In our seemingly never ending search for the best in natural beauty we sometimes come across a line that is so well intentioned, well formulated and well executed that well, it cannot be ignored. That brand is Plantioxidants – a newer entry into the organic skincare market and one that we instantly fell in love with. From their 100% recyclable and sustainable packaging, use of use of superfoods such as chaga, goji berries and camu camu, to the use of ORAC units to indicate specific antioxidant value, the super clean and nearly food grade formulations will likely win over even the most stubborn skincare purist. We recently had a chat with San Francisco based Plantioxidants co-founder, health nut and eco warrior Josh Wadinski to discuss his eco luxury skincare line and why when it comes to skincare, plants are perhaps our best friend.
- Please tell us about the genesis behind Plantioxidants.
The idea of Plantioxidants started forming concretely in the fall of 2016 in New York City. Susie, who worked on the formulations with me, had been thinking about creating a few products before we met. I have been a strict health-nut and environmentalist since my youth and wanted to incorporate my lifestyle with the early thoughts she had about what the products could be. We decided to create a line that focuses on the potency of plant antioxidants.
The more I learned about skincare and the more I started to use it, the more I realized so many companies and brands lacked the ingredients that met a healthy lifestyle. Also, given that beauty products are frequently purchased, kept and used between 1-6 months and then discarded, I wanted to address the massive amount of waste created in the industry. I fully believe that consumers should have access to luxury without the expense of their health or the planet. This is where Plantioxidants has grown from and what remains to be the driving force behind the company.
- As the name implies, Plantioxidants products are loaded with superfood ingredients such as spirulina, camu camu and chaga. What is the benefit of using these ‘foods’ topically and which are your favorites?
Before discussing the benefit, it is important to emphasize what some already know: what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body. The ability of anything to pass through your skin and be absorbed (i.e. percutaneous absorption) has been studied for a long time, and at least since the 1940s in western medicine. Scientists have been studying topical absorption diligently ever since to understand the transfer of chemicals, ingredients or any topically applied materials into the skin and circulation.
It is therefore vital for women (and men) to think about what they are putting on their bodies and faces. Our products were specifically created to deliver healthy nutrients that feed and repair the skin. That is why we use superfoods. We also wanted every product to pack as much of an antioxidant punch as possible so we created the Plantioxidants Complex that uses 21 ingredients that are rich with antioxidants to help fight pesky free radicals. Free radicals contribute to cellular degeneration and play a huge role in the aging process.
In terms of my favorites, all of our active ingredients are amazing and are carefully curated. Chaga and ginseng are my favourites because they are extremely effective for repair. Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees in my hometown of Wisconsin, which also happens to be one of the largest exporters of ginseng in the world. Our brightening cleanser relies on vitamin c packed yuzu and sake, both of which help to revitalize and brighten your skin (and they pay homage to the time I lived in Japan). Spirulina and all of the 16 herbs used in the Purifying Treatment Mask are great because they are naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal which helps heal and prevent the development of acne. Camu Camu is also loaded with vitamin C (40-60x more than an orange), which is perfect for brightening. It’s a key ingredient in our exfoliating scrub and mask that uses crushed acai rather than plastic microbeads for exfoliation.
- You have very interestingly assigned an ORAC antioxidant value for each of your products. What does this mean and how important is this for your brand?
This was one of the easiest and hardest choices I made on the packaging. Plantioxidants is based on transparency and education, so I didn’t want to just write “packed with antioxidants.” As the name implies, all of the products rely heavily on plant-based antioxidants. But, it was important to show how truly potent and rich in antioxidants all of the formulas are. The easy part was knowing it should be quantified for each product. The hard part is measuring it.
Currently, ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) is the best and most convenient way of measuring the total antioxidants capacity of certain ingredients (i.e. how loaded certain ingredients are with antioxidants as measured by how well they fight off free radicals). For this reason, I measured the absolute minimum amount of ORAC units we will find per bottle. The total ORAC units per bottle are really 10-20x more that what is on the outer box. There are very loose guidelines about total ORAC units per day, but I wanted Plantioxidants customers to be able to use just two products per day to fall within those parameters.
- What are the challenges involved in formulating a skincare line that uses food grade ingredients and no conventional preservatives?
What an amazing question! Before answering, it’s important to address the fact that you asked it. When you think of your everyday diet and what constitutes healthy nutrition, I would be surprised to find anyone who disagrees that an apple will provide you healthier nutrition than a Twinkie. However, that natural apple will not last you 12, 24, or 36 months (3 years). Apples and their cores take around two months to decompose entirely. On the other hand, that Twinkie can last up to, I believe, 25 or 30 years thanks to the packaging, ingredients, and specifically the sorbic acid which is used as the primary preservative system. The skin is the largest organ and skincare should not be seen as different from other organs. Our bodies down to the cellular level want natural/organic products (i.e. apples) rather than ones packed with synthetic preservatives that can take decades to decompose and take a lot of energy to break down. For this reason, the standard for skincare and the demand for women around the world should be for healthy, nearly food grade products.
In terms of our challenges, the biggest hurdles are preservation and oxidation. We settled on a preservative system that is also anti-inflammatory, which is perfect. I like to make sure we get as much use out of every ingredient as possible. Oxidation occurs naturally and is inevitable for healthy skincare products. When you cut an apple open and leave it out for a while, you’ll see it turns brown. That is due to oxidation where electrons are lost to free radicals and cause the apple to start decaying. Thankfully, we developed a natural approach to prevent this oxidation. Additionally, customers should keep Plantioxidants (and really all of your skincare) products in a cool and dimly-lit location. Exposure to heat and the sun expedite oxidation, which is one of the few reasons Plantioxidants bottles are not transparent in colour.
