Ask the founder of any organic company about the road to organic certification and you’ll find it is anything but easy.
Diana Saltoun Goltsman’s journey took two-and-a-half years, which actually isn’t that long when you consider what she’s had to achieve. Seeking organic certification is often more difficult than many other accreditations because organic businesses need to find alternatives to those most others use.
Her company nudus launched 10 lipstick colours in April – all certified organic under cosmetic accreditation COSMOS.
As a former Sydney interior and fashion designer, Diana has made a career out of colours. But never have they posed such a problem as they did when she wanted to come up with a wide and effective colour range for makeup.
Diana says, “I told my formulator ‘I want these colours’. She came up with colours based on minerals but I wanted something better. There is nothing wrong with minerals but you can’t get a red or beautiful pink from iron oxide.” Iron oxide, which is one of the few commonly used colouring ingredients accepted under organic standards, will give you brown and russet tones but Diana wanted more.
She came across a source of colour pigments made from flowers, herbs and fruits, which can be adapted to lipsticks. Diana also uses minerals. The colours are blended with organic cold pressed oils such as pumpkin, kiwi, raspberry and pomegranate to make a lipstick. Few companies, if any, are using these ingredients to make cosmetics. Twenty-seven natural ingredients make up the formula.
Diana says, “I wanted to make a lipstick based on these beautiful pigments and not just use minerals and iron oxides. This gives women added health benefits, which other lipsticks just don’t provide.
“Anyone can produce a lipstick, but if you want to do it organically it’s a lot more challenging to create, as we don’t use any harmful ingredients to get a desired effect. Supplies can be scarce,” she says.
It took a year for nudus to trial the plant-derived colours, which are delicate to work with.
Creating the right fragrance was also challenging. Ingredients had to smell good and not have the chemical taste that some lipsticks have. Diana says to be wary if you see the word ‘fragrance’ in the ingredients list of a cosmetic, as a ‘fragrance’ can contain up to 400 synthetic chemicals.
She baulks at some ingredients the industry calls ‘natural’ because although the main ingredient itself might be fine, Diana isn’t convinced that the way it’s extracted or processed doesn’t leave harmful residues. She says, “As a company I know where each ingredient comes from and most importantly how it is processed. This gives me peace of mind.”
Because the lipsticks don’t contain water they don’t breed bacteria so, unlike skincare products, they don’t need preservatives. nudus has carried out stability tests on the products and due to mandatory European requirements the lipsticks have expiry dates.
When a company is using such unique ingredients for cosmetics you would think a government body such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration might expect to see test results but Diana says she didn’t have to satisfy any requirements other than COSMOS. She says, “Nothing is regulated. They [governments] leave it up to the manufacturer to do the right thing. This can be confusing for women who may think they are protected but really they are not.”
The common perception that cosmetic, skin/hair care and other personal products must be okay because the government wouldn’t allow them otherwise works against companies such as nudus because it has to convince shoppers that all is not necessarily okay in beauty land. Having said that, it won’t go hard marketing its products as ‘organic’ or ‘better for you’ – rather it will meet customers on a glamorous level playing field that stresses quality over integrity. It just so happens that when you dig deeper into the product, it has both.
What is COSMOS?
nudus is certified with COSMOS rather than Australian Certified Organic because the Australian Certified Organic Standard was developed for agricultural industries such as food and fibre.
Cosmetics and skincare are based more on minerals and manufactured ingredients. A few European certifying bodies got together and developed COSMOS – a realistic and practical certification standard just for this industry.
nudus is in the process of making a lip balm that uses fewer pigments and will be certified to the Australian Certified Organic Standard.
Finding the right tube
COSMOS is as fickle about the environmental consequences of manufacturing as it is the ingredients. The lipstick tube had to be low impact and non-toxic, which introduced some new, but humorous, challenges.
Diana says, “We worked out a plan for packaging and recycling. It’s difficult with lipstick tubes because when we first designed the lipstick there was nothing available.”
They discovered that the paper tubes other lipstick companies used were making women’s lives a misery. Diana says, “They ground up in handbags and turned fluffy when rubbed against fabric. They looked like tampons!”
“Then we thought we’d go for something made from corn but we’re not allowed to use GM corn and the only available packaging was made from GM corn.” After exhausting avenues Diana eventually wrote to COSMOS seeking an exception for a plastic tube that doesn’t contain BPA; however, she says she will continue to explore other options.
The lipsticks are handmade and done in batches so the manufacturing doesn’t produce much waste. Diana would like to introduce an incentive that encourages women to return the tubes so they can be recycled.
Beauty with brains
Diana’s annoyance with how the mainstream cosmetic industry markets to women spurred on this almost impossible task of producing a cosmetic from the purest of ingredients while satisfying women’s desire for long-lasting colour.
She started making lipsticks because she wasn’t happy with what was on the market and thinks women should have access to safe cosmetics.
Diana says, “I wanted to develop a company that made a difference and to create a safe product my family and friends could use.”
nudus is planning to extend the range of lipsticks, branch out into other cosmetics such as eyeshadows and also export. A short-term goal is the Beauty and Brains initiative. It will educate women about the beauty industry via blog posts, events and apps, inviting companies that share the same ethos to join in.
Diana says, “When I lay back on a couch and told my mum I wanted to make certified organic lipsticks, I don’t think I really expected the road to be so long and difficult. You’re never prepared for the amount of work that goes into this. Every step of the way is amazing.”
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