By Renchia Droganis, CEO
When I started formulating my own cosmetic recipes, my raw materials came from local farmers. Most of these farmers were passionate about what they grew and did so without the use of chemicals. Most used moon phases to plant and harvest, and they knew the value in biodynamic principles.
My eyes were opened to the world of cosmetics and its excessive use of chemicals when I started to manufacture on a larger scale than my kitchen could accommodate. The use of a cosmetic chemist and a laboratory service that changed my homemade concoctions into professional products only increased my awareness of what goes into skin care products!
My research started, and self-education became my mission. Opportunity brought us into contact with our current cosmetic chemist, who understands the overuse of chemicals in skin care; so much so that he completed his degree in organic skincare.
Our focus was always to avoid chemicals, although this very difficult when formulating with natural plant matter. It has to be preserved, and finding the most natural way would test the limits of a good chemist’s knowledge and skills. After having to discard many hundreds of products, we finally found a way. The search for active ingredients that are effective and grown sustainably took much trial and error, but we found just the right ingredients.
Most of the ‘organically grown’ material that was available with lovely research material on activity in the skin was polluted once harvested! I would receive an organically- certified ingredient, but its preserving chemical was either a paraben or phenoxyethanol: these are ingredients we avoid. And so over the years, our raw material suppliers often change, but they are selected for ingredients that are natural, and where we can organically harvest and preserve them without chemicals. Certifying the products as organic was a problem, as not 100% of our ingredients were organic. It is impossible to do so if you look at the amount of ingredients in each formulation.
An organic rose oil costs R200,000 per litre. Divide that by 1000, which gives the price per millilitre. If we use just 10 ml for a 100ml product, it costs R2000 for only the essential oil! For this simple reason I also have come to learn that companies who claim to use all-natural essential oils with a low end price are not truthful purely because I know the market prices.
Then there is the question of the definition of an organic product, which often has a 5% allowance for chemicals – again, often a paraben, and phenoxyethanol or such harmful preservatives are used in the preservation of the raw material, and the actual end formulation again. This does not sit well with me.
I have come to a place where I do my best to formulate with pure actives that are effective – my ingredient listings can be read and known. But what I choose to not do is use a certificate to sell my products when I know better. I know that with my intention to produce beautiful products, find effective active ingredients and avoid the use of harmful chemicals, I will help consumers understand how misleading cosmetic companies/regulations/certifications can be in the name of marketing.
Registering an all-natural product means that it can contain “nature identical“ ingredients. Did you know that this includes a chemical replica of a natural plant? Think of it as a pure essential oil versus a perfume, which is not natural yet the consumer thinks it is because of the certification. The same goes for animal anti-cruelty logos, which I will not use. It is the biggest lie, and the most misrepresented logo in the consciousness of the consumer. If it is law that ultimately every ingredient must be tested on animals, but in a humane way, it doesn’t change the fact that those ingredients are still being tested on animals. We will never test our products on an animal, as it stands against the ethos of Africology.
I would rather invest the many thousands of rands required for certification on the development of one person that needs a better future, than selling my brand and my products under a misleading perception of a truth that is not a truth. I trust and have faith that my followers will know the truth in my products when they use it. The evidence speaks for itself.
This is how the industry works - how do we challenge it?
Organic skincare certification for personal care items can be confusing. The process is similar to that of the organic food industry, but unlike the certifications for organic food, organic skincare is not government regulated nor is there global agreement. An understanding of the different types of certifications and rules makes your choice as a consumer easier.
How does certification work?
Each certifying body creates a set of guidelines that a product and manufacturer must meet in order to be certified natural and/or organic.
These rules will define requirements such as:
- The minimum percentage of organic content required within a product
- The percentage of synthetic ingredients acceptable under certification
- Ingredients that are excluded from use in products
- The manufacturing processes which can be used in the creation of ingredients and the end product
- Whether water can or cannot be included in the calculation for the organic percentage of the product
Part of the requirements also include regular auditing by a third-party organic certifier of both the manufacturer’s ingredients and processes to ensure it is compliant with all the rules of the certification standard.