Recently, one of my daughter’s friends requested I customize her bath bubbler tablets (aka their more common name, “bath bombs”). She asked that I make her black bath tablets with a lavender scent.
A common go-to for some makers of black bath tablets are black iron oxide, which is a fairly harmless ingredient if it is the natural type. Black iron oxide is a very strong black colorant. If used correctly it will result in a true black. Natural black iron oxide is derived from either hematite, which is a red iron oxide mineral; limonite, which varies from yellow to brown, such as ochers, siennas, and umbers; or magnetite, which is the most common type of natural black iron oxide. However, many companies use synthetic iron oxide pigments which are produced from chemically-forced or thermal decomposition of iron compounds usually accompanied by rapid oxidation. OSHA agrees with the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) that, “it is not generally accepted that exposure to synthetic iron oxide causes cancer in humans”. It might be time to check those toiletries for synthetic iron oxides. At The Apothecary Company, we never use any synthetic iron oxides, and we prefer to use ingredients that add a healing quality to the product, so it is rare that we use black iron oxides.
So considering my daughter’s friend’s request for Black Bath Bubbler Tablets, I chose the healthier option to use activated charcoal – an all-natural ingredient with applications of emergency toxin removal, and daily detoxifying of toxins from the skin and internal organs. It is a decidedly safe and beneficial ingredient to use for face and body products and even ingestion. It also whitens teeth if added to toothpaste.
Turns out Activated Charcoal does have its limits as far as “ease of use” (I’m sad, too). Why do you ask? Because of its pitch black charcoal that stains. When we tested the tablets before we sold them to my daughter’s friend, we found they were messy, leaving a beautifully lavender-scented pitch black tub ring to clean up, post-“relaxation”. It was so bad we didn’t sell them. Not what I call a happy follow up to self-care time by cleaning a pitch black tub stain.
I did find one recipe online that said adding polysorbate-80, a synthetic nonionic surfactant formed by the ethoxylation of sorbitan before the addition of synthetic lauric acid. Polysorbate is a synthetic emulsifier with qualities that cause it to adhere and surround the molecules of colorants, etc., and in this case, allows the black color to stick less to your tub and skin. The Apothecary Company, however, does not use Polysorbate 80 (polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monooleate); Polysorbate 20 (polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate); Polysorbate 40 (polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monopalmitate); Polysorbate 60 (polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate); or any of the other synthetic chemical. You know, sometimes it just doesn’t work. But, think of this, that activated charcoal black bath bomb stuck to the name “bath bomb”! (BTW, we found something less messy to really help her enjoy self-care time.)
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