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The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Phthalate FREE

The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Phthalate FREE

What are Phthalates?

A group of chemicals with a variety of functions depending on the particular  phthalate. They are, and in some cases ‘were’, used in all kinds of products -  from plastic to flooring, pharmaceuticals to food packaging, and of course, cosmetics and personal care. More often than not, they are used to make plastics more durable. 

Since our concern is personal care products, there are only 3 phthalates that have historically been relevant. Diethyl Phthalate (DEP), which is used as a solvent (to help dissolve other materials), often in fragrance. Dimethyl Phthalate (DMP), which forms a flexible film in hair care products. And Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), which acts as a plasticizer to reduce brittleness and cracking in things like nail polish. 

The only phthalate still in use in personal care - worldwide! - is diethyl phthalate (DEP), which can be used without restriction because of its good safety profile. Since 2007, DBP and DMP have been phased out due to concerns around endocrine disruption. They are no longer relevant. 

Are phthalates dangerous?

Consider mushrooms. Some you can eat, some are poisonous. 

This is exactly the case with phthalates. But, unfortunately, because of general statements about phthalates and confusion around what's actually in cosmetics and what’s actually covered by regulations, all phthalates have been an easy target for fear-mongering.

Time and time again, study after study, regardless of what country’s regulatory body is concerned, or what research lab has been used, the same conclusions continually come up. 

DEP is perfectly fine, is regulated as such, and continues to be used without issue.

DBP was next to perfectly fine, but - better safe than sorry and restricted nonetheless. The risks associated with DBP weren't even all that relevant to cosmetics. They were concerned with food and consumption as the primary form of exposure, i.e consuming foods that have contacted products containing phthalates - like packaging. Some exposure can also occur from breathing phthalate particles in the air - dust etc. And children crawl around and touch many things, then put their hands in their mouths. 

Additionally, when analyzed in animals, eating large amounts affects reproductive ability.

Is any of this applicable to personal care products? Not really. Even the trace amounts that would have been used in cosmetics like nail polish pass every safety test. 

Regardless of all of this, DBP and DMP are banned! No need for concern no matter how you slice it.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Great question. To which the answer is actually quite simple. This is and has been a classic case of opportunistic people preying on misinformed people.

Do most people know that there are different types of phthalates with different chemical profiles that affect different things? No. Do most people care? No. Should they? Yes. 

This is quite literally all that has happened. 

There were 3 common phthalates. One was discovered to be dangerous and banned. The other was discovered to be somewhat dangerous under specific conditions, and was banned across the board anyways. The other is perfectly fine.

Despite only one - the one that was, is, and will always be safe - even being in the marketplace, they have all been lumped together, and demonized as such.

Imagine someone tried to tell you that beautiful grilled portobello was poisonous because other mushrooms were too? 

Does Basic Maintenance use phthalates?

No. But again, we could and all would be perfectly fine. This just happens to be yet another instance of fear-mongering that has prevailed to the point it’s nearly impossible for young, start-up brands to risk using them. Public perception and consumer demands - no matter how misguided they may be - are still real factors to consider when formulating a product. With a strong majority of consumers convinced about the damaging effects of phthalates, we felt it necessary to avoid them.


Full ECHA Dossier on Dibutyl Phthalate

Official report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on Dibutyl Phthalate

SCCS (2007) Opinion on Phthalates in Cosmetic Products

Australian Government. (2008) Existing Chemical Hazard Report, Dibutyl Phthalate.

EPA (2000) Leaflet on Dibutyl Phthalate

US department of health and human services.(2001) Toxicological Profile for DI-n-ButylPhthalate.

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The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: SLS FREE

The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: SLS FREE





It’s a type of sulfate. OK, WTF are sulfates? A class of cleansing surfactant. Great, WTF is a surfactant? Technically, it’s a portmanteau for “surface active agent”. All clear? Whatever.

Anyways, for our purposes, cleansing surfactants are chemicals that stir up activity on the surface you are cleaning to help trap and remove dirt. Their molecular make-up is such that one portion cuts through water, and the other half through oil, so they can help remove dirt from your skin or hair..  

SLS, which stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate , is very good at this. The best, actually. It is not to be confused with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which people assume due to the closeness of their trade names. SLS is much stronger.

Both are produced from petroleum and plant sources such as coconut and palm oil.

You’ve probably only ever come across SLS when denoted by its ‘Free-From’ claim on products. There’s certainly no shortage of them. Ours included.

But are they bad for you? The short answer is ‘no, not really’. The long answer is ‘again, no, but bear with us’.

The most common refrains to backup SLS-Free claims are that they’re irritating, they’re carcinogenic, they’re drying, they’re eco-toxins, and they accumulate in your body. 


Is SLS irritating?

Sure. What it isn’t? This myth is irritating. Yet here we are, talking about it.

When it comes to the products you might find it in - soaps, washes, shampoos, detergents - concentrations usually range from 0.01% - 50%. The upper range is typically found in household cleaning products - which obviously don’t have the same irritancy concerns as a personal care product that you directly apply to yourself. Plus, they generally need to be more effective cleansers. 

Please note that just because SLS is used for industrial cleaners does not mean that it’s  automatically bad for a personal care product - it’s the concentration of it that matters. As the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. Think of it like a beer versus the equivalent liquid volume in whiskey. That extra 35% of alcohol makes quite a difference, doesn’t it?

Anyways, yes, SLS is one of the more irritating surfactants out there. The problem is, it’s irritating if either used, or formulated improperly. Any chemist worth even half a pinch of salt will know this.

