Carina Organics Natural shampoo and skin care products
Gollner is president of Carina Organics, a mom, pop and son
enterprise (Anthony is the son) that makes and sells natural hair, skin
and pet products using plant materials gathered in B.C.'s own backyard.
The Gollners are part of a growing industry producing cosmetics
from, if not fully organic, at least all-natural products, hoping to
cash in on a growing population looking for alternatives to synthetic
Getting spore bombed is the cost of doing business, he says. Luckily, he's not allergic.
Pine, douglas fir, cedar and hemlock saps can do wonders for people
suffering from eczema, psoriasis, cradle cap or dry skin, he says.
First nations people knew this, he adds, long before his father Helmut
discovered it while developing a tonic to ease the itchy scalps of his
Helmut learned to make his own hair tonics while apprenticing to
become a barber in Germany. But his real inspiration came from an old
bar of pine-tar soap he found in a cupboard of his Vancouver barber
shop while cleaning up. Now the Gollners have a whole line called
Botanical Theraputics that use the essence of the tree saps in place of
synthetic, chemical-based ingredients.
The saps also act as effective preservatives and anti-microbial,
anti-fungal agents. That means Gollner's products also don't need the
chemical preservatives used in most cosmetics -- chemicals such as
parabens that can cause severe allergic reactions and are tentatively
linked to cancer. An English study found high dosages of parabens in 18
out of 20 breast tumours studied.
Consumers are switching to organic or botanical cosmetics for a
variety of reasons including the protection of the environment, but
also to protect their bodies from the cumulative effects of toxic
interactions, says Dr. Leslie Baumann, a Miami-based cosmetic and
author of The Skin Type Solution.
While a lack of research showing their effectiveness prevents her
from wholeheartedly endorsing botanicals, she does advise avoiding
ingredients like parabens and toluene, a chemical found in many brands
of nail polish that has been shown to have detrimental effects on males
in utero. Toluene can also cause a skin rash, characteristically on the
eyelids, in people who use nail polish containing toluene.
Still, Baumann says some synthetics, such as retin-A for wrinkles or
acne, are far superior to any botanical alternative. Moreover, neither
natural or organic products are necessarily the best for the skin.
"For instance, many natural and organic brands contain certain
fragrances and essential oils, which can cause dermatitis," she writes
in an article on her website about organic products. "Oil of bergamot
and balsam of Peru are both highly allergenic, so even an organic
product containing them could irritate sensitive individuals."
Similarly, peppermint or rosemary may irritate or inflame skin if it
is sensitive, and even chamomile can cause allergic reactions in people
who are also allergic to wheat.
But for Baumann, the bottom line is whether or not the product works
for your skin. Soy is a good example, she says. It has some properties
that help treat and prevent dark patches or melasma on skin, but
organic soy has estrogenic properties that can make melasma worse.
Aveeno and Neutrogena removed the estrogenic properties in some of
their soy products. It can't be called organic, (it's called active
soy), but it's actually better for the skin, she says.
"Basically, in this case, non-organic soy is better. The same can be
said of another Aveeno ingredient, feverfew," she says, noting feverfew
can cause blisters if it hasn't been distilled.
On the other hand, green tea is an excellent antioxidant that slows
aging, and if you can get that in an organic form, so much the better.
Baumann says consumers who prefer organics but still want effective
products may have to seek out products that are mostly organic but have
added synthetic ingredients to make them work.
Sylvie Punguntzky, the body care manager at Finlandia Pharmacy, says
certified organic cosmetics are rare, partly because the market has yet
to provide enough demand and partly because many products, such as the
anti-aging ingredient hyaluronic acid, are either synthetic or
"It can't come from a plant, which makes it very difficult to be certified organic," she says.
As well, emulsifiers -- even plant-based ones like palm oil -- just
aren't available organically or they cost way too much, she says.
It's better to seek out products that do not use harmful chemicals, she says.
For example, most mainstream shampoos use a form of sodium lauryl
sulfate as the surfactant or soap. It has a nice foamy quality to it,
but it can cause skin irritations, rashes, hair loss, dandruff and
Gollner uses a blend of vegetable oils and corn sugar, which when heated becomes glycerine, as his surfactant.
For shiny hair, many products use silicone, says Gollner. But he
uses, among other things, the gelatin derived from horsetail ferns. He
collects wild sword fern from the local forests for its astringent
He also used to collect wild chamomile, nettles, echinacea and
clover to infuse into their products, but now he buys those from an
organic farmer. Most of his tree sap comes from the Okanagan now.
Punguntzky, who procures all of Finlandia's cosmetic products, has a
few general rules she tries to follow. For the most part, she believes
in the principle that natural is better than synthetic, but that's not
always the case. Vegans may prefer a synthetic to an animal ingredient,
she says, and while petroleum is a natural product, it's not a good one
for skin. "Petroleum products prevent perspiration," she says, which is
essential to cool the body.
Punguntzky also avoids synthetic fragrances and opts for products
that use essential oils or are fragrance-free. Mineral-based skin-care
lines are good for people with allergies, she says. But some minerals,
like aluminum, should be avoided because research shows they can cause
skin irritations and sensitization and may increase the risk of breast
German products are generally excellent, she says because the
industry is strongly regulated there. She likes products made by
Laverna, Dr. Hauschka and Weleda. Another local producer of natural
products is Vitamoor.
Without your own private researcher it will be difficult to know
until November what is in a product, because until then, Canadian
cosmetic labels do not have to say what is in them. Those who want to
steer clear of potential skin problems should seek out natural product
lines that say they don't contain harmful chemicals, says Punguntzky.
There is also a great book called A Consumer's Guide to Cosmetic
Ingredients by Ruth Winter (Three Rivers Press, $25) that Punguntzky
says is her bible.
"You really have to do the research," she says. Look at the
company's reputation, products, ingredients and philosophy, she
suggests. Gollner recommends using the National Institutes of Health
website -- www.nih.gov -- where you can search an ingredient and get a
toxicology report on it, but not all ingredients been tested. Baumann
recommends an online safety guide (based on ingredient research data as
well as data gaps) at www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep2/info_about.php. Or
go to her website, www.drbaumann.com, for non-biased informative