On a snowy Friday evening in Leslieville, a full house is rocking a very different kind of bar: 11 women and one man gather around glasses of green liquid. They’re at a demonstration at Belmonte Raw, the eastside flagship raw food and juice bar (vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free), the mecca for a passionate and growing community of raw foodists.
Toronto is in the middle of a juice boom, but tonight’s class, in which the clean-living crew is gathered to create their own raw-food cosmetics with natural beauty entrepreneurGraydon Moffat, marks the extension of the clean-living movement from our stomachs to our external bits.
Environmental sensitivities and awareness (due either to the anti-aging vogue or to fight chronic and acute illnesses) have driven a huge interest in the purity of what we put on our skin.
In the kitchen (in which no stove is apparent) behind the café, the students stand at stations equipped with bunsen burners melting natural cocoa butter into avocado and rice bran oil with beeswax and vegetable glycerin, emulsifying with borax (which is natural and non-toxic), and spiking it with rosemary extract and some broccoli seed oil.
They are following Graydon’s Skin Food moisturizer recipe, and personalizing it with peppermint or lavender or mint or thyme. (Later, they will make a lip scrub and balm.)
The volume in the room rises sharply: who knew essential oils could have such a convivial effect? “We were seriously giddy with all the aromas in the room.,” says Moffat later. “Raw-food folks sure are super-passionate and committed people.”
The class, scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30, stretched on until 10 p.m. or so, as Moffat and Carol Belmonte, the owner of the venue (which also has a location at the Detox Market on King St. West; Belmonte juices are also sold at Holts) were mobbed.
“Our skin is our largest organ,” says Moffat, “so it goes without saying that we do not use any mineral oils, chemicals, parabens or sulfates. No artificial dyes or synthetic aromas. We’re gluten-free, almost vegan (with the exception of a little manuka honey). These women really knew their stuff, their own health concerns and priorities, and they peppered us with questions.”
Moffat launched her skincare line from her own kitchen. She is at the forefront of a wave of local natural beauty lines. The former corporate packaged goods marketer has been ahead of the curve before, launching a yoga studio in town just as the trend hit in the 1990s; she also ran a macrobiotic delivery service.
She decided to go big or go home 18 months ago, hiring a lab with a chemist in Mississauga to produce her goods in a clinical setting (still in small batches, to ensure freshness).
There are now several dozen products in the line, sold at natural foods boutiques around town and on her website.
“There should be no sacrificing beauty and luxury just to be green,” says Moffat. The word organic, its use and regulation in the beauty industry, and the cost of getting certified, makes Moffat passionate on the subject: “I believe in full disclosure, and my website and product labels are full and complete. Instead of sourcing a wide range of organic ingredients just for the sake of organic I am more focused on the specific efficacy of certain items — such as red raspberry and broccoli seed oil.”
Her line costs around $17, with no product topping $30.
She regales her students with stories about the small far-flung Canadian farmers from which she sources her key ingredients. Several in the class are taking notes and snapping and posting pictures like good food bloggers everywhere.
Various uncooking classes are on the schedule at Belmonte every month; Moffat gives her DIY classes at venues around town.
“Small local lines are about word of mouth. Launching a new brand like this, I needed to win over the raw-food fanatics first. I work with naturopaths to keep my products credible.”
But Moffat has her eye on the mainstream. “There is a much larger pool of luxury beauty products consumers out there that I have my eye on. Luxury matters.”
Source the star.com