How sustainable skincare's made
In today's episode we're talking through how Rain Organica got B Corp certification and specifically what we're focusing on today is the sustainability practices here at Rain Organica.
The reason why we're doing this is because this I think will help you as a consumer understand where brands are coming from when they are truly clean skincare, eco-conscious skin care, and green skincare.
This goes beyond the marketing.
We're talking about what's going on behind the scenes of making skincare and you as a savvy consumer know that it's not enough merely to look at the front label of a skincare product and decide based on the jargon and marketing language whether a company is truly clean, sustainable, and green.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the ingredients list & what's going on behind the scenes during making those ingredients and even in procuring those ingredients, and that's why we're having this conversation today to give you a little behind the scenes look.
This episode peels back the curtain of what it means to be truly sustainable in the realm of skincare and we'll use Rain Organica as a case study.
Here at Rain Organica, I practice a seed to consumer view of sustainability and what this means is that the ingredients that I'm using here Rain Organica didn't arrive from the ether.
I didn't conjure these up. I actually purchased them and had them shipped to Rain Organica's workshop. These ingredients were all grown somewhere and really when we're talking about skin care and when we're talking specifically about Clean Skin Care there are three ways that ingredients are made.
Making clean skincare ingredients: Minimal processing (physical processing)
So the first way is ingredients are made with minimal processing and what this looks like is things like Botanical oils.
Botanical oils typically are, when we're talking Clean Skin Care, pressed from the fruit in order to get the oil so here we where we're talking you you may think olive oil you may think Argan Oil so it's pressed from the nut the nut itself is pressed and the oil is expelled this is why it's known as expeller pressing to give you a little bit of an idea because you likely have heard of the term cold pressed.
Cold pressed is the act of expelling or pressing where the temperature is controlled because what happens is that during exp spell or pressing this is often you can think of two really heavy plates and it's really cool there's actually some images over at Rain Organica with old timey manual expeller pressing and this is where you would take this is where two large concrete wheels are placed and people would actually turn a crank to move that wheel on top so the bottom wheel stays stationary your olives are placed in between the two plates and then the top wheel is lowered and people would actually crank that top wheel to move it around and crush the olives and this would expel the oil and then it's the way that it's angled it's so that the oil is then collected in a basin below the um expeller so what happens during that you may imagine is that you get a lot of friction you've got two big concrete plates turning on each other so you're generating a ton of friction.
And, friction of course produces heat so cold pressing with some of these highly labile oils like pumpkin seed oil evening primrose oil ones that have high quantity or a high concentration of PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) so those are those polyunsaturated fatty acids those are extremely sensitive to heat and so you want cold pressed, which implies it's expeller pressed with again temperature control so there's also another way that oils can be collected and this is with solvent extraction.
We don't use solvent extracted oils here at Rain Organica.
Any clean skincare brand will not use solvent extracted oils they will use either cold pressed or expeller pressed oils. Solvent extraction typically involves the solvent hexane in order to extract the oils and then that hexand is removed through some kind of solvent removal process (typically distillation of the hexane off the extracted botanical oil) to leave behind the oil. Now the problem with solvent extraction is you always have a little bit of residual hexane or whatever other solvent was used for oil extraction and you don't want to be eating that you don't want to be putting that on your skin so that is minimal processing.
The other minimally processed ingredients used here at rain organ are herbs and here I'm talking amla so that's synonymous with Indian Gooseberry. Amla is beginning to become, beginning to get in the Limelight. It is an ayurvedic herb uh it is it contains like the highest concentration of natural vitamin C on the planet um Indian madderroot is another one uh let's see what why am I drawing a blank here guduchi, which is Indian moonseed there are several others as well.
Alodhra is another one used here at Rain Organica, so all of those would be minimally processed and that is literally taking the herb and grinding it into a fine powder or just taking the herb and grinding it but maybe not necessarily pulverizing it into a fine powder but rather leaving it partially intact so you can think of mint leaves that have been dried and then cut into the same size, it's just kind of
homogenizing or um homogenizing really is the right word, uniformly chopping the herb to make it all the same size and then of course it's dried before whatever pulverizing technique is used whether that's powderization or whether it's large particle.