Any studies that demonstrate irritancy beyond the usual human sensitivities or allergies, have generally been done so out of context. For example, with soaps, washes, and shampoos, what do you do? You rinse them out. You wash them off. You don’t just sit there with soap all over you for an extended period of time. And yet that is exactly the type of study that has pointed to its irritancy and amplified its vilification.

And when it comes to formulation, rarely, if ever, is SLS used in a personal care product without a “co-surfactant” that helps stabilize it and counteract any potential irritation. Remember, brands want you to like their products. Skin irritation is generally not on their list of product qualities to check off.


Is SLS toxic?

The. Dose. Makes. The. Poison. Again, for the people in the back. Every chemical has a toxic dose. Table salt has a toxic dose. 

“Acute Oral Toxicity” tends to be a major talking point when referencing SLS. This refers to the immediate danger of ingesting something, measured in terms of its median lethal dose, which is the amount needed to kill half of the lab rats getting that dose. 

Do you plan on drinking body wash? If you do, maybe what it’s formulated with isn’t your biggest problem.  


Is SLS carcinogenic or hormone disrupting?

No. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports this. There is nothing linking either SLS or SLES to cancer, infertifly or any developmental issues.


Is SLS drying?

As far as pure cleansing power goes, it’s among the most effective. So yes, it can dry out your skin, scalp or hair. It can strip it of its oils. If you have particularly dry skin, this would be a bit of a concern. However, one easily remedied by rehydrating and moisturizing.


Does SLS build up inside you?

While microscopic amounts can be absorbed if pure SLS is directly applied to your skin’s surface, even then, most of it just sits there. What might get absorbed is quickly metabolized by your liver and rapidly excreted. This is quite literally what your liver exists to do - detoxify you. 


Is SLS eco-friendly?

If it’s derived from palm oil, the destruction of rainforests for plantations is a problem. When it comes to aquatic toxicity, i.e. the short-term negative impacts to aquatic life - extremely high levels of SLS can be mildly toxic. However, the diluted amounts in personal care products - not so much. Not to mention by the time it goes down the drain, through your municipality’s in/out water filtration systems, and finally reaching a natural water source - it’s largely been reduced to nothing.  Oh, and it’s readily biodegradable.


So, should I avoid SLS?

No. But whether you choose to or not is entirely up to you. There’s no particular reason to avoid them unless you have an individual sensitivity towards them. It does not pose any risk to you or the environment if used correctly. If you find it too drying for your skin or hair, you are free to choose “Free From” products. But, if you have some products that contain SLS and you like them, don’t let all the bullshit scare you away.


Does Basic Maintenance use SLS?

No. But we could, and quite frankly, we should. It would be more cost-effective. This just happens to be an instance of fear-mongering that has prevailed to the point it’s nearly impossible for young, start-up brands to risk using them. 

Public perception and consumer demands - no matter how misguided they may be - are still real factors to consider when formulating a product. With a strong majority of consumers still convinced about the harmful effects of SLS, we felt it necessary to avoid it.

Once we have some more clout, maybe we’ll reconsider.



Bondi C et al. (2015) Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products.Environ Health Insights. 2015; 9: 27–32.

Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR). Final report on the safety assessment of sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate. Int J Toxicol. 2005; 24(1): 1–102.

Green, K. Johnson, R.E. Chapman, J.M. Nelson, E. Cheeks, L. Preservative effects on the healing rate of rabbit corneal epithelium. Lens Eye Toxic Res. 1989; 6: 37–41.

Gloxhuber, C. Künstler, K. Anionic Surfactants: Biochemistry, Toxicology, Dermatology. 2nd ed., Vol. 43. New York: Marcel Dekker; 1992.

Horita K et al. (2017) Effects of different base agents on prediction of skin irritation by sodium lauryl sulfate using patch testing and repeated application test. Toxicology 382:10-15.

De Jongh, C.M. Verberk, M.M. Withagen, C.E. Jacobs, J.J. Rustemeyer, T. Kezic, S. Stratum corneum cytokines and skin irritation response to sodium lauryl sulfate. Contact Dermatitis. 2006; 54(6): 325–33.

Lewis, M.A. Chronic and sublethal toxicities of surfactants to aquatic animals: a review and risk assessment. Water Res. 1991; 25(1): 101–13.

Karsa, D.R. Porter, M.R. , eds. Biodegradability of Surfactants. Glasgow: Blackie Academic & Professional; 1995.

Mizutani T et al. (2016) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Stimulates the Generation of Reactive Oxygen Species through Interactions with Cell Membranes. J Oleo Sci. 65(12):993-1001.

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Sustainability and Packaging: We Chose Plastic. Here’s Why

Sustainability and Packaging: We Chose Plastic. Here’s Why


Bottles, tubes, jars, droppers, ampules, cans, jugs, tubs, sticks...whatever. The options for personal care packaging are seemingly endless.  

How do you choose? Why did Basic Maintenance choose plastic? Why are some products in tubes and others in bottles? All good questions, to which we will take you behind the scenes to answer. 



Generally, packaging considerations start simply with what you can afford.

The state of the industry is such that when it comes to ordering packaging, the minimums for most types of containers are enormously high - between 10,000 and 30,000. Needless to say, this isn’t particularly feasible for a…start-up.  

It’s a massive barrier to entry, an obstruction to innovation, and a cost that we aren’t yet able to absorb.

