Jamie MacLean always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and has long been an advocate for holistic living. While pregnant with her first child, she started looking not only at what she was eating but all she consumed, knowing it was directly affecting her developing baby, too. But it wasn’t until a friend gave her the book, There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, that everything clicked. “The book really solidified things for me and gave me the ‘ah ha’ moment I needed to start my own business.”
And so followed Petal & Post, an online retailer specializing in organic beauty and green lifestyle products from around the world. Shocked at the toxins contained in mainstream products, and exhausted by having to wade through the “poseurs” falsely claiming to be green and natural, Jamie began to vet brands herself. The learning curve was a steep one — combing through long, jargon-filled labels to figure out which products were genuinely safe and clean wasn’t straightforward or easy. Drawing on her extensive marketing background, Jamie continues to personally source and research every product on the site, even offering a “purity pledge” that ensures every brand carried adheres to a strict ingredient list. Peace of mind comes from knowing all the products on site are good to our bodies and our environment.
We spoke to Jamie to see how she uses her passion for holistic living to inform — and transform — the way we live.
How does Petal & Post differ from other green retailers?
The US was really getting it. But at the time, in 2014, the green beauty movement in Canada was still very young. I wanted products that had luxury packaging and branding that were also sustainable and truly green-focused. And as a mom-to-be, I was looking for a range of lifestyle products — not just beauty, but toys and apparel for babies — that met these standards. A squeaky-clean mix that is trustworthy.
The ingredients had to be very strict. I was inspired by some of the better skincare lines in Europe. They’re miles ahead of us in understanding how certain ingredients are harmful to our health and our environment. Part of this criteria is packaging and manufacturing in the most sustainable means possible. Many of the brands we work with are using renewable energy sources and the most biodynamic farming methods available.
Why is it so important to buy natural and organic?
A lot of my customers have rosacea or have suffered from a skin condition for years before they realize the culprit is chemical. In many cases, we’ve problem-solved and cleared up the skin. Synthetic ingredients are a toxin. If you keep piling them on your skin, your body is eventually going to react and tell you — you’ve got a problem.
Your skin is your largest organ. What you put there goes directly into your bloodstream. You’ve consumed it. Some people spend a great deal of effort focussing on their diet, only to forget about other elements that pollute the body. As more and more people realize they are celiac and need to get a handle on cutting out gluten from their diet, it’s important to note that you can have gluten in skincare products, too. You have to be careful or you can still have issues.
Reading labels is exhausting. Can you tell us some ingredients that we should avoid?
An alcohol-based preservative with a concentration limit of 1% in Japan, and classed as an irritant in the EU. It shows chromosomal changes when tested on mice. Enough said.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
A foaming agent, very harmful to our waterways and so unnecessary. We need to move away from our desire for products to lather and foam.
Synthetic fragrance (‘parfum’)
Aside from creating havoc to aquatic life, many people have allergic reactions. Opt instead for essential or plant-based oils. Often ‘parfum’ means synthetic, but if it is naturally derived most brands will take care to spell it out to the consumer.
How does the work you do shape your life as a mom?
It’s amazing to be able to help people. Petal & Post has been able to offer a rich information resource, not just a collection of products. I’m happy if someone learns something and is able to make an improvement to their health as a result of reading something on our site, even if they haven’t purchased anything. That’s very meaningful. It’s so rewarding to get feedback when a customer finally identifies what was causing a reaction in their body.
I have two young boys who’ve grown up looking at ingredients. I take my two-year-old and four-year-old to the grocery store and my son is quick to ask, “Mommy can we have that, or does it have artificial flavours?”
Recently we went to a new ice cream shop positioned as small batch, all natural. I asked to see their ingredient list because my son has a raw egg allergy. It was full of artificial dyes and colorants – all the stuff you want to avoid. I was so disappointed. But I didn’t deny my kids that day — or when they go to a birthday party — because I don’t want to single them out. But I do educate them about the importance of what you put in your body.
Julie Green is a freelance writer, artist, and autism advocate. She lives in Toronto with her husband, son, and bulldog. Learn more at http://www.juliemgreen.ca.
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