Q&A: miscellaneous

Why the name Astalou?

Astalou is named after founder Ronja Justesen’s first source of inspiration – her grandmother, Asta Louise. Always making an effort to look and be her best, caring for herself and for everyone and everything around her, this grand lady was crusading for kind and conscious luxury long before CSR became a KPI. 

Why is Astalou produced in Denmark?

Developing a series of skincare products that all live up to the standards of three of the worlds’ strictest certifications is a complex matter, to say the least. The skilled people at our Danish formulation lab know how. They are certified, innovative, award-winning market-leaders in mild, eco-friendly skincare and they have 40 years of experience. In short: they are the best for the job.

How do I read an ingredient list or label?

Read high to low! All ingredients on a product are listed in order of predominance. This means that the ingredient used in the greatest amount is listed first, followed by the next ingredient, and the next, all in descending order. Also, be aware of the 1% rule: ingredients that have a concentration of 1 percent or lower don’t need to be listed in any particular order.

Do you use animals to test your products?

No, of course not – we love animals! Besides, all forms of animal-testing in the development and production of cosmetic products has been banned in the EU since March 2013. As a result, it is also illegal to state ‘not tested on animals’ and ‘cruelty free’ on the packaging. While legislation may be different in other parts of the world (e.g. in China, which is why we don’t sell our products there), this applies to all products produced in the EU. 

Why does the colour of your product change? 

Natural ingredients may vary slightly in colour depending on the harvest and season. Since Astalou is packed with nature’s best, that’s the simple answer why there may be a slight difference in colour from product to product. (Fun fact: very few raw materials are naturally white, so none of our products are 100 % white, either. Some brands use synthetic dyes to camouflage the true colour of their product and make it appear more appealing. We don’t. Product make-up has no place in people- and planet-friendly skincare.)

Natural vs conventional cosmetics. Which is better?

If, by better, you mean more effective, let’s start by noting that efficacy is a function of formulation science, not just the origin of the substances. Also, if a producer makes an efficacy claim on a cosmetic product – organic or conventional – it must be substantiated by evidence from scientific studies. There’s no making promises you can’t keep. 

Health is a different matter. When it comes to food, most people agree that organic food (not containing residues of pesticides) is probably healthier than the opposite. Skincare products, however, are not necessarily healthier because the content is grown organically. When it comes to your skin, health is about avoiding substances that are suspected of being carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting or that may cause irritation or allergies. That said, natural skincare is no doubt better if you think bigger. Whereas conventional cosmetics are not concerned about improving their footprint to people and the planet, natural skincare is all about driving positive change via ethical, social and environmental sustainability. When we say Astalou is kind to everyone, including Mother Earth, this is what we are referring to. The certifications we carry are your guarantee that we walk the walk.

You recommend products with a pH of around 5.5. Why? 

The simple answer is because your skin’s natural and ideal pH is about 4.7–5.7, i.e. slightly acidic. The more complicated answer is, because it keeps your acid mantle stable and in balance. The acid mantle is a thin protective film on the skin’s surface that locks in good stuff, like moisture, and protects against bad stuff, like bacteria, fungi, UV rays and pollution. Think of it as a superhero cape – an essential protective barrier for the skin's immune system. 

Why do you state the pH value as a range?

Because nature is… nature. The pH values of nature’s own raw materials vary slightly from harvest to harvest. Although you add the same amount of citric acid/sodium hydroxide (pH regulator) during production afterwards, the pH of the end product will therefore also vary naturally. 

How is Astalou unique? What sets you apart?

Astalou is certified conscious luxury. It’s our big ‘why’ – to make it possible for everyone to do good for their skin, without potentially disrupting their hormone balance or harming nature. Our products are expertly formulated and produced with powerful, clean, natural ingredients by leading industry specialists, carefully respecting both people and the planet all the way from origin to degradation. The prominent and independent third-party certifications we carry are your guarantee that we keep our promise and make your skin glow, while making the world a little better, too.


Are your products vegan?

Oh yes. All our products are 100% vegan and labelled by The Vegan Society. The Vegan Trademark is your guarantee that Astalou is produced without any animal ingredients, by-products or derivatives and that no animals were used in the development and production of our products.

You carry three certifications. Why?

True, Astalou has been awarded the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, the COSMOS Organic Label and the Vegan Trademark – three top-tier independent, standard-setting certifications. 

Qualifying for one is difficult enough; qualifying for all of them is a crowning achievement, as each of the three sets such stringent and specific requirements that, sometimes, they counteract each other. Still, with our hearts set on protecting both your health and Mother Earth, we found it essential to strive for the best.

