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Our imperfections

 

"Better, more eco-friendly, less waste."

This is the aim of our constant re-assessment. We are aware that we can always do better.

Our ambition is to do better this is why we keep in mind everything you have tell us. We write down your suggestions and feedback and look for relevant solutions that will suit everyone.

Here is a list of the criticisms we often see and our solutions.

 

🛑 Our ingredients don’t all come from local producers

It’s true for some of our ingredients, like our 100% organic olive oil which comes from Spain. We are located in the south of France, in Provence, why not get our olive oil from somewhere closer to home? The answer is rather straightforward.

Olive oil producers we contacted weren’t able to supply us with enough olive oil all year-round and on a regular basis. Some producers would have only been able to supply us with one massive olive oil delivery. However, we don’t have enough space to store those kinds of quantities. These logistical problems led us to suppliers outside France.

Our current olive oil supplier has the « organic farming » label and is certified COSMOS. This certification is a European and aims to harmonise organic farming constraints. This certification is a way for us to choose a quality product by selecting a food grade first cold pressed extra virgin organic olive oil.

Another problem is the volatility of organic olive oil prices in Provence. The prices sometimes double over the course of the year and from one year to the next. It would have been impossible for us to plan ahead and to offer fixed prices. The same problem appears for all of our foreign raw materials. They’re either:

• Unavailable in France (and even less locally).

• Extremely expensive or have volatile prices

• Available in too small quantities for us to sell our products.

 

Here is a summary table of where we get our raw materials from :

RAW MATERIAL

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

Shea butter 

Ghana

Olive oil

Spain

Argan oil

Morocco

Miswak

India

Corn starch

Austria

Candelilla wax

Mexico

Caustic soda

France

SLMI

United States

Mint crystals

India

Iris florentina roots

Albania

White clay

France

 Calcium carbonate

Germany

Rhassoul

Morocco

Sodium bicarbonate

France

Jojoba oil

Argentina

Carnauba wax

Brazil

Kokum butter

India

Hydriol

Switzerland

Citrofol

Germany

Cocoa butter

Africa, Peru, the Antilles


We are open to any propositions if you know any French suppliers who could supply us with the right amounts of raw organic material with stable prices.

 

🛑 The toothpaste isn't zero waste

A lot of customers ask us why our toothpaste has a plastic packaging. 

For this product, we wanted something that was refillable, not something that you simply use once and throw away.

For the toothpaste, we wanted something that you could refill. Solid toothpastes already existed and we looked into them but the feedback and the results weren’t of a high enough standard. We looked into all possible alternatives. We tested powder and for us it was the best possible solution. The texture of the product enables the powder to get into all the corners of your mouth thus giving you the best clean possible.

Yes, but what about the plastic ?

Lots of you have commented on our use of plastic containers. You don’t like them very much and neither do we. It’s the best solution we have so far. 

For the moment, we use pots that are fully recyclable for the toothpaste and made in Italy. 

We’re looking to improve our packaging but its hard since we have quite a few requirements:

- Needs to be made in Europe

- Needs to be entirely recyclable

- Needs to mesure less than 4 cm high

Many have suggested glass but most of the time the glass breaks when we send the parcels out. It’s important to remember also that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to make, recycle, and transport glass. We also wouldn’t be able to offer free delivery in France since glass is a lot heavier.

Some have suggested metals like aluminium. The problem is, metal might have health risks, that we still know very little about, when used as packaging. Studies tend to show that metal packaging affects the contents. It would be great if we could find a supplier that has done in depth testing that really shows the safety of metal packaging. 

For the toothpaste, we made sure that the container is refillable. That way you can buy the refills and keep your pot or just use your own pot. The refills now come in brown kraft paper that’s entirely compostable. We don’t yet have a miracle solution for this issue but we are working on it.

 

🛑 The ingredients aren’t all organic

You need to keep in mind that to be « organic » certified in the world of cosmetics, many requirements need to be fulfilled. One of the most important requirements is the actual percentage of organic ingredients in the end product. 

We have very few ingredients in our cosmetics. Some are certified COSMOS Organic (the famous organic certification) and others are COSMOS natural (this certification guarantees that all the ingredients are 100% natural).

Some of our ingredients grow in the wild, meaning they aren’t farmed in an organised industrial way allowing an organic certification.  

For example, candelilla wax is considered as wild and therefore can’t be organic. It is one of the main ingredients in our moisturising cream, which unfortunately can’t be organic but is COSMOS Natural, even though 77% of the ingredients in the cream are organic. 

