Star of the Show = The BOMB

Written by JoAnn Fowler, Founder 

A Photoshoot: How to find a PFAS

SAPPHO New Paradigm has been testing formulas and packaging for Organic fluorine (PFAS aka 'forever chemicals') in the United States, as only lab available to do this work is there. Because of this, we have not been able to participate in any government programs to assist Canadians in mitigating PFAS exposure. We took it upon ourselves to reach out to British Columbia Institute of Technology  (BCIT) and try to solve this problem.

In early January, I met Dr. Lynch and the three chemistry students who were  interested, as part of their studies, to develop protocols for PFAS testing in Canada.

I wanted the students to become familiar with our products, and as I colour matched each person with SAPPHO products during our meeting, it came to me that this story needed a photoshoot, to help tell the evolving story of the search for understanding PFAS.

It's crucial for us to identify and mitigate these forever chemicals to thrive as humans, and these scientists are at the forefront of this mission.

From Hollywood North Movie Sets to Real Life Science Labs

The photoshoot was a perfect fusion of Hollywood movie magic and real-life science laboratories. On the makeup and hair team, we had Norma Patton-Lowin, a celebrity Makeup Artist (personal to actress Halle Berry) and Cristina Campoy, SAPPHO's own Makeup Artist Ambassador with years of international experience, who is just starting her film career here. From the scientific world, we had our models Dr. Deirdre Lynch, Maria, Kristel and Frances, from BCIT's Chemical and Environmental Technology program.

Not gonna lie, when the idea of the photoshoot first came up, one of the first things the BCIT team said was, "We can use the big lab... It’s our best one!" 

Naturally, having worked in movies for 25 years, and just watched the high tech film The Glass Onion, I pictured a huge lab with lots of windows, steel and exotic glass tubing.

Haha! Reality quickly set in when the pictures arrived... But I realized was what made this lab so special to these scientists, is not the room itself but the caliber of its equipment!

Point in case: The Oxygen Bomb

The 'bomb' gets its name because it is a sealed container that is pressurized with oxygen, which can potentially cause an explosion if not handled properly. The temperature inside an oxygen bomb calorimeter can reach up to several thousand degrees Celsius during combustion!

In these experiments, the 'bomb' is used to convert all forms of fluorine in the samples into inorganic fluorine which is captured in an absorbing solution. It can then be analyzed by ISE (ion-selective electrode) for total fluorine content.

The students will be measuring the total fluorine (TF) by combustion in a bomb calorimeter with product recovery. Then they will measure the inorganic fluorine (IF) through extraction. The organic fluorine or PFAS are calculated by the difference. (TF – IF = OF)

So in very simple terms, SAPPHO's CC Cream, for example, gets 'blown up' in a layman's pressure cooker on steroids, converting all forms of fluorine into inorganic fluorine which then is analyzed for total fluorine count. 

After that, they will extract the inorganic fluorine and what will be left is organic fluorine, or PFAS. (Note: organic meaning synthetic, in this case)


Below is a simulation of the team's process of preparing a makeup sample for the oxygen bomb.

First, the CC Cream formula is placed in a small basket.

First step of BCIT Scientists test SAPPHO CC Cream for PFAS

The basket with the product is lowered into the chamber.  

Step 2 of BCIT Chemistry students testing SAPPHO organic CC Cream for PFAS

The CC Cream sample is now secured inside the inner chamber.

Step 3 of BCIT Students testing SAPPHO vegan CC Cream for PFAS

The inner chamber is closed. 

Step 4 of BCIT Scientists testing clean beauty makeup for PFAS

Turning on the gas... Everyone has a laugh pretending, clearly fake as there is red tape all over it!

Step 6 of BCIT team testing SAPPHO clean makeup for PFAS

The inner chamber is lowered into the outer chamber.

Step 6 of BCIT Scientists team testing clean beauty makeup for PFAS for SAPPHO 

The outer chamber is closed.

Step 7 of BCIT Students testing SAPPHO clean cosmetics for PFAS

And the red button gets pressed!

Step 8 of BCIT Student testing Canadian makeup for PFAS

Finally, the sample then gets analyzed for organic fluorine (as mentioned above).

True Function Vs. Beauty

The wonderful thing about the realization that the lab's beauty was based on its functionality and not its appearance, was that it manifested as a metaphor for SAPPHO’s take on beauty. We love to adorn ourselves, we deserve to be able to do that safely  the safety of the glass bottles, the vetted ingredients, the luxurious formulations are the functions that SAPPHO brings to the sphere of beauty. We are all about highlighting your best attributes, not looking like someone else.

From packaging, to people, to bodies, to faces to laboratories – what’s inside is really what counts, and from where all things flow.

Thanks & Credits.

It was a small but fierce team.

Munir El-Kahid was our photographer – his wife Jennifer was there to help with creative ideas and his son, Aadil, to assist with lighting.

Our creative team was Norma Patton-Lowin and SAPPHO’s best, Cristina Campoy. Makeup artist student Amrit Kaur and myself were the PA's.

Special shout out to Marko Vicic, Marketing at BCIT, for helping with backdrops and photos, and for being so supportive.

"What is beautiful is good. Who is good will soon be beautiful" Sappho, poet, circa 630 B.C.


Read the blog series: Our Journey to PFAS Free