Do you really know what’s in your beauty products? You might be putting toxic chemicals on your skin and in your body, and not even know it…
Labels are often designed to confuse or hide the truth — so how can you know what’s safe?
Join us for Clean Beauty, a 10-day journey to demystify your self-care routine from top to bottom.
In this course you will learn:
Label literacy and how to determine what is actually in your product. (If you see “Fragrance,” put it back! We’ll tell you why)
Which chemicals are especially toxic and how to avoid them
What “Organic” and “All-Natural” actually mean in the cosmetics industry
How traditional beauty products are processed and how that affects your health
Powerful home practices for total body nourishment
How to choose products for children, babies, and young families
"Clean beauty” doesn’t have to be expensive
If you’re someone who loves looking good, feeling great, and doing it in a way that is both natural and sustainable, please don’t miss this course.
Jeff VO: Welcome to Commune, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that bring us together and help us live healthy, purpose filled lives. I’m your host, Jeff Krasno.
What exactly is, “clean beauty?” Though many companies look to sell you on their “all natural” or “organic” products, did you know that within the cosmetics industry there is no regulated, formal definition for those terms? Just turn the bottle over and might find yourself back in chemistry class. Except you’re putting these chemicals on your skin and into your body… where, honestly, they have no business being. And to make matters worse, even seemingly innocuous terms like Fragrance can hide hundreds of toxic synthetic ingredients.
Lucky for us, Joy Reese and Luke Geddie, founders of Skinny and Co., are here to shine some light into these murky waters. They started Skinny and Co. after Luke traveled to Southeast Asia and discovered what true coconut oil is capable of. Now they make beauty products with five or fewer simple ingredients that are clean enough to eat. Because what you put on your body not only seeps into your bloodstream, but it also seeps into our soils and groundwater.
If you like this podcast, I would also encourage you to checkout our newest course, Clean Beauty where Joy pairs up with wellness expert Sophie Jaffe to demystify your self-care routine from top to bottom. The course is going to be available for free from August 5 - 14. Just go to onecommune.com to sign up.
And with that, I’m Jeff Krasno, and welcome to Commune.
Joy Reese: I am Joy Reese and I am a co-founder of Skinny & Co. We started it in our family living room about five years ago with 10 jars of coconut oil, not having any idea what to do with that, so that's kind of where we, how we got here.
Luke Geddie: And I'm Luke Geddie and I'm also co-founder as well and I really help run the company and do the product development and sourcing overseas with work in Vietnam and then where our factory in Indianapolis as well.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah, so tell me a little about the genesis of the company and about your experience in Vietnam because I think that that's a big part of the genesis, is that right?
Luke Geddie: Yeah, so, I played football in college for a few years, got hurt, and ended up getting behind in my schooling. So, I went to CU Boulder and went back to school for three years straight, didn't take a summer. At the end of that, I'd run a small business and basically worked another job and had some money saved. So, I decided I was going to go for a four month trip overseas and I worked at a Thai restaurant and really wanted to go to Thailand and so I took off, you know, nine days after graduation and I ended up being gone for about two years.
Luke Geddie: So I went all over Southeast Asia. I lived in India for a little bit, Columbia, South America, and through that process I had been to Vietnam, motorbiked the country, bought $200 motorbikes in Hanoi and drove them 18 days down to Saigon, breaking about every 30 miles, but really fell in love with Vietnam. This was in 2010.
We ended up with a small import export company and just kind of navigated and tried to figure out what we were doing for a year and a half. We really kind of got into commodity trading and finding factories and trying to connect buyers and really through that process learned kind of international trade and what we were getting in the US from overseas is not necessarily not what you think you're getting.
Jeff Krasno: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Luke Geddie: And that was kind of an a-ha moment and in 2012 we decided to come back and bring a product direct from manufacturing, cut out all the middle people, so you can guarantee the quality. We ran into a guy who made great coconut oil, an engineer, had no idea what to do with it, and, you know, we kind of partnered together and said, "Hey, you make it and we'll go and find the market and let's really bring this to the world."
Joy Reese: Can I stop you there? Let me tell them a little about Todd. He knew that the coconut oil that we we're getting in the US wasn't real coconut and it wasn't doing the things that the coconut oil in Southeast Asia was doing. He thought, "You know, I could probably save the health of North America if I could figure out how to make real coconut oil and put it in a jar. And that's what he spent, what, seven years developing a shape when you found him?
