Why palm free?

The recent share on the Ecoholic FB page by the uber-vigilant Canadian green product watchdog Adria Vasil reminded me once again why we at Beautiful have made the commitment to be palm free in all of our products: (read article here)

Many people who have made the decision to move to natural products are faced with making some difficult decisions, not the least of which is where to draw the line about supporting sustainable ingredients and the companies who commit to using them.  From a business standpoint, many of these commitments hurt the bottom line – deciding to use sustainable, ethical ingredients translates to higher ingredient costs.  Those of us who have decided to do what is right regardless of the consequences know full well that a consumer will compare the price of our products with those who use cheaper ingredients, and that they may decide that their pocketbook can afford natural products, but cannot afford ethics as well.

So why do we do it?  Some may say it’s because we want to sleep well at night, knowing that we didn’t knowingly contribute to widespread deforestation, slave labor, environmental damage… and leaving a toxic planet for our children in the name of natural products.  I say that in my life, I HATE being an unwitting accomplice to any of the above – so I have committed at Beautiful to ensure that we are as transparent as a pane of glass about what goes into our products.

I have never been a full on environmentally aware person and I make no bones about the fact that I used to swill and spread chemical products with the best of them.  I just had no idea they were bad for me, my children or my planet.  I was a child of the culture that used disposable because it was easier and splashed chemicals everywhere because if a little was good… more must be better, right?  Oh, was I wrong.  I still remember the day that I sat, holding a bottle of Febreze and staring at my conglomeration of assorted toxic products, wondering what in the world to do with them?  I felt so stupid that I had been using products for so long that had made my daughter sick and I didn’t want to put them in the landfill or down the sink now that I was headed to the health store to stock up on stuff that wouldn’t hurt my family.  Even though I dropped an outrageous sum of money that day on safe items, it was still a gradual process of prying my favorite toxic junk out of my own hands…. and putting my trust in “safe” products.

My trust has been broken more than once during that journey, and at the end of some of the roads I went down I found that I would have to do for myself (the birth of Beautiful was one such road) but to tell the truth, the products that have held my trust have been so much more than worth it.  I love the products that I use, and I feel so much more empowered to make new decisions because I have educated myself (boy, there were times when I wished I didn’t know what I now know about companies and their products) and I have great resources like Adria Vasil from Ecoholic who does much of the hard work for me.  I have had to make tough decisions along the way, for instance having to ask myself where I will draw my own lines as I refuse to compromise effectiveness in the name of natural or homemade.  In my business, I wrote several commitments down in the early stages to help direct and guide me in my decision making.  Surprisingly, one of those was that I didn’t want to compromise beauty in order to be eco-friendly.  This means I have to spend much more time accessing packaging, educating myself, and keeping my finger on new eco-friendly developments in the beauty industry.

Wherever you are on this journey, whether you are standing at the beginning or at a crossroads, do know that you are not alone.  We all had to start somewhere, and we all made our fair share of mistakes – or as Patricia Briggs says:  “We are, none of us, perfect…”  The more you can remain open, ask questions, and make whatever decisions you can to take care of your planet and those who rely on it…. the more you can feel great about the path your life is taking.

We at Beautiful are proudly palm-free.  I love that none of my soap ingredients are causing wide-spread devastation, and even though it has meant more work developing a standout soap recipe and has cost me more, I haven’t regretted the decision for one moment.  Whenever I hear from satisfied customers, I do a little happy dance inside knowing that I am not encouraging someone to unwittingly hurt their planet or their loved ones.  So next time you find yourself deciding between two products on the basis of price alone, if you can, ask yourself what you are supporting by choosing the cheaper of the two…. or whose ethics you are unwittingly endorsing.

Exciting news!!!!

We are live and in technicolor at our new shop on Etsy!!!!  Drop by and check out our great product lineup – we even have gift boxing available just in time for Christmas gift giving🙂

A big shout out to Chris Chong of Victoria, BC – our phenomenal graphic designer, who literally whipped up an Etsy-friendly version of our wordmark so we could open today…. thank you so much!  If you want to hire Chris to do your graphic designing, drop us a line for his contact information –  we highly recommend him.

Here is the link to our Etsy shop….. hope to see you over there!

Tis’ the season…

We are deep into the fall season, bordering closely on winter for us here in the Canadian Prairies.  The snow is falling, home fires burning, and thoughts turn to Christmas and gift-giving.

