Natural is great—it’s better for us, better for our horses, & better for the environment; but have you ever wondered “do natural grooming products actually work?”
For years now, studies have suggested that certain endocrine disruptors found in many personal-care products, such as phthalates and parabens, may have negative long-term health effects, and many of us informed beauty shoppers have a general aversion to silicones when it comes to products for ourselves, but what about products for our horses? If you’ve thought about greening your grooming routine with natural grooming products, whether motivated by concern for the planet or the suspected toxicity of certain chemicals, but have questioned the scope of what can be achieved using natural grooming products -- this one’s for you.
Simply using ‘natural’ labelled products won’t ensure you get great results. That’s because neither ours or our horse’s bodies can decipher what a “natural” product is. The distinction comes from the molecular structure of the ingredients you use. Our bodies absorb and use different molecules in different ways and there are lots of ingredients, both natural and synthetic, that actually don’t mix with ours, or our horse’s bodies, or that require special preservation systems. That’s why at Purvida Healthy Horse, we assess ingredients for our natural grooming products not just by whether they’re “natural” but also by whether they’re safe and biocompatible with our horse’s skin.
Many of your traditional grooming products not only contain harsh, sometimes toxic chemicals, but are also diluted with fillers and chemical preservatives to extend the lifespan. This means that while the product may offer temporary results, you shouldn't hold your breath waiting to see any real long-term benefits. On the other hand, ingredients in our natural grooming products are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals at high concentrations that truly feed your horse’s skin from the outside. That’s why if you’ve ever tried our natural grooming products, you’ll notice an instantly more hydrated and brighter coat after just one use, and over time, you’ll notice a healthier skin and coat condition overall. However, just using cold pressed plant oils or botanical extracts won’t do the trick for creating a quality natural grooming products that actually works. Like food, your skincare or grooming products have a shelf life, especially natural grooming products--which is one of the most important things to think about when considering the safety and efficacy of all natural grooming products.
We get asked about our ingredients in our natural grooming products a lot, and of all the ingredients we work with, preservatives and emulsifiers are probably the least exciting ones. However, preservatives and emulsifiers are some of the MOST important ingredients we use in our natural grooming products. Lindsay, our incredibly talented biochemist in charge of R&D and formulations checks in with us on this blog post to share some insight into why:
One of the most controversial ingredients in natural grooming products and skincare for horses and riders alike is the humble preservative. Should it be there? Is it important? What happens if it’s not in there?
Have you ever stopped to think about how dirty it can get at the barn? Touching a product with your fingers, dunking a dirty hoof oil brush back in the container, or even just adding water to a product all increases your
chances of bacteria growth. Water-based products that are free of preservatives can go bad within a matter of weeks, sometimes even days, and most times you won’t notice any difference in the smell or appearance. This is why if you find yourself DIY-ing your own natural grooming products, fly spray, or hoof oil you found on Pinterest, it’s important to use it up within a few days of making it.
Natural and naturally derived preservatives are some of the least talked about, but MOST important ingredients in the formulation of skincare and natural grooming products. If even one small preservation system is missing or inadequate, microbacterial growth is inevitable in the product that you’re then applying to yours or your horse’s skin. Product preservation has always been a challenge to the formulation chemist, but it’s even more important and fundamental in organic and natural grooming products. The more natural ingredients we apply, the more “food” we offer to micro-organisms.
All natural grooming products, unless they're totally waterless (in case of oil blends, butters or balms), are a great medium for hundreds of micro-organisms to survive and to grow in. All of the following provide excellent food and growth conditions for bacteria, yeast and mould:
- High water content
- Hydrosols, plant extracts and dried plants
- Natural gums
- An ambient temperature of storage and application (not too hot, not too cold)
- Ambient humidity
- A pH between 4.5-6.5
No matter how clean you work, no matter how hygienic your production and filling conditions are, no matter whether you disinfect all your jars and bottles before filling, and boil the water, micro-organisms will end up in any grooming product unless you actually do something to get rid of them.
In order to keep our natural grooming products safe and plant-based, we have a limited range of preservatives we can work with. It’s a balancing act and we have to get the level of preservatives and the packaging just right. Unfortunately, there is no packaging material commercially available that can completely preserve a cosmetic product (yet). However, the type of packaging we choose has a large impact on our choice of preservatives and the required amount of that preservative in our natural grooming products.
While ours and our horse’s bodies may love plant based ingredients, unfortunately, so does bacteria. Natural grooming products for horses, especially in light of how dirty horses like to get, need to be safe to use during their full shelf life and the only way that’s possible is preservation and challenge testing.
How do we do that? After working together to create a base formula for our natural grooming products, Lindsay heads to the lab and creates various samples, each with different preservation systems, and puts them through a “challenge test” where each sample is introduced to 5 different types of bacteria, fungus, and mould. If the product does not exhibit any microbial growth after 7, then 14, then 28 days, the preservation system was successful and we can then move on to the fun part...quality testing!
In the end, some of the hardest working, scientifically proven ingredients in skincare products for both us and our horses are natural, but there is a chemistry behind effective natural grooming products and at Purvida Healthy Horse, it's all about finding that balance. After all, what goes on your horse’s skin goes in their bodies, too.
Want to learn more about how our natural grooming products can help your horse look and feel their best? Keep scrolling or shop our full line here