The average woman applies up to 200 chemicals to her skin every day through cosmetics, lotions and hair-care products. Yet few question the reality behind the marketing promise on our favorite bottle or jar of cosmetic, hair or skin product. After all, they come from reputable companies, are bought by millions of women around the world, and their ads demonstrate how beautiful we can be if we use them regularly. What’s not to trust?
Standards for Natural and Organic Beauty Products
Mote and more consumers are buying natural products in supermarkets, drugstores, warehouse stores, online and in salons. But cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market, and products that are labeled organic or natural might not actually be. Major loopholes in federal law allow companies to use nearly any ingredient in beauty products—even chemicals that are known to harm human health and the environment.
The FDA does not review or regulate what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed to salons and consumers. It bans or restricts only 11 chemicals from cosmetic products compared to the 1,100 chemicals the European Union Cosmetics Directive bans from cosmetics.
But there are companies who care about the interests and safety of consumers, salon professionals and the environment.
Planet, People and Product
Nature is a cycle—of caring, taking and giving back—and producers of natural and organic beauty products share a deep respect for it. They join forces with nature, using its resources while sustaining them. They respect biodiversity, form long-term relationships with the people who actually cultivate the plants. And they follow fair trade practices.
Products with natural ingredients perform better without harmful chemical ingredients that enter the bloodstream by being absorbed through the skin. They also contain fewer irritants and allergens, and are earth friendly causing little to no negative impact on the environment.
Sales of natural and organic beauty products reached $7 billion in 2008 and accounted for $1 billion of growth in the cosmetic market. Sensing a tipping point, smart and responsible companies voluntarily began making safer products and adopted the triple bottom line of not just profit, but also planet and people. The ranks of companies who are adopting these practices are slowly growing with the support of organizations like NATRUE.
NATRUE – True Friends of Natural and Organic Cosmetics
A non-profit organization based in Brussels, NATRUE helps manufacturers maintain standards for natural and organic cosmetics (and their ingredients) by promoting industry-standard, global certifications for the usage of natural and organic beauty products.
Founded in 2007, NATRUE now represents two-thirds of the European natural and cosmetics market. Brands like Weleda, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, Kneipp, Logona and Lavera are NATRUE certified. Burts Bees is the first U.S. manufacturer to join.
Drawing a Line Between Conventional and Natural Cosmetics
Most cosmetics are full of synthetic ingredients that NATRUE doesn’t think are necessary. Their globally recognized certification label tells you which products you can trust by guaranteeing that a product is as natural as it can be. The NATRUE label means the organic and natural product actually contains certifiable ingredients.
To bear the NATRUE label, a product must have natural and organic ingredients and use soft manufacturing and environmentally friendly practices. NATRUE certified products do not contain synthetic fragrances and colors, petroleum derived products (paraffins, PEG-, propyle-, alkyle-, etc.), silicone oils and derivatives, or genetically modified ingredients. Furthermore, ingredients and products must not have been tested on animals. NATRUE certifies both products and raw materials, and maintains a raw materials database for products that bear their label.
The NATRUE label has three certification levels starting with the Natural Cosmetics certification. It sets a high base standard that must be attained before a product can qualify for the other two levels. The NATRUE certification process is transparent, independently managed and all certification criteria and information is available at their website.
Consumers and Salon Professionals Benefit
The NATRUE label allows consumers to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in the beauty products they use every day. Stylists can provide customers with safe, effective, non-toxic products and protect customers and employees alike from exposure to harmful chemical ingredients. They can also encourage manufacturers of brands they carry to clarify how they define their natural and organic beauty products.
Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog
Joseph Borkovic wasn’t always in the organic hair care business. In fact, about eleven years ago, he was homeless.
But a series of circumstances and an innocent question from his then three-year-old son Zach started what is now a successful and Earth-friendly business.
“Dad, does what we put in the water hurt other fish and animals?”
Zach was concerned about dolphins, and how they may be harmed.
After a trip to the library for some research, they found that when we wash our hair and body, harmful chemicals in products like shampoo are washed down the drain in our showers and sinks. These chemicals eventually end up in the oceans, and pose a threat to marine life.
As people with curly hair, we now realize that harsh chemicals and artificial ingredients don’t do much to give our hair the moisture and health it needs. This usually means we turn to organic or more natural hair care products.
Through positive thinking, hard work, and great ideas, that’s exactly what Joseph and Zach are now able to provide.
Their business, called Organic Trader Canada, creates organic and environmentally safe hair and body products.
“A lot of product ideas originally came from my son, and he would tell me his ideas about the Earth and products to help the Earth and dolphins,” Joseph said. “I would just listen and write everything down. It is so important to give children a voice, to allow their own authentic voice to come out into a safe and sacred space.”
There are multiple brands created by the company: Professional Organics Salon & Spa (exclusively for salons and spas), Earth Spirit Organics (for health stores and health practitioners) and Organic Pet Spa (for pets and horse products).
