Crissy Fishbane: I’m excited to tell you a little bit more about Jenny, who we are thrilled to have join us this evening!
Jenny after a decade-long health struggle with autoimmune caused hypothyroidism started her entrepreneurial journey using her background in chemistry to help those who likewise suffer under the radar.
Combining her science background with her experience in holistic approaches, Jenny founded Roses and Azalea, a cosmetics company that formulates organic hair and beauty products so the modern woman can experience healthy beauty, inspiring women to feel beautiful by improving and never compromising their health.
Jenny, we are so excited to have you here today. I’m eager to hear from you. I know that I try to avoid ingredients that I know are supposed to be bad, but there are so many ingredients, the names are so confusing. It’s overwhelming. I’m really excited to learn from you and gain some wisdom in this area.
Jenny Melick: Thank you! Hi, my name is Jenny. It’s an honor to be here today to speak with you ladies. I really hope that you can take a lot out of this. There is going to be a lot of information. Feel free to take notes. There should be a link in the chat box for the handout in case you haven’t received that. Basically I’m going to power through the presentation tonight and then answer questions at the end.
As modern women, we tend to wear many hats and have quite a few responsibilities. How many of you are overwhelmed by the things you have to do on a daily basis?
You’re not alone. I know I am and I don’t even have kids yet. So power to everyone who has kids already. I don’t know how you all do it!
Being optimal and well is crucial to our success, not only in the workplace but also at home.
During this talk, I want to cover how skincare routines and the products we use can impact our health especially those of you with autoimmune disease and other health concerns.
Before I get started, I wanted to re-introduce myself, thank you for the introduction before, and tell you a little more about my own health journey.
I began feeling sick more than 10 years ago when I was still in college. It all started with hormonal imbalance, elevated white blood cell count, fatigue, and a lot more. I went to the doctors many times and I was always told “it’s in your head. You’re a woman. Suck it up. Or, you’re getting old.” I was in my early twenties!
I graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Bryn Mawr College in 2011 up in Philadelphia and worked as an analytical chemist doing mostly third face testing for the biggest pharmaceutical companies.
Fast forward into 2018 when I was finally diagnosed with autoimmune disease, particularly Hashimoto’s and Hypothyroidism. I had a lot of thyroid issues. It was truly a wake-up call for me. I looked into why I was having so many allergic reactions and skin irritations from cosmetics and other products.
With my background in chemistry and experiences in holistic approaches, I founded Roses and Azalea at the end of March 2019. We are a cosmetic company that formulates and hand-makes organic personal and beauty care products so modern women can experience healthy beauty.
I really want to inspire women to feel beautiful by improving and never compromising their health.
That’s enough about me! Moving on.
If you don’t know already, the condition of your skin can tell you a lot. It typically reflects what’s going on internally. It can often be frustrating to navigate through skin concerns and those underlying issues.
I know I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too.
Many products on the shelves marketed by companies claim they will make those skin concerns go away, but unfortunately, they often contain ingredients more harmful than good. They typically give us temporary relief, rather than nourishing and healing our skin and bodies and not going after the root causes.
When you’re putting harmful, toxic products on your body it’s actually super damaging. Even though you’re not ingesting or eating these products, it will still affect you.
Do you know the phrase ‘you are what you eat’? Well, you are what you apply. Skin is your largest organ. Every time you put something on your skin it actually gets absorbed and can go into your bloodstream and affect certain parts of your body.
You might be wondering how companies are even getting away with using harmful toxic ingredients in cosmetics.
It’s as simple as how our regulatory standards are in the US, or actually lack thereof.
On this slide, or on your handout, you will see a chart that shows the regulatory standards in the US compared to Canada and the EU.
In the US there are about 30 ingredients that are banned and really no regulation with ingredients, whether they’re harmful or not. Canada is a little better. There are about 500 ingredients that are currently banned and they have some regulations around those harmful toxic ingredients.
