This brand will drive you coconuts! If you always dreamt of standing on the top of palm trees and have a bootylicious healthy skin that is also passionately natural… then, Coconut Matter. On a journey to zero waste, creating a positive social impact on the Solomon Islands, embracing a circular economy, using blossoming ingredients and challenging the hand-making in every step. Truly Eco-Coconscious and sustainable, there is no BO, no BS, no nasties or naughties, just incredibly badass clean beauty brand for all the tropical queens out there. All good things are wild and free. Are ya’ in?
We interview Diane van Zwanenberg founder of the most Gorgeous brand of clean beauty. She’s on a journey to zero waste which she reveals in this incredibly personal interview plus some important information to stay healthy and get away from the greenwashing! Enjoy, coz’ goodness is right here darlings!
Hi Diane, would love to hear a bit about your background and what led you to start a business of zero waste clean beauty products?
I am originally from Singapore but have spent a good bunch of years in Australia, and for the past 20 years, I am based in Hong Kong. Most of my corporate life involved growing or building businesses for global companies setting up in Asia.
Then, I became the mother of my gorgeous daughter, Jade, and everything changed. I realised there are so many things that I cannot change unless I am part of it. With her, I felt empowered with a rush to just do good. I could transform my knowledge and experience in businesses to challenge the convention and develop an alternative for a zero waste clean beauty. Funny how life happens, that I came across Kokonut Pacific and was inspired by their mission in helping the Solomon Islands, and I admired their zero-waste process in the making of virgin coconut oil. As an avid user of virgin coconut oil, I also found their oil to be the best! So here I am… Four years later, developing coconut oil-based natural clean beauty products.
What is the mission & big WHY of Coconut Matter?
With Coconut Matter we are on a mission to bring zero waste beauty choices to the mainstream and make it easy for everyone to say “no plastic, please”. We want to keep us all making a positive impact to the community of farmers in the Solomon Islands. We want to lead the movement in the space where we can get the beauty industry doing good, in a way that it’s free of cruelty and plant-based. We want to support the circular economy for a better world.
The beauty sector generated over 142 billion units of packaging in 2018 – most of which ended up in the landfill or the ocean. Facts are that only 50% of bathrooms products’ waste is recycled. Are major corporations doing enough to kick the habit? Definitely not. WE ARE.
Also, lately more people are aware that traditional and commercial deodorants or lipsticks contain ingredients high in toxins risking your health and your wellness. Turns that every single time that we purchase something that is good for your health, it’s also for the planet. It’s time for us to create a lifestyle that truly matters!
Could you tell us what is the range of zero waste clean beauty products we can find in your online shop?
This is where we get really excited! We have a pretty extensive range of clean beauty deodorants, lipsticks and lip balms, soap scrubs, body balms, body butter and of course our WILD Virgin Coconut Oil. All of them are handmade with love, from the extraction of our ingredients to the actual final product. One thing that makes our products very special is that we are incredibly strong on ingredients. As you can imagine, we use coconut oil as the base for everything we create, but then we also have a large list of passionately vegan ingredients which are selected with devotion for its functionality and tactile benefits.
Then, with us, it’s important to know that we take sustainability one step further. We do this by not using aqua, as water-based products to get people to pay more for less, and if you want to be truly eco-friendly it’s important that beauty products go a long way, last a long time. Another thing we do is to break myths on how to use the products: who said we can only use deodorant for our armpits? Or lipsticks for our lips? That’s just another commercial invention to sell more. By creating multi-purpose products we will all buy less, that means a lower carbon footprint.
Oh cool! So how would you suggest to use the deodorants and lipsticks for different purposes?
Well, you can really deodorants for the other sweaty parts of your body. When it comes to lipsticks, ours can also be used for a blush to create depth and angles in your pretty face. Not to mention lipsticks are also deeply moisturizing because we use coconut oil.
Let’s say our lip balms? We have a coloured range so that while you get your lips hydrated you can have that soft colour… And it can also be used for the blush in your face.
