In partnership with NadiaZ.
Nadia Zuodar is a scientist and the creator of her own natural cosmetics brand Nadia Z, based in Lavaux, Switzerland. She worked in biochemistry and neurobiology and for humanitarian missions and organizations like UN in Africa. Formulating her own natural products became a necessity in her twenties when she developed allergies and designed her own solutions to address them. Today, Nadia owns her own fair trade perfume and cosmetics brand Nadia Z (founded in 2013) and coaches people and companies on the management of chronic illnesses as well as consulting for natural formulations and sustainable sourcing. We reviewed a few of her limited, luxurious and handmade products and asked her to answer some important questions regarding health issues and natural cosmetics.
Why should people look for cosmetics that have low amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds (e.g. fragrances in body lotions), if they are concerned about their respiratory health?
Air pollution is an ever growing problem nowadays. When we get to the comfort of our homes or at the workplace, we are often not conscious that it may present more pollution than the outside world due to the amount of dust, nanoparticles and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions, to name just a few air pollutants. This is the result of a research made in my province by the Swiss Pulmonary League who recently made an awareness raising campaign with the public as well as with shop owners to reduce this type of occupational hazard (think of your favorite soap shop and what would happen to your lungs if you had to stay there 8 hours a day, 6 days a week for many years). The quality of the air and potential of irritation for the respiratory system, particularly for people susceptible, largely depend on your behavior and choice of products.
For example, the use of special products like air deodorizer, ambient perfumes, scented oils, incense burners, mosquito repellent coils, cigarette smoking, cleaning detergent, laundry detergent (particularly enzyme based) all result in the emission of particles into the air which contain irritants and can potentially be carcinogenic to our respiratory system.
Many scented cosmetics including the so-called `non-scented´ (often containing more chemicals to annihilate the natural scents of a product) may present high levels of VOC that contribute to the overall exposure of our respiratory systems and are of particular concern for infants and asthmatic people. Even essential oils that have very positive phytotherapeutic properties should not be emitted in the air for long periods of time. It is impossible to suppress all exposure to air contaminants nor would we wish to live in a completely aseptic and odorless world, but it is important for a healthy life to reduce the exposure in pragmatic ways by modifying our behavior and consumption choices.
That is why I made bold choices with my brand NadiaZ not to add perfumes in its cosmetic range and to put more accent on the properties of indigenous vegetable oils such as Ximenia, Kalahari Melon, Ucuuba, Tamanu for the majority of our daily products. For example, Ximenia Face Serum or New Life Baby Body Butter do not contain any perfume or essential oils and thus have no added scent. The natural earthy scent comes from the vegetable oils that constitute it and that dissipate quickly upon absorption by the skin.
Most people love the natural scent while some would prefer more fashionable and attractive ones, but the brand strictly sticks to its values to place health prior to any commercial consideration. As a formulator, I have no intention to make scented body butter, serum and oil for daily use. Nevertheless, scents are a very important part of our emotional and physical lives, therefore NadiaZ perfumes are an explosion of what the rarest plants in the world have to offer. They are here to demonstrate that we can enjoy the pleasure of the most refined sensory experience. To enjoy them with delight we must consciously choose specific moments rather than mechanically and routinely expose ourselves to too many contaminants in our daily lives.
I recommend using daily cosmetic products with low amounts of VOCs to avoid the over-use of scented products on your body or in your home. I also advise you decide when and how to enjoy the fullest of your scented experience by keeping it for very special moments. Just like each one of us enjoys smelling a fresh rose, we would not have the same level of pleasure if we were able to continuously smell it. It simply lies in our nature.
Why should people prefer unrefined natural cosmetics that preserve plant properties?
Plant products like vegetable oils (shea butter, avocado, cocoa) bear scents by nature. The more raw plant-based ingredients that are used in a cosmetic product, the more valuable that product is.
Unfortunately, most commercial products which are made with natural ingredients are submitted through a range of denaturations such as deodorization and refining.
These processes are performed, for example, to remove the scent in order to add perfumes, or to change its texture. In all cases, these kinds of transformations end up in a loss of important phototherapeutic constituents. Think, for example, of shea butter. For my own brand, I make a large use of shea butter and other wild harvested plants such as Pentadesma Butyracea or Tucuma that are all unrefined. Shea butter naturally contains a small percentage (<20%) of unsaponifiable matter including Keratin (a constituent of latex) that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This is the reason why Africa communities have used it throughout the ages to treat a number of skin infections. Consumers prefer it because the scent is more neutral, but they are not aware that it comes at the cost of its effectiveness.
My own products are unrefined in order to keep the best properties of the precious oils. I also make sure to use cold processes and not to heat the oils beyond their melting points. I use the best violet glass to protect the product from UV exposure.
Products made from non-refined oils cannot be hypoallergenic because they contain a range of phytoconstituents which are beneficial for the majority, while some predisposed people could be allergic (think of people suffering from nut allergy). Nevertheless, it is preferable for you to identify your allergy cause. If you need any advice on identifying your cosmetic needs due to living with an allergy, you can contact me for an individual coaching session.
Why do oil-based products reduce the use of preservatives?
Preservatives, particularly harsh chemicals, cause irritation and allergies. This is the reason why many cosmetic brands tend to reduce their use of it. Any products which are constituted with water present a bacteriological contamination risk.
I produce a very concentrated oil-based formula that does not contain water and ask the customer to add the water themselves at the moment of application. This allows the total suppression of any preservatives (only oil antioxidant like vitamin e is needed) which guarantees a better skin tolerance.
If you add water to the small volume of my product, it corresponds to 3-5 times more. Ecologically, it means less packaging, less weight and a better carbon footprint for the environment.
Why do non-wax containing products have better penetrability on the skin?
Nearly all balms on the market contain waxes in order to prevent the product from melting. From a commercial perspective it is much easier to handle, there is no change of texture, nothing to explain to the customer and no risk of spills.
Waxes are used to harden the formula so that the product only melts at temperatures much higher than our body’s. As a result, products made without wax can not have the same emolliating, spreading and penetrating properties like a product made with wax. This is the reason why I have spent so many years studying the behavior of oil and butter complexes. And I came up with low-temperature processes to make NadiaZ balm and body butter.
It requires some education to the public, for them to understand that the balm may present itself in a solid or liquid form depending on the temperature. But this is something which reminds us of the true natural origin of the product. Just as people know if they leave true butter in the sun, it will melt.
I want to retain the plant’s properties in my products and request consumers regain some habits: be playful and become connoisseurs in the field of natural cosmetics as well.
Copy Editing: Callie Mann
Callie is a recent post-grad living in Atlanta with a passion for all things organic, sustainable, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and ethical. After making the switch to vegan in January 2014, she decided to be a more conscious consumer all around. A long-time makeup enthusiast, Callie created her blog Beyond Beauty (BeyondBeautyBlg.com) to share what she has learned in her search for healthy and ethical products.