Luxe Botanics

A botanic skincare line scientifically formulated to allow nature to nurture your skin.


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The warm and fuzzies of skincare

Sustainable, fair trade, cruelty free…

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for products that say “sustainable”, “cruelty free” and “fair trade”- I love the warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I buy them. So it’s been quite the eye opener for me to go through the process of discovery of what these “warm and fuzzy” words actually mean in practice. I’m sure you will associate to one more strongly than the others, and I encourage you to support what you believe in…

 

Cruelty Free

I’ve always been an animal lover – which is probably a side effect of having grown up in South Africa surrounded by the most amazing and fascinating animals. As a child I had the typical pets – dogs, cats, birds and hamsters – and I loved each of my furry little companions dearly. I was also very privileged to have a life that involved travelling to game reserves and natural habitats throughout southern Africa as a child. I was inspired by the work that the game rangers did every day – protecting wildlife from poachers and providing them veterinary care – so much so that I gave serious thought to training as a game ranger. As a result, it’s very important to me to try to buy products that are cruelty free. This to me means not only whether or not it was tested on animals, but also if the product is made from any animal products. As an interesting note – there is no international or nationally agreed language around what it means to be cruelty free.  However, it is generally accepted that this means that the products and their ingredients are not tested on animals.

The best way is to check if any of your products display these logos:

cruelty-free-bunny-logo-symbol

The leaping bunny logo is an internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it (http://www.leapingbunny.org/content/leaping-bunny-logo ).

The others you may recognise are the USA PETA logo – the bunny with the pink ears; and the Australian Choose Cruelty Free black and white bunny logo.

Here’s a quick blog to help you spot the logo’s and also the fakes! http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/cruelty-free-101/cruelty-free-bunny-logo/

“Every product, every action, and every lifestyle decision can be a choice to harm less.”

— Zoe Weil, The Animals’ Agenda

 

Sustainable

The meaning of the word sustainable is pretty straight forward:

  • Able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
  • Involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
  • Able to last or continue for a long time

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable )

If you stop and think about how this may apply to farming methods of your favourite ingredients, you may think that this is similar to how subsistence farmers have farmed for generations – without modern farming soil additives they cannot afford to completely deplete the soil that they use to grow their crops. Nor can they afford to drain their local watering supply. And they certainly cannot overwork the cow or donkey that helps them hoe and til the land…

As so wonderfully described by the Grace Communications Foundation:

“In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.”

The only issue with this comparison is that the above does inevitably happen as the modern world encroaches on theirs, and their neighbours downstream start draining their water supply, and the effects of climate change encourage the loss of the topsoil. Which is why it is of utmost importance that we recognise the importance of sustainable farming – we need to preserve not just our natural environment but the environment that is necessary for those less fortunate to survive.

 

Fair Trade

This is something you see very often on your product packaging – though usually it applies to just a few ingredients in the product (unless its, e.g. coffee – I would hope you’re buying 100% coffee beans!). This is something that is quite close to my heart – I sincerely believe we should not be exploiting others for our gain. There is something to be said for hard work, and it should be fairly rewarded.

Fair Trade International offers this explanation:

“Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides them with a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping”

(http://www.fairtrade.net/about-fairtrade/what-is-fairtrade.html )

This is one of the few “warm and fuzzy” words that has an internationally recognised definition and charter of principles – agreed by the World Fair Trade Organisation – and which has defined standards per industry. If you see this symbol then you can be sure you are supporting the local community that supplied that ingredient or product.

Overall, there are many certifications and labels that are available for use – just be sure to research those that are closest to your heart and support those products that adhere to those standards.

 

The Luxe Botanics Team

afffa-warm-fuzzy-feelings

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Skincare Buzzwords

Organic, botanic, natural, plant based… what’s what?

 

When we decided to develop our line of skincare products we were set on the fact that we wanted them to be organic. This was part of our core Luxe Botanics philosophy and key to how we chose our ingredients and manufacturing partner. However, along the way we noticed many other skincare buzzwords being used in the industry, either as the company’s core values or as part of their marketing strategy, and honestly, it just got confusing! What is the difference between organic and natural? What is plant based versus botanic? What’s the difference between certified organic and organic? …its very frustrating both as a consumer and as a skincare formulator to work out the differences. Along our journey we have learnt so much and have had some amazing teachers so I wanted to share our knowledge with you in the hopes that it enlightens your skincare journey too! So here goes:

 

