Q&A with Amina Kitching (Organic Beauty Award)

If you’re conscious about what you’re putting on your skin and care about the environment, the Organic Beauty Award is an innovative program you should know about.

The awards give shoppers a true picture of the ingredients in their skincare. It takes the guesswork out so you don’t have to decipher fancy chemical names and long ingredient lists.

Today we have Amina Kitching, the face behind the Organic Beauty Awards with us for a chat. She’s a founder, editor, and skin nutritionist. And she’s responsible for the Safe Cosmetics Australia The Toxic-Free Campaign®.

This interview is a must-read:

What is the Organic Beauty Award?

The Organic Beauty Award celebrates the most innovative natural beauty and health products alongside established and much-loved brands that we have come to know and trust. It’s about advocating for conscious consumerism, making a difference by casting a vote for the future every time you shop. 

We have a 100% cruelty-free policy and consider ingredient transparency to be the single most important factor when it comes to showcasing ethical and sustainable brands. Being transparent means being upfront and honest about the supply chain, from the way ingredients are grown and processed to using eco-packaging and considering the product’s end of life. 

 Organic Beauty Award Winners

How we shop can have a significant impact on the environment. Manufacturers and consumers need to consider whether the product can be refilled, recycled, or composted, minimising landfill is the goal. Sustainable brands consider the full life cycle of the product to be equally as important as the ingredients they use, natural brands work hard to produce products that rival their mainstream competitors whilst protecting human health.

What are natural ingredients?

When scrutinising product ingredients, each ingredient needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

When classifying chemicals, a natural ingredient is derived from nature. It exists in nature but how it is extracted can fundamentally change the ingredient and how it is classified. The extraction and processing of natural ingredients can result in an artificial chemical.

There are many factors to consider when claiming that an ingredient or a product is 100% natural, it is simply not true to claim that just because a cosmetic ingredient can be found in nature that it is therefore natural and healthy for you, or that it is sustainable, just because it came from a plant, animal, rock or another natural source. All cosmetic ingredients are processed.

Natural ingredients are biodegradable, synthetic ingredients can also be biodegradable, sometimes synthetic ingredients can biodegrade faster than some natural substances. Artificial cosmetic ingredients are synthesized in a lab, they do not exist in nature, this does not mean that they are unhealthy. What we really need to be asking is how sustainable are the ingredients we use in cosmetics?

Amina Kitching founder of Safe Cosmetics Australia & the Organic Beauty Award, product by Sasy n Savy.

Are natural ingredients sustainable to produce year after year, how much water do they use, what resources do they use, what chemicals are used and what condition do they leave the soil in, is the full cycle of growing and processing really sustainable? We need to consider our own health and the health of the planet.

Nature identical ingredients are man-made, they are chemically synthesized and can be more sustainable than natural ingredients because nature-identical ingredients do not deplete the earth of natural resources. Artificial ingredients are everywhere, most vitamins are nature identical that are used in our food, drinks, supplements, health foods, snacks and cosmetics.

They are cost-effective to produce, scientifically identical to the natural form and can even be less irritating than many natural ingredients. For example, if you are allergic to bee derivatives such as propolis, then artificial beeswax is the healthier choice, you still get all the benefits of beeswax without propolis and substances from plants & trees known to trigger allergies.

Nature identical ingredients are reliable and consistent, they do not deplete natural resources making them highly likely to be the more sustainable choice than natural and organic ingredients.

If a shopper sees “Organic Beauty Award Winner”, what should they expect from the brand?

Shoppers can expect exceptional quality and ethical principles, all of the winners are 100% cruelty-free, they use natural and organic ingredients and sustainable practices. Our Clean Standards™ form the award entry criteria developed in affiliation with Safe Cosmetics Australia, an independent organisation providing non-toxic cosmetics manufacturing standards since 2010.

The criteria restrict and exclude hundreds of chemicals that are considered undesirable by consumers that want to live a clean lifestyle and by brands that seek to improve the beauty industry. 

