Today's blog post features an interview with one of the most thoughtful people I've ever met. Mika from Ecologic. Isn't that just the best group of consonants you've had the pleasure to come across?
The idea for this interview came to me when I met Mika after approaching her to feature Ecologic as an 'Ally' on toofufu. As Mika took me through her box of vegan skincare goodies, I soon realised that I was never going to explain Ecologic's charm quite the way she could.
Thankfully, this soft-spoken darling took this less as a sign of laziness than as an opportunity to do her and her mother's work due justice. So, without much further ado, I give you, Mika.
(This interview has been edited for length. Please scroll down for the full interview.)
q: when and where did Ecologic start?
The story of Ecologic goes way back. My mum began formulating in the 1990’s from her own need for something that was natural, high performance -yet affordable and most importantly, did not make use of harmful chemicals or animal ingredients.
Her vast knowledge on holistic medicine, natural supplementation and clinical aromatherapy finally gave birth to Skin Perfect, Ecologic’s signature moisturiser. In 1997 Skin Perfect was made available for purchase from her health store, For Goodness Sake Health Shop. I remember helping her carefully measure out quantities of oils and powders before I was even tall enough to see over her work table! Looking back now, I had no idea that this was the start of my true passion. After matriculating I studied Dentistry for two years and then my free spirit decided to take me on a journey of discovery.
In that time I completed courses in make-up and styling and metaphysics, and as much as I enjoyed both, I felt like something wasn’t being fulfilled in me. By this time my mum was now running Ecologic as a one-woman show, supplying a few health stores in the Cape.
She asked me to come join her one day and help finish a large order that needed to go out. That was just over a year ago and I haven’t left since. I soon started doing an apprenticeship in organic cosmetic formulation which I hope to one day complete- I’m learning new things every day and I feel like there is still so much I still need to learn!
q: if Ecologic stands for anything it's these three things:
Ecologic stands for the little things in life that make a big difference, true sustainability, and beauty being a state of mind.
q: what makes Ecologic different to other organic skincare brands?
Each brand I come across has something unique to offer. I think it’s great to have diversity when it comes to natural and organic products as each person has their own unique set of skin requirements and ethical expectations from the cosmetic companies they support.
I think what makes Ecologic different as a company is that we are purposefully small. It’s important to us to remain connected to our products, manufacturing processes and our customers. It’s just as important for us to ensure our products are affordable. Natural and organic products and a more conscious lifestyle should be accessible to everyone’s budget.
Ecologic’s products are also unique in that we’ve combined modern cosmetic science with traditional apothecary. We create a balance of new age organic cosmetic innovations coupled with ‘old school’ remedies, ingredients and ways of processing these.
All our products are also made by hand, which reduces our carbon output in production. Our manufacturing process is different from other organic brands as it is more of a ritual than anything else. If either my mum or I are having a bad day, we don’t make products as a negative mindset can affect the synergy of the ingredients and the energy of the product. We utilize many Metaphysical concepts in the making of a product. After completion, each of our products are blessed and then charged with a resonating crystal. Ecologic is more of a holistic journey for us and our customers as it is a brand.
q: what's one thing Ecologic does that you'd like to see more of in other brands?
I’d like to see more brands promote a minimal approach to consuming. The only way to truly be sustainable is to buy less stuff!
As an organic cosmetic house, I feel one is really in a position to raise awareness and make a true impact when it comes to consuming consciously. Our conscious ethics can be found in all aspects of Ecologic- from our manufacturing, to our ingredients to our marketing. We try and have a ‘less is more’ approach to everything we do. We even recycle our suppliers’ delivery boxes and protective packaging for our deliveries- why toss out a perfectly good box?
Ecologic also functions with a close-to-zero paper and print output- the only marketing material we print are our blossoming business cards. We also recently implemented a recycling loyalty initiative where customers can return any 5 empty Ecologic containers in exchange for a free gift! Ecologic also makes products that are versatile and highly effective when used in more than one way.
