“As a consumer, I fell in love with Sonäge because I no longer had to choose between results-oriented and safe skincare. I became involved professionally with Sonäge because I could relate to the mission and vision of the company,” says Anisha Khanna, CEO of Sonäge Skincare “Since taking the helm, my goal has been to analyze every ingredient for safety, while retaining the quality and beauty of the original line that is a favorite among estheticians. We have been raising the bar even higher by aligning our brand with the Environmental Working Group.” Sonäge Vitality Nourishing Facial Oil is the first Sonäge product to be EWG VERIFIED, and is now featured in the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep® Safe Product Database.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and this is the second part of today’s It’s All About Food program. Thanks for joining me. We will now move onto my guest, Anisha Khanna, and she is the CEO of a company called Sonäge. We will be hearing quite a bit about it. Just a little bio for her, where she says, “As a consumer, I fell in love with Sonäge because I no longer had to choose between to choose between results-oriented and safe skincare. I became involved professionally with Sonäge because I could relate to the mission and vision of the company. Since taking the helm, her goal has been to analyze every ingredient for safety, while retaining the quality and beauty of the original line that is a favorite among estheticians.” Okay. Anisha, welcome! Thanks for joining me today!
Anisha Khanna: Thank you, Caryn. I’m so excited to be on.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, now can you say the word ‘estheticians’ quickly?
Anisha Khanna: I say it a hundred times a day, so yes. Estheticians, estheticians.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s a mouthful! It’s better to read, I think, than say.
Anisha Khanna: I hear you. How about facialist? Facialist might be easy for you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good. Anyway, we had the good fortune to meet several years ago because you’re friends with my next-door neighbor.
Anisha Khanna: That is right.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I love the way the universe works, bringing people together sometimes that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity.
Anisha Khanna: He’s been telling me about you and your mission and all of the work that you’ve done with your partner Gary over the last 10+ years. It’s exciting. I know your program is It’s All About Food, but everything is so connected and related that I’m hoping that your listeners will get a lot out of our conversation today.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I hope so, too. My neighbor Deepak and his wife Bharati, they’ve had to suffer through many meals over here, where we make our non-vegan friends eat vegan food, and that’s always been fun. They’ve always been good sports.
Anisha Khanna: That’s who they are.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Okay, so I always like to connect the dots with food, so what I like to say about the products that I put on my skin is that I really don’t want to put on my skin something that I wouldn’t eat. I’m being very liberal about that, but I think it’s important. I remember you telling me something, and I was reading a blog recently, and so what I want to talk about is when we put things on our skin, does it get into our bodies? Because I was reading on a blog post recently from a Beth McClellan, director of oncodermatology at Montefiore Health System and dermatologist for the app Spruce, and she was quoted saying, “I do not believe that putting something in my body is the same as putting something on the surface of my skin.” She said, “One of the skin’s main functions is to keep toxins out of the body. It’s the first line of defense and very effective at it. If we could put something on the surface of the skin, and it was absorbed into the bloodstream, you would never have to take pills and you could just rub medicine on your skin, but it doesn’t work that way.” And sure, we would go swimming, the water doesn’t all seep into our bodies, but what about things that we put on our skin getting on our bodies and into our bodies?
Anisha Khanna: I’m happy we’re connecting the dots. That’s what it’s all about. I think gone are the days where we believed that applying something on your body is not like ingesting it, so I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. There are extremes on both sides, and a couple of examples that I’d like to share with you are the nicotine patch. Very, very effective, and it’s been used for years and years and years. It is something that you’re sticking on your skin, outside of your body. It is very, very effective in regulating levels in your bloodstream.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m having a big, giant ‘duh’ moment, like ‘duh!’ Nicotine patch, of course! Right.