Stability & Compatibility

Once you’ve found a suitable supplier, the next consideration is what’s known as stability. Stability, as it sounds, addresses whether or not the particular formula you intend to put in that packaging will remain stable over time. Will it react adversely to the material of the packaging? At high temperatures? At low temperatures? Will it affect the formula in any way? Bacteria? Colour? Viscosity?

In terms of compatibility, and depending on the ingredients and the function of the product, plastic might be a necessity to safely protect the formula over time and ensure a safe customer experience. Sometimes it’s just simple common sense. For example, there is good reason for not seeing a lot of shampoo bottles made of glass. The last thing you want while taking a bath or a shower is shards of glass accidentally entering the mix.

Once you’ve determined whether or not your formula is stable in a particular type of packaging and compatible for its intended use, you’re generally good to go.

For most products, plastic is obviously the most common, followed by glass and aluminum. Some brands make use of papers and various biobased options - such as sugarcane - but less commonly. Why? Because of stability and compatibility.

As a quick example, consider paper packaging. Paper gets…wet. This clearly isn’t a viable option for any liquid based formulas. Plus, if you ever see a cosmetic in a paper based container, exactly 100% of the time it’s either lined with plastic, or sprayed/soaked with a resinous chemical to make it waterproof. So really what’s the point?


When we think of sustainability, we usually tend to think of the end-of-life state of the product/packaging at hand - i.e. how it’s discarded. Unfortunately, this ignores the entire life cycle of the product/packaging up until that point. The production, transportation, usage and finally, end-of-life disposal of the item all contribute to its environmental impact. 

Measuring this is done by what’s known as a Life Cycle Analysis. Quantifying the total environmental impact at each stage in the product’s life cycle. How much energy is used to produce it? How much water? How much land? What types of emissions does it generate? How much energy is used to transport it? How is the product used? How easily is it disposed of and/or recycled or reused?

Unsurprisingly, most people would assume glass or aluminum are the most environmentally friendly materials. Oddly enough, this is incorrect. But there is a whole lot of context and nuance involved. So take it all with a grain of salt. 


When ranking material production in relation to energy efficiency, plastic is second right after wood and aluminum and glass are last.

There is also what’s known as PCR Plastics - Post Consumer Resin or Post Consumer Recycled. These are plastics that have been produced using previously recycled plastics. They have been cleaned, melted down and molded into new pellets for further use in plastic production. 

The production of PCR plastics like R-PTE and R-HDPE gives the lowest contribution to global warming, stratospheric ozone depletion, terrestrial acidification, fossil resource scarcity, water consumption and human carcinogenic toxicity, followed by virgin plastic bottles, returnable glass bottles, and finally non-returnable glass bottles. 

As a brief snapshot of the type of energy consumed in the production of plastic, glass and aluminum, consider this: the amount of energy it takes to create a PET plastic bottle is 11 million BTU, vs. 16 million BTU for an aluminum can and 26.6 BTU for a glass bottle. The CO2 equivalent - think greenhouse gas emissions -  is 1,125 for a PET bottle, 2,766 for an aluminum can, and 4,848 for a glass bottle. 

Plastic is the clear winner here. 


The weight of goods is an important factor in transportation. From both a cost and emissions perspective, plastic is the preferred choice by ingredient suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors due to a variety of factors. 

Glass simply weighs a lot. It requires a lot of money, and a lot of energy to ship around the world. Aluminum is lighter, but even here, it doesn’t make-up for the astronomical numbers it puts up from its energy use in the production phase. 

Again, plastic comes out on top. 


As plastic is more durable there is less chance of breaks, leaks and a stronger resistance to environmental extremes potentially experienced during shipment. 

Extreme swings in temperature - for example, sitting on a loading dock in Alaska or one in Miami - can and do have drastic effects on products. While the stability concerns above were regarding the impact this might have on the formula itself, temperature fluctuations affect packaging as well. Particularly glass. It breaks! Consider this: most of your personal care products are formulated with water as the primary ingredient. What does water do when it freezes? It expands. Slowly but surely putting pressure on that glass bottle until it cracks. 

Temperature fluctuations aside, glass packaging’s rate of failure at the freight, store and end-use level is a real issue. 

Not only does this affect that individual product and order, but having to replace any damaged product doubles the carbon footprint of the purchase. You have to re-bottle and repack and reship that heavy glass to fulfill the order all over again. 

More often than not, plastic again is the better choice. 


This is where it gets a bit interesting. By interesting, we mean disheartening.

Firstly, there are two types of recycling systems. Single stream collection, and multi stream collection. 

Single-stream means recyclable items are all mixed into a single recycling bin. Glass, aluminum and steel cans, various types of plastic, paper products - you name it - it all gets tossed into one, generally blue, bin.  Once collected by truck, it is sent to a sorting facility where it goes through both mechanical and manual separation. Most US and Canadian municipalities use single-stream curbside collection.  

Multi-stream is when the consumer cleans and manually sorts items into designated bins by material and color, for example: clear, green, and amber glass. This is far more common in European countries.

In terms of plastic, PET and HDPE make up most of the bottle market in North America. They are the most recycled and the easiest to recycle using either single or multi stream collection. 

At the sorting facility level, PET and HDPE plastics are easily identified by their recycling code number. Look for the recycling triangle with the numbers 1 or 2 at the center. They are the most likely to be correctly sorted and recycled as opposed to thinner, more flexible plastics. Once recycled, the sustainability factor for both improves even more, because nearly half of their energy is attributed to their “resource energy” i.e. the energy that can be recaptured and reused through recycling. A topic for another day. 

