Using essential oils as your fragrance is a great way to turn what would otherwise just be a 'perception-only' ingredient into an ingredient with the real capacity to bring something positive to the formula. It's not that synthetic fragrances are bad, they give formulators and brand owners a lot of creative freedom, are often very stable, can be formulated with the specifics of a formula or target audience in mind and have great batch-to-batch uniformity but at the end of the day a synthetic fragrance just makes a product smell good whereas essential oils can actually do good.
If only it were always that simple...
Essential oil chemistry is volatile, it has to be in order for you to smell it but in some cases that volatility stretches beyond the aesthetics of just delivering the aroma molecules to your nose. When the volatility turns inwards we can end up with some consequences that are less welcome.
Essential oils often contain natural weak spots - chemistry within their mix that is triggered into undergoing changes either by the formula it is placed in or environment in general. One of the most talked-about changes that occurs is oxidation, that is where one or more of the essential oil's aroma chemicals is chemically robbed of electrons making it less balanced and stable. While it is hard to imagine a tiny reaction like this taking place, we see examples of oxidation every day - when metal rusts or when apple cores or avocados brown after cutting. Oxidation reactions will happen naturally over time no matter how well you store your essential oils. Our hope is always that we can stave off any changes for as long as possible so that we can enjoy our oils and rely on them throughout their reasonable shelf life. However, sometimes these reactions happen faster than we would like, especially in cosmetic products where there is a lot of water and other natural oxidation-prone ingredients. Further, for a few essential oils this oxidation can make what was a very gentle and non-irritating oil, quite a lot more likely to cause problems. Lavender is one such example.
Lavender essential oil is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) in terms of its irritation potential. However, that status refers to its un-oxidised or fresh state. As lavender oil ages two key components, linalool and lineally acetate can oxidise and when they do, they become more irritating to the skin (Bråred Christensson et al., 2012, Sköld, Hagvall & Karlberg, 2007). Linalool oxidation occurs spontaneously over time when the oil is exposed to air whereas the oxidation of linalyl acetate tends to occur in the presence of peroxides. Peroxides can form in a formula as other ingredients break down so it may be that one of your carrier oils starts to go rancid and the free radicals released into the formula because of that kick start the oxidation of linalyl acetate in your lavender. More information on essential oil chemistry and stability can be found in Robert Tisserand's book 'Essential Oil Safety' (Tisserand, Young & Williamson, 2014) which is available for purchase at New Directions.
Protection of essential oils in a product comes in many forms and a formulator will consider all of these things in the R&D stage. The use of appropriate antioxidants to reduce and/or slow down oxidative chemical changes (over the nominated shelf life) is a common step. Most people who put recipes and formulations together will have noticed there is nearly always a 'vitamin E' step these days. Not so long ago, vitamin E was less common and instead, the petroleum derived BHT/ BHA antioxidants predominated.
Tocopherol (vitamin E) in its mixed state (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta Isomers) is a pretty good formulation partner in this regard being relatively cost effective, long-lasting (much more stable than BHT/ BHA), readily available and easy to incorporate. However, it's not perfect, has a slight to sometimes quite strong odour of its own and an oil solubility that is logical and necessary for its function but makes it hard to combine into a spritz spray formula due to its effect on the dispersed phase solubility. Other options are available to compliment or replace vitamin E including Rosemary Antioxidant and then Ferulic Acid, Symsave® H (hydroxyacetophenone, Vitamin C (although this is often the first thing to oxidise as it's very unstable compared to vitamin E), Coenzyme Q10, plant polyphenols, Alpha Lipoic Acid and many more besides some of which will be present in your plant based actives and others you may add specifically or even top-up to ensure good product protection coverage.
As good as loading up a formula with antioxidants is, it isn't always the answer to your formulating problems, especially when you wish to achieve a very long shelf life (in excess of 24 months maybe) and/or have a very natural or very naturally active formula.
Sometimes you just want to curl up inside a little bubble and forget about the world...
An alternative strategy for active (including essential oil) protection is encapsulation technology. Here the active is protected from oxidation and other environmental stressors by wrapping it up in a shell. This technology has been successfully used to protect volatile chemical mixtures such as essential oils and other flavour and fragrance combinations across food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries and again, while it may not be the perfect solution for every formula, it is well worth diving into.
If we think of a formula as a battle ground where oxidation is the attacking force, your antioxidants act like armour for the good guys. However, the good guys are still out there and no matter how good the armour, given enough time out on the battle field the good guys will get tired. Encapsulation technology is like putting your good guys into a cozy waiting room away from the front line. While they can't sit in that room for ever, there's every chance that they can wait it out for long enough for you to have a decent shelf life.
CelluOil™ capsules are supplied as a free flowing fine powder. These particular capsules contain Lavandula Hybrida Abrial oil at a concentration of 50%, in a modified cellulose shell which is chemically and biologically inert so as not to negatively interfere with the efficacy of the active or the formula. The shells are an example of 'release-on-demand' technology ensuring freshness and maximum efficacy over the product shelf life whether formulated into a serum or a cream base.
Encapsulation technology such as this gives you greater formulating freedom to including fragrance layering (where the initial in-pack smell changes to a more lavender based aroma on rub-in), higher essential oil dosing without the over-whelm or even the development of neutral base odours that burst into life on application.
While there are many different encapsulating technologies available to the cosmetic chemist, this particular technology caught our interest at New Directions Australia due to its capacity to perform well across a wide range of temperatures, pH ranges and oxidative environments. As the polymer shell is unreactive, a much wider range of actives can be carried with this technology and at payloads of up to 90% depending on the active. The fact that the shells can be combined easily into most formulations and deliver a pleasing in-use aesthetic meant that we just had to give these a try!
You can find CelluOil™ for sale as an ingredient on our website or you can try it for yourself in our night cocoon sleep mask. In this product we've paired the stabilised lavender with Hyaluronic acid and Ceramide complex for a silky rich restorative night treatment that, upon rub-in will both soothe your skin and help you relax ready for that much prized beauty sleep.
We hope you enjoy experimenting with this exciting new active and product combo and if you need help stability testing your cosmetic creations do let us know as we have a stability testing service available for clients.
28 January 2020
The relationship between Austin and New Directions started with him attending our skin care and business courses. Since then, Austin has been a client of the technical Help Desk and general business.
There is a big difference between commanding and demanding attention, maybe the ritual of shaving teaches men to preference the former over the latter and if so, maybe it is men like Austin whom we should thank. I met Austin when he turned up at New Directions as a student in one of my classes a few years back. Like most short-course teachers, I didn't really get to know him then but over the months that followed Austin kept in touch as he developed and tested his ideas about, and understanding of, cosmetic science and product creation. As is often the case with new ideas, things take longer than expected and life gets in the way. Before long I realised that it had been over a year since I'd heard from Austin but on his side, things had been far from quiet, they had just gone in a slightly different and equally interesting direction as I was soon to find out.
Austin is a precision master barber with an impressive resume of experience behind him including stints with Vidal Sassoon in London and Anthony Nader and American Crew here in Australia. He currently works out of an immaculately presented private terrace in a trendy back-street area of Sydney's Surry Hills. He is the kind of guy who pays attention to detail, thinks deeply about his craft and recognises the significance of the shaving ritual in the lives of men, however they choose to present to the world. I met him at his place and talked over lemongrass and ginger tea about men, role-models, political correctness and, of course, shaving.
Austin didn't start out in as a barber, barbering wasn't cool back when he was leaving school, instead he commenced a scientific career combining work as a laboratory technician with a further education certificate. While that helped to explain his scientific approach to product development, I was still left wondering what prompted such an about-turn in career path? I probed further asking where his fascination for barbering originated. Immediately it became clear that for Austin this wasn't just a career, it was his life's purpose, his responsibility as a man. A way to quite literally wear his own personal values of self-discipline, integrity and self-respect in a way that both encourage and empower other men to do the same. For Austin, the impulse to connect with men through the long-trusted profession of barbering ran deep.
It was Kyan Douglas, the male grooming expert on ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' that first showed Austin he could seriously pursue a career in the male grooming space. The show ran from 2003-2007, during Austin's early adulthood at a time when he was one of only a few straight men on the Sydney hairdressing scene. The fact that Austin socialised in and felt comfortable with Sydney's gay scene was not surprising to me, he comes across as a ‘shaken, not stirred' kind of guy, very grounded and comfortable in his own skin while maintaining a preference for playing it his way and maintaining control. It strikes me that this is not unlike the James Bond character cited as a childhood role-model which, along with John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenegger helped inform the younger Austin's view of what makes a man. However, I kept getting the feeling that while these men were important role-models for Austin on one level, his real influence lay much closer to home.
