The Caribbean Seaweed Expedition (Part 4 of 6)

Harvesting Gifts from the Sea

Wherever I go in the world, I love to research local resources that could benefit our customers, especially for skin care. I am always on the lookout for new ingredients, and whenever possible, try to test them on people in different countries, in different circumstances and in differing climates. I have been looking for years for something that brings “instant results” for a variety of skin types and skin conditions from very dry skin to even semi-oily skin.

Like Robinson Crusoe’s island, most of the San Blas archipelago off northern Panama remains uninhabited. Making up most of the independent state of Comarca San Blas, you could visit an island a day – there are more than 365 islands in the group. Tiny communities of Kuna Yala Indians live on about 50 of the islands, although we never saw a single soul during our stay.

We heard that there are coconut trading and supply ships, which travel back and forth to Colombia or the northern coast of Panama on 6 to 8 day voyages. Once a pirate hangout, helicopter tours now take brave backpackers out to the islands and some tour companies offer cruises when the weather is good. My friend Paul and I sailed there in four days through rough waters in search of a very special seaweed.

While the islands do not usually have the hurricanes that devastate the eastern Caribbean islands, the seas are rough and the wind can be very strong. At times, huge waves reared up behind our boat, higher than the mast. At 90-feet, the sailing yacht “Aria” owned by my friend Paul Roncker is very sea-worthy. Still there were some heart-pounding moments as the ship pitched and rolled.

Close in to the islands, birds were our only companions. A haven for birds and marine life, a major source of food for both flora and fauna is the seaweed that we had come to find.

A crew member went down to collect some of the beautiful seaweed

In a calm channel surrounded by islands, we found patches of the long brown seaweed floating on the deep blue water. Down below, we could see acres of the plants waving like grassy fields. One of the crew dove into the water to harvest the seaweed we had come so far to find. It was a great moment that filled us with joy when the first seaweed came on board.

It smelled salty and good and I even tasted some — it tasted quite nice. Yes, it was slimy – but it was a rich, clean slime. Our hands were rough and hard from days in the hot sun and seawater. When you put the seaweed straight on your hands, it immediately moisturized and cooled your skin.

When we get it back to the lab, we will do extensive tests. However, I’m pretty sure the results of using this seaweed will be significantly better than the ones we have tried so far from Sabah and elsewhere. If we do choose to use the San Blas variety, then we will need to figure out how to get a regular supply from the locals.

We also need to consider the impact of seaweed harvesting. We would only use parts that do not affect the environment in any way. You can find these laying on the beach and thriving in the water, especially long strands that came loose in storms. Plenty of seaweed available!

Floating ‘islands’ of seaweed which have already come loose from the bottom and head with the current and waves towards the beach, can be collected without harm to the environment.
Harvesting free-floating seaweed does not interfere with the unbelievable unspoiled beauty of these islands. The only thing I wanted to take home was seaweed.

There is something exceptional about the quality of the San Blas seaweed. I heard that local people have used it for centuries for various health purposes and also for protecting and caring for their skin. I knew how happy Dr. Gatot would be to get samples of this seaweed as we had had long discussions in our lab in Langkawi. Currently we use seaweed from the coast of Sabah near Borneo, Indonesia. But this seaweed from the San Blas islands of Panama seems to be of the best quality around and therefore well worth our time and investment.

With my skin so rough after days manning the sails under the hot sun with salt spray splattering us constantly, the San Blas seaweed felt so soothing. My skin blisters seemed to heal more quickly than I expected. It certainly works for me!

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The Caribbean Seaweed Expedition (Part 3 of 6)

Seeking the “Secret” for Beautiful Skin

Wherever I go in the world, I love to research local resources that could benefit our customers, especially for skin care. I am always on the lookout for new ingredients, and whenever possible, try to test them on people in different countries, in different circumstances and in differing climates. I have been looking for years for something that brings “instant results” for a variety of skin types and skin conditions from very dry skin to even semi-oily skin.

For four days, my friend Paul and I sailed the Caribbean Sea from Cartegena, Colombia to remote tropical islands off the northern coast of Panama. Dark nights, strong winds, and huge waves tested our sailing skills to the max but we finally found what we had come for – a very special seaweed that we may use in future Paul Penders products.

