The Organic Skin Company is one of the leading organic and sustainable skincare brands today. Founded by Naturopath and New Zealand native, Megan Douglas, we have had the privilege of interviewing her for an inspiring and dynamic 22 questions interview. Read more to gain a deeper understanding for organic skincare and the rich origin story to the Organic Skin Company brand that is authentically leaving our earth, and its people, healthier and more nourished in so many ways!
1. I understand you are a Naturopath. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?
I completed my naturopathic and medical herbalist degree in New Zealand in my 30’s, after a fashion design career in London in my 20’s, followed by 3 years living in India. Undertaking the naturopathic degree was an amazing opportunity to educate myself fully in what had become my passion, which is working with nature’s medicine for healing and wellbeing. I am grateful to be able to continue what is a long family tradition in natural medicine, now being the 5th herbalist in our family.
My childhood was spent around my family's herbal manufacturing facilities, Red Seal, and my Grandmother’s health food store here in New Zealand. There is something of an intuitive instinct and knowledge in herbs that comes from this deep family tradition. This history and family heritage continues to inspire, guide and motivate me today.
2. Do you have a Naturopathic practice as well? Can you tell us a little bit more about how you help people in your Naturopathic practice?
I wound down my naturopathic practice almost 10 years ago now, around the time of growth for The Organic Skin Co. in NZ and Australia. There was simply not enough time to dedicate to both. However, The Organic Skin Co. was born out of the very real need I saw in my clinical practice. I had so many clients coming in to see me with difficult and chronic health issues, including infertility, chronic fatigue, skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis, etc., and many were not easily healed by supplements, diet or herbs alone. There seemed also to be a general toxicity within the body's system and it became clear that it was important to take out all potentially chemically disruptive skincare and cosmetics and / or environmental plastics that might also potentially be linked to the build up of this toxicity for my patients.
3. What inspired you to create The Organic Skin Co.?
There were two main aspects here. Firstly, my young daughter had eczema at the time and I was having trouble solving this with the natural creams readily available on the market. I started playing around with formulations using the herbs, oils and waxes that I felt may help her, and from that the formulations of two of our products, Task Force Nine - Turmeric and Calendula Cream and Soothe Operator Balm were born.
Secondly, I felt motivated to create a range of super effective yet clean topical products for my clinical clients (and beyond) - products that also uniquely delivered the highest quality skin therapy via the incorporation of the powerful CO2 extracts that I had discovered (and fallen in love with). From this, the brand and product range slowly grew and became what it is today.
4. What is CO2 Extraction Technology?
CO2 extracts are our ‘secret sauce’! We’re immensely proud to be world leaders in the use of this revolutionary technology in herbal extraction, which makes such a profound difference to our skincare and makeup.
For those of you who haven’t heard of CO2 extraction before, or who don’t know how it differs from conventional herbal extraction methodologies, here’s a quick breakdown.
To start with, it’s an extremely gentle technology. Unlike conventional technologies, which use alcohol or glycol as part of the extraction process, CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide gas (which gets infinitely recycled during the extraction process) - to pull the desired phytochemicals from a plant, recovering fragile and precious plant ingredients without the stress of high temperatures.
Even better, the technology is full spectrum, meaning it captures pretty much the whole goodness of a plant. Incredibly, CO2 extracts are virtually identical to their natural origins, right down to active lipids and even terpenes, the chemical compounds found in plants that are responsible for aromas, colors and flavors (if you want to know why our products smell so amazing, that’s the reason!).
What you end up with are extracts that are vastly superior to conventional extracts. In fact, we liken the difference between our supercritical CO2 extracts and conventional extracts to the difference between viewing a film in high def color compared to black and white. They’re more concentrated, more whole, and more pure, unique in terms of the concentration and composition of active ingredients.
Ultimately, this is what makes our CO2 extracts so special. For us, they represent a high point in the science of natural beauty; fusing cutting edge technology with the very best that Mother Nature has to offer, so that your skin can heal, strengthen and become naturally radiant.