Every year I personally review each award entry, scrutinising the product ingredients, researching the brands manufacturing principles, checking their marketing claims live up to their products constitution and finding out how the brand contributions towards the future of sustainable beauty and health.

The judging ultimately comes down to the functionality and efficacy, how well does the product work? This is where qualitative research is essential, subjective and objective reviewers are necessary to obtain sufficient feedback to determine the award winners.

Subjective reviews are based on personal opinions, understanding human behaviour and their reasoning, whilst objective reviews are based on unbiased verifiable facts. 

To achieve this first the product must exceed our Clean Standards, then we share the products with 25+ professionals and consumers in order to carryout our own tests, we do blind tests, sensory tests and targeted tests using reviewers that have specific skin and health concerns. Products are matched with their target audience and compared to mainstream competitors to ensure that the winning products will impress the wider community.

What is your background?

Advocating for natural and organic ingredients since 2001, I have worked in cosmetic manufacturing for two decades. Collaborating with brands, manufacturers and suppliers on a daily basis, that seek to improve their manufacturing principles, that believe in ethical, sustainable and socially responsible principles.

In 2001, I started my first online directory called The Organic Beauty Review, recommending products that were natural and organic. I couldn’t wear any of the mainstream makeup brands available in the shops or the perfumes and skincare products that contained strong fragrances and synthetic chemicals that my skin and lungs couldn’t tolerate.

At this time we didn’t have access to many natural cosmetics, they were all imported and very expensive. Later that year I decided to study aromatherapy and naturopathy, by 2003 I had a 120 piece collection of Mineral Makeup and Australian Native Skincare, I had started my own natural cosmetics range formulating and selling online. 

Go Green Clean Beauty Bible

By 2010, there was a need to recognise brands that produced natural cosmetics. Founding Safe Cosmetics Australia, The Toxic-Free Campaign® promoting brands that shared a passion for natural ingredients, for living naturally, for people seeking cruelty-free cosmetics, this wasn’t a trend it was the beginning of a movement.

Today, our trademarks are used world-wide from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, India, Singapore, Malaysia and most recently to Vietnam, China and the Philippines. Consumers can look for our trusted trademarks Australian Certified Toxic-Free® Made Safe™ Allergy Certified® MediCert® Cruelty-Free Certified™ Vegan-Friendly Certified™

It has always fascinated me that we have so many products on the supermarket shelves that are made from ingredients that don’t appear to be remotely natural, yet the brands market their products boasting plant extracts and vitamins (often the product contains less than 1% of these key ingredients). Looking at the ingredients and with very little research, it is not hard to discover that many of the chemicals used are artificial and linked to adverse health issues as well as environmental pollution.

Not to mention contaminating our own food chain and destroying marine life and habitats for animals. It just seems wrong especially when simple plant-derived ingredients work so well to maintain our skin, hair and nails, do we really need to be using toxic chemicals and is it worth it.

I’ve spent two decades asking this question every day, researching journals, cross-referencing information and of course using natural products but it was studying Nutritional Medicine that really gave me insight into how we have the power to fuel our bodies, to support our health or burden it with junk.

I have a passion for education, for sharing knowledge, currently I am studying International Cosmetic Regulations as part of a degree in Cosmetic Chemistry to further my skills. We can never know too much about this complicated world and we all have a responsibility to shape the future, to be kind to the planet and to leave the smallest footprint possible. 

What made you start the Organic Beauty Awards?

In 2017, I had to take an unexpected break after a car accident shattered my spine, the facet joints were missing. I couldn’t walk, it was one of the most difficult and heartbreaking times at just 39 years of age I had a spine fusion, titanium rods, pins, plates and screws, a bone graft and a plastic spacer for a lumbar disc. With two young children and a full-time career, life came to a standstill, it took me 3 years to make a full recovery.