Grandfather to father to son. Boom, there it is, generation after generation gathered around a basin and mirror, sharing moments of care and self-realisation. The sound and smell made by brush bristles creating lather in the cake of shaving soap. The quiet, purposeful strokes made as the blade travels across the skin, breath held, hand steady and strong. Splashes of fresh, cool water mark the start of something new, a re-birthing maybe. Slap, the back-to-reality patting of after-shave onto freshly smoothed cheeks, a reminder that life is tough, but you've got this, you are ready.
For Austin this wasn't just a memory, this was the purpose of life, that quiet, methodical ritual requiring discipline, skill and concentration. It was immediately clear that Austin's integrity as a craftsman and educator is bound up in these indelible, whole body memories. He isn't just a barber in the aesthetic sense of the word, Austin is a protector and defender of this space, the ‘men-only' business of taking blade to face, rough to smooth, raw to polished.
On that note we turned our attention to Austin's brand, Stag Men's Grooming, the logo of which depicts a Stags head nestled inside the incomplete outline of a circle. Symbolically the Stag represents protection while the circle represents the earth, a marriage of power and purpose that creates something visually beautiful and intriguing. The ‘less is more' approach suits what Austin is creating here, when you simplify life you prioritise your life and what demonstrates that more than the time-honoured tradition of barbering.
The range of accessories that Austin has created builds on the idea that the master barber doesn't rush or cut corners. The high-quality, heirloom-worthy shaving accessories in the Stag range feature three high quality safety razers that feel solid and substantial. They are beautiful to hold and have been designed in such a way as to encourage a light, smooth touch that rewards attention to detail. I contrast that to the re-usable razer I purchased for myself earlier this year and can immediately see the value in what has been created here. Mine, being light-weight and flimsy by comparison almost begs me to push down harder against the skin than the blade requires, often with painful consequences.
The razors more than live up to the lavish names they have been given:
The King, weighing in at 86g combines a matt black solid brass handle with a stainless steel, rust resistant head finished beautifully with gold electroplate.
The Knight at 80g is the gallant and more affordable workhorse, combining a zinc alloy head on a wide-grip chrome coated brass handle for an under-stated yet polished look that would sit well in any bathroom.
Finally, there is the Cavalier at 81g which combines a more elegant and suave chrome coated brass handle with the zinc alloy head in a product that feels sophisticated and polished.
The range of razors are designed to fit single disposable aluminium blades which, after a few shaves can be fully re-cycled. The whole idea of double or quadruple bladed shaves is, in Austin's opinion (and experience) a marketing gimmick. What he says about passing the blade over the skin once makes sense to me - less irritation, fuss and skin damage, less chance of developing in-grown hairs and post-shave issues.
These are products that are designed to last and as such they offer both long-term cost and environmental benefits. The brushes that Austin has developed come in two finishes, badger hair and synthetic. I try both on the back of my hand and notice the roughness of the natural hair vs that which has been constructed. As a chemist I appreciate the engineering that goes into ‘synthetics' and know which one I would try while at the same time appreciating the marketing benefits of choice for clients.
We put the shaving tools down and I take another sip of tea. I ask Austin about the role that Barbers play in terms of men's mental and physical health. I was curious to know if men open up to him, if, like the barbers throughout history, this is a place where quiet revolutions are plotted, where boys become men, problems are shared and solved, support networks are created, and if that were so I wondered if ‘confidant' was a role that Austin was prepared to play?
The conversation that followed assured me that men do feel comfortable talking to and with Austin, that the back-street but polished ambience of his location help facilitate that, creating a sense of safety without making it obvious that it is safety that is being sought. I come away understanding that to Austin and his clientele, masculinity is about two things: first, the protection of what matters and second, the education of the next generation. Those are two roles that Austin is more than willing and qualified to play. As he goes about his business, he is educating a new generation of men in what it is to re-connect with themselves and others, how to practice discipline and control in the balanced, considered way befitting of a gentleman. In terms of protection, Austin is protecting the inherent value of masculinity, something that men can sometimes feel is under-threat in this rapidly changing world.
As a woman watching on and telling this story I feel confident that through the medium of Barbering Austin's business will make a positive difference in this world. What Austin removes from his clients with that cut-throat blade is all that should never have been there in the first place - the self-doubt, insecurity and lack of direction that can undermine even the best of us at times. I wrapped up my chat just as Austin's next client appeared at the door but not before I was informed of a new shaving ritual focused skin care line that is waiting in the wings to be launched, all very exciting and no doubt worthy of another visit and chat!
The door of Austin's barber shop closes behind me and I step back into the world. Immediately I am struck with the change of pace, the difference between out here and in there. A line from a film pops into my head ‘is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?' Arthur Fleck (Joker)...
It occurs to me that maybe the resurgence in popularity of barber's shops have come at exactly the right time. These private men-only spaces where traditional thinking men like Austin can practice their craft while creating opportunities for men to be themselves unapologetically, in comfort are needed. Maybe Austin people like him are the antidote.
20 December 2019
Tell a customer that your product contains peptides and you'll always spark their interest even if most of us don't really understand what they are and how they work. We just know that they have the capacity to do great things and great things is what we really want!
Boost Collagen and Elastic | Control Melanin Production | Manage Inflammation | Barrier Protection, Anti-Microbial.
Peptides are biologically active signalling molecules, made of amino acids (the same stuff that makes up proteins, the stuff that makes up around 20% of your lean body mass, another 60% being water and the rest a mix of stuff including your bone minerals). Amino acids arranged in certain shapes and sizes can act like keys for a range of biological processes where they typically deliver the signal that tells a process to move. In the cosmetic space some of these processes include the key to unlocking collagen synthesis, elastin arrangement, melanin production, inflammation, microbe fighting and barrier protection.
In cosmetic science we use peptides that are synthetic or man-made, the exact shapes and sizes we use don't exist naturally. Peptides are manufactured this way to give them a better chance of reaching the target tissue (don't forget that in real life, peptides are produced close to the site of action whereas ours have to be able to penetrate the rather tricky epidermal barrier as a minimum), of being stable outside of the skin environment (to that they can be supplied), to better control delivery over a period of time and to reduce toxicity. The down side about all of this work is that it is expensive. Peptide synthesis requires lots of high-tech science equipment and knowledge, refining the molecule shape and running testing is also time consuming and costly and coming up with novel anti-ageing technology is financially lucrative and is therefore always protected by patents and other instruments. So, all up you typically pay roughly (today's prices) at least $1000 AUD per Kg for a cosmetic peptide, as supplied, and most manufacturers supply them in presentations that require a dose rate of between 0.5-3% in a formula, that means a per-formula cost of at least $5 per Kg from one ingredient but more typically $15-$30 per Kg on top of other costs. To put this into perspective, a smallish to medium-sized brand with a cosmetic night cream that contains some natural ingredients typically comes in at around $40 per Kg for ingredients. In that scenario it isn't un-heard of for your peptide input to account for between 50-80% of your overall formula costs, a significant investment but one that can bring significant returns.
If we focus back to the structure again we can think of the peptides we use in cosmetics as having two regions to do two different jobs. There is the functional 'key' part which is the bit that interacts with whatever biological process we wish to influence, then there is the tail part which is the man-made 'motor' part if you like, the bit that gets the peptide to where it has to go. Typically, this 'motor' part has been a fatty acid onto which the amino acids that form the peptide can be attached. These fatty acid chains can be sourced from any feedstock, vegetable or mineral with saturated C16-C18 chains likely coming from palm (although not always).
Here is what Matrixyl 3000 look like. Chemically this is now known as Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4.
Image by: Ed (Edgar181) - Own work, Public Domain
Palmitoyl - palmitic acid tail, the 'motor'. The name palmitoyl doesn't mean it comes from palm, it means that it is a 16-carbon fatty acid. Lots of vegetable and mineral origin materials have this configuration.
Penta - means 5. Because this is referring to the number of amino acids that make up the peptide chain, in this case, a lysine rich blend.
The number 4 at the end is an arbitrary number that is assigned by INCI regulators when the molecule is first listed so lower numbers were most likely registered earlier than larger numbers - this way of attributing numbers is not unusual, many (but not all) numbers you see in INCI names are about when the ingredient was registered. This is one reason why I find it amusing when people say they don't want chemicals with numbers on them as that means something bad.