The destination of the product after use, i.e. it’s ‘end-of-life’, includes mechanical or chemical recycling, burning the plastic into energy, or burying it in a landfill.  None of these systems is a perfect solution. There is a real need for innovation to prevent it all from heading directly to landfills or accumulating in different ecosystems.

It is estimated that 30% of all plastics ever produced are currently in use, approximately 12% of plastics have been incinerated and 9% have been recycled, and only 10% have been recycled more than once. Around 60% of all plastics ever produced have been discarded and are simply building up in landfills or the natural environment. 

This is bad!

When it comes to glass, unfortunately, recycling of it simply still isn’t great - especially in the US. Canada is marginally better, but not enough to make much of a difference. Regardless of how high people rank the importance of environmental solutions like recycling, the statistics reveal a massive gap between the fact that glass can be endlessly recycled and the reality that it’s simply not happening. In theory, it can be melted down and molded into new glass products with no loss of quality. Technology and municipal systems aside, this is technically possible, but rarely the case. 

In the US, of the 10 million metric tons of glass that is disposed of every year, only 33% is properly recycled. Consider this in contrast to the EU, where 90% of glass is recycled. 

This shortfall is due to a combination of government policy and consumer habits/education. Our single-stream services mean that once collected by truck and sent to the sorting facility, the glass is separated and sold to crushed glass - aka cullet -  producers. The glass that gets sent to these producers needs to be as clean as possible, so the quality and the ability to recycle it isn’t degraded. Another problem is the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of these - around 400 in the US and 100 in Canada. Relative to the recycling needs of population size, this is untenable. 

Rather than asking people to be more vigilant about sorting, cleaning and packaging recyclable products into proper bins - like other countries - we are heavily dependent on sorting these facilities. 

Then there’s what’s known as ‘wish-cycling’. When well intentioned people throw things into the recycling bins that can’t be recycled – plastic bags, batteries, light bulbs, soiled food containers, whatever. Garbage mistakenly placed in the recycling bin can render the entire bin, or, in some cases - the entire truckload! - non-recyclable. Wish-cycling usually sends things straight to a landfill. This is generally due to a lack of consumer education about what can and cannot be recycled, coupled with a lack of alternative systems, like a multi steam service.

So, plastic or glass? The answer here isn’t all that clear. If glass is actually reused and recycled it can be the gold standard in sustainable materials available. However, if proper recycling systems are not in place, then glass starts to fall short very quickly.

For plastic, the most ideal solution, in principle, is working towards a circular economy, where it is kept in constant rotation. Transitioning to a circular economy offers opportunities to close waste loops for plastic and extends the life of plastic through recycling.

Not sure there is a case for either plastic or glass to have won this round. 


A large majority of finished cosmetic products housed in plastic or glass are multi-use: they are not disposed of after a single use and the amount of times they are used according to function can range into several hundred uses. Depending on the size and type, the product could also be kept in use for several weeks to multiple months. 

What about single-use plastics?

Single use packaging is one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste across the world. In our industry, single use plastic can take the form of sampling, packaging materials, shipping materials, and for specific products, things like spatulas or applicators. Raw materials are typically delivered in plastic bags, known as totes, or plastic drums. Sometimes these can be reused, other times not. It generally depends on the ingredients shipped, as well as the take-back policy of the supplier. 

Even if a glass bottle is used a few times over, it still doesn’t make up for the nearly quadrupled energy production it takes to produce a plastic bottle that is used only once.

Unless that bottle is discarded into the sea.

Nuance. Context. Inconclusiveness. 


What does Basic Maintenance use?

All of our containers are virgin PET or HDPE plastics. 

Regardless of what we’re sourcing, we take into account the location, packaging materials, certifications and ingredient weight with an eye towards ensuring the lowest carbon footprint possible. Unfortunately, some tradeoffs do have to be made in order to ensure the safest and most effective ingredients for the formulas and packaging of our products.

Why do you not use PCR plastics?

Going back to the conversation above regarding the minimum order quantities required for PCR plastic containers, we would have to purchase 30,000 units of each tube and bottle type we required. That was simply out of the question. We’re buying our packaging containers 250 at a time… Because, y’know, we’re just getting started. 

As soon as we can justify the price tag and order quantity for PCR plastics, you bet we’ll be doing it. While virgin plastics are indeed the second best packaging option for sustainability reasons, you know what they say - if you aint first, you’re last. And we have every intention of being number one across all categories. Hard to imagine us priding ourselves on having the best products in the second best packaging. 



Documentation for Greenhouse Gas Emission and Energy Factors Used in the Waste Reduction Model

Plastic Pollution 
Plastic Pollution. Oxford University and Global Change Data Lab.

Impact Of Plastics Packaging On Life Cycle Energy Consumption & Greenhouse Gas Emissions In The United States And Canada. Substitution Analysis. Franklin Associates, A Division of Eastern Research Group (ERG) © January 2014 

"U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database." (2012). National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012: 

Single-use Plastics: A Roadmap for Sustainability. United Nations Environment Programme, 2018.

Single-use Plastics. Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). October 2016. 

Lifecycle Inventory Of Three Single-serving Soft Drink Containers.
Franklin Associates. August 2009.

Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made.
Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck, and Kara Lavender Law. Science Advances. ©2017 ;3: e1700782 19 July 2017

Introduction to PET. PET Resin Association (PETRA).

The Future of Petrochemicals. International Energy Agency.

