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The development of Kompas perfumed hair oils Part 3

Part 1 is here and Part 2

There’s a second and more important reason that I’ve chosen to take this path in life:

Appropriation: There is a long and ugly history of white people emulating innovative ideas developed by POC and marketing it for profit to white audiences. This is visible to anyone who isn’t willfully ignoring it. I deeply hesitated at the idea of profiting from the knowledge I’ve earned by the grace of the many Black women sharing their hair journeys online. But once I realized my formula could genuinely help the women who have taught me so much, I started thinking of ways to structure my business as a Social Enterprise (Wikipedia entry).

There is no shortage of wonderful ways to give back to Black women but I was particularly stirred when I began to learn about maternal and infant mortality rates for Black women in America. I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until Beyonce’s Vogue interview, published August 2018, that it occurred to me to look a little bit deeper into this. Once I had learned that my lifelong idol and role model nearly died in childbirth, I was moved to tears and a path began to be illuminated. Here are some very informative links:

  1. Beyonce’s 2018 Vogue September Issue interview
  2. Serena Williams’ birth story which garnered international attention
  3. Jamila Taylor details the issue at AmericanProgress.org
  4. The story of Shalon Irving, from NPR
  5. A PBS interview with Monica Simpson of SisterSong and Linda Villarosa of the New York Times
  6. Linda Villarosa’s NYT article told through the experience of Simone Landrum

These articles and the combined experience of two of the most famous, standard setting, powerful and privileged Black women in society led me down a path of deep introspection. The issue is racism, pure and simple. The heartbreak in that is that there seems to be no discernible end to it. I saw clearly, how I could give back to the segment of the population that has so deeply inspired me. I could build my hair business in a way which would, most importantly, allocate the bulk of profits to helping move the dial on reproductive justice. There’s also absolutely nothing preventing me from centering black women in marketing materials, creating products which specifically address their needs and convenience and simply helping re-think societal narratives which consistently treat Black women as afterthoughts.

How exactly can a small fledgling beauty brand help address such a deeply entrenched problem? It seems to me that the most powerful method might be the simplest: help remove barriers for Black women entering medical professions, whether they be doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives, doulas or anyone else who is in touch with expectant mothers. Racism seems as insurmountable as an incurable stage 4 cancer, but the lack of access that Black women who are expecting have to Black medical practitioners seems to be a way to apply laser focus to the issue and move the dial for this generation.

This screenshot links to the Sister Song merchandise shop. Their organization does incredible work related to this issue and I encourage you to consider supporting them.

I’ve continuously delayed the launch of Kompas as I deeply contemplated whether or not helping Black women access higher education and mentorsin medical fields would truly make a difference. I’ve consulted with friends, including one of my dearest who happens to be a black nurse. I’ve consulted with relative strangers, so that friendship wouldn’t cloud judgement. I’ve read up on various organizations in this space. And it’s very evident that clearing paths to maternity centered medical professions for Black women could bridge the statistical divide between the care Black women are subjected to, in comparison to what white women receive.

The Kompas cosmetics business goals from the outset are these:

  1. Allocate 80% of net profit toward a scholarship fund for Black women studying to be doctors, nurses, psychologists, midwives, doulas and other maternity focused specialties, in order to improve the chasm of statistical inequality on maternal and infant mortality rates.
  2. Create products which improve the everyday life of all women, but ESPECIALLY black women.
  3. Maintain product development integrity, creating products that are as simple and healthy as possible, without sacrificing effectiveness, ease of use, environmental factors, safety or animals to testing.
  4. Maintain marketing integrity: center black women and promote black beauty in marketing materials,  refuse to succumb to mainstream beauty industry propaganda-style campaigns, focus communication on facts and science rather than standard puffery which insults women’s intelligence.

 

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The development of Kompas perfumed hair oils Part 2

 

Welcome back for more backstory. I apologize for rambling, I wish I could help myself.

Part 1 is here

I opted to include some Argan oil in the formula too, once I found that it absorbed TOO well and didn’t deposit anything on the surface, I also opted to include some Argan oil in the formula. The surface of the hair shaft needs some lubrication too, and argan tends to provide the best detangling and instant shine in comparison to every other oil. I know from my own, and other people’s experience, that the more instant result we see, the more consistently we use a product. Consistent usage is the key to seeing results with the coconut/olive portion of the formula, so I tricked myself and others into consistency by including the argan; making us look forward to wash days and enjoying the easy comb out process and instagram worthy shine.

Searching up Argan hair oil on Amazon gives us this

Some facts on concentration: The majority of hair oils on the market are comprised of 70-99% silicone or silicone alternatives, which provide only immediate positive effects and few long term positives aside from heat protection. Natural seed oils, especially organic ones sourced with fair trade practices are expensive and allow for very little margin of profit. To my knowledge, Argan oil being as expensive as it is, discourages every other manufacturer from using more than 2% concentration. I opted for 10% so the immediate effects would really show, and I’m more than ok with turning a smaller profit for myself.