Matrixyl 3000 came onto the market in 2000 and it has remained popular because it does work quite well as long as it reaches its target tissue - it stimulates collagen, fibronectin, elastin and Glycosaminoglycan production. It also has a high level of market acceptance and awareness and is relatively widely available.
So where does it need to get to?
Collagen and elastin synthesis occur in the dermis but can be triggered by signals from fibronectin. Fibronectin is part of the extracellular matrix and is synthesised, in part by keratinocytes which, luckily enough, are the cells at the base of our epidermis (the skin that we touch). Glycosaminoglycans include hyaluronic acid and this chemistry helps to support collagen and elastin health by, amongst other things, trapping moisture.
And does it work?
Many dermatologists continue to have a slightly less rosy view of cosmetic peptides because of the evidence gap that exists for them. While cosmetic peptides have to go through some testing, that testing is typically carried out in small trials (20 people or less most often), by the ingredient manufacturers in short term trials (up to 60 days). Dermatologists have medical degrees and as scientists we are taught to look for more robust evidence than this, especially when it comes to mapping cause and effect. However, as cosmetic chemists we see the results that people get with peptides like Matrixyl and others which begs the question, are the dermatologists wrong? The answer to that is probably not.
It is likely that what happens in many cosmetic formulations is that the cause and effect relationship is somewhat more complex. Sure, the peptide gives visible results when used in a good formula base but it is likely to be contributing more through a topical action (hydration, barrier protection, catalyst for deeper processes) than it does through deep skin penetration. So yes, they work but they are doing slightly different work, albeit with similar results, to the work they advertised. Net result = happy customers with visibly improved skin.
Exciting new research.
The dermatology world is interested in peptides with over 340 papers published on the topic so far this year. New research includes the use of peptides to re-construct badly damaged skin such as full-thickness burns and other traumatic injury. Some particularly interesting advances have been made in using self-assembling peptide Nano fibre hydrogels to help stimulate the growth of bone and cartilage, heal complex wounds and better deliver drugs. Some research is even looking at using peptides to help repair the type of nerve damage that results in hearing loss! Now while not all of these applications relate to cosmetics, the technology is transferable. The use of peptide infused hydrogels is particularly interesting to me as that's essentially a super-powerful serum, the type that we commonly use in cosmetic science. It is likely that the learning from this type of research into partial thickness burns, ulcers and surgery wounds will filter up into cosmetic science and inform peptide manufacturers of the technology needed to get results at a 'maintenance' level in the cosmetic space.
New Peptides for your formulations.
Topical 'Botox' actives have been on the market for almost as long as Matrixyl but traditionally they have relied on targeting one part of the muscle contraction cycle, Munapsys™ targets two. As you might expect from an upgraded model, this peptide has the capacity to reduce muscle contractions for longer and with a stronger effect than we've seen before. This dual effect does go a long way towards solving the deep skin penetration difficulties as it taps into a cascade reaction that starts much closer to the skin surface than traditional muscle relaxing peptides.
This peptide performs well with hyaluronic acid into fast-acting eye serums for an instant lift if you use the peptide at the maximum level. It can also be formulated into daily 'face-lift' serums and creams designed for use under make-up.
This peptide builds on what we know about skin healing and repair by targeting a number of processes involved in skin regeneration. Its combination action makes this a great restore and repair active for deep moisturisation and the correction of premature ageing. This peptide can be formulated into a range of products but we like it in deep hydrating eye creams, night creams and serums. Pair with Pentavitin for a strongly moisturising action.
Uneven skin pigmentation is a marker of ageing and trauma and as such, reducing its visible impact is highly sought after. Stellight™ peptide reduces both melanin expression and transfer, again giving the product two changes to produce a visible effect. Peptides are a much safer way to reduce hyper-pigmentation than hydroquinone (which is not permitted in Australian cosmetics) and have a higher specificity than whole plant actives such as Bearberry extract. We recommend pairing this with our oil soluble vitamin C for customers looking for an all-over brightening effect with enhanced luminosity.
The chemical signals produced by our skin to induce skin ageing are the target of this peptide. Progeline down-regulates production of the protein that speeds up cellular ageing, progerin, thus helping to maintain optimal cellular regeneration. This has the effect of improving skin firmness and elasticity, maintaining the complexion in good order. We recommend pairing this with our Ceramide complex and protective mineral complex to create a slow-release day cream or sheet mask that helps to boost the skins resilience and turn back the clock.
The future is biologically active!
Cosmetic peptides give brand owners the chance to tap into some very exciting skin regeneration science and give their customers a deeper level of efficacy. New generation peptides counter some of the problems faced by earlier peptide chemistry by focusing on beginning their activity further up the biological cascade. While this doesn't take away the need for a good skin delivery system, it does mean that it is more likely customers will see results quicker and to a greater level than before. Peptides can be combined to give multiple effects in one product or can be used alone as 'hero actives. You can experiment with some of our peptides in our hands-on 'Create your own Cosmetics' workshops which are held every quarter in Sydney. We can't wait to see what you create with this great range of active peptides and share your business success with you.
9 August 2019
Cosmetic brands have been selling themselves as 'paraben free 'or 'sulphate free' for years now but that may be about to stop in EU based markets in a move that for once, sees (un) common sense prevail.
There has been, in place since the EU cosmetic laws came into force, a provision for brands to be challenged for making claims that undermine the law. This includes brands that make 'free from' claims about ingredients that have been assessed as generally safe such as is the case with parabens and sulphates plus many more chemicals (mineral oils, silicones, PEGs, perfumes etc). The provision for prosecution due to breaching the current guidelines hasn't been widely utilised up to now as far as I know because of a lack of guidance as to how it should could be used. This year, guidelines and training have been rolled out so it is easier for brands to now be formally challenged and, on the other hand, easier for brands to know exactly what is and isn't legal.
If you are a brand that operates outside of the EU market then maybe you feel you don't need to even look at these laws, I can see the point. However, for once, in law (in my opinion) there are some pretty good things in this, things that I think all of our cosmetic buying public will like and appreciate, especially when it comes to truthfulness.
Here is a snippet of what the EU law says on truthfulness of product claims:
It is also available in other languages to download from the Eu website and I'd always recommend you go back to the EU law site before making business decisions in case this link gets old and outdated. There is quite a bit more said on how products selling in the EU should be labelled and presented so it is worth a read.
After reading through this new legislative push I have to say that I'm quite glad that the EU have stepped up here. Making 'free from' claims about ingredients that people FEEL unsure about or HAVE HEARD are unsafe has long been a bug bare of mine as it is actually selling on fear, a false fear and as such, it is deeply dishonest. This type of behaviour has been contributing to what I've seen throughout my career and that is a denigration of science, a complete break down in the general publics ability to discern good science information from bad, respect for scientific process and thinking (and that's not the same as respect for scientists as a group or as individuals by the way) and a lack of ability to separate our emotional response from a more calculated, pragmatic one. That said, some 'free from' claims will be allowed. The information makes a case for brands wanting to claim that their products are free from animal derived ingredients, this makes sense, Vegans deserve to have this information easily available without them needing a science degree. Also, in some cases claims such as 'alcohol free' make sense, for example when products such as mouthwash are to be sold for children (this is an example given in the documentation). If you are reading this article from anywhere outside of the EU I'll remind you that you don't have to comply with this but I will also remind you that this law actually makes a lot of sense, is focused on the consumer and their access to honest, science-based information and is not actually that hard to implement. We will definitely be advising that our clients take heed of this if they want to be as honest as they can be. For more information on the laws and landscape of running a cosmetic business join us at our 'How to Start Your Own Business' course which runs every quarter.
9 August 2019
Over the last thirty years the cosmetic industry has turned its attention more and more to the natural world for its ingredients, inspiration and innovation. Indeed, we are now at a time where our cosmetics and the climate cannot be separated from each other. The climate influences the production of our cosmetics, our cosmetics protect us from the effects of the climate. As such, it makes sense for us to take a closer look at how this relationship is developing, how the climate is changing our cosmetics.
There is now little doubt in our minds that our every-day actions and the decisions we make do matter and do leave their mark on the environment, sometimes in a disproportionately large way. Just like the butterfly that flapped its wings and caused a hurricane, our choice of moisturiser can, potentially clear a forest.
The Cosmetic Industry, being inseparably linked to how we look and feel, has, since its inception used our aspirations as a means of selling us more and edging us closer to a reality that is more desirable for ourselves. Increasingly this narrative has been underpinned by our love for and our desire to protect the natural world while, at the same time taking from it in the form of plant-derived ingredients. The issue now facing us is that plant-derived ingredients require farming, that successful farming requires a predictable climate or, at the very least, a run of amiable weather and what the future is promising us is nothing short of chaos.
