green cosmetics

Dr. Seuss and Palm Oil

We took the kids to see the Lorax at the local cinema tonight being as though it is Easter and we are a family  and as such work wasn’t exactly top of my ‘to do’ list but then the film started….. For those of you who haven’t read the now 40-year-old book or seen the film the Lorax is the spokesperson for the trees and this book tells the tale of Once-ler, a dreamer-turned-businessman and the affect that his amazing invention a ‘Thneeds’ (a multi-purpose must-have garment that sends the world into a purchasing frenzy) has on the local environment.   This sugar-coated tale of corporate greed  got me thinking about the cosmetics industry, as you do when you are a bit obsessed with all things work. I’m thinking Palm oil!

The similarities between the Dr Seuss story and the palm oil issue are striking in as much as our unquenchable thirst for stuff we want but don’t really need (cosmetics and  junk food)  is ripping out the very lungs of the world and leaving us in a place where we have to pay for things that should come naturally such as clean air and fresh water.

Just like Mr Once-ler the cosmetics industry is struggling with a supply and demand problem.  When demand outstrips supply a capitalist society rubs their hands together with glee and prepares to count the dollars and so it is not surprising that while the gap can be filled it will be.  However, that gap is currently being filled at the expense of our beautiful earth, ancient trees are being felled, animals are suffering and people are being turfed off their land in favour of bigger, better and bolder mechanical processes. […]

Stop, that doesn’t sound natural. What are Polyglyceryl esters?

While working on the New Directions help desk I get asked lots of interesting questions about the backstage world of cosmetic manufacture.  This is just one example of what people out there want to know. Enjoy! 

Every emulsion needs at least one emulsifier and when your customers demand natural you have your work cut out!  Further, while more and more manufacturers are going down the plant based, non-ethoxylated route not everyone is and with INCI names being complex and technical sounding, it is tempting to just run and hide rather than try out the new stuff.   So, before you get the spade ready it’s time to sit back, relax and listen to a little story about polyglyceryl esters – a group of chemicals that may just save your natural formulating life!  

Q) OK, first explain the name for me please? 

A)  Poly = many and glyceryl = glycerine.  Basically this is a polymer (or lots of) glycerine molecules that have been joined together in a way that results in a bigger and more moisturising molecule. It is possible to control not only how long the chain ends up but also where each glycerine joins on (like holding hands). This gives rise to many interesting properties as you will find out if you start using these ingredients. 

The ester part comes in when you add a fatty acid (e.g.: lauric/ stearic/ oleic) to the polyglyceryl under alkaline conditions. This breaks enough of the internal bonds to enable the two chemicals to join up forming a new molecule which is now called an ester due to the type of bond created. 

They don’t sound so ‘chemical’ now do they? 

Q)  So what properties do these new ingredients have and why? 

A) Well, as you know […]

The Hand Made Skin Revival

Do we have science fatigue yet?  Are you a little bit over hearing about nano-particles,  free-radicals, delivery systems and pH balance?  Well we may have something here for you!

I love all of that stuff but if you just popped down to the chemist for something to protect you from the winter chill or  summer burn the enforced chemistry lesson can leave you feeling a bit pale and clammy.  

So, is it time to revive the good-old days?  Austraroma think so.

Austraroma are experts in the art of ‘slow cosmetics’. Everything in the range is hand-made using  traditional manufacturing processes including a saponification reaction that takes around a month to complete!  The soaps, face packs and moisturising products are all based on natural ingredients which are blended to perfection by Tatiana in her Sydney based workshop. This artisan approach to cosmetic manufacture is gaining in popularity as more and more people want as few steps as possible between the plant and the cosmetic pot. So what’s cooking?

My favourite is the Honey and Propolis all-purpose balm which smells divine thanks to a dash of cinnamon.  Propolis is a prized ingredient in ancient skin care due to its waxy nature and anti-oxidant properties and honey is a brilliant cure-all for skin. The cinnamon gives the balm a tingly warm feeling when applied that gets the blood flowing – a natural circulation booster.

In addition to that I am in love with Magic Hands which exfolliates with coffee, sea salt, clay and natural oils to leave your hands feeling silky soft and fresh. The extra bonus with this product is the long-lasting moisturising effects thanks to the macadamia and jojoba oils plus Shea butter and phytowaxes.  Truly beautiful.

