Many new parents seek out organic, natural skincare products for their baby’s delicate skin and feed them only the best organic vegetables and unprocessed foods. But for themselves they’re still happy with the 3 for 2 shampoos and moisturisers which claim to firm, tone, give them a facelift and do a jig while serving their dinner at the same time – and don’t question what is in them.
I discovered the world of natural skin and hair products whilst travelling in New Zealand and suffering from an extremely irritated, itchy and flaky scalp. I’d just started using an expensive shampoo I selected on smell alone and although my hair was lovely and soft and smelt gorgeous, my scalp wasn’t so happy. I went into a health shop and asked the shopkeeper what could be causing it and she said quite simply – the perfume in the shampoo. She went on to tell me more about some of the ingredients in most mainstream shampoos.
Her argument really resonated with me not least because I became pregnant a few weeks later and felt very strongly that what I was putting in and ON my body would affect my growing baby.
Doing a bit of internet research I discovered lots of horror stories about mainstream creams and shampoos and their allegedly toxic ingredients. These claims include that the same stuff used in brake fluid and paint stripper is in many face moisturisers, cleansers and even baby creams and that 20% of everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.
I knew though that just as traditional skin care companies usually assert that whatever ingredients they use are safe, so alternative all-natural gurus say everything else spells disaster. Not being a scientist but being pregnant I decided to play it safe.
The main things to avoid seemed to be these:
– sodium lauryl sulfate
– chemical scents or ‘parfum’
– petroleum based products.
Parabens, which are chemical preservatives, are very commonly used in loads of skincare products. There are several different types: methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl paraben. Some research has showed a link between parabens and cancer – particularly breast cancer. In the tiny amounts used in skincare they may be fine but I felt that as it hasn’t been proved that these products are definitely non-toxic I didn’t want to risk using them.
Sodium lauryl sulfate which is used in a lot of shampoos and cleansers – and is apparently also found in car washes, engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners! – cleans and makes things foam. It apparently can cause skin irritation, eye irritation, dryness and has also been linked to cancer.
Chemical scents are very widely used in the industry. There are over 200 different ones used in cosmetics and there is no way to know which particular ingredients are in your product as they are just labelled ‘fragrance’.
I read that petroleum products – in many face creams and lip balms – coat the skin like cling film and clog the pores. Some information I found even said they created a build-up of toxins which can lead to serious dermatological problems and cause premature ageing. Other research suspected them of helping cause cancer and disrupting hormonal activity. I really wasn’t sure what to believe but the thing that did strike me as very likely (being a natural cynic) is that as they are incredibly cheap – they are by-products of the oil industry – that big companies would use them to bulk up their creams for minimal cost.
Now when I’m buying things for my skin and hair I look at the ingredients. If I don’t recognize the contents as natural products like shea butter, olive oil, vitamin E, cocoa butter, essential oils and rose water then I don’t buy it. Lots of the products you can buy in health shops and even in places like Waitrose now advertise themselves as “SLS free” (sodium lauryl sulfate) or “paraben free”.
Since I made the change the market has massively expanded: department stores like John Lewis stock lots of lovely natural ranges like Berts Bees, Liz Earle, Neal’s Yard, Dr Hauschka and Ren.
So take a look at the ingredients in the tubes and bottles in your bathroom, and next time you’re out shopping you might want to try something more natural. In the meantime try making your own body or face scrub – get our special recipe here!
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By Claire at Mojomums