Sunday, April 29, 2007

Natural Cosmetics (An Article for Estheticians)

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for the great, great magazine called "Skin Deep" which is focused on helping estheticians with their skin care and hair care businesses.

They asked me to write an article on product knowledge. I actually wrote the totally wrong article, because they were asking me to write something on product inventories, trying to predict what customers want, etc.

The article I wrote was completely about natural products free of chemicals and harmful additives. They rejected that idea and asked me to rewrite it. I did the rewrite and the article went great, but I had this article that I really loved and did all this research for was just sitting here unused.

So here it is! This is an article that estheticians can use who are interested in using products for their customers that are more natural and better for the skin, hair and nails. And it is also an article for women who want to use these more natural products for themselves.

Please let me know what you think. This particular article ain't gonna make me any money, but hopefully it will help lots of people choose better cosmetics and beauty aids for themselves and their customers.

Could "Going Natural" Be Your Best Competitive Advantage?

As an esthetician, you put time and money into making sure you are the best at your work – facials, waxing, rejuvenation. But knowing your skin care products, what's in them and how to use them most effectively, is an equally important responsibility. And it can put your far ahead of your competition.

You are in a highly influential position. Clients come to you regularly for facials and beauty treatments. Unlike a retail store, you are performing a very personal service for each client, and at the same time, showing them how to take care of themselves between appointments. You are like a health, wellness and beauty coach.

They expect you to do good work, but they also expect that you will know exactly what products to recommend to them, that you'll have those in stock, and you'll know what will or won't fit their needs.

Many clients will ask you about “natural” versus “non-natural” skin care products. “There is a lot of misinformation about what is natural or not,” says Valerie Bennis, an aromatherapist who owns Essence of Vali, a maker of balms, mists and oils. “To me, natural means something that comes straight from a plant. The less it is changed by man, the more natural it is. Jojoba oil comes from the bean of a plant. Essential oils come straight from plants.”

And certainly the more manmade chemicals added as preservatives, coloring or fragrance, the less natural the product becomes, and the more potential harm it can cause.

Educate Yourself, Then Your Clients

“Selecting a product for your clients just because it smells nice or looks good isn't enough,” says Bennis. “You must understand the ingredients first.”

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a chemical that is added to most creams and shampoos. It adds texture to cream and helps a shampoo create lather. But it is a skin irritant. “Even worse,” says Angelika Arseneau, an esthetician who works in Hawaii, “Is that lauryl sulfates are often combined with nitrosamine, which is a proven carcinogen. And the nitrosamine might not be listed on the label.”

There's so much to know! Where can you get started?

Bennis suggests making it a habit to attend industry trade shows (See the sidebar for a list of shows.) “Ask the vendors what is in their product, and how it's made. Find new, smaller vendors who have products that are more natural, with fewer chemicals.” She also says you must use the Internet as your research tool. Find out what the experts say about the various additives, and stay up to date on the latest news and research. And be aware of the authority of the Website you're using. Understand that not all the information on the Internet is necessarily unbiased or authoritative.


Reed Spa and Resort Expo and Conference
New York and Los Angeles

Las Vegas

Natural Products Expo East
specializing in “natural products” including food and beauty products

Product Lines

Once you have the knowledge, how can you try to please everyone? It's a fact that not all of your customers will be interested in the most “natural” products, especially if it means a higher price.

“Set up several product lines for your customers,” says Bennis. “One for people who want to go completely natural, a medium line, and one for people who don't care about anything but effective treatment.”

And when you are choosing products for those lines, find the products that have what Bennis calls “integrity. Try the products yourself. Make sure they do what they say they will do.”

Stocking products can sometimes be tricky. Buy too few and you might run out at a critical time when clients are clamoring for them. Buy too many and you might have problems with expiration dates. “Natural products often have a shelf life of six months to a year. Jojoba oil doesn't go rancid, but canola, almond, grapeseed and avocado do,” warns Bennis. Jojoba is technically a liquid wax, not an oil. That's why it doesn't have rancidity problems like true oils, and this also makes it easier to be absorbed into the skin and scalp.

Questionable Ingredients

We've already mentioned the lauryl sulfate (and companion laureth sulfate) family of chemicals. These are skin irritants that are often paired with carcinogenic chemicals.

But did you know that antifreeze is a common ingredient in personal care products? A type of antifreeze, propylene glycol, is used in many deodorants and cosmetics, even cleansers. Although this is considered to be the “safer antifreeze” in that it is less toxic than ethylene glycol, it is still suspected to play a role in compromising the immune system and the nervous system if absorbed into the body (according to

“Women underestimate how completely chemicals can absorb into the body,” says Arseneau, the Hawaiian esthetician. “Breast tissue is very sensitive. It is part of the lymphatic system, so when the body is trying to remove chemicals absorbed through the skin, from cosmetics, oils or creams, those toxins can accumulate in the breast tissue and eventually cause cancer there. Researchers have investigated the breast tissue of cadavers and found more than 80 different chemicals in them, from cosmetics, hair care, even fabric softener. The fewer chemicals we expose our skin to, the healthier our bodies will be.”

