Ingredient of the Week

a Salon Naturals blog

Preservatives and the Formation of Benzene

Benzene may be formed when benzoic acid is combined with ascorbic acid.

However, the joint presence of benzoic acid and Vitamin C does not create – on its own – sufficient conditions to form Benzene.  Other factors influencing the formation of benzene include:

  • Concentrations of benzoic acid & vitamin C;
  • The existence of certain minerals, including copper and/or iron sulphate;
  • The pH levels of the products containing these additives;
  • Exposure to UV Light.

Addressing each of these individually:


The preservative used in the products offered by Salon Naturals is present in a concentration of roughly one-half of one percent.  The presence of Sodium Benzoate represents slightly less than half of that.

The essential oils used in the line are present in a concentration of roughly one-quarter of one percent.

Considering the extremely low concentration of the two components needed to result in the formation of Benzene, there is no scientific evidence at present that this possibility exists on a realistic level.  All research studies that successfully achieved the formation of Benzene through the combination of Benzoic Acid & Vitamin C did so using concentrations ranging between 4500% and 60,000% higher than those present in personal care formulations.

Copper, Iron Sulphate, Other Minerals

None of these minerals are present in the formulations on any level that can be detected in a laboratory setting.  The absence of these minerals significantly impedes the conditions necessary for Benzene formation.

pH Levels

Benzene formation has been found to occur primarily in extremely acidic conditions.  A pH of 3 or less is considered the pH level optimally needed for the combination of Benzoic Acid & Vitamin C to result in the formation of Benzene.  The pH of the formulations created by Salon Naturals range between 5.5 and 6.5.

Exposure to UV Light

All products tested that demonstrated a propensity to form Benzene through the combination of Benzoic Acid & Vitamin C were heavily exposed to UV light for long periods of time.  In contrast, the products in question are immediately bottled and stored in opaque containers that offer no potential for UV exposure.


Although there is significant research and resulting scientific opinions available concerning the formation of Benzene when Benzoic Acid and Vitamin C are combined, in actuality, this is a difficult thing to achieve.  The absence of even one of the conditions outlined above diminishes the possibility of the formation of Benzene significantly.  The absence of two or more of them results in a scenario approaching impossibility.

It is also important to note that Benzoic Acid and Vitamin C are present together in a large number of fruits – cranberries are an example of this.  There is no evidence that the joint presence of these two additives results in the presence of Benzene in these foods.

Finally, it is worth stating that there have been no studies conducted on the likelihood that Benzoic Acid and Vitamin C may or may not form Benzene in any formulations other than ingestible beverages.  100% of the research studies given serious consideration by the scientific community focused solely on the soft drink and non-alcoholic beverage industries.

Benzene is an environmental pollutant and is most frequently ingested via the respiratory system.  The primary source of Benzene exposure is through petrol that is emitted into the air from exhaust gases.  In no way do we question the toxicity of Benzene or the importance that should be placed on avoiding unnecessary exposure to it. 

Our research of this subject, however, has left us extremely comfortable with the conviction that the particular circumstances surrounding the use of Benzoic Acid and Vitamin C in our hair care products will not result in the formation of Benzene.


July 18, 2011 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yummy! | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geogard Ultra – Preservative

As most conscientious consumers realize, the process endured by safety-minded manufacturers to select an appropriate preservative for their formulations is one fraught with limitations and obstacles.  The job of a preservative is to prevent the growth of microorganisms that would otherwise contaminate the product.   So by their very nature, preservatives must be somewhat destructive in order to successfully perform this job.  Presently, there is no 100% natural or organic preservative that effectively protects a product from contamination for a length of time comparable to what the majority of consumers would consider an acceptable shelf-life expectancy.  There are, however, a wide range of alternatives to conventional parabens and many of these offer substantially fewer health risks than others.

