Meeting Dr. Hugo
One of the most interesting people I have met recently on Langkawi is Dr. Hugo (Dr. Hugh Brennan) – he holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and is a translator of several languages including English, Welsh and dialects of Malay and Indonesian. He has a beautiful 72ft/40ton classic yacht that he designed and built with the world famous Bugis boat builders in 1983 on a tiny remote island in the Flores Sea in Eastern Indonesia. For more than 20 years, he has used his yacht for charter here in Langkawi waters.
Together with his wife, they sail tourists around the island and entertain them with drinks and nice food.
But there is more to Dr. Hugo, he has also studied herbs and is very fond of one, called Gynura
Procumbens, commonly known as “Longevity Spinach.” After he told me about the benefits of this incredible herb, we planted it near the oceanfront on our property here.
The exceptional healing possible with this herb will amaze everyone reading this blog.
No doubt, we must always do tests on volunteers to measure how well they work on healthy skin. Like pegaga — a local herb we love and use in all our products — the Gynura Procumbens is considered by the islanders to be an “anti-cancer” medicine. They have experience with it although it is not much documented. In another article, we will interview and discuss what Dr. Hugo taught us about this special herb.
But with all these things – science will come in to look for proofs if something is working — and suddenly will announce to the world whether it is good or not. That has happened in all parts of the world. Often scientists are just schoolboys who have not traveled and do not know much of the deep richness of life. A sailor, who has spent months alone on his boat, fighting storms and loneliness, stranded on an island often knows more about certain things because of what he went through to survive.
‘Local people’ in all parts of the world have done the same traditional things for centuries.
The indigenous people come to know the benefits and hazards found in their environment. But then a scientist comes along who needs proof of what millions already know. Often science, in my humble opinion, walks far behind. Only at times do scientists come to the right conclusions. Surely, where traditional uses of herbs is concerned, these conclusions should certainly be the same as people for ages have found out for themselves in Europe, Asia, and even at the North Pole.
Meanwhile I am puzzled about how to incorporate it into our formulations. Because, as I have said before, regulations in many countries have become bizarre. For small companies, it is almost impossible to cover the costs. In order to start using this herb in our products in the EU, for example, we need to go through many, many tests and then all need to be documented, which costs a sea of time and a world of money. No wonder why we see less creativity in cosmetics done by small companies. We recently wrote an article about that subject alone.
The ‘treats’ found on a small tropical island may be risky or dangerous, according to Big Brother FDA in the USA.
This governmental organization gets more and more power and their officials seem to believe much of the nonsense manufactured by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Skin Deep (the so called “scientists” with only a few understanding cosmetics).
It is doubtful whether anyone of these “advisors” has ever spoken to a local person living anywhere in the world who has saved their family from diseases. Trained at the university, these people and their teachers at times seem confused. One thing, when you talk with locals about herbs and disease, rarely one sees confusion – they know — by heart and from experience.
This is part of the reason why I love being here in Southeast Asia and am thankful that both the US and Malaysian governments let me do this.
Here we can continue the work we started and it allows us to afford to contribute to a few good causes as well. Here we are able to make our natural herbal cosmetics better and better based on the sound natural principles used for centuries by locals, and not only on the contents of small glass vials found in a high-tech lab somewhere in an industrial area of a big city in the US — or anywhere else.
IS IT THE END OF CREATIVE THINKING?
It’s a clear strategy: Big Brother makes it look like they are doing good but really aren’t they just trying to eliminate the competition? They are powerful – look at the “Safe Cosmetics Act” which the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and their “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” which now has a bill that they wrote in front of the US Congress. On paper, it looks good – but examine it carefully and you’ll see it that “nothing in this bill requires products nor their ingredients to be safe…”
If it goes through, just like the new regulations for the cosmetics industry in the European Union, it will cripple small businesses.
The ‘Safe Cosmetics Act’ is just another hurdle for small businesses.