Global increases in temperatures are just one aspect of the challenges being faced by farmers of cosmetic ingredients and food alike. This, paired with variations in rainfall, often manifesting as flooding summer rains followed by high evaporation rates as opposed to steady winter showers are adding immense pressure to an agricultural system that is already struggling to respond to the food needs of a growing population. A growing population equals more mouths to feed and as many cosmetic ingredients are edible this can end up in a battle for resources - food versus face!
In addition to rain pattern and volume changes and an upward trend in global temperatures the modern-day farmer faces a very real challenge when it comes to finding suitable land, both in terms of space to farm and of soil quality. The competition between farmland and urban sprawl plays out at the edges of our global cities while, in the background the fight for forest over farms causes global indignation - disputing policies over land use and rezoning for agriculture being a key factor behind the palm oil free movement. Add to that the rising costs of energy including fuel to run tractors and processing facilities, the impacts of air pollution on crop yields and the financial instability faced by many in the farming community and it becomes obvious that we need to sit up and pay attention now.
Climate related events have been impacting on the cosmetic industry supply chain with increasing frequency over the past few years and, at a time when more and more members of the public are wanting to have a relationship with a particular farm as part of their marketing strategy and brand integrity promise - the farm-to-face movement. However, it looks increasingly likely that single farm supply relationships will become less viable as we move into the future. A diverse and flexible supply chain may be the only tangible way forward.
Below are some examples of how we, at New Directions, have been impacted by climate events over the last year of running our business in sourcing ingredients for you and your brands.
Australia - Olive Oil, Honey, Beeswax and Essential Oils
Australia is still the only place in the world to be free of the veroa mite and as such our beeswax, honey and bee products are highly sought after on the global market place. However, drought conditions across Australia have been so severe that bee product yields are down and supply is short. Pollen levels out in farming communities have been very low thanks in part to the dry weather but also due to increased land clearing and mono-cropping which can often mean that there is actually more pollen for bees in the cities than there is out in the country. This has implications for how we farm bees in future and how the supply chain for honey and wax works with it becoming increasingly likely that honey and wax will come from many small producers or co-ops than one large supplier as has typically been the case, especially with speciality honeys that rely on bees foraging predominantly on one crop such as jellybush or manuka.
It isn't just Australia that is suffering on the bee front, California has been in prolonged drought also and beekeeper losses have been reported as high as 50-60%. Meanwhile Kentucky has had record-breaking rains that have also resulted in hive losses as the bees don't forage and aren't as healthy in flood conditions.
Agonis Fragrans Essential Oil
In 2016 bushfires raged through a key Agonis Fragrans essential oil production area razing it to the ground. While bushfires are a feature of the Australian landscape and a weather event that many native species of tree and animal rely on as part of their lifecycle fires are becoming increasingly frequent and many are burning hotter thanks to changes in the way land is managed and in how the climate is responding. The crops have started to recover since then but it was a stark reminder of how fragile some of our supply chains really are, especially with something as specialised as a boutique essential oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The production of Extra Virgin Olive Oil involves some sacrifices, specifically around yield so while you do get a better price for your product (if it measures up), the amount of oil you produce is lower than it would otherwise be. This is because olives are picked earlier when their oil levels are lower and they also have to be processed quicker to reduce the change of oxidation while the oil sits waiting in the fruit. These tighter production requirements put added stress on the farmer and make the production of this grade more weather-critical than it is with other grades of oil, there are simply less days that one can hold off on harvesting thus meaning that bad weather on or around that time can affect a whole crop. In Australia total olive oil production was at its highest ever in 2014-2015 but has since dropped somewhat and it is those depleted reserves plus harsher weather conditions that have contributed to a tightening of supply this season.
Globally Olive Oil is growing in popularity for its health and wellbeing benefits and of course, it's the highest-grade oil that is most desirable meaning stocks can often run tight even without the weather being an issue. This year there are predictions that Italy will run out of olive oil by April due to a disastrous harvest that saw prices of what oil there was available rise by 31%. Italy's woes were climate related thanks to heavy rains, the early onset of winter and infestation by a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa which stunts crop growth. This tightening of supply in a time when demand is booming is seeing prices rise and the product run short globally.
West Africa - Shea Butter
Shea grows across the dry savanna belt of west Africa and as such it is well accustomed to life in a dry environment. However, the climate is shifting towards higher average temperatures which are leading to higher levels of water evaporation thus pushing the area closer to desertification. On the ground, these changes are already taking effect with the rain that is around typically falling as sudden heavy rain rather than the smaller, more regular showers that used to be typical of this region. This has started to impact the harvest of Shea Nuts leading to delays, lower stock levels and, as a consequence prices are again rising.
Sri Lanka - Flooding Affecting Trade In Spices
Sri Lanka is no stranger to flooding rain and in December 2018 they were hit with a flood event that displaced 75,000 people in the northern province. This disaster came only two years after a similar flood event affected over 300,000 people in 2016 and caused a 40% drop in rice production the following year as flooding rain was followed by drought conditions into 2017. Sri Lanka is a supplier of various spices including Ginger, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Clove, Vanilla and Turmeric to the cosmetic industry and along with the excessive rains came landslides which destroy crops not just for one season but for many as top soil is eroded and moved downstream.
South Africa - National Emergency
South Africa's productive Western Cape has been under severe climate stress over recent years due to prolonged drought. Farm yields are predicted to be down by 20% across the board this year with wheat, apple, grapes and pear crops being most affected. South Africa has declared it a national emergency and has diverted more money into immediately trying to secure water supplies for its cities which are perilously close to running dry - water security, especially fresh, clean, water security is an emerging issue for everywhere across the globe as the climate becomes increasingly unpredictable. New Directions sources a range of essential oils from this region and these too are affected by a reduction in rainfall in the region.
Natural Cosmetics, an Uncertain Future?
There is no doubt that the climate is becoming increasingly unstable and that with the instability comes variability in supply and quality of some of the ingredients we rely on to produce our cosmetics. We would be wise not to forget that we are often competing for cosmetic stock with food markets both globally and domestically - Shea Butter is a common food staple in West Africa as is Palm Oil in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is tempting to see these exotic global specialities as just exciting novelties for our amusement and pleasure when the reality can be one of life or death for the nations that produce them and I'm not just talking about the far-flung ingredients here. Farmers all over the world struggle mentally and financially to survive when nature, the hardest task master, plays up on them.
There is a small movement starting in the cosmetic industry away from primary or virgin food crops. Ingredients are being created from food waste, materials that we currently see as weeds, non-edible sea-based plants and crops that can thrive on marginal pasture as a way of decreasing our reliance on tying up prime food producing land. There is also a rising movement concerning water use, especially at the consumer end of the supply chain with brands looking increasingly at waterless products, concentrates and fast-rising formulations as a way of preserving fresh water stock. In addition, brand owners are looking more and more closely at how their finished products impact the waterways they are inevitably washed away into. These actions all play a part in creating a buffer against an uncertain climate.
As a final word it seems to me that as an industry we have tended towards viewing the natural world as a sort of novelty box that we pop our hand into a pull out a miracle ingredient whenever we need a new point-of-difference or story to tell. We have allowed ourselves to fantasise about how these ingredients came to be whilst not having to engage in the day-to-day dramas that hide in their flesh, leaves, oil or seeds. I believe that time is now over and that in order to maintain the industry and our brand diversity in a time of increasing global climate chaos we have to wake up to the reality of the world and truly appreciate and understand the journey of our ingredients from cradle to grave. Not just so that we can become instafamous but so we can be part of a movement that truly is investing in our future.
The climate is changing and we should too.
12 April 2019
The term 'therapeutic grade oil' has become quite popular over the last five or so years but it has no legal or measurable definition and as such is a term of limited value.
There has been an attempt to link the term 'therapeutic grade oil' with the practice of ingesting oils but this is also baseless. The practice of ingesting essential oil is therapeutic in nature and as such it follows that this should only be undertaken when prescribed by a suitably qualified professional based on a specific need, dose and time frame. This activity sits in the therapeutic realm and relies on checking oil quality against specific monographs (ISO/ USP/ EP etc) which dictate suitable oil composition ranges. Oils that have a pharmacopeia specification could be referred to as 'Therapeutic' quality but there is no provision in the pharmacopeia for dictating that these oils should be from a single source (what might be referred to as pure), only that they meet the chemistry and botanical origin requirement. So, it is possible to acquire an oil which meets a specific pharmacopeia standard because it has been 'manufactured' by combining several different batches of oil. In addition, the oil may have also been modified via the addition of aroma chemical isolates of either natural or nature-identical origin to best meet the relevant specification.
