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It’s not just the founders that pave the way for ethical and natural cosmetics, but the people behind the scenes, although often understated, play a crucial role as well. I had the amazing opportunity to share a cuppa with Triin Truu, a product developer and lab enthusiast from Estonia. Triin works as a product developer for Turbliss, an Estonian beauty brand drawing its power from peat, offering a range of bioactive products for your hair and skin for daily use. A natural beauty herself, she’s a true inspiration for finding your way into vegan cosmetics. At a quaint café in Tartu, Estonia, we delved into the behind the scenes of beauty industry.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
Let’s start with you. How did you find your way to genetics?
Well, I was born in Viljandi [Estonia]. I had always enjoyed biology. I remember seeing some documentary about genome therapy, and then I thought to myself, “Wow, this is really game-changing – I want to do that!”. That’s when I knew I would be studying genome technology at the University of Tartu. I was convinced that this was my true calling.
What brought the big change? I feel that sometimes university programmes can really disappoint. How did it go with you?
In high-school I used to be rather quiet and shy. But I feel like I completely changed during university years. They always try to make students more active and make them take part in different social activities. So, I ended up in the group of people who organised all the parties and events. The experience I gained made me open up.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I had this huge dream of working with people and learning about the human body. But it ended up being more focused on bacteria! That’s when I really had to re-think my choices.
From there, losing your interest in studying genetics, you ended up working for Turbliss, a brand that focuses on a range of natural peat skincare and haircare products. Seems like quite a big U-turn.
In a way, it was, because it wasn’t anything I had ever considered before. However, I realised that I love make-up and I love beauty, so why not use my skills for that? I started to focus more on microbiology and learn more about the skin structure and how it functions. A good thing about my programme was that I got a lot of laboratory experience, which is what I essentially do today – I work in a lab and stir up new things from natural ingredients.
Now that you work in a natural cosmetics company, has your beauty routine changed at all?
I use less make-up now for sure [laughs]. I definitely value sleep more. When I do use make-up, I try to go for naturally-made products. I like Ontic Minerals, which is an Estonian brand and they don’t add anything extra – it’s clean and exactly what you need for everyday. I used to use regular cosmetics brands when going out, but just that one night caused my skin to lash out and look terrible.
Where does the difference come from? We often try to compare 'natural' with ‘regular’, but what is that determing factor in, for example, face creams?
The pH level is really important. For me, it’s important that the pH level is similar to our skin's own – around 5.5. Turbliss has a peat tonic that has quite a low pH level. It helps strengthen the skin and bring down the pH level, if you use other [chemical] products. Now, what happens when the pH is too high in a product is that your skin becomes dry and the wrong bacteria feel more at home – and that’s not good for your skin. More itchiness, redness – the unpleasant things.
I think it’s really important nowadays to know what you are buying and where it comes from. What’s your take on sustainable consumption and lifestyle choices, and how do you apply it in your life?
That’s an interesting topic, actually. I was just discussing the new plastic bag campaign with my granddad yesterday. They stopped giving out those small plastic bags in supermarkets in Estonia. But we realised that, surely, it does reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation, but a lot of our food is still packaged and stored in plastic. There’s two sides to every coin. I try to use canvas bags when I go shopping. I think that if we want to call for change, we need to start the change from ourselves.
Like in those zero-waste stores in Germany and Denmark, and there are a few here in Estonia, too. They have a package-free concept.
Exactly. At first I thought I was weird when I put unpacked fruit and veggies on the counter, but it’s a tiny way to help the environment. That’s one thing I really like about Turbliss products as well – we use glass packaging, which can later be easily recycled.
Another aspect of appreciating slow living is spending more time with yourself and not rushing everywhere. How do you like to unwind?
I enjoy hiking in the forest on weekends or taking the dog out to the seaside. My dog loves it so much! I like travelling, too, especially in Estonia. There are so many strange places to discover here. I know I work with peat, but I really love our bogs. Time just stands still there. It’s just you, the silence, and the fresh air.
If you could explore a place anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Probably somewhere in the Carribbean. You know, the first thought that popped into my head was that I’d go to my summer home in the country. Build a summer kitchen, make a herb garden and grow herbs. My boyfriend and I really enjoy cooking. It’s a great way to spend time together.
Finally, what advice would you give on cosmetics to our readers?
It’s not all about the brands – sometimes small and less known brands make products just as great, only that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy it. Don’t hesitate to read the ingredients and ask for assistance. Usually, ingredients with very complicated chemical names are actually some very basic compound, like coconut oil. Less is more. With a lot of ethical natural cosmetics brands you get what you need – no bullshit. And that’s what I love about it.