Luke Geddie: Yep.
Jeff Krasno: So, at this point, you had already made the connection between coconut oil and health and wellbeing or was this an iterative process?
Luke Geddie: It was a journey. We first wanted to bring a super pure product to market and so, going from different factories and seeing how cashews and all this different stuff was made, you know, cashews being shelled by kids in Vietnam and these other products that had all tons of issues. You know, the coconut oil that I found with Todd was the purest. He cared about the quality. Didn't have any idea, really anything about coconut oil. You know, I just knew coconut was good for you and Southeast Asians eat it and they put on everything and a lot of times they make it themselves. That's when I brought it back and I was sitting [crosstalk 00:08:44]
Joy Reese: He unpacked it from his duffle back and basically says, "Hey Mom, have you and all your weird friends test this and tell me what you think."
Jeff Krasno: Yeah.
Joy Reese: And I was like, "Oh, well, what is it?" And he was like, "It's coconut oil." I knew enough about coconut oil and I had had a professor years ago say, "Yeah, stay away from coconut oil. There's a lot of chemicals. We've done some testing on it. Energetically, you don't want to touch it." So, I wasn't that interested in it. We didn't really know. He didn't really explain it to me. He had come back because his younger brother was graduating from high school and so I was busy, I wasn't thinking about this jar of coconut oil. He handed it to me, it was kind of like my Mother's Day gift. So I started using it. I remember baking brownies with it and just starting to experience this coconut oil and it was just unlike any product I had ever experienced.
Jeff Krasno: So, in terms of the process itself, what was the difference between this particular coconut oil and how it was processed?
Luke Geddie: When you process anything, it's all about getting the moisture out. If you have oxygen and water, that's what starts to degrade, oxidize, products and so anytime you're in processing, the key is how quickly and efficiently you can pull moisture. In coconut oil, a lot of times that's done really there's two ways. You grind the meat and you put it through high heat, generally a hundred Celsius, either steam or through these large furnaces that evaporate the water.
Well, our belief, and I think, you know, a lot of the raw movement is anytime you add heat or it's processing, and anytime you process, you denature and you lose the efficacy. What was unique about what Ton had developed, and, you know, I saw that. We went and patented the process. We have this patent on how to basically take moisture out of anything at room temperature, which is relatively, kind of revolutionary in processing. He can actually demoisturize the coconut at room temperature relatively quickly. Takes us about 25 to 45 minutes to get the moisture down to about a five to eight percent, which in processing is quite good, so, that's really the difference. You know, there's other ways to make coconut oil. You can press, you don't have to dry. You can press the meat and you get coconut milk. And then they spin in and centrifuge and it's supposed to be this heatless process. The problem with centrifuging coconut milk is it's too thick and so generally, you have to add emollients to actually help separate it.
Jeff Krasno: Right.
Luke Geddie: And you either spin it so it's going up over 120 degrees or you have to put other stuff in it to stabilize it in order to get the oil.
Jeff Krasno: Wasn't there an a-ha moment for you guys where you were like, "Oh my god."
Joy Reese: Yes.
Jeff Krasno: This isn't just about, you know, cooking with it. This could actually, kind of revolutionize how people take care of their bodies and take care of their skin.
Joy Reese: I started using is, you know, just as a gift almost and I was cooking with it and then I remembered just being so drawn to it because it is so energetically pure and I remember picking some up and scooping it up in a little bowl and taking it upstairs and putting on my hair and I was washing my skin with it and pretty soon I was just really living with this coconut oil and with this process and he was gone for about a month.
He was in California here visiting and doing some import export stuff. I was taking some continuing ed and I remember finishing this test and I walked to my desk and I turned my paper in and I walked to my desk and I sat and I was picking at my pencils and I remember sitting there on the chair going, "What am I doing?" I was in my skinny jeans. Somebody had just complemented me in the class on my fit. They were like, "Boy, did you get some sun or did you color your hair? What did you do?" You know? I just was feeling better. I was experiencing life a lot fuller and I thought, "What am I doing?" It's got to be that coconut oil, it's the only thing I've changed.
