount of bergapten, which can lead to photosensitivity in certain formulations and indivuals.  Using grapefruit oil-containing products with caution in the sun.