Our Definition of Better-for-You Ingredients

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the 90’s, there was no such thing as clean beauty. Sure, natural products were sold in health-food stores but there wasn’t much selection and the rest of the personal care products widely available contained varying degrees of benign to harmful ingredients. As I started exploring more about what we put into and onto our bodies, I got concerned. 

Better for youAround this same time, researchers from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine discovered that so many of the chemicals in our environment and in the products we were using and ingesting every day actually remain in our blood, our urine, and even in breast milk. Another study, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group, found that newborns also have chemicals in their tiny bodies, transferred to them from their mothers through their umbilical cords. In fact, the researchers found that newborns have approximately 287 chemicals in their umbilical cords! How many make it into their bodies, we don’t know but we shouldn’t be waiting to find out.

These chemicals stored in our bodies is referred to as our chemical body burden. At the time I launched Pharmacopia, scientists were just beginning to understand the effect these chemicals have on our bodies and on the development of chronic diseases and disorders like fibromyalgia.

Stop for a second to consider this: Europe actually restricts what chemicals are allowed in products, from food to personal care products and cosmetics. Today, they restrict 1,600 ingredients for personal care products alone, while the US—with its relaxed regulations—restricts just 9! Wait…what? It’s just craziness when you think about it. 

This is why I set out to do what I could to make a difference. I created a line of personal care products with only non-toxic ingredients, as close to nature as possible. That’s how and why Pharmacopia was born.

So What Are Better-for-You Ingredients?

Better-for-you ingredients are so much more than just natural ingredients. They’re ingredients without harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances. They’re ingredients ethically and sustainably sourced and packaged so they’re good for the environment too. And they’re ingredients that support the body and have beneficial properties.

I like to think of ingredients on a continuum—from ones in their most natural state as they’re found in nature to ones that are minimally transformed and, on the far right end of the spectrum, ones that are created through chemical manipulating in a lab or factory. At Pharmacopia, we try to source ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. As part of our mission, which has stayed true since I founded the brand in 1999, we say “yes” to better-for-you ingredients and “no” to toxins in our products.

That means we say “yes” to plant-based ingredients from natural, organic, vegan, and/or sustainable sources to nourish and hydrate skin and hair. And we say “yes” to fresh and distinctive natural scents derived from essential oils with aromatherapeutic benefits to uplift, energize, and calm. 

Examples of Our Natural, Better-for-You Ingredients 

Here are just a few of our better-for-you ingredients for skin and hair that work with the body to keep you beautiful—and healthy: 

Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract 
Marshmallow root extract is a flowering plant native to Africa. It’s used topically to soothe the skin. 

Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil 
Argan oil is produced from the kernels of the argan tree, found exclusively in Morocco. It’s packed with antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids, and linoleic acid. This quickly-absorbed oil is used for moisturizing both skin and hair. It helps reduce inflammation and is especially beneficial for dry or mature skin. 

Avena Sativa (Oat) Straw Extract 
This extract reduces inflammation and soothes skin irritations or rashes. 

Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter 
High in vitamins A and E, this butter from the nut of the African Karite tree is used as an effective moisturizer for dry, itchy, or sunburned skin. 

Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract 
This flower extract calms sensitive skin and reduces inflammation. 

Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil 
Olive oil is known for its anti-aging benefits. It helps protect skin and restore elasticity. 

Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract 
Olive leaf extract softens and smooths the skin. It’s used for smoothing and conditioning hair and provides heat protection. On the skin, it provides an excellent, non-greasy feel that hydrates and conditions. 

Orbignya Oleifera (Babasu) Seed Oil 
Babasu oil grows wild in tropical northeastern Brazil. It’s known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is used in skin and hair formulations as an emollient and conditioner. 

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil 
This seed oil softens and smooths the skin and is used for smoothing and conditioning hair. On the skin, it provides an excellent, non-greasy feel that hydrates and conditions. 

Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Root Extract 
Comfrey is well known in herbal medicine for wound healing, preventing and treating scars, and soothing dry skin. 

Ingredients to Avoid
Pharmacopia was born paraben-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. That’s why we still say “no” today to harsh chemicals, parabens and animal testing, as well as to phthalates and synthetic fragrances. Here’s why: 

Parabens are man-made chemicals often used in small amounts as preservatives in cosmetics and other products. Most people in the United States, according to the CDC, have some levels of parabens in their urine. Women have higher amounts than men, which is incredibly concerning.

The problem with parabens is this: Some studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility, affecting birth outcomes, and increasing the risk of cancer. They can also cause skin irritation. At Pharmacopia, we don’t take a chance if there’s a potential risk! (And it seems that in Europe, they don’t want to take a chance either, banning some parabens entirely that are believed to be endocrine disruptors.)

Phthalates, are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable but they’re also used in personal care products. DBP or di-n-butyl phthalate is found in nail polishes, while DEP or diethyl phthalate is found in personal care products to enhance fragrance and make the scent last longer. Many times you won’t see this ingredient on a product label; you may just see the words “fragrance,” “perfume,” or even “patented formula” listed. This is a trade secret that means the ingredients don’t have to be disclosed.

Synthetic fragrances Phthalates are one reason why we don’t use synthetic fragrances in any of our Pharmacopia products. We opt, instead for natural-derived fragrances and essential oils that have beneficial effects on the body and well-being (see more on this here).

Our philosophy: You should always know what ingredients you’re using in your personal care products! That’s why with Pharamacopia, you can rest easy: we’ve got your back and have two goals: to keep your skin and hair radiant—and to keep you and the environment healthy for many years to come.