There's one more category of ingredients that have minimal processing and this is hydrosols. Hydrosols are also known as distillates they're sometimes even referred to as floral waters and done an entire podcast episode before on the real difference between floral waters and distillates and there is a difference. Maybe it only matters if you know it probably only matters if you're super geeky like me but anyways you'll find that linked in today's show notes.
In short the difference is that for distillates you are distilling off the essence of the plant material so here let's just talk Rose hydrosol because I think that's the one that most that people are most familiar with so rose distillate or rose hydrosol, those are synonymous, you take the rose buds or the rose petals and actually steam through them and what you're doing is collecting that Steam and that's pulling over the essence of the roses and this is also the same way that you make essential oils.
And, in fact hydrosols are a byproduct of essential oil creation so essentially what you're doing as you're passing the steam through you're pulling off the volatile components so these are the um these are the fragrance notes these are all of the I'm at of lack like I I wish that I could think of a proper synonym for volatile. 08:51
All of the volatile components of those rose petals of those rose buds and then what's happening is the water soluble ones of those stay with the steam that condenses into your collection vessel and the oil soluble ones of those actually separate on top as the essential oil now a floral Water by contrast is often not distilled through but other but made with so it's not necessarily the distill that you're collecting it's that you place these rose buds in a pot with water let it stew probably not Steam for a certain amount of time and then pull off uh your rose buds and toss those and then keep the water so while the difference is subtle, it's important 09:34
So hydrosols, distillates, floral waters, and steam distilled essential oils are other ingredients that are minimally processed so what did we just talk about? We talked about Botanical oils being minimally processed we talked about herbs themselves being minimally processed and then we talked about hydrosols so this is one way that ingredients are made.
Questions to consider when selecting ingredients for green skin care
Are these ingredients grown sustainably?
Are they grown organically?
Where are these crops grown?
How are these crops harvested?
Again this goes back to that fair trade fair for life question. Are the people that grow, care for, and harvest the crop, are they paid a living wage?
Green skincare and the importance of carbon footprint in shipping: where are the ingredients grown?
These are all things that I consider when selecting ingredients and then the other question is where are these ingredients grown?
Because when we think about shipping, shipping leaves a huge carbon footprint so this is why you'll see that I love meadowfoam seed oil because it's grown right here in the Pacific Northwest and I'm right here in Southern California so the shipping distance and the carbon footprint from shipping is a lot smaller than say something that's grown in Australia like sandalwood or even shea nuts for shea butter or argan nuts to make argan oil because most of the time those crops are grown in Africa and so this is a consideration.
Does that mean that Rain Organica doesn't use argan oil or Shea better? No, it doesn't, but it means that when I'm thinking about a formulation, I'm considering these factors and weighing that along with what the botanical oil itself brings to the product in terms of its fatty acid composition and its nutrient profile.
Botanical oils are so much more than just their fatty acid composition. They also bring in things like antioxidants, oil soluble vitamins A and E, they're bringing in phytosterols and other carotenoids besides just vitamin A, and so it's what does the full composition of the botanical oil look like?
And, if an oil or butter offers something incomparable to a formula that really isn't possible to achieve with other botanical oils, then yes, I will opt to use that oil even when it's grown far from Rain Organica's workshop.
This is part of the reason why I track shipment weights and shipment distances to be able to offset Rain Organica's carbon footprint. And, this is also done by using suppliers that are extremely eco-conscious. In fact, Rain Organica's preferred botanical oil supplier is a Zero Waste certified company.
That's another key takeaway from this episode, I've done all that thinking for you. I've done all of that obsessing & over obsessing for all of these ingredients and all of these products and bringing all of these ingredients together so you don't have to think about it and instead get to enjoy the simple routine that Rain Organica offers.
