The use of cosmetics has become a daily routine, so much so that often we apply beauty products without reading the labels. Even if we did have a peek at the ingredients in our products, most of us wouldn’t know what they were. The list of ingredients is often a reminder of how complicated those chemistry lessons were. Even if we can pronounce the chemicals correctly, how many of you actually know what effect each of them has on the body?
We live in a society that uses many different forms of cosmetics from shampoo, toothpaste, moisturizer, make-up and shaving cream are all different chemical concoctions, really. We use many of these products on a daily basis, but we often don’t think about the impact they have on our health.
Many cosmetics contain harmful chemicals that our body regards as ‘alien’. Often these chemicals are by-products of oil and coal. Vaseline for example is petroleum jelly, from crude oil. Would you supplement a natural moisturizer for crude oil? I know I wouldn’t choose to rub crude oil onto my skin, so why do we put it on our lips?
Beware of greenwashing
Be aware of the clever greenwashing ploy of adding one natural substance, then marketing the entire product as ‘natural.’ But what is the difference between natural and chemical products?
There are specific chemicals which have known side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, mental depression, nausea and which are best avoided. Read about the ten worst chemicals in cosmetics here.
There is also a strong possibility of a link between slapping chemicals onto your skin, and developing cancer. After all, the incidence of cancer amongst women is taking on almost epidemic proportions now. Then skin absorbs a fair percentage of the chemicals you rub into it, and it ends up in your bloodstream. This can lead to Alzheimer’s, dementia, concentration problems and many other evils.
Shampoos need to be selected carefully
Shampoos are particularly dangerous products, as they are applied very close to the brain. They almost always contain sulphates, which are detergents.
‘Used as detergents and surfactants, these closely related compounds are found in car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers. Yet sodium laurel sulphate and sodium laureth sulphates are widely used as one of the major ingredients in cosmetics, toothpastes, hair conditioner and about 90% of all shampoos and products that foam. According to the American College of Toxicology, both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children’s eyes. Other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin. Skin layers may separate and inflame due to its protein denaturing properties. It is possibly the most dangerous of all ingredients in personal care products.
Research has shown that SLS when combined with other chemicals can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens, which causes the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate-contaminated food. According to the American College of Toxicology report, SLS stays in the body for up to five days…Other studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain. This poses serious questions regarding its potential health threat through its use in shampoos, cleansers and toothpaste.”
I know, my scalp erupts immediately when I use chemical shampoos. Beware all our regular toothpastes contain sulphates. Find a natural one instead, like Earth Sap, or the green Miswak (not the orange/yellow one.)
Perfume dangers and solutions
Be very careful of chemical perfumes as well. ‘Fragrance is present in most deodorants, shampoos, sunscreens, skin care, body care and baby care products. Many of the compounds in fragrances are carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. Most or all of them are synthetic. Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observation by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioural changes.’
We are lucky to have one of our country’s foremost artisan perfumers, Sophia-Suzette Shuttleworth, in the area. Form this wise woman comes the following information. ‘The use of synthetic ingredients were first used by perfumers to cut the price of expensive extracts. Synthetic ingredients rose to prominence in perfumes after the Balkan’s Wars (1912 -1913) and later with World War 1, when there was little rose oil available from the Balkans and Turkey (both allied to Prussia).
Remnants from the wars
With rose oil production in crisis synthetic rose started to play an important role and the study of synthetic replacements became a necessity by 1914. Many consider Chanel No 5 (1921) the first modern perfume to use synthetic ingredients for their own sake, which was unlike anything nature created. Since then the use of synthetic ingredients has gone from strength to strength so that only 5% of today’s perfumes are derived from natural compounds.
Most perfumes found on the shelves contain no natural ingredients. It has become so prevalent that most people have no idea what a 100% natural perfume smells like. It is akin to thinking that Oros is what natural orange smells like. Most people are actually still under the illusion that mass produced perfumes actually contain natural ingredients, as alluded to in the marketing hype.
‘Nature identical’ is not natural, but rather aroma chemicals used to create something that gives you the headspace of fragrances found nature. However, our noses know better, as synthetics will hit you in the nose and often give you a headache.
Watch that headache
With many people becoming allergic to synthetic perfumes and as a reaction to the “sameness” of synthetic perfumes, Natural Perfumes have re-emerged as an art form. I have also experienced this personally. Having given up chemical perfumes years ago, I made this mistake of using a gift someone gave me last year – it was not natural. I immediately started feeling severely depressed and disoriented. I thought I could fool my body, but no, I have a super sharp chemical detector built in.
‘Whereas synthetic perfumes use individual aroma molecules (aroma chemicals) to compose perfumes, natural perfumers use only ingredients extracted from nature. These include essential oils, absolutes, Co2’s, natural isolates, concretes, tinctures made by the perfumers themselves, as well as extracts through the old method of enfleurage, using flowers grown by the perfumers themselves. These are blended in a base of natural pure alcohol, oil such as Jojoba or fractionated coconut, or in a solid perfume base using beeswax and floral waxes. Obviously rare natural ingredients are more expensive than synthetic aroma chemicals.
All natural perfumes are made in small batches handcrafted by artisan perfumers as natural ingredients will vary from area to area and from season to season unlike mass produced aroma chemicals. This is part of the charm of natural perfumes, as each natural perfume is like buying a bespoke couture perfume.
Do yourself a favour and try some truly natural perfume once – you will never look back.
More healthy alternatives
Fortunately our country now has a stunning collection of pucker natural skin products sans the nasties. And they are no longer hard to come by. Order them online, at organic markets, or in health shops. Soon they will hopefully be more available at chemists and supermarkets too.