Anisha Khanna: The reason I bring that up is something everyone can relate to and understand, so it’s not gibberish from a chemist from Sonäge. It’s just something that’s completely relatable. A nicotine patch is something you wear. We have very, very strong topical medicines, where there are prescriptions that are very targeted and typically skin-related because you want them so targeted. You’re looking for a solution in a particular area. But for those of us who like to soak our feet – I don’t know if you’re familiar with neem oil? It’s an antiseptic, but it’s bitter. You soak your feet in neem oil, and within seconds, you can taste bitter on your tongue. That’s how quickly it travels, so the answer really – the truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, there are folks that say 60% of what you apply on your body, or there are some studies that say that 60% of what you apply on your body is absorbed in your bloodstream or is in your bloodstream within 26 seconds, and then you have the doctors that you quoted that say, “Hey, nothing’s really getting absorbed, naturally getting absorbed.” So the truth is somewhere in the middle, and it all has to do with where on your skin. The skin on your forearms, for example, is much – I’m just going to use, thicker, which is something that everyone can relate to – thicker than the skin on your face, forehead, or head. The skin on your scalp, your forehead – much, much thinner, so things absorb easier. So it depends on what part of your body you’re applying to. We, my business, really deals with the face. I don’t know if consumers understand this because our industry’s not really regulated. The beauty industry is very loosely regulated. The FDA will regulate sunscreen and SPF, but not much else. So you could literally mix ingredients in your kitchen, put a label on a jar, and start selling it the next day.
Caryn Hartglass: I know people who do that.
Anisha Khanna: Which is great, if you’re consuming it personally, refrigerating it, and so much like food. Every seven to ten days, you’re making a new batch and using it at home. That’s great. At least it’s safe as far as there’s no bacteria in it or at least limited bacteria, but when you’re marketing something and it’s sitting on a shelf, it’s not safe. Every time you put your finger in it, you’re introducing bacteria into that jar, and that’s just not safe for your health. At Sonäge, we believe in something that we call the new natural. What does that mean? That means, yes, we’re using natural ingredients, but we’re also using minimal preservatives because we want to guarantee the shop life for our products, right? Skincare is not food. People are not tossing it out every week or two weeks. You’ll find it’s sitting on their shelves for months, if not years, so we want to make sure that when you open the jar, there’s no mold or green stuff growing around it. It’s actually safe for you, but beauty, like food, is a health choice, and we partnered with the Environmental Working Group that I’m guessing your listeners may be aware of. The Environmental Group does a lot of research on safety of ingredients and they rate ingredients in the products on green for safe, yellow for moderate, and red for toxic. So toxic is ingredients or products that contain some kind of known carcinogens. Sonäge products, what we’re committed to is green safe, so they are effective, so you’re going to see a result, but they’re safe for you, and we have an independent organization like the EWG verifying that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. What I want to know is was Sonäge always this way?
Anisha Khanna: So let me give you a little bit of background, let me back up for a second
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, please.
Anisha Khanna: So Sonäge was started by a second generation French esthetician – that word again. Sonäge the company was formally formed in ’94, but our founder, Sylvie Archenault, moved or migrated from Paris to New York in the late ’80s, and she had – Her mother was practicing in Paris, and originally she started importing ingredients and products to use on her own clients and eventually later our manufacturing moved to the US, but a lot of our research and formulation is still done in Europe. Europe is a lot stricter when it comes to toxins, so when it comes to cosmetics there’s something like 13,000 ingredients that are banned in Europe. It cannot be used in personal care products. In the US, there are less than 20 ingredients on the banned list. It’s a joke, really. It really is a joke. It is an honor system. So, yes, a lot of our formulation happens in Europe, which means we’re, by default, we’re using the safest ingredients. A lot of research that comes out really comes out from Europe. We actually take it to another extreme. I’ll give you an example. We have a product called Laserine, as in post-laser treatments, so it was originally formulated when a doctor would do a laser treatment or a deep peel. It’s a wound healer. A way to compare it, it would be similar to like a Vaseline or an Aquaphor, but a natural version. So Vaseline is a 100% petroleum product. Aquaphor is 40 or 50% petroleum. Petroleum is literally just rubber that you’re applying on your skin. It doesn’t let your skin breathe, and it’s really bad for the environment because it’s not biodegradable. It’s not going anywhere. There are some natural companies that formulated a wound healer, an ointment, and they used beeswax. When we were reformulating our product, PETA – and this is a couple of years ago – they were raising a lot of concerns on the commercial use of beeswax because all of a sudden when dozens of companies start looking for an ingredient, that ingredient is now commercially available, and so they were really concerned how this is going to hurt the queen bee, so we decided that we were not. We were going to stay true to being vegan-friendly and not even use beeswax in our formulations. We really do take it to an extreme which is harder, a little bit costlier, but I think, in the long run, we can look ourselves in the mirror and be proud of who we represent.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that. Beeswax is one of those ingredients in the natural care products that a lot of people consider borderline when we’re talking about vegan products. Some people still include them. I was talking last week – not to get off the subject, but it is about beeswax – I was talking to Jeannette Hurt who wrote a book called Drink Like a Woman, and it’s a book of cocktail recipes. I mentioned that Baileys Irish Cream, they’ve come out with a vegan version, and it’s almond-milk-based, but they included beeswax in it. Somebody didn’t do their homework because they were trying to fork it to the crazy vegans and now they’re reformulating it, and hopefully in time for the holidays, we’ll be able to have a vegan version of the Irish Cream without beeswax.