To my surprise, I have yet to meet someone that I talk to about chemical sensitivities that doesn’t have some experience to relate to me, whether it has impacted them personally or someone they know.  Some people don’t yet have a name for what they’ve heard of or experienced, but others know exactly what CS is.  This brings me mixed feelings; on the one hand, I am glad that awareness is increasing and on the other hand I am saddened that so many people are suffering in this way.

Recently, my husband returned from work and relayed to me that a large mining corporation has made their work space “Scent Free”.  I am thrilled to see that more and more organizations apart from the government-owned ones are making bold moves to protect their workers and clients.  Consider making your home a synthetic fragrance-free zone – and let your friends and family know why you are making these changes.  Who knows, you may be preventing an allergy in someone you care about.

We are setting up an Etsy shop where you can browse and buy our products (if you are in our local area, feel free to browse and then order via email or phone to avoid shipping fees) as well as working hard on beautiful gift boxes for Holiday giving.  Particularly through our most intense skin drying season, give the gift of beautifully moisturized skin – to your loved ones and to yourself!

CS information… why should you care?

Here is a great article I came across explaining MCS/CS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities/Chemical Sensitivities).  You  may remember in my previous post, I explained that my teenage daughter was diagnosed with CS a few years back and that diagnoses is what eventually prompted me to start Beautiful.  Sometimes it is very difficult to explain what CS is and why people should care – and this leads to a lot of misinformation and confusion.  This article does a great job of explaining much of it in detail, and certainly since according to this article 1 in 5 people currently identify as having trouble with scents ( a full 20% of our population!), we do need to care.

Here is the link to the article – and another to a great page that talks about the fragrance free products out there.  Enjoy!

Fragrance Free?

The kids are settled in school and the garden crop is in…. and it’s soap time!  I’m back making batches and batches of soap in preparation for the busy pre-Christmas craft sale season.   I’ve ordered some beautiful soap dishes from a local pottery artist for our gift boxes.  Here is one of her artisan dishes:

Gorgeous, right?

Speaking of gorgeous things, one of the soaps I recently made is chocolate soap.  I’ll talk more about it in a future post, but I can’t wait for it to be done curing.  With real chocolate, cocoa essential oil and  unrefined natural cocoa butter… it looks and smells like a slab of fudge…  yum!

Recently I saw a picture of a popular fabric spray in a post on facebook that was extolling its’ virtues.   The thing that struck me the most was that people commenting seemed less concerned about what they were breathing in when using the spray than whether or not they liked the smells.  I often wonder if our society is the same as others in this regard, or if we like to use more fragrances than others.  I did hear a soap maker in the UK comment that her customers in the UK were very picky about having only essential oils in their soap, whereas her US customers didn’t care, and in fact often requested synthetic fragrances.  Personally, I have noticed that apart from my customers who need to have no fragrance in their products because of allergies or other symptoms, everyone else doesn’t even want to look at the fragrance free options.  I wonder if people know what they are missing.  Since we moved to no/low scent in our house, it’s incredible how much better we can smell!  I can smell a bounce sheet clear across someone’s house, and know when someone 6 people in front of me in line was just smoking or is wearing perfume.  Boy, can I smell.

Since synthetic fragrances (see here for more info) have so many known toxins and allergens in them, it begs the question –  is it safe for us or our children to be inhaling any of them?  Clearly it is in the interest of the companies using synthetic fragrances to tell us that our stinky couch (have you seen the commercial where a person buries his/her nose in a disgusting couch and exclaims – “It smells like springtime!”) or our smelly gym shoes need to smell like their interpretation of a basket of oranges or a field of tulips.   But is it true?  The problem with that sort of thinking is that you are just covering up one natural smell with a synthetic one…. which may work to fool your brain into thinking it’s in a room full of flowers, but is in fact going to work attacking your central nervous system.  Isn’t that the magnificent power of marketing?

So, the next time you are given the option of fragrance-free (unscented is not the same), choose it.  It doesn’t somehow mean it is not as good, in fact it means that it may be better – free of noxious, toxic fragrances.  And that is a Beautiful thing.

Making calendula….

With school right around the corner and the garden bounty to process, it’s been a crazy few weeks.  We managed to make a few batches of soap in there, one being the gorgeous Calendula soap.   Calendula flowers come from the pot marigold plant, are completely edible (make sure they are organic) and can be used as a replacement for saffron or just sprinkled on salads as they have a mild peppery flavor.  For skin care, calendula petals are infused in oil and added to lotions or creams to help soothe and calm skin.  Calendula oil has been used to treat acne, rashes, dry skin and is great on sensitive skin (read babies).    Calendula extract has been proven to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-genotoxic in plant pharmacological studies, and has been used traditionally to treat abdominal cramps and constipation.  (As with anything, use with caution and test for allergic reaction before using topically.)