Gomes, Thiago & Visconte, Leila & Pacheco, Elen. (2019). Life Cycle Assessment of Polyethylene Terephthalate Packaging: An Overview. Journal of Polymers and the Environment. 27. 10.1007/s10924-019-01375-5.

Michela Vellini, Michela Savioli. Energy and environmental analysis of glass container production and recycling. Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Energy: The International Journal.  (2008).

Why Glass Recylcing in the US is Broken. Jacoby, 2019.

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The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Natural, Clean and Green.

The All-Bullshit List of Product Claims: Natural, Clean and Green.


1.1 Defining Natural

What does natural mean?

Here’s a few standard definitions to get you started. These have all been taken from the International Organization for Standardization’s guidelines on technical definitions and criteria for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients and products.

100% natural: ingredients that are obtained from plants, animals, microbiological, or mineral origin. These come either by physical processing - such as drying and distilling, grinding and extraction through solvents - or certain fermentation reactions that occur in nature. All without any intentional chemical modification. Ingredients such as essential oils fall into this category. Or something as simple as sea salt.

Naturally derived: end-use ingredients that are of at least 50% natural in origin (in molecular weight). These have been obtained through defined chemical or biological processes with the intention of modification. Virtually all metal or petroleum based products are naturally derived.

Synthetic/non-natural: Ingredients obtained from fossil fuel or ingredients having more than 50% of non-natural composition.

What are "clean" products?

‘Clean’ is a marketing phrase. It doesn’t have any definition in this context let alone a legal one. When brands make this claim, they’re usually addressing the assumption that ‘clean’ products or ingredients are better for you and/or the environment.  

Are products that have less of an environmental impact important? Obviously. Should products be safe for consumers? Of course. It seems completely fucking ridiculous to have to even say this. Sustainability matters, as does product safety. No argument here. If this excludes us from ever going on Joe Rogan, so be it.  

But the thing about it is, labeling one line of products as clean, simply implies the others are dirty. A brilliant marketing tactic because to the consumer, the choice seems easy. 

Are natural or clean products safer?

Firstly, it’s literally illegal to sell unsafe cosmetic products. Regulations around the world might differ, but in the developed world, it’s fairly constant. There are checks and balances in place to ensure your products will be safe. Ingredients are rigorously safety tested. All of them.

For potentially problematic ingredients - aggregate exposure at maximal consumer usage is taken into account when setting regulatory limits. These limits are then set far below the percentages required to have a toxicological effect. 

Prior to releasing finished products into the market, manufacturers are required to take steps to substantiate safety - through things like formula stability testing, challenge testing of the preservative systems, and even skin patch testing. 

Secondly, brands have a stake in you liking their products. Releasing unsafe products would seem… unwise.

Are natural or clean products better for the environment?

No. Countless natural ingredients are fraught with sustainability challenges. From the massive amounts of plant material needed for extraction and slow regrowth, to land degradation and nefarious harvesting practices - think indentured servitude and mass machinery - just because an ingredient is natural doesn't mean it’s better for the environment. Basically, “natural” products need places to grow, and they require machines and energy for harvesting. They require all sorts of processing. 

Sometimes, making something in a lab requires a fraction of the energy that it would to extract it from the earth. A simple visualizer here would be diamonds. And to really stir up some shit, we’ll throw lab-grown meat in there too ;)

But, let’s look at Vitamin C. A naturally occurring essential vitamin found in countless plants. Virtually all Vitamin C - outside of the amounts you obtain from eating fruits and vegetables - has been synthetically produced in a lab. It’s highly concentrated, chemically pure, and easily produced. Imagine the amount of fruits and vegetables we’d have to process to fulfill the world’s daily vitamin C supplement needs?

Should I be afraid of chemicals?

No. Everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical. There is no life without chemicals. The demonization of chemicals, at its core, is absolutely hilarious when you really take the time to think about it. 

So, are natural or clean ingredients bad?

No. Not at all. There are countless natural ingredients that are highly effective and beneficial. The point is to not just assume that because something is natural that it is better for you. This is what’s known as an appeal to nature fallacy. 

1.2 In Defense of Preservatives

What’s the deal with preservatives and natural products?

Yet another concerning trend. The wave of “Preservative Free'' products being introduced to the market, touting their safety and naturalness. Ironically, they’re usually recalled not long after due to safety concerns. What a world. 

The issue here is rancidity - how quickly natural products “go bad”. Think of the vegetables in your fridge. Leave them long enough, and they go moldy. 

This is why cosmetic products are formulated with various preservative systems. Without them, shelf-life would be minimal, and products would turn toxic rather quickly. Unpreserved or poorly preserved cosmetic products would present a serious public health concern for consumers. 

No matter how clean and sterile the manufacturing space is, how pristine the packaging is and how carefully the products are made, as soon as water is introduced into a formulation, microbial growth happens. This is literally why finding water on Mars is such a big deal. If there’s water, there will be bacteria. And all of these personal care products - you’re keeping them in your bathroom, aren’t you? Where it steams up every time you shower, doesn’t it?

Making matters worse, when compared to conventional products, natural products tend to be more prone to microbe growth. This is because there are simply more bioavailable nutrients for bacteria to feed on. Our skin may love plant extracts but unfortunately, bacteria do too.

Do all products need preservatives?

No. Products that don’t require a preservative include water-free products such as balms or oil-based serums, or products that have a very high or low pH, like different soaps. 

Some packaging types can also help out with lowering your preservative requirements. Aerosol containers have less contact with air and less contact with you, therefore, require much less preservation.

