Earth Day 2024: Nedahl Stelio of Recreation Beauty Interview

Earth Day 2024: Nedahl Stelio of Recreation Beauty Interview

From magazine editor to fragrance founder, I'm had the honour of interviewing Nedahl Stelio from Recreation Beauty, one of my all time favourite natural fragrance brands, for Earth Day. Watch the video above or read the transcript below:

Marisa: For anyone who isn't familiar with Recreation Beauty, can you share a little bit about the brand and how it might be different from other fragrance brands on the market?

Nedahl: We are a clean fragrance brand, and I'm not sure if that means much to many people, but regular fragrances and perfumes that I grew up with my whole life actually can contain up to 3000 chemicals in them. Not all of those are harmful, but some of those are harmful. And some of them are very well known, scientifically proven endocrine disruptors.

If they're an endocrine disruptor it means that they can mess with your hormone system, which basically regulates our entire body. I think if you're a woman, you know that if your hormones are out of whack, you are not feeling the best. So it can give you everything from mood swings to weight gain. It can mess with your reproductive system. It can affect your fertility. And it's not only of women, it's also of men. So it really affects both sexes and it has been linked to auto immune diseases and much more serious diseases.

So it's really something that I found surprising and I discovered it when I was trying to get pregnant about 15 years ago, struggled to get pregnant, couldn't get pregnant for years. Then I found out about all this stuff, and it was a real shock to me because I had been a magazine editor and I had a whole giant cupboard full of product, and I just basically gave it all away and started again with Clean beauty.

Marisa: It's so interesting because I think that's something that we're not really educated about. Even as I was growing up, it was more about what smelt the best or what had the prettiest bottle. Not so much about what was actually inside it or what was I actually putting on my skin and how it then could affect my body?

Nedahl: Exactly. I mean, we don't know really what's in the fragrance. That's the thing, it's a proprietary blend which I can also understand being in the business, you don't want people to know what's in the formula because you don't want people to copy you and there are so many dupes around and all that kind of thing.

It's definitely an issue. But at the same time, there's no transparency with these ingredients so we don't actually know what's in these products. And that, I guess, is the risky thing. Also, because the fragrance industry is regulated by the big businesses in that industry. So it's actually a self regulated industry. So the businesses that make the money are the ones who set the regulations for what products you can use and what ingredients you can put in them. So that's that's a bit concerning as well.

Marisa: Well yeah, it's not like there's an overarching board or anything that can regulate or ensure that things are healthy or safe to put on your body.

Nedahl: Yes, exactly.

Marisa: So I guess when it comes to the phrase Clean Beauty, I know it's thrown around a lot and some people can be skeptical when they hear that thinking that maybe the product's not as effective. What are clean ingredients and what made you, in addition to what you've just shared, decide to create a natural fragrance brand?

Nedahl: Well, when I started I wasn't even sure it was possible, to be honest. And I spoke to many perfumers who wouldn't do it because they couldn't use all of those ingredients that they wanted to use. But since then it's come a long way. When I ditched all of those makeup products and skin care and everything that I used to use, there wasn't really any perfume around. There was nothing that I could use. But technology has come a long way, and we have these ingredients we've been able to extract amazing extracts and resins. Everything that you smell is obviously better if it's natural, because that's where it comes from, the actual source.

So these ingredients are actually much nicer. They're more expensive. It's not the cheap option. It's not the option that doesn't work. It's actually the reason those big companies don't use them, because they're too good and they're too expensive and they don't want to spend that much money on them. So once you learn that as well, you actually realise that this is a superior product rather than an inferior product.

Marisa: That's a great point, I never thought about it like that. So I guess for a lot of those big brands, that profit margin is very important to them, so the cheaper ingredients that they're putting in there, the more money they make. But not necessarily more beneficial for the consumer. It could really be impacting them and their health.

Nedahl: Exactly. Exactly.

Marisa: Well, you've done an amazing job and all your scents are incredible. Your new fragrance is so beautiful. But I also love that you've never used any single use plastics or compromised on your packaging. How important was plastic free you packaging to you when you were creating your range?

Nedahl: So this is, really, really important to me. It's one of my basic moral, ethical values - not contributing to the waste that we have in the world. And, you know, I live by the beach and I certainly don't want to be a part of the problem. I think that was the biggest thing to me. I don't want to be a part of the problem, I want to be a part of the solution. Because again, companies can do this if they just start.

It took me so long to find, for example, an insert for our boxes that wasn't foam. We used to use this, kind of cardboard folded origami type thing that took so long to fold, but I refused to use the foam. Then I finally found an insert that was made from 100% sustainable bamboo. I think the more demand there is from companies who want to buy those, like inserts that are made from bamboo, then the more companies that will make them.

The problem now is that too many companies are just happy to go with plastic. I couldn't, as a brand owner, feel comfortable ordering because you're ordering thousands and thousands and thousands of your packaging. And I couldn't with a clear conscience order that amount in plastic or foam.

Marisa: Yeah. It's so good and I guess comes back to your morals as well because I mean, typically if you go to a department store and you go to the fragrance section, all the fragrances are wrapped in a plastic film. Generally inside the box, there's a plastic insert or some other sort of plastic holding it together. The caps are plastic. There are just so many parts of the fragrance that aren't recyclable which are just going to end up in landfill. So I really love that you've had that more considered approach and it's not that easy to go down these roads and find these new methods and these new ways. It's really thinking outside the square of what's going to be better long term for the planet. And also, what's easier for the consumer to dispose of at the end of its life as well.