But, out of everyone in the world, the EU has the best system. They evaluate cosmetics and follow the strictest standards when evaluating ingredients. They are the most comprehensive in the world at this point. They have banned about 3,300 ingredients so far. The EU also requires pre-market approval for cosmetics and follows strict standards when evaluating these ingredients. Regardless of concentration, if an ingredient has data showing any possible links to health risks it’s basically restricted or banned.
With the map that you see, it basically shows that more than 40 nations have stricter cosmetic regulation standards than the US. Because of this, it’s really crucial for you to always read the back of product labels. You’re going to have to do your homework. Without regulations, companies can get away with putting words like “natural” on the products and labels. Since the word isn’t actually regulated they can still put mostly toxic ingredients into a product.
Here I’ve listed some ingredients to definitely avoid. You may already know some of the ingredients like formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates. A lot of people talk about them already. I’m going to highlight a few that aren’t actually as well known.
We’re going to start with Triclosan. It’s used in a lot of soaps, toothpaste, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning equipment. It’s one of the reasons antibiotics are less effective and makes bacteria resistant. It’s been linked to abnormal endocrine system and thyroid hormone signaling, weakening of the immune system, and uncontrolled cell growth. Children exposed to antibacterial products with Triclosan at an early age have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema, all of which I suffer from.
Many products claiming to be “natural” have synthetic colors added. I don’t know about you all, I’m all about the pretty things, but these artificial dyes can cause everything from hyperactivity and allergies to organ damage, birth defects, and certain cancers. Artificial coloring is unfortunately in a lot of these products, even natural ones. There’s been plenty of research that’s linked it to health concerns such as brain tumors, bladder cancer, adrenal gland and kidney cancers, thyroid tumors, and a lot more.
Next is synthetic fragrances which are in a lot of your natural products. It’s basically the leading cause of skin irritation. Your underarms and scalp are the most sensitive parts of your body. Don’t use anything with “fragrances” listed as an ingredient. You’ll see that in a lot of your natural deodorants and hair care products.
Many synthetic chemicals and fragrances are derived from petroleum-based chemicals. These chemicals include phthalates. One of the studies actually showed that phthalates were found in 75% of all products which weren’t listed on the label but were actually hidden in the word “fragrance.”
Fragrances are allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins, and carcinogens all thrown into one blend. Companies can hide the most toxic chemicals in fragrances.
Also, on a side note, marketers now know what consumers are trying to avoid and so they don’t actually always use the word “fragrance.” They’re using words like “aroma” instead.
I made this mistake. I went to a clean beauty store about a year ago and bought a natural shampoo and conditioner. Within three minutes of using it in the shower, I went into a full-blown asthma attack. I double, triple, quadruple checked the label before using it. I was looking for the word fragrance, and instead, they had used the word “aroma.” So just be aware of that.
So we have SLS which are inexpensive surfactants found in soap, toothpaste, detergent, bubble baths, shampoos, and a lot more. It’s used a lot in products because it’s super cheap and can foam. These toxic ingredients damage your protective skin barrier and strip the skin of vital moisture. NOt only are they irritating to our skin and eyes they also allow all the other toxic chemicals to penetrate even more into our skin. It’s not something you want at all in your products.
I’m not going to bore you anymore with ingredients to avoid since there are literally thousands, but it leads me to this, which is many toxic ingredients I’ve mentioned are synthetic chemicals, but I also want to stress that natural doesn’t actually mean good.
So, for example, talc, petroleum, and aluminum are not good ingredients. Some natural ingredients can be used incorrectly as well.
By now you may be a little overwhelmed and it’s okay. Maybe you haven’t started your journey of switching your personal care and beauty products yet. Don’t fret. Definitely don’t get overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and make changes a little bit at a time so it’s more manageable for you. This is all about personalization.
The most toxic products you want to replace first are deodorant, hair care, and lotion. If you have to start anywhere, start there.
You might be wondering what and who you can actually trust nowadays. Yourself really.
Misleading marketing has truly made shopping for products more confusing. Right now, You’re probably wanting a few more examples of this. One of them is the infamous aluminum deodorants.