So, Luke comes back a couple days later from California. He walks in the back door and I hear the back door click and I go and I grab that jar and I go and I say, "Sit down. I want to talk to you." He's sitting there and he just sits down like, "Oh, no. I'm in trouble, what did I do?" And I come back and I said, "Okay, what is this?" He said, "Well, Mom, it's real coconut oil…
Joy Reese: Thought I just knew you were too busy to even care about it when I left it with you, so I thought I'd tell you about it when you got interested in it, and that is really how Skinny was born. It was interesting that was when you said, “well, I've got a European buyer that's going to buy it,” and I said, “no, we are fat and unhealthy, and our cells don't work, you are leaving it in the United States,” and so he said, “well, I don't know what to do with the United States,” and I said, “well, neither do I.” The journey began.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah.
Luke Geddie: In that journey, you know, you don't know that you don't know, and so, I was selling commodities and trying to do deals of containers, and you know, we brought it back to the U.S., and through the process of dealing with other co-packers and manufacturers and trying to figure out, how are we going to make this and put it in a jar, and you kind of start learning about the system, and other, of things you otherwise wouldn't have known.
You kind of know how the sausage is made, but you don't really want to, and so as you really, as we got into it, we really started learning, you know, in some of these co-packers, they have to put chemicals through the process to help stabilize, or else they won't certify it, or they won't do it. You know, through this process, we decided the only way to make the best product is to do it ourselves, and we had no idea how difficult a vertically integrated company on two continents, with no real funding, would be, and the naivety is really, when people look, that's our competitive advantage, is that we've built out this system and we own, if not own, we control the whole process.
The, “ah-aha," for me that started it all, for the products we were making, was the sugar scrub. Our sugar scrub has real vanilla bean, and real vanilla bean is not shelf stable, and so it shouldn't actually last in the product, but in the coconut sugar and the coconut oil, that vanilla bean, it doesn't go bad. And we started realized that because you know, you don't know, you're just throwing things in a box, in a bucket, and trying to mix it up, and then-
Luke Geddie: ...you start learning, and it's like, this shouldn't last, this shouldn't be shelf stable, and it was kind of the, "ah-hah," of, if we can put real vanilla in a sugar scrub and get it to your shelf life, what else can we do? That's really what kind of started us down that road of, you know, coconut oil is a clean, pure preservative.
Luke Geddie: Any coconut oil is, we just make the best, and other might have other junk in it. So with ours, with all those impurities filtered and taken out of it, it really becomes the best carrier on the market, and then you can put anything in it. That it really is revolutionary, and you can preserve real, whole, ingredients that really work, and you know, it protects it from being, the oxygen or any water hitting it, so, it's, that was kind of the, “ah-hah,” and why what we're doing is really special.
Jeff Krasno: So you started this little, kind of family business, but the timing of it seems also very fortuitous because there is a growing sense of awareness, and hopefully we can grow that awareness, but around what people are putting in and on their bodies.
And so, you know, this is, this realm is generally referred to as, “clean beauty,” and did you then immediately see that market? And why is, ”clean beauty,” quote, unquote, so important, both for our personal health, and for our greater environmental wellbeing?
Joy Reese: It was a journey, we started to doctors only, to holistic and wellness doctors. Deepak Chopra was carrying it in his clinic in San Diego. They were using it for oil pulling and things, so we did kind of catch on some, you know, we did get some traction there, right of the, probably right of the bat.
The clean beauty, again, we didn't start with beauty products, we started with a cooking coconut oil that we took to doctors only for really two and a half years, and when we started, you know, people didn't really know how to use coconut oil. This has been a movement that really, we've been excited to be a part of, but we kind of grew into it. I think we backed into it.
Luke Geddie: Yeah, I mean we're not smart enough to look ahead and say, oh this is coming, we're going to do something. We-
Joy Reese: We were just trying to do it right, he walked away from big contracts because he didn't agree what they were doing to these products that were shipped to the United States, and I think because of that movement, and that the right, making the right decision there, and really deciding to, do it himself, and do it right, and not be dishonest about anything, that's kind of been inbred in everything we've done, and all of our products really embrace that.
Jeff Krasno: Just to give us a sense of the consumer or industry landscape, I mean, what does the typical, mainstream beauty industry look like? I mean, what's going on there, what are the chemicals and toxins that we find in 95, 98% of what's on the shelf at a local CVS?