Of course, not all beauty products may have these functionalities… it’s so important they are natural, plant-based and really created for a clean beauty to ensure that’s healthy to apply in any area of your gorgeous body. In fact, these are all so good that are even children-friendly!
Coconut Matter is a big promoter of wild coconut oil. Could you explain a bit more why is “wild” better?
We work with farmers and communities in the Solomon Islands who grow and process Wild Coconuts under fair trade conditions. What makes it WILD is their unique 8-step process within 60 minutes from harvesting. How this process looks like is basically these Wild coconuts are dehusked and split by hand, then grated to extract their flesh and weighed into small batches. Once the grated coconut flesh is dried, ready for processing each small batch is then cold-pressed by hand. After, magic happens: our WILD Virgin Coconut Oil is freshly extracted and then filtered to ensure purity. The final step is to bottle organic coconut oil in our zero-waste packaging. Promise it smells like heaven…
And aside from wild coconut, what are the other ingredients we can find in the Coconut Matter clean beauty deodorants and lipsticks?
For example, BLISS Mood deodorant which is the new product we are about to take on a Kickstarter, it has 18 ingredients from plants and minerals. It has been a 2-year journey from R&D through to a year of market testing and nearly 300 formulation adjustments. Formulating natural deodorant in a paper tube is complicated. Being tough on body odour yet gentle on one’s body requires a delicate balance of functional ingredients. The right balance ensures harmonious skin health over time. Getting the deodorant to glide smooth and dry turned out to be the most difficult and time-consuming task.
We have a detailed and transparent list for each of our products which the gorgeous people out there can see from each product page and go more in-depth find it all in our ingredients page. We leave nothing in the realm!
Where do you source the ingredients from and how do you ensure these are sustainably made right in the origin?
That’s the other element that makes us very transparent. We answer: Where? How? and Who made them? Again, we curate all these important details from the same ingredients page. Our people (or CocoTribe) really appreciate that we give them all this accurate information. We are on a journey in which we can learn together and it’s such good fun!
Funny fact is that I used to have a cupboard of shoes, now I have a cupboard and a fridge full of ingredients ☺
Are there any certifications that can help people understand that it’s truly sustainable?
We follow COSMOS-standard, which is a collaborative effort from five key European organic certification bodies: the Soil Association, BDIH, Cosmebio, Ecocert and ICEA. For all certified products ingredient, it must meet strict criteria and respect the principles of green chemistry, and product packaging and cleaning materials used in production facilities must also meet the standards. The entire supply chain is verified providing a guarantee of the quality and integrity of products. For us, we refer to COSMOS-certified raw material list and we aspire to get this certification. The challenge for many independent brands would not be able to obtain such certification because of its cost and it requires extensive resources to maintain. If the brand we work with has the right intentions and align with your values, do give them the support and urge them to do better.
For now, I am always thankful to my customers who helped me along the way by providing their feedback and customs.
We’d love to dig a bit deeper on the Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil. You may be aware there’s been a lot of discussion about this ingredient. What is your opinion on this matter?
Yes, so we use two ingredients that are palm-oil derived: Cetyl Palmitate & Isoamyl Laurate.
Cetyl Palmitate is a great natural skin-conditioning and emollient ingredient, a pure vegetable lipid ester derived from cetyl alcohol & palmitic acid (naturally occurring fatty acid). Then, Isoamyl Laurate is a natural silicone alternative. It imparts a velvety, silky and non-sticky skin feel to the Mood natural deodorant range. This oil is a 100% naturally-derived ester of isoamyl alcohol and lauric acid, and we only use the plant-derived which means it’s 100% natural form of this ingredient
Both are used for our Mood natural deodorant range. As mentioned earlier, formulating natural, plant-based & cruelty-free deodorant in the paper tube is complicated. We have not excluded ingredient-derived from Palm oil as it is a natural, efficient and a potentially sustainable crop. Important to know is that we source from Dr. Straetmans who is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification and undertook to create a fully certified supply chain for sustainable, palm oil-based products for the cosmetic industry.
Coconut Matter feels by creating a clear demand for sustainably produced palm oil is more effective than prohibiting palm oil usage.