The final decision in terms of fragrance-free or fragranced was incredibly easy. Hair is the best place on our body to wear fragrance (least chance of irritation/sensitization or simply sweating it off), oil is the best fragrance fixative aside from things like phthalates and in all honesty, I think wearing fragrance in your hair is a special kind of ultra feminine magic. I love the fact that while I’m on the run, my hair bounces behind me, leaving a little bit of my signature scent following me. Though the fragrance does nothing for the look and health of hair, it does a lot for the sensory appeal and it’s just plain fun to live your best life and enjoy a little bit of fragrant luxury every day.

Part 3, finally

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The development of Kompas perfumed hair oils Part 1

Why yet another beauty line?

In all honesty I was content with making DIY products for myself at home, despite the fact that everyone constantly commented on my hair and asked me what I use to grow it out so long and healthy.

Long, thick, curly, healthy hair is my claim to fame.

Half the secret isn’t even in the product, its in the good hair habits I learned from the ladies of the natural hair community online. Yes, the other half is in product and product mixing/application technique (I promise to blog about all of this), but there’s lot’s of great products on the market and what I was making wasn’t too unique until recently. I was more than happy to recommend wonderful black owned hair care lines to anyone that asked what they should use.

Quick Note on oils and absorbency: Oils have become extremely popular in hair care products in the last 10yrs and every new product on the market says that this or that new, novel exotic oil is the best thing since sliced bread. The published data unfortunately negates much of this marketing. If you were to ask chemists in the field, who have no financial ties to any of these companies, they would tell you that only Coconut oil, Palm oil, Olive oil and Argan oil have been shown to actually absorb into the deeper layers of the hair and “repair” damage. In reality, nothing can repair hair that’s BEEN damaged, aside from a haircut.

Around May 2018 I came across an article which explained the science of how coconut and olive oil work better together than apart, as long as they’re in a perfect ratio. So I tried it myself and found it SIGNIFICANTLY better than the oils alone. The absorption was almost complete, no film left on my hair (and low porosity hair is notorious for blocking absorption of almost everything) and the more I used it, the bouncier and better behaved my hair was.

A note on bounce: Superior elasticity and bounce in hair isn’t just appealing on haircare commercials, it’s one of the primary tell-tale signs of “healthy hair”. The more elastic each strand, the less prone to breakage. The less breakage we incur, the less haircuts we need and the longer we can grow our hair out. I found, and so did my product testing panel of various hair types, that consistent usage markedly increased elasticity across the board, regardless of hair type.

There is so much more to say, I promise to post more tomorrow.

Read: Part 2

Read: Part 3

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Deciem: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 ingredient list and a sciencey review

Deciem: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 Ingredient list

Brandon Truaxe READ my mind when he founded Deciem. Years and years before their iconic launch, I remember reading dozens of beauty blogs, Makeupalley boards and conversing with my fellow skincare junkies about how frustrated we were that there seemed to be so few product lines which spoke to us. Affordable, straightforward, science based and importantly NO down to us in marketing doublespeak which offended our intelligence. This type of product line was anathema in the very fluff driven beauty industry, but I had a feeling this type of product line would go over incredibly well as consumers became more and more educated . Almost 10 years after I promised myself I would create such a line if no such thing came along, The Ordinary hit the scene. The mania that the online beauty community created around this line proved me right and showed me that my instincts are very wise.

Sadly, since the beginning of 2018 there’s been more than a little bit of cause for concern. I still can’t make heads or tails of the drama surrounding Brandon, but until I can invest some time into researching what’s been happening, I’m putting any planned purchases from them to the side.

What happens when you melt sugar? It caramelizes into sticky goop, which tastes good but would feel nightmarish to spread on skin. That’s how I would describe this serum, a sugary sticky mess…..Ok I’m exagerating, but it is a touch sticky for my preferences (I’ve been spoiled by extremely cosmetically elegant Japanese and Korean skincare). For the price though, if you hate stickiness I would compromise. I would recommend mixing it with a facial oil of your choice and applying it to damp rather than dry skin.

In their product descriptions, Deciem state that this serum contains 2 different molecular weights of Hyaluronic acid and the ingredient list shows Sodium Hyaluronate in the 2nd position (meaning this is probably the 2% the product names) and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer in 5th place, meaning the concentration for the crosspolymer is less than 1%.

I will refer to Hyaluronic Acid as HA going forward. Quick facts on HA:

  1. Our bodies naturally produce it and we begin to produce less with age
  2. The way it hydrates is by drawing atmospheric water vapor to the skin and locking it in, the HA claim to fame is that it holds 1000x it’s weight in water, making it the most effective humectant available
  3. In cosmetics the pure HA is never used, but a salt of the compound known as Sodium Hyaluronate or it’s friend, Sodium Hyaluronate crosspolymer
  4. The version that’s literally been “polymerized” is typically made to help keep HA in the top layers of the skin and hold moisture there. This is how the “plumping” effect happens. I fear that polymerized versions of standard ingredients may be comedogenic to some degree. My experience tells me this, as does the experience of many customers I’ve helped back in my Sephora days. That’s still debatable but I do find I get small whiteheads from this.
  5. Plain Sodium Hyaluronate comes in various molecular weights which affect how deeply it absorbs into skin. The molecular weight is measured in “Daltons”
  6. All the possible molecule sizes are good, because every layer of skin needs hydration. However it’s usually hard to tell the molecular weight when buying commercial products unless the manufacturer is very forthcoming with information and data (rare). Ideally, the best formulation would be one with all 4 possible molecular weight ranges. It appears Deciem invested in this in their NIOD line

So why is it so effective for dozens of other people who have written reviews?

