Natural Skin Care – Why Bother?

What is Natural Skin Care?Natural skin care is normally understood to refer to those products characterised by the absence of synthetic ingredients, such as preservatives, petrochemical derivatives, mineral oils, fragrances and harsh detergents.Typically, natural skin care products are made using natural ingredients such as plant oils, essential oils, herbal and floral extracts (both aqueous and waxy), that have been prepared in the “old fashion way”, without chemical processing or modification. Sometimes, ethically produced animal derivatives, such as beeswax, may also be present in natural skin care (1).Natural skin care made with approved organically produced raw materials and practices can be organic certified by the relevant organic organizations.Unfortunately, there are numerous products in the market that claim to be either natural or that are cleverly marketed for their singular botanical extract or vitamin, amongst a dense cocktail of synthetic ingredients. These are the “pseudo-natural” products (1). To help clarify if a skin care product is really natural, it is recommended to read the ingredients section in the label.Why is natural skin care better than synthetic?Products that are made from ingredients that have been extracted naturally from sustainably maintained plants and crops manifest the essence, the energy, the qualities and the benefits of the source raw material, in ways that synthetics ingredients do not.Simply put, the geographical location, the soil and the water the plants are grown in, as well as the sun exposure, the seasons and harvesting times contribute to the mature plants and crop yields in unique ways.These factors cannot be mimicked in the laboratory or controlled nurseries, as the natural exposure to the environmental conditions facilitates development of subtle differences in the plants. These are then reflected in the quality of the extracted oils, as well as on their specific composition, properties and benefits.Besides, synthetic ingredients are produced in laboratories using scientific, yet often hazardous processes involving the use of carbon dioxide, propylene glycol or hexane based methods. Although these chemical agents may only be present is trace amounts in the final synthesised ingredients, it is unclear what effect they might have as they accumulate in our bodies, over a prolonged period of exposure (2).Of course, some of the natural extracts and oils may also be affected or destabilised by the natural extraction methods used in their preparation. For these reasons manufacturers of natural skin care products give great consideration to the sourcing of their raw materials and how natural ingredients are prepared from the latter.What is Special About Plant Oils?Plant oils are made up of complex mixtures of different fatty acids (lipids). It is the specific mix and ratio of these fatty acids that determines the unique character of any oil. In addition to the main lipid fraction, there are also other very important bioactive substances such as the phospholipids, phosphatides, phytosterols, phytoestrogens, isoflavones and vitamins. These bioactives are known as the unsaponifiable fraction of the oil. They normally are present is small amounts and are unique signatures of the oils (3).To demonstrate how the oil composition determines the difference in functional properties, the typical fatty acid profile of apricot kernel and borage oils as described in Kusmirek (3) are compared below.1 – Apricot kernel oil is a mixture of 58 – 74% of oleic acid, 25 – 30% of linoleic, with the remainder 4 – 7% composed of palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic and alpha-linolenic acids. The unsaponifiable content is approximately 0.5 -0.75%.2 – Borage oil is a mixture of 30 – 40% linoleic acid, 8 – 25% gamma linolenic acid, 15 – 20% oleic acid, 9 – 12% palmitic acid, 3 – 4% stearic acid, 2 – 6 % eicosenoic acid. The unsaponifiable content is approximately 1%.Apricot kernel oil is a great nourishing and emollient oil that is easily absorbed. These properties are attribute to the high percentages of oleic and linoleic acids. Furthermore, apricot kernel oil is also an excellent source of vitamin A, present in the unsaponifiable matter.Borage oil is known for its nourishing and penetrating properties attributed to the presence of linoleic and oleic acids, but in addition the high content of gamma-linolenic acid confers its regenerating and firming qualities.The differences in the properties of apricot kernel and borage oils, as well as those of other oils not discussed here, demonstrate the importance to blend various plant oils for optimal skin care, so that the skin is adequately fed, continuously hydrated, smooth feeling and equipped to regenerate efficiently. These are essential to promote a healthy skin glow, regardless of age.But, even if the synthetics oils were to reproduce the exact mixes and ratios of plant derived fatty acids and unsaponifiables, it would be nearly impossible to mimic into the synthetic oils the contribution from the energy that is held in the plant, from which the equivalent natural oils were extracted. Thus, natural ingredients are different from their synthetic equivalents.What about essential oils and other botanicals?Essential oils are concentrated extracts of aromatic and other volatile plant substances, sometimes containing growth factors known for their regenerative properties. They are the source of the scents of nature and may be used to add scent to natural products. Because of their concentrated nature and high cost to produce, only small amounts of essential oils are used in natural skin care. Besides, as essential oils may be irritating to the skin, they should never be used undiluted.In contrast to oils, floral/herbal waters are the aqueous