Says Paul Penders,
“Please believe me. I have been in this business for 40 years. Many in the industry agree with me; all these regulations do not make the products better. They are not in the interests of the consumer. However, they are clearly in the interests of the designers of these regulations: the lawyers, lobbyists, politicians and finally, governments who can cash in on a huge amount of money in various document fees.
All in all, it is a huge headache for small companies and the consumer is going to have to pay more for the same products because of new regulations… because someone needs to pay…“
You get it, right? It is you the customer who will pay for these unnecessary and unfair costs…
“To me, as a creative cosmetic maker for over 40 years, someone who loves to think up new ingredients and new products, I tell you that [if this bill ever passes], this is the end of creative thinking. New products will come only from large corporations (animal tested ingredients or not).
So….If Uncle Sam takes over the thinking process, we should just follow along. No longer will you be able to expect many new inventions from small companies. In times past, these creative ideas were even copied by large corporations – this has happened a few times with Paul Penders products.”
Small cosmetics companies are trying to come together to fight for our survival. We are not alone. Here’s what the Safe Cosmetics Action Network had to say:
“It seems more like they are trying to silence the small manufacturers of nontoxic products, many of whom started their businesses in their kitchens by requiring every personal care manufacturing facility to register with the FDA. They are also requiring every ingredient list for every product on the market. This will make it prohibitive for small companies and start-ups. Also, there is nothing in this bill that requires products nor their ingredients to be safe…” http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=1028
Who does the “Safe Cosmetics Act” bill and its amendments favor? What about the new regulations for cosmetics being enforced by the European Union? Big business. Their strategy? To cripple small innovative businesses around the world with regulations and laws that make it impossible for the little guys to survive.
Who suffers? Small businesses that will be forced to close because they cannot afford to meet the exorbitant costs of tests and fees and lengthy paperwork. And who else? You — the customers — who seek out specialized natural and organic products that big businesses will not make because they are too costly and difficult to manufacture.
We need the small creative thinkers willing and able to pioneer new and better products.
By Teviot Fairservis with Paul Penders
This is the first in a 2-part blog about the on-going threats to small cosmetic businesses.
Big corporations now want to dictate to consumers – is this right??
When unfair laws and regulations favor big business over the small, creative ones, who is the ultimate loser? You – the customer. We’re speaking from both hearts and minds when we say,
“Don’t trust the so-called “Safe Cosmetics Act.” Look at what’s behind the mask!
Product safety should be the first concern of any manufacturer of cosmetics and Paul Penders spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure our formulas are not only safe but good for you. Like other small, creative businesses we are constantly under threat from big corporations that want to put us out of business. Now they’ve got a clever strategy to eliminate their competition by using their political clout to influence US legislators to pass unfair and unnecessary laws.
Back in the news again, a bill is now before US Congress called the “Safe Cosmetics Act.” First proposed in 2010, it was authored by a group calling themselves the “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,” in reality, this is a subsidiary of the political lobby EWG (the Environmental Working Group). When small businesses objected to the bill, it was tabled and then redrafted.
Here’s what’s going on in Congress today. This time the bill includes an amendment giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the right to recall products that they find unsafe. It also includes a proposal written by the “Personal Care Products Council” which is another trade group (again think “lobbyist” trying to influence politicians) claiming to represent the whole cosmetics industry. Who are their members? The Estee Lauder Companies, L’Oreal USA, and Procter & Gamble among other big corporations. They propose that all products be required to be tested and to meet certain standards which they have established (the “Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012,” H.R. 4395
In other words, they want the FDA to make it a law to follow the ingredient safety decisions made by the Council’s own Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. Who will their decisions favor? Big business, naturally. The FDA’s reaction? It seems they were as outraged as we were by the evident arrogance of this group. Testifying at the hearing on the bill was Michael Landa, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA who said, “Such a move would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional.” The FDA got it right this time!