Biofermentation: How green skincare ingredients are made
The second way that ingredients are made at least the ones that we use here at Rain Organica are biofermentation. What ingredients are biofermented? Well, oftentimes this is clean preservatives like lactobacillus ferment it is also hyaluronic acid. With biofermentation, we're relying on bacteria to make the ingredient it's a much cleaner process than it would be if it were chemically made because in a biofermentation you're dealing with water you're not dealing with organic solvents and the difference between the two is this...
For full disclosure here everything you come into contact with on a daily basis is a chemical. Water is a chemical, the word chemical is synonymous with molecule and there are biochemical processes going on all the time within your body so things like glutamine things like vitamin C are chemicals. What differentiates water when we're talking water from organic solvents is solvents other than water are organic compounds that typically are oil extractors. So they pull off oil.
There are two classes of molecules: your water loving molecules and your oil loving molecules and solvents are things that most of the time are going to extract or pull out those oil loving compounds so that you know we talked about that a little bit when we were talking about solvent extraction versus expeller extraction. or expeller pressing of oils but the way that it arises here like when we're talking about why is biofermentation is cleaner than something that's chemically made is because when you're chemically making something often times you are using these solvents and so this could be something like isopropyl alcohol so IPA or rubbing alcohol could be something like ethanol so even drinking alcohol it could be something much more sinister like methylene chloride (aka dichloromethane) which not only is a known carcinogen and so we come back to that residual solvent level of how much does it have there and is it at quote unquote safe levels according to FDA standards.
The other side of the coin is where the hell is all of that methylene chloride going after you process it? Well, it's going ultimately into the environment. I mean yes there are scrubbers and all this kind of thing to remove it from immediately going to the environment at the manufacturing plant, but remove it for what end result? Well to ultimately be disposed of so somehow you're either generating CO2 from it by burning it, which you're not burning a halogenated solvent that's what fire retardates are made out of, or you're putting it back into the environment somehow.
You can process these organic solvents all you want somehow it's going back into the environment as waste whether as fumes or as pollution of some sort, so anyways this is why biofermentation is so much cleaner than chemically made ingredients.
Clean chemical processes: How green skincare ingredients are made
The Third Way that ingredients are made is through chemical processing. Now there's all kinds of ways you can process ingredients there's the hardcore chemical processing that I was just talking about um there's also much gentler processing techniques and here certain compounds certain ingredients you can't just buy.
They don't just come straight from a field and you can't just press them from a plant and here specifically what I'm talking about is emulsifiers. Any of your thickeners so any of your fatty acid thickeners so cetyl alcohol cetearyl alcohol stearyl alcohol, there's a whole class of other -yl alcohols, all of those are essentially a long fatty acid chain with a polar head group and you have to make that somehow and this is with the processing so this is where the different certifications come in.
This is also where my background comes in. I am formally trained as a chemical engineer and a lot of people might think that training allows me to figure out how a compound is made. It's actually not my training as a chemical engineer turns out as a chemical engineer mostly what you're trained in is to dispel the heat generated from a reaction, so the prevailing question is how big do you need to make your heat exchanger for this chemical process so you don't blow the place up.
The training that I have that allows me to take a look at a final compound and figure out you know how it was made is actually my training as a synthetic organic chemist and with this I think this ultimately is why I am the way I am even when we're talking health is because unlike biochemistry where it's all about memorization and all about memorizing the different structures of the amino acids, memorizing the Krebs cycle, memorizing the ATP cycle, and the citric acid cycle and all these different enzymes associated with each one, with Organic Chemistry instead, yes you may have hundreds of different mechanisms, But ultimately it's all about moving electrons around.
How did these two molecules react with each other maybe in a presence of a catalyst maybe not in order to form this third molecule so really good synthetic organic chemists, and I happen to know several of them so when I get stumped I go to them and one in particular is a resident here within the household, anyways really good synthetic organic chemists can look at the molecular structure of a compound and figure out what the starting material was and again this is also where not only my training as an organic chemist but also the fact that I am a research scientist and I'm able to go and cross check myself and be sure that what I think is the starting materials to make the final compound actually is it's actually pretty easy to find out the manufacturing process for lots of different compounds jus in some basic Google research.