Nedahl: Exactly. Because you do have to think about how these things are used and how they're going to be disposed of. There is a balance between how important it is to the consumer to what you actually use. Because sometimes they will just opt for the plastic because that's an easier option for them.

But I think the more brands that do this and the more brands that make it less of an option, then the better it will all be. I mean, I don't want to swim in an ocean full of plastic, I'm pretty sure nobody does.

Marisa: And making these changes now, it can only be beneficial for the future of your children and their children's children. So by starting and making these switches now, it's going to make a big impact and a big positive change in the environment.

Nedahl: Yeah, and I think that was a real consideration for me when I started the brand. I just didn't want to be a part of the problem. I think that that's what came down to it. I just didn't want to be a part of the problem.

Marisa: I love that. So your bottles themselves are made from glass and they have an aluminium cap. Is that right?

Nedahl: Yep.

Marisa: So once someone's finished with their bottle what's the best way for them to dispose of that?

Nedahl: They can actually just pop it straight into the glass recycling.

Marisa: Perfect. So I guess one thing that I've always wondered and that I hope other people find helpful. So when people are looking to make that switch from more traditional fragrances or conventional fragrances to natural, do you have any advice for people wanting to make that switch?

Nedahl: Yes, because natural perfumes aren't the same as synthetic and the regular perfumes that you see on the shelves, because those synthetic perfumes do have those endocrine disrupting ingredients. They do a number of things and there are synthetic musks in the other fragrances that are also really harmful and are endocrine disruptors as well. They're the ones that make fragrances last, sometimes fragrances can last for two days or something, which is just not good for you.

I think people have to get used to spraying a bit more. So when it's a natural fragrance, it's not overwhelming. You can spray a bit more, it's not going to give you a headache and it's not going to get up your nose or get in your throat or that kind of thing so you can spray a bit more, obviously to spray what suits you.

Then always prep your skin before applying a natural fragrance. So you always want your skin to be moisturised, with either a lotion or a body oil, and then you can top up throughout the day.

So I don't think that's too much of a compromise to make when you're literally not contributing to hormonal imbalances in your body. Like if your mood is of any importance to you, then I would definitely think that it is a good compromise.

Marisa: I totally agree, and it's funny you say that. I had someone ask me for recommendation for a natural fragrance. Naturally, I suggested Recreation Beauty, but they said is it long lasting? I said, well, I guess it depends what you consider to be long lasting. To me, if I'm using a fragrance and it lasts half the day and I have to reapply but I'm also applying a fragrance which is kind to my body, to my health, to the environment, I would much rather reapply, then put a chemical on my body which might last, but will have other ongoing impacts which might be negative.

Nedahl: So the chemicals in these, those particular chemicals are also known in the scientific community as persistent. So they don't break down. So they don't break down in your body. Your body never gets rid of them and they don't break down in the environment. So when they get washed down the sink they just go straight into the aquatic life. Which is really bad for both things.

Marisa: I didn't realise that actually. So then that affects sea life as well ultimately, because it never breaks down. Oh my gosh, that's awful. Here I am learning something new again.

Nedahl: It's all these things you don't think about. You're like, it's just perfume. But you know what? Most of these formulas were made back in the 50s and 60s and we didn't know anything then. Everyone smoked cigarettes thinking that was fine too, you know what I mean? It's not like we haven't come a long way, there are alternatives now and there are things that you can use.

I just think we're exposed to so many toxins elsewhere in our world. There's pollution in the street, there's the same chemicals in plastics that are in perfume. They're in plastics and in vinyl and in some carpets and in some furniture and that kind of thing that you can't stop your exposure to. So it's much more difficult to stop your exposure in that way than it is to choose a different, much better alternative for you with your fragrance and your beauty products.

Marisa: Yeah, absolutely. I just want to quickly circle back you've mentioned endocrine disruptors a couple of times. For anyone who doesn't know what that is or the impact of them, do you mind just giving us a little quick rundown?

Nedahl: Yeah, so basically the endocrine system controls your hormones and it can give you hormone imbalances. I know as a woman that I've certainly encountered many a hormonal imbalance in my lifetime, and we all know how what kind of an impact that can make every month. If you are constantly feeding your body something that impacts your hormones, just imagine on an everyday basis something that is accumulative, that is in a lot of different products. It's not just in your perfume, it's in the fragrance in your body wash, in your body lotion, in your laundry powder, in your dishwashing liquid. It's in so many different things. So they might have tested these things in the small amounts that they use them and so for each product it's fine.

But what we talk about is the toxic load. So women can use up to 20 products a day. You think about a cleanser, moisturiser, eye cream, mascara, eye shadow, foundation, shampoo, body wash - the list is endless. Then you've got these household products as well that you also use so it's the toxic load and it's the accumulative load of all of these things because they don't break down in your system and that's what can mess you up.

Marisa: That's so interesting and so helpful. I hope that really does help anyone who's listening who was either unaware or unsure of what that meant, and it helps them make better choices as well for their their health and the environment.

I want to thank you just so much for being here today and for the incredible range you've created and the awareness as well that you're sharing around natural fragrances. I think you've done such an incredible job and I'm just so, so happy that you've joined me today.

Nedahl: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it and appreciate all your support.

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