My guess is that most people who have been trying The Ordinary products in general, aren’t the types of folks who have a history of sticking to a routine that’s more than basic. Those of us who have lived the skincare junkie life for a while know there’s superior options if you’re willing to spend a little more.

Just a sidebar on skincare prices: quality and price aren’t always correlated, but high end product lines are incentivized to create products that are as pleasant to use as possible in order to encourage their picky consumer base to repurchase. This is not a hard and fast rule, there are horrible high end products and amazing low end products. Nevertheless, there is a difference between this product and other similar high end products. For example Cellex-C’s similar serum feels completely silky and lovely. Is it because of lower molecular weight Hyaluronic? I doubt I can get a chemist for Cellex-C on the phone so I can’t confirm that for you, but I have an inkling that may be the case.

 

Water- Luckily Deciem is forthcoming with percentages so we know that water is at least 97% of the final concentration

Sodium Hyaluronate- The beginning of this review goes into HA, some of the unknowns and some of the frustrating aspects of shopping for products. My guess is that if this is a 2% concentration, we’re dealing with a high molecular weight.

Pentylene Glycol- solvent and humectant.. using a humectant mix with solvents is a fantastic idea, because of the thin viscosity decreasing powers of solvents control some of the stickiness of humectants. Had this not been here this product would be INTOLERABLY sticky

Propanediol- another humectant with solvent properties… this seems slightly redundant, but there probably is a good reason for a second, very similar ingredient

Sodium Hyaluronate crosspolymer- The powerful big brother/sister to regular ole HA. Being polymerized allows it to form a film which holds hydration even longer and prevents the skin from flushing HA out quickly (pure HA is highly mobile and gets flushed out very quickly, so it doesn’t automatically lead to more than a few hrs of moisture)

Panthenol- Provitamin B5. In skin it functions as a humectant. Encourages cell growth and wound healing.

Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract-Red algae extract, relatively new-to-market antioxidant. At the moment it’s hugely trendy because of its popularity in K-Beauty but it unknown whether or not its superior to other antioxidants. It’s interesting that Deciem uses this, yet doesn’t call it out in the marketing… most companies can’t resist touting the fancy, the exotic and the trendy in their products

Glycerin- The classic cheapie humectant.

Trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate- Chelating agent

Citric Acid- pH adjuster, not exfoliating at this concentration

Isoceteth-20- solubilizer and emulsifier

Ethoxydiglycol- another solvent humectant, my guess is at this concentration it’s being used as part of a perservative system

Ethylhexylglycerin- preservative

Hexylene Glycol- solvent, humectant, preservative

1,2-Hexanediol-preservative

Phenoxyethanol-Preservative

Caprylyl Glycol- Preservative

Other reviews that could be helpful

Jelena of Belgrade Pixie.com

MakeupAlley

Skincare addiction subreddit

 

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Timeless Skincare 20% Vitamin C E Ferulic acid serum; a very sciencey review

 

This particular serum is the indie beauty marketplace’s answer to the extremely famous, yet overpriced Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum. Both have the same active ingredients, basically making this a dupe. For contrast 1oz of the Timeless version retails for approx $34.00 CDN on Amazon.ca (which is where I bought it, the picture of the bottle is a clickable link that will take you to the page). As a contrast, the Skinceuticals version is $175.00 per ounce on their Canadian site. I’m pretty devoted to skincare and have spent quite a bit on products in the past, but knowing that it’s wisest to use up the bottle in 4-6 weeks, I can’t justify spending nearly 200 on a 4 week supply of product and most other people probably feel the same way.

Smartphone photograph of the ingredients list on a bottle of Timeless Skincare Vitamin CE Ferulic serum

A quick primer on why the combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Ferulic acid is special. L’Oreal, the parent company for Skinceuticals, pioneered this research and they have rightfully, handsomely profited. So the TLDR version: Vitamin C is amazing for photoprotection, anti aging and hyperpigmentation prevention. However it’s very unstable and degrades with exposure to light and air. L’Oreal tested a 15% Vit C solution with 1% Vitamin E and 0.5% Ferulic acid and the combination of the 3 extended the shelf life, stability and effectiveness monumentally. They sold this as their Skinceuticals serum and one of their most popular, best selling and well reviewed products was born. Continue reading Timeless Skincare 20% Vitamin C E Ferulic acid serum; a very sciencey review