Aren’t there natural preservatives?

Of course. They just happen to be far less effective. Using purely natural preservatives would mean the shelf-life of your product would be nearly non-existent, or conversely, you’d have a product made up almost entirely of preservatives. 

In addition, many natural preservatives can be quite allergenic, especially at higher concentrations, depending on the ingredients. 

Natural preservatives are also generally a lot more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. 

1.3 In Defense of Parabens

What are parabens?

A type of preservative. The most common ones are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. They’re often used in combinations with each paraben doing something different - i.e. it controls a different type of microbial growth.

Why do parabens have a bad reputation?

Briefly, there were studies! One found that parabens mimicked estrogen in rats - excessive exposure to estrogen has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive disorders. Another study reports that they found parabens in 20 different human breast tumors. Another one concluded that parabens are absorbed through the skin, and daily use with them can build up in your system.

Why aren’t they banned?

Because the scientific community and regulatory bodies disagree with the media’s interpretation of the studies. One of the studies was conducted on rats, with a high concentration of parabens injected directly beneath the skin. The study that reported finding parabens in breast tumors was done so without any comparison to normal, non-cancerous tissue. The study that measured the cumulative effects of parabens was done on the entire body at concentrations nearly 100x higher than would ever be used in any product.

So what happened?

The researchers behind each study actually clarified their testing and results. But, the damage to the reputation of parabens had been done. Consumers caught wind, and brands obliged to meet public perception. The scientific community - more confused than ever - began studying parabens even more. The results? No measurable problems. There still isn’t a study showing a convincing link between paraben use and negative health effects.

Does Basic Maintenance use parabens?

No. But we could, and quite frankly, we should. It would be more cost-effective. This just happens to be an instance of fear-mongering that has prevailed to the point it’s nearly impossible for young, start-up brands to risk using them. Public perception and consumer demands - no matter how misguided they may be - are still real factors to consider when formulating a product. With a strong majority of consumers convinced about the damaging effects of parabens, we felt it necessary to avoid them.

What preservatives does Basic Maintenance use?

Our products are formulated with phenoxyethanol. While phenoxyethanol has been touted as a natural preservative, the reality of it is that it isn’t. It’s entirely synthetic. Brands that claim to be all natural with phenoxyethanol as their preservative of choice are straight up lying. 

If you've made it this far, you deserve this: use code CLEAN25 for 25% Off sitewide.



Opinion on Parabens (2011) from the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety

2019 CIR Safety Assessment on Parabens

FDA Cosmetics Guidance & Regulation

Health Canada Safety of Cosmetic Ingredients

Regulation (EC) N° 1223/2009

Adoamnei, E et al. (2018) Urinary concentrations of parabens and reproductive parameters in young men. Science of The Total Environment, 621:201-209.

Bledzka D et al. (2014) Parabens. From environmental studies to human health. Environmental international. 67:27-42.

Crovetto, S et al. (2017) Bacterial toxicity testing and antibacterial activity of parabens. Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, 99(5-6):858-868.

Darbre P and Harvey P. (2014) Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulator status. Applied toxicology. 34(9):925-938.

Engeli, T et al. (2017) Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases. International journal of molecular sciences. 18(9):2007.

Hafeez F and Maibach H. (2013) An overview of parabens and allergic contact dermatitis. Skin Therapy Lett. 18(5), 5-7

Haman C et al. (2015) Occurrence, fate and behavior of parabens in aquatic environments: a review. Water research. 68:1-11.

Jurewicz, J et al. (2017) Environmental exposure to parabens and sperm chromosome disomy. International journal of environmental health research, 27(5):332-343.

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López-Ortiz, C et al. (2018) Fate of parabens and 4-hydroxybenzoic acid in aquifer materials columns during step experiments with fresh and sea waters. Journal of Hydrology, 557:335-347.

Madani T et al. (2011) Serratia marcescens-contaminated baby shampoo causing an outbreak among newborns at King Abdulaziz University Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. J Hosp Infect. 78(1):16-9.

McNutt, J. (2017) The Peaks of a Preservative: Quantification of Parabens in Cosmetic Foundation.

Moos, R et al. (2017) Daily intake and hazard index of parabens based upon 24 h urine samples of the German Environmental Specimen Bank from 1995 to 2012. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 27(6):591.

Sasseville D et al. (2015) “Parabenoia” Debunked, or “Who’s afraid of parabens?” Dermatitis. 26(6):254-259.

Smarr M et al. (2017) Urinary concentrations of parabens and other antimicrobial chemicals and their association with couples’ fecundity. Environ health perspect. 154(4):730-736.

Pillai, R et al. (2017) A universal approach to product preservation: preservatives. South African Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Review, 44(2):33-34.

Xue J et al. (2015) Elevated accumulation of parabens and their metabolites in marine mammals from the united states coastal waters. Environ Sci Technol. 49(20):12071-12079.

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Zulaikha S et al. (2015) Hazardous ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products and health concern: a review. Public Health Research. 5(1):7-15.


The disconnection between lifestyle commentary and chemical realities.

Balmford, A., Amano, T., Bartlett, H. et al. The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming. Nat Sustain 1, 477–485 (2018).

Searchinger, T.D., Wirsenius, S., Beringer, T. et al. Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change. Nature 564, 249–253 (2018).

Symrise corporate report 2018

Cosmetic ingredient database (Cosing) - List of substances prohibited in cosmetic products.

International Organization for Standardization’s guidelines on technical definitions and criteria for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients and products.