The preservative used by Salon Naturals in its hair care products is recognized by the trade name Geogard Ultra.  This preservative is manufactured by Lonza and presents a multifunctional alternative to more traditional systems through the use of hurdle technology.  Geogard Ultra is the only product of its kind certified by ECOcert for use in natural and organic products.  However, ECOcert standards are not as rigid and their methodology is certainly not as transparent as many other certifying bodies, so this stamp of approval should only be given limited consideration.

The more trustworthy sources of acceptance for Geogard Ultra as a preferable preservation system come from other, more widely recognized bodies whose standards for safety and transparency exceed those of ECOcert.  Specifically, the European Union Cosmetics Directive includes Geogard Ultra on its “Positive List” and can be used in all countries in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering the extremely stringent standards of the EU Directive, (they banned more than 1,100 chemicals from use in cosmetics while the US has banned only eleven), Europe’s comfort level with the safety data associated with Geogard Ultra is clearly reassuring.

The Japanese Ministry of Health & Welfare have also given their approval for the use of Geogard Ultra in both rinse-off and leave-in applications.  Considering that Japan abides by the most stringent criteria in the world concerning what ingredients can be present in the personal care products sold there, the acceptance of Geogard Ultra as an approved preservative certainly encourages a level of comfort concerning its safety characteristics.

The positive aspects of Geogard Ultra include:

  • Multi-functionality (effective in a wide variety of cosmetic products, including shampoos, lotions and skin creams)
  • Broad spectrum (creates an overall hostile environment for varying types of microbes within a formulation)
  • Globally accepted (beyond Europe and Japan, Geogard is also viewed as safe by the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association in North America as well as regulatory bodies in Latin and South America).
  • Laboratory tests show that Geogard improves skin moisture content
  • Listed as a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) ingredient
  • Broad compatibility with other widely used cosmetic ingredients
  • Developed without reliance on animal testing
  • Contains no GMO’s

There are, however, opponents to the use of Geogard Ultra as a preservation system for cosmetics and personal care products.  The data used as a basis for these concerns is well-documented and widely accepted as true and reliable.  One of the ingredients used to manufacture Geogard Ultra is sodium benzoate.  This has been a controversial ingredient, especially in the UK, since it was discovered that when used in combination, sodium benzoate and Vitamin C together create a chemical known as Benzene.  Benzene is, without question, carcinogenic.  Furthermore, Benzene fed to mice causes mitochondrial degeneration, which is viewed as one of the primary causes of aging and cell death.  Certainly this information is a legitimate cause for concern if the necessary variables and precise conditions for occurence are overlooked.

Fortunately, the combination of sodium benzoate with vitamin C is a mandatory condition for the creation of the carcinogenic environment linked to Benzene.  Sodium Benzoate on its own (not combined with Vitamin C) is in no way considered carcinogenic.  In fact extremely large amounts of Sodium Benzoate would need to be ingested in order to produce even slight toxic consequences for the body.  In studies where mice have been fed a substantial diet of sodium benzoate, the data clearly indicate that their life expectancies were not shortened, nor was any notable health affect present at all.

Careful consideration of this data, combined with an understanding of the currently imperfect nature of preservatives is the driving force behind Salon Naturals’ decision to rely on Geogard Ultra as the preservative in all formulations.  Since ideal and perfect are not options at this time, ensuring the preservatives utilize the “most beneficial” and “least potential for harm” approach possible is the current best-case scenario.  For today, Geogard Ultra meets those criteria better than any other option identified in the industry’s marketplace.  It is not perfect or ideal and it’s frustrating to have no choice but to include a “flawed” substance in an otherwise beautiful combination of ingredients.  Unfortunately, that is reality as it exists today.  Hopefully, tomorrow the world will wake up to headline news announcing a 100% natural, organic, risk-free preservative that works like a charm.  Wouldn’t that be great?

