Are your products Certified Organic?
For a company as small as Alpenglow Skin Care, it would be cost prohibitive to undergo organic certification without increasing product prices substantially. Most of our products contain 80-90% certified organic ingredients (excluding water) but including our organically grown herbs and flowers, and wildcrafted botanicals. Not only are the certified organic ingredients we purchase grown and processed without the use of chemical fertilizers, growth hormones, GMO’s, or synthetic pesticides, but our farming practices exceed the USDA Organic Standard. We grow a large variety of herbs and flowers for our products (and heaps of vegetables for our family) using only organic farming methods. We use organic amendments like local fish bone meal, lime, organic chicken manure from our happy hens, compost and sea weed. We focus on soil health and use cover crops to give more back to the soil than we take out. We use only certified organic, non-GMO seed. And we wildcraft – this sets Alpenglow apart from almost all other manufacturers. There is no possibility to certify wild herbs and flowers. What could be more pure, unadulterated and truly ‘organic’ than botanicals sustainably harvesting from Alaskan wildlands? And by not certifying our company and products, we are saving our customers a lot of money. The health and sustainability of our ingredients and products is paramount to Alpenglow Skin Care. There is no green washing here, we really only want healthy ingredients that support harmony with nature.
Is your palm oil sustainable or causing deforestation in the tropics?
Palm oil has been in the news for over a decade because huge tracts of rainforest have been cleared to make room for its agriculture. There has been a major increase in demand due to the fact that it’s free of trans fats/not hydrogenated, therefore a healthier fat. And it’s demand has also increased tremendously in Europe for use as a biofuel for vehicles, an alternative to fossil fuels. These are both good reasons to support palm agriculture, we should NOT boycott palm oil. Instead, we should support and purchase only regulated, certified sustainable palm oil. Then we can insure that it is grown and processed in a manner that does not lead to further deforestation and helps protect wildlife, biodiversity, and indigenous peoples lives. Alpenglow Skin Care uses only certified organic, sustainably grown and harvested palm oil, certified by Friend of the Earth.
What is the shelf life of Alpenglow products?
When you order a product directly from us you are receiving the freshest products available, as we manufacture each product every few months. We use natural preservatives and antioxidants in all of our products to prevent rancidity of oils and growth of mold, fungus, and bacteria.
The shelf life of our bar soap, liquid soap, and shampoo is many years. The higher pH of these products discourages microbial growth. Many of our labels have an icon of an open cap on the back that either indicates 12 mo, 18 mo or 24 mo. This tells you how long AFTER OPENING, your product is good for. And most of our products that don’t get wet (like shampoo, or face, hand & body wash) have a “BEST BY” sticker on the back or bottom with a date posted. These are rules of thumb, as variables such as temperature fluctuations during storage, if caps are tightened after use, or if clean or dirty hands are dipping in a jar, all affect how long a product is good for. There is no need to refrigerate Alpenglow products but make sure you close the caps and lids tightly after each use to prevent oxidation.
Which product is best for problem skin?
We receive rave reviews on how effective our products are for clearing up problem skin. How you cleanse your skin and how you moisturize it are two major factors. Eliminating detergents from contact with your skin should help. Sodium lauryl sulfate, found in many commercial liquid pump soaps, shampoos and laundry soap, has been found to irritate sensitive and problem skin. Many customers have told us using our soaps and shampoo exclusively has improved their skin and scalp condition.
With regards to moisturizing, the main ingredient in our Face Cream is organic jojoba oil. This oil is an extremely long straight-chain wax ester and not a triglyceride, making jojoba the most similar to sebum, the natural oil that our skin produces. Jojoba is greaseless and completely absorbs and penetrates beneath the pores rather than clogging them. Our Face Cream also contains organic unrefined shea butter, which has a rich nutritional profile that really benefits problem skin with a plethora of phytonutrients.
Cottonwood Balm and Cottonwood Massage Oil work wonders on problem skin to help restore skin to a healthy condition with improved appearance and feel. Read the testimonials.
The last time I ordered this product, it's appearance or texture was slightly different, why?
