This is part two of a conversation between Denise Cartwright (CRUDE Founder + CEO), Michael Gordon (Creator of Bumble & Bumble and Hairstory), and Steven Peterson (Detergent Insurgents co-founder) about blazing trail in what they see as the next evolution of beauty and personal care: soap and detergent free cleansing. If you missed part one, check it out here.
D: The New York Times did an article about a company that’s creating a product that you spray on your body that contains a bacteria called N-Eutropha.
You'll see animals like dogs or cats who dust cleanse, they roll around in the dirt because they pick up a bacteria that works with their microbiome to naturally clean their skin, but soap will remove it in one use.
So the New York Times reporter went without soap and only used the bacterial spray for a month to build up this colony of natural bacteria and her body odor regulated. Then she used soap just once or twice and all the good bacteria was gone.
S: That's fascinating.
D: It was a fascinating article and they are an interesting company. It's interesting that they’re working to put the bacteria back onto the skin. You would think we could just not strip the bacteria off to begin with.
M: In the last page of that article the journalist asked a chemist, "What's the worst ingredient?" Sodium Lauryl Sulfate without question, that's the worst. And that is what’s in all shampoos and skin cleaners.
"...WHAT'S THE WORST INGREDIENT? SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE WITHOUT QUESTION."
S: When I was looking at the Johnson & Johnson baby soap it says soap-free. I don't understand how they can claim soap free? On the back it says Sodium Laurel Sulfate so I don't understand. I know it’s not about identifying bad companies, but it’s confusing.
D: In doing research for soap free body cleansers there were a lot of products out there that said they were soap free but I actually didn't find one truly soap or detergent free body wash that existed.
With CRUDE, in the removing of soap from your personal care process, I have found that it can take 4-8 weeks for your sebaceous glands to regulate. When you use soap and constantly strip your skin, your sebaceous glands overproduce oil to make up for what’s stripped and it becomes a vicious cycle. Because of that we’ve noticed that there can be a transition period where it takes some time for your skin to regulate. Have you noticed that with New Wash?
M: Yes, definitely. With some people it takes a month. What's shocking are the people that complain their hair is thin and oily, that they have to wash it every day, a lot of them start saying it's changed and they don't have to do that anymore. But it can take a few weeks. As it should.
S: I think that has been the biggest hurdle, people expect hair products to be instant gratification. That's why the biggest sellers are usually unique styling products that were instant, hair powder or spray wax or gloss. People have been trained in that direction. It can be hard to help people get through the transition because they have to wait it out.
D: I only wash my face once a day but we recommend experimenting with that to find out what’s best for your skin. I think the beauty of products like New Wash and CRUDE is that they’re helping your body work for you. Your body is so intelligent and has all the systems that are already cleansing and exfoliating and doing all the things you want these products to do. Going through maybe 3 to 6 weeks of an “adjustment period” is so worth it. After that, there's nothing you have to do, your body is already working for you. I think that can be motivating and empowering for people.
S: You made a great point once when we were talking about ingredients in the product that while the ingredients we have in our products are important, it's even more important what we don’t have in our products. That is such a simple way of putting it.
"WHILE THE INGREDIENTS WE HAVE IN OUR PRODUCTS ARE IMPORTANT, IT'S EVEN MORE IMPORTANT WHAT WE DON'T HAVE IN OUR PRODUCTS."
When people come to me with ingredient questions I can tell them about our lovely ingredients but it's just as simple to say what we're not putting in it. And, to your point, letting our bodies do the work. It's so simple. You just have to make the transition.
D: It's great that the people who love it are really passionate about it and tell all their friends.
M: Yeah, they spread the word. I bought the CRUDE EVERYTHING Oil for both of my elder daughters and Cat at Hairstory ordered it, we are all converting.
D: Yay! That’s wonderful to hear. I am in the process of developing a soap free body wash and I have a formula that we all really love but I haven't put a preservative in it and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on preservatives. And if there are any that you like over others?
M: We have one in our products that's suppose to be as good as you can get and it works. I would say it's dangerous not to have one.
D: Yeah, that's what I was worried about. It's hard because CRUDE has built its brand on this idea that we only use plants so I’m conflicted.
M: I will get you the name of the preservative. And you can see if it would work for you.
D: Yeah, I would love to hear what it is.
M: You just have to be careful, the more successful you get, the more you become a target for crazies.
S: What is bad about preservatives? How would that compromise the product?
"LETTING OUR BODIES DO THE WORK. IT'S SO SIMPLE. YOU JUST HAVE TO MAKE THE TRANSITION."
M: Think about it, we decompose, right? Vegetables, everything decomposes. If it doesn't decompose, what the hell is it doing? You want the most natural you can get but you have to expect it to work for a year for a shelf life.