A hand-made range requires a hands-on approach to selling and Tatiana has […]

515 Chemicals on our skin – The debate goes on

When Australia first got wind of  the “YOU PUT 515 CHEMICALS ON YOUR BODY EACH DAY”  article (UK’s Daily Mail November 2009) things went ballistic. How DARE they put chemicals in my products?  Why ARE people trying to kill us?   HELP!

The story was quickly picked up by bloggers and social commentators until as of today, there are 52, 300 articles citing this and most of them are taking it at face value.

Women (not men or children – just WOMEN) put 515 onto our skin every day.

I felt that this useless piece of non-information was worthy of a few harsh words,  I don’t like it when words are used as weapons of mass hysteria, it sucks. You can read more on that here.

So, the argument was put to bed until I stumbled upon a rather lively and interesting debate on Linked In discussing this very thing. In two weeks 91 comments have been posted in response to the post “Did you know that the average consumer puts 515 chemicals on their face/body everyday?”  The post leaves us with a kiss of death by telling us that most products are filled with junk and cancer. 

So it was no wonder that some of the worlds best cosmetic chemists have said NO to fear mongering.

Thank GOODNESS for that!

I am delighted that the cosmetics industry has finally found a social media voice in the form of a few brave souls who will risk life and limb to point out the folly in saying that a product is full of cancer.  It takes a brave soul to take on the “other” cosmetics industry.

In the early 90’s the cosmetic industry’s younger sister hit puberty and the naturals market was born.  It was […]

Nude is the new “green”

While  picking up new lunch boxes for the kids return to school I noticed that “Nude” seems to be the new green. We will no longer be able to get a green star for just packing our organic veggies and home-baked buns for the school day. Now we must keep them naked! This means ending our reliance on excess packaging.

Basically we are being encouraged to buy or salvage containers that can be re-used rather than wrapping up our sandwiches and fruit in paper bags or (God forbid) cling wrap.  This all sounds rather nice as excess packaging is something that we can all do without but is Nude practical?  I thought I’d look at nudity in the cosmetics industry to see how much we dare to bare!

In the cosmetics world packaging is often more than just another sales/marketing tool, it can be the part that makes a product work – think foaming gels,  spray products and mousse.  Packaging can also play a major role in keeping the product safe:

Airless packaging helps to stop the product from bacterial attack therefore reducing the level of preservative required.
Airless packaging can also help to keep fragrances fresh (less head-space) and prevent oxidation (breakdown of the product due to air).
Dark coloured packaging can protect the product from UV light. UV can start off reactions in the product that lead to its demise.
Screw tops can help keep little people out! Not all cosmetic products are suitable as babies sucking toys – essential oils and some serum formulations  should be treated like medicines.
Plastic Bottles can be easier and safer to handle in wet and slippery conditions than glass bottles.
Boxes around squeezy tubes help to keep the product inside safe (think toothpaste).

That said,  there’s plenty of room […]

Hair SOS – Bring on the Dry Shampoo

What have all of these scenario’s got in common?

We  roll over in bed for just a few extra moments only to find that 7am has turned into 8am and we are now late.
The third day of our camping trip would be great but the only life left in our hair is a bug’s life…..
Summer water restrictions are on again making long shower time a distant memory.

Yup, we have all been there. These are indeed BAD HAIR DAYS!

Recently I have been lucky enough to give the Lee Stafford Dry Shampoo a bit of a blast – the perfect answer to those running late/ water issue blues. But what is a dry shampoo and does it work?

Dry Shampoo facts.
By carefully dissecting the ingredients listing I can see that this shampoo is more than just a touch of magic. The first ingredients to be listed are just there to get the product out of the bottle (Butane, Isobutane, Propane) but then we get to Corn Starch and we hit gold.

Corn starch is a natural way to help mop up the grease and grime that our hair collects throughout the day.  It is highly absorbent and has a very low likelihood of causing irritation. It is also pretty cost-effective and environmentally abundant.

The next key ingredient is the betaine and this is your surfactant or the thing that ensures that the corn flower sticks and binds to the dirt.  Betaine is another widely used and quite mind (though not the mildest) surfactant and is well suited to this kind of product. It is also naturally derived and very cost-effective.

