Archive for November, 2013

The question that I get asked most often is “how did I get into this?” So here is my long-winded answer.

It all started about 20 years ago when my mom told me that our family dog and my stepfather were diagnosed with the same form of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We both thought it was so strange and couldn’t possibly be some random coincidence. My mom started investigating (she’s always loved CSI). This was pre-internet era so it was a matter of making phone calls and digging rather than a 2 second search on Google. It wasn’t until she talked to someone at Environment Canada that she got her answer – pesticides. At that time, they were living in a rural area in a town where everyone sprayed their lawns including them. The environmental information was not available back then (even though Silent Spring had been in print for about 30 years). This changed the way I saw everything. I realized that our health was not being protected by the government or the industry. Every chemical became suspect. My poor dog was put down but my stepfather is still alive and flourishing which I will always credit to my mom for cleaning up the home from harmful chemicals and, of course, the miracles of modern medicine. I realized that you have to protect yourself and not trust that a product that is on the market or that is legal to spray on your lawn is necessarily safe. I became a cynic at the tender age of 20 – just kidding, that happened during puberty and lasted my entire adolescence.

I spent my 20s using various skin care products. Back then I only knew about Aveda, which I loved and used when I could afford it. I also tried basically every department store product from Clinique to Lancôme – my skin was always a priority. Looking back, I think this was great because it set the bar high for what I expected in a product. One day in my late twenties, I noticed that my mom’s skin was looking really good. She had what I now call a ‘carotene glow’. She told me that she was using a natural cream by Burt’s Bees (they were smaller back then and not owned by Clorox). I was shocked. I assumed that natural products were a healthy choice but not necessarily great performers, a prevailing attitude out there. This got me thinking…I really wanted more people to know that they could put non-toxic products on their face AND have the best skin possible.

Around this time I also discovered essential oils. I was in a health food store and noticed the little bottles with names of herbs on the label and started smelling. I was amazed – scents that actually smell exactly like the plant because they are the plant! Why doesn’t everybody know about this? This also got me thinking…

Everything started lining up when the insurance company I was working for went through a merger that gave me the opportunity to leave with a severance and a $10K grant to start my own business if I wanted to. I could not pass this up, it was a once in a lifetime situation. I knew I wanted to spread my natural beauty discoveries with the world so I wrote a business plan to open a store selling all of the brands that I loved. As I started researching brands, I came across recipes for bath products and aromatherapy and also raw ingredient suppliers. This got me really curious and excited so I placed my first order for $600 worth of waxes, essential oils, butter and carrier oils. I started melting, mixing and pouring over my kitchen stove and to the market I went. I sold my goods in Fergus, The St. Jacob’s Market and The Kitchener Market. I also got my aromatology certification, which is the study of essential oils without the massage portion. And this is how Cocoon Apothecary began.

It evolved from bath products and remedies to skin care because that is what people kept asking me for and I was most proud of the fact that I could create a lotion, one of the more difficult and sophisticated formulas to concoct. My pride and joy has always been Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream – it was the moisturizer I had always dreamed of. The one I was always hoping to get when I spent $60 on 50ml jars at the department store counter. It remains my best seller to this day.

In the last 10 years I have built this company from the ground up with the financial support of my husband Lane and part time jobs at a bank and the most awesome environmental magazine in the world, Alternatives Journal. I had my first baby in 2008, at which time I left work for good, and I had my second baby in 2010. Lane was able to join the company full-time in 2010 and he is an integral part of it now handling manufacturing, sales and shipping.  We are living the dream, running our business and raising our family. Every day I feel like I have to pinch myself and am so grateful to my loyal clients and the support of family and friends that have made this possible. Onward and upward!


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Glam Gone Green

Can you achieve a glamorous look this season with eco-friendly, non-toxic beauty products? The answer is yes/oui/si! Check out my first ever beauty editorial for EcoParent Magazine to learn how.

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When I first began making and selling products, I kept my formulas really simple. I created aromatherapy oils, bath products, balms and body scrubs which I sold at the local farmer’s market – everything was natural except for the vitamin E preservative. These products were simple to make. I would melt fats and oils together or pour ingredients into a vessel and mix. This line did well but I kept being asked for body lotions and face creams.  This is quite the task since there is no easy way to make a lotion or cream because it involves emulsifying, a process that binds water and oil together and a very effective preservative. There are two reasons why people like emulsions. One is that it can deliver a fine amount of a rich oil that may be overbearing when used undiluted and the other is because it delivers water to your skin at the same time as the oil and waxes to lock it in. This gives a refreshing feeling, hydrates the skin and plumps out fine lines.

