A few weeks ago (you may have seen) we posted a video about healthy deodorants. While Sabine was conducting her healthy deo research she found an amazing one from Berlin called FINE. It’s aluminium free, vegan and IT WORKED. Winning. All. Round. You can watch the video here if you missed it.
Judith, the founder and creator of FINE, came across our video and we got talking. Not only were in love with her product but after a brief chat we knew she herself had something special to offer and thought she’d be super inspiring to interview. So we asked if she would be interested and luckily she said yes! Here’s what she had to say.
What inspired/motivated you to start FINE?
The birth of FINE was something which was part of a longer and broader transformation, so to speak. Through my intense yoga practice and study of yoga philosophy something changed gradually, I changed gradually without really noticing. Now I often think of my favorite sentence by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is the founder of Iyengar Yoga (that I am practicing) and one of the greatest humans that ever lived: 'Practice, practice, all will come.' That is what happened and still is happening. Before I have always wanted things, set goals and tried to meet them. Over the years I often failed, which of course led to frustration. This transformation changed things and me in the respect that I started to become more open and stopped setting goals and wanting things. And then gradually things happened to me, opportunities opened up. That is how I became a yoga teacher, which I never really planned to do. And this is also how FINE happened.
I have always been on the search for a aluminium free, organic deodorant that really - I mean really - works. I spent a lot of money over the past years and still was not satisfied. When I found a product that worked, I did not like the texture and smell. A friend of mine advised me start cooking my own. So I did. And already the first batch was such a miracle that I started to make more and distribute it to friends.
Shortly after a graphic designer who was my student came to me and asked for a private class. In these days I was not allowed to take money for classes (because I was still not a certified teacher) I suggested her to swap her work for mine. And then she came up with a complete Corporate Identity for FINE. I was totally swept off my feet, because I did not expect this nor imagined FINE to be that 'big'. But I decided to go with it and there we are.
Having been occupied with so many different things in the past (studying law, doing a Ph.D. in urban and regional sociology, working at university, being a art curator for the past 15 years, working as a yoga teacher…) offered me such a wide panorama on how to do things, that I exactly knew what I wanted FINE to be: a) off good design, b) with a perfect scent, c) ethically sourced and produced and d) actually working.
You experimented yourself until you had the final product. Could you tell us more about the process? How long did it take, did you test them all on yourself?
From my first trials until the final product reached the market it was a year. My yoga students and my friends and family were the happy testers :-)
What challenges did you come across?
As I had a very concise plan in my head of how FINE should be, everything went quite smoothly. But of course, official necessities (like security certificates etc.) took a long time, but hey, everything happens for a reason, so looking back - it was all FINE ;-)
Have you any funny stories from your experiments? We noticed aluminium free can be full of trial and error, i.e. - occasional stinkyness.
FINE worked right from the start. Only now that I am experimenting with different working ingredients there is 'occasional stinkyness'. My husband is my toughest tester: When he takes a shower in the morning, goes through the day, takes care of the kids, cycles to his rehearsal (he is a singer) and back, prepares for stage, cycles back to start working, performs for a couple of hours on stage, sweats a lot, cycles back - and still is smelling only like him - then the deodorant really works!
You have a very ethical approach to sourcing materials to use in your products, the organic materials and the wood etc. Could you tell us more about why you do this and how you went about sourcing everything?
I would never put something on the market that already exists. We live in a world of abundance, at least in our world. So to me it is very important that the impact of FINE is small and in this helps others. I love beautifully crafted things, and I found this workshop here in Berlin where they work with people with special needs and they do an amazing job. It took some experiments but now I have the perfect spatula.
I do not like plastic, so it was clear that FINE had to be in a glass jar. I also exclusively shop organic groceries - honestly I have been obsessed with organic products since my childhood - so why create a product that is not organic? We have a responsibility and we need to respect that and behave according to it. Also the bags are ethically produced. In the future this will be even better as I teamed up with lovely Folkday and got in contact with a wonderful (direct trade if you like) producer in Kambodscha, they hand-weave their products and the women work from their homes. My dream is that I know every little family that produces each ingredient of FINE. I work on that.
Where do you get it produced? We’ve noticed it seems to come in smallish batches and immediately sell out - it took us a few tries to get ahold of one. Have you got plans to grow?