Meanwhile, back in our lab on Langkawi Island in Malaysia, Dr. Gatot, our senior cosmetic chemist, has been busy developing a new skincare product. The aim? To create a Paul Penders product that would bring back skin freshness almost instantly.

He and I were inspired by a recent visit to a major “high-tech” cosmetic ingredients conference in Bangkok. Researchers from the largest cosmetics companies in the world gathered to share their discoveries. We were intrigued by how some of the “super anti-ageing ingredients” could be created by combining seaweeds and natural plant stem-cells.

In the lab, Dr. Gatot has incorporated some of our trusted Malaysian organic jungle herbs into Paul ‘Penders products including a ‘miracle plant’ called pegaga. Just outside the lab doors, we grow our own organic bismillah plants which he combined with a special quality seaweed from Sabah, Malaysia. When he had finished the new formula and was satisfied with the first batches, they were tested on various people with promising results. Now I wanted this new skincare formula to be tested under tough weather conditions.

As it happened, I had heard of a special seaweed found in the San Blas islands in Panama. A close friend was sailing the Caribbean and invited me to come along for a few weeks. Here was my chance.

Why not do both? Find the intriguing seaweed from San Blas — and at the same time, use the brutal ocean environment of the Caribbean Sea to test Dr. Gatot’s new formula on our own faces, arms and bodies? If these new formulas could work in the toughest conditions, would we not have a real winner for our skincare line?

I wanted to be sure the lab uses the right seaweed – the very best and purest. This is the reason why we went to the western Caribbean to the San Blas group of islands where very few people live. The islands are located some 100 km from the coast of Panama and remain one of the most remote and pristine in the world.

Not all sailboats reach these islands; most of the time there are very strong winds. Over the years, many sailors have lost their vessels. Plenty of ships lay on the reef; some have gone down recently, some may have lain there for 50 years or longer. The strong sea currents and huge waves are ‘king’ around these very small and very beautiful islands.

During our four-day voyage, pods of dolphins played around the boat. As the islands appeared on the horizon, we sighted a few birds overhead and sea rays jumped out of the water. This is not a popular tourist spot — there is nothing much to do here but admire what is still pure nature. White very fine sand, blue-green water and palm trees adorn these deserted tropical islands. Always, there is the huge sound of magnificent high waves.

Were the dolphins greeting us or warning us too?

Were they saying to keep the islands unspoiled and that we should leave this special environment in exactly the same condition as we found it?

If we decide to use the San Blas seaweed in Paul Penders products, we will have to take into account the difficulties involved in harvesting and shipping it from Panama to our facilities in Malaysia. Even more importantly, we will need to consider the impact of seaweed harvesting on the local people and the marine environment.

And of course, as our boat neared the San Blas islands, the big question loomed in n my mind:

“Have we really found the ‘fountain of youth’ – a secret weapon for beautiful skin?”

Please join me next time for more of our “Caribbean Seaweed Expedition.”

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New Laws – New Packaging – Update About a Spirited Meeting

The other afternoon, I met with Teviot and Nicole — two lovely and intelligent writer ladies — to brainstorm copy for new boxes of Paul Penders products. The setting was inspiring — we sat together in a vegetarian restaurant at the gorgeous Straits Quay mall overlooking a marina filled with dreamy yachts. A good place to dream up ideas!

“Care, love, homemade…”

That what was said on the poster on the wall above us. Those words seem so appropriate to the story we want to tell about Paul Penders products for the packaging.

We want to share with the world just how special this company is. Our products are truly unique – herbs and other botanicals grown on small farms and estates all over the planet, with oils pressed from fresh flowers and leaves.

All Paul Penders products are mixed up in small batches supervised by our scientist and cosmetics expert, Senior Cosmetic Scientist, Dr. Gatot. He ensures that our formulas are always the best that natural cosmetics can be, and are always free from any animal products or by-products.

Also as part of the “PIF’s”, the newest strict European laws require additional safety information on all of the packaging as well. Therefore, soon new copy will appear on the boxes and labels.