Luke Geddie: Yeah, a lot of what the beauty industry is what we call, “me too.” For instance, coconut oil becomes a popular ingredient, and you'll start finding coconut oil products all over the place, but they're really made the same as everything else, and you're finding emollients, and preservatives, and toxic chemicals, and fragrances, along with plasticizers and, you know, the beauty lotion is a lotion, and a lotion is 70 to 80% water, and its you know, if you have water in something it's got to be preserved, and so, you know the beauty industry might have these active ingredients, but the base of the beauty industry is this lotion cream, which generally is in nature, in definition, toxic, because it's got to be preserved, it's got to have all these things in it.
You know, that's when you look, it's a lot of pretty packaging, billions of dollars of marketing, and it's very competitive.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah, and it's very unregulated. So, what are some of the health dangers or ramifications of, you know, you hear about phthalates, or parabens, or sulfates, or-
Joy Reese: Yeah. They're all of those, and the health problems are going to be, they're hormone disruptors, which means that they are tricking the cell into thinking, our cells all need hormones and they have these receptor sites, and these receptors come, and these hormones come in and attach to the receptor sites. Well, they present themselves as a hormone, but they're a fake hormone, and the cell receives them.
It really is a foreign object that our bodies have never had to process or deal with for all of the years of humankind, and so, what ends up happening is, it ends up storing, and it usually ends up storing two places. Interestingly, ends up storing in Adipose tissue, fat tissue, or it ends up storing in the gray matter of our brain, so we're all foggy, we're not thinking clearly, we're fat, our fat, our bodies aren't functioning properly, our metabolism isn't working because our cells are all being, you know, jeopardized by these toxic chemicals, and we just don't wake up and recognize that.
Jeff Krasno: So you're saying that the toxic chemicals that are present in commercial beauty products can contribute to weight gain, chronic disease, brain fog-
Joy Reese: Fatigue-
Jeff Krasno: ... all these things?
Joy Reese: The joke of it is, that one of the biggest culprits is aging. Everyone is wrinkled and aging and they can't figure out why their bodies aren't functioning, nobody's body is functioning properly, and so that is the sad, and almost the, pathetic truth of it, is that here we're consuming and buying all these high-end products that are hundreds of dollars or whatever. It doesn't matter, if they've got these synthetic chemicals in them, they are disrupting the way that our natural body flow is, and they're creating chaos in our cells and in our bodies.
Jeff Krasno: What are the big red flag ingredients that consumers should just look out for when they're walking down the aisle?
Luke Geddie: Well, see that's a tough one, but, you know, there's 80,000 consumer chemicals, and over 20,000 I believe in our beauty and body care. For instance, an example is palm oil. There's a big move against palm oil, well they name palm oil like 60 different names, so you can never catch it in the ingredients list. It's almost impossible to learn 20,000 names, but there's a few red flags you can look for, and you know, one of the main ones is fragrance. Fragrance is where they hide a lot of the stuff, the preservatives, the phthalates, the parabens, it doesn't have to be disclosed, it's protected under the law, and so if somethings not using natural botanical scent, or essential oils, or and they're using fragrance, even natural fragrance, that's a really big red flag.
Joy Reese: That's probably the biggest red flag, I would say, if we were going to tell consumers, "watch for one thing," because if something has water in it, something automatically has to have a chemical in it to preserve it, and so a lot of times, if you get through that list, and there's just nothing there that rings a bell, like if you don't see phthalate, or parabens, or sulfate, or some derivative of those words, then you look at the, and it will always say, "natural fragrance," or “fragrance,” and that's a catch phrase, and sometimes they have tested, there are 100s of chemicals sometimes in that one word.
Unregulated, the law protects it, and so this law that congress started, it's called the TSCA, the Toxic Substance Chemical Act. So it was supposed to be this big act that came in, and got really awakened people to chemicals and what it ended it up doing was, in reverse, what it ended up legalizing and grandfathering 60,000 chemicals that now are actually officially legal.
Before it was kind of like, don't ask, don't tell, if you see the word, “natural,” “pure," “eco," there's no regulation on those terms in any way, and most of the time, there was a study done in 2010, but I think it's still really relevant, 95% of eco-friendly, natural products that we call, “green-washed," were actually fake. They really were not natural. 95%.