Well, first of all, I do not consider the batches so small anymore, but they sell out fast none the less. I of course started with a small batch of only 500, because I did not know in the beginning how things might work out. But naturally the production is always behind the demand, and it takes 4-6 weeks to produce a new batch. So you have to go with that, gradually trying to meet the demands.
I am producing in a lab in Munich, a small but very expert company.
FINE is only on the market since June and the success was totally unexpected, well, I did not expect anything really, since I've learned not to have expectations.
Where do you source your ingredients and why is the deo in the upper price spectrum?
This is what my producer does. I instructed him on what to use and he is sourcing the ingredients himself.
There are many components that explain the price: a) relatively small batches, b) handmade in Germany, exclusive design, good materials, c) I am also selling through other shops who demand a certain margin.
What is also interesting is the fact that everybody expects a deodorant to costs relatively little. Look at the drugstores, there are deodorants for 2 Euros! This is what everybody has in mind - whereas facial products costs much more, although I really think that actually a deodorant is THE most important daily beauty product, isn’t it? 30 Euros for a face cream is normal but for a deodorant?
Btw - a lot of people told me that in the end, the price is absolutely relative: if you think of the dozens of useless deodorants you used, re-used over the course of the day, making them last only a couple of weeks. And here you have a product that lasts almost 2 months and you only have to use it once a day.
Are you health conscious otherwise and do you have any other health rituals?
Absolutely. And as I said before I am obsessed with this since I started to become more conscious about my surrounding, since a teen. I have been eating 'Vollwert' according to Bruker when I was a student, ate raw for sometime (this is more than 20 years ago!), baked my own bread…. I am vegan now for almost three years, having been a vegetarian since age 16. Since three years I am addicted to green smoothies, they replace my breakfast and part of my lunch. Also I looove green teas, matcha, white teas and oolongs.
As beauty comes from within I practice yoga at least an hour a day, meditate once or twice a day and lately discovered the books of Eckart Tolle. If you haven’t heard of him, go get it! He does not really say something new to me (if you have read some of the ancient texts) but the way he puts it, totally got me. I am practicing his way of awareness every minute I think of it, and his teachings (see on youtube) are such an inspiration. I would say, this is the best health ritual.
What other products do you use and are you big on natural and alternative solutions?
Absolutely: I have a sensitive scalp, that was always itching and very dry. After a long time I discovered that I am sensitive to sulfates. Now I am washing my hear with Aleppo soap and sometimes with one of my favourite beauty brands Josh Rosebrook. Itching gone.
Keep it simple is also my motto when it comes to facial routines. I use coconut oil to take off make-up, and what I lately discovered through Josh Rosebrook: dry cleaning your face with facial oil, taking it off just with a dry cloth not using water. I have very dry or dehydrated skin, this changed a lot. After that I just spray Josh Rosebrooks Moisturizing Accelerator and then again three drops facial oil.
Do you have an overall health philosophy?
Be it health or illness - it is all inside you and so is the cure.
Always stay true and get rid of everything or everybody that is harming your balance.
What are you careful about health wise regarding your two girls?
I keep their milk product consume to a minimum, as well as trying to live a low-sugar life (emphasising the 'trying'). Lots of veggies - fortunately they love them. No antibiotics, only if really, really unavoidable and vaccination as less as possible.
Are we allowed to know if you are working on other products, expanding the range?
I am working on two new versions: one for very sensitive skin without baking soda and essential oils and one with a different scent. Also there will be a family edition at a special price and at a bigger size (50 g) available end of next week approximately.
Apart from that, ideas are still in my head.
Where do you want to take FINE?
Here I’d like to refer to the answer of the first question. I try to make as little plans as possible rather enjoying the moment and looking forward to where it might take me.
And last one, you are sold out again... when is the new batch coming in!?
50 g and 30 g came out recently - so enough time to buy Christmas present. And hey, isn’t that fantastic? I think FINE is the first deodorant, that really works as a present! Or did you imagine giving a deodorant for Christmas before?
Thanks so much to Judith for chatting to us. You can find her online and on Instagram. Definitely check out her beautiful products and if you didn't see our deo video check that out too! We're looking forward to bringing you more interviews with interesting people so watch this space.