There it was.
Staring at me like a bad pimple on my face before a hot date.
A text message from a dear, longtime friend, who is smart, well-educated, and a loyal Alchimie Forever fan from the start, asking me about the nitty gritty of cosmetic ingredients and formulations.
I couldn’t blame her for her questions – our customers are peppered daily with falsehoods, misinformation, over-marketed wellness hype, and urban myths about cosmetic ingredients and formulations.
Sunscreen in your blood. Hand-made products. Home-made SPF. Not enough regulation. Natural. Clean. Organic. US FDA versus European regulatory standards… the list goes on and on and on.
Our industry is overwhelmed by perspectives, opinions, truths, facts, half-facts, non-facts, and confusing verbiage.
Her questions – which admittedly, sounded a bit like accusations to me – inspired me to pull back the curtain and post a deep-dive blog.
So, here it goes: My professional thoughts as an executive and as a consumer on the subject of cosmetic ingredients, formulations, and being environmentally mindful…
As many of you know, Alchimie Forever is the brainchild of a world-class dermatologist based in Switzerland who also happens to be my father. He is a Western-trained medical doctor with 40+ years of experience. He believes that both (some) lab-made synthetics and (some) botanicals are safe and effective for use in skin care. This harmony between the best synthetics and the best botanicals is at the core of our formulation strategy.
From the start, Alchimie Forever has been about safety and efficacy over source.
We position our brand as clean and clinical, which I understand are over-used words and may mean different things to different people. Same with “natural,” “organic,” “active,” “cosmeceutical,” “biodynamic,” “non-toxic,” and most words brands are using to market their positioning for consumers.
Still, Alchimie Forever is transparent, authentic, and accountable to science.
In an attempt to clarify how we develop our products, and how our formulations have evolved over the years, here are some facts:
We strive to make our products as efficacious and as pure as possible – recognizing that the body of knowledge in our industry evolves and changes.
We manufacture most of our products in the US, with a couple products still being made in Switzerland, because of the complexity of those formulae.
We sell in European countries, and as such abide by the European and Swiss FDA-equivalents, and REACH regulation (meaning we do not use the 1,000+ ingredients prohibited by European cosmetics regulatory bodies).
We are vegan.
We are cruelty-free, certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny. (As a side note, animal testing in cosmetics is prohibited by European regulatory bodies – on both ingredients and finished products).
We are paraben-free. Our formulations contained parabens initially, so we decided to reformulate our products without these molecules. It took us over five years to remove parabens from all of our formulas. We replaced parabens with Benzyl Alcohol, Benzoic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Chlorephenesin, or Phenoxyethanol, which are effective preservatives that are overall not as controversial.
We strongly believe that an effective preservative system is key to safe cosmetics formulations.
We are sulfate-free (as of December 2019 our Purifying gel cleanser still features a fabulous foaming texture, but without sulfates).
We are gluten-free.
We are soy-free.
We are free of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
We are dye-free.
We are nut-free.
Some other ingredients we do not use include iron oxides, aluminum, kojic acid, triclosan, hydroquinone, mineral oil, propylene glycol, formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasers, anything in nano-particles.
Four of our products are rated by Think Dirty, with a score of “Clean” (0-3), with more to come.
We are working with EWG to update our ingredient listings on their website. Much of the Alchimie Forever information listed is outdated (for example, some of our formulations are still listed as containing parabens, which is no longer the case).
We are working to remove Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) from our formulations. These ingredients are used as emulsifiers and have started to be controversial in cosmetics as they may contain harmful impurities such as 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogen. Our PEGs are certified as pure and free of such impurities, yet we are committed to replacing them with cleaner alternatives.
Our Protective day cream SPF 23 uses a blend of chemical screens. We do not use (and have never used) oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are the chemicals seen as being harmful to reefs. Our Protective day cream SPF 23 is approved in Hawaii and Florida and considered reef-safe. We also hear consumers’ request for a mineral / physical block, and are researching the most current science to fill that need with an elegant, non-greasy, formula adequate for all skin tones.
We use lab-made fragrances, in average concentrations below 0.2%. All of our fragrances are certified phtalate-free. We also list any of the 26 fragrance allergens potentially contained in our fragrance formulations (per European regulatory standards).
We, however, do not believe essential oils are an adequate alternative to lab-made fragrances as they are often irritating to the skin.
We work on our carbon footprint and on our packaging.
We, however, do not believe there is a silver bullet in terms of packaging.
Our formulations are concentrated so a little bit goes a long way – meaning you don’t have to repurchase products every few weeks, but rather every couple of months. This helps cut down packaging waste.
We use outer boxes for many of our products, because boxes protect our more delicate formulations from light and heat.
We love glass, yet glass is heavier than plastic, hence requires more energy to ship; it is also a challenge to travel with.
All of our boxes are recyclable, as are all of our inner jars and tubes (except for the pumps of our body product bottles – and we are working on that).
At the end of the day, if none of this has convinced you that our products are, if nothing else, safe for you to use, please know that all four of Dr. Polla’s daughters use Alchimie Forever daily – and have for 10+ years.
Do you really think our Dad would let us use products that are unhealthy or unsafe in any way?
I don’t think so.
Also, Dad, happy Father’s Day. Thanks for your integrity in product formulation. Thanks for your accountability to science and facts. Thanks for your level-headed approach to trends and fads. Thanks for your commitment to wellness and beauty, which keeps me feeling and looking my best.