Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hemphasis grows in beauty category

by Paul Vincent

Already this year, more than 90 personal care products featuring hempseed oil have launched in the U.S., according to the Mintel Global New Products Database—a number well above the 65 that debuted in 2007. While this is still only a tiny percentage of the total number of beauty and personal care items launched each year, the increasing use of hempseed oil reflects the general trend toward all-natural cosmetics that is redefining markets around the world.

But why the interest in the bright-green oil cold-pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant? "Hemp is an amazing ingredient," says Laura Setzfand, vice president of marketing for Nature's Gate, based in Chatsworth, Calif. "Hempseed oil contains a high amount of amino acids, protein and polyunsaturated essential fatty acids."

Hempseed oil's EFA profile helps rejuvenate and replenish skin while providing superior moisturizing benefits. "Clinical trials have shown that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids present in hemp oil can help dry skin and may be beneficial for sufferers of eczema and psoriasis," Setzfand says. Its anti-inflammatory qualities can also help soothe skin irritations.

Nature's Gate has four hemp-based products, including body wash, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner. Setzfand says when hempseed oil is added to hair care products, its amino acids and nutrients aid the formation of keratin, the principal protein responsible for the structural integrity of hair.

Two companies that have focused solely on the manufacture of hemp-based personal care products are Eugene, Ore.-based The Merry Hempsters and Sierra Vista, Ariz.-based Azida.

The Merry Hempsters' president, Gerry Shapiro, started the company more than 14 years ago. "We have always made and only will make Cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil-based products," he says. Part of his company's mission is to illustrate the effectiveness of hemp through the use of its products. The Merry Hempsters also distributes literature—on tree-free, recycled hemp and flax paper—that covers many of hemp's uses.

"Our best-selling line is our [U.S. Department of Agriculture]-certified organic lip balms," says Shapiro. "We make a line of vegan salves, specifically our vegan muscle rubs, which are also gaining in popularity."

The founders of Azida, husband-and-wife team Jim and Diane Jones, have been making hemp personal care products since 1997. Their offerings include face and body scrubs, hand and body lotions, shampoos and conditioners, lip balms and an eye and face cream. "The complete line sells pretty much evenly," Jim Jones says, "but the eye and face cream gets especially great feedback about its high quality and reasonable price." Azida's lip balms also get rave reviews because they are vegan, he says.

Thanks to the efforts of companies like these, the hemp gospel is spreading. Setzfand says Nature's Gate strongly believes in the power of hemp, pointing to the introduction of its Hemp Velvet Moisture Body Wash in August. Shapiro reports that The Merry Hempsters' annual sales have been steadily around the $1 million mark, and Azida's owners note that their products have always attracted long-term, repeat customers.

Paul Vincent is an Auckland, New Zealand-based freelance writer.

Legalize it

At the dawn of the U.S., George Washington grew hemp as a crop and Betsy Ross used it to sew the country's first flag, but today the U.S. is the only industrialized country that bans hemp cultivation. This means that all the hempseed oil used in an increasing number of personal care products marketed in the U.S. has to be imported—mostly from Canada.

Six years ago, the actor Woody Harrelson traveled the West Coast in a bus powered by hemp-based bio-diesel, promoting the many uses of the plant. It wasn't until last year, however, that North Dakota became the first state to legalize farming industrial hemp. Vermont followed suit in May, but growing hemp without federal permission is still an act of civil disobedience in the U.S., enforceable by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

One of the key advantages of hemp as a crop is its hardiness, meaning it is mostly grown without pesticides. In this regard, hemp is good for the environment and our bodies—hemp fiber used in clothing even gives excellent UV sun protection.

More hemp products

Jason Hemp Moisturizing Creme Contains 70 percent certified-organic hemp and provides nourishing moisture for dry, chapped or sensitive skin. Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E help prevent dehydration and the signs of premature aging.

Lafe's Natural Hemp Oil Deodorant Made with a blend of mineral salts, hemp oil and aloe vera, this unscented deodorant claims to provide 24-hour protection.

One With Nature Hemp Soap Combines Dead Sea minerals with a pure vegetable base, moisturizing shea butter, gently exfoliating hemp seeds and moisturizing hempseed oil.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 94,96

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