Phaedra Botanicals
Pure beauty Sophie Zhuravel captured by Liubov Pogorela for Phaedra Botanicals


Phaedra Botanicals, an independent beauty microbrand, helps us shed light on the skincare industry’s issues and lack of transparency. The small team refuses to mass-produce and turns its attention to those few who demand more than what mass production can offer. Phaedra’s products grow in demand, as the company recently launched EXCLUSIVE PHAEDRA’S FRESH SERIES limited to those devoted few.

Freedom Writers | Published

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Skincare industry: the STATUS QUO

Micro-skincare brands sprout like mushrooms after a rain, but many copy what is already out there. Sometimes it feels like each continent has a similar copy of what already exists in another. It is understandable, the proof of concept exists, and what already sells well in one place might as well sell in another, giving a competitive advantage even in our globalized world.

If you are a natural skincare fan, you must have come across many skincare companies that claim their products to be non-toxic and fresh.

Finding this information is satisfactory for some, and taking the product off the shelf or adding it to the shopping bag will be the next step. However, few of us wonder what it takes for the product to be non-toxic or fresh. Phaedra Botanicals founder, Lucie, says that the very purpose behind her company is to create products for those few that wonder.

The matter of NON-TOXIC

Welcome to the world of greenwashing obscurity that omits the details that make all the difference. Let the magic unfold and explore how do skincare companies avoid coming under the light of scrutiny. Here comes the magical “free-from” formula.

A product that carries this “free-from formula” can seem a much better option than the one that does not, at least to a laik’s eye. It will probably prevent you from digging deeper into the long list of ingredients that might uncover other harmful compounds than those that everyone already banned from their cosmetic cabinets, such as SLES, animal-by products, and parabens.

Some companies go even further, incorporating as little as six group elements to their “free-from” list, ignoring the many other toxic compounds that can be present in skincare.

“Claiming non-toxicity in today’s polluted world can be very misleading. Why? The answer is simple: trace elements accumulate in the environment everywhere, including organic farms. The only way to guarantee non-toxicity is to measure these trace elements in a lab and make sure they are within the most recent established non-toxic norms.” Lucie, Phaedra Botanicals founder

So, how do skincare companies guarantee non-toxicity? Most of them don’t. Laboratory testing that includes heavy metals, mycotoxins, phthalates, and other compounds is costly, and many companies are unwilling to pay. They rely on the assurance of their suppliers or ask for organic ingredients that cannot guarantee the absence of trace elements, such as heavy metals.

Then comes the issue of freshness, also guaranteed by simple proclamation without any production date known to the customer. Blind trust of clients is expected to win here.

In a brief talk with Phaedra Botanicals founder Lucie, we discuss these issues while looking back at 2021.

FW: The end of the year is coming up; what was your most significant accomplishment this year?

Lucie: Reaching more clients. We do not use traditional advertising, so being discovered usually happens through word of mouth for us. I am very excited to find new customers in new European countries this year.

FW: Are there some intentions and desires you had that did not come true?

Lucie: I wanted to tap into decorative cosmetics because I love colors. But I quickly pulled it out of my wish list; it shocked me what passes for clean today. We reviewed ultramarines, iron oxides, micas, but oh dear Lord, you have no idea how much heavy metals are in these.

Can you be more specific?

Lucie: Certainly, I will share a comparison. During our final Hana Defies Time Phytotherapy Serum tests, tested for heavy metals due to the high amount of botanical extracts and our internal rules, we recorded traces of impurities lower than 0.001-0.005 ppm. That is a safe amount for consumption.

Hana Defies Time Phytotherapy Serum by Phaedra Botanicals
Hana Defies Time Phytotherapy Serum is produced by Phaedra Botanicals once in two months completely fresh for those who order.

When we tested these in decorative cosmetics, it was 100 ppm, 100 parts per million. As an example and comparison, consider that the US EPA’s regulatory limit of Hg (Mercury) in drinking water is two parts per billion (ppb)! Thus the purity is deeply unsatisfactory.

I can honestly say that unless I find miracle natural colorants completely safe, we won’t be tapping into any decorative cosmetics and will stick to the safe skincare that intends to care for skin, not to cover it up.

I hope our clients do not have to cover up their skin when using our skincare and can let it breathe.

FW: You might be the first skincare brand that makes products after order; tell us about Fresh Series and why you started it?

Lucie: I think this is a turning point for companies. I see a lot of potential in decentralization and complete transparency. How many companies claim freshness when it comes to their product? But you do not know when it was made, so freshness is relative.

With Fresh Series (learn more), the client orders once in two months; we prepare the product after the order period closes, we make it and put a date stamp on it, so they know how old the product is. It might be a day or two weeks when they receive it, depending on where they live, but it is rarely more.

FW: What surprises you in the skincare industry, and how do clients perceive it?

Lucie: Just so many things. I am always surprised when Europeans shop from outside the EU because the laws here are so much more developed to protect the customer when it comes to the toxicity of products. Moreover, Europe has amazingly evolved organic farming, and although limited, some pristine areas, such as Finnish forests.

As for clients and what shocks me is that they do not think of every detail and can be easily fooled by companies, I talked to a client once, and she did not immediately understand the difference between a fresh batch and a fresh batch made from freshly cold-pressed ingredients. It makes a difference. Some companies release fresh batches, but they cannot guarantee fresh ingredients in all their products. It is not surprising as it is tough to do, but it makes a lot of difference.

We pay a lot to guarantee freshness in most of our products. Consider, for example, my beloved Eratō’s Multipurpose Essence. We cold-press fresh ingredients for our batches of Eratō’s Essence, and when we release a new batch, each component is cold-pressed fresh!

Learn more about Phaedra Botanicals on their official site or follow them on Instagram: @phaedrabotanicals

Lucie posing for PhMagg
Lucie, Phaedra Botanicals founder, posing for PhMagg

Lucie has an academic background, which explains her attention to detail, essential in science.