Once you’ve made the decision to be conscious and mindful about what you put into your body, cleaned up your diet and overhauled your exercise routine, turning your attention to what you put on your body seems like a logical next step. But we know the rapidly mushrooming world of natural beauty can seem a little daunting to the uninitiated! In this new series of posts we provide an overview of how to get started with some of the basic natural beauty rituals along with a couple of our favourite homemade beauty recipes.
Our skin is our largest organ and when you slather yourself in chemicals and toxins your skin will absorb those ingredients. Research undertaken in the US has reportedly demonstrated that as many as one in eight ingredients used in household name cosmetic contain industrial chemicals which include toxins, carcinogens and endocrine and hormonal disrupting chemicals. Ingredients that you would never dare to let pass your lips which we are unknowingly ingesting on a daily basis.
Given the predominance of animal testing in the cosmetics industry the impact of many of these ingredients on humans is not well understood. Cosmetic companies are not required to publish information on how much of these potentially toxic ingredients may be absorbed by the body. Really, we have no idea what the cumulative exposure to toxic ingredients of our daily beauty routines are having on our bodies. But numerous cancer and other advocacy bodies seem pretty sure that it’s not good and is contributing to the plague of cancer and other chronic diseases suffered by our modern society. To borrow from the EWG website:
“People are exposed to cosmetics ingredients in many ways: breathing in sprays and powders, swallowing chemicals on the lips or hands or absorbing them through the skin. Biomonitoring studies have found that cosmetics ingredients – such as phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks and sunscreen ingredients – are common pollutants in the bodies of men, women and children. Many of these chemicals are potential hormone disruptors (Gray 1986, Schreurs 2004, Gomez 2005, Veldhoen 2006). Cosmetics frequently contain enhancers that allow ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin. Studies have found health problems in people exposed to common fragrance and sunscreen ingredients, including increased risk of sperm damage, feminization of the male reproductive system and low birth weight in girls (Duty 2003, Hauser 2007, Swan 2005, Wolff 2008).”
The Environmental Working Group (“EWG”) the US based group who publish the annual Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide contaminated foods also have a great beauty resource called ‘Skin Deep’ an online database and safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products, The database cross-references the ingredients in thousands of household beauty products against recognised toxicity and regulatory databases to provide you with an easy to understand safety rating for your products. Skin Deep combines product ingredient lists with information in more than 50 standard toxicity and regulatory databases. The database provides easy-to-navigate safety ratings for tens of thousands of personal care products and is a really eye opening resource.
We aren’t suggesting you should immediately throw out your entire bathroom and replace it with expensive organic alternatives. But like with everything when it comes to health, you can make it a gradual process. Each time you finish a bottle of shampoo, consider whether there is a better alternative that you can replace it with. Before you know it you’ll have a whole new, much safer beauty arsenal at your disposal. As you educate yourself and have a better understanding of what is in the products you are buying and the potential impact they can have on your environment and health you will be in a position to make informed choices which hopefully will eventually lead the big companies to overhaul their ingredients. Just like your food, you need to learn to read labels and avoid being seduced by branding and packaging that suggests an all natural product. In the UK the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are not specifically regulated under the relevant EU regulations so manufacturers may use them as they wish provided they are ‘capable of substantiation and not misleading’, two pretty subjective and vague concepts. The only way you can guarantee that you are buying a genuine organic product is to look for a recognised certification label, for example the Soil Association in the UK. Under the Soil Association standards, to use the word organic in the product name, a product must contain over 95% organic ingredients (excluding water).
Luckily the natural beauty market in the UK is booming with beautiful, trustworthy new brands and innovative products. If you currently use household name brands from Boots e.g. Nivea, Dove, L’Oreal then, yes, in many cases these natural products are a bit more expensive. But we like to see our beauty routine in the same way as we do our food, we would rather eat good quality meat less often than fill our bodies with cheap processed meat daily. Similarly, by using a couple of the easy and budget friendly tips in this series, we believe you can cut down on the number of products you need to buy and instead buying fewer quality products.
There is definitely a sliding scale when it comes to natural beauty and you can decide where you want to sit on it depending on your preferences. It is possible to make pretty much all of your own products (check out the blog Wellness Mama for inspiration) but personally we don’t have the time or patience for that so while we try to make some of our own products where possible, we still buy more complicated products such as hair products.
If you’re not sure where to start, or have sensitive or problem skin then we will soon be launching our directory of products and brands you can trust over at The List, but in the meantime, pop down to natural beauty treasure trove Content Beauty & Wellbeing in Marylebone where the amazingly helpful and knowledgeable staff will be able to help you get started!
To kick off the series we are focusing on natural body scrubs, one of the easiest all-natural beauty products to make yourself and the perfect initiation into the world of natural beauty!
We all know the importance of exfoliation to slough off all that yucky dead skin but did you also know the massage element of the scrub stimulates your circulation and lymphatic system which is responsible for eliminating the cellular waste and toxins in your system?
We’ve set out our favourite basic scrub below but you can customise it to your favourite scents and flavours and ingredients. This scrub is a great way to get silky skin in under 5 minutes and as a bonus it leaves you smelling delicious all day. Most recipes use a ratio of two parts sugar to one part oil, but personally we don’t like our scrubs too oily so we use a slightly lower ratio of oil: sugar but you can increase it to suit your preferences.
You can play around with the ingredients too, for example using salt in place of, or in combination with sugar will give you a finer scrub. For a more indulgent scrub that is literally good enough to eat we also love using ground coffee (which has been reported to be beneficial in reducing the appearance of cellulite and having a ‘tightening’ effect on skin) and raw cacao powder. Once you have the basics down the possibilities are endless so play around with your oils and scents (Pinterest is a great place for inspiration) and let us know how you get on below! These scrubs also make great gifts, just decant into a pretty jar with a cute ribbon.
BASIC BODY SCRUB RECIPE
2.5 cups of Sugar (at least it's good for something!)
½ cup of Jojoba oil
½ cup of Almond Oil
1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
15 - 20 drops of your favourite essential oils (we love Lavender, Ylang Ylang and Chamomile for relaxation and Rosemary, Peppermint and Eucalyptus for an uplifting and energizing scrub to get us moving in the morning!)
Simply combine ingredients in an airtight jar and give it a shake and keep in the shower.
The scrubs should last for around 2 months provided you keep them in an airtight jar with a lid but we can guarantee it’ll be long gone before then! That said, if your scrub starts to look or smell funky then throw it away and make up a new jar.