Of the chemicals most of us initially lookout for, these products contain no Sodium Laurel Sulfates or mineral oils. Even the packaging used at Organic Trader is “green”. The labels are biodegradable and completely made with wind power, Joseph said.
While they personally use all of their creations, Joseph’s favorite product is the Shea Butter Lotion, which fairly purchases shea butter from a small village near the African country of Burkina. The product manager for the lotion is actually from the village, and Joseph would love to visit in the future.
“Social justice issues feel good,” he said.
Joseph promised his son they would one day swim with the dolphins they love so much. And about eleven years later, they took a trip to Hawaii, and did.
Joseph and Zach have documented their incredible story on a DVD titled “The Promise”, which is available for free from their website.
What began as a father-son duo has now grown; Organic Trader is a team of seven people working to produce unique products.
Zach is 14 years old now, an honors student in school, though his dad joked that girls have been his latest discovery. The same boy who posed the question that started it all is still involved in the company. His favorite product is the Earth Spirit Shampoo.
“Look after Nature and the Earth,” Zach said. “It’s just natural to love and be loved in return.”
Most of their business comes from “micro-private labels” – very small stores or salons can start with just 2-4 cases of products, with no surcharges. This is rare, Joseph said, as companies only allow people to use create their own “brand” of the product for very large and expensive orders of product. Organic Trader is enabling the small businesses of its customers.
“No one else in North America offers this micro-private label program,” he said. “Customers LOVE it, that they get to have their own name & logo right on the bottle!” he said.
And even though Organic Trader is based in Canada, 30%-40% of the orders are from the U.S.
Among the most popular products is the styling eco-creme and hair eco-gel, he said. They contain no alcohol, PVP (what shredded vinyl records are made of!). The gel formulas are plant based.
Ask anyone if they believe in reducing the harm we do to the Earth. No one will say no. But frankly, it can be quite easy to reach for the cheap (though harmful) products. Joseph doesn’t believe in compromising.
“Do we really want to put a price on health, save a dollar and damage ourselves and our environment and ecological resources?” Joseph asked.
“Life and Nature will always trump economic interests,” he said.
He argues that the while these harmful products are still being produced, it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide what to purchase.
“Every dollar that we spend, is a vote for or against, the Earth,” he said. “Let’s spend wisely.”
While Organic Trader Canada and all things environmentalist are certainly major parts of his life, he enjoys other things.
“No matter what, making time for the things that are important to me and my family,” he said. “So live, really live and love - be honest, always stay within your own integrity.”
If there’s any doubt that doing our best to maintain our naturally curly hair is the right thing to do, Joseph’s philosophy will surely help you.
“Always stay true to yourself – follow your heart!”
Julie Ebner began carrying Max Green Alchemy hair products at her Philadelphia salon four years ago.
While having natural and organic products is important to her, having products that work is essential to her salon’s success. With Max Green Alchemy, she says she gets both.
“Everything works amazingly well,” says Ebner of Juju Salon and Organics, which provides all natural, non-toxic and organic products. “It works for every member of the family, every texture, hair that’s been colored, etc. It’s a top seller.”
Demand for organic personal-care products has exploded, with sales of expected to top $1 billion this year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The cosmetics, hair and skin care industries use more than 7,000 ingredients derived from natural or synthetic sources. As many as one in seven of these have harmful or toxic effects on the skin or body, ranging from minor skin irritation or contact dermatitis to carcinogenic implications.
Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm.
But natural and organic products had a reputation for not necessarily performing as well as mainstream products.
Max Green Alchemy set out to prove that consumers need not compromise performance when they buy natural and organic styling products. Scalp Rescue Texture Paste, Scalp Rescue Sculpting Gel, Scalp Rescue Styling Gel and Scalp Rescue Pomade are designed to provide the latest looks without parabens, PVP, silicones, wax or other synthetic additives. Instead, they combine plant-derived ingredients with traditional botanical extracts, vitamins and essential oils.
The styling products were developed because of the gap that existed for effective natural styling products that perform like their chemical-laden cousins. Many “natural” products rely on petrochemicals to provide hold. Texture Paste is designed to add define and detail to chunky styles; Styling Gel is a soft hold gel; Pomade adds shine and moisture and Sculpting Gel is a strong-hold, humidity-resistant gel.
“There aren’t many good natural styling products out there,” says Wil Baker, co-founder of San Francisco-based Max Green Alchemy. “We thought we could do better. We’ve taken natural styling products to the next level.”
Whole Foods helped the fledgling company set up a distribution network, and it was “like a rolling snowball,” Baker says. Today, Max Green Alchemy products are sold at 250 resellers in the United States.
Because of this emphasis on performance, the company’s products have developed quite a following among stylists who work with texture.
“We love Max Green Alchemy for curly hair because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything in the hair, but it gives good curl definition,” says Nicole Lengerich, a stylist at Dio Salon & Spa in Colorado Springs who specializes in curly hair. “My curlies love Styling Gel. I think it’s so good that they’d use it even if it wasn’t natural.”