To make a lotion or cream, you need distilled or reverse osmosis water (never tap), oils and/or butters, a wax, a trace amount of detergent and a full-spectrum preservative (meaning that it can tackle yeast, fungus and other bacterias). My first experiments were with beeswax. They were nice but always felt greasy on my skin and since I wanted to earn the ‘vegan’ seal, beeswax wouldn’t work. I found a safe non-greasy coconut-based emulsifier that consists of cetearyl alcohol (a fancy word for wax) and sodium cetearyl sulphate ( a non-toxic detergent). My next challenge was a preservative. I wanted something safe and plant-based that would also give me at least a 6 months shelf-life after opening. I found my solution in sodium levulinate (from non-gmo corn) and sodium anisette (from basil). My first 100% plant-based, non toxic emulsion was born – Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream.

The Cocoon Apothecary line has since developed into 21 facial and body products that have different types of ingredients, scents and textures. Our purpose as a company has never been to be the most natural but to cater to people that want a non-toxic, plant-based version of a professional formula. We don’t want people to be turned off of natural products with pungent scents and greasy formulas. It is natural beauty without compromise.


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There are two essentials oils that I recommend that every household should have – tea tree and lavender.

Tea tree is an amazing anti-fungal, better than many pharmaceutical versions. It will get rid of rashes such as tinea and will annihilate athlete’s foot which makes it an ideal oil to clean the bathroom with. It has superhero antibacterial power and can be added to products to combat acne.

Lavender oil can be used on anything to do with the skin and healing – rashes, burns, cuts (not open), insect bites, scratches and scrapes. It is antibacterial as well and allows for the skin to heal quickly. It is great to drop on your pillow to help calm the mind in order to sleep (it will not stain because it is not a fatty oil).

Any other suggestions for these multipurpose essential oils?

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Top 5 Beauty Myths

1. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant to put on your skin.

Unfortunately, vitamin C is water-soluble and does not absorb into the lipid layers of your skin where antioxidants are beneficial for supporting the collagen and elastin production as well as scavenging for damaging free-radicals.  The vitamins that your skin will benefit from are vitamin E and vitamin A carotenoids. The best way to get these is through plant-based oils that carry the vitamins deep into the layers of the skin with essential fatty acids.

2. The more expensive the product, the better the performance.

As a formulator and purchaser of raw materials, I can’t understand how a 50ml cream gets a $100 price tag. It’s being priced to give the impression that it is worth more than an average $35-$40 cream but it costs the same to make. If you can afford it and like the product, by all means buy it. I’m just not impressed by this new trend at pricing products so high. Consumers are demanding it and companies are making it the norm to the point that a reasonable price point becomes suspicious. I am also not happy with organic brands being inaccessible to the average person – only people with higher incomes can have access to healthy products? Not cool.

3. Sulfates are bad.

Ever heard of Epsom salts? That’s magnesium sulfate. Not exactly evil, in fact very healthy. This new marketing term, ‘no sulfates’ is completely misinformed. I understand the concern with sodium laureth sulfate because it has gone through a ethoxylation process that could contaminate it with 1,4-dioxin (carcinogen) but even sodium lauryl sulfate has a 1-2 safety rating on EWG’s cosmetic database, meaning it’s safe so why is it constantly vilified? I will admit that it’s a skin and eye irritant in certain dosages but so are essential oils. Let’s keep our focus on the chemicals that are actually accumulating in our bodies, contributing to cancer and disrupting our endocrine systems.

4. You should only exfoliate 2 to 3 times per week.

This may be the case for people under 30 but once your skin starts aging, the cell turnover slows down, dead skin cells accumulate and your skin will take on a dull look. Exfoliating daily with a gentle scrub, can speed up the skin cell turnover, improve circulation, and keep pores clear and minimized. You will know that you have overdone it if you experience inflammation such as redness or dry, flakey skin.

5. You should wear sunscreen on your face 24-7.

I know some people will disagree with this but I believe the skin benefits from the sun. I don’t mean tanning! I mean a 20 minute walk in the morning or even that short jaunt from your car to the office. You can get an enormous amount of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, which is vital to our bodies and deficiencies are thought to be a large contributor to diseases such as cancer and osteoporosis. Your body will tell you if what you are doing is wrong. I know that when I haven’t been outside for a bit and I finally get out, my skin is very happy to get sunlight. It also tells me when I need to cover up, I’ve had enough. Listen to your body, it has more intelligence than anything you’re going to read or be told.

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