5. What is your personal journey with clean beauty?
It’s an interesting one, as I lived the fast life for most of my 20’s, as an ambitious and often stressed high fashion designer in London. My focus was often directed as a result on outward appearances, on having the latest brand (chemical or not) and frantically trying to create and offer the best, fast turnover fashion trends. By the age of 27 I was desperate to re-discover myself and a developing interest in yoga and meditation at the time inspired me to go to India, where I ended up living for 3 years. Here I became fascinated with Ayurveda and this ancient Indian medical wisdom then drew me back firmly to an interest in my family herbal roots and study.
I was simply inspired greatly while living in India on the use of healing plants, oils and inner / outer beauty rituals as beauty tools. For example, I lived for a while in a relatively rustic house in the Himalayas, on a floor above a family of three generations, which included two teenage daughters. Once a week the two teenagers would sit outside with their mother and grandmother and they would oil each other’s hair. The next day, after washing out the oil they would sit out in the sunshine to let their hair dry, have a chat (which often included uproarious laughter) and then they would brush each other’s hair out. Their care for each other, their obvious enjoyment of these precious moments and also their beautiful, luxurious locks still stays in mind vividly as an example of a simple, holistic beauty ritual.
Essentially, this period of time taught me that clean beauty is not only about what we put onto our skin but also how we ritualise and appreciate our beauty beyond ourselves and into our community and environment. Clean beauty to me is therefore a slow and holistic experience, where we lay down rituals in our life that represent appreciation and gratitude of beauty in all its forms.
6. Coming from 5 generations of medical herbalists, how, if at all, do you incorporate that knowledge into your products and brand?
Ancient herbal wisdom has always been about creating medicine based on the synergy between the various ingredients and that combinations appropriateness for the person receiving the medicine. The quality of ingredients we choose and the art of combining the right ingredients in the correct ratios therefore forms the core principles of how we formulate our skincare and makeup at The Organic Skin Co.
Each ingredient in our products has a reason for being there, including all herbs, flowers, oils, waxes, natural aromas, pH balancers and natural preservatives. Herbs, with their individual personalities and attributes form the core of each of our product's formulations however because they have the ability to do magic if used correctly. Ultimately as we are not creating each product for an individual however, I always choose herbs that are suitable, safe and effective for a wide range of skin types and needs. Essentially that means to me that due to the environmental stressors experienced in this day and age, we use high quality organic CO2 herbs (and supportive ingredients) that offer a calming, restorative, replenishing, balancing and protective nature.
The ‘outer skin’ is very similar actually to the ‘inner skin’ that lines our digestive tracts and so we use many of the same herbs (such as Calendula, Chamomile and Turmeric), that are used internally to heal and soothe digestive issues and decrease inflammation and sensitivity. In this day and age skin sensitivity, hormone imbalances, inflammation, pH imbalance and general stress are common, due to environmental toxins, over-stripping of the skin (via harsh skin resurfacing treatments or incorrect chemical ingredient application) and / or inflammation from diet or stress that shows up on the skin as acute or chronic skin issues. The Organic Skin Co.’s entire range is created to address these various issues and restore the skin to its natural radiance and integrity, naturally.
7. We’re inspired by your desire for restorative products. Can you tell us more about the vision you have for The Organic Skin Co.
Our vision is probably best summed up by one of our key, in-house catchphrases - ‘Natural beauty, from every angle’. This means that we expect our products to work on many different levels, no matter how you look at them. They need to be effective, first of all, and deliver amazing results for your skin, but we’re also conscious they should be good for you too; free of the kind of toxic synthetics which might potentially compromise your health in the long term. And, of course, it’s super-important to us that our products do the right thing by our planet; extracted from soils that are organically farmed and constantly replenished, and offered in compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable packaging that helps minimize both our plastic footprint and general waste. More than that, we want to play our part in helping restore Mother Nature too, which is why we work with Community Farms in India and why we’ve established our ‘One Product, One Tree’ program, working alongside our partners, Eden Reforestation, to plant one tree for every product sold.
8. How important is the preservation of the integrity of our soil?
The degradation of our soil is one of the great disasters of our time. We’re reliant on it - either directly or indirectly - for well over 90% of all the foods we eat, and it’s dying. Worse, it’s dying because of us; because of short-sighted farming practices that fail to rotate crops and which strip the land of nutrients, thanks largely to the overuse of chemical herbicides and pesticides. This is why we’re such champions of organic and biodynamic farming, because these practices help return nutrients to the soil and thus offer hope that we’ll be able to feed future generations.