To make our Calendula soap, we infuse dried calendula petals into olive oil using a warming method, then use that oil in place of our regular olive oil.  As calendula flowers are the only flower that is able to come through the soaping process intact, we put generous helpings of it right into the soap mixture, and add it on top.  The result is a gorgeous yellow and cream soap full of anti-inflammatory goodness.  Here are some pictures of our Calendula soap shortly after pouring:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last picture is our new cover picture on our Facebook page :)  The Calendula soap will be ready in 4 weeks – and we happily take pre-orders!

Let’s talk about hemp…

Ok, so let’s get back to Beautiful’s soap line up…. how about hemp?  There seems to be some confusion about hemp products and their tie to the lovely Mary Jane – so for once and for all, hemp is not marijuana.  Hemp products will not get you high, don’t need to be kept away from children, and aren’t a taboo topic at the dinner table🙂  In fact, hemp is one of the great Canadian success stories, and is an amazing plant for all you can do with it.  Take Manitoba Harvest for example.  Manitoba Harvest Hemp Food and Oils produces Hemp Hearts, which are an amazing protein booster for your salads, yogurts, cereals or what-have-you; a hemp beverage, Hemp Bliss which is a great alternative to rice milk, soy or almond; and a gorgeous Hemp Oil, cold pressed, full of omegas and chlorophyll – basically just great for you in any cold application you can think of for it.  Best of all for Beautiful, it is wonderful for your skin.

Adria Vasil, in her recent book Ecoholic Body (here’s a review) says that hemp oil is Canada’s great beauty oil, suitable for smoothing on anywhere from your face to your feet.  I have to agree.  Hemp is one of the few oils that is readily absorbed by the skin and doesn’t just sit on top.  That means that your skin is able to get so much of the benefits of hemp oil right down into your cells.  You can read more about the specifics of hemp oil here and  here.

This is what I personally love about hemp oil:

 

 

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Sick.

It’s a new week and summer is flying by.  I know it happens every year, but it still drives me crazy when I duck into a store mid-summer to get, oh, I don’t know – kitty litter, and I run straight into school supplies.  Everywhere.  I know some parents jump for joy when they see the school stuff coming back, but honestly as my kids get older I want to slow things down a bit and not speed them up.  It seems that in our culture we’re always anticipating the next thing to come whether it’s back to school, Halloween, Easter….

Ok, so I’m ranting.  My point does relate to soaping however, really it does.  Here’s how – if we’re always rushing ahead, anticipating the next thing, getting ready for what’s around the corner – how will we ever pay attention to what’s going on right now?  How can we stop and think about what products we’re using, what the labels are and aren’t telling us, what things really mean and how they are affecting us… all this, and of course how can we smell the roses?  The real roses, not the synthetic, neurotoxic kind🙂

There is a real, serious story behind why I started Beautiful: The Soap Company and why we have the mission that we do. I grew up using chemicals to clean, to freshen, to disinfect.  I believed for a long time that no good thing could come from not arming yourself with bleach, Lysol and PineSol if you wanted to truly do the right thing by your children and guests.  How could you know things were truly clean otherwise?  I used all the drugstore brands for cleaning my face, my hair, my clothes…. of course they were the best, right?  TV and magazines wouldn’t lie to me, never!  Well, fast forward a few (*ahem*) years and here I am with a bad case of rosacea, spraying Febreeze around my house so you couldn’t smell that dogs lived there, slathering on tons of moisturizer because my skin was always thirsty….. and then my daughter was diagnosed with Chemical Sensitivity.  She was a young teen at the time and kept getting so sick.  Rashes, colds, flu-like symptoms, migraine headaches… you name it, she got it.  It got so bad that at one point she couldn’t go to school for more than 3 days of the week.  The rest she spent sleeping and crying into her pillow.  As her mom, I was so worried, and pressed the doctor to send her to an allergist for testing.

Finally we were able to get into see the specialist (he had to travel up from Vancouver, as we lived in Prince George at the time, more on that later) and I held my breath while he scratched her skin and placed condensed amounts of different known allergens on the scratches to see which she reacted to.  The answer was none.  I couldn’t believe it!  Then the doctor explained that he thought he knew what was going on based on the descriptions of her reactions – Chemical Sensitivity.