- What does your personal skin care regimen look like?
My personal routine is always evolving, but right now I always use the Brightening Cleanser, Toning Essence and Brightening Eye Cream in the AM. I don’t like a lot of product on my face throughout the day. At night, I cleanse, apply the Power Seed Light Cream, and then the ABCDE Eye Cream (don’t use vitamin C during the day because it makes your skin sensitive to the sun, which is also called phototoxicity and is bad news). Throughout the rest of the week, I will use both the Hydration and Purifying Treatment Masks and Reparative Serum. I love the Power Seed Menagerie Oil, but don’t need too much of it personally.
- For those of us that struggle to nail down a skincare regimen, which step do you consider the most important, hands down, that which we should never fail to implement?
We believe in a minimum of two steps to ensure your basic skincare needs are met. Start with a good, thorough cleanse with either the Plantioxidants Brightening Cleanser or the Purifying Cleanser, followed by moisturizing your skin with either the Power Seed Rich or Light Cream. These are most important because you are removing impurities from your skin and then re-moisturizing to help your skin heal. These two steps also ensure you at least take care of every square inch of your face before heading out for the day or going to sleep at night. Remember, your moisturizer will clog your pores and can actually facilitate breakouts if your skin isn’t cleansed.
- We believe that beauty begins on the inside. What are some wellness rituals that you follow on a regular basis? (detox, diet, juicing, supplements, meditation, podcasts, etc..)
Food is fuel: In terms of my diet, as a CEO and a founder I am always on the move and switching from one topic to the next and one meeting to another. I don’t like to eat in front of others, so I keep my daily snacks (cup of peanuts, celery, carrots, apple) either in my pocket or at my desk and snack throughout the day. My breakfast and lunch are always the same, where the latter is a kale salad with a cup of beans, a whole avocado, a few other vegetables and a light dressing. Susie makes a lot of delicious juice, but I always prefer to let my body break down my natural foods versus drinking them.
Actively meditate while exercising: I also practice Krav Maga and am getting back into yoga. I use my exercise to not only cross-train for running, but to practice active meditation, review problems I couldn’t crack at work and center myself on what I can do better vs. what went well throughout my day. I have always had very physical forms of activity in my lifestyle and rituals. For example, I was in a seven-day Vipassana meditation retreat, but by day four I couldn’t sit still any longer and had to pull out.
- You are based in beautiful San Francisco. What is currently trending there in terms of health and wellness and what are your favorite local hotspots?
Throughout the USA, San Francisco and the Bay Area overall (San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Berkeley) are seen as 12-15 years ahead of the rest of the country in technology, but I think this comes from the fact that the entire area is very evolved culturally and socially. While no one says it, I see a lot of restaurants and activities that are centered around being centenarians (i.e. living to 100 years old). For that reason, you see restaurants focused on antioxidants and superfoods such as True Foods. Vegan and vegetarian options are filling up more and more on menus like Impossible Burger and plenty of delicious fusion is happening at Namu Gaji.
Juicing and exercise are also big parts of the community. We are starting to see more and more companies and people concerned about where their consumer goods have come from and where they go. I am personally very excited about that. Plantioxidants uses 100% post-consumer recycled plastic and is recyclable, and I am constantly figuring out how we can introduce luxury components of the line into the market while furthering my goals for a closed loop production cycle. I’ve seen quite a few restaurants who not only have given up plastic bags, but also stopped using straws. A lot of utensils are 100% biodegradable for takeaway packaging. It’s a great part of the country, and the fact that it is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny nearly every day doesn’t hurt one bit.
Yuzu and Sake Facial Cleanser
We aren’t quite sure which one of the numerous fruit extracts used in this formulation makes the smell so delicately soothing- it could be the passionfruit, or maybe the kiwi, or even the yuzu. It’s hard to say. But what we do know is that this ultra gentle and yet amazingly effective cleanser does the job well and does so without the usual barrage of nasties such as sulfates and phthalates that do damage to the delicate acid mantle and leave us with even drier skin than when we started. Fermented rice wine and fruit acids make this cleanser entirely soap free. Your skin will love you for it. $55.00
Camu Camu and Turmeric Scrub
The ingredient list in this treatment mask is impressive and reads like what you might put in your morning smoothie- if you had access to a full blown botanical apothecary. The complex texture gives it away immediately and at once tells you that this leave on mask/scrub is the real deal. It is dark and thick with the viscosity of a good manuka honey. But the sweetness actually comes from agave and the numerous forms of topical vitamin C that make this formula so effective: camu camu, acerola and acai berries, the latter ground up, giving the mask it’s scrub like texture. If that weren’t enough it is packed with 21 other plant antioxidants including the stellar turmeric, a masking superstar that we should all try at least once. $85.00
Power Seed Menagerie oil
It is no surprise that we are huge fans of facial oil both as an everyday moisturizer and as an overnight treatment. This particular oil is perfect for both: it is extremely light but amazingly nutritive. It’s lightness is perhaps due to the jojoba which is well known for it’s excellent absorbability. But it’s potency comes from the multitude of cold pressed seed oils- from pomegranate and broccoli to the more exotic cumin seed (we love this one), blackcurrant and raspberry seed oils (which also provides a natural sunscreen). The addition of sea buckthorn and bergamot adds a further antioxidant/phytochemical punch. The speed at which this is absorbed is proof that this is truly skin food at it’s finest. $105.00