To review Lonza’s product information sheet on Geogard Ultra, click here.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yummy! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Aloe vera has been recognized as a power nutrient for more than 4000 years.  Aloe is a herb that is a member of the Lily family and shares a close resemblance to the cactus.  It contains more than 75 nutrients, which include 19 of the 20 amino acids required by the human body for good health.  Eight of these aminos are not produced by the body – aloe contains all but one of these.  Among the other most prevalent nutrients are:

  • Two different hormones which assist with healing wounds and reducing inflammation, along with stimulating the growth of new, healthier cells.
  • A cellulose based substance called Lignin, which assists Aloe in penetrating the skin.  This allows the soothing properties of the plant to reach damaged skin areas and strip toxic materials that may be restricting blood flow. 
  • The Salicylic Acid found in Aloe Vera serves as a pain killer that boasts anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  The four steroids found in the plant also have anti-inflammtory, antiseptic and analgesic properties. 
  • Aloe Vera contains nine different vitamins:  A, C & E serve as antioxidants & neutralise free radicals; B1, 3, 5, 6 promote amino acid metabolism
  • This miracle plant also contains numerous minerals, including calcium copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, sodium and zinc.  It is also currently the only known source for vitamin B12.

The list above is by no means, exhaustive, but it should provide a broad overview of the myriad of health benefits found in the Aloe Vera plant.

Aloe Vera is manufactured and marketed through numerous methods – some of which can undermine its potency and effectiveness.  These plants are not considered “mature” until they are four years old.  Before selecting a product made with Aloe Vera, it is important to educate yourself on the manufacturer’s policies regarding when the plant is harvested.  Also inquire as to whether or not the plant is derived from organic sources.  Unquestionably, this will impact the potency and to what degree the benefits are effective.

If you have stayed with me through the “History of Aloe Vera,” let’s move on to the specific benefits of this amazing plant to both the hair and the skin.  First of all, hair care cannot be considered separately from skin care. Obviously, one of the requirements for beautiful, vibrant, and strong, resilient  hair is a healthy scalp.  There are five widely recognized types of Aloe Vera.  Aloe Barbadensis is the most often used for health purposes and it is this species that we use as the foundational ingredient (instead of water) in all of our hair care formulations.  It is the synergistic quality of Aloe that is responsible for the numerous benefits of the plant to improved health, skin, hair and overall wellbeing.

Aloe vera benefits the scalp in numerous ways.  Firstly, it heals injured tissues and is an excellent remedy for abrasions, cuts, eczema and other conditions.  It encourages the skin to produce increased collagen and discourage the formulation of fine lines.  It is easily absorbed into the skin – even more easily than water.  Aloe Vera is equally beneficial for the hair.  It aids in thickening the hair cuticle and has been used for centuries as a hair conditioner.  Recent research studies even suggest that regular use of Aloe Vera on the hair can diminish hair loss, while it stimulates the growth of new hair.  Finally, it serves as an excellent treatment for scalp conditions such as irritation and redness. 

Today’s scientists refer to Aloe Vera as a diverse mixture of antioxidants, antibiotics, cell stimulators, scar inhibitors, anti-inflammatories, astringents, and pain inhibitors.  Clearly this nutritional jackpot serves as an excellent addition to your internal health, as well as exceptional support for strong, healthy hair and skin.

New and exciting benefits through the use of Aloe Vera are constantly being discovered as researchers delve deeper into this amazing plant.  The aloe vera used in our products is certified organic and processed according to stringent standards that allow it to maintain its full potency and effectiveness.  Substituting Aloe Vera as the primary base in our shampoos and conditioners instead of water is firmly supported by research in the medical and wellness communities.  Furthermore, older, more established cultures embrace the daily use of this herb so completely that we are inspired by their testimonies as to its effectiveness.  We hope you will research further this beauty and wellness miracle provided by nature for our use and incorporate it not only into your hair care routine, but into your wellness-based lifestyle also.  Visit to learn more about Aloe Vera and our use of this natural powerhouse.  If you have any questions or comments, please share – we love learning for our readers’ own uses and experiences.

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Ingredient of the Week - Yummy! | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment