Choosing an Organic Skin Care Line
by Alexis Ufland
Maintaining beauty and youthfulness is a daily preoccupation for many women and men. Environmental exposure, lifestyle choices, normal chronology and many other factors all take their toll on the aging process of our skin—and most appearance-conscious people are eager for ways to effectively turn back the clock. So it’s no surprise that millions of dollars in research and testing have helped to create mass market, anti–aging skin care products. But when research also unearths the frightening fact that parabens (the most commonly used preservative) have been found in breast cancer tumors*, it sparks understandable concern. In this climate, it’s easy to see why organic skin care products hold a ready niche for beauty consumers intent on both looking good and treating their bodies well.
The concept of organic skin care seems simple enough. The reality is somewhat more complex. Creating, packaging and shipping skin care can require a lot of synthetic support. Today’s consumer holds higher expectations of the products and services they purchase. Likewise, spa owners need to have similarly high standards of excellence from the vendors they choose to patronize.
When committing to skin care vendors, smart spa owners are seeking those who are devoted to eco-friendly practices through every phase of the production and distribution cycles. This includes sourcing ingredients from fair trade and bio-dynamic farms; packaging products using recycled, recyclable and bio-degradable containers; and finally, delivering products in bio-diesel vehicles.
Medical science tells us we absorb 60-70% of everything applied to our skin, and there is mounting evidence that chemical pesticides, synthetics and petroleum products can ill effects on our bodies. So the most eco-vigilant spas seek product lines that use innovative technologies to develop organic, biodynamic skin care formulas that are paraben-free. Here are a few tips on what to look for—and what to avoid—when selecting a skin care line of your own.
What does Organic and Biodynamic mean?
Organic products are made with ingredients grown without any synthetic chemicals, sewage sludge or GMOs (genetically modified organisms)—and they are third-party certified. "Certified organic" means that an official certifying agency has approved that the producer has grown and handled all ingredients with an adherence to strict procedures.
Biodynamic® agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms—respecting the holistic interrelationship of soil, plants, and animals as a closed, self-nourishing system. Biodynamic farming embraces organic agriculture's emphasis on manures and composts; it excludes the use of artificial chemicals on living organisms. While implementing organic practices such as crop rotation and composting, biodynamic farmers also rely on special plant, animal and mineral preparations—along with the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars. Biodynamic farming is an approach based on the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
What is a Paraben?
In simplest terms, parabens are chemicals that operate as preservatives to extend a product’s shelf life by warding off bacterial growth. They fall into a family of chemicals known as alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. Many researchers believe parabens contribute to the increasing incidences of breast cancer, low sperm count and other estrogen-influenced medical problems in humans.
Accordingly, try to avoid these commonly used Parabens:
Look for these organic and natural alternatives instead:
Citrus Seed Extract
Benzoic and Sorbic Acid
Vitamin A, C & E
How can I tell if it is truly organic?
When selecting an organic skin care line, look for products that meet both the European and United States national certifications standards for organic personal care products. Currently, the top U.K. certification is handled by the Soil Association, while France relies on the Ecocert. Both certification standards act as benchmarks to the newly-created US certifications—which presently include OASIS, NSF & Certech.
Look for these labels when selecting a skin care line:
ECOCERT: ECOCERT is an inspection and certification bodywhich operates offices in 18 nations worldwide, carrying out work in over 90 countries; their activities are governed accordingly by public authorities and legislation. ECOCERT has developed rigorous standards that allow companies to promote environmental practices and manufacture organic products in tandem with certain eco-friendly guidelines. One of ECOCERT’S main objectives is to promote ingredients that originate from organic farming. The ECOCERT stamp, an imprimatur of global esteem, is a mark of international credibility; the certification reassures both consumers and the organic industry that a particular skin care product has complied with the most rigorous standards of eco-consciousness.
Soil Association: This organization is the UK's leading environmental charity promoting sustainable, organic farming and championing human health. There are three levels of labeling:
Products comprised of 100% organic ingredients.
Products made with 95% organic ingredients, allowing up to 5% of synthetic ingredients from a restricted list.
Products containing between 70% to 90% organic ingredients, in which the actual percentage is duly noted on the label.
OASIS: The OASIS certification will be conducted by International Cosmetics & Regulatory Specialists L.L.C., an independent certifier complying with standards developed by OASIS. All products certified by OASIS will carry the OASIS seal logo on their packaging. Currently, OASIS requires 85% certified organic content. According to the guidelines of its organizing board, this "organic" percentage standard will gradually increase until it reaches 95% organic content in several years.
NSF: - The NSF has now developed a fully organic standard along with a 'made with' standard specifically for personal care manufacturers. While the NSF organic standard is identical to the USDA's, the 'made with' standard differs markedly in a way that enables manufacturers moving in an organic direction to become certified. In order to secure a 'made with' standard, manufacturers will not be allowed to use petroleum-based ingredients or processes. It is worth noting, though, that several processes and ingredients banned in the USDA will be permitted by the NSF—including the use of certain synthetic preservatives and biodegradable surfactants.
Certech: Organic Cosmetic Certification - Certech has published its own standard for Natural and Organic Certification: It’s an all-encompassing 'hybrid' addressing effective management controls/systems and product stewardship—as well as testing and auditing through the design, sourcing, production, and labeling of natural and organic cosmetics. To the best of our knowledge, Certech has ensured the credibility of its 'IOS Cosmetics' Standard by strict adherence to the principles, guidelines, and regulations already in existence both nationally and internationally:
US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Title 7 Part 205 Natural Organic Program
California Health and Safety Code, Article 7: "The California Organic Products Act of 2003"
Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act (Canada)
Canadian Food and Drugs Act
FDA/CFSAN Cosmetics Good Manufacturing Practice guideline
CAN/CGSB 32.310 2006 Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards
EEC Regulation number 2092/91
ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems - Requirements
ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems - Requirements
As most Americans are taking the smart step of eliminating trans fats in their diets to avoid heart disease, it only stands to reason they would show a similar level of vigilance in protecting their endocrine system from toxins. And since we don’t yet know the extent of damage synthetic chemicals can inflict, it’s only logical to eliminate those chemicals we put on another important organ—our skin. Our skin, after all, is not only designed to last a lifetime, but it’s the most visible reflection of the smart steps we’ve taken to promote health, serenity, and lifelong wisdom.
DryBar, SoulCycle, Skin Laundry…What do these three diverse brands all have in common? A very recognizable culture. They created their own systems--and introduced a very specific methodology--and clients not only quickly adapted, but embraced the brand. Now their operations are identifiable as uniquely their own. Simply mention the name--DryBar, SoulCycle, Skin Laundry--and consumers know instantly what to expect from their signature culture.
The same principle applies to your brand. When you and your competitors are basically selling the same equipment, services and products, the culture you create is your identity that instantly sets you apart in the minds of clients/patients. So it’s vital to differentiate yourself through your unique style and personality.
What do you do unique? How do you differentiate yourself? You have risen above the rest of the packers, clients request you, follow you and believe in what you tell them.
Think of every contact clients/patients have with your business--via phone call, visit, social media view--is known as a Brand Touch Point, an experience that determines their view of your brand and your particular brand culture. Whatever the magic is that you create in the treatment room needs to be bottled and sprinkled over brand touch point. Make sure each of these touch points offers is sprinkled with your uniqueness, your you-ness. Show clients/patients that what you’re doing is unique by putting your own spin on products, services and approaches.
What To Do:
• Create a signature method or technique and spotlight as a point of differentiation in your branding.
• Incorporate pictures and videos of you. That’s what people are buying. YOU!
• Create your own ‘language’ – words that uniquely represent what you are offering.
• Create a private label skin care line
What NOT To Do:
• Don’t use a vast number of stock photos on your website.
• Steer clear of generic business language and copy.
• Avoid designing websites and brochures that don’t convey your personal touch.
Success Story Example: Creating a Private Label Skin Care Line and Operational System Unique to the Practice
Truth+Beauty Medical Spa--branded as a ‘gym for the skin’--underscored that distinction by having each guest initially meet with the ‘Beauty Coach.’ Each client is given a digital imaging analysis of her/his complexion to customize a treatment plan, much as a personal trainer would map out a fitness regimen at a first visit. Patients return after a series of services and take another picture to see the dramatic changes. Results are then carefully documented in their Beauty Diary. Truth+Beauty established their own culture by creating an operational system that is uniquely their own--and then they topped it by creating their own brand language with the terms Beauty Diary and Beauty Coach.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, defines a brand as “…what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The words, images, thoughts or feelings someone has when they think of you and your business--that, in a nutshell, is your brand.
Think of your brand as your own bit of real estate in a landscape that’s perpetually habited by other--and often similar--products and services. Then think of branding as all the things you do to make your real estate stand out, so you’ll be the one to attract the desired clientele.
What strategy will give your brand that vital edge, the kind of staying power that keeps customers enticed, engaged and always coming back? In this series, we’ll be looking at seven vital branding components. First is Clarity of Purpose: Being absolutely clear about the who, what, how and why of your business.
• Marketing guru Simon Sinek encourages entrepreneurs to always start with why: “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Why does your business exist? Why are you passionate about it? Why should clients care about you? “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year,” Sinek explains.