D: It's hard because some of the more natural preservatives don't cover a wide enough spectrum of bacteria and fungi so it might be natural but it's not protecting you. There are some companies that will release products with water based ingredients without preservatives and they tell you to use it within three months but I don't really know which is worse. It's kind of a dilemma for us right now.*
S: Is there only a risk once the product has been opened? If it's sealed in an environment that is completely clean? Is it just when it’s been opened up?
D: The example I was given in a formulation class once is if you make a bowl of soup it doesn't matter if you cover it up or where you put it, it's going to start to grow something on it. Eventually, and relatively quickly, because it's a water-based product.
M: What about refrigeration?
D: Refrigeration will extend the life of the product, but it’s still going to start growing stuff.
D: Yeah it's a tough one. And I think it would be hard to get people to store their body wash in their fridge. It's not convenient.
S: It's too far away.
D: I would love to have you try the body wash.
M: I was hoping you would say that, I'm ready.
D: Are you ready? What are you using to wash your body right now?
M: New Wash.
D: I did that for a while too. I have a sample upstairs, I'll grab it for you. I'd love to hear your input. It's preservative free though, so… you'll have to use it quickly.
What do you have planned for Hairstory in the near future? Any exciting developments? And where do you see the company going in say the next five years?
M: Our obvious number one thing is to grow, that's necessary. It would be nice if Hairstory caused a shift. Not so much a shift in consciousness but also taste. It is much better for your hair, your hair looks better, has more life to it and you need less product for it to look better, it's simple.
I'd say the bigger thing is to try to get people to be more individual and not cookie cutter. That and to really make a dent in the use. Less waste of water, waste of product, waste of packaging, waste of time. That and to get happier hair and happier skin.
We’ve found we’ve been able to produce quite a lot of content which magazines, blogs and websites actually want, which is a big break. They used to produce a lot of their own content but the last few weeks we have provided stories for outlets like Teen Vogue. That is interesting for us, for me, because I like creating content. I think magazines are so busy cutting back and being scared and not knowing what they are suppose to be doing and how they are going to sell stuff. Except for some very rare, small magazines that do really well. Personally, for me that's an exciting future.
Otherwise I don't have any plans. Well, I actually do, but they're secret!
D: That's exciting.
M: Next year I will tell you.
D: Wonderful. We’ve been focusing on content marketing for our future strategy as well, it’s so important for brands right now.
M: The big magazines won't let the journalists write the truth because they’re scared of offending L'Oreal or whoever they’re biggest advertisers are and that's really frustrating. It's frustrating for us and for the journalists because they're tied down, so you have to find other sources that aren't in bed with the beauty advertisers.
D: That's an interesting point, quite the conflict.
I’m curious how you felt about launching the Hairstory line, that is kind of the antithesis of everything the hair industry was saying and even against Bumble and Bumble. Was that scary? Or overwhelming?
M: No, because I believed it. I was convinced. I'm passionate about it. I have fantasies about what would happen if this happened and I could actually change one of those big companies. And they are actually worried. We've had quantified evidence that they sit around talking about it. L'Oreal's foundation is on shampoo, conditioner, masks especially their Kerastase. They are very concerned. We were courted by Unilever who has all sorts of crappy products that they defend.
They're terrified but they're not willing to change and they can't change. If they changed they would lose $3 billion a year in sales. I do have fantasies of crushing them. Right now it's just a private joke, but who knows.
"IF THEY CHANGED THEY WOULD LOSE $3 BILLION A YEAR IN SALES."
S: It made the story more powerful for me, that you came from the other side of it. I thought, “Wow, here's somebody who made a huge impact in the industry and is willing to contradict all of that, it must mean something.” That was powerful to me.
M: Well good, I'll use that.
Aveda was suppose to be a lot of great things and it was interesting 30 years ago but at this point they don't have one shampoo that's free of detergent. You'd think they would have at least one, but they've just ignored it. Bumble too.
D: That’s interesting, especially for Aveda. But once you release one product with detergent, how do you contradict that and release one without? How do you explain that? What about the rest of your line?
M: Yeah it's a hard thing to spin.
D: Did you consider launching a detergent-free shampoo under Bumble and Bumble?
M: I was looking for it, but we never got one. We tried but the chemist kept saying, "Well, that's the best I can do." And the best they could do seemed to be dilute the shampoo.
The lab we use now just did it. I actually thought they had actually made a mistake when they sent it to us the first time. Their first submission. I thought, "This is somebody else's and they have accidentally sent it to us and I can't really use it because I'll look like a fake." They said, "No, this is what you asked for." It's odd when you start using something completely different and it works, because it's not what you expect.
D: I'm excited that we get to collaborate with each other.
M: Well we will have to do more of it.
*We’ve since solved this problem naturally! Visit @livecrude for more info.