Clean skincare, green skincare and ingredient certifications
Now the other thing when we're talking processing when we're talking chemical processing this is where different certification standards come in so this is where there's something known as reach in the EU which ultimately really has to do more with the final molecule itself rather than the processing um this is a whole standard where uh the the EU government is working to reduce consumer
exposure to things like phalates and other known endocrine disruptors and so reach has been implemented in Europe um it also applies to the processing because if these compounds are used in processing above and you know the company is big enough so they're processing a certain amount of year then that needs to get disclosed as well so reach is one of them ones that are kind of more familiar in the Cosmetic space are eoser and Cosmos certification now with this what I'm talking about is the ingredients themselves are ECOCERT and Cosmos certified so oftentimes as the consumer you don't have visibility into this unless you know how the company itself is making these products because the final product itself isn't certified, but rather the ingredients used in the product are certified.
Now with Cosmos you can get a Cosmos certification on the finished product, but I want to be upfront with you, this certification is typically hella expensive and a rather arduous certification process.
Rain Organica products don't have any kind of certification on them because it's just not something that most small businesses are willing to put the cash into to get these certifications and just to give you an idea, for B Corp Certification, it was a year-long process, and I spent a lot of time and energy in that process and it's not something I'm looking to repeat as a sole employee, so anyways.
ECOCERT has been around for 30 years. It arose out of France or is a France certification and with this they are looking at sustainable practices in the manufacturing process itself, so ECOCERT ingredients apply to the emulsifiers that Rain Organica uses so this would think be things like glyceryl monostearate or glyceryl stearate and cetearyl olivate and other plant based emulsifiers.
Whole Foods acceptable premium preservative list is another one, so this applies to preservatives.
A little more about Cosmos: Cosmos is another certification Organization for both ingredients and products, and it really looks at:
- the organic origin of ingredients are they certified organic
- it looks at sustainability practices and growing practices,
- and also at the product life cycle if it is a product and there's actually a 4th criteria:
- green chemistry
Ethoxylated ingredients in skincare
Ethoxylated: If you ever hear the term ethoxylated what this is is ethylene oxide is a gas. It's a very reactive gas it's it's often used in it's used frequently in the Pharma industry for sterilizing things because it is so reactive so this ethylene oxide if it hits a microbe of any sort it's going to destroy it with the energy that is contained in that ethylene oxide gas. it is an amazing reactant in chemical processes and is used in the polymerization reaction to make the emulsifier PEG.
It's also used in a number of other chemical processes so needless to say Rain Organica steers clear of any emulsifiers or surfactants that are made using ethoxylation.
What ingredients clean skincare brands use
Eco-conscious skincare brands will use ECOCERT ingredients or some other kind of sustainability or eco-conscious certification ingredients so whether this is ECOCERT or Whole Foods acceptable premium preservative list or Cosmos certified ingredient or a combo of some of these or even a separate certification standard.
Oftentimes with products that are sold in Europe and the US you have to be a little bit careful because sometimes there are two different formulations sold in each countries generally it gives you an extra degree of assurance that um they're reach compliant especially if it's coming from a big company.
However please don't walk away with just because a company doesn't sell in Europe because this doesn't mean their ingredients aren't clean.
From a skin care and cosmetics perspective, every country has different regulations for what's required to sell within those countries and for Rain Organica for instance only sells in the US because we're compliant with US laws.
I haven't registered Rain Organica with Canadian health authority I haven't registered with EU health authority because with all of these despite again the misinformation that the cosmetics industry isn't regulated it is in fact regulated it's regulated by FDA it's just the regulation for skincare looks a lot different than it does with the regulation for food or drugs so but I still have to comply with FDA regulations and FDA guidelines even with skincare and it's the same way with these other countries.
Canadian health authority requires that a brand register before starting to sell in Canada. For Europe, to be honest I don't know what the regulation looks like in the EU because I haven't looked at expanding into that market.