In short, CS is when a person’s autoimmune system is stressed by encountering chemicals in their environment, and reacts to try to get rid of them.  Different people have different chemical triggers, but in general, the more volatile the chemical (think artificial fragrances, White Out, bleach, etc.) the more it causes problems.  There is no cure for CS/MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and the only treatment is to avoid the triggering chemicals as much as possible.  So, this is what we started doing.  I started by getting rid of all my bad cleaners and went from there.  Sounds easy, right?  Not!  There are chemicals in EVERYTHING we commonly use, from perfumes to shampoos, from foods (think MSG and food dyes) to office supplies and from new carpets to shower curtains.  This was no simple endeavor.  And the lies!  Some products hide their chemical ingredients and others don’t have to disclose them.  Sometimes we just had to learn from my daughter’s reactions to things whether they had bad stuff in them.  Luckily though, this is not 30 years ago, and there is an awakening now, a lash-back almost, about what these toxic chemicals are doing to our bodies.   It used to be that doctors would laugh at their patient’s symptoms and tell them it was all in their heads – boy, am I thankful that it is a much kinder world for CS sufferers now.

We found a lot of great alternative ways to live our lives in a much healthier way.  For some things, we found a suitable replacement product and for others we learned how to live without.  I learned to clean my house with a few simple natural ingredients, and stopped caring whether my couch smelled slightly of dog sometimes.  I learned to put vinegar in the rinse cycle as a fabric softener and which dish detergents were truly “green” and fragrance free.  But one part of our lives proved much harder – personal care products.  Cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, hairsprays… the list goes on and on.  And what about the alternatives?  I can’t tell you how many times I brought home a new product that claimed to be green only to find out it wasn’t.  So frustrating.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands – start at the beginning and make some soap🙂

There is still learning to do, and as we make the transition to organic ingredients for all our products things will get even better.  I can say that things are so much easier now for my daughter – and when we run into problems, we have an arsenal of good information and ingredients to tackle it with.  David Suzuki has a great list of chemicals to avoid in our cosmetics, as does Adria Vasil here.  Not sure whether your products pass the test?  Check them out here at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which rates products for their toxicity – you might be surprised.

If you or anyone you know (or even if you don’t), has CS/MCS – check out this great educational website.  It’s run by a woman who has CS, so she knows her stuff.   CS/MCS sufferers aren’t the only ones who need to avoid chemicals – cancer patients, asthma sufferers, people with autoimmune disorders are just a few who need to eliminate chemicals from every day life.  But even if you don’t have any conditions requiring you to cut them out, it just makes good sense to do it anyways.  Who needs such toxic things on and in our bodies or in our environment?

We’re off to see the wizard….

Today was the day that we set up at the Portage Farmer’s Market, and the weather couldn’t have been more cooperative.  It was cool but sunny in the morning and only got a little too warm and humid near to closing time.  Here I am checking the Whipped Vanilla Shea Butter tester:

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… and above is our sign🙂  Here are a few more shots of our table goodiesImage

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What do you think?  Would you stop and take a look?-

And back to the grind….

I agree wholeheartedly with long weekends (we just had one here in Manitoba), but there is something strange about getting back into the swing of things on a Tuesday.    I am perfectly able and willing to hate Mondays, but Tuesdays?

So this week is a little special for us as we are preparing to go to the Portage La Prairie Farmer’s Market this Saturday, which also happens to be the weekend of the Portage Potato Festival.  For those of you who don’t know, Portage is home to a few potato processing plants (think french fries) and this weekend is the time of the year for the little spud to shine🙂  I’m a little nervous about the weather, as it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy – but at least it won’t be hot!  I have visions of melted puddles of what once were great skin care products….  Really though, other people do it so I’m sure my nightmares are just that.

Recently I posted a couple of pictures on our FB page of our coffee soap in the molds.  So what better soap to talk about today?  Here they are cut:

 

Coffee bar and half moon soaps

 

So who doesn’t love coffee?  Even the people who don’t like to drink coffee tend to like to smell it, and our coffee soap smells like a fresh brewed cup.  The best part of putting coffee in a soap, however, is it’s amazing ability to neutralize odors.  This is a great soap to keep in the kitchen and use, say, after cutting an onion for supper🙂

Beautiful uses Kicking Horse fair trade coffee beans, specifically the Kick Ass variety.  We believe strongly in fair trade and are really happy to be able to use Kicking Horse’s dark blend in our soap.  We use the brewed coffee right in the soap, the beans on top, and the grounds are added in as well for a bit of scrubbing goodness.  We also add a bit of coffee essential oil to buoy up the great coffee smell through the soaping process.

Our coffee soap makes a great gift for the coffee lover in your life, or just for using to get funky smells out🙂  It uses our regular bar soap base (see previous posts) so it is very moisturizing and has great lather.