9. Can you tell us a bit more about your community farms and social responsibility efforts?
One of the things we love most about the business we’re in, is our partnership with Community Farms in India. These farms are not only producing some crazy-good, organic flowers and herbs for us to use in our skincare, they’re also playing an important role in helping turn around agriculture in India, which for a long time has been blighted by an overuse of pesticides and herbicides, resulting in small yields and widespread impoverishment. Community farms are much larger than traditional single plots, they bring people together, yields are higher, and there have been dramatic improvements to social and economic infrastructures in rural areas as a result.
10. How is your packaging uniquely sustainable?
We’ve made a conscious effort to lead from the front when it comes to sustainable packaging in the beauty industry (which, traditionally, has been one of the worst culprits when it comes to plastic pollution and excessive waste). We use unique, compostable, eco-pulp outer shells to house all our tubes and jars, which are made either from recyclable glass or PCR aluminum. We also use biodegradable bamboo lids throughout our range. It’s a super-sustainable system, but we also think it looks pretty cute, too!
11. What is your typical morning routine?
I’m naturally a slow riser, so even when I need to be up super early, I always try to unfold the day gradually. I generally have a leisurely coffee back in bed, then spend some time in my morning ritual of applying moisturizer, serum or oils, or what-ever feels right for the day, Sometimes I enjoy a round of sun-salutations or sit in meditation before I set to work - I always feel more present and peaceful when I do but to be honest, I’m not very strict in my routines.
I work from home most days so I next tend to carry my laptop around to whatever part if the house feels most conducive for working inspiration and enjoyment (at that moment!) and I start answering emails, hopping on zoom calls etc with a big mug of herbal tea in hand.
12. What does your personal skincare routine look like?
It's simple and ritual based as to me less is more. I use our Vitamin Sea Serum and a Moisturizer each day (my personal favorite moisturizer is our Hydration Agent), and a cleanser at night. I add The Good Oil in when my skin feels it needs extra oil, and I often also use our Soothe Operator Balm on my hands and sometimes face or chest at night for an extra layer of moisturizer locking in a waxy oil boost.
I have learnt to tap in my products rather than rubbing them in and I have found I love this more gentle and caring approach to application. Also, I like to pause between the applications of the various products, so to let them sink in and this pausing also helps me slow down and pause too!
I use the Coming Up Roses Mask and Exfoliant once to twice a week, and I have Set The Tone Rose Mister next to me when I’m working which I useas an aromatic and emotional refresher and uplifter, plus hydration champion.
Finally for my body, after shower I use organic black sesame oil. It’s the best - calming down the nervous system (an Ayurvedic principle about applying body oil for emotional and nervous stress) and I find nothing else nourishes as well.
13. What is your favorite (and most important) skincare product?
That’s hard as it feels like having to choose a favorite child! However The Good Oil is our most iconic product I believe and something I always carry with me when I’m traveling. It’s amazingly calming and restorative CO2 herbal extracts and oils, combined with the Honeysuckle Co2 aroma creates a combination that everyone loves, me included! Maybe it's because The Good Oil seems to address both skin needs and emotional aromatic inspiration at the same time.
14. How do you define clean beauty?
This is a tricky one, because the way I define clean beauty is almost certainly different from how you might define it, or someone else asked the same question. For some, clean beauty is any beauty product that is vegan and/or cruelty free. For some, it will come down to the ingredients used, which should be plant-based and free of toxic synthetics. For others - and I include myself in this bracket - it’s a whole suite of things, including a transparent ingredient list full of organic plants and herbs, sustainable packaging which gives back to the planet, and ethically made products which look after the workers who help grow and manufacture them.
15. Can you help our readers understand the difference in marketing language as we oftentimes fall victim to greenwashing in skincare. What is the difference between ‘clean’ ingredients, vs. ‘natural’ ingredients, vs. ‘organic’ ingredients.