When all the above is taken into consideration we can see that there are potentially two different things that the client asking for 'Therapeutic Grade' oils might be looking for:
For clients wanting a pharmacopeia grade oil, because they are looking to add the ingredient as an active into a listed medical product or device, the best way to ascertain if an oil is suitable is to refer to the original specification and C of A. This data can be compared to the pharmacopeia relevant to the client and if there is a match, the oil is likely to be suitable for that application. Sometimes there can be a match in grade or quality of oil but because, as a supplier, New Directions isn't registered with the TGA as a pharmaceutical supplier/ manufacturer and the oil may still not be suitable for the client's purpose while in other cases this is not an issue.
For clients who were asking the question in hope of receiving only the best quality and purest oils that can be addressed in a different way. Oil purity is a measure of oil origin plus the omission of any contaminants. This can be confirmed by the product specification, botanical name/ plant part etc and the manufacturing flow chart. The quality can also be checked organoleptically by smelling and looking at the oil. Further analytical testing can be carried out, if required, to confirm oil chemistry, this testing can range in price from around $50 per test to more than $300 depending on what is required. There are laboratories around Australia that offer this service.
In terms of quality, it is possible for an oil to be pure but to be of low quality. Quality can be quite subjective but generally what we'd be meaning is that the oil might fall short of the ideal in terms of its chemistry and odour profile (these two things are intrinsically linked). Oils can fall short in their chemistry when the distillation process, filling and storage of oils is sub-optimal, but they can also fall short when environmental conditions are challenging such as when there is a drought, frosts, flooding or heat waves. As these negative factors fall into two camps: Operator/ processor influenced and 'acts of God' (a term for things like the weather that can't be controlled) it is possible for a very experienced oil producer to produce a very bad quality oil crop on occasion. In some cases, this will lead to a reduction in the volume of oil put onto the market as producers hold poor quality oil back for blending with other oils later, while in other cases the oil will be sold as is but possibly at a lower price point if that oil is still in good supply.
The final part of the puzzle is general oil desirability which is quite a personal measure as this generally covers how we respond to an oil. Interestingly, the way an oil is branded and even the sales environment can contribute to how we feel about it. Outside of that is the more up-close-and-personal experience of the oil, how it smells and looks. Smell is a very powerful emotion and a we all pick up on different notes within an oil and form our opinions based on that and the memories and feelings that they evoke. For this reason, it is impossible to really suggest that one oil is totally superior to another because that final judgement is always somewhat personal.
In summary, while it is important that we understand the actual meaning of the words we use to describe and select essential oils, what is more important is that we eventually connect with the best oil for us at that moment in time. To increase the changes of that happening we recommend taking a little more time, asking a few more questions and do a bit more sniffing before signing off or discarding an oil. Oh, and if you do have time to pop into our showroom you can always come and give them all a sniff!
11 October 2018
The other week I was talking to a client who was looking for confirmation of the Beta Caryophyllene content of the Copaifera Multijuga Resin Oil that we sell. I looked this up and dutifully found the batch we had in store to contain 45% of said aroma chemical. Curious to know why this particular chemical was of importance I asked a few questions and soon discovered that this chemical is thought to be able to bind to a particular cannabinoid receptor that we have in our bodies. I am guessing that some people were then drawn to make the conclusion that the presence of this chemical must mean Copaifera resin oil can affect your mood - maybe a relaxant or a 'feel good' chemical. I wanted to find out if that was indeed possible, especially given that quite a lot of people look to essential oils as mood enhancers.
Copaifera Multijuga resin is extracted from the trunk of the Copaiba tree which grows in tropical Latin America. The tree is fairly common, unremarkable in looks and fairly common in that region.
Apparently the resin was used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties and these, as well as its anti-microbial and wound-healing properties have since been backed up and understood better through scientific studies. The oil has been found to assist in tissue repair which makes it quite a useful addition to cosmetic products targeting damaged, ageing and / or problem skin when topically applied but is that all it has to offer? Can it's aroma chemistry change how we feel?
One of the big issues with natural medicine or even a natural cosmetic plant based extract is that nature doesn't do things exactly and reproducibly, that while it might look like everything is fairly similar on the outside, the chemistry can vary on the inside. The fact that nature does things approximately or in a range means that it is perfectly normal to expect the aroma chemistry of Copaifera oil to sit within a range of possibilities.
The tree Resin and the essential oil quality can vary from batch to batch and year to year depending on nutrition, competition for resources and climate, plus with some botanicals there is species cross-over and that is one thing happening here. It appears that, according to this article, there are at least three species of Copaiba tree producing resin and oil of the same name so that does add a level of uncertainty to things that doesn't exist with a single-chemical pharmaceutical active. The article I've linked to there also confirms that this hasn't yet been adopted as a 'drug' or 'active' in pharmaceutical terms and that's mainly because of uncertainty as to its toxicology (animal testing is happening on this now) plus its chemical variability (hence work such as is being done in this paper).
So here are the results of the analysis of 11 Copaifera Oils - there is another page too with minor components but I didn't share that as this has everything we nee for now. These are all of the same type as I mentioned initially.
What stands out to me here is that the level of 'active' we are interested in ranges from 10.58% up to 62.70% so the oil that New Directions currently has in stock, with 45% Carylophyllene, is pretty average.
Carylophyllene is unlikely to be the only active in this oil but we will continue our focus on this interesting aroma chemical for now and continue to follow its cannabinoid receptor link.
How do Cannabinoid receptors work?
We have Cannabinoid receptors throughout our body and these become activate when triggered by cannabinoids.In our bodies these receptors influence our appetite, how we sense pain, our mood and our memory. There are two main classes of receptor as well as some, what scientists currently think are minor receptors existing throughout our bodies. The CB1 receptor family operates in the brain (central nervous system) mainly but also affects the liver, kidneys and lungs. This is the receptor that is most famous with regards to Canabinoid receptors as it is the one that is triggered through taking Cannabis, but that's not the receptor that Carylophyllene targets.
The second major receptor is known as CB2 which is expressed primarily through the immune system. Evidence also seems to be mounting for their being more receptors in the blood and lymphatic system which leads me to conclude that cannabinoid activators should be able to have a pretty big impact on us biologically as long as the activator was able to reach its target. But more importantly and interestingly it is clear that these cannabinoid receptors are not just about mood altering via a brain 'high'.
One process that involves cannabinoid receptors is the development of keratinocytes (skin cells). But more than that, this article here tests the hypothesis that CB2 receptor activation stimulates release from keratinocytes of the endogenous opioid β-endorphin, which then acts at opioid receptors on primary afferent neurons to inhibit nociception (nociception is the sensory nervous system's response to certain harmful or potentially harmful stimuli). It looks like the topical application of actives that can bind to these CB2 receptors can reduce pain sensations in the skin - this could be really useful in post-laser treatments and other healing or soothing skincare balms and with no mind-altering in sight!
So could Carylophyllene change how we feel when inhaled or applied topically?
To recap, Beta Caryophyllene is a CB2 receptor agonist so it does work with cannabinoid receptors but in a non-psychoactive way (so no high. There are several studies looking at this particular molecule and its effect on the biology of the test subject (usually mice or rats but sometimes people) of which none referred to administering this via inhalation (sniffing). This paper references many experiments that have been carried out and summarises that this active has been administered orally, intraperitoneally (animal studies) and topically where it has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as having some pain relief properties.
Taking all of the research into consideration it is highly likely that Copaiba Oil can increase feelings of wellbeing in the body but not through a chemical 'high'. This natural oil is more likely to affect mood as a side effect (or even as part of) it's ability to reduce inflammation and pain and for most people, this would naturally lead to an uplift in mood and sense of wellness.
Is this fascinating aroma chemical available in any other oils?
Luckily, Carylophyllene is not just present in one essential oil, there are many more that give you access to this aroma chemical wonder material including:
Rosemary, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cananga, Catnip, Ylang Ylang, Hemp, Melissa, Camphor, Clove, Myrtle (bog), Basil and Sage.
For those curious to know how this aroma chemical compares to Hemp in terms of the number of cannabinoid receptors it contains here is some data:
Hemp contains more than 100 cannabinoids of which 60 are psychoactive with THC being the most mind altering and having hallucinogenic properties. Carylophyllene is just one receptor binder so its actions are much more targeted.