Let’s elaborate: while Ecocert/COSMOS focuses on the past – on the origin of ingredients – the Nordic Swan Ecolabel takes into account the environment of tomorrow and what happens when the product is used. On top of that, our Vegan Trademark is concerned with animal welfare. The unique combination of these best-in-class certifications, therefore, points both backwards and forwards, and their co-existence is your guarantee that we live up to the strictest standards in all phases of our products’ life cycle, from origin to degradation. Think of it as a certified circle of kindness.

Q&A: formulations

What are essential oils? And is it essential to avoid them?

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts from flowers, fruit, leaves or bark that retain the natural smell and flavour – the essence – of their source. Essential oils have been used for millennia. The Egyptians and Greeks used essential oils for ritual and healing purposes, as did the Chinese and Indians, and early forms of aromatherapy were already known in Ancient Egypt. Although essential oils are natural, the vast majority contain one or more of the allergenic perfume substances that the EU recommends you avoid. At Astalou, we prefer to play it safe. That’s why none of our products contains essential oils.

What’s in Astalou’s products?

Astalou products are formulated with nourishing, active, top-of-the-line ingredients. All of the ingredients in our ensemble are selected on the basis of their moisturising and revitalising properties, and with the greatest possible consideration for your health and the environment. We only use ingredients that we can vouch for. Aloe vera, shea butter, almond oil, wild rosehips, vitamin E and natural antioxidants are among our leading stars.

What’s not in Astalou’s products?

Astalou is kind to everyone, including Mother Earth. That’s why our products do not contain any ingredients that are suspected of being allergenic, hormone-disrupting or otherwise potentially harmful to your health and to the environment. Astalou is free from synthetic dyes, synthetic perfumes, petrochemical oils and petrolatum. On top of that, our signature scent is also free from the 26 declarable allergenic perfume substances that the EU warns against. The certifications we carry are your guarantee that we keep this promise.

Is chemistry always and unambiguously bad? 

Most often, we think of chemistry as having a negative effect on our health and the environment. But chemistry is not necessarily bad. (Just think of the endorphins and the dopamine in your body that make you happy!) On top of that, when something is chemically manufactured, it means it is also controlled – which is not always the case with natural ingredients. To sum up: we need to distinguish between chemical substances that have beneficial effects and substances with undesirable effects. Astalou, obviously, contains no unwanted ingredients but only the good stuff. Safe chemistry and safe natural ingredients. 

What are parabens? And why do they take so much heat?

Parabens are a family of chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. In other words: they help prevent contamination and prolong the shelf-life of the product. Parabens are controversial. While some believe only certain parabens are harmful (the main concerns relating to endocrine disruption and an association with breast cancer), others believe you should avoid parabens altogether. Our point of view? Better safe than sorry. That’s why every single Astalou product is 100% paraben-free.

Is it safe to use your products if you’re pregnant?

Astalou has been awarded three of the world’s toughest certifications, and protecting your body and health is at the heart of our purpose. Because a little fragrance adds a touch of comforting luxury, some of our products are formulated with a hint of perfume. (Our signature scent does not contain any of the 26 declarable allergenic perfume substances that the EU warns against, but…) If you are even slightly worried about using products that contain perfume while you are pregnant, we recommend you stick to our Erase My Trace Comforting Cleansing Milk and Clean My Slate Resurfacing Peeling Mask – both 100% fragrance-free. And, when you’re ready for a scented rendezvous, we’re here to pamper you.

Alcohols – good or bad?

Alcohols constitute a large group of chemicals. Not all of them are good, but not all of them are bad, either. In fact, if you exclude every ingredient within the alcohol group, you’ll miss out on those with beneficial properties, such as the fatty alcohols. Cetearyl alcohol is one fatty alcohol you’ll find in our products – because it softens, nourishes and adds a protective barrier to the outer layer of the skin. Vitamin E is another great example. Vitamin E protects the skin against free radicals and preserves the skin’s elasticity and suppleness – all good things. Simple alcohols can also do good if the formulation is right. They are often added to deliver a cooling, refreshing sensation, but they also act as an agent to help dissolve ingredients that are not water-soluble and to drive ingredients deeper into the skin. Important stuff. To cut it short: while this group of chemicals has a bad reputation, not all alcohols are bad, as long as the formulation is right.

What on earth is MI? 