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Making Sense of Modern Mental Health: The Apps

Making Sense of Modern Mental Health: The Apps

Modern mental health is taking place outside of the therapist’s office — and away from oft-inhibiting sessions with a shrink that are hardly affordable. (We’re not saying anywhere that it can’t be helpful.)

And mental health apps? By removing the above barriers to treatment, they continue to boast the potential to reach people who would otherwise not receive help.

Another highly appealing element of smartphone-based apps? Their anonymity.

They allow for privacy and confidentiality, and can be a safe space for individuals who may feel too ashamed to admit their mental health issues in person. Or who may feel they will be negatively labeled or stigmatized by others.

Long story short: the privacy of using an app gives some individuals the feeling of separation they need while still being able to find answers to their questions within the comfort of their own homes.

The big takeaway here?

That maybe, just maybe, it isn’t your job to figure out modern mental health.

Maybe it’s modern mental health that can help figure you out instead.

Now, to be certain, though an excellent way to help people stay connected outside of sessions to the work they are doing in therapy, it would be irresponsible to categorize apps as an alternative or replacement for traditional treatment.

In other words, if you’re actually in need of therapy, they can be a great supplement. But they cannot, and should not, take the place of engaging with someone who can offer individualized interpretations and insights.

An app simply cannot provide those. After all, the work that is done in therapy requires vulnerability and exposure on the part of the patient, in the presence of another person, followed by what could be described as an empathic connection to promote change and acceptance.

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There’s Something About Superior Sleep

There’s Something About Superior Sleep

When your body receives the sleep it needs, your immune cells and proteins receive the rest they need. This conditions them to fight off whatever comes their way. It’s further being said that proper sleep can also make vaccines more effective. These days, that’s obviously a plus.

So, superior sleep can help boost your immune system.

When your body receives the sleep it needs, it doesn’t produce ghrelin, which is a hormone that boosts appetite. Your body also doesn’t decrease the production of leptin, a hormone that tells you you’re full.

So, superior sleep can help prevent weight gain.

When your body receives the sleep it needs, it’s better guarded against high blood pressure, heart attacks and related heart health problems. In fact, a lack of sleep could very well cause your body to release cortisol. That’s a stress hormone. It triggers your heart to work harder.

So, superior sleep can help strengthen your heart.

When your body receives the sleep it needs, you wake up feeling rested. And being rested clears the way for your energy levels to soar. And when your energy levels soar, the little challenges of life don’t bother you so much. And when the little challenges of life don’t bother you so much, you’re not as pissed off all the time. And when you’re not as pissed off all the time, you’re… happy!

So, superior sleep can help bolster your mood.

When your body receives the sleep it needs, you’re gifted back with improved concentration. Higher cognitive function, too. As you may imagine, both will support you being successful at work. And just in life.

So, superior sleep can help promote increased productivity.

When your body receives the sleep it needs, your hand-eye coordination, reaction time and muscle recovery all improve with each passing morning.

So, superior sleep can help enhance exercise performance.

And when your body receives the sleep it needs, it gives your brain a break. And all those thoughts and all that information you’ve been both processing and consolidating throughout the day? It gives them a place to go.

So, superior sleep can also help develop your memory.

Yup. There’s definitely something to be said for superior sleep. Isn’t there?

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Great Grooming Habits Go Way Beyond Hair Care

Great Grooming Habits Go Way Beyond Hair Care

When you think of grooming, you tend to think of hair care. And we mean hair anywhere. From where others can glare… to way down there.

But great grooming habits pertain to your face, too.

Cleansing it.

Washing your face means washing away dirt, sweat, dead skin cells and anything else that might clog your pores up — or cause a general dullness. Depending on the type of cleanser you use, it could also help treat specific skin conditions. It could prevent acne breakouts, improve skin health (that magic word again) and even reduce skin inflammation.

They pertain to your teeth, too.

Sustaining them.

Brushing your teeth twice a day is extremely imperative to maintaining proper dental health. It ensures that plaque build-up is properly removed, helping to proactively fight against gum disease, gingivitis and tooth decay. It is best to further integrate flossing at the same time as brushing your teeth. Flossing actually helps prevent serious diseases, in addition to helping limit the plaque buildup on your teeth and along the gum line. Oh yeah. And go to the dentist, for God’s sake. Routine checkups are an essential aspect of maintaining proper dental hygiene.

And finally, they pertain to scent, too.

Owning one.

Fragrances make you smell good. That is obvious. But what’s not as apparent is just how closely fragrance is tied to our sense of identity. We offer lots up about ourselves when we apply our favourite fragrance in the morning. Same goes for when we’re getting ready to go out at night. Same goes for when taking our steps through transitory stages in life. Simply put, there are specific smells and olfactive experiences that we will always associate with our sense of self. We guess you could say that perfume promotes personality.

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Sexual Wellness Can Be Defined as… WHAT?!

Sexual Wellness Can Be Defined as… WHAT?!

A way to enjoy, and explore, sex on your own terms — and in your own time.

The understanding that sex isn't just intercourse or masturbation.

A blend of physical state, mental state and social well-being — that has a connection with sexuality.

A path for providing much ease — to combat your problems, and to make your daily living more comfortable.

Okay. Sexual wellness can be defined as… WHAT?!

The concepts we laid out aren’t exactly complex, so we don’t think we need to unpack the first few lines of this post. But we acknowledge that this is a term you probably haven’t heard thrown around a bunch.

It’s likely that you’re familiar with ‘sex education.’ Or ‘sex-ed.’ It refers to high quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality, exploring values and beliefs about those topics, and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.