Organic ingredients must be certified and audited to be so by an independent organization. They contain no pesticides, are GMO free and they are often nutritionally richer because of the health of the soil. Natural ingredients on the other hand contain no synthetics but they may (or may not) be free of pesticide contaminants. Clean ingredients are somewhat subjective and I don't think there is a strict definition here.
Our philosophy at The Organic Skin Co. (so as to help people navigate this tricky water), is to have every single product and ingredient we use certified by an outside organic auditor. We use the NZ certifier BioGro, and they check annually (and certify) that each ingredient we use is free of unwanted contaminants, is GMO free and is what we claim it to be on the label. Certifications helios take out all the guesswork for the customer, as greenwashing unfortunately has created a lot of misconceptions and confusions in the beauty industry.
16. What is your take on ‘fragrance’ in skincare and beauty products?
My take, or advice, when it comes to this is very simple. If you see the words ‘fragrance’, ‘parfum’, or ‘aroma’, on the list of ingredients for a beauty or personal care product you’re thinking of buying, put it back on the shelf (unless it’s marked ‘natural’ and is derived from essential oils) because these terms are used as proprietary cover for a whole host of chemicals - some of them likely toxic - that you don’t want anywhere near your skin.
17. What would be the 3 most important chemicals or toxins you would encourage our audience to avoid in skincare and beauty products?
Unfortunately there are too many to list here - it would be hard to say that these 3 are the worst. But I would probably want to caution most around the use of synthetic fragrance and perfumes in skincare, as above.
The added synthetic fragrance or perfume is quite likely a chemical cocktail that consists, on average, of 14 different synthetics, all which are not disclosed on the ingredients list, so you simply don’t know what you’re getting and you can’t check. Almost certainly, a fragrance will contain phthalates, which are a group of chemicals commonly used in beauty products simply because they’re cheap and versatile. Sadly, they’ve been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts, and cause reproductive malformation, whilst they’ve also been linked to liver and breast cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders.
18. For someone who is new to clean beauty, what would you say to them to convince them to make the swap?
One thing I often say is if you try to think about clean beauty like you do about healthy food. We know that eating vibrant, healthy, fresh “real'' food leaves us healthier, fitter and happier, and that a diet of mainly synthetic, factory produced food is often the root of a myriad of health and wellbeing issues.
When it comes to the use of many synthetic based cosmetics it's important to consider that on average, today's consumers use approx up to 168 different chemicals on their skin every day. This, despite increasing evidence linking some of these chemicals to problems like obesity, allergies, and infertility.
As skincare and makeup can and does penetrate the skin the benefits of clean (non-toxic) beauty show up over time and in a way that is similar to eating healthy food consistently.
19. Have you noticed any big differences with chemical regulation in skincare products in New Zealand vs the United States?
New Zealand follows the European Cosmetic Laws, which are a lot tougher than the restricted list applied in the US . For example the EU has banned or restricted over a 1,000 chemicals that have been tested as hazardous substances (i.e. that may have an adverse effect on human health) - whereas most of these chemicals can still be used in beauty products in the US.
20. Lastly, what do you think is the future of the beauty industry? Where do you see brands going?
I think people like choice and so there will remain options for all preferences beauty product wise. There is no doubt however that there is a steady shift towards more naturally infused beauty products (which we love to see) and that people will continue to question more and demand transparency from brands. The end result should hopefully be less greenwashing, more authenticity and a healthier beauty industry and consumer.
21. What is up next for you or your brand? Any exciting news you’d like to share?
This year (2022) is all about our launch into the US. We are making strong in-roads here in the natural health store space and we are concluding talks with a couple of great nation-wide retailers at the moment. We are also in the process of launching the entire range of The Organic Skin Co. on Amazon, all products are on Walmart.com and are also ramping up our D2C community offerings including a community lead, healthy rewards program. Lots to do but we are enjoying the build.
22. Where can our readers find you?
Check us out on theorganicskinco.com to learn more about who we are and the products we offer. Find us online at Amazon and Walmart. Please also join our social channels, Instagram and TikTok to stay up to date with retail launches etc. Our retail locations as of August include Fresh Thyme, Lazy Acres, Detwilers, The Better Health Stores, Swanson Health Stores and, Love Wholefoods.