Jessica Iclisoy- Proud Founder of California Baby
- Wednesday, 09 June 2010
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently announced its top 10 list of safe sunscreens for the summer. I chatted with the founder of California Baby, whose popular brand appeared at the top of the list.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What inspired you to start California Baby?
Jessica Iclisoy: When I decided I was going to try and get pregnant, I made a conscious decision about 6 months to a year prior to that to clean up my lifestyle (i.e. remove the hormones in my milk and the pesticides on the fruits and veggies I was eating). When I had my son, who is now 19, I breast fed him and I shopped at health foods stores -- this was before anybody even knew about organic. I bought everything at my local natural health food store and I started looking at the ingredients in the shampoo I was using on him and reading up on them. Many of them contained SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and synthetic fragrance, which was coded as a ‘natural fragrance’ back then and companies were positioning products as ‘natural’ even though they were using these ingredients in baby products. It made me angry that natural product stores were even selling products with SLS and synthetic fragrances in them.
So as a side project, I decided I was going to make my own shampoo. I found a replacement for SLS – a natural glucoside that was biodegradable and could be used as a replacement for SLS.
California Baby pioneered a category and had great products from the beginning.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): How long has California Baby been around and how long did it take you to bring the company to the market?
Jessica Iclisoy: We’ve been in business for 15 years. R&D took three to four years and then I brought the product to market with our calming shampoo and body wash. I took it down to our local natural health food store and it retailed for $15.95. The price tag scared the buyers but they loved the quality and wanted to offer California Baby products to their customers, so my agreement with the store was that they would bring it in only if I would educate their customers on its benefits – so I did. I spent a lot of time in the store for the first several years so I was in constant contact with moms. The feedback I received was always positive so that’s how I knew it was a viable business and my products sold from the get-go!
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): How did you go about expanding your product line?
Jessica Iclisoy: It was always expanded out of a need. I started with hair and body (shampoo and body wash), then I introduced a bubble bath that didn’t give people yeast infections, then skin care such as lotions and creams, diaper care and finally I introduced sunscreens. Basically I started with two products, then we grew to eight and today we have over 50 SKUs.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): Did you ever have to reformulate your products to make them ‘cleaner’?
Jessica Iclisoy: Luckily we never had to reformulate our products because we put the best quality ingredients in them from the start.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What ingredients are in your sunscreens?
Jessica Iclisoy: The active ingredient is mineral based Titanium Dioxide. We also put candelilla wax. We use waxes from nature that work as a carrier. We don’t use synthetic fragrances or scent masking chemicals. Many conventional sunscreens actually use fragrances to make it smell like nothing. Raw materials have a natural scent so our product smells like what it is. If it smells like nothing, then you are in trouble. We also have a selection of products that are scented with aromatherapy essential oils.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What advice can you give to consumers looking to buy sunscreens this summer?
Jessica Iclisoy: Parents need to pay attention to the long list of chemical ingredients that are in conventional sunscreens. Many of these ingredients are UV sensitive and can break down before they hit store shelves, leaving the consumer with a sunscreen that may not be providing the coverage they think they are buying. Also babies developing bodies cannot withstand the chemical load that are in many of the mass market sunscreens. I say, stick with a mineral based SPF.
Naturally Savvy Question (Andrea): What is the best way to apply California Baby sunscreen?
Jessica Iclisoy: It isn’t about the quantity you use (1 oz for conventional sunscreens, which is what’s usually recommended), but rather the quality of the product and the application. When it comes to California Baby sunscreen, you just need to get a smooth even layer on your skin because you’re trying to create a physical barrier/layer on top of the skin to scatter and reflect UV rays. The application is more important than the quantity you use. But reapplication through out the day, depending on your activity, is important too. California Baby SPF30+ is Very Water Resistant, which means it that retains effectiveness after 80 minutes of activity in water or perspiring. Water-proof is an incorrect term.
How To: Apply a non-chemical mineral-based sunscreen.
If you are used to slathering on jugs of chemical sunscreen (if it’s clear and liquid-y, most likely it is a chemical based sunscreen), but you have now decided to use a non-chemical mineral based sunscreen (congrats, good choice!) Here are a few tips to keep you and your family protected.
California Baby sunscreens are concentrated: A little goes a long way. You may find yourself squirting out more product than you actually need. So go slow by adding small amounts—a dime sized into the palm of the hand works great.
Dot, dot, dot. Instead of squeezing a big glop of sunscreen into your hands, rubbing them together and then applying, try this easy application technique. Dispense a dime-sized amount into the palm of your hand, scoop up a fingerful and apply “dots” over the area you are covering—then spread to create a nice even layer of protection (a make-up sponge works great here).