How many of you guys know that the aluminum in deodorant and antiperspirant are toxic?
Did you know that marketers have misled you to believe that certain deodorants don’t have aluminum when they actually do?
I’m talking about the crystal deodorant in particular. Crystal deodorants are made of mineral salts, a.k.a.Potassium aluminum sulfate, just another version of aluminum different from the typical chloral hydrate. If you examine these deodorants, the front label will say free of aluminum chloral hydrate and no harmful aluminum and never aluminum-free.
There are strict regulations around the front label which is why they can’t say that. Marketers have actually found a loophole to lead you to believe that crystal deodorants don’t have aluminum when in fact it’s purely 100% aluminum.
Some companies lead consumers to believe their products are non-toxic and of the highest quality by being self-certified rather than through a legitimate third party where they only get a few of their products verified or certified. The rest of their products don’t actually qualify, but they don’t have to tell you that.
As I’ve mentioned before, many companies hide toxic ingredients among the list of natural ingredients and some are even claiming that fragrance and synthetic chemicals they are using are safe based on their website, when clearly the chemicals they’ve identified are harmful to you.
Some cosmetic companies have banned harmful ingredients in their products in Europe, but then still use those ingredients in the US and other countries. A very well known company has discontinued phthalates in Europe because it’s banned there but continued selling products that contain them in the US.
It’s scary that more than 1 in 5 of all products contain chemicals that are detrimental to our health.
An average of 7 new industrial chemicals gets approved by the US government daily. 80% of these are approved in three weeks or less with little to no safety testing.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are approximately 10,500 ingredients used in cosmetics in our country. In a 30-year period, only 11% of those ingredients have been screened.
That means nearly 90% of cosmetic ingredients are left unreviewed and untested for safety. I don’t know about you, but that’s not good enough for me and I don’t want to use those products at all.
I know this sounds scary, but there is light at the other end of this tunnel. Though few in number, there are companies and brands out there that do want to do good and right by their customers and the planet.
Some of the ways of identifying them are by looking at the right certifications.
There may be a few more. The most important thing to remember is these are all third-party certifications and not self-certifications.
Anyone that’s claiming that they are natural and organic – it might not be true if they’re just self-certified.
A few more certifications you can look at are the leaping bunny, which is an international certification for no animal testing, so if you’re big on cruelty-free that’s a good thing to be mindful of.
B-corp is another way that companies can indicate that they balance profits with good. Good for the people, good for the planet. They tend to have higher standards and they care a lot about social impact.
One little reminder for anyone with an auto-immune disease or other health concerns, check to make sure your products do not contain gluten and products that can cause inflammation and irritation, especially in your hair care.
One thing that we at Roses and Azalea do not include in our products is sunflower seed oil as well as safflower seed oil. Those are pretty cheap oils that cause inflammation and is not something we want in our products.
The last takeaway, we are in the age where consumers just can’t blindly trust brands and the people around us. Get in the habit of verifying all the information.
A few resources you can start going to is EWG’s website and using apps like Think Dirty when looking up ingredients and toxicity. Keep in mind that not all companies can afford to be on these databases because it costs a lot of money to be on them. So don’t completely dismiss brands that you can’t lookup.
Read all labels. Look for unprocessed or minimally processed natural ingredients, and organic ones when possible.
Don’t follow the crowd and whatever the newest fads are. Sometimes these aren’t always the best for you and your health. Look for transparency in companies that you’re buying from.
I hope that was helpful to you. I’ll go ahead and take any questions now.
Participant: Have you done any research on diapers?
Jenny Melick: I’m a very transparent person and I’m going to go ahead and say no I don’t have any insights on diapers. I’m not a mom yet!
I can talk about tampons a bit and I would imagine it’s similar. Now, diapers because it’s on the outside and not inserted into the body, it may not have as much of an effect. But, it is still on your skin. With tampons, I have switched to organic and cotton. Personally, I’ve actually seen the effects of how it’s changed my body. I used to be in pain all the time from generic brands of tampons. I didn’t realize how many chemicals were being released into my body until I really thought about it. But, I was always in pain from it and I started doing a lot of research and it only made sense.
