My adventure with natural cosmetics and body care begun about 20 years ago. As a young married couple with three children, we put together our savings and the money from selling our used car and bought a beautiful piece of land on the edge of a village, with three groves and a little old house. We laid down the plans to expand the house but, just as the builders started digging the foundations, our housing situation took an unexpected turn. We stayed in Warsaw.
Years passed, our children flew the nest, and a time came to focus on ourselves and our dreams. My husband started “taming” our piece of land. After a few nights and days spent in the countryside, we felt that we wanted to stay there for good. Simple living close to nature and the peace that surrounded us reminded me of my old dream to make natural cosmetics.
I started by gathering and drying herbs, and making water- and oil-based extracts. I learned the names of plants and their properties. Together with my husband, we experimented with steam distillations to obtain essential oils. As chemists, this was a great adventure for us, and also for my two female friends who joined in. After gathering theoretical knowledge from specialist books, we were ready to begin making products. We started with soaps and creams. These first trial soaps often had unusual names, such as “St Agatha’s Soap”, “Disgusting Soap” or “Save the Cream”… and many other names (some more viable than others), while the first creams, based on our own extracts, were simple formulations of oil, a herb extract, lanolin, and an essential oil. Looking back after a few years at these rough cosmetics, those were humble beginnings, but so beautiful and important. I still have those first soaps we made.
Then, I started using my cosmetics. After a month of using a natural soap, it turned out that my skin was no longer dry. I didn’t have to use a lotion after every shower anymore. The skin on my face also got an intense “boost” from the good ingredients in the cream, so much so that later on I often forgot to use it. There simply was no need.
Seeing the great improvement in the condition of my skin encouraged me to share my products with my loved ones. I gave the cosmetics away while a vision of having my own production workshop was forming in my head. To make it come true, I signed up for a cosmetology course at university. My husband, seeing I was serious, took a manly approach and started building a soap shop. After graduating from the course (which was a great idea that prepared me as a chemist for the task at hand), together with my grown-up daughters I started creating our own cosmetic brand, Hagi Cosmetics.
Step by step, we set up production. Many people liked our products. Our first clients were the conscious and healthy-living regulars at the Bio Bazar market in Warsaw. Next came the people we met at healthy food, cosmetics, and local clothing fairs, who were looking for valuable Polish products. Soon these customers were joined by the clients attending the important natural cosmetic fair, Ekocuda, organized for the first time. There we could see how quickly the market of natural cosmetics was growing. Current world studies show that 84% of consumers choose cosmetics with natural ingredients, and that 68% of them would like to know where the ingredients in their cosmetics come from, which makes me believe that this market will keep on growing rapidly. I feel very grateful that I found myself in the right place at the right time, so that my dreams could come true.
When I hear the words “natural cosmetic”, I don’t believe them until I’ve seen the composition on the label, especially since, so far, there has been no legal act precisely defining what a natural cosmetic is. Luckily, there exist organizations certifying natural and ecological cosmetics, such as Ecocert, BDIH, Soil Association, Natrue, and, uniting them all, Cosmos (Cosmetic Organic Standard). According to the standards set by those companies, a natural cosmetic is a product containing at least 95% of ingredients of natural origin, manufactured using processes that are physical (pressing, extraction, filtration, distillation, drying etc.), microbiological, or enzymatic. Synthetic ingredients are allowed, provided they are justified and have no natural counterpart.
Is a natural cosmetic better than a conventional one? It definitely is.
First of all, natural raw materials used in natural cosmetics, most commonly vegetable oils, are structurally similar to the lipids in our skin, allowing it to use them more effectively. All these raw materials are made of different chemical compounds, mixed in proportions that are not always possible to reproduce in a lab. It is these unique proportions that intensify each other, strengthening the overall mixture (synergism).
Natural substances are also powerful active ingredients in any cosmetic, and there is at least 95% of them in a natural one! In a conventional cosmetic, this proportion is reversed – only about 5% of its composition is active ingredients, and the rest often constitutes a base of water and oil.
Nowadays, a natural cosmetic is no longer a simple emulsion of oil and plant extracts, but a product combining ingredients re-discovered and re-investigated time after time. Modern plant complexes have targeted and proven properties (anti-aging, detoxicating, moisturizing etc). Some natural cosmetics are now even being used in beauty clinics as they can replace, for example, botulinum toxin!
Using natural products greatly diminishes the risk of contact dermatitis, irritations, and allergies. However, it is worth remembering that even natural cosmetics may contain allergens, and in such cases a reaction may still occur in people sensitive to them.
When it comes to the expiration dates of natural products, they are much shorter than that of conventional cosmetics. We also use fresher ingredients to prepare them. Natural cosmetics contain milder preservatives, approved for this type of product. In natural cosmetics, there is no place for controversial products such as strong detergents, preservatives, silicones, synthetic colors or fragrances. This way we can be more certain that our cosmetics won’t irritate the skin. Natural cosmetics also provide a more pleasurable experience, since a product that looks appetizing and smells beautifully of real essential oils is so inspiring to use.
And what are the benefits of regular use? People who switch to natural skin care feel that their skin is “healthily nourished.” Due to this they may even forget to apply their product because they don’t feel like their skin is dry, tight, or in need of a cosmetic at all.
In Poland, we are now more than ever seeing small businesses that produce natural cosmetics, which are more and more in demand. Studies show that 84% of consumers choose cosmetics with natural ingredients, and that 68% of them would like to know where the ingredients in their cosmetics come from. We can suppose that the vogue for healthy living, called “slow life”, will result in a better mental and physical condition of the modern human.