I first met Tina at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne earlier this year. Big Blue Cosmetica was probably one of the first stalls I saw and ended up being one of my
Tina describes herself as a hardcore environmentalist. While her background is in design currently her passion lies in chemistry. “This lead me to investigate just what these ingredients in all my potions and lotions really were, which opened my eyes to the horrors of modern cosmetics, and this outrage converged with my growing concern for our environment and all the plastic waste we put into it, and I started teaching myself to refill my shampoo bottles with my own shampoo. Which was not easy. But I’ve developed my understanding of how to do this, and I’ve honed my skills. And here we are.”
Because sustainability is at the
All Aussie lip balm review
There are five all Aussie lip balms in the Big Blue
I have tried two from the collection: Thalassa, an earthy brown, and Scylla, a plum red (images below). The tints are named after Greek goddesses and I adore that the mythology was included, wrapped around each lip tint. As you can see from the photos, they are definitely just tints, not full-blown lipsticks as their
As a designer myself I also love the packaging. The simple fact that each tube is completely compostable makes these a winner for me. When I first used the lip tints I thought the tubes might be a bit wide, as they are wider than most lipsticks I have used before, but I got used to the size extremely quickly and since they are tints it isn’t obvious if I apply a bit wonky (it’s easy to rub off too).
Be careful not to push up the tube too much, as you push them up instead of twisting them up. If you have to push it back down you are likely to get lip balm all over your finger or the lid so it’s best to only push the product up a little at a time so you don’t need to ever push down.
Q&A with Tina
What inspired you to create Big Blue
It’s a bit of a long story, but essentially I decided one day that I wanted to find a way to stop going through so many plastic bottles. I threw out another plastic shampoo bottle (this was before the recent ‘Rise of the Shampoo Bar’) and thought I’d see if I could make my own natural shampoo somehow. I’d always had a fascination with chemistry and reading those long chemical ingredient names on cosmetic packaging, and around the same time as my plastic epiphany, I started doing my own research to understand what these commonly used chemicals really were, how they’re made and why they’re used. At the time I was completely oblivious about all the toxic substances I’d been using on my body my whole life, and so was truly horrified at what I discovered. There are a lot of ingredients used commercially that are known carcinogens, skin irritants or endocrine disruptors. From there on I started making my own all-natural everything, and discovered I had a serious passion for it, so I decided to start a business.
What ingredients & packaging materials do you most commonly use & is it hard to source these in an affordable yet sustainable way?
Mostly I use different oils, extracts, clays and powders. Some of the extracts and infusions I make myself, other ingredients I source package free and affordably from local bulk food stores (like my macadamia oil, organic sodium bicarbonate, organic tapioca and Victorian pink lake salt), and other items I order from Australian businesses I want to support. The packaging I use are from different Chinese manufacturers who make my glass bottles, aluminium jars and compostable paper tubes, as they are still the most affordable. I research the companies as thoroughly as possible to ensure their practices are aligned with my values, and while I would love to support Australian manufactures, unfortunately a lot of what I need I cannot buy in Australia. Finding suppliers whose products are high quality, whose values I trust and who don’t ship with excess plastic has taken a while but it’s been important work.
Why is it important to you that your products be as natural and Aussie as they can be?
My dream was to make skincare that could be as environmentally friendly as possible, so I felt that sourcing locally was an essential part of that. Not only does it reduce the overall carbon footprint of each product but it also supports local businesses, many of whom are as passionate as I am about protecting our environment. Plus, Australia has some many unique botanicals that are truly fantastic for skin, that I feel are underappreciated by Australians. Anyone reading this that buys coconut oil imported from Sri Lanka or Thailand needs to look up Kaizi’s Coconut Oil and get behind them. Their oil is absolutely
How are you working to reduce waste or your environmental impact in your business?
I’m constantly looking for more local suppliers, and for stores I can buy ingredients in bulk without the packaging. Since beginning I’ve transitioned the whole line to plastic free containers, and all my labelling and marketing material is printed on 100% recycled paper with non-toxic inks and adhesives. I also reuse or repurpose everything, including the containers many of my ingredients come in, and shipping plastic-free is super important to me as well. Short answer is: in every way I can possibly think of!
Are there areas where you know you want to improve, that will hopefully become easier if your brand can grow?
I currently offer a refill discount when people return empty containers to me, but it has occurred to me that switching to compostable packaging would be more ideal, and this is something I will only really be able to look at as my business grows. For people who don’t live nearby, shipping empty containers back to me is a bit of a hassle and increases the carbon footprint of the product. I also make everything by hand myself at the moment, which requires a lot of time and energy. Hopefully I’m able to grow the business to a point where I can scale up and hire a small local warehouse to make larger batches more efficiently and hence reduce my labour costs. This would allow me to invest in other areas, like directing a portion of my profits to conservation projects, which has been my dream since the beginning, but is not financially viable at the moment.
On the other hand, will any areas be harder to sustainably maintain with growth?
Actually I feel that it will be easier for me to reduce my impact with growth, by being able to have stronger relationships with suppliers and finding ways to buy larger quantities with less packaging. If my business takes off astronomically of course it will mean I’ll have to employ someone else to manufacture the products for me, which would be a little sad from my perspective because physically making the products is definitely the one aspect of my business I enjoy the most.
What is your favourite product in your collection right now?
Tough question because I honestly do use all of them, but lately I’ve started using the Kakadu Plum Clarifying Serum as an oil cleanser and loving it. I massage a couple of pumps into my skin, then steam my face with a hot wet towel and wipe it off. My skin had been extra dry recently and a little bumpy, but this little routine has fixed both of those problems right up! Plus I love the smell. So delicious, kind of citrusy / floral.
If you could make one thing legal or illegal (in Australia or worldwide), what would it be and why?
There are quite a few things really, like a long list of commonly-used chemicals we desperately need to stop manufacturing. But if I absolutely had to pick one thing – I’d love to see a world wide ban on all single use plastics, defined appropriately to exclude plastics needed for medical use where there are no current alternatives. It’s starting to happen in so many places around the world but a lot of the bans are incomplete, like charging customers for plastic bags as a deterrent rather than making a full commitment to outright banning them. I think a law against single use plastics should extend to ready-to-eat food items (like confectionery wrappers, water bottles) and disposable cutlery as well. Alternatives exist, they’re just not commercially viable yet because plastic is so ‘cheap’. There are some incredibly clever innovations out there providing alternatives to plastic, like edible cutlery made from millet, or bioplastic films that readily biodegrade, but unless companies are pushed to find plastic-free alternatives, these innovations won’t get the interest or funding they need to take off any time soon. Unfortunately plastic is still so much cheaper than all other alternatives, from a monetary perspective, but it is devastatingly costly to our environments.
If you weren’t making cosmetics, what would you like to be doing instead?
Science. I’ve recently started a Bachelor of Science for that reason, not entirely sure where it will lead me but I know that I have a serious passion for chemistry. I think it would be amazing to get into chemical engineering and work at building new materials that could solve some of our current environmental problems.
What’s next for you and Big Blue Cosmetica?
Stockists! At the moment I’m trying to get some stockists in Melbourne, and hopefully down the track around Australia. Currently it’s just online and at markets I sell, and while meeting people at markets can be so much fun, it’s also very nerve-racking (still!) for my introverted personality, so having a few stockists would take the pressure off and allow me to grow. That, and bar soap. I’ve been wanting to get into making natural soaps and solid shampoo as part of my range for a while, but I’m hoping this year I can make that happen. Very excited to try out my formulas and test the first batch, it will take a lot of work to get there but I think my bar soap ideas would make great additions to the current range.
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