• Who are you? If you’re a solo practitioner, making your own name part of your business and logo--and establishing yourself as an ‘authority’--are key. If you’re a business owner with staffers, determine what attributes best define your business--luxurious, wellness-based, innovative, and so on. Good branding means being 100% clear about who you are, whom you hope to attract, and what value you offer. Otherwise, how can clients/patients be clear about you--and, more importantly, buy from you?
• What exactly do you provide? Your name, taglines and descriptive copy should say it all, no need for guesswork. Consider a plastic surgeon with a tagline, “Surgical and Non-Surgical Procedures.” What does that mean? Dr. Jennifer Levine touts her services as, “Cosmetic Surgery and Beauty Procedures.” Perfectly clear!
• How do you convey your branding message? Make it part of your DNA: Each phone call, blog, social media post and personal interaction should reflect your brand and be a unique representation of you. That will help get people “talking about you when you’re not in the room”…and saying all the right things.
You know what’s great about today’s cutting-edge cosmetic procedures? They’ve managed to eliminate the “cutting” part! Some of the best new techniques offer great results with no downtime, no drastic measures—and no surgery. Ultherapy is one of these great new treatments – it tightens skin without going under the knife! Spa owners are having success with Ultherapy and patients swear by it.
How is that possible? If it “sounds” too good to be true…it’s probably Ultherapy®.
Simply put, Ultherapy uses ultrasound technology to lift and tighten skin. If you’re ever had a prenatal ultrasound, you’re already familiar with the basic concept. But sound waves don’t just project images from the inside out: they can also penetrate deep into skin layers from the outside in to activate the body’s natural rejuvenation process. In this case, we’re talking about the actual growth of new collagen! Another plus: Ultherapy is especially effective on the eyebrow area, neck, and under the chin - spots that are traditionally hard to treat.
Here’s how it works. During a 60-90 minute Ultherapy session, a special instrument is used to focus ultrasound energy on designated facial areas. The ultrasound actually bypasses the skin’s surface to reach the deep, structural tissue below. In turn, the body responds to the burst of focused ultrasound by stimulating the growth of new collagen. The rejuvenation process is gradual: it takes about 2-3 months to see Ultherapy’s full effects. But during that time frame, your clients will look a bit younger each day!
Ultherapy is FDA-approved, and since it uses the time-tested technology of ultrasound, you know it’s safe. Although there is a hefty price tag attached to this technology, clients feel that the results outweigh the cost.
Today, the dermal filler is a definite “must have” beauty tool. And the choices keep getting better and better, offering natural, turn-back-the-clock results. Of the many fabulous fillers out there—Juvéderm, Restylane, Sculptra, Belotero and Radieesee—how do you know which to choose? Happy problem, right?
Let’s start with the basics. All dermal fillers have the same goal: To fill in facial lines, wrinkles and folds and leave a smooth, natural correction. Ingredients differ. Some, like Juvéderm, Restylane and Belotero Balance rely on Hyaluronic Acid, Radiesse is made up of Calcium Hydroxylapatite and Scupltra uses Poly-L-Lactic Acid. No need to memorize these tongue-twisters, though—just know the field offers lots of variety, and one formula might suit one client better than another.
So here’s a quick rundown of the dermal differences…
Juvéderm comes in several different formulas. The thinner ones—Juvéderm Ultra and Ultra XC—can handle fine lines and wrinkles, and even the delicate area around the eyes. The heavier formulas work best on deep facial lines. Different varieties of Juvéderm can be used to plump up lips, earlobes and cheekbones—and even fill acne scars.
Belotero touts itself as a filler that that molds to your own distinct facial contours; it’s versatile enough for deep folds, and especially effective to give an “airbrushed” look to fine lines.
Radiesse not only fills in lines, but also stimulates the production of new collagen; this allows for a longer time between touch-ups. Unlike some other fillers, Radiesse is not used on the lips.
Restylane is used to treat moderate to severe facial folds, as well as enhance the lips.
Sculptra is FDA-approved to build up cheeks, fill in hollows and increase skin thickness (its not used on lips, though). Multiple treatments are needed, usually 4 weeks apart. Unlike the other four fillers, Sculptra results are not immediate, but they do last longer.
Other comparisons? Radiesse and Sculptra have the added benefit of boosting the body’s natural production of collagen, to help skin stay plumped up and youthful. In general, Juvéderm, Restylane and Belotero are less costly that Radiesse and Sculptra.
Whew! Still not sure what’s best for your clients? No worries, you can advise based on your client’s budget, facial features, skin elasticity and other factors. And no matter which filler you recommend, your clients will be filled with enthusiasm upon glimpsing in the mirror!