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Formulating with a conscience

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Natural Oils conquering zero-waste production

We are all striving to play our part in the fight for a cleaner, healthier planet. Whether it’s readdressing our home recycling methods, adjusting how we travel, or considering the impact of buying certain products we all recognise the need for action now.  And here at O&3 this is no different.

O&3, The Oil Family, is a business founded by my two sisters and I on the principal that cosmetics, personal care products and indeed all the ingredients in between should not, and do not need to, damage our ecosystem.

This article is by no means an outlet to preach to formulators or brands, but it is written with willingness to challenge your mind-set when starting out on your product or brand development journey.

We have seen the cosmetic industry navigate through significant change since the impact of Anita Roddick. Anita taught the cosmetic industry that change can happen and none of us can deny that without her foresight we would not be where we are today. One particular part of her impact that resonates with me was her message when building The Body Shop empire. A message of no-nonsense when it comes to animal testing, socially aware, ethically produced ingredients. She was adamant her developing client base had a conscience and most of all would pay for a product that acknowledges this. She was right, and her efforts changed the way consumers invest in their personal care regimes today.

Inspired by Anita, O&3 – The Oil Family uses a certain term when it comes to sustainable ingredients: “ingredient dual-functionality”. We have witnessed numerous brands we support put this terminology into practice and succeed. So what does it mean?

  1. Ingredient Functionality

Rule No.1: an ingredient should have an inherent functionality.

Let’s take for example: Carrot Seed Oil, Cold Pressed. An absolutely superb base oil for its natural source of antioxidants and essential fatty acids, in particular, vitamin A. Ingredients like this (of which there are many) do the talking when it comes to product functionality.

  1. Ingredient Conscience

Rule No.2: an ingredient should have a social or environmental conscience.

Along with Carrot Seed Oil, Cold Pressed, there are many other oils that carry another important function, that should absolutely be used to sway a consumer to invest in your brand: Ingredient Conscience.

What is important here is that your brand does not have to publicise this message if they do not want to. But, more often than not, the long-term benefits of sticking to this rule positions your brand, your people and products with the right outlook.

Let’s take, for example, Tomato Seed Oil, Cold Pressed or Raspberry Seed Oil, Cold Pressed both of which follow a powerful zero-waste message which must be shared. Our everyday supermarkets decided a number of years ago that they had a demand for “seed-less/pulp-less” jams and juices. This did two things. Firstly, it created waste in the production of these products. The excess pulp and seeds that were removed from the juices and jams were disposed of. Good nutrients, simply disposed. Some of it was utilised as natural fertiliser but the majority of it left to waste. This story has a fairy-tale ending however. Soon enough, a micro-market emerged and the seeds and pulp saved to further process and extract oil. A cosmetic gold-mine was discovered. Oils with powerful inherent benefits and an even more powerful ingredient conscience: Zero-Waste.

The zero-waste story did not end there. Exfoliating Microbeads were very much in the limelight recently for their nastiness when it came to infiltrating our oceans with plastic pollution. A positive outcome followed with a growing use in Natural (zero waste) Scrubs. These scrubs are the by-product of the oil production process. Most of the meal (by product of the crushing of seeds) is utilised either for animal feed or for scrubs in cosmetics. The beauty of these scrubs is not only that they are following the zero-waste mantra but they are still rich in nutrients as some of the oil remains within the scrubs, giving your scrub further functionality.

The beauty of Natural Seed Oils is that, more often than not, they follow Zero-Waste protocol. From harvest to oil there is little waste, hence why they should always be at least considered as a base of a formulation. Even an everyday commodity refined oil like Sunflower Seed Oil, Refined is produced with little to zero waste. The excess from the harvested crop utilised as fertiliser, the seeds pressed for oil, the meal (by-product) of the crushing process utilised for animal feed or scrubs. What is more, the wonderful Vitamin E Tocopherol is extracted part way through the process. The message here is that you do not have to use a quirky/niche ingredient to make a difference.

A question our crew is often asked: what is the ideal base oil that ticks both Ingredient dual-functionality boxes? The good news is that there are so many to choose from. There are many Refined Oils (if you are looking for less aroma/colour) that are produced with zero-waste. Or there are a wealth of Cold Pressed Oils that serve more functionality than Refined due to their cold pressed state, and that are produced with zero-waste. You just have to make sure you are zooming in on their manufacturing methods; information any well informed supplier should have in hand.

A large % of our product range offers the brand an opportunity to stop and think about their social and environmental conscience. Whether it is aiding a deprived community in South America, helping plant more trees, or moving away from synthetic manufactured ingredients, the sustainable approach is still very apparent.

As a supplier to a diverse number of start-up, indie and global brands, we are seeing a major increase in demand for zero-waste ingredients. Typically, the pressures of retailers are filtering through to brands and an environmental conscience is a pre-requisite for a brand being able to launch in their store. Whether it be in relation to their packaging or listed ingredients, there needs to be a clear proactive approach to sustainability. When you are next formulating, start as you mean to go on: with ingredient dual-functionality.


Thomas Kerfoot BIO:

A self-proclaimed “oil-nerd”! Thomas founded O&3 – The Oil Family along with his two sisters Jennifer and Eleanor. Having grown up in the natural oils industry working in their family oil business, the three founders have the best possible experience and knowledge to ensure there is a much-needed change to the way the personal care industry is serviced. With a product range of 850 natural ingredients and locations in the UK, Eastern Europe and USA, the business supplies a wealth of start-up and established brands in 46 different countries. As commercial director, Thomas leads the company’s product development, technical and marketing of new and new unique natural oil ingredients.


Please note that the views/opinions expressed in this blog are solely our own. It is the responsibility of our clients to conduct the necessary testing to substantiate any claims and ensure compliance with industry standards for every ingredient. We will not accept any liability for claims made based on our content.