And on that note, it’s likely you’re familiar with ‘sexual health,’ too. That it doesn’t just encompass preventing sexually transmitted infections. That it’s about being aware of your body — and your overall health. That it’s also about making the right decisions — and having respect for others.

As we laid out at the start, ‘sexual wellness’ transcends both. In a big way. And whereas sex-ed is informative and sexual health comes off as preventative, if we could put a similar label on sexual wellness, it would be…

… that it’s accessible.

Beyond being a turn of phrase with significant meaning, sexual wellness further manifests itself as an industry. An industry that has really grown and evolved in the past few years.

As men (and women alike) became more honest abut sex, relationships and self-love, high-quality sexual pleasure and pleasure products are being accepting more and more as part of the general health and wellness experience.

From lubes and oils, to personal care and protection, to masturbation sleeves, cock rings, butt plugs, anal beads, prostate massagers and more, the sexual wellness industry is on a swing. (The sex toy pun is very much intended.)

The point we’re trying to make here?

That while sex-ed teaches and sexual health cautions, sexual wellness empowers. And boy does it ever.

Consider it an invitation to explore yourself; to truly pursue your pleasures.

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Do You Know the Difference(s) Between Fitness and Wellness? Does It Even Matter?

Do You Know the Difference(s) Between Fitness and Wellness? Does It Even Matter?

Fitness and wellness fit in rather, well, well together. So well, in fact, that they have many interchangeable elements.

But make no mistake about it: they ain’t the same thing.

Now, this is probably the part where you’re expecting us to drop a hot take. To tell you why it’s super important that you recognize the difference between the two. Why they absolutely must be categorized as their own unique practices and spaces.

We’ll pass. There’s no need. Really. There isn’t.

Sure. One specifically refers to physical health, and for these purposes, explains the ability to complete a physical task, while the other has to do with the balance of a spectrum of health-related elements in one’s life, spanning intellectual, emotional and physical.

(Even occupational. Even environmental. Even spiritual. Even social. And even financial.)

But they both reside under the same umbrella. Or play in the same sandbox. Whatever. If you use the terms interchangeably, or think of them as being identical, it’s not a big deal. It’s not accurate, but as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might say, IT DOESN’T MATTER!

It is probably more worthwhile, then, to instead explore a connection between fitness and wellness. You don’t have to look hard to find one. You actually only have to scan up a couple paragraphs.

Let’s run it back to how we defined wellness earlier:

[It] has to do with the balance of a spectrum of health-related elements in one’s life, spanning intellectual, emotional and physical.

The physical is the part you want to focus on there.

People who are physically well actively make healthy decisions on a daily basis. They eat a nutritionally balanced diet. They try to get an adequate amount of sleep. They visit the doctor routinely.

They also have the ability to identify their personal needs, and are aware of their body's limitations. They also maintain positive interpersonal relationships. They also make healthy sexual decisions that are consistent with their personal values and beliefs.

And they also make a habit of exercising three to five times per week.

Which is our roundabout way of telling you that fitness isn’t just a part of wellness, it’s a pathway to it. That’s it. That’s the takeaway.

Sort of obvious when you think about it. Agree?

But hey, if you’re disappointed you didn’t get that hot take earlier, at least you’re walking away with a cold one!

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Supplements: Y’Know, It’s Probably Just Easier to Tell You What They Aren’t

Supplements: Y’Know, It’s Probably Just Easier to Tell You What They Aren’t

Supplementation is a term employed to set out the provision of relatively large doses of micronutrients to improve nutritional health in a short-term way.

Supplements themselves? They can often be found in the form of pills, capsules or syrups. Tablets, gummies and powders, too. Drinks and energy bars, too.

There is plenty more to reveal about what they are. Sure. But because there’s such a long list of arguments against dietary supplements, it’s probably just easier to tell you what they aren’t. Y’know, to help clear up the controversy and confusion.

For starters, they aren’t exclusive to one dietary ingredient.

They might contain a vitamin. A mineral. An herb. A botanical. An amino acid. An enzyme. They might contain more than one. They might even come as a multivitamin, sold as a standalone supplement.

They aren’t a crapshoot, either.

Some supplements are effective, while others are not. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. But it’s been scientifically proven that, say, vitamin B12 can help keep nerve and blood cells healthy, make DNA and prevent anemia. That, say, vitamin D and calcium can promote bone strength and bone health, respectively. That, say, vitamins C and E can prevent cell damage. That, say, vitamin A can slow down vision loss.

They aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, either.

Some supplements may indeed pose risks. Vitamin K can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners, while gingko can increase blood thinning. St. John’s wort can make some drugs, such as antidepressants, less effective. Herbal options lille comfrey and kava can damage your liver.

They also aren’t something you absolutely must consult your healthcare provider before taking, although we recommend it.

But if you’re just testing the waters with something simple, like vitamin C, you just need to read the label, including ingredients, drug interactions, and percent daily value. You just need to be wary of extreme claims. You just need to remember that being “natural” does not automatically equate to being “safe.”

And finally, you just need to keep in mind that supplements aren’t meant to replace a healthy diet.

They are called supplements because they are meant to be, you guessed it: supplementary. They enhance the benefits already provided by favouring a well-rounded diet. But they can’t be a substitute for that well-rounded diet. That well-rounded, nutrient-dense and healthy diet. Consider the supplements an extra nutrient boost. A wee and wonderful one.

There. Did that help clear things up a little?

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