Certified Organic

An international standard of agreed methods for farming the base product (food and agricultural) which may be formulated into an ingredient for use in skincare, food, etc. To receive the certification the farm (and its processes) have to be assessed, approved, and maintained to this international standard on an annual basis. Although the overall ethos is the same, the requirements do vary country to country and between industries. In general, the requirements are very strict and require that:

  • Crops and livestock must be raised in a production system that emphasizes protection of natural resources; plant and animal health; preventative management of pests, diseases, and predators; and compliant use of allowed materials
  • Maintain or enhance soil and water quality
  • Conserve the local environment (Wetlands, woodlands and wildlife)
  • Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used
  • Products must be protected from prohibited substances and methods from the field to the point of final sale

(http://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/guide-organic-certification )

There are various bodies that can assess and approve the certification, for example: the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture); ACOS (Australian Certified Organic Standard); Ecocert (European certification with branches all over the world); among other local certification bodies globally.

Overall, this is a very costly process and can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the country in which it is being certified, the industry and the setup of the farm.

 

Organic

Without the official certification, products can still be labelled organic, they just can’t use the certified organic logo or market as certified organic. As I have learnt, in many cases small producers simply don’t have the resources (money or staff) to keep up with the requirements set forth by the organic certification bodies. And often when this is the case, they wouldn’t have the money to purchase expensive pesticides anyway. As I have come to understand it, organic simply means that the product is grown and produced in a manner which is considered to be as close to natural plant or animal growth as would occur in the wild. Just be aware that many companies are now using this word loosely as a means to market their product. If a product is labelled organic its worth your while to research where their ingredients come from and how they are farmed.

 

Natural

Natural is a tricky one… Most people (including me) are fooled by this into thinking that the product contains ingredients found in nature, but in reality this not always the case. Natural really just means that the ingredient or ingredients mimic something that is found in nature, and is therefore considered to be natural. An ingredient that is chemically similar to one found in nature could be one of 2 things – the actual ingredient sourced directly from nature (plant or animal source) or it could be entirely synthesized in a lab to chemically resemble the natural version. As I’ve said in previous blogs, this may or may not affect you – we all react differently to different chemicals – but you should be aware of the ingredients origin.  You may find that you’re allergic to mango, but if you use the chemically synthesized version you have no reaction (as is the case with me and Aloe Vera).

I was recently fooled into buying a body wash that was made by a company with “natural” in the name, stupidly thinking this meant that the company would value botanic and organic ingredients, but when I opened it and used it for the first time the smell and texture gave it away – it was full of “natural” papaya and mango ingredients. Chemically they mimic the real thing but the effect is just not the same on the skin or the nose… When I read the back of the bottle I realised that nowhere did it say Carica papaya (Papaya) or Mangifera indica (Mango), so clearly they were using a chemically synthesized ingredient.

The word “natural” to me is perhaps the most misleading and misused word in the industry and is commonly known to fool us lesser mortals into thinking we are using something good for us…

 

Botanic & Plant Based

Botanic refers to the origin of the ingredient and identifies it as made from or taken from plants.

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/botanical ) This is often interchanged with the words “plant based”.

Again, you should do your research here as often the word botanic can have the same implications as the word natural – it really just means the ingredient is similar to something botanic (a plant) – but is this lab synthesized from chemicals or is it made from the actual plant itself?

Botanic is not yet in the mainstream  marketing that you see on your shelves, so I really hope that as it becomes more widely used it is better explained and understood than the word natural.

 

Overall, I always emphasize that you do your research to make an informed choice. Always be aware of the buzz words and the way they are used to market a product…

 

The Luxe Botanics Team


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Preservatives – friend or foe?

Preservatives – Friend or Foe?

 

This morning I woke up to burnt orange rays of winter sunshine peeking through my curtains. It was refreshing to wake up to such a bright day when the last few have been so dreary. As I slowly swung my legs off the bed, and started to plod off to the bathroom, I ran my hands over my eyes and cheeks in an effort to slough off any remaining sleep from my puffy skin. I turned on the bathroom light, looked up into the mirror, and my mood immediately sunk down to the cold, hard bathroom floor – I had a rash. A radiant red rash on my neck.