Don’t get this wrong: MI is a commonly used abbreviation for myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack. However, MI (or MIT) is also short for methylisothiazolinone, a preservative used to inhibit the growth of bacteria. While it is forbidden to formulate leave-on products like nail polish or children’s face paint with methylisothiazolinone, the chemical is found in a wide array of liquid cosmetics, personal care products and cleaning products, from detergents to mascara and shaving cream. The problem is, methylisothiazolinone is highly allergenic and may cause rashes, redness and itching. In fact, recent years have shown a substantial increase in the incidence of skin allergy to MI/MIT. To be on the safe side, we say: go for products that carry the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. They (we!) are methylisothiazolinone-free. 

Silicones or not?

Silicones feel like silk on the skin and are often used to give beauty products that mmm, soft, smooth finish. They also improve lubrication and create a barrier on the skin that locks in moisture. Over the years, implants made of silicone have been disputed because they have given rise to the development of silicone allergy, but there are no reports of allergies having developed when silicone is applied to the skin and does not enter the body. Still, we prefer to use oils and fatty alcohols, which, in addition to forming a physical barrier on the skin that prevents moisture from evaporating, also nourish the skin.

Hormone-disrupting substances – please explain!

Some substances are so similar to our natural hormones that they can act as hormones if they enter the body. Our hormone balance is an extraordinary but sensitive piece of machinery, and it doesn’t take much to upset the balance. When experts discuss hormone-disrupting substances, they usually refer to sex hormones and the disruption of functions such as fetal development or sperm formation. Yet, the same substances are also suspected of influencing the development of obesity, diabetes and cancer, so there is good reason to be wary of them – especially if you are pregnant. Products that are Nordic Swan-labelled do not contain any substances on the EU’s list of suspected hormone disruptors. In other words: neither do ours.

Should I stay away from sulfates?

Sulfates are a family of detergents that are used in skin- and hair-cleansing products. Like other detergents, sulfates can cause irritation and dry out the skin. It all depends on the formula. The sulfate we use, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, is a mild one and, whenever we use it, we make sure we match it with hydrating active ingredients that counteract any potential negative effects. So, no reason to be a stranger. 

Preservatives – why do you add them? 

Preservatives have a dodgy reputation but the fact is, we cannot live without them altogether. In fact, skincare products that contain water or water-based ingredients need preservatives to prevent contamination and remain stable and safe to use. Without preservatives, they will become a home to mould, bacteria and microbial growth in no time. Not exactly a dream scenario for your skin, right? At Astalou, we limit the use of preservatives as much as we possibly can, and when preservatives are inevitable, we choose the mildest ones. (NB: to those of our products that are formulated without water, we add vitamin E instead of preservatives to reduce the risk of rancidity and bacterial growth.)

Palm-kernel oil – a matter of controversy

Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, and demand has meant acres of rainforest have been cut down, leading to a loss of animal habitat for endangered species. While there’s no chance demand will decrease in the future (note: alternatives to palm oil require up to 10 times as much land to gain the same yield per hectare!), what we can do is help make sustainable palm oil the new norm. That’s why the palm-kernel oil we use is RSPO-certified. The RSPO certification is required by the COSMOS /Ecocert certification and is your guarantee that production takes place in a responsible manner: requirements include that forests must not be cleared, the best available cultivation methods must be used and nature and the environment in general must be protected. Also, new trees are planted when older ones are cut down. 

Why have you added perfume?

The power of scent is undeniable. Fragrances evoke sensations and emotions, trigger memories and take you places. To most of us, a delicate scent adds a sense of comforting and indulging luxury, and that’s exactly why we have added a hint of our signature perfume to most of our favourites. ‘Hint’ is key, though. The products that contain perfume contain a bare minimum and, for the sake of your health and Mother Earth, we have chosen a natural perfume, free of essential oils and the 26 allergenic perfume substances that the EU recommends you avoid. However, if you’re allergic, perfume is still perfume. In that case, we recommend you let yourself fall in love with our Erase My Trace Comforting Cleansing Milk and our Clean My Slate Resurfacing Peeling Mask, which are completely fragrance-free.

Are microplastics a major problem? 

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles of less than 1 millimetre. These tiny pieces take decades or more to degrade fully, and scientists have found them everywhere – drifting in the air, falling with rain; in deep oceans; in Arctic snow and Antarctic ice; even in table salt and beer. Microplastics are also found in some cosmetic products, such as scrubbing creams and toothpaste, to which they are added on purpose. While most scientists agree that the potential risk to human health is not something to worry about, there is great concern about the risk to marine life. The good news is, Astalou is 100% free from microplastics.

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