Have you ever wondered how cruelty-free are the contents of your make-up bag? I do like to believe that conscious lifestyle choices can extend to our beauty rituals - be it bathing or enhancing your radiance for a memorable night out. These natural, organic lipsticks by Axiology, with shades ranging from subtle natural nudes to queen-of-the-night black, make sure you stand out from the crowd on every occasion. Ericka Rodriguez, founder and formulator at Axiology Beauty, shared their love for beauty with us.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
What inspired the launch of Axiology?
Axiology was inspired by our dedication to a cruelty-free lifestyle. I have been vegan for many years and during the time of Axiology's beginning, I was delving more into understanding animal testing and animal derived ingredients in our home and personal care products. After lots of research, I vowed to only purchase make-up products that were dedicated in their stance on being cruelty-free. Unfortunately, at the time, I felt a lot of brands fell short. I didn't like the feel of the lipstick and didn't think any of the brands were marketed for me. I wanted something vegan, high performing and cool. I thought it would be fun to try to make my own lipstick (if you can't tell, this has always been my favourite make-up product) and would formulate before and after work 5 days a week. Eventually, I found a recipe I loved and had to bring it to the market.
Axiology is aligned with the values of sustainability. What is your take on sustainable beauty? Where could it evolve in the near future?
Sustainable beauty is here to stay. Ingredients are key to keeping our bodies healthily sustained and I think consumers are demanding this more than ever.
What are Axiology’s characteristics?
Axiology is intentional in her actions, intelligent in her worldview, and compassionate above all.
What has been your most memorable experience on the journey of creating Axiology lipsticks?
The most memorable experience is journeying to Bali, Indonesia, to study ingredients and it is also the place that led me to the women who hand-recycle and hand make our boxes. Bali is wonderful and my boyfriend and I lived along rice paddies and had a view of a volcano from our studio. I was also able to work alongside many other entrepreneurs, which has been crucial to my success. They all really pushed me and gave me valuable advice that I still put into practice.
How do you understand slow living and how do you apply its principles to your day-to-day life?
I'm all for the slow lifestyle. I know that in most cases the slow lifestyle is referring to avoiding mass production and eating organically, so I usually host clothing swaps instead of going shopping and frequent farmers markets. However, most crucial to me when we talk about a ‘slow’ lifestyle is just slowing down in general. I meditate every morning and that's what really aligns my day.
Who do you look up to as your beauty inspiration?
Beauty inspiration would be Beyonce. She's the queen.
If Axiology was a flower, which one would it be?
Axiology would be a cactus flower. We see ourselves in the desert under the open sky.
Standing for MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE and the synergy between the two, Matt & Nat from Montreal offers vegan alternatives to everyday leather essentials, assembled in the form of chic everyday handbags and true city dweller shoes. With their motto being 'live beautifully', Matt & Nat encourages to appreciate integrity, authenticity and inclusiveness among other core values coining the brand's DNA. Matt & Nat advocates the use of alternatives to animal-based materials, such as PVC, and have incorporated using recycled plastic bottles from 2007. Geared forward by ideologies of innovation and renewal, Matt & Nat proves you can even be socially responsible whilst wearing your favourite leather finery...
Manny Kohli, CEO of Matt & Nat, answers all our curious questions.
What alternatives to leather does your brand offer? How long is their lifespan?
All of our vegan leather bags are made out of PVC and PU. We’re constantly trying to source the best materials on the market to ensure a long lifespan. As with any other products, the lifespan of our bags depends on the consumer’s habits. It’s quite hard to put an exact number of this. It will vary greatly between a person who throws their bag on the floor versus another who keeps it in perfect condition. We also offer handbags in canvas material and cork material.
What are the latest advances you have incorporated into production of Matt and Nat vegan leather accessories?
We’re constantly exploring ways to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. We try to incorporate environmentally responsible materials whenever we get the chance. We have committed to using linings solely composed of recycled water bottles since 2007 and we’ve recycled over three billion water bottles producing our bags.
What are the benefits of vegan leather products and why should they be considered to replace leather entirely?
We’re a vegan company and are very proud that no animals were hurt in the production of our bags. We chose to produce vegan bags with recycled materials to show the world that you don’t have to kill animals to produce beautiful accessories. I think consumers are becoming more socially responsible and aware of how harmful the production of leather is and we’re seeing a huge shift and demand in the vegan market.