We can all agree that what we put on our skin can have a direct effect on our health. We’d also like to know what ingredients do your products NOT contain?
Good question! For our products, ingredients are everything. We have a Dirty List on the same ingredient page we mentioned earlier. Known cancer-causing chemicals or carcinogen exposure can occur from inhalation, ingestion, or absorption of many different types of substances. Globally, the laws restricting such chemicals are limited. We DO NOT use Aluminium Compounds, Formaldehyde, Parabens, Preservatives or Talc.
Since Coconut Matter is a zero-waste clean beauty brand, what is the kind of packaging we will find?
We would prefer to be known as a sustainable beauty brand. Zero waste is a tall older which we are still on a journey to achieve it. We use glass jars and tins that require customers to clean and reuse, but eventually, not all customers will do this. The paper tube for lipstick and lip balm are biodegradable, but we are still sourcing for a biodegradable label. Our deodorant is the only product that is fully biodegradable from content to packaging. We shipped our products in biodegradable packaging and fillers.
We’ve had many social and ecopreneurs complaining about how difficult it can be to find sustainable or zero-waste packaging for their products. How does this journey look like for you?
The journey has not been perfect, and it’s ongoing. There are so many parts of product packaging that requires systematic change and innovative solutions. I accept imperfections and work with suppliers to improve upon it. As you get bigger, your ability to influence changes strengthen.
The key is to start the journey, once you are on the journey, you are making small changes. Changes could be tangible changes or intangible such as raising awareness to build a sustainable lifestyle.
Manage your own expectations – there are no instant gratifications on this journey.
You are also planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon to level up the brand! Would love to hear what can folks expect in there and why they should support Coconut Matter?
I want to create a deodorant that stops body odour all day. Since we normally apply deodorant in the morning, I also want to make a deodorant to make us feel good and get us ready to shine. So I created BLISS Mood deodorant exclusively for Kickstarter. BLISS is formulated with a blend of Lemongrass, Frankincense and Lime essential oils to give us a boost of citrusy wonders. The scent will promote positive energy flow in the body and invigorate your mind to set you up for the day ahead.
BLISS is tough on body odour, gentle on you and kind to the planet. It is 2 years in the making and has been proven to work effectively in hot and humid Hong Kong. BLISS glides smooth and dry, leaving no stains or residue. Each tube will last about 3 to 4 months if used daily. The ingredients are plant and mineral-based, and BLISS is fully biodegradable from content to its packaging.
We want to make BLISS available to the world, but we need help. We need to raise USD50k to buy tools and equipment to scale up production, and for us to market and distribute BLISS globally. My dream is to reach a critical mass so that we can enable the local community to craft BLISS for their own market, and be big enough to make a positive influence on the supply chain.
You are based in Hong Kong. How does the social and eco-entrepreneurial venture look like there? Are there any exciting things and change for good happening in the country AND local area? Do you see people becoming eco-conscious?
People need to see the problem to know its real. When you wake up with your front door blocked by styrofoam, and your street covered with plastic waste, you know change is inevitable. There is definitely a growing, small but active group of ventures promoting sustainability. Some ventures are opportunistic, and some ventures put their heart in it – it is all good.
We have a modern bulk store such as Live Zero providing bulk food and beauty products. There is constant beach cleaning campaign at individual and corporate levels. Eco groups are also sharing sustainability in schools. Some school has sustainability as part of their curriculum.
I definitely see people being more aware of sustainability – but there is still a gap between awareness and taking action to change. So we still have a lot of work to do.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other businesses trying to make a difference for good?
Start a business that relates to a matter close to your heart. When things get tough along the way, you can always go back to your heart to gather strength and keep going forward.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
Build a lifestyle that matters.
Finally, where can we find your clean beauty range? Shops, online, worldwide…?
We ship globally, our website is www.coconutmatter.com and then on our Partners page, we have listed all the physical and online stores that are distributing Coconut Matter products! We hope to extend this list in the coming year, so feel free to reach out for collaboration opportunities!
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