extracts from flowers/plants. Naturally produced oils and aqueous extracts are made through distillation, steaming, or infusion techniques. These are slow and often inefficient processes that add to cost. But, the products generated using non-synthetic approaches are much safer and healthier than those extracted with the use of artificial methods.Is there a problem with the variation in natural ingredient batches?The quick answer is NO!Certainly, naturally produced ingredients show “batch variation”, but this is part of nature, demonstrating the cycles of change. These are natural bio- rhythms, and as with everything in nature sometimes there is abundant sunshine, other times there are only clouds. Naturally, these weather changes affect the growth patterns of the plants.This means that periodically some of the natural ingredients may contain a slightly higher or lower percentage of one or even several of the components, but over a period of time, these variations balance out. The key point is that the overall effect of using natural ingredients is still beneficial in the long run.Supporters of the mainstream cosmetic industry object to this variation associated with natural ingredients. Instead they advocate that synthetic ingredients are a far better option to manufacture any products, including skin care. They argue that synthetic ingredients are scientifically controlled, exacting, standardised and can be made in a totally reproducible manner. But, at the end of the day…they are not natural!What about preservatives, stabilisers and emulsifiers?Sure, preservatives and stabilisers extend the shelf-life of any product, natural and synthetic (1,2,4). Because of this recognition European and USA organic and regulatory organisations have approved the use of certain preservatives for which there has been long standing accumulation of safety and toxicity data, e.g. blends of dehydro-acetic acid. These preservatives were designed to replace the paraben family of preservatives in the personal care products. Though natural products ought to have the minimal necessary amounts of preservatives.Without a doubt, preservatives such as the parabens, the phenol derivatives and the denatured alcohols are extremely effective, as they increase the product shelf-life almost indefinitely! But, they are also known to interfere with hormone balance and can be allergenic (1,2). Clearly, they are not health promoting substances. As they are readily absorbed by the skin and are long lasting, their long-term effects on distal organs are unknown, and thus undesirable.Interestingly, vitamin E is a powerful natural anti-oxidant, as well as a fantastic natural preservative for oil blends and emulsified oils (2). Extracts of rosemary and oregano are also considered natural preservatives because of their anti-bacterial properties (2). However, these are not frequently used as they impart a strong scent and may give rise to some skin irritation. This is an example of where caution has to be exercised with natural substances. Though these occurrences are more the exception than the rule.Alginic acid obtained from brown algae is sometimes used as a stabiliser (4). But, allantoin, an extract from comfrey root is a more suitable natural stabiliser for skin care preparations (2).Emulsifiers are substances that help to prevent the parting of the of oil and water fractions in a cream or lotion. In natural skin care these include lethicin and the wax cetearyl alcohol (1,2,4). Lecithin is extracted from soya beans and is known to soften the skin and help penetration of the skin care product. Cetearyl alcohol is a mix of the high melting point cetyl and stearyl fatty acids derived from either animal or plant fats. In natural skin care it is preferable to have plant sourced cetearyl alcohol. Apart from its great emulsifying properties, this fatty acid mix facilitates maintenance of skin hydration.So, what’s he take home message?Regardless of some of the limitations of natural skin care, the natural ingredients in these products are still far more beneficial than those that are completely synthetic. Synthetics are unable to reproduce the unique heterogeneous and nourishing character of the natural extracts and oils, as discussed above.Technology aside, it is also clear that there are major financial gains for manufacturers to use mostly, if not strictly synthetic ingredients. The cost of producing natural skin care products is of necessity higher than that of synthesising vast quantities of easy to make and use synthetic ingredients. Compared to their equivalent natural counterparts they afford versatility on the production line, on the shelf-life, as well as on profitability.These attributes of scientifically designed skin care in the 20th century satisfied the increasing market desire for youth elixirs. However, since the 1960′s growing conscious awareness of what was in our food, demand for natural and organic products increased. This requirement extended to the personal care sector also. Indeed, the natural and organic cosmetics market has been the fastest growing sector of the personal care products since the late 1980′s.Fortunately nowadays, the driver is not purely for skin care that makes you look good, but for products that can achieve this goal with respect for human beings and the environment.Bibliography1. Morrison, K & Whelligan, F. 2007. About Face. Random House NZ. Auckland.
2. Hampton, A. 1987. Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care. Organica Press. Tampa, Fl.
3. Kusmirek, Jan. 2002. Liquid Sunshine – Vegetable Oils for Aromatherapy. Floramicus. Somerset. England.
4. Winters, R. 1994. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients. Three Rivers Press. NY.

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Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.