Our ethics are unshakable and inflexible. I’ve noticed a number of proudly vegan skincare brands actively promote activating their cruelty free masks with full-fat-yogurt- for me this just doesn’t make sense. I would like to see more brands really get behind their beliefs and apply these to other aspects of their business- not just their product.
q: what's the weirdest/funniest/most annoying skincare myth you've ever heard?
Plenty! I think the one that gets me the most is the sunblock myths. I’ve heard so many ingredients that people punt as being a natural sunblock- from beeswax to coconut oil. Although some of these ingredients may have very mild sun protection properties, it is certainly not enough to truly protect one from our ever-changing climate.
Please don’t lather yourself in coconut oil and spend the day on the beach this Summer. Use a clinically tested natural sunblock product. Badger and Natural Lab have an amazing range of sun protection products.
q: what are Ecologic's plans for the future?
We want to keep making beautiful products that reflect our passion for what we do.
I’m always looking for innovative ways to be more sustainable and resource friendly when it comes to everything Ecologic does. We have a range of fabulous active facial masks and a natural deodorant in the works which we hope to launch next year - and have our declarations and cruelty free approvals complete by then, too.
Also, I hope that Ecologic will continue to create a platform for earth-friendly change.
Isn't she a peach? Read more from Mika below, where she gives us the skinny on great skincare for your skin type. Mika also gets real about preservatives, and the natural skincare movement in South Africa. Take a scroll, babe.
If you're reading this with your fur baby on your lap, you'll also want to check out Mika's range of designer drugs for cats, Muca. Cute, huh? Catch up with Ecologic on their website, and on Facebook, and Instagram.
q: where do you think the natural skincare movement stands in South Africa?
The natural and organic industry has seen phenomenal growth all over the world and I believe this is one movement that will only continue to grow- here in South Africa and abroad.
From a consumer’s perspective, there is A LOT of information out there and I think it is important to educate yourself as much as possible so that you can make informed decisions that resonate with your skin type and ethics when it comes to natural skincare. The term ‘natural’ is still unregulated in most parts of the world and I feel it’s taken quite a bit of abuse for marketing gains.
From a manufacturing perspective, South Africa still has much work to do to ensure safe, natural cosmetics are being sold on the market. In the EU and USA the FDA is clamping down on artisanal skincare brands for making medical claims for their products (which I‘d like to see more of here) and there’s been a big push to try regulate home manufacturing labs.
Some of the demands the FDA are set to make on small cosmetic houses are necessary as they protect the consumer from unknowingly purchasing unsafe products or products and ingredients that do not stand up to their company’s claims.
On the other hand, demands such as the incredibly high cost of registering a laboratory will potentially result in the end of many small skincare companies- or in these seeking investments or being bought out by other, larger cosmetic houses.
I think it’s important to have more definitive guidelines when it comes to the classification of ‘natural’ and it’s important to enforce stability and microbial testing- but some of the other restrictions I think would do more harm than good. From South African natural cosmetic manufacturers, I would like to see more growth in safety measurements and sustainability.
q: what's Ecologic's stance on preservatives?
Ecologic uses preservatives when necessary. If a product is hydrous, contains a humectant that will draw moisture to the product, or has a high probability of being exposed to moisture during use or extreme climate changes (perhaps during shipping) then this product should contain a broad spectrum preservative.
Some of our products are anhydrous while others are hydrous. Ecologic’s anhydrous products are packaged to prevent sun and water exposure- these products are preservative free- they do contain antioxidant ingredients to prevent rancidity, however an antioxidant is not a preservative and won’t perform the same function in your natural formula.
Our hydrous products are the products that need a suitable ‘carrier’ to deliver their active ingredients to the skin and have the ability to penetrate below the skin’s surface.
The deeper a product penetrates, the more effect it can take. For our hydrous products we use the widely accepted preservative, Phenoxyethanol. This is a synthetic preservative which provides broad spectrum protection against anti-microbial activity.