In the same sentence, the proposers of the new bill acknowledge that the cosmetics industry is “currently one of the safest product categories regulated by the FDA.” Our reaction? The products are safe. It’s the “Safe Cosmetics Act” and groups like the EWA that jeopardize our safety and our freedoms. As the old proverb says,
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
By Teviot Fairservis with Paul Penders
As the Billy Joel song says: “Honesty – is such a lonely word…
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.”
As a small company, like so many others, we must fight unfair regulations and unfounded criticisms – and just plain dishonest claims used as “scare tactics” aimed at eliminating competition. Case in point, a political lobby based in Washington DC called the “Environmental Working Group” known as “EWG.” They post a database that claims to give ”safety information” on ingredients in cosmetics.
Called “Skin Deep,” the database has a “rating system” that rates products from cosmetic companies including 33 products from Paul Penders with 132 ingredients. Out of all these ingredients, only 2 are rated as “high hazard.” What are they? ‘Fragrance’ and Vitamin A.
Fragrance, they claim, is a “chemical cocktail” of untested ingredients. Let me tell you upfront that Paul Penders uses only natural flower oils to give our products pleasing scents.
As to the claims against Vitamin A that it may be toxic, here’s a quote from the “Cosmetics Cop” which we find to be a much authoritative source:
Retinyl palmitate received some negative publicity in May 2010 when a press release was issued stating that it is linked to skin cancer and tumor growth. The FDA was implicated in this scare-tactic report, but as it turns out the assertions made against retinyl palmitate were not conclusive or firmly supported by published research. In fact, retinyl palmitate is one of the primary antioxidants found naturally in skin (Source: Toxicology and Industrial Health, May 2006, pages 181-191). http://www.cosmeticscop.com/cosmetic-ingredient-dictionary/definition/1253/retinyl-palmitate.aspx
How many people are blindly being mislead by EWG – and anyone who publicly says that Paul Penders would use ingredients that are connected to terrible diseases? For over 40 years, we have used only safe, good ingredients that have been approved by chemists and which we have tested on human volunteers (never on animals). We receive very few complaints and we take those that we do receive very seriously.
Look carefully at EWG’s rating system.
They base it on reading published literature about ingredients and not on doing any actual scientific research or testing of a particular product. They rate hazard levels based on their evaluation of the ingredients from the literature – and as we all know, anyone can write anything in a free society and post it on the internet!
Even the most reputable scientists make mistakes and offer warnings of dangers without adequate testing. EWG publishes warnings about ingredients in a format that makes the reader assume they are fact – when in fact, much of the literature is anecdotal or based on observations of a small sample group.
How would it be if doctors had to rely on a list like this for their prescriptions? Compare the EWG rating system to the detailed descriptions of benefits and percentages of patients who have had adverse reactions given with prescription drugs. This rating system is junk – and designed to scare and confuse.
And we are not alone in this opinion.
My friend Lisa Rodgers from ‘Personal Care Truth’ suggests anyone who wants to know more about EWG should go to her website, http://personalcaretruth.com and look up on the site for the many articles about EWG. To quote her, “Plenty of articles pop up that talk about how the Skin Deep Database is not reliable to the EWG being a cash cow.” She also suggests reading more about ingredients on these reputable sites: http://www.cir-safety.org/ingredients/glossary/all and http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/
Says Lisa: “We are still fighting them through posts and commenting on other sites. Until mainstream media finds them unreliable and starts to offer balanced reporting, the only recourse we have is to keep posting articles that contradict what the EWG and CFSC claim.”
The motivation for this blog came because recently one of our distributors received the following distressing letter from a customer:
Please could I return the Paul Penders products – I haven’t opened them. Only I have just had a [major disease] and I’m probably being over sensitive, but saw this: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/brand/Paul_Penders/ on the Internet and so it worried me. Sorry about that. Can I send the Paul Penders products back?