Jeff Krasno: And so, obviously, you've been articulate around talking about the personal health risks associated with chemicals and toxins in cosmetics and beauty products. What are some of the ramifications in impacts on the environment with some of these products?
Luke Geddie: I mean, there's a ton, but I think something that's very interesting, is, they're called VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and a lot of times we think of them as when we drive, they're attributing to the environment and global warming, and all these things that are hurting our air, and the ozone. As they started doing more research, they started finding these chemicals in the air that they couldn't trace to the cars, and what actually has ended up happening is it's all the beauty products that we're evaporating, that we're spraying, and you know, the EPA will tell you it's 75% are from cars, and 25% are from personal care chemicals
Luke Geddie: ... but as we're looking into it, it's more like 50, 50, so it's the personal care chemicals that we're as toxic to our environment and our ozone, and our air, as driving.
Luke Geddie: But then for the environment, too, then you wash them off, and they-
Luke Geddie: What you're putting on your skin goes into your body, and then of course, you pee it out, and it goes into the water. Organic compounds can decompose, but what we're finding is a lot of these chemicals have a very long shelf life. Some of them are called forever chemicals. They have a thousand year half-life, so you're finding them in the soil, which then you find them in the plants, which then you find them in the animals, which then you find them in-
Joy Reese: The water.
Luke Geddie: ... in your water, in your body.
Joy Reese: I mean, we've got to wake up and say, “What's it doing to our bodies? What's it doing to our environment? What's it doing to our rainforests, our soil, our air?" If you can't eat something, why would you ever put it on your skin? Your skin's your largest organ.
Jeff Krasno: I'm an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur.
Joy Reese: So is he.
Jeff Krasno: I want to have impact with my life, and impact often equates to scale, right? Often, not all the time. So, to make real systemic change you're wanting to reach, one often chases a degree of scale. What are the challenges in your business and in your industry around achieving those levels of scale, and the balance around the purity of your product, and the growth of the business? Is there a compromise to be made, or you're like, "I'm not going to ever make that compromise," and to heck with scale? Or maybe you can do both.
Luke Geddie: We're uniquely positioned because coconut oil is so versatile that it is scalable in what we're doing. Now, the problem is the industry, right? We're just one player, and we don't make every product possible, and we're not going to reach everybody. So, you really need to look at how the industry can scale, and there's a lot of issues. The chemical industry in the US is over a trillion dollars. They're bigger than big pharma, and they're the most powerful lobbying group.
Now, what's interesting is in the '70s, we didn't have all these chemicals. Modern humans have lived for, say, 2,000 years without them, and really only in the last 50 years have they all been introduced. So, there's a way to do it. There was beauty products, and there was ... It's doable. It's just, how do you wind that back? Some of it is consumer, we like easy. Our products will melt and have different consistencies.
Luke Geddie: So for us, it's education. That's a tough one because it's not going to be the exact same every time you buy our product. Rose grows and smells differently different times of the year. All of our essential oils, because they're real. So, our issue with scale is that education piece, but as an industry, we have to look and say, "Well, how did they used to do it?"
Jeff Krasno: Right. It's so funny that you bring that up because there are all these kind of, quote/unquote, modern wellness trends, like clean beauty, yoga, meditation. You could just go on and on. The paleo diet, local food. Well, everything I just named is thousands if not millions of years old.
Luke Geddie: Exactly.
Jeff Krasno: I mean, yoga, 5,000 years old, meditation since 1500 BC or something. Local food or farmers market, that's just how we grew the food.
Joy Reese: Surprise.
Jeff Krasno: That's it. But now I think people are sort of rediscovering these things because they address the salient issues in their own life. I can't sleep, I have so much anxiety, I have so much stress, I'm not healthy, I've got-
Joy Reese: I have a sick loved one. I have a really sick loved one. That always wakes you up.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah, absolutely. Or rising sea levels, I mean, global issues too.
Joy Reese: Sure.
