You wouldn't put harsh chemicals in your body, so why do so many of us continue to put nasty chemicals onto our body?
We chat to Bridget from Clemence Organics to help give you the 101 on organic skincare, what certified organic means, and what to look out for to avoid marketing traps.
It can get a bit science-y here, so please feel free to research any terms that may be new to you!
And if podcasts are more your thing, listen to the audio version of our chat with Bridget on 'Striding Forward'. Listen now on your preferred podcasting platform below:
• Apple Podcasts
• Google Podcasts
1. Tell us a bit about Bridget and Clemence Organics?
Bridget: I launched the brand just over four years ago, but the origins of the brand really started a few years before that.
I've been making natural skin care on and off since I was a teenager. I had my own skin issues. I had acne and I had some bad scarring which I've had from a young age. So I was always looking for options to treat my skin and my mother was always a bit of a hippie at heart.
She was interested in natural therapies and we were always given natural supplements and we grew around herbs and spices and stuff like that growing up. But it wasn't until I in my final year of my university degree, my dad was actually having radiation therapy for for throat cancer.
I attended the oncology appointment with him and my mum. I was there when they gave my dad this tube of of barrier cream for the radiation treatment to supposedly soothe the radiation dermatitis. And I took one look at it and threw it in the bin and told my dad I would make him something that would actually be helpful to his skin rather than just potentially irritate it... because what they gave him was full of paraffins and other chemicals that you don't really want on your skin.
I actually then went back to university. I talked to my university professors and did some research and I formulated a balm for his radiation dermatitis and it worked really well. The oncology nurses were commenting on it saying "wow, whatever you put on, you know, you're putting on your dad's burn is amazing because he really doesn't actually have any radiation burn", which was quite significant compared to other patients on the ward.
So it was a bit of a light bulb moment for me that something so simple could make a big difference It just makes the cancer journey for him a little easier.
I went into private practice and I just started making more and more skincare products for my clients and for my children because I wasn't satisfied with what was available in the market. So I started making things and it grew from there.
I started seeing more and more patients who had skin issues and the business grew by word of mouth. I made more products and started selling them locally at the local markets and at local shops.
2. Can you explain the difference between organic and certified organic skincare?
Bridget: From the start, I've always made my products as certified organic as possible. So every ingredient I choose, my first preference is always organic.My second would be Australian grown.
I see the difference between certified organic skin care and not organic is the quality of the ingredients and also what's not in the products. So first and foremost, the ingredients have been grown to a certified organic method, which means there has been no use of pesticides or herbicides in the growing of them - they are as pure and as natural as nature intended.
And then when it comes to actually formulating a product that you can then call certified organic, you need to make sure that there's no there's no nasties in there whatsoever. So the entire product has to be 100% natural. If the ingredients aren't certified organic, then they still need to have been grown or processed without any sort of chemical chemicals used in that process.
You can't add anything to the products or to the formulations that is in any way synthetic or chemical. So you really need to choose as healthy as products as possible to put on your skin. And certified organic is really is the healthiest option, without a doubt.
3. Why is certified organic better for your health and for the environment?
Bridget: I can talk about Clemence Organics specifically because our brand is ACO COSMOS Certified Organic. In Australia, the Australian Organic Standard lists the rules and regulations of what is what is OK to come under that classification and what is not.
The Australian Certified Organic standard is extremely stringent. So it means that what is deemed certified organic has been well and truly researched and shown to be truly natural and chemical-free. What that means for your health is that everything that is certified organic that you're putting in your body, you can be sure is just pure natural food, nutrient, herb, etc, because there is nothing artificial or chemical that's being used in the processing or growing of it.
That's important because a lot of the chemicals that are used in non-organic ingredients have been shown to be carcinogenic and potentially leading to cancer. They can affect your hormone levels. They can affect your thyroid and there's all sorts of chemicals and synthetic ingredients which can really muck with our bodies.
I know for me, having having cancer in my family, I'm extremely aware of the chemicals that I put on my skin that I that are in my environment, as well as what I eat. I want to reduce my cancer risk basically as much as possible and certified organic is the best way of doing that.
4. What should consumers look for to avoid confusing labels and/or mischievous marketing by brands?
Bridget: Parfum is just one example of one word that can kind of cover thousands of different ingredients. Obviously when people see parfum and they think of fragrance.
They think it's some sort of an ingredient that offers fragrance to the product, but that's not necessarily the case. There are sort exceptions.
So whenever I see parfum, I'm just like 'no'. That's not something I would buy because it just means that it could be anything and I really want to know what I'm putting on my skin. Other ingredients that people should look out for are numbers.
If you look at food and you see the numbers as a parent, it means colours or preservatives that could potentially be offer an allergic reaction or behavioural reaction because of what they mean.
5. How do you decide on packaging and do you take sustainability and the environment into consideration when making choices?
Bridget: I think for me, being a certified organic brain brand, it's one thing having beautiful ingredients which are natural as it can be really good for your health and the environment, but if they're packaged in something that has not been considered, and that is potentially detrimental to the environment, then that just doesn't make sense to me.
And I do see it quite often.
I looked at packaging and I wanted to make sure that it was as recyclable as possible.I think reusable is one thing, but I know for skincare, you go through quite a lot over your lifetime, so you can only reuse so many bottles. So I focused on recyclable and I looked at what was the easiest packaging to recycle in Australia.
At the moment we use a mixture of aluminium because aluminium is very easily recyclable and the aluminium in use in Australia is often made from 80% already re-used aluminium. It's lightweight, easy to transport and its easily recycled.
So that was always an easy choice for me and hopefully get the whole natural skincare industry to step forward closer to sustainability in the entire product process.
We'll admit it, we didn't fully appreciate the severity of non-organic ingredients after Bridget's powerful interview.
The fact that they can be carcinogenic and linked to cancer is a worrying realisation, but it's something that we can now aim to avoid in the future. Her story is super humbling in using the challenges in her life to make the world a better place for her family (and her customers).
And don't get us started on parfums... we implore you to check the labels of your skincare products and to seriously consider those that mention parfums. It's probably not worth the risk!
Will you ever shop non-organic ingredients again?