Nature does give us such wonderful and interesting chemistry and finding out how well our human bodies function to accept natures 'medicine' is truly fascinating. I do hope you have fun experimenting with some of these oils. Why not try incorporating one of the carylophyllene rich oils into your own massage blend or room diffuser and see how it makes you feel.
7 May 2018
Most of us would tend to agree that babies are somewhat cute but as a parent of one they can, more often than not, leave you feeling a little stressed, not least about their skin! Our concerns might start on the day the over-due baby arrives with their dried-out skin, over-developed fingernails and under-developed co-ordination skills (often leaving them with an abundance of minor scrapes). Or maybe it's a few weeks into life when skin eruptions and rashes leave baby looking more like a pimply teenager than a new-born. For others, it is later on when things get messy, when they start to need something more than just warm water and a wash-cloth to cleanse them - the weening and toddler years when things get messy! It is around this point that the skin can really start to feel like a challenge. Let's first have a look at how a baby's skin differs from that of an adult and then look at how to manage the skin through babyhood.
Adjusting to life outside of the womb takes time and while it is best to talk to a paediatric dermatologist about specific concerns it is well known that the skin of your new-born, while robust and fairly similar to that of a child, still has a way to go to fully mature. It is estimated that it takes around a year for infant skin to fully develop its barrier functionality and barrier-immaturity is a huge concern for pre-term infants who are at a far higher risk of microbial invasion than your average full-term bub. Infant skin is fairly close to adult skin in its ability to prevent moisture loss (Trans Epidermal Water Loss) but as infant skin typically has a higher water content than adult skin, it is able to absorb more water and loses excess water faster than an adult. Because of this it is best to avoid giving babies very long baths or time in swimming pools, especially for babies whose skin is already on the dry and itchy side. In addition to their developing barrier functionality and higher-water content, babies have a thinner stratum corneum and papillary dermis than adults. The stratum corneum is our dead cell layer designed as our 'coat of armour' to keep things out and help us become less sensitive to the outside world while the papillary dermis supplies nutrients to layers of the epidermis and helps to regulate our body temperature.
Another factor the differs between baby and adult skin is in their subcutaneous fat. While the fat layer is not really a target of cosmetic formulators, it is relevant to how the skin of a baby looks and feels. New-born subcutaneous fat contains more palmitic and esteric acid than adults. These fats have higher melting points than adult fats thanks to their saturated structures - adult fats are largely unsaturated. This means that the fat under a new-born babies skin can freeze more easily than that of an adult and is why, a baby's skin can often look quite red and sore after being out in in cool weather or in the wind and is why avoiding extreme temperature changes is recommended for young babies.
In addition to these points a baby has a higher surface-area-to-volume-ratio which means it has a larger skin surface relative to its size than the average adult. This has implications for toxicity, especially when paired with an immature skin barrier, extra water permeability and thinner stratum corneum and is why it is best to buy or formulate products specifically for babies rather than just use adult products, even in lower doses. Simply put, the toxic dose of a material is much likely to be lower, relatively speaking, for a baby than for an adult and this would apply to all types of ingredient and/or finished product regardless to whether they are natural or not.
So how should babies skin be treated?
Your midwife is best placed to advise you on specific skincare regimens at this time as what you can/ should try/use should be tailored to the health, birthweight and specifics of your baby's immediate health, your family environment and your family genetic profile. Babies from highly allergic families will probably do best to avoid any product for as long as possible while those from families with no history of dermatological issue might well tolerate a gentle baby wash, wet wipes or shampoo, even as a newborn. The main take-home message here is to discuss with your health care provider during the first few weeks and months of life.
New-borns can present with a variety of skin conditions over the first few weeks of life including milia or milk spots and a rash that resembles acne. While there is currently no agreement on exactly what causes these things in new babies, there is agreement that in most cases, while unsightly for a period of time, these pimples and rashes will resolve themselves.
Milia are small white cysts that form on baby's skin - some babies are even born with them and one study into new-borns recorded facial milia in 16% of new-borns which the most common location for their occurrence being the cheek followed by the chin then the forehead. These should always be left alone - not squeezed and again, if in doubt about what these small cysts mean for your baby's health a visit to your health care professional should help get to the bottom of that.
Some new-borns develop a rash around the mouth from their milk, whether breastfed or bottle fed. In some cases, breast milk can help relieve the rash whereas in other cases it may not. As we have mentioned above, any blistering, sore rash should be discussed with your health care professional who can then recommend a barrier cream/ treatment suitable for your unique situation.
Babyhood and into toddling - From around 3 months to three years.
Once the new-born stage is passed it is likely that you have got to know your baby and their skin a little better and can better predict what is being caused by what you are doing on the outside vs what might be coming from inside (over-heating/ irritated tummy/ sickness etc.). That said, babyhood, especially young babyhood is still a confusing time and your health-care professional should still be your first port of call if you have any concerns. At somewhere between 3-6 months some babies start weening and most babies start grabbing things and shoving them into their mouths. This new-found interest in the world, including textures and tastes can mean more mess which can require more than just water to clean and as such, it is sometime around now that consumer or home-made products start to feature in your baby's life.
In terms of skin conditions, cradle cap is one of the most common. Cradle cap is characterised by greasy scaly patches on scalp within first weeks of life but persisting throughout the first year. The condition usually disappears its self but can look quite unsightly or even irritating for the baby in some cases. Some 42-70% of infants can get this and it is no need for concern as in the vast majority of cases it resolves without treatment. It originates in the sebaceous glands and its medical name is 'seborrheic dermatitis'.
In some cases, the skin can become infected, picking it can increase the risk of this so it is always best to leave it alone. If infections occur a health-care professional will prescribe a treatment. In other cases, treatment options include just leaving it to resolve its self or the use of an emollient.
Emollients come in many forms including formulated massage oil-type products to regular vegetable oils or creams. The application of these can help loosen the scales which can then be removed by gentle hair brushing or scalp massage and /or use of a baby shampoo.
Eczema and/or other skin rashes.
There are a number of reasons why babies skin might become red and irritated and it is important that the primary care giver keeps an eye on the skin to avoid it becoming infected. While very young babies are less able to scratch and move themselves into 'dirty' environments, older babies and especially toddlers can do both and this can present problems! Again, it is essential to see a health care professional to get to the bottom of the cause of any rash or eczema patches before self-treatment as in some cases, applying products, whatever they may be, might make the situation worse, especially in very allergic families.
If baby just has a little dry skin or an abrasion, such as mild nappy rash, it may be appropriate to use a gentle baby balm, cream, lotion, oil or barrier product. Making sure these are formulated for babies is key to a safe and effective treatment.
While nappy rash can occur from day one of your baby's life, it is often once they start eating and doing more that nappy rash can become more of an issue. Baby bottom balm creams can come in many different shapes and sizes, some provide just a physical barrier in the form of an emollient oil blend such as petrolatum (Vaseline) or a natural equivalent while others may have some anti-fungal or other chemical barrier agent present (zinc oxide is common). Barrier creams are designed not to penetrate the skin and instead to form a physical layer of protection between the skin and the abrasive surface - in this case the nappy.
Nappy Rash creams are regulated in different ways in different countries with some countries requiring their listing as a medical device if the formula contains certain actives. The listing - as a cosmetic, therapeutic or medical device - is decided by looking both at the ingredients and the product claims and for this reason it is important for anyone looking to market nappy rash creams to understand the regulations of the countries they are planning to sell into before they go ahead and start selling. For baby's nappy rash can be very unpleasant and sore and may even require medical intervention. It is always important to monitor your baby's reaction to what you apply to them and to remember that home-made or simple may not be best for all babies just as store-bought and even medically certified may not work for all babies either.
The Bottom Line for Babies Skin.
There are many important things to remember when looking at a product range for your baby or your business (if you want to market a baby range):
Babies can't talk. Ok so this seems obvious but baby can't tell you that when you put that cream or product on it stings and while they can cry, you might not know if they are crying because of the sensation of rubbing, because the skin you are rubbing into is sore or because the product is stingy. Remember to take your time with any new product, even home-made-one-ingredient solutions. Use one thing at a time, observe the reaction, observe changes to the skin and don't swap between products too quickly.
Babies skin is different to ours. Baby formulations are usually ultra-mild and will often completely avoid known allergens but this doesn't guarantee that there will be no problems, it is more a case of risk minimisation. It is probably impossible to have a baby range that suits everyone and works in every situation.
Babies have different lifestyles to us! It's hard work being a baby and babies skin care must be formulated to take account of these differences including nappy wearing, food allergen exposure, crawling and sucking non-food items and skin barrier development issues including cradle cap.