Again I am just one person and selling in Europe isn't that high on my priority list.
I'd rather focus on sales in the US and grow a solid customer base here first because I feel like here in the US we are at a disadvantage because we don't have all of the additional laws that they do especially in EU to help protect us as consumers.
I myself have fallen victim to the marketing jargon before because it's easy to do. You're in a hurry while you're in a store and you just want something that's good and quality and it's really easy to read the front label and be hoodwinked. It's sometimes easy to flip over and read everything including the ingredients list, make the purchase, walk out, and then realize you missed like these three ingredients that you would never use on your skin.
And, so you walk out of the store with it and you open it up and as you're using it realize oh my gosh I just put it on and my skin's already reacting or I just put it on and it has synthetic fragrance in it.
It's really tough as a consumer and so that's why ultimately, I thought that this would be a good episode to peel back the curtain a little bit and share with you what's going on kind of behind the scenes and what's going into your skin care.
What's going into this gorgeous product that ultimately you're using or oftentimes not so gorgeous product but the packaging is pretty. And this episode is meant to help you make a better decision, a more conscious & conscientious decision as a consumer for your overall health and wellbeing and also for the health of the planet.
Feel free to reach out with to me like if if anything in this conversation that didn't make sense or that you still have questions about. You'll find me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Final note: While I do not consider myself an organic chemistry expert, my husband is so again whenever I get stumped in looking at at the molecular structure or chemical drawing of a molecule and I'm thinking I don't know how they made this, he can spend about 20 seconds and figure out the process, and he's right about 100% of the time 🙂
So, just wanted to make that clear that you don't have to be an expert in everything and it's all about knowing who to turn to.
Also, the the last thing that I didn't distinguish is the difference between when we say organic chemistry or organic solvent vs. certified organic.
If you have a science-based degree, you likely took organic chemistry. It was likely a required course in college because this is often a quote unquote weed class. It's used to weed out premed students. It's intense and a very different way of thinking. It's again going back to that you can't memorize organic chemistry like you can memorize biochemistry because it is all about understanding these Core Concepts of how electrons move and when we say organic in that context, what it applies to is anything containing a carbon atom.
So organic versus inorganic. Inorganic usually deals with metals when we're in the chemistry space, and anything that contains life of course at least here on planet Earth is carbon based. All solvents with the exception of water are also carbon based so again when I was talking about hexane when I was talking about methylene chloride and alcohol whether that's ethanol the kind that you drink or rubbing alcohol isopropyl alcohol, all of those are carbon based solvents.
This episode kind of kicks off our sustainability series and next time on the podcast I will be having a conversation with Fredricka Syren. She is the author of zero waste gardening zero waste living and she has a zero waste family right here in San Diego County. To close out this series, Liz Murphy of Santosha Nutrition and also of Sustainability is Sexy will be here to talk about veganism.
Sustainable Harvest International is another key piece of why Rain Organica achieved B Corp certification and that is because our donations to Sustainable Harvest International are part of Rain Organica's giving policies and the one that I'm most vocal about because of its alignment with the brand's mission.
Yes, Rain Organica also gives to Bella and Sunshine Doberman Rescue, and that giving partnership isn't about to stop, but it's one that I talk about less.
Do you know somebody who might enjoy this episode? Take a quick second and share this with them before you go. Taking a quick sec to leave a review for the podcast also helps tremendously in spreading the word about Holistic Wellness and Rain Organica.
Links mentioned in this episode:
About the Author
Brandy's a formulation scientist and self-proclaimed health geek who loves hiking, gardening, bird-watching, and body boarding.
Her struggle with acne during her teens and 20s led to a holistic and healthy approach to skincare, embracing skin as an organ to be loved and cared for rather than a canvas to wage war on.
Since 2008, she's been developing all-in-one products for a simple routine at home, & Rain Organica started when her backpacking friends asked for a portable skincare routine to keep their skin healthy & happy on and off the trails.
You can try Rain Organica for yourself with The Essentials Kit, a complete skincare routine in just 3 steps.
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