Inspiring us this week is Kirsty Gow-Gates, mother of two and founder of natural skincare company Lullaby.
When and how was the idea for Lullaby born?
During my first pregnancy three and half years ago, I found it difficult to find a baby range which was extremely gentle, safe, effective and looked and smelled beautiful. I wanted to use high quality, natural ingredients on my baby’s delicate newborn skin and be sure the products were stripped of harsh, toxic ingredients. It surprised me that so many international and national baby skincare products were packed with chemicals, synthetic fillers and low-quality ingredients. In fact, over 75% of them still contain parabens, mineral oils and sulphates. When I started researching the market, I also discovered that many skincare brands were marketing their products as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ even though the products only had a very small percentage of organic or natural ingredients in them. After this discovery, it was a natural decision for me to create Lullaby and I have loved the creative challenge. The idea was to create a luxury brand for sensitive skin with high quality ingredients which was completely free of any nasties – a beautiful range of products that I would fall in love with and a brand families could trust. I have been working on launching the brand, creating products and testing formulations since I was pregnant with my first baby, Archie. I have loved both my pregnancies and feel that I was at my peak of creativity during these times! It has been quite a busy three and a half years and I have been on overdrive to get it all happening!
After conception, what did it take to turn your dream into a reality?
I met with a reputable representative from the TGA (Therapeutic Goods of Australia) to discuss licensing products in Australia and the intricate details of creating safe and gentle sunscreen for babies. I asked her if she could recommend a leading professional to help me source high quality, special Australian made ingredients. I was amazed to hear her say that in her many years of working and analysing skincare, she felt there was only one women truly talented and focused on skin health. Her name is Mimi Gyergak, a hidden gem, based in Queensland. The woman who recommended her has access (at no cost) to any skincare product on the Australian market, but she chooses to use only products made by Mimi’s non-commercial brand. Mimi is an experienced skin therapist and lecturer for over 40 years with her own company called Bio-Pacific. Her focus has never been on packaging or marketing, it is about sourcing the most effective and natural ingredients she can find. The stars aligned and Mimi agreed to work with me to help create the formulations for Lullaby which are truly special.
Her first advice to me was, if I was serious about skincare, to ensure my products were aloe vera based, not water based which is usually the case with all skincare products. Working with her over the past two years, she is now like family to me, a very special lady with incredible knowledge and dedication to skin health. She is an inspiration and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome for Lullaby’s perfect formulations.
How much research was involved and what information did you uncover about the skincare industry in the process?
I am constantly researching and uncovering interesting facts regarding the skincare industry. The majority of baby skincare products on the market aren’t even safe for adults to use and definitely shouldn’t be used on babies, who have much more delicate and absorbent skin than adults. We are beginning to see more and more lawsuits pop up in regards to the toxic ingredients being used in baby products and their side effects. I feel the biggest surprise to me about the children’s skincare market is that so many well-known brands have harmful toxins in their ingredients and call their brand ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. It is also frightening that companies are still using carcinogenic ingredients on products for tiny babies and children. Ingredients for pregnant mothers and baby’s should be natural and safe, without compromise. We keep hearing about babies with severe rashes and skin irritations such as eczema, a lot of it is due to what is going on their delicate skin and it doesn’t surprise me at all! A baby’s skin is thinner, more fragile and more sensitive than adult’s skin. It is also less resistant to bacteria and harmful substances in the environment, so can be easily irritated. Research has proven that on average, infants are 10 times more vulnerable to carcinogenic chemicals and toxins and up to 60 times more vulnerable to some cancer causing agents, than adults. Experts say up to 60 per cent of what goes on your baby’s skin is absorbed into their bloodstream within minutes. Everything that your baby does absorb through their skin has to be processed by their little livers. So why take your chances with any harmful toxins or low quality ingredients?
“There are so many brands that lead you to believe they are natural and organic when they are not…Many large companies have huge marketing and advertising dollars which are invested more in this area of their business than in the quality of their ingredients.”
A misconception about natural skincare for the skin of a newborn is that they need soap. Soap is very dehydrating and drying to an adult’s skin, so you can imagine how depleting it is to a little newborn’s skin. It’s important to help preserve baby’s natural oils and not strip them away with harsh cleansers. It is the resilience of their skin that keeps them cocooned safely in these early stages. There are various body washes for babies which market their brand as ‘gentle’. There are many undesirable chemicals in them such as sulphates.
Here is an interesting fact about sunscreen, there is SO little difference between an SPF30 and an SPF50. In fact it is only three minutes more protection in the sun to be precise! An SPF 30 blocks 97% UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks an estimated 98% UVB rays. It is crucial to find a sunscreen which protects from the UVA rays as well as the UVB rays – a broad spectrum sunscreen. The increase in UVA protection above SPF 50 is minimal. We made the conscious decision to formulate our sunscreen as an SPF30 because we found that to formulate an SPF50 for sensitive skin and babies was too rich for delicate skin. We feel our light-weight one with a very low oil content is perfect to apply and stays on effectively. Our sunscreen testing regulations in Australia are far more stringent than European and USA regulations. My advice would be to use an Australian sunscreen designed for our harsh conditions.