Many stylists also are turning to lines like Max Green Alchemy out of their own desire to use products with fewer chemicals.
“Stylists are using these products all day long in their salons,” Baker says. “Products like ours allow them to treat their bodies better as well.”
San Francisco-based Max Green Alchemy got its start in 2004 when Baker, whose background is in finance, teamed up with David Karlak, who has a marketing background. Both had an interest in natural products and believed there was a need for products that “respect consumers’ internal and external environments without sacrificing effectiveness.”
The name “Max Green,” says Baker, is a philosophy which reflects the duo’s vision.
“Alchemy is what we do as a company,” Baker says.
“We saw a gap in the market was for natural products that were still sensual,” says Baker, who telecommutes from England. “We wanted people to have an experience when they used them, and be products they would use even if they weren’t into natural ingredients.”
Baker and Karlak spent a year developing Max Alchemy’s first four products: Skin Rescue Cream, Scalp Rescue Shampoo and Conditioner and Chap Defense Lip Balm. The line launched in early 2005 at the Natural Products Expo, and was picked up by Whole Foods Market within half an hour.
“It was an indication they liked what they saw,” Baker says. “While customers may initially have jumped on it because it’s organic, we find most customers use it because it works.”
The company has been lauded by natural living publications such as Vegetarian Journal, Herb Companion, Skin Deep and Organic.org. In 2008, the company won the Best Cruelty-Free Personal Product award from PETA for its Scalp Rescue Shampoo. The PETA Proggy (for progress) awards recognize animal-friendly achievements in commerce and culture on behalf of their members and supporters.
Max Green Alchemy also has received recognition from mainstream beauty publications such as Elle, which this month named the company’s Scalp Rescue Conditioner as the best “green conditioner.”
And stylists are quickly jumping on the Max Green Alchemy bandwagon. Baker says stylists have been among the company’s strongest advocates.
“It’s the only shampoo and conditioner I sell,” says Yoshi Nishizaki of Y-Shaped God salon in New York City. “They work for everyone.”
Greg Starkman, founder of Innersense Organic Beauty, quotes a statistic that should make every stylist and salon owner take notice: 98 percent of all consumers who use natural and organic products will walk out of their salon without buying a single product.
Instead, they will drive to their local natural foods store or log onto a natural products site to buy natural and organic shampoos, conditioners and styling products.
Too many salons are missing out on a major opportunity, says Starkman. But they don’t have to.
In July, Starkman launched the I Care campaign for salons so they have a way to spark the conversation with clients about natural and organic products.
“The message speaks directly to the organic consumer,” Starkman says. “Salons need to carry products that meets the needs of the consumers who are seeking healthier choices in their beauty products.
Starkman says the I Care Campaign will be ongoing throughout the year and seeks to draw in this growing and savvy segment of health-conscious consumers. It includes point-of-purchase materials strategically placed around the salon and on retail shelves with information about Innersense, and the “laundry list of ingreidents that Innersense is free of.”
The Innersense line
One of the biggest opportunity for salons, he says, is with the “Tweeners” - those clients between 18 and 25 who are among the largest segment to embrace healthy, environmentally conscious choices.
“It’s becoming a very powerful consumer base,” Starkman says.”
Starkman is no newcomer to the professional beauty industry. He grew up with a mother and uncle who were beauty professionals. As a teenager, he got an early start filling beauty products for his mother’s cosmetic line, which she sold at her Beverly Hills Salon. Over the course of his career, he worked for hair-care companies such as Joico International, Helene Curtis and Nioxin, most recently serving as president of the Institute of Trichology.
He became interested in the idea of creating an organic hair care line for salons, and launched Innersense in 2006. The company’s name came from a wise psychologist who counseled Starkman and his wife, Joanne. As parents of a child with special needs, they worried that they wouldn’t always know what to do. The psychologist told them to “trust your inner sense.” And they did.
Innersense is a certified green business, which means it complies with environmental regulations and has taken extra steps to conserve energy, water, reduce waste and prevent pollution. Innersense is an active member of Safecosmetics.org.
Innersense now has a wide range products for the hair and skin, and all formulas are made with certfiied organic ingredients. It is available in more than 1,000 salons.
“We’ve been growing at about 22 new salons every month that contact us,” Starkman says. “A lot of times, their clients recommend the products to them. They are driving their stylists to carry them.”
One of the biggest complaints about natural and organic products traditionally has been that they don’t perform as well as their counterparts. But Starkman says that has changed as new ingredients and formulations have been developed.
Starkman uses the example of I Create Quiet Calm Curl Control, one of the company’s best-selling styling products. Rather than silicones and plastics, Quiet Calm uses ingredients like shea butter, wheat germ oil, rooibos and certified organic honey to define and moisturize curls.
Starkman doesn’t see a line like Innersense necessarily replacing all other products within a salon but rather complementing it by offering quality professional products for those clients who want a natural, organic option.
“Innersense addresses the needs of a specific client,” he says.
If you would like to carry Innersense in your salon, contact Innersense at 1-877-254-7385.