Beauty products with chemical ingredients irked one Cambodian woman so much that she decided to create her own organic skin care material. More Cambodians like her are switching to organic personal care products.
When Mary Leng first tried a lemon grass soap, she instantly felt the difference. Her skin felt smoother and she felt refreshed and relaxed. It also left a nice fragrance in the room.
Leng has a sensitive skin, and skin care products in the market always irritated her. She kept looking for organic skin care products, which use natural ingredients instead of chemicals. But then she decided to take the matter in her own hands.
She started learning how to make organic beauty products. "Even when I was a child, I used to think that I should make my own beauty products. Actually, most of the ingredients were in the kitchen," Leng told DW.
From a young age, Leng started using organic soaps, which she bought mostly from local stores, and she also made some of them herself. She experimented with natural ingredients like salt, orange and lime, which she used in different combinations.
Leng's preference to use organic beauty products reflects a growing trend in Cambodia. A report by Grand View Research Inc., says that an increasing number of people are switching to organic and environment-friendly products all over the world.
Vichra Di, the owner of She Beauty, sells products like soap, lip balm, facial mask, scrub and moisturizer cream, all made from locally produced ingredients. Most of these products have coconut oil. For instance, the scrub, which exfoliates and moisturizes the skin, is made of brown sugar, coffee, and coconut oil. Di used to buy oil from a coconut garden, but now she makes her own coconut oil. The coconut trees she uses to make the oil do not use any fertilizer.
For Di, personal care products with chemicals or synthetic materials are unsafe.
"After I delivered a baby in August 2015, I was in a poor physical condition. When I used a detergent to wash clothes, the chemical substances in it affected my lungs," she told DW.
"There are a lot of fake products in Cambodian markets that are harmful for people's health. Even products by reputable international brands pose a health risk, especially if they use chemicals," she added.
Cambodian authorities confiscated over 68 tons of fake cosmetic products in 2017. Scientists say that commonly used cosmetic products have ingredients that are harmful not only for humans, but also for marine life.
Personal care products such as facial scrubs, soaps and makeup items contain microbeads, which are actually tiny particles of plastic. These microbeads are also polluting oceans. On the other hand, organic products contain natural ingredients, which eliminate the problem of microplastic, as these products are biodegradable. Certified organic beauty products also do not use genetically modified (GM) ingredients and toxic chemicals such as synthetic colors, dyes or fragrances.
Real or fake?
But can we tell if the product is really organic? Di says it is important that customers look at the package labels. "To know whether a product is real or fake, you must see the label on each product. It shows you how it is made, what the ingredients are, and where this product was made.
"Also, the customers need to test the product," she said, adding that it is crucial to finding the right organic product.
"I test it on my hand first, or sometimes I try a small amount of it on my skin. If I get an allergic reaction, I immediately see a dermatologist," she said.
Di says that her company, She Beauty, provides compensation for customers if they get an allergic reaction from its products.