Anisha Khanna: We call this brainwashing in our industry. You want to do the right thing for marketing reasons, but not because it’s a core value. So that’s kind of where if it’s core value, you’re going to get it right. If you’re doing it just because, “Hey, it’s not cool to be using it anymore”, then that’s where you get into trouble, so we’re proud of what we stand behind.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to talk about some of your products. So it’s just like on It’s All About Food, I like to talk about recipes and describe how delicious some of them are, so I want to hear about how delicious some of your products are. Not necessarily to eat, but some of their wonderful properties. I know you gave me a sample of a product that had argan oil in it. I’ve been using it. It’s very lovely. I love the plain argan oil, and your product is different because it isn’t really, very oily. It feels kind of clean, and it has this nice, like a lemongrass, scent to it or lemony or something.
Anisha Khanna: Let me tell you about it. I think what you’re referring to is our Vitality Nourishing Facial Oil. I think when I was visiting New York, we were launching that product, and I think I gave you that product. If you love argan oil – It’s amazing. Argan oil is great for your skin. When you’re thinking about oil, to the consumer, they don’t always understand that depending on where you’re applying the oil, the molecule size of the oil is different. Argan oil is good for your face. Coconut oil not so good.
Caryn Hartglass: Why’s that?
Anisha Khanna: It’s great for your body because your body has larger pores, but your face, it doesn’t absorb quickly. It’s sitting on your skin, so some people tend to break out, other people still complain that there’s dry even after applying coconut oil because it doesn’t absorb. And so the molecule size is not right for your face, so argon oil, they call it liquid gold. It’s our base for our Vitality Facial Oil, but our oil is a blend of ten different oils. There’s a story behind every product. There’s a utility behind every product because we are a professional line. We are used by estheticians and facialists in their facials, so if you think about the profession, we go to see an esthetician typically when we have a problem or seasonally when we want to detox or cleanse our skin, and we’re looking for a result. Yes, there is a whole stress-relieving, aromatherapy aspect to your visit to the spa, and our line is an aromatherapy line, but the reason you tend to go to an esthetician is, “Hey, my skin’s really dry”, “Hey, I’m breaking out”, so our line has to be effective because otherwise our estheticians’ clients will never come back. So what do we blend in this oil? The base is argan, we’ve got marula oil in it, we’ve got lavender, cyprus, geranium. I think what you’re smelling is geranium. It’s got other things like willow leaf, bladderwrack, so this blend moisturizes your skin, but it also heals your skin. It promotes cell growth. It’s got antioxidants in it, prevents dryness, and it’s not sitting on your skin. You apply it, and within seconds, it gets quickly absorbed, so I am so excited you like it!
Caryn Hartglass: I do, and I like when I learn things. I didn’t know that I shouldn’t put coconut oil on my face, that it doesn’t really work.