I’m sure many of you have had similar moments. Those times when you look in the mirror and know that this is going to take time to fix. It won’t be gone in a few hours, it may even stay with you for a couple of days or even a week. The feeling that prompts you to start digging in your makeup drawer for your best concealer…

A friend of mine was recently telling me about her experience with a reaction to skin care that almost ruined her wedding photos – red, scaly dermatitis all over her mouth and jaw. She reacted quickly and sought the advice of a dermatologist who directed her to immediately stop using all her beauty and body products (even her current toothpaste!), and change to completely organic products with no preservatives, parabens, sulphates, and fillers. After a few days of using new products she realised was she was allergic to the preservatives commonly found in her skin care.

Her story prompted me to read up on the different types of preservatives used when formulating skin care products. But before I go any further I need to explain why we need certain preservatives in our skin care products.

It’s fairly simple – picture what happens to milk when it’s left out too long – it curdles; when you leave fruit in the sun – it ripens and starts to break down; or what happens to the left over fat from a good home made roast chicken – it separates right? These are all completely natural foods and without any sort of natural preservative so they go bad pretty quickly. Apply this to your skin care and imagine what would happen if the formulations didn’t contain some sort of preservative. They would have a very short shelf life – probably not even long enough to make it from farm to shelf to face – and may even become home to some unwelcome bacteria. There are of course exceptions – certain oils for example have an excellent natural shelf life. Just remember if you do buy products without any preservatives (natural or otherwise) you should be aware of their shelf life, store them in the fridge, and be very careful not to contaminate them when you open them.

While preservatives may be necessary in some skin care formulations, not all preservatives are created equal – some are naturally processed and made from natural sources; some are made in a laboratory from natural sources; and others are synthesized completely in the laboratory from chemical components. The reason for lab formulations is twofold – the resulting preservative is often cheaper to make in the lab, and it also often yields a preservative of higher purity and potency. In each case the resulting preservative may or may not cause a reaction, but of course some preservatives have a cleaner conscience than others… Just google “reactions to skin care preservatives” and you will find plenty of news articles.

As discussed in yesterday’s blog, one example of a preservative that can sometimes result in side effects is butylene glycol. It is definitely not the worst of the glycols out there, but it’s worth using it as an illustrative example here.

Skin care manufacturers will defend the use of butylene glycol by saying when it’s applied to the skin it breaks down into a natural chemical compound found in the human body (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid). (It’s very common in a wide range of formulations for the active compound to only be synthesized as a result of the metabolism of the originator molecule.) They will also cite international regulatory agencies such as the FDA and the World Health Organisation who state that it’s safe for use in humans. The manufacturers and the regulatory agencies are not entirely wrong here – it is safe, but if you are unlucky enough to be sensitive to this compound then it can result in skin allergies and dermatitis.

I don’t want to talk too much about butylene glycol, but it is the preservative that gives me a rash, so I am going to stay far away from it. In general I am always weary of anything on the back of the bottle that reads like this:

  • -glycol (e.g. propyl glycol);
  • -alcohol (e.g. benzyl alcohol);
  • -ethanol (e.g. phenoxyethanol);
  • -paraben (e.g. methylparaben);
  • -acid (e.g. sorbic acid);
  • -glycinate (e.g. hydroxymethylglycinate);
  • glycerins

You have to bear in mind that these preservatives can be made from various sources – either from natural ingredients or from chemicals in the lab. So when you read the ingredients in your skin care and spot some of these don’t freak out – research the brand and find out where their products are made and to what standards.

A good example is phenoxyethanol – it can be made from green tea or it can be manufactured artificially. It has been known to cause some pretty awful reactions, so be sure to test it out on your skin (preferably the natural version) before you use products that use it as a preservative.

Also be aware that many of these compounds are listed by many other names so while it may sound like something natural, it may not be. Phenoxyethanol is also called phenoxytol, phenoxethol, rose ether, and ethylene glycol.

My suggestion is to research for yourself – This is an excellent article by Making Skin Care: http://www.makingskincare.com/preservatives/

The overall message take home message is to firstly, read the back of your bottles to understand what it in them before you use them; and secondly, be aware of the ingredients that irritate your skin and remove those products from your . There are over 6 billion skin types in the world – yours is entirely unique – so take the time to learn what works for you. Recommendations from friends are great, but always be aware of the products effects on you. Don’t get fooled by marketing, pretty packaging, or great smells – if it doesn’t work, or even worse, if you get a reaction to it, stop using it.

As always, do your research!