The most important thing to consider when looking for a product for your baby or looking to create a product range in this space is that, like adults, babies are not all the same. Some are more likely to become irritated or develop allergies than others and some are more sensitive to textures, touch and temperature changes than others. The number one mistake you can make when looking after or advocating for babies is that they are all the same. The only similarity is in their skin physiology - the less developed barrier function, different fat profile and higher surface area and all of that requires a mild and gentle base but beyond that, the needs of one individual baby can be quite different to the needs of another and while breast milk may work on one to clear up each and every skin condition, on another it may look like it is burning the skin.
A starting Point - The New Directions mum and bub range.
New Directions have developed a basic range to demonstrate the types of ingredients and formulations suitable to use as a base for baby.
Our baby bottom balm is a physical barrier containing a range of oils in a soft balm formula base. This is nut-free and suitable for vegans.
The baby bath oil is a gentle oil-to-milk product that helps to restore the moisture content of baby's skin post washing. It can be massaged on and rinsed off. The bath oil uses only a gentle, natural surfactant to cleanse the skin to avoid stripping it.
Baby Head-to-Toe gentle wash contains ultra-mild surfactants for use when baby needs a bit more than just a rinse over. The product is lightly fragranced with Chamomile oil prized for its soothing properties and safe profile.
Finally, our Baby Daily Moisturiser Lotion has been formulated to be nut-free and gentle with a light texture for easy spread ability and skin breathability. It can be used all over the body to help maintain the skins moisture balance and support barrier functioning.
The last word.
Living with and caring for your baby or working within this market segment can be deeply rewarding and for many the bath and bedtime routine can be a magical time of bonding and relaxation. While we do recommend taking care and appreciating the differences in the needs and skin concerns of babies, we also believe that the experience should be enjoyable and fun for all. If in doubt, consult a health care professional rather than Dr google as the health and wellbeing needs of YOUR baby are likely to be as unique as you are but most of all relax and enjoy this magical time of development.
7 February 2018
I remember those early days of being pregnant. The morning after the two lines appeared on the test when I stood in the shower looking down at my still empty-looking stomach, hands hugging the space where my baby had just started to grow, wondering what changes were ahead of me and whether I was ready. I wondered if I would I recognise 'me' in a few months, when baby's growth had really kicked in. I wondered if I would I ever look like me again, would I cope, and could my body really fit a baby inside? I let all of the emotions come and go freely as I stood there that morning comforted by the rhythm and warmth of the water raining down on my skin. That morning, in the shower in the tiny bathroom of our first house all those years ago is when I realised that life would never be the same again and by the time I'd finished my shower I was ready to accept that.
Pregnancy is a time of dramatic changes both physically and emotionally for new mothers-to-be and this is felt especially deeply when it is your first baby. The desire to provide your growing bub with the very best nutrition and environment possible is understandable and can trigger a change in habits and lifestyle for mum but this desire can fast become overwhelming as reality sinks in that there is so much 'out there' that is beyond our control. Over time many of us, with the help of our families and wider health-worker communities come to terms with the fact that motherhood is a journey of trust, a journey of letting go and we settle for focusing on the things that we can affect and influence, the things that will make our journey a little more comfortable and what could be more comforting than healthy, vibrant skin.
What happens to your skin during pregnancy?
Everybody copes differently with the changes that pregnancy brings to the body and for some people the skin can change dramatically. There are a number of dermatological conditions that can occur during pregnancy, some of which require professional management but most of which can be managed personally with good skincare and hygiene. In a very small amount of cases changes to how the skin looks and feels can be a signal that something is really not right with the pregnancy or the mother's health. Excessive itching can be one such sign although mild itching is relatively common with up to 17% of pregnant women reporting this. In any case it is always important to discuss any changes to the skin noted with a health care professional, so they can pinpoint the underlying cause and give you the re-assurance and/or ongoing care required to see you through the pregnancy.
The text book pregnancy - skin, hair and nails.
Even if things are progressing nicely you will no doubt notice some changes around your appearance outside of the obvious growing belly!
It can feel really demoralising when, after looking forward to turning into this beautifully glowing pregnant goddess you find the opposite is true. Pregnancy can be cruel that way and while some women do glow, their acne clears up, their hair becomes thick and luscious and their skin sparkes thanks to all that extra blood flow and energy other women find the whole experience tough, blotchy and irritating. While how your skin looks during pregnancy is somewhat trivial compared to the complex and transformative changes that are going on within the body, it is important that women feel some degree of control and comfort during this time, not least for their own mental health and sanity. So what can and what should be done?
Skin Care During Pregnancy.
One of the most common questions we get asked by pregnant women or people wanting to make a range for pregnancy is 'but is it safe' meaning the ingredients and/or product and/or treatment. This question can be more complex and difficult to answer than you might first think.
Objects, situations and habits or routines are rarely completely safe or completely dangerous, most sit on a continuum that has to be judged in context of the situation. For example, holding a knife always comes with the potential risk of cutting yourself or others but the risks and chance of harm differ depending on who is holding the knife, the environment of that person, the size of the knife and its sharpness. This is an important concept to keep in mind given that testing on pregnant women is unethical and as such much of the evidence we have about safety is anecdotal rather than from large scale trials. Anecdotal evidence (personal stories/ individual doctor's notes/ observations) is useful and very valuable but it comes with more uncontrolled variables than data collected via organised trials and because of that, especially in the area of skincare we can generally only say that ingredients, products or treatments are not expected to cause a problem or are of low potential risk rather giving absolute guarantees. Again, this is an important distinction to make, especially for brand owners looking for ways to communicate with their public. Because of the variation of experiences in pregnant women it is also common to advise women to 'check with their health care professional' before changing their skincare routine or using different treatments. This often is so that the health care professional has a better insight into what you are doing in case of irritation or minor concern rather than it being anything more sinister but there are some things that the pregnant woman should avoid.
Cosmetic Ingredients to Be Cautious of During Pregnancy.
While the list above is relatively small, there might be many other things that the individual pregnant woman wants to avoid including artificial colours, synthetic chemicals, fragrances and more. Some women will only want to use organic products on their skin while others want to continue on with their regular skincare regimen. The important thing to note is that much of these choices are just that, personal choices and if it makes a woman feel empowered and comfortable to continue with their weekly facial and anti-ageing treatment during pregnancy then it may well be better for her to do so than to forgo that weekly pampering. As always, if in doubt, ask the health care professional.
Getting into a Pregnant Skin Routine.
As we mentioned above, the skin does change during pregnancy and as such many women will want to adjust their skincare regimen to address new found niggles and concerns. In most cases and for most women there should be no problems in introducing a new body butter, massage oil or face cream although it is always a good idea to keep the packaging listing the ingredients handy just in case something causes a reaction.
Why not try these:
Our sense of smell is very powerful and while there are some legitimate reasons why some people will want to avoid aromatic ingredients during their pregnancy, others still wish to enjoy this aspect of their personal care regimen. Again, the question of what is safe (as in completely, unequivocally safe) is almost impossible to answer but there are some guidelines we can use to minimise any potential of risk.
The following are generally regarded as relatively safe to continue using with caution when pregnant, especially when used conservatively - this is not a time for splashing essential oils everywhere! It is recommended that all essential oils are diluted into a carrier before use. Here are some of the most commonly recommended oils to use in pregnancy, for more information or advice we recommend referring to Robert Tisserand's book "Essential Oil Safety".
Avoid: Basil, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Fennel, Hyssop, Jasmine, Myrrh, Marjoram, Sage, Thyme, Rose, Juniperberry, Rosemary, Nutmeg.
For those that like to use Eau De Parfume or Eau De Toilette, in most cases that can be continued but it is advised that the perfume is sprayed onto clothing and avoiding the facial area rather than directly onto skin. Also spraying in a well-ventilated area will help to avoid ingesting the spray.
The nine Months that changed your life.
Pregnancy is a magical time for the woman and her family and it is important to remember that, however stressful and however uncertain it is still a very natural and beautiful part of life. In most cases there is no reason why women can't continue to enjoy and celebrate their outer beauty during pregnancy and with a few minor adjustments this time of self-care and reflection can help to re-enforce both the bond between the mother and her baby and the internal bond between the woman as a strong individual and the woman as mother.
New Directions have recently launched a mamma and bub range for you to enjoy as part of your amazing journey. The range is available in store and online now.
12 January 2018
New Directions have been sourcing and supplying ingredients for well over twenty years and what started with an essential oil has developed into a thriving multi-dimensional hub of ingredient activity. But what does it take to keep all of these ingredients on the shelf and how do we choose what to purchase? Here's a look at the intricacies involved in maintaining the range at New Directions and where our ingredients come from!
