The natural food movement locally, like elsewhere globally, is trending hard, fueled by a growing demand for minimally processed ingredients used in eco-friendly ways. One of the latest by-products of this consumer-led revolution to have been created in Cayman is the coconut oil-based Couxcoux (pronounced coo-coo) line of skin and personal-care products.
Competitively priced and locally sourced, the chemical-free range of 26 products are made and retailed exclusively on island, taking inspiration from the many health benefits of the widely available and highly versatile antibacterial, antifungal and nutrient-rich oil. And given that it takes three hours to extract just one ounce of oil, the price point per item makes them very affordable.
The Couxcoux Oil brand is the brainchild of George Town resident Pam Champoux. The detail-oriented former architect used her professionally honed skill set (analytical/ conceptual thinker) to launch the organic range in May. Once available, the line’s reputation has spread mainly via word-of-mouth and the Couxcoux Oil Facebook page.
With its chemical- dye- and perfume-free branding, its environmentally conscious ingredients and purposely minimalist packaging, the product line was born from the need to find skin care products to help Champoux and her family resolve their skin allergy issues.
“My mom, my daughter and I were all suffering from eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and had done the rounds of tests with doctors and dermatologists,” she explained.
Having tried several high-end skin care ranges with little long-term success, research led her to deduce that the flare-ups stemmed from “the accumulated effects of toxic stew we unconsciously exposed our bodies to, over the years.”
She is convinced that most people unknowingly have health issues which are triggered or exacerbated by the long-term damage done by using chemically based skin care products, cleaning products, detergents and perfumes.
“Without being consciously aware of it, the average person applies dozens of chemicals on themselves a day. Though these are in infinitesimal doses, the combined and cumulative effect can be devastating,” she added.
Previously, Champoux’s daily skincare routine – like most women – involved using well-known brands of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toner, cleanser, moisturizer, deodorant, hairspray, foundation, eye shadow, lipstick, mascara, blusher and perfume. She pointed out that only a fraction of the chemicals used to color, stabilize, fragrance and preserve such preparations are FDA-approved.
She cited parabens, a group of preservatives used in skin care preparations, as being a prime example of common chemicals which have had a lot of negative press recently. Used widely, as they are cheap and effective, parabens are now known to mimic estrogen. Studies have shown that over time, such synthetic chemicals can cause breast cancer and damage reproductive health.
By this time Champoux was using grapeseed oil on her face, switching to coconut oil as it was more readily available locally. The more research she did, the more convinced she became that many of the chemical-based home and healthcare products that she and her family had been using for decades had stored toxins in their bodies resulting in disruption of their endocrine systems. Similarly, various studies showed that coconut oil would gradually rid the body of many pollutants.
Founding a micro business on such thinking was fatefully sparked by her volunteer work with the Bridge Foundation, a local organization providing temporary hostels for recovering addicts and former convicts. One of the residents sold coconut oil to make extra money and was always suggesting that Champoux sell the oil for him.
She eventually graduated from buying coconut oil for personal use and for making coconut-oil based products for friends and family to starting the natural Couxcoux skin care range.
With an ad hoc staff of around 15 volunteers from the foundation to pick, dehusk, scoop out and grate the coconuts, Champoux then ferments – or as she terms it “cooks” – the coconut meat before gently heating it, using the traditional heat-extraction method to produce the oil. No part of the coconut is wasted: the shells are used in some of the packaging and the water is now being made into popsicles. Other coconut-derived products are in the research and development stage.
The range uses local coconuts that have been environmentally rescued. “[In Cayman] we’ve got so many coconut trees and a lot end up in the dump following land clearance,” said Champoux. The small business entrepreneur explained that despite the abundance of coconut trees, hundreds are thrown away.
Producing and selling deodorant, shampoo, conditioners and lip balms, alongside skin care items, the range is a testament to Champoux’s drive to find locally sourced skin care solutions that work and are environmentally kind. And, even though the Facebook page is replete with glowing testimonials, she is keen to advise that even though Couxcoux Oil products are efficacious, they take a little time for the results to be seen. “If you’re expecting overnight miracles, you’ll be disappointed, but feedback suggests that the preparations, over time, work well if not better than their chemically laden and expensive rivals.”
One satisfied customer, Sarah Bertran, said, “I decided to try the after-sun/mosquito repellent after hearing that coconut oil is good at keeping the mozzies away and I wanted to use something natural. It works very well.”
The products are available at Every Bloomin’ Thing and online, via the company’s “shop now” button on Facebook page, and Champoux is currently in talks with a couple of the island’s supermarkets, hotels and dive operations, with a view to stocking the brand.
The collections, with three or more products, offer a range of skin and personal care products for women of all ages, and each tackle everyday skin issues and are designed to work together to make skin look and feel nourished and refreshed.
SASS – Super Always Silky products (blue label) promise to diminish the appearance of fine lines and to rejuvenate dry and mature skin. SOS – Spot Obliteration treatments (red label) is formulated to eliminate blemishes including acne. SASS – Super After Sweat (gray) helps dry skin, freshens and reduces swelling, as well as hydrates and cleanses after workouts, and the SASS – Super After Sun line (pink) is designed to pamper sun-damaged and peeling skin. The Brut range (brown) is the basic line with no extra ingredients added. For sensitive skin, Champoux suggested that it is also a good line to perhaps start with.
While coconut oil is the main ingredient in all the treatments, many of the serums, sprays, scrubs and body and hair oils are infused with ingredients including clary sage, frankincense, citrus juices and sea salt.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) and natural baking soda are also used in some of the treatments for their well-documented astringency and clarifying properties.
Fragranced with nothing other than natural ingredients, containing ACV, do have that distinctive smell but the aroma soon diffuses after application.