Anisha Khanna: It’s not. So for – especially since it’s getting colder in New York – it’s not the best solution for your skin. You’re mature. That is my way of saying aging gracefully. For your mature skin, you need a little bit more emollients, and coconut oil alone will not do the trick. A couple of other things that are products that are typically crowd-pleasers, we have a vitamin C serum. You have to love Dr. Oz sometimes because he’ll say things and then it becomes law for consumers. About a year or so ago in one of his programs, he said, “Forget everything else! You just need vitamin C and hyaluronic”, and that makes in some ways our life a little bit easier because now the consumer gets it, but either they don’t. It’s not just vitamin C. I just go the supplement store, get a capsule of vitamin C, and break it on your skin. If you did that, you would burn your skin. That’s how strong vitamin C is. If you just put vitamin C directly on your skin, you would burn it. The way we formulate our vitamin C is it’s encapsulated, so when you apply it, it gets absorbed and then the capsule opens – or we sometimes refer to it, think about a balloon – so you apply it to your skin, and it gets absorbed and then the balloon bursts, and you deliver the vitamin C. Amazing anti-aging product. It’s formulated with orange fruit extract and grapefruit, and it’s got turmeric in it. It’s a food show, and people love ingredients. I’m hoping people are familiar with these ingredients.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Anisha Khanna: I’m of Indian origin, so we grew up eating turmeric in our food. A lot of Indian food has turmeric in it. This is when I first got introduced to Sonäge, one of the first products that I started using, I just absolutely loved it because I – When you read ingredients and you understand them, even though as a consumer you don’t understand about delivery systems and how they don’t irritate you, what’s good, what’s not so good, but it’s good to be able to read ingredients and be able to pronounce them. They are familiar, you can relate to them.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m thinking about ingredients and how they can be toxic or not, but it really depends on the concentration and the environment. As you were describing, the vitamin C can burn your skin, but when it’s delivered properly and gets to where it is needed, it’s beneficial, so water could be toxic when we’re drowning.
Anisha Khanna: Sure. No, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: We have really strong acids in our stomach for digestion, hydrochloric acid, and yet in other places it would just really burn and be horrible, so it’s really important to understand ingredients and where they’re beneficial and how they’re beneficial and where they’re not.
Anisha Khanna: I agree. It’s just so much fun behind what we do and it’s not just about blending. It’s not like our lab just has this big blender and we throw all the stuff in. Every product has what we call a different delivery system, so I know I spoke to you about the capsules and the vitamin C. There’s another product which is – I don’t want to get too technical – but it’s polymerized, so it is, as glycolic acid, which is great for exfoliation, the molecule is actually very small, so it can hurt you, so what we’ve done is we’ve – polymer is like a chain, so we’ve connected it to each other, so when you apply it, it spreads just like a sweater. Our hair is a polymer, so it’s something that goes into your skin slowly, so it doesn’t hurt you.
Caryn Hartglass: Nice. So have just like two minutes left.
Anisha Khanna: Sure.
Caryn Hartglass: And time flies when you’re having fun. The holidays are coming up. Is there anything you might recommend from Sonäge that people might get as gifts?
Anisha Khanna: Yes. Our serums, I know we spoke about our Vitality Facial Oil, our vitamin C serum, and our hyaluronic serum. These three products, you cannot go wrong with these three products. For listeners who just want to do a test drive, just say, “Hey, I want to try Sonäge, but I know nothing about this line, about the quality”, we have a mini facial on our website Sonage.com. It is $15, so if you typically go for a facial, it will cost you $90 or $100 more, so it’s a one-time facial for $15, no shipping. It’s a great way to experience the line. It’s got five different products. It tells you exactly, “Hey, now you cleanse, now you do this, now you wear the mask”. It’s just such a beautiful French line. There’s no way to get an experience over the phone. You actually have to buy it.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s true.
Anisha Khanna: And take care!
Caryn Hartglass: Anisha, thank you very much. I think we’re out of time, and I’m so glad we got this chance to chat. I hope to see you sometime soon and check out these wonderful products.
Anisha Khanna: Thank you so much. Thank you, Caryn. Thanks for having me on.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, happy holidays! That was Anisha Khanna and her company is Sonäge. ‘S’ like Sam, ‘O’, ‘N’ like Nancy, ‘A’, ‘G’ like George, ‘E’. It’s taken from the French ‘son’. It’s ‘son-âge’. ‘His age’ or ‘her age’ – Sonäge. And there you have it. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’ve been listening to Responsible Eating and Living, visit ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com – Oh, no, what am I saying? You’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Visit me at ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Jessica Roman 12/21/2016