It’s a jungle out there for mums and sometimes it’s hard to know who or what to trust … As far as deceptive marketing goes, who did you uncover to be the worst offenders in the skincare industry?
There are so many brands that lead you to be they are natural and organic when they are not. Other than Lullaby, all skincare brands are simply water based. Many add a very low percentage of ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ to their water based ingredient and fill the rest with synthetic fillers so there is really no therapeutic goodness in a lot of popular brands.
An example of this is the cult product Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment which was considered a fantastic multi-purpose ointment for children. The product markets itself to be full of Paw Paw yet it only consists of 4% fermented Paw Paw and the rest is petroleum jelly, which you certainly do not want on your baby’s skin. Mineral Oils also definitely need to be avoided.
Basically, I would start by questioning cheap brands and why the products cost so little. They would not be able to sell at such a cheap price if they had good quality ingredients in them. We also don’t know where a lot of the large skincare companies source their ingredients from and this reflects in the quality of their products.
The ingredients in all our products are sourced directly from plants, herbs and other natural resources only in Australia so I can be certain each batch is consistent and includes the premium ingredients we have sourced. Our base ingredient in our products is organic Aloe Vera (unlike other skincare brands which are water based) so we are already offering over 80% goodness in our products before we start adding in other healing and nurturing ingredients. Our ingredients are sustainably cultivated under optimum growing conditions to ensure their health and vitality.
We have a serious sun issue in Australia. I would not cut corners by finding the cheapest sunscreen which is full of synthetic fillers. Precious skin deserves good quality ingredients to fully protect it and nourish it.
We all witnessed the shocking press last summer about how the Cancer Council sunscreen failed to protect babies. Many children had severely sunburnt skin while using the sunscreen, to the point they were hospitalised. Although it may not be apparent, not all sunscreens are created equal and the main difference is in the quality of ingredients. Severe reactions and allergies in children are also often taking place regularly due to the base chemicals such as various preservatives in many sunscreens.
There are various law suits going on at the moment with large brands such as Johnson & Johnson, this is not a co-incidence and reflects on the harmful ingredients they use. Many large companies have huge marketing and advertising dollars which are invested more in this area of their business than in the quality of their ingredients. I was shocked to discover the private hospital I had both my babies in wanted me to bath them in Johnson & Johnson three days after my babies were born. Why would I cover their new, precious skin in chemicals? The brand has run a PR campaign stating they have taken parabens out of their baby range yet there are still other hidden chemicals in their ingredients such as sulphates and PEG compounds. It’s important for baby skincare products to have simple ingredients, even essential oils can create a reaction.
Cetaphil, QV and many other commercial skincare brands are guilty of using chemicals. For example, Cetaphil is just water with chemicals including phthalates, sulphates and PEG compounds. QV uses 2 different types of parabens.
Many mothers have mentioned that dermatologists have recommended Sorbolene Cream when their babies and children have skin irritation or eczema. Sorbolene acts as a barrier on the skin but does not offer any therapeutic value as it consists of mainly water and often mineral oils.
“I am naturally a busy person and great at multi-tasking but that’s not always possible with little ones. I remember it really hit me when I started breastfeeding and wondering how I could tidy the house at the same time.”
What ingredients in particular should mums look out for when buying skincare products for their children and even themselves?
There are numerous ingredients to stay clear of when looking using lotions, soaps, oils, creams and sunscreens. The crazy thing is that some potentially toxic ingredients and known carcinogens are not even required to be labelled on products mums and their baby might be using right now!
The Key ingredients to avoid include: Parabens, phthalates, sulfates, PPG’s, dye, petroleum, triclosan, bisphenol A (BPA) and formaldehyde donars.
All Lullaby products are 100% free from all of these harmful ingredients as well as essential oils which can also irritate sensitive skin.
Parabens have a weak hormone activity and have been detected in breast cancer tissues and have links to male infertility. They can also cause skin irritation. The EU have actually banned many types of parabens.
Mineral oils, paraffin and petroleum are produced as a by-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil (i.e. from black oil pumped from deep underground). They coat the skin like plastic – clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They can slow cellular development, creating earlier signs of ageing. They’re implicated as a cause of eczema and a suspected cause of cancer. Plus, they can disrupt hormonal activity. With the immune system at such an early developing stage, skin rashes may easily be caused by harsh skincare.
Nano-particles in sunscreens are still not illegal in Australia and used in many popular sunscreens. However, recent reports confirm that they are not safe and should be avoided. We certainly do not use them in our Lullaby sunscreen – why take the risk?! Nano particles will enter the blood stream and increase the potential for free radical production to damage proteins and DNA.
The long-term effects of chemical additives in baby skincare products are not always known. But researchers believe our little ones are at higher risk of disease later in life if exposed to nasties now. In the short-term, they can lead to mild allergic reactions causing rashes and minor skin irritation, or even more significant problems like lesions on the skin.
Explain all of the key ingredients that go into Lullaby products and why you chose them …
Our pure and ultra-gentle formulations consist of the highest quality ingredients naturally derived and sourced directly from all-Australian plants and herbs.