Fresh from the farm
This is surely the most romantic ideal in terms of cosmetic ingredient sourcing but just how practical is it?
It is not always or even often the case these days that farmers have the ability and expertise to both farm the raw crop and produce the finished ingredients that we need for cosmetics. I'm talking here about things like vegetable and essential oils, butters such as cocoa and shea, exfoliating scrub particles, lanolin, beeswax, herbs and extracts. You see for many farmers, the art of farming has been enough of a job, all consuming and capital intensive and to keep their farm overheads down post-processing has been kept to a minimum. It is easy in the small cosmetic brand owner or developer end of town to sit in a bubble of imagination that they can cut out all middle-men, get to know the farmers directly and buy all of their supplies freshly squeezed, plucked or harvested when the reality is often somewhat different, especially when, instead of just one brand to feed, you have several thousand.
Like all industries the farming industry has changed with the times, following trends for small all-encompassing family run enterprises to larger, price driven operations ranging from boutique player (organic etc) to factory farm size. These trends have followed market dynamics and personal aspirations such as the change in farming families from automatically taking on the family business to moving away and doing something completely different. These trends are, of course different across the world with some countries and regions being particularly strong in maintaining family ownership either through choice or necessity while others have moved more dramatically away from this. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report from 2015-2016 found the average farmer here in Australia is 56 years old, increased from 54 less than ten years ago. Young people are still not seeing farming in their future here in Australia. But for those who are still farming, there has been interest in diversification and value-add at the farm gate in order to increase profit margins and remain viable. This has included the start-up of boutique olive presses for small-batch and specialty oils, farm-gate wineries, micro-breweries, and other agritourism activities. Figures from the 2015-2016 year showed a strong increase in tourist numbers across all agritourism sectors for Tasmania making this a growth industry and one that may potentially bring younger people and families back to the land. But where does this leave cosmetics?
For a company like New Directions we have to keep our eyes on four key metrics when it comes to sourcing materials.
Small, boutique farms cannot always produce at a level that would be practical for a company like ours. For example, it has been possible from time to time to source a rose oil and rose water from Australian grown sources, something that we would like to stock given our love of locally produced goods and the popularity of rose. However, not only are these products highly seasonal but when they are available sometimes it is only in very small quantities - less than 1 Kg in total available for the whole year with no guarantees as to what production levels or quality might be for the following year. Of course this is irrelevant for a small brand buying direct but highly problematic for us.
The bottom line here is that buying fresh from a farm is sometimes possible but often not and rather than see that as a good or bad thing, it is merely a reflection of the dynamics of a complex marketplace. Oil crops go off-site for pressing and refining - and this is especially true for many essential oils, especially the high value oils that require more specific distillation conditions and quality checks, herbs need sorting and grading, ingredients such as lanolin and lecithin need to be processed and cleaned and beeswax is often too small in yield to be processed by individual farmers. New Directions requests process flow charts for all materials and with an increase in compliance and greater appreciation for quality standards and trace-ability through the supply chain confidence in authenticity and purity standards from third party processors has increased.
Bulk traders/ Wholesalers/ Consolidators.
The next step up the supply chain from the farm gate is a bulk trader or wholesaler and this is commonly found in the essential oil and vegetable oil market as well as for some other natural ingredients. As we mentioned earlier the small yields and inconsistent availability and quality of some crops has created the need for a third party specialist. While some traders/ wholesalers are just price driven and have little regard for the quality of material they buy, most often these companies are full of highly qualified and experienced buyers, material handlers and quality assurance staff. This tier in the supply chain operates to ensure ready-to-use quality for up-stream buyers and consumers by making sure that packaging is tested and maintains product integrity, that batch records are created and specifications developed, that Certificates of Analysis are created and that quality is maintained while managing stock inventory keeping an eye on market pricing and future stock issues. In summary, this tier of the supply chain, when working well, helps to develop and enforce quality standards, provide technical specifications and analysis and smooth out stock peaks and troughs. New Directions plays a role in this part of the supply chain in addition to benefiting from it.
Engineered Ingredients - The Global Cosmetic Ingredient Market.
Chemically and physically Processed Ingredients, natural and synthetic.
While it is only natural to want our ingredients to be pure and simple, that doesn't always give us what we need to make the sophisticated, long-lasting and light-feeling products that we so desire and that is where these ingredients come in.
Cosmetic ingredient manufacturing companies are spread all around the world and most have multiple manufacturing sites to cover different markets. Sadly for those wanting 'Australian made' ingredients Australia has lost many of the chemical manufacturing plants it once had so most of the ingredients in this category are imported.
Because of the nature and complexity of the chemical manufacturing industry many of the larger, more established companies producing specialty materials have global networks of agents to co-ordinate imports and manage ingredient compliance across the different markets. Where these networks are established, New Directions purchases from these agents rather than importing directly.
Being a small market it is not always possible to access all ingredients that a large chemical manufacturer has to offer and that is a key reason why it is possible to find many more ingredients after a quick 'google' than you can actually access locally. While this is frustrating we, at New Directions, do try to source a variety of options for client and make them available in small pack sizes to help spread out the costs of cosmetic R & D.
As with cooking, cosmetic formulating has its kitchen cupboard basics and these tried and tested ingredients can often be imported directly from factories specialising in generic ingredients. Examples of such would be things like phenoxyethanol, ceteareth-20, salicylic acid, Ascorbic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol and many more. For this class of materials we purchase to a New Directions specification which is usually based on the chemical analysis of the ingredient and its suitability for cosmetic use. The main advantage of purchasing these materials this way is to again ensure supply and cost efficiency. The down side is that occasionally subtle differences in specification between suppliers can be noticeable in some formulations, especially those that are formulated at the edge of their stability.
A closer look at these ingredients.
We have a lot of ingredients fitting into this sector including all of the bits and pieces you need to hold your product together and keep it preserved! The business of turning a vegetable or petroleum oil into a cosmetic ingredient has become somewhat of a detail minefield of recent times as we all try to work through and agree on what constitutes natural vs synthetic, fully organic or made-with organic.
Product standards such as COSMOS, Ecocert, Organic Food Chain, Australian Certified Organic could not exist without an ingredient philosophy or definition. This definition has generally focused on both the ingredients origins and their subsequent processing. Once that information is to hand, what has typically happened is that a board of interested parties has analyzed these processes and made a decision as to which ones can be justified under a natural standard and which ones cannot. It pays to remember that these standards are developed by independent businesses or private bodies rather than government or third-party initiatives.
After all of that we are left with ingredients that fit into a variety of categories including these which are the definitions used by the COSMOS standard:
New Directions sources ingredients that fit into each of these categories which enables us to meet our objectives of being a one-stop-shop for all types of brands looking for creative and affordable solutions.
New Directions Made.
In addition to buying in ready-to-use ingredients we also manufacture some, including our aloe gel, hyaluronic acid dilution, glycerin derived herbal extracts, solubiliser and essential oil blends. We have developed these ingredients to help make formulating a brand easier, faster, more cost effective and more enjoyable for our clients.
What to expect when buying from us.
New Directions operates in a dynamic global purchasing environment where situations such as changes in the weather (affecting crop growth and vitality), the political climate (affecting access to materials), public tastes (popularity, supply and demand), the global financial markets (price) and the strategies of the larger chemical manufacturers can all influence our ability to maintain our range. In order to counter balance those sometimes negative influences we have diversified our supply chain in terms of where we purchase from, who we have relationships with and how many suppliers we approve stock from at any one time. For customers this can sometimes mean that an ingredient supplier changes between batches and that could manifest as a change in ingredient form from pellets to powder for example or a slight change in product performance. To minimise disruption we have implemented in-house specifications that we aim to have as thorough and tight as possible without restricting our ability to supply. However, there is always the potential for changes in supply or material origin to subtly change finished product outcomes. Our Quality Assurance team has developed an efficient and extensive database of information about each of our ingredients and suppliers meaning that we can always provide customers with further information on our ingredients if required. In addition to that we have our ingredient help desk and in-house chemists to assist when it is necessary to transition between one supplier or form of product to another. We hope that together, we can provide you with a great range of quality ingredients with a high degree of stock reliability available in convenient pack sizes to help support the many and varied projects that our customers seek to undertake.
The Bottom Line.
While what goes on behind the scenes at New Directions to maintain the range is complicated and multi-faceted we do our best to make the front-of-house experience of shopping with us as seamless and enjoyable as possible so that your businesses can continue to thrive and grow!
9 January 2018