Seeking Natural Beauty: Fighting The Tide Of Organic Marketing


Every time you shop for cosmetics you’re surrounded by a sea of green. Promises of gentle, organic skincare that will return you to your pristine, healthy state are ubiquitous. Confused by the labels, how do you choose the product that is actually naturally best for your skin? Unfortunately, it may be that all these wondrous products are nearly identical and not very natural at all.

This is the mantra of Deborah Burnes, CEO and Co-Founder of SumbodySkincare,and author of Look Great, Live Green and Natural Beauty Skin Care. Burnes entered cosmetology school following her career as a model during which, posing for surrealist painter Salvador Dali drove her to develop an appreciation for makeup and fashion. But for the young model cosmetology school was not a lesson in beauty trends, but rather the beginning of her conversion from a makeup enthusiast to a leading authority in skincare.

This “passionate love affair with skin”, as she affectionately describes it, started the entrepreneur’s fruitless search for transformative, natural beauty products. “Everything was just chemically filled,” says Burnes reflecting on the nineties, a decade obsessed with silicon-based products and pore strips— a painful application used by all relatable girls on all favorite TV sitcoms.

Burnes, disillusioned by the contemporary skincare market of the nineties launched Sumbody, a natural product line designed to transform skin with its fast acting and organic formulas manufactured by the CEO herself. To a modern consumer, a commitment to creating pure skincare is perhaps the most enticing quality. However, Sumbody began advertising in 1999 long before anyone was concerned about what was in their face wash.

"Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand,” Burnes contemplates. She recognized the benefits of all-natural skincare years before it captured the market’s imagination, “At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked. I really wanted to create this modern, fresh, cutting edge, highly effective skin care— but if I had done too much advertising with that it definitely would have come off too hippy.”

“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand. At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

Despite (or possible because of) the company’s limited campaigns broadcasting their all-natural formulas, Sumbody was an immediate success, “Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty—that’s what we’re ultimately looking for,” she explains, “And, as it so happens, being natural helps you get there faster than the chemicals.”

Following the establishment of Sumbody and the publication of Burnes’ first book in 1999, like-minded members of the beauty industry began advocating for conscientious advertising and healthier products. And as all trends do, the organic beauty movement captivated everyone. But Burnes knew that there was little or no credible information behind this trend, “It was all the rage, everybody was looking into it and were like, ‘Hey natural skin is actually effective and does amazing things.’”

However, Burnes insists that this superficial interest in “green” products is not actually changing the beauty industry in any substantial way. “It became such a comedy of itself,” she groans, “Everything is supposedly all natural and organic, but we’re greenwashing the planet—and everything is still filled with chemicals.”

Although there has been an increased demand among consumers for organic beauty products, most brands continue to use the same formulas— disguised behind green advertisements boasting organic properties and natural compounds. The number one factor that sustains these false proclamations Burnes argues is a lack of knowledge regarding manufacturing among brand creators. “I believe that people have the highest amount of integrity to think that they’re creating an all-natural, green brand but they have to buy into what some chemist is selling them,” Burnes reflects, disclosing that almost all of our favorite small, “indie” labels are actually manufactured by the same three labs. “It breaks my heart when I look at their ingredients and I have to tell them that their brand isn’t any better than what’s already out there.”

Despite these companies chasing the zeitgeist Burnes maintains that the only way to have created and sustained Sumbody’s success was controlling every aspect of the line and preserving brand transparency, “As the chemist behind all our products, I make each and every formula,” she states, effortlessly naming the sources of each ingredient in her line. “Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful.”

While typical beauty companies have altered their brands various times since their launch to match contemporary trends, Sumbody has largely remained unchanged. “When it comes to skin, it doesn’t change. Skin hasn’t changed, skin is the same,” remarks the CEO, “If you really know skin, and know what you’re doing, you really don’t need to change that much.” And although you won’t find Sumbody entering the contest between the major labels over who’s the greenest, the company continues its mission from the beginning to be environmentally friendly, “We don’t have any secondary packaging. When we started the company, we had three stores as well. We still have bamboo floors and recycled lumber. All of our plastic is PET and is recyclable, and we use glass whenever we can.”

“Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful” - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

Burnes took the next step in promoting a truly environmentally conscious line, with the publication of her second book Natural Beauty Skin Care: 110 Organic Formulas for a Radiant You!In 2016. With recipes, tips and tricks to creating DIY skin care products Burnes aims to both contribute to the no waste movement and, “empower women so that they can make effective and transformational products in their own home.”

In 2018 Deborah Burnes fulfills the same role that she did when she started 20 years ago. The CEO of Sumbody is still a leader to those concerned with what they’re lathering on themselves, providing an honest and clear path to organic skincare.

3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.