Also be aware of anti-bacterial products. Arseneau warns that soaps and cleanser touted to be anti-bacterial often contain triclosan, which is an irritant and tends to create “super germs” like those found in hospitals. Approximately 90,000 people die each year in hospitals from staph infections caused by super germs, which are created largely by overuse of antibiotics and anti-bacterial products (Triangle Business Journal). Don't turn your salon into a super-germ factory!

NOTE: Most U.S. states require that you use anti-bacterial products to sterilize your equipment. We are not suggesting that you break the law. Our suggestions are for the products that you use with, and sell to, clients.

Blindly buying products that “seem healthy” is not a good strategy for your clients either. You must examine the ingredient lists. Whole Foods Market, the largest health food store chain in the U.S., sells a shampoo under its own label that contains sodium lauryl sulfate. Tom's of Maine deodorant contains propylene glycol. It is you, the esthetician, that must stand up for your clients and fully understand the details of what you are selling to them.

Other things to watch for:

  • Coloring, dyes that are not vegetable based
  • Added fragrances are almost always chemically enhanced

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

Finally, it's worth noting an increasing problem happening to Americans called multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). This is a condition where a person's health deteriorates rapidly and seemingly inexplicably, due to a hypersensitivity to chemicals. The patient gets to a point where they can't tolerate even the slightest amount of manmade chemicals in their food, makeup or even in the air they breathe, with debilitating results. It is fairly clear that this frightening condition is caused by a lifetime of absorption of chemicals, so if you, as the esthetician, can help your clients avoid problems like this in their future, it seems like it's worth educating yourself and helping them avoid health problems like this. Ohio State University has done a fair amount of research into this condition and has identified some of the main culprits in causing MCS as formaldehyde, pesticides, nitrogen dioxide (from unvented gas stoves), solvents, latex and dyes. If someone you know needs help with MCS, they may or may not get help from a Western medical doctor. Many doctors are unaware or suspicious of this condition. They may need to seek help from a qualified naturopathic physician.

Now for the Good Stuff

Now that we've warned you about all the “bad stuff,” let's talk about some great products that you really can trust. Most of them are from small manufacturers who pay close attention to staying “natural” with their ingredients. For this, we turn again to Angelika Arseneau for her suggestions.

Essence of Vali – The owner is one of our featured interviewees in this article. They feature compresses for the face, massage oils and energizing sprays.
Epicuren – Enzyme-based, metabolically active spa and cleansers, exfoliants, masks, scrubs and creams using a variety of ingredients including rosemary extract and essential oils.
Well-in-Hand – Carry a selection of shower soaps, bath soaps, essential oils and even acne treatments.
Farm Esthetics – homegrown herbs put into toners, powders, body scrubs, lotions – ayurvedic treatments, fragrances, flower oils
Country Herbals – candles made from beeswax, pure essential oils; also spa soaps
Primavera – essential oils from Germany

So how did Arseneau get to be so well-informed? “Usually, when I find a product I'm interested in carrying, I call the company directly. I ask them 'How do you put these products together? Where do you get the raw materials?' I learn a lot just by having the courage to question them.”

Multi-Level Marketing Products

Sooner or later, as an esthetician, you will be approached by someone about a multi-level marketing product (also known as “network marketing.”) These are products that are not usually sold through normal retail outlets, and are instead marketed through person-to-person relationships. Multi-level marketing is either the next generation of retail or the scourge of modern civilization, depending on whom you talk to.

“If it's a good product, who cares whether it's multi-level or not,” says Arseneau. “Just be sure to check the ingredients thoroughly. Look for the manmade chemicals, preservatives, foamers and coloring. Even in the multi-level products, there are several lines of cleansers and creams that claim to be 'all-natural' that contain many of the most dangerous chemicals that you don't want on your skin or your customers' skin.”

Know the products you sell. Know how effectively they clean and moisturize the skin, and know what's in them. Give your clients a choice – remember the three product lines (all natural, medium, treatment-oriented).

Your products say a lot about you. When your clients are at home, your product is the nearest representative of your esthetic practice. Don't you want that representative to be the best it can be?

Written by Daryl Kulak

Creative Commons License

work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


shmey said...

Hey Estes, just need to get some input to a crucial matter in our line of work. I just got a very distressing call from a (used to be) really good client, or so I thought, saying that her dermatologist told her to stop getting facials. His reason is that they are bringing "stuff" up to the surface (duh) and that over time facials thin the skin. Oh my gosh!! I was PEEED. I told her that I totally disagreed w/ that doctor and that most derms wld recommend an este for their value and that facials actually strengthen the skin. I am too mad to think and am asking for help in composing a letter to this client explaining to her what the derm is up to (wanting to put her on meds for the rest of her life) and that facials are only to help not to hinder. Plz advise on your professional opinion/advise.
Thanks so much. Sheila.

prakash sharma said...

Dead Sea Products -Aqua Mineral in Israel manufactured by the industry leaders in the manufacturing of Dead Sea Products -Aqua Mineral Intercosma. Intercosma has a reputation for innovative product development and uncompromising quality assurance, compliance with FDA regulations.