Phenoxyethanol is highly popular among some of the world’s most renown natural cosmetic formulators, not only for its effectiveness in extremely low dilutions, but also because Phenoxyethanol allows for the elimination of paraben preservatives, namely Methylparaben and Propylparaben.
What’s worse than a preservative is a product that contains harmful microbial activity- especially when applied to the face or near a mucous membrane. Customer safety is of utmost importance to us, which is why we use proper preservation systems with all our products. We will never use paraben preservatives.
q: can you recommend a good beauty regime for dry skin, oily skin, and sensitive skin?
For all skin types it is essential to maintain a routine and commitment when it comes to looking after your skin if you really want to see results.
Be aware of lifestyle factors that could be playing a role in your skin concerns: Wash your makeup brushes regularly, don’t use expired makeup, and make sure you are drinking enough water and keep your cellphone and pillow cases hygienic. A good beauty regime should also consider your diet and whether supplements should be taken internally too.
For all skin types: Cleanse, tone and moisturise twice day. Use a herbal facial steam, a clay-based face mask, and exfoliate once a week. Wear an approved, natural sunblock daily- even when indoors, and never go to sleep with makeup!
All skin types should avoid Sodium Laurel Sulphates in face washes- these will strip down your skin’s protective layer and natural oils and leave your skin more susceptible to sensitivity, skin infections, irritations and break outs.
I’m a huge fan of double cleansing and can definitely recommend this to oily skins for softer, clearer, more hydrated-and less oily- skin. Although many people with an oily skin will shy away from using oils, double cleansing works on the principle that ‘like dissolves like’- an oil cleanser will mop up any excess oils without disrupting the skin’s natural sebum secretions or acid mantle.
You can use Ecologic’s Xtra Skin Food as an oil cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser, like Skin Control Wash. I can recommend Skin Control MSM Moisturiser for oily skins and Skin Perfect for dry skins. Both of these moisturisers contain Geranium, which balances sebum secretion.
If you have a dry skin, Geranium will encourage the sebaceous glands to get back to work. If you have an oily skin, your sebaceous glands are overactive and Geranium will then decrease the gland activity so that less oil is being produced. Geranium Essential oil or CO2 extract is one of the best natural ingredients to restore harmony to the skin’s natural oil secretions.
Dry skin and sensitive skin will benefit from using a non-foaming cleanser like Ecologic’s Rose & Chamomile Facial Cleanser. This cleanser has a creamy, rich, vegetable milk base with a combination of cold pressed oil, essential oil and hydrosol. It slides easily over the skin, is oh-so-gentle and will leave the skin feeling even more hydrated after cleansing.
Dry skins should use a facial oil rich in essential fatty acids. Use a drop or two of Xtra Skin Food as a nutritive boost in your evening moisturiser, or apply using a facial massage directly to the skin. This blend of seven organic, cold pressed and nut oils have been selected for their topical nutritional value and emollient properties.
Sensitive skins can benefit from using Ecologic’s Treatment range like Skin Calm Cream or Lavender & Aloe Healing Gel as daily face care or for when irritation occurs. I would definitely recommend sensitive skins to explore why their skin is sensitive- does it react to diet or certain ingredients? Or is your skin sensitive to sun exposure? Get to know your own unique skin quirks so that you can make choices that really benefit your specific concerns.
q: what's it like to work with your mom?
I’m blessed with a truly extraordinary mom, which can make working with her both challenging and a blessing. In the workspace she is the Ying to my Yang. We complete one another.
q: which is your favorite Ecologic product and why (if you really had to choose)?
That’s a tough one! Every time I use one of our products, I fall in love with it all over again. Currently, my favorite is the Harvest Moon Facial Tea- try it- then you’ll see why! My all-time fav is Ecologic’s Growth Stimulating Shampoo as it grew my hair back from the bleached point-of-almost-no-return!