After that the next key ingredient is the perfume.  The look of dirty hair is one thing but the odour can be enough to send you rushing […]

Soap Nuts – Why Not?

I would have to say that the question I get asked most frequently is “How do I make my own shampoo?” For people who are looking to reduce their environmental impact this is understandable as commercial shampoo is mostly water and shipping that around in plastic containers is none too environmentally friendly! Secondly people are concerned about shampoo ingredients as many commercial brands contain Sodium Laureth Sulphate or petroleum derived surfactants. While these ingredients don’t quite live up to their “Google” and “natural world” status  of deadly killers, SLES is an allergen for some and is just too good at stripping away grease to be classed as “mild” and petroleum is not a sustainable resource.

So, what are Soap Nuts?

Soap nuts are actually dried berries from the “sapindus” family of shrubs. The berry skins are a rich source of saponins (natures soaps) and when dried are a great natural alternative to synthetic detergents.  These berries have been used for thousands of years to fulfill a wide variety of functions – including the cleaning of bodies, hair and clothes.

But will they clean my hair / skin well?

Soap nuts are a much better bet than either bar soap or liquid castile soap the saponification involved in creating both of these latter options creates a product with a high pH (very alkali). While this is tolerable for the skin (albeit a little drying) it is not at all good for the hair and will leave it dull and very hard to comb.

The pH of a soap nut solution will depend on the amount of saponin that you have present but as a rule it will be much more acidic – between a pH of 4 and 6. […]

Absolution – Award Winning Organics

Every year French magazine Beyond Beauty holds an awards night to honor innovative, niche new brands who have something truly different to offer. This year the top prize (announced on Monday) went to French brand Absolution for their unisex adaptable organic skincare.  The range certainly looks appealing with its arty, airless pump design packs and the ethics seem to stack up too! The brand is customizable to suit your mood via the addition of vials of fragrant natural extracts. A cute idea that cuts down the need for hundreds of variations on the theme and allows the individual to cut down on their purchasing requirements.  All good for sustainability.

I do like the way that this company have been totally upfront with the way that they have classified their products. While they are certified organic, the company does explain that not all of their ingredients meet the organic criteria (this is perfectly legitimate). They also list all of the ingredients in their products on the website (which not all brands do) and pack their products in a way to reduce the need for heavy preservation. Because these products are made in Europe they have to comply to fragrance regulations that mean the known irritant constituents of essential oils (such as linalool) have to be listed – pretty helpful and sure to flow on to the rest of the world soon!

I haven’t tried this product and so can’t really comment on its ability to do the job, how it feels or how well it has been put together. However, looking at the history of the Beyond Beauty awards and the information on their web site one can only assume that the brand will go far but […]

Introducing Stevie English!

The Realize Beauty team are excited to welcome Steve Corthine and his Stevie English Salon to our team of experts!  We love the Stevie approach to hairdressing, it’s  funky, fresh, innovative and Green!  Steve and his award winning team will be joining Realize Beauty later this year when we roll out our Indulgence Entertainment events in and around Sydney.  In the meantime please take a minute to allow us to introduce Stevie English…..

How and why did you become a Hairdresser?

I started hairdressing when I was 17, after deciding that university was not for me. After I started my apprenticeship, I never wanted to stop. I love the client interaction and the creativity of being a colourist.

What is the most satisfying thing that you do in your work?

Building relationships with clients. I have known some of my Sydney clients for 8 years, and they have become great friends. We have a party in the salon every year to thank our clients and have a great time.

What would you say defines your approach to Hairdressing?

The O&M philosophy of ‘original thinking’ sums up my approach to hair. I believe that brilliant results can be achieved without damaging hair. And also, I seek to create beautiful, fashionable hair colours that are flattering to the client.

As a Hairdresser how can you empower the consumer?

By giving them advice, not opinions. I work with them to get a great result, and also to satisfy their requests. I talk about how to protect and maintain the condition of their hair, and give at-home styling advice.

Your top tip for finding your wellbeing!

Don’t take life too seriously- it is there to be enjoyed!

How do you balance family and work?

I work […]

Realize Beauty in Canberra Weekly Magazine!

While down in Canberra we were lucky enough to be joined by Natalie Cavallaro from the Canberra Weekly Magazine. She joined us at one of the workshop sessions before writing all about it in the magazine. Here is a copy of the article for all of you outside of Australia’s capital!