Bluntly speaking, we are not afraid to have our customers look at our listings on “Skin Deep.” We are proud of the safety and efficacy of our ingredients. We are afraid that this is an example of the scare tactics and untruths presented by EWG that hurts our company and our customers. It saddens us greatly that this customer turned to EWG and did not refer to other more scientific sources.
EWG does not present scientifically proven facts in a clear manner. If they can give a really scary message, that comes in handy in their campaigns for more funds. As a political advocacy organization in the US capital city, they are very powerful with access to the leaders of the free world. But here at PP, we don’t like them because their ‘truths’ about cosmetics seem to be mostly lies.
Obviously I feel extremely upset. More and more I see the lies and cover up stuff of EWG. Paul Penders Co always promoted The Safe Cosmetics Org. We proudly displayed their logo on our website. But no longer! We do no longer wish to be a part of this organization. Please do not take it from me alone. Please read a pretty amazing story of Colin Sander, a “green” cosmetic formulator in UK for almost 30 years. He too supported EWG. And he too feels being lied to as well. “Finally, I Have Worked Out What The Story of The Safe Cosmetics At 2010 is really all about”. We place Colin’s compelling story on our blog in 2 parts. Yesterday Part #1 and today Part #2.
Part – 2
Two things made it clear to me beyond any doubt that there was a link between “American Private Label” company and the EWG. First, one of the slides called for companies to sign the Safe Cosmetics Compact. This is being organised by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, definitely a group completely within the EWG’s orbit.
Secondly, they described their services as Green Chemistry. I was instantly reminded of the reference in the Story of Cosmetics to green chemists who were working to solve the problems caused by the unsafe ingredients in modern cosmetics. I had no more thought that these green chemists actually existed than that the supposed carcinogens in shampoo actually existed. I had taken it as an a bit of idealistic wishful thinking. In fact it was a sales plug.
Now things that had puzzled me fell into place. The EWG’s ambition is no mean one. They intend to create a new category of cosmetic product and to supply that category via American Private Label and probably other companies as well. American Private Label already offer branding, packaging, QC and manufacturing. But no doubt there are other sales to be made.
Now I could see it all. I had imagined the EWG, which is extremely well funded, had got its money from donations. Clearly not – this is big business in every sense of the word. Why were they ignoring pleas from small natural companies who you would think would be their natural allies? Because they are in fact their competition. Why is the science on their website and in their reports so poor? Because it isn’t science at all. The aim is to make a case against their competition not inform the public about risk.
And let me emphasise this proposition is aimed at retailers. It is not a grassroots consumer protest. The video has been created as part of a programme to sell stuff. The Safe Cosmetic Act is a publicity stunt. If it alarms small producers, that is irrelevant. If it infuriates scientists, that doesn’t matter. The object is to deliver a tranche of consumers to the shops who will seek out ‘safe’ cosmetics.
And just as importantly they will be in a position to satisfy that demand with suitable products. In his talk, David Pollack the CEO of American Private Label said that retailers should create ‘safe cosmetic’ areas in their stores. These would be much like the organic sections they currently have. And I think the retailers will listen.
As the front page of American Private Label’s website says, the margins on this new category will be good. I bet they will. Will they be safer? That question will probably not have even crossed their minds. But just to be absolutely clear I believe that there will be no difference in safety between ‘safe’ products and established ones.
So I think I should end this post with an apology. I write this blog with the idea that as an industry insider I have some knowledge and insight that might be useful to people who use the products of my industry. I genuinely believed that I sort of knew what was going on. But I have just realised that I completely missed the biggest marketing coup this business has ever seen. I really couldn’t have got things more wrong. Far from being a well meaning but flawed attempt to make the world better, the Story of Cosmetics is a sales pitch. Nothing more.
Colin Sanders formulates cosmetics for 27 years from shampoos to pharmaceutical creams and is an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists since 1985. His degree is in environmental science and he continues to take a keen interest in the impact of human activities on the planet. He writes an excellent blog www.colinsbeautypages.co.uk for users of cosmetic products with insider insights and a bit of science.