The Luxe Botanics Team


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A skin care ingredient journey

A skin care ingredient journey

It’s the flight home after the holidays and I can feel the after effects of my gluttonous, slothful holiday coming up on my skin… On my chin. On my jaw. On my forehead. Ouch. I’m remembering the many fantastic home cooked meals I had and the lazy days on the couch… and I’m regretting every single one of them. But this isn’t how it’s supposed to be – why should I regret a week of wonderful times with my family just because of a few pimples? That shouldn’t ruin the memories of my holiday. And that’s when it hits me – If I could figure out a way to have healthier skin, surely my skin would react better to holidays like this one… and I wouldn’t be sitting on the flight home worrying about my skin?

So I’ve decided to blog my journey to finding solutions to give me healthier skin, most of the time – because, honestly, let’s be realistic, we can’t have great skin all the time. There will be days we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But I intend to keep those to a minimum.

The first thing I’ve decided to do is an audit of all the skin care I have in my bathroom to see what I have and to review all the ingredients. This a pretty big task because women tend to hoard so many skin care products, saving them for use at an unknown later date, which of course we never do… And my bathroom is no exception. It’s packed with free samples, travel sizes, full sizes, and salon sizes of all my favourite products. I reluctantly pick up my favourite cleanser, turn it over and start reading…

I am fortunate to have completed both a bachelors and master’s degree in science – specifically biotechnology and biochemistry – so my understanding of chemical ingredients, their interactions and effects is above average. I’ve also worked in many laboratories and healthcare corporations over the last 10 years so I’ve had my fair share of exposure to the world of pharmaceuticals. Add this scientific curiosity to the horrible acne prone skin I grew up with, and still have as an adult, and you essentially have a cosmetics super nerd.

So the first thing you need to know when looking at the ingredients list on your skin care is that ingredients are listed in descending order of percentage within the formulation, according to the laws and regulations in your country, or the products’ country of origin, whichever is more stringent. This means that whatever the first ingredient in the list is, this is what’s making up most of the product. And whatever is last on the list is probably 1% of the product, or less. So if you buy something called ‘ginger lemongrass scrub’ you would hope to see both ginger and lemongrass in the first 5 ingredients of the product. If you don’t, then I would question if ginger and lemongrass are actually the active ingredients, or if it’s just water, other ingredients, and some sort of preservative.

So when I start to read the back of my favourite cleanser and it starts with: Water, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyeride, and Butylene Glycol let’s just say I’m none too impressed. Let’s break that down:

  1. Water, well we all know what this is… But I often wonder when I see this as the first ingredient “why am I paying $$$ for water?”
  2. Caprylic/ Capric Triglyeride is made from plant sugars and a mixture of fatty acids from coconut or palm kernel oils. This is what makes your cleanser (or anything else) feel silky smooth and also what helps to nourish and moisturise your skin. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m none too happy with anything that comes from palm oil – just type in “true cost of palm oil” into google and you’ll see what I mean. But overall this is a very common ingredient that does have proven benefits – and often this can be derived solely from coconut oil… So really, this is up to personal choice I think – do your research and decide. You’ll  notice we have used this in a couple of our Luxe Botanics formulations, but this is conscious choice for us based on its benefits and we have made sure that ours come from sustainable sources.
  3. Butylene Glycol – This is an organic alcohol which is used to help other products dissolve in water so it thins creams and gels but its main function is as a preservative. Essentially it’s a petroleum by product. If you want to see what this does to your skin just google it – you won’t be impressed as this is often the culprit behind skin allergies and dermatitis.

Overall the first few ingredients don’t blow me away, and some certainly scare me a bit. As I keep reading the ingredient list I come across things like Safflower oil (excellent source of Linoleic Acid – Omega 6), Rosemary leaf oil (great for eczema, oily skin, and dermatitis) and tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) so my spirits are somewhat lifted. However, these ingredients are all pretty far down on the list. I haven’t had any bad reactions to it yet, so in the end I pragmatically decide to hold onto this one until I can find a better organic cleanser.

As I start to look through my other products I notice that a lot of them don’t list full ingredients but say things like “made from natural oils of 97% organic origin” and some just have a book symbol to indicate I need to refer to the product insert for more information – well what if I threw away the box with the insert when I bought it? And if 97% is of organic origin, what is the rest?

In the end I realise that I can only audit about half of the products in my bathroom. Most of the others require me to research more on the internet to find their ingredients and quite frankly I’m tired from my flight, and while I’ve been doing this I have unconsciously been scratching at my upcoming pimples… there’s not much the best skin care in the world can do if I don’t stop scratching!

Wishing you all the best of luck for your new year’s skin care audit,

The Luxe Botanics Team