Occasionally you may see a slight variation from batch to batch in the scent, texture or appearance of a particular product. This is due to the fact that all of our ingredients are 100% natural, and inevitably, nature varies. Weather, pollination, season of harvest are a few of the variables that will effect the scent of an essential oil, the thickening property of unrefined beeswax, and how light or dark jojoba oil is. Commercial skin care uses synthetic oils, fragrances and petroleum waxes, so their products are consistent from batch to batch. That is why a bar of Ivory Soap, or a bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion are 100% consistent. We love working with natural ingredients. When we receive a new batch of essential oils it's always a pleasure to inhale their scent and compare it with the prior essential oil.
Think of your favorite bakery. You don't expect the loaves of bread or sweets to look exactly the same every day. There is variability because it's handmade, with far fresher ingredients than a manufacturing plant. With both skin and hair care products, and baked goods, this slight variability should be considered and asset - a true sign of its handmade naturalness.
We are extremely precise in our formulating, measuring and manufacturing methods. So you are ensured of a quality product regardless of slight variation.
How is your traditional cold-process bar soap made?
We melt plant oils, which are fatty acids and blend them with lye which is an alkali solution (or a base), and a chemical reaction occurs. The process of converting fatty acids and alkali to glycerin and soap is called saponification. After the ingredients are blended into a thick liquid, the soap is ready to be poured into a block mold. Saponification occurs primarily over a few days, as the temperature of the liquid rises then cools into a solid block. When the curves of decreasing temperature and increasing hardness cross perfectly, the block of soap is ready to be cut into bars. We use a wire cutter to form nice even bars. Each bar is cured on a well-ventilated shelf for at least a month, so each bar is long lasting.
How do you make liquid soap and shampoo?
The process is similar to the way in which cold-process (bar) soap is made. We mix plant oils (fatty acids) with lye (alkali). The difference is that saponification is much quicker because we add heat to aid in the rapid bonding of the fatty acid to the alkali. By the time the liquid soap has cooled, it has completed saponifying and is ready to use. Liquid soap and shampoo do not need to cure for weeks like bar soap and shampoo.
Why do you use lye in your soap?
Soap can not be made without lye. Formerly lye was obtained by soaking hardwood ashes in water. Today, lye is made in a cleaner and purer form by passing electric current through salt water. Lye has been used to make soap since soap was first made. In our bar soap and shampoo the lye is sodium hydroxide mixed with pure Alaskan water. In our liquid soap and shampoo the lye is potassium hydroxide mixed with pure Alaskan water. The process of saponification converts the oils and lye into soap and glycerin, so that no lye remains. Our products are pH balanced and very gentle for even the most sensitive skin.
What is the difference between Alpenglow’s bar soap and shampoo bars?
The shampoo and shave bars have nutritional plant oils chosen to cleanse scalp and hair. You may wonder why you would want oil in your hair, especially if you have oily hair. In our shampoo (either liquid or bar) the oils are converted into shampoo and glycerin, so they do not leave hair or skin oily. The shampoo and shave bars are great for washing body as well as hair, making them excellent for travel and home. Our bar soaps are better reserved for skin alone.
Alcohol is a main ingredient in even expensive organic skin care products. Is it really all that bad?
Alcohol (rubbing or isopropyl) is an inexpensive ingredient added to most skin care products as an evaporative agent in conjunction with water as a main ingredient. Sometimes this fact is disguised by listing water as “hydrosol”. Why so much water? Because it increases profits in manufacturing. If a product contains mostly water and it does not contain alcohol, it takes a long time for all that water to evaporate. You’d be rubbing that lotion in forever. The problem with the added alcohol is that it is drying to skin. In fact, it can continue to dry your skin long after the product’s moisturizing ingredients have stopped working. This can create an “addiction” or the feeling that one needs to reapply the product frequently. Unfortunately, doing so only gives a brief sense of relief from dry, tight skin, no lasting effect. You will never find alcohol in any Alpenglow Skin Care product. Our products have a low water content making them very concentrated so you only need a small amount. This saves both money and packaging.
Do you use sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, and what is it anyhow?
No, we don’t and never will. Called SLS for short, this is an inexpensive synthetic surfactant or foaming agent used in many commercial skin, laundry and car cleansing products. SLS is known to be a skin and scalp irritant. It is implicated in conditions from eczema to psoriasis and dandruff. Worse, it can cause dioxins and carcinogenic nitrates to form. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages manufacturers to remove SLS because of its harmful effects, its use is not currently required by federal law (1). Alpenglow Skin Care products effectively cleanse and nourish your skin without any synthetic or harmful ingredients.