Our products excluding the sunscreen, consist of 80 % organic Aloe Vera as their base and this sets them apart from most skincare brands which are simply water based. Lullaby’s specially grown and cold pressed aloe vera has exceptional nourishing and healing properties.
In addition to the aloe vera base, each formulation consists of large quantities of additional high quality natural Australian ingredients, sustainably cultivated under optimal growing conditions to ensure their health and vitality. Our generous quantities of avocado oil, jojoba oil, chamomile and vitamin E help to nurture and protect especially delicate and tender skin.
All products are lightly and safely fragranced with a gorgeous scent – which adds a joyful experience to the benefits of their calming and soothing properties.
What is your vision for Lullaby?
We hope to expand nationally to Asia, the UK and the US. We look to increase the product range to cover all newborn, children and mother-to-be skincare needs. We hope all babies have the advantage of having these special products during their precious early years.
As a working mother running your own growing business, how do you perform the great juggling act between work and family life?
Haha! The great juggling act, it certainly is that! I love what I do but my family is the most important thing in my life. It’s about careful planning and determining priorities.
I feel very fortunate to have found an incredible daycare/kindy for both my boys during the week. They go there together. They love it. It is nestled in the bushland in Mosman, close to where we live. The teachers/carers have been working there for several years which I think is important and why they have made it so special. It’s a wonderful advantage because my boys see a familiar face when they go there every day and they have a special relationship with them. When Archie or Jordi are having an off day, their carers understand them well. They go on fun adventures in the bush with picnics and walks each day. My boys are full of energy and need to be outdoors and stimulated! This helps me to focus on Lullaby during the week, knowing they are being looked after well. I am also fortunate that because I work for myself, my hours are flexible so if I feel they need me, I can easily be there for them.
My mother is an amazing support, she is my best friend and we speak every day. She regularly helps me with the boys as well as with Lullaby.
I make sure I am fully present when I am with my boys. We create fun adventures in the morning. Our day starts at 5:30am (Jordi’s plan!) so we have a full morning together before I drop them at 9am. We will go for a walk, scooter, play at Balmoral or babycino’s at our favourite café. When I pick them up we come home to play time and unwinding before we sit down for dinner together and discuss our day. I like to ask my boys lots of questions and encourage them to share experiences and feelings with me. We read books after bath and PJ’s.
We do stick to a routine when it comes to sleep and meal times. I also like to let them know in advance if we are doing anything majorly different to our regular day. This gives them a sense of security.
If I happen to be on the phone (which I try not to be around them), I will explain to them why so they do not feel the rejection. Twenty minutes of screen time can be used in a way that it’s educational or for ‘time out’ after a busy day. My boys are musical so we turn on nursery rhymes, have sing-alongs and dance. Pepper Pig has always been a popular one in our house, I just avoid the shows with aggressive energy or anything that hypes them up.
What does an average day look like for you?
My day has to start with a coffee, that’s non-negotiable! I think any mum can relate with babies, especially teething babies up in the night!
There is no such thing as an average day. I oversee everything for Lullaby from the creative direction, to trialling new formulations, to liaising with skincare experts, chatting to the media, devising marketing plans to meeting stockists! It keeps me on my toes, despite being super organised by nature. Wearing a lot of hats can be tough, but I find if you surround yourself with the right people, it’s a lot easier.
There is always something that needs attention, it’s like have another baby to look after!
What is the greatest lesson motherhood has taught you?
To be patient and truly present. I am naturally a busy person and great at multi-tasking but that’s not always possible with little ones. I remember it really hit me when I started breastfeeding and wondering how I could tidy the house at the same time! Being forced to sit in it is a true gift.
A magical lesson is remembering to observe the little things. I love seeing things through their eyes.
Your biggest challenge as a mother is/was ….
It’s the constant challenge of not being with my babies as much as I would like to be. Any working mother can relate to this one!
What does your personal skincare regime look like …
Lullaby Calming Body Wash – I use it in shower every day because I know how beautiful, gentle and soothing the ingredients are for my sensitive skin.
Lullaby Heavenly Soft Lotion – All over my body after my shower. The avocado oil, jojoba oil and aloe vera are wonderfully nourishing and rich in vitamins. I love that it leaves my skin smelling divine too!
Lullaby Sunscreen – On my face every day under my make up (perfect for sensitive skin and it doesn’t clog the pores due to its low oil-content!). It is beautifully light-weight, non-greasy, fast absorbing and rubs in beautifully without leaving that horrible white, thick residue. It smells amazing too!
For the face I swear by Bio Pacific products. They are the only products I will use on my face now. Since using them I will never look back. Mimi Gynergak, who has created a variety of products designed for different skin types is truly incredible and all about skin health.
For make-up my go-to brands are products in Mecca Cosmetica and Chanel.
At the moment its ‘Harry by the Sea’, ‘Pig the Pug’, ‘Hattie and the Fox’. Hopefully next year I can go back to having my own repertoire again.
Ted Talk recommendation?
Jill Wallard: Making space for Intuition – a simple, effective meditation.