We select our ingredients with the upmost care. We choose organic ingredients every time they are available and for the other ingredients, we make sure that GMOs are never part of the growing or treatment process.

These labels’ charters have loopholes, but one thing is for sure though, organic labels guarantee a higher level of quality and reduce the potential risk that harmful products or chemicals were used (hormone disruptors, pesticides, controversial ingredients…). However, each certification requirements are different, and aren’t all equal.

Selling a certified organic product doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is a responsible one, it might just be greenwashing. Consumer power comes from knowledge. Don’t believe everything you read or are told, always make sure the company’s sales pitch and the actual product are coherent. 

 

🛑 Our products are too expensive

It’s always a bit tricky to talk about prices to be honest. It’s a really subjective matter and can vary from one person to another. 

To answer the « it’s too expensive » comment, you need to understand that a products quality and conception has a price.

First and foremost, a product's price is based on the price of its ingredients. We always choose organic ingredients for our formulas when it is possible. But organic ingredients always cost a bit more because the yields aren’t as important as traditional farming. 

The second most important thing to remember when talking about a product's price is the work force required to make it. Every single product made by Comme Avant is handmade. Nothing in the production process has been automatised : making the soap, cutting the soap, the toothpaste and deodorant mixes, the packing and the sending are all done by hand.

Two things to remember too : the production time is longer, that means that working hours are longer, especially since we don’t use any machines. But the important thing for us is that everything is handmade. If demand for our products goes up ; we will hire another person, and not use a machine to catch up with demand. If demand goes up and we are able to hire more people, that means we can pay that person a decent wage because our turnover is getting better.

Also, our work schedules aren’t the classical intense factory working hours. We don’t skimp on break times. We work from 9am to 12. Then from 1pm to 5pm. We have a break in the morning and a break in the afternoon. We have an hour's break over lunch. We treat our staff with respect and dignity and we don’t want to make people work hectic, untenable working hours. The holidays are a bit harder, it gets really busy but everybody mucks in and we make sure the work schedules aren’t too intense in holiday periods. 

Since we are a small family business we can’t make economies of scale, meaning we can’t save money by making massive amounts. We can’t stock large deliveries of raw material, meaning we can’t get interesting prices. Big compagnies can negotiate with their suppliers ; we aren’t at that stage yet and we don’t want to be. 

Our research and development expenses are mostly absorbed by the general costs of the business. A business shouldn’t impact its R&D on its products.

Our finished products aren’t used the same way as conventional, industrial products.

When you buy a « Comme Avant » soap, the ONLY thing you’re buying is SOAP and it’s the same for all our products. You aren’t paying for the packaging, toxic chemicals, or water. Yes water, because most industrial soaps are full of water. Often, the first thing on the ingredient list is « aqua », meaning that ingredient is the component present in the largest amount. When you think about it, you’re paying a lot of money for water with a few chemicals mixed in. 

Most of our clients realise pretty quickly that it’s a lot cheaper to use Comme Avant products compared to industrial products. They not only last longer but they can also be used for lots of different things. Our products definitely save you money while also looking after your health and the environment.

 

🛑 Our products don’t smell nice or don’t have any fragrances

We get asked by some of our clients why we don’t make soap with different fragrances or if they can put essential oils in our products. 

Our aim is to make cosmetics which are suitable for the whole family and with a short ingredient list. Our products are made to fulfil basic needs such as cleanliness or hydration. 

Fragrance covers the « pleasure » aspect of a product. Our products are not intended to fulfil anything except what they were made for. We make them simple and efficient. The pleasure side comes after when you discover all the positive changes taking place in your body and see your carbon footprint reducing.

If we added essential oils, our products wouldn’t be suitable for children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and some people under medical treatment. Essential oils need to be used with precaution and moderation is required when handling them.

 

🛑 Using our products is difficult 

It’s true, it might take a bit of time to get used to our products. They are different. We’re so used to using industrial cosmetics that it might seem a bit strange to start with. But you’ll get used to it. 

For example, you need to use less, and you might think that you haven’t put enough but a small quantity is ample.

Solid cosmetics are quite unusual, and you might feel unconvinced the first few times you use them but if you persevere, you’ll see it’s really worth it. 

Solid cosmetics are also a way of reducing waste and health risks.

These are the reasons why we started this adventure.

 

If you have any feedback or constructive criticism we’re all ears. Write to us on the contact page, so we can try to improve and fix the problem.