I’ve now switched to all organic since it is something that you put into your body and it does touch your skin. So I would say that for diapers as well.
Participant: Do you only use your company’s cosmetics? If you do use other brands of cosmetics which ones do you use and why?
Jenny Melick: Because we just started March of last year we obviously don’t have everything. We have made a lot, including hair care, shampoo, and conditioner which is R&D right now. We’ve made our own makeup melt and things like that. I just haven’t found anything that hasn’t been that great for my skin, that doesn’t clog pores and things like that. We are not in the whole line of makeup yet, so I do use other people’s makeup.
Right now I’m using RMS. It is one of the cleanest that I have found out there. I’ve tried a lot in the clean beauty stores and it just has not been up to my standard. Now my standard is super high because I pretty much am allergic or intolerant to 80% of what is out there, which also makes me a really good guinea pig.
I can’t even have cocoa powder, which is very sad to be honest with you. Cocoa powder is not bad by any means, but I am so sensitive that I can’t even have that.
Participant: What ingredient do you find you’re most sensitive to?
Jenny Melick: This may just be me, I do find that other people may not be aware that they are slightly intolerant to sunflower seed oil. It’s in pretty much everything, including things that you eat. I can’t have snacks and stuff without reacting. I found that out the hard way.
Unfortunately, now my allergies have grown to your nut-based allergies as well. So peanuts and all of that. But, that’s just me. I would say a lot of people are allergic or intolerant to gluten, so staying away from that is really important especially since women, in general, tend to have auto-immune issues and not a lot of us have been diagnosed yet. If you have a hormone imbalance, feeling very fatigued, things like that, a lot of that can be caused by thyroid issues or your adrenal gland isn’t actually working properly.
Those are all things I would look out for. Anything that really causes inflammation you want to stay away from.
Crissy Fishbane: Jenny, I have a quick question. You had mentioned the word “natural” and how that doesn’t really mean anything. The word “organic” was mentioned a lot as well. If we see a product that is labeled as “organic” and certified by a third party is that a safe bet?
Jenny Melick: Yeah, so we aren’t certified USDA yet because certification goes with where you make your products and not your brand. So right now we are inside our house manufacturing everything, so our private property right now would need to be certified USDA if we went after that. So not all your small, mom and pop’s will be certified USDA, however, look for words like “we use USDA Certified Organic” and you can always check with them.
For us, because I was an analytical chemist, every single product or ingredient that comes in I actually ask our suppliers for analysis, so GCMS and analytics. I check on the purity of everything. Making sure there is no formaldehyde or any traces of bad chemicals.
The problem with natural ingredients and not organic is that sometimes they’re actually processed by things like hexanes and formaldehyde and that actually gets passed down. So even your end product can actually have traces of formaldehyde, but it’s not an active ingredient so you don’t actually know if it’s in there or not, which is why I’m stressing that certified organic is really the way to go.
A lot of those certifications that I listed do show that there are several that you can definitely trust.
Participant: Do you have a hand soap you recommend?
Jenny Melick: We actually make all our own soap products and of course recommend those.
I think things like Dr. Bronner’s is actually really good, the only problem and the only reason I don’t use Dr. Bronners is that they actually have sunflower seed oil in pretty much all of your Castille soaps.
Every soap that we make internally is done with non-irritating oils and so we actually saponify every single one of our soaps that we use. I’ve tried using other people’s soaps and have actually contracted dermatitis and it irritates my skin.
Participant: What does your skincare routine look like and are there specific steps we should absolutely be doing?
Jenny Melick: For me, my biggest thing is face care. I try not to do a whole lot only because sometimes less is more. If you do too much you can actually strip your own good oils away, which is the opposite of what you actually want.