The Victorian Garden Organic Skin Care Company produces hand-made Victorian skin products using the same old methods and pure unadulterated ingredients as passed down by Lindsay’s great-grandmother. The demand for these Victorian products exploded very quickly and now, more than a century on, The Victorian Garden continues to handcraft delectable Victorian moisturizers, body lotions and bath oils. I find them the ideal answer to my natural shampoo needs. Here is where you’ll find the largest collection of harmless shampoos that nevertheless clean and shine your hair beautifully.
They have also introduced two other product collections – African Indigenous products and 16th century Tudor products, based on favorite recipes made for the Tudor Queens of England, which are now exported around the world. The website provides details on the history behind the products and the ingredients used (which are as near 100% Certified Organic and as natural as possible). I highly recommend this company for its beautifully hand-crafted, natural products.
Herbafrique produce 100% natural creams which contain no mineral oil, aqueous, petrochemicals, parabens, artificial fragrance or colorants. These feather light moisturizing/nourishing creams are made from olive oil and beeswax which are preserved and stabilized with vitamin E, citrus extracts and rosemary oil. Even in the manufacturing process, the oils are never heated. These creams contain strong anti-oxidizing properties, which are perfect for the most sensitive and hypo-allergenic of skins. Appropriate herbs have been added for their respective actions. There is a wonderful range of different scented products including a herb and spices range.
Check out the lovely gift ranges for Mothers Day on their site -hint, hint – this year it’s on 8 May.
Naturals Beauty Products are handcrafted and made in small, fresh batches. No mass-manufactured products are used and they always use the highest quality natural ingredients which are organic wherever possible. None of the products are tested on animals and all are free from petrochemicals, parabens and synthetic fragrances. This small, family run company has recently released a new ‘essentials collection’ range, rich in cucumber and Sutherlandia extracts which improves skin radiance and keeps skin healthy.
In our household we rave about Naturals Beauty’s excellent teen products range, which my daughter Kitty is using with great success. This range eliminates and treats acne spots, reduces redness and has natural anti-bacterial properties and works miraculously! If you have youngsters, please avoid all the harsh chemical teenage ranges out there, which strips the skin of its natural acid mantle and renders the skin even more vulnerable to acne and infections.
- TEEN FACE WASH with Blue Mountain Sage + Buchu, Cinnamon and Tea Tree Blue Mountain Sage contains bisabolol which will help reduce redness.
- TEEN FACIAL MOISTURISER with Blue Mountain Sage + Buchu and essential oils with antibacterial properties to help absorb excess oil and to help eliminate the acne causing bacteria. Vitamins A, E and B, found in avocado oil, will help nourish, heal and protect the skin, without making the face look or feel shiny or oily. Rooibos extract will soothe irritated skin.
- TEEN SPOT TREATMENT with Blue Mountain Sage + Buchu, Cinnamon and Tea Tree helps to remove the bacteria that cause acne and spots.
The other super vulnerable creatures to protect from suspect lotions are our babies with their sensitive and absorbent skins. Wish all these wonderful natural baby products were around when my kids were small! Guess what granny will be purchasing one day. There are a few companies dedicated to producing natural products for our little ones.
Bush Baby was born out of a love for Africa and her children. It offers a unique African blend of plant extracts and essential oils combined in a world class formula to assist in the well being and skin care of babies. The offering is as natural as possible in the endeavor to capture the age old remedies that African plants have to offer. Bush Baby is bringing the secrets and traditions of African motherhood to parents across the world! Using natural remedies to safely protect and nurture their children, African mothers have known these gentle care recipes for generations!
Mother Nature Products specialise in eco-nappies. For the past 20 years 95% of mothers saw disposable nappies as an essential item. This is beginning to change now as we realize the devastating effects of this totally unrecyclable item on our environment. The problem with disposable nappies, besides them being really expensive, is that they end up in landfills by the millions.
These diapers take an estimated 500 years to decompose. Additionally, it takes up huge amounts of resources including wood pulp and plastic during their manufacturing.
The nappy range varies from a bamboo disposable, an all-in-one, to a night fleece. They also provide the accessories necessary when with a nappy-wearing child. A great range of products all designed with your baby in mind.
Lastly our country has hatched another innovative world first! Engineer Zoe Durbach, director of Knight’s Baby Training was fed up with the environmental destruction of disposable nappies. As a mother who noticed when her son showed indications of when he wanted to ‘go’ she used her engineering knowledge to design and manufacture a complete 3-in-one toilet training system. Yes, a Baby Throne which cuts out the need for nappies altogether from the age of 4 months, or earlier!
This friendly throne adapts traditional toilet-training techniques “from the days before nappies were invented” to our modern lives. The Baby Throne is made from a soft comfortable material that gently holds baby in a squat position, allowing baby to make the connection between the need and the throne. The unique position in which baby (or toddler) is held in the Baby Throne allows for easy and complete elimination of waste from the bowel.
Seeing is believing so check out her site and find out how this works. This eco friendly solution is endorsed by the baby clinics and manufactured with the greatest care to avoid all damage to the environment. There is a special offer for one Green Times reader. The first respondent can get one Baby Throne for a discount. Whereas they normally cost R800 plus postage, Zoe will send you one for R700 and carry the postage fee herself. Write to her here.
All is not as it seems in the world of lotions and potions, so read the fine print. We need to know the nasties by name and teach our children these words too. Discerning shopping is the way to go. Informed people are empowered people, are healthy people. Please send this story to your friends and ask them to sign up.
By Elma Pollard
If you discover more great natural cosmetics, please share your story with us. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.