What I needed was to be grateful for what I had, to celebrate all that I had worked for and in realising this the Organic Beauty Award transpired. The brands that had supported Safe Cosmetics Australia were invited to enter products, I wanted to give something back, to focus on the positive, it was time to celebrate and rejuvenate.

The Organic Beauty Award gave us something to look forward to, an opportunity to show appreciation for all of the hard work and dedication that goes into making natural and organic cosmetics.

The stories behind each brand are inspiring, learning about the founders and how they made their way into the world of natural health and beauty always interests me, I love that the awards give startup brands and established brands the opportunity to be recognised in their industry and by consumers, to feel support for all that they do to make our lives cleaner and healthier. 

Next year we will host our 10th bi-annual awards. We have some exciting plans for 2022 as we expand our audience and develop the Clean Beauty Bible™—Nature’s Little Black Book™ helping people around the world to live a healthier, more sustainable life. 

What is Safe Cosmetics Australia?

Safe Cosmetics Australia is the country’s leading independent, non-governmental, natural and organic, cosmetics standards organisation, campaigning for a healthier future one product at a time™ —Established in 2010, I founded Safe Cosmetics Australia with the support of half a dozen Australian brands, to safeguard consumer health and safety when it comes to chemicals in and around the home and workplace.

Today, we have more than 250+ global beauty and health brands that have signed a legally binding PLEDGE to adhere to the Hotlist of chemicals that are restricted and excluded above and beyond current legislation, ultimately to achieve a higher standard of manufacturing.

I have invested my time and expertise in seeking truth and transparency when it comes to chemicals in cosmetics, personal care and household products. Considering the source of each ingredient V’s health and sustainability, investigating the importance of chemistry, anatomy and physiology, bioscience, food packaging and public health nutrition. 

Products by Ella Searle & Eco by Sonja Driver

The campaign continues to attract brands that unite with a unique passion, to improve the way cosmetics are manufactured. Based on the application of scientific principles applied to health and beauty products —our mission is advocacy, education, research and policy.

Providing ingredient standards that consumers trust and manufacturers adopt in order to achieve a balance between health, science, and nature. Health science is a non-clinical field that studies all aspects of health and disease, when we apply nutritional medicine principles, then we can make informed choices that support our health.

What are some of the chemicals we should look out for?

For more information on chemicals in cosmetics, refer to Safe Cosmetics Australia’s —Hotlist.

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate damages coral and other marine life.

Parabens have a bioaccumulative impact and can trigger skin irritation.

Triclosan is in the top 10 most frequent organic wastewater pollutants, it can also cause contact dermatitis.

Artificial Fragrances contain hundreds of undisclosed chemicals including synthetic musk compounds (SMCs) that can trigger asthma, headaches, allergies, skin and lung irritation. 1% Fragrance dilution, both natural or synthetic, is considered the maximum safe use concentration for people with sensitivities. If it was mandatory to provide the percentage of fragrance on the ingredient label this would help a lot of people avoid adverse health issues.

Microplastics end up in the ocean where the food chain is compromised, ingested by fish, seabirds, bivalves and copepods.

Petroleum derivatives are derived from fossil fuels, petroleum is natural but it is a non-renewable source that is known to be contaminated with upwards of 10% carcinogens. Petroleum also contributes to a large share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) and other emissions due to transportation. 

1,4-Dioxane is a contaminant that can cause vertigo, drowsiness, headache and irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

Imidazolidinyl and Diazolidinyl urea, these causative agents are skin allergens that can cause dermatitis and skin hypersensitivity.

What is your number one beauty tip?

Always read the ingredient labels and be your own judge. Know what you are putting on your body, it’s your health so protect it. Look for brands that carry an independent verification, they meet a higher standard than current legislation.

Make informed choices and use fewer products, ask yourself do I really need it? Can I find a safer, better product that contributes to living sustainably… beauty doesn’t have to cost the earth or your health!

You can learn about the Organic Beauty Award here. Thank you Amina for sharing your expertise with us, we enjoyed reading your insights.

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