The vast majority of us use toiletries and cosmetics for personal care, hygiene or beautifcation purposes throughout our lives. Starting with nappy rash creams, bubble baths, shampoos, oils and talc as a baby; to perfumes, hair dyes and products, aftershaves, creams, lotions, deodorants, bubble baths, shower gels etc from our teens right up until our twilight years.
Unfortunately, many of these Skin, Hair, Bath and Body products contain synthetic chemicals, which can be toxic and harmful to our health. There is consistent evidence to suggest that some synthetic chemicals can cause various degrees of harm, ranging from allergic reactions to the skin, imbalances to the hormonal, immune and nervous systems, disruptions to foetal growth and even cancer.
As the Skin is an absorptive organ, i.e has the capacity to absorb what we put on to it, it is really important that we use products which are not harmful to our health. It would be wise to raise one’s awareness of unsafe ingredients and to read product labels before purchasing goods.
As more and more people are becoming aware of the safety issues relating to popular toiletries and cosmetics, the demand for natural products is increasing. By natural I mean finished products which are derived from natural ingredients (which are also classed as chemicals, only natural) such as Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Herbal Extracts, Essential Oils etc. They are neither man-made nor synthetic. This trend is also linked to a wider issue of toxicity in our food, the air we breathe, the water we drink and of the various diseases this may cause.
Just to bring a balanced view, the issue of safety and toxicity is still present even with natural ingredients. Some can cause allergic reactions, others are safe to use but in restricted quantities and others are simply not safe to use at all. There is also the danger of some contamination, as impurities from pesticides, insecticides and pollution in the air and water enter into the ingredients whilst they are growing in nature.
The extraction, distillation or refining methods of ingredients such as oils, butters, essential oils etc can also affect the purity and potency of the ingredients. For this reason, it is important to buy your products from a manufacturer or supplier, who uses quality ingredients. Organic, unrefined or cold pressed are the purest and most potent. If you are unsure and cannot find the information from the label, ask the manufacturer or supplier. Any reputable company with strong ethics will be willing to reveal this information.
Despite the safety issues regarding natural products, they are still my preference. Natural products have many powerful therapeutic properties for the Skin and Body. Some ingredients are even holistic in that they have a therapeutic effect on the whole person, Body, Mind and Emotions. A good example of this is Essential Oils, natural extracts of various fauna and flora, such as Lavender, Rose, Chamomile.
On a personal note, there is something very special and nurturing about creating and using natural Skin Care, Bath and Body products To me, they help build a closer connection between myself and Mother Earth, which can easily be lost living in a concrete, hustle and bustle inner city environment.
The Properties of Ingredients commonly used in Natural Skin Care, Bath and Body Products
Cocoa Butter Excellent for use on very dry, dehydrated and chapped skin as it moisturises, soothes and protects. It is a natural source of vitamin E which has numerous skin benefits. Often recommended for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. Helps to protect sensitive skin from external elements by providing a moisture-retaining barrier to the environment. Cocoa butter has a long tradition of being used by pregnant women to help prevent stretch marks as well as reduce their appearance.
Evening Primrose Oil When applied externally, it is an exceptionally nourishing oil for dry, aging or chapped skin. Its high GLA makes it valuable for the healthy functioning of body tissues and can help conditions such as, eczema, psoriasis, fine lines and wrinkles. Taken internally, it helps with arthritis, asthma, breast tenderness, depression, eczema, high blood pressure, overweight, PMS.
Rose Essential Oil PMT and PMS, menopausal problems, depression, tones the entire system, stress, aphrodisiac, acne, decongesting the tissues, bactericidal, regulates the entire female reproductive organs, frigidity, impotence, sterility, uterine disorders, tension, post natal depression, tonic for many organs, good for dry, sensitive and mature skin. Excellent for sensitive and mature/ageing skin and mild enough for young babies and small children.
Lavender Essential Oil regulates nervous systems, aches and pains, rheumatic conditions, faintness, palpitations, stress and fatigue, depression, highly antiseptic, coughs and colds, high blood pressure, allergies, burns, insect bites, cuts, bruises, insomnia, eczema, acne, regulates scanty periods, cardiac regulator, asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy, flatulence, dermatitis, diarrhoea, headaches, hysteria, flu, migraine, nervous tension, promotes healing, helps scar tissue, antibiotic, reduces pain in labour, diuretic, sore throats, general tonic.
Honey is a natural humectant, which means it has the ability to attract and retain moisture. Its natural hydrating properties make it ideal for use in moisturizing products. It is also suitable for sensitive skin products. Studies have also revealed that honey has significant natural antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a role in protecting the skin from the damage of UV rays, and aiding in skin rejuvenation. It is also antimicrobial (prevents the growth of certain bacteria) and so is useful for minor acne or infected areas of skin.
Aloe Vera is a powerful moisturizing, cooling and soothing ingredient, often used in After Sun products. It contains vitamin B complex, Folic acid, vitamin C and carotene (a precursor of vitamin A)
Shea Butter This is extracted from the nut of the Shea (Karite) tree, and like Cocoa butter has been used in Africa for natural skin and hair care for many centuries. Useful for many skin conditions: dry, dehydrated and mature skins, it is deeply moisturising and can help to maintain skin elasticity, useful for chapped or sore skin, helps dry skin with eczema and psoriasis as it is healing and soothing, excellent for damaged skin (including stretch marks – a good ingredient for pregnant belly balms), and protects the skin from external elements, excellent for rehydrating the skin after prolonged exposure to the sun.
White Kaolin (Clay) is mostly used for sensitive skin. Rich in minerals. A gentle, less absorbent clay that effectively cleanses and clarifies the skin. Softens and tones. Particularly useful for sensitive, dry and mature skin types
Calendula may be found in products as a herbal extract or as an oil infusion. Good for all skin types, particularly eczema, psoriasis, chapped, dry or damaged skin. It is also useful for balancing excessive oil production in the skin, for treating wounds, scars, burns, inflammation and other injuries as it aids in tissue regeneration. Jojoba Oil nourishing skin and soothing for inflamed skins, psoriasis, eczema, any sort of dermatitis. Can help control acne and oily skin or scalp since excess sebum actually dissolves in jojoba.