For me, I use our Face Glow kit which is on our website. I use a konjac sponge, it’s 100% natural. Ours is heart-shaped because I like pretty things. Basically it’s a biodegradable 100% natural exfoliator. If you have dry skin I would not use it every day. I would maybe use it about twice a week. You’ll know once you start testing it. I have severely dry skin, to the point I have some eczema from my autoimmune disease, but I use the konjac sponge and then I use our honey gentle cleanser and just wash my face every day.
I use our makeup melt if I have makeup, but to be honest with you I don’t really wear makeup a whole lot anymore. It’s just one thing I’m avoiding just because it’s been bad for my skin. I try not to wear it unless it’s a big occasion.
The Rosewater toner hydrates and rebalances your skin. Always use a toner after your cleanser. Look for cleansers that have aloe vera or something that is a little more soothing, nothing too harsh because that will actually strip your skin. Even if you have oily or acne-prone skin, that’s actually not what you want to do. You want a gentle cleanser.
After the Rosewater Toner, you do the moisturizer. For me, I actually do an extra step before our beauty cream, which is our moisturizer. I use a concoction we’ve made with oats, it’s really good for eczema. Oats are a perfect ingredient that you’d want to use if you have dry skin or eczema.
For anybody that doesn’t have dry skin, our face serum is amazing. It’s 15 organic ingredients all combined into one. Basically, it’s superfoods that are good for reducing redness, minimizing pores. It actually acts as a makeup primer, it’s super absorbent and seals in all that moisture from the previous steps. It has some natural SPF in it. Everything a woman would want!
For those of us with drier skin definitely do something a little bit more hydrating. Our beauty cream is basically the face serum, but it has aloe vera gel that we make.
That’s pretty much my routine. I’m very minimal with it. I’m that modern woman that wants to cut it all down because I have too many things on my plate.
Participant: I have a question about Retin A. It worked great for me, but I stopped due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. What are your thoughts on that?
Jenny Melick: I’m not as familiar with Retin A. For me, I recommend things like Vitamin C. This is actually a question my husband would have much more insight on because he does a lot of the research with manufacturing.
Cindi Michaelson: Retin A is primarily for anti-aging. The products you were mentioning in your kit, are they anti-aging as well?
Jenny Melick: Yes! Anti-wrinkle. Anti-inflammatory. All the superfoods that you would want to help nourish your skin and also calm it down. If you have cases where you’re super oily or acne-prone skin, it basically helps calm all of that function down. We use Jojoba oil, that’s something you want to look at with your face oils or face serums – it actually mimics your skin so it’s a really good ingredient to have.
Cindi Michaelson: Can we trust the EWG when we are researching the toxicity of products?
Jenny Melick: Yes, some of the screenshots I shared are actually from the EWG website. Other places I may not say so. I would just make sure to double-check the back of ingredients. One thing that is interesting to me is I’ve actually found several companies that list different ingredients from what’s online to what’s actually in the store when you pick it up. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on there, but the ones in the store are pretty toxic and the ones listed online are not.
Cindi Michaelson: Another question, I’ve been on the hunt for so long for fragrance, a perfume, something to wear. Yes, we can use essential oil but I’m just not a fan of smelling like essential oil so much. I know you’re very sensitive so you probably go fragrance-free. Do you have any recommendations?
Jenny Melick: No, unfortunately with the perfume world I steer very clear from it. It uses very harsh ingredients. There’s definitely some independent companies that I think would be a little better than others, however, fragrances are one of those things I would caution people to steer clear from.
I don’t know if you’re using different dilutions for your essential oils or maybe not the ones you actually like. I would say give essential oils a little bit more of a try.
We have things like Urgent Rescue, blends for thyroid support, blends for Uplift and Positive. Those are all just essential oil blends to actually help the body, but people have been using them as fragrances.
I challenge current consumers to use fragrances or scents in a way where it’s actually helping your body less than it just being a scent. Now I think there are scents that you are just going to love and be attracted to. Ylang Ylang is one of those really fragrant, great scents and it’s still really good for the body. I think playing around with some might get you somewhere.