You can be assured that Paul Penders products are always updated with the necessary information as required by laws, in all the countries where our products are sold.


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A New R&D Member Ready To Go After Her Dreams

I feel always so very proud that our company has been able to retain its own R&D lab. Therefore we always create new product developments exactly the way we want these to be. We are not caught in the hands of one of the industry manufacturers (called: “OEM” or: contract manufacturer)
Most cosmetics (also natural and organic cosmetics) are produced by large manufacturers who can dictate formulations. Sometimes they keep little secrets. Paul Penders manufacturing is done by our partners Chan and Anne who are also personal friends for over 15 years.
What you must know is that it is very rare that a company of our size has its own full-scale R&D lab. We count our blessings we are able to finance total formulation freedom in this regards having competent and experienced R&D staff aboard. We always are on the lookout for new talent as well. Recently we added a new member to our R&D department and I wish to tell you more about a young, promising cosmetic chemist who shows her colors by determination.
Nora, only 25 years old, has a pretty impressive mindset and is ready to get her teeth in Paul Penders new product development. She has going for her an excellent study under Professor Dr. Abdul Khalil Shawkataly at the University of Science in Penang, Malaysia

She has a degree in food technology but also in business management as well. That interesting mixture caught right away my intention when she wrote me out of the blue skies that she wanted a job at Paul Penders!
Nora has a keen interest in quality control matters. She also has experience in the halal application process (see what that means in terms of cleanest products). Nora also studied microbiological checking on products. Besides her huge interest in natural cosmetics, she is a also committee member of the Japanese language club in Malaysia and a contestant for German language as well.
Promising new talent in Paul Penders Company. What brought Nora to –almost- selling herself to our company? I like to explain Nora’s plans she has for Paul Penders. And when I finally met her in person after she was hired by our team, I believe now this young lady can reach her goals… Here is what Nora says…

         “…My intention is to make Paul Penders product range to become wider with more choices for our customer according to the latest market demands. We know that women nowadays are almost obsessed of looking and feeling their best. I wish to go almost to the extreme by adding even more natural ingredients yet effective for our skincare and makeup products.
         For example, we can make makeup products like foundation (i know we already have foundation) that not just give a good and smooth coverage but can also treat the skin every time when applied, so, one product with multiple functions.
         Same goes to lipsticks as well. Later on we try to make natural lip treatment, or a special exfoliating cream I have in mind and be assured that women will love them! We also can further improve some of our formulations and test them even more to meet customers’ expectation in all countries of the world. These are among few things I have in mind for the brand…”.

Honestly speaking, I am impressed with this ambitious “to-do” list of a young lady. Last week I was at the Penang office and glanced through the glass wall of our lab and saw Nora very busy touching, smelling and shaking all lab bottles and all lab equipment to determine whether all would be up to the task! Apparently all of it got her seal of approval because from there she took off to work!

Nora is still professionally assisted under great care by Yvonne, our trusted and dependable lab manager. With Dr. Gatot still at the background during all the “hocus pocus” of sudden new creative lab happenings 🙂 – I am sure – something good will come forwards from the mind of this young persistent lady.

We welcome Nora as Paul Penders newest R&D member and we all wish her lots of success in reaching her own high standards of profession.

A peek at the International “In-Cosmetics” Ingredient Show.

Dr. Gatot, Paul Penders Co. Senior Cosmetic Chemist visited the “In-Cosmetics” new cosmetic ingredient show in Bangkok, Thailand. From visiting these shows one learns from the latest cosmetic ingredients and in general gain more knowledge about cosmetic companies from USA, Europe and Asia.
What was in particular interesting were:
1. New shampoo foaming ingredients from natural sources.
2. Emulsifier base from natural source, almost near same spec with food emulsifier.
3. Active ingredients like whitening agents, anti aging from natural sources.
4. All ingredients sold enclosed with certified organic, Eco-cert label.
5. Most suppliers talk about regulation like EU directive, Asian directive and US drug regulation in the product.
6. New Participants come from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Baltic and of course the old suppliers came from EU and US.