What are Parabens and why do they receive so much bad press?
Parabens are inexpensive and very effective synthetic preservatives. The most common types are methylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben. There is a growing body of research showing detectable levels of parabens in breast cancer tissue. They have also been implicated in impaired fertility and are thought to harm the developing fetus and young child (2). Some of the studies showing paraben’s harmful effects are considered controversial, but the precautionary principle seems wise in this circumstance. This principle states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action (3). In other words, until it has been proven that parabens are not harmful, they should be avoided. Alpenglow Skin Care products contain effective natural preservatives to inhibit bacterial, mold and fungus growth and natural antioxidants to drastically slows oxidation.
Do you superfat your soap?
Yes we do. It may sound disgusting if you think of it in terms of food. But soap is food for the skin and our skin needs and loves fat. It’s not as if we are recommending rubbing Crisco all over your body - especially in Alaska's grizzly bear country. When we superfat our soaps it means we add more plant oils and butters (fatty acids) into our formula, than can be converted by the alkali (base). So our soap remains extra rich, extremely gentle and softening. Your skin won’t feel tight and thirsty as it would using a bar of soap that you buy in a ten pack at the big box store - that stuff is as different from Alpenglow as McDonald’s is to organic tomatoes from your farmer’s market.
Does Alaska’s Best Insect Repellent really work?
Alaska’s Best will protect you from insects where ever you go. It smells wonderful, is totally safe for children and it doesn’t destroy clothing and plastic like DEET. You wouldn’t believe how many people tell us how effective it is after they’ve experienced an ‘Alaska-size’ patch of bugs. We’ve also received enthusiastic reports from folks visiting tropical countries that have different insects from ours up north. The repellent contains a wide spectrum of essential oils, each with specific attributes that add to the overall efficacy of this potent blend. Our family spends a lot of time outdoors. It works great on mosquitos, no-see-ums, black flies, white socks, sand fleas and jejenes in Mexico. Alaska’s Best will not disappoint. Reapply as needed every 3-4 hours.
How and why did you start Alpenglow Skin Care?
I’d say it all began when I was about 5 years old. I (Susan) spent a lot of time creating ‘witches’ brews’ in the backyard by mixing mud, pine cones and dandelions in a bucket with a stick. I'm still a tactile person who enjoys pouring, mixing and measuring.
My husband Patrick and I came to Alaska in 1995 and worked as Interpretive Park Rangers in Denali National Park for 6 seasons. A strong interest of mine which began in college is ethnobotany, the study of cultural traditional use of native plants – for food, medicine, healing skin… and this is what I focused on in Denali. Native Alaskan’s are very resourceful people. So Patrick and I really embraced the ‘do for yourself’ spirit and became attuned to living a simpler life. We learned to can food from our garden, to fish, hunt, sew, make candles and chop wood.
Incorporate that with the fact that I really struggled with my skin in my twenties. I had bad acne, uneven skin tone and a whole cupboard full of products that did nothing but make my skin breakout despite claiming to be hypoallergenic and good for sensitive skin. This caused me to become label reader. I started researching toxins and carcinogenic ingredients found in many products marketed as “all natural”. This is still a passion of mine and my education continues.
With a degree in science and a meticulous, detail oriented personality, it’s no surprise these factors lead me to start making soap, balm and cream from recipes I found in books from the library. I just wanted healthy ingredients and for my skin to clear up. I had no intentions of going into business but I received such positive feedback on my skin’s improvement, and from the friends and family that I shared my first batches with. So my formulation goals were and continue to be on health and healing skin with quality organic ingredients. I’ve never been driven to business as a money-making venture, it’s more about right-livelihood.
When I look back on all the things that came together to create this business back in 1999, it’s no wonder I feel like I have the best job in the universe. It’s really a perfect fit for my skill set, lifestyle preferences and fabulous for our family. I feel utterly grateful that I have the opportunity to continue to provide truly natural and entirely handmade products all across the globe today. I am rewarded daily by emails and phone calls from customers that LOVE Alpenglow products. I have had many customers since the beginning! Honestly, I feel like I have the best customers in the world. Thank you for your love and support.