Crissy Fishbane: I have a question kind of circling back to something we talked about before. What is the purpose of a toner? I’ve never known in my whole adult life why I’m putting that on.
Jenny Melick: My parents have a background in medicine. My mom’s a nurse and my dad’s a doctor. They were always saying “toner, toner, toner” and I always had that same reaction. “Who cares about toner, it’s just another step.”
I learned after creating Roses and Azalea that toners are actually super important. When you cleanse your face you’re using soap and surfactants that actually make the pH of your skin higher than it needs to be. Because your skin is a little more acidic, towards a 4, a little lower than a 5, your soaps are usually higher, an 8+, water is a 7 – you need to balance your pH down where it’s less harsh for your skin. It’s actually protecting and rehydrating your skin. That’s why the word balance is used a lot for toner because it’s balancing the pH of your skin.
Participant: What about natural deodorant? I’ve gotten a bad rash and blisters from some of them.
Jenny Melick: I would need to look up the ingredient list to each one individually. I’m guessing it would have had baking soda. Most of your deodorants that people are saying they have bad rashes or reactions to are because a lot of your natural deodorants use baking soda, even milk of magnesium hydroxide.
Basically they are using pH to kill off the odor-causing bacteria on your pits. Baking soda is actually pretty irritating to your skin. Every swipe you put on will start wearing away the top layer of your skin.
Is everyone affected by it? No. Some people will also not be affected by it for months or years when first used. So it really depends on the person.
When you’re switching from a conventional deodorant to a natural one you have to give your body time to detox. For most people it will take at least four to six weeks.
Once you stop conventional deodorant for the first week you might be like – gosh natural deodorants are awesome. No, what’s actually happening is that the aluminum is still plugged into your pores. That’s how much it plugs your pores up. They don’t crash until a few days up to a week or so later. That’s when people start saying natural deodorants don’t work. You have to give it time. Summer is probably the worst time to transition, as you can imagine.
I personally would wait to transition in fall or winter. You may need to give your body even up to a few months to transition. It’s worth it though, deodorants are one of the most toxic things you can put on your body.
Participant: Which natural deodorant brands work?
Jenny Melick: I’m going to be honest with you, deodorant is kind of like medicine and treatment. Everybody is going to react differently to every deodorant. So I can’t actually recommend any deodorant to you unless I know your body a little more. For men it’s actually a little easier, they don’t have the hormone imbalances that we have. Men transitioning can be a little easier. For women it can depend on the time of the month, autoimmune issues, the microbiome of your skin, what’s going on in your body.
Because we’ve used conventional deodorants for so long it’s actually messed up the makeup of our skin, the different bacteria living on our skin. ON top of that it also really depends on genetics. Fortunately for me, I’m actually from southeast Asia and we actually have genes that make the same odor-causing bacteria as others.
Sometimes limiting alcohol and things like that can also help with odors. Diet, healthy lifestyle, just do a little bit at a time.
Cindi Michaelson: Is that why sometimes natural deodorants stop working?
Jenny Melick: Yes, our body is always changing. I find it’s similar with shampoos. I’ll use the same formulation for two months and then all of a sudden feel like it’s not working anymore. Diet, stress, amount of sleep all play a role. Your body will react differently to products based on what is happening internally.
You can detox your pits and help regulate that smell. Having muddy clay, we also offer a product for this purpose. Having something like a charcoal detox mask can pull the aluminum out of your pits and get rid of that odor-causing bacteria much sooner.
Crissy Fishbane: Thank you so much, Jenny! You are certainly a wealth of knowledge.
Cindi Michaelson: This has been fun! Talking about stress and pits!
After a decade-long health struggle with autoimmune caused hypothyroidism, Jenny Melick started her entrepreneurial journey using her background in chemistry to help those who likewise suffer under the radar. Combining her science background with her experience in holistic approaches, Jenny founded Roses and Azalea, a cosmetics company that formulates organic hair and beauty products so the modern woman can experience healthy beauty, inspiring women to feel beautiful by improving and never compromising their health.
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