Formulating skincare products with natural, plant ingredients can be a challenge. Quality and consistency can be dictated by everything from the seasons, picking and batch. Brooklyn-based Rachel Winard from Soapwalla, with her line of vegan organic products knows all too well the joy along with the trials and tribulations of formulating with organic, local and food-grade ingredients. After searching for products that wouldn’t aggravate her own sensitive skin issues, Rachel set out to formulate a range of products that could be used by all skin types including children and those with lowered immune systems. This week Content caught up with Rachel to talk about her about the nuances of natural formulation.
Why did you choose to and what do you love most about formulating with natural ingredients?
I wanted to use ingredients I could feel safe using on my own body on a daily basis. I focused on ingredients that I could find in my kitchen, and those that I could follow from seed to plant to extraction to end result. I really wanted to make food for the skin and approach/ed each formulation in that vein – which is why I call myself the Soapwalla chef.
I view Soapwalla’s products and formulations through a food lens. Just as no two meals are exactly the same (unless you’re eating at McDonald’s!), no two charcoal soap bars or deodorant creams will be identical. Although they’ll be equally effective and luxurious, you’ll notice tiny variations in scent or texture or color, which let you know that the product is filled with life and love.
Seasonal changes, crop production, bee activity, weather, transport, soil – these all put their own stamp on raw ingredients. I still get giddy over each batch of shea butter; I really adore seeing the changes in veining from process to process.
I am reminded daily that I’m working with living ingredients. That means I’m constantly tweaking my recipes to account for differences in moisture content, scent, etc., which is rather amazing. Machines can’t do that. And synthetics, while identical from batch to batch, are by definition artificial.
Can these variations affect the end product?
Yes, as stated above, natural ingredients can be finicky. This is why I personally oversee every batch of every product. This is also why we hand-mix and manually pour every product, so that I can ensure a consistently top notch product leaves the Soapwalla Kitchen. It would be easier and less work for me if I used synthetics; I feel passionately about delivering the highest quality and best skincare I can, and that means using ingredients of the highest caliber.
Does it affect the efficiency of the product in any way?
For the deodorant cream in particular, I highly recommend stirring the deodorant really well when you open a new jar, or if the deodorant cream has been placed somewhere hot and has liquefied. Because I don’t use any unnecessary waxes or hardeners in order for the cream to penetrate the skin layers more effectively, the deodorant cream will react to large temperature changes. Sometimes during transit the deodorant liquefies and re-solidifies. During the time it was liquefied, the clays and powders (which are heavier than the oils) may sink to the bottom of the jar whilst the essential oils may float to the top, making them more concentrated than usual. Even if the jar arrived in a solid state, it's always a good idea to mix the cream for a good 15-30 seconds before your next use - almost whip it with your finger or a chopstick to really incorporate the ingredients.
Do you find people react to the natural ingredients you use?
I have asked a few dermatologists about various kinds of skin reactions to all sorts of natural products, including deodorant. They mentioned that reactions (including darkening skin, redness, itching, bumps, and dry skin patches) can be caused by (1) excess aluminum zirconium and/or aluminum chloride – the aluminum compounds found in antiperspirants - slowly working their way out of your lymph system (this is especially true for itchy redness/darkening and flaking and can appear even a decade after you've stopped using antiperspirants - how crazy is that?!), and/or by (2) excess dried skin getting caught in the pores.
I recommend drinking a lot of water to help the lymph system flush itself. I also recommend a weekly gentle all over body exfoliation with a dry brush, or your favorite exfoliant. When I started exfoliating my underarms every week, I saw a dramatic improvement in skin quality almost immediately. I use a bamboo glove for the underarms, dry brush for my limbs and torso twice a week and use my body polish once weekly.
When embarking upon your own lymph flushing routine, ensure you use a light touch as the skin is delicate and doesn't need a lot of pressure. Also, please don't do this on areas where you have irritation, have recently waxed, or have a sunburn; wait a few days for everything to be healed.