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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Small Habits That Create A Better World

Compare a happy R&D of a small natural cosmetics company with a happy gathering of local youngsters. The R&D play in our labs and local children play on our land and all of them enjoy astonishing sea views. One party is protected from the hot sun under a roof; the other uses the shadow of a palm tree. Yet all feel happy but under a different circumstance. What is this story about?
 
More than ever in the history of our planet, we must become responsible in life in whatever we do. Whether we are young or old. Whether we live in a cold climate or in a tropical Malaysia. When all are not becoming more responsible we stand to lose a beautiful world what we still can call paradise. But the question arises… for how long can we still call mother earth a paradise?

Results of bad habits that help to destroy our world.
 
At Paul Penders Home Office we live by simple community rules that help to keeping all of us happy. That is simply in looking after ourselves in terms of cleaning up after ourselves; it’s that simple while it creates a difference when the same rule is applied to all who share this planet. Simple things make for positive changes when we cooperate, even starting with enjoying a cup of tea and clean up our own cup! Enjoy a cup of tea but do not leave your cup for the next person to clean it, or do you?
 
Are you one where mother never taught to clean up after yourself? Rather put your empty cup in the sink for someone else to clean? Because you are “too busy”? or too important? or… just too darn lazy? In our case at Paul Penders, such little thing make a community feel unhappy and being unappreciated. It spoils the feel of peace when all were to do the same.

Now let’s look to something bigger but what applies to the same golden rule of cleaning up after yourself? How about an empty water bottle or a plastic bag that we so careless throw away? See what the result is from your empty water bottle or plastic bag? The picture below is just a multiplication of an entire lazy same like you people and it has become a mountain waste that could have been avoided just by taking a little bit care, and it saves our planet. Thus to clean up the world starts with education, right?

Therefore, these great youngsters who enjoy the beautiful scenery of the sea and enjoy using our fresh natural seawater swimming pool understand and no longer leave plastic bags at a well maintained property. We and even they have been part of beach cleaning parties for few years. Yesterday Eva and her crew went out together with local youngsters, also as part of education and that beauty and happiness can also be created by preservation and using our mind.
 
Therefore small habits create a better world for all.

To make it a better world starts with the one that does not wash her/his used cup of tea. Its all about the right mentality and we need to educate those who don’t know. Of course we cannot be responsible for others. And at this precious, beautiful part in the world called Langkawi UNESCO Geopark Rainforest Island, a one hour flight from the capital Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, some of us kindly help to protect what must be protected for the future of all of us.
 
 
    

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 paulpenders.com 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.
 
    

She Taught Me by Heart I Was Right!

More and more I feel annoyed with EWG (Environmental Working Group) who sponsors and lobbying for the new “Safe Cosmetics Act 2011”. I have problems with their amazing way of making assessments of the dangers in our products as put in their “SkinDeep” data base. They do safety assessments of many cosmetic products and their ingredients including natural cosmetics as Paul Penders that contain herbs, plants, natural oils, etc.
 
I agree with them when ingredients are called “certified organic” that they are not always natural. Many chemicals and synthetics are certified by Ecocert as organic. EWC thinks that “certified ingredients” are not always superior. I agree because for several cosmetic ingredients the benefits from naturally grown ingredients are preferred and even more stable. Well, that is according to many scientist and top cosmetic chemists who prefer at times natural ingredients above organic ingredients.
 
This story is about the ignorance at times of EWG.

This came again to mind when I visited the Buddhist Temple just besides our new place in Penang (also called the holy island) where Paul Penders Co has its R&D based and beautifully located besides the ocean and foothills of a huge rainforest mountains.

I had a freak accident about a year ago and through a friend of mine we visited the temple where a monk of age 93 provides natural health treatments for free, even vegetarian meals as well. This beautiful woman lives a truly peaceful life and does lots of meditation. Meeting her brings right away a spontaneous feel of love and happiness. She was going to treat me with hot oil consisting of tar from pine trees and several herbs; all grown in the woods around the temple.

The treatment is quite simple … for 6 times oil will be heated till a temperature as hot as one can cope to put your hands and feet into the oil mass until the mass cools down, then the mass will be heat up again and this “mantra” repeats itself for 6 times!
 
The natural tar and herbs pulls out toxins from the body. It is really a vigorous treatment because during the process the body starts to sweat. When 6 treatments are finished you are totally wet and feel totally cleansed as well.
 
I am going to get this treatment for few times while it is said also to be good for several other health problems including detoxification of kidneys and stomach, as well when someone has fever and also good for diabetics. This detoxification process and cleansing of the body is caused by the healing power of natural tar.
 
Here is the essence of my story

When at age 25 I start to make my first shampoos with the help of my customers in my salons in The Netherlands, I also used pine tar. I used it to cleanse the scalp from dandruff, to detoxify and extract impurities in the skin. It always worked beautifully and my customers loved it.
 
Then these stories did arrive that natural tar can cause cancer. Like many of these ghost stories and scare techniques used by some fanatic environmentalists including now EWG these days as well. Whether few natural ingredients have been used for centuries by many cultures and in many places of the world with great results is simply being ignored often because certain benefits could not been explained by scientists of today. Therefore it is suddenly no good anymore – ergo – we could get very sick of it!
 
So already many years ago I was forced to change my shampoo formula because of these scare techniques. I needed to tell my customers using “Paul Penders Peppermint Shampoo” for many years and with excellent results for dandruff and oily hair that –according to new research- were suddenly risk!
 
Honestly speaking, I never had found something that good to replace the natural pine tar for dandruff and now we use natural pegaga herbs found also on Langkawi with excellent results as well. Still I miss my old Peppermint Shampoo formula!!!

I felt amazed when I saw the monk heating my medicine!
 
A natural complex of pine tar and herbs? She told me how many people have come to her receiving outstanding health results. But I am sure when the scientists of EWG would come by to rate this natural paradise in Penang island, they would try to stop the use of these natural healing treatment. They would declare that people could get cancer or other terrible diseases simply because they can’t explain how nature does its amazing work.
  
 
In fact, few Paul Penders products have been rated unsafe by EWG because using few natural herbs (for almost 40 years) already described by my grandmother some 100 years ago and supported by my friends Dr. Eeftink and Dr. Steyn (who were famous natural health doctors in The Netherlands). Now EWG makes assessments that these products can cause diseases and that is pure nonsense proving my case of them being ignorant.

Being in the Temple today with this beautiful, very kindhearted, loving and spirited Monk made me actually feel proud. She gave me that unshakable belief and confidence that I always have been right about my first shampoo with natural pine tar developed so many years back.Should I start producing it again? Maybe. And whatever EWG will say about my Peppermint Shampoo I don’t care anymore. I will no longer feel confused thanks to this wonderful woman who taught me a piece of true wisdom.