Jeff Krasno: So, I think it's in some ways, what you're saying, it's rediscovering some of these things that are old and true to address these problems that are modern and new. And now they're bigger than they've ever been before. I mean, you talk about 40 years ago, sure, there was cancer and there was diabetes and other forms of chronic disease, but you look at the trend over the last 40 years, and it's through the roof. So then you got to go back and look like, what changed? What is the cause of that trend? Or, it's not even really a trend anymore, it's just the modern human condition. It's like we've changed what we define as normal.
Zach Bush, he talks about this all the time. I mean, he went back and looked, and he was like, wow, glyphosate got basically introduced at a mass commercial level about 35, 40 years ago because we didn't want dandelions in our front yard anymore, and there's a macho guy that can strap this thing on his back and pull it out like a big bazooka and spray it all over the freaking place. But that's water soluble toxicity going right into our soil and into our groundwater, and that's exactly what you guys are talking about and addressing.
Luke Geddie: It's crazy because dandelion stir fry is delicious.
Jeff Krasno: That's true.
Luke Geddie: We eat it in Vietnam. I mean, the weeds that we try to kill here are food-
Joy Reese: In other parts of the country.
Luke Geddie: ... on the table in other parts of the world.
Joy Reese: Yeah, it's interesting.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah.
Luke Geddie: And how we got so far-
Joy Reese: Off.
Luke Geddie: ... away from that and off, it's really scary.
Joy Reese: You know what? I do think that when you look at that, when Roundup and when those glyphosates came on the market in such a mass, then you just see the rise of all of these chronic diseases.
Luke Geddie: Well, and the problem is over the last 40 years this has been happening, it's not slowing down. That's really where we are stepping in with our products to give people a break, but there's a breaking point at some point. One in two people are going to have cancer, one in eight women are going to have breast cancer, one in sixteen children are autistic. These numbers are, in the modern world, are not acceptable, and it's not like this is being curbed. We have to wake up as a society and start buying clean, buying local, getting back into better practices, and looking and saying, "Well, how did we used to do it?" at some point, or else ... It's not like it's going to just stop, and we can close our eyes and move somewhere else, because the whole water table, the soil, everything's being affected with all of this.
Jeff Krasno: Yeah. I mean, there's a personal empowerment piece of it where there's a switch that needs to go off in people's brains around, this is not something that's happening to us; we actually are an active participant in the human condition, and the human condition is just, what Joel Salatin often says, is just the aggregate of billions of little decisions.
Joy Reese: Yes.
Luke Geddie: Yep.
Jeff Krasno: We can make those decisions every day.
Joy Reese: We make them the strongest with our pocketbook, and that is what I always empower my patients with. I'll say, "Vote with your pocketbook. Don't buy that stuff. Make them do it better. Go buy local." A lot of times you just think, oh, you hear this nice little thing about buying local, and oh, isn't that nice. No. Buy it from somebody that cares about the product itself. Don't buy it from somebody that is calling up a huge factory in China and saying, "Hey, I want two million units of this by Wednesday." That just is not going to end well.
Luke Geddie: The future for us, and what I really want to see ... We're still very small and trying to grow, and a very much small business, but what I would love to get to is a clean, ethical, transparent. Those are the words that we live by, and being able to have a fully transparent supply chain.
Luke Geddie: ... show people that transparency is poss ible and that the products work, so that hopefully, people start waking up and start demanding that from every part of their life.
Jeff Krasno: God bless you guys. Thank you guys for your work.
Joy Reese: Thank you so much.
Jeff Krasno: Thanks for working with us. [crosstalk 00:44:45].
Luke Geddie: Hey, thanks for having us.
Joy Reese: Yeah, we've just enjoyed every minute.
Jeff VO: At the heart of clean beauty is simplicity. We lived in a world without synthetic chemicals for tens of thousands of years. For our skin, simpler is almost certainly better — more sustainable, more nourishing for our bodies, and better for the environment.
I hope this episode empowered you with the knowledge that there are healthy alternatives out there, and that — while the beauty industry can sometimes obscure the processing of their products —you have the power to research and find companies committed to making better choices.
If you want to go even deeper into this topic, our latest course, Clean Beauty will be available for FREE from August 5-14. This 10-day journey will demystify your beauty regimen from seed to skin and teach you how to develop a self-care routine that supports your holistic wellbeing. Reserve your spot at onecommune.com.
I’m your host, Jeff Krasno. We’ll see you next time.