As we try to cut down on plastics and start thinking more toward cosmetics (skin and hair care products) that use less of it, are we making the right kind of choices? Or, are we just thinking about reducing plastic and not thinking about the product itself and how it’s made and what impact those ingredients are having on our world. Take Shampoo bars for instance. I’ve spoken to many people about their choice of Shampoo bars, a lot of people think that because it’s a shampoo bar it’s natural, and they're surprised when they don’t have the transition period (you know the greasy, heavy hair that lasts around a month or so). And when I tell them that they haven’t had that transition period because the shampoo bar they are using isn’t actually all natural ingredients they’re even more surprised. I recommend that they look at smaller brands and check they are buying a shampoo bar that is completely natural…then they start to notice the transition period.

So let’s look at the skin. It’s the largest organ on the human body. And the average person has around 300 million skin cells, that’s a lot of entry ways into that organ. So, what are we feeding this organ of ours when we rub in that cream that promises to hydrate? Who knows? Who really takes the time to look at the ingredients on that product, and who actually researches what it is? Maybe only a small amount of us do this. It’s something I did for a while before making my own products. And I was shocked at what I found in a lot of them, and also at the laws surrounding these chemicals.

Petrochemicals are one of things I was horrified by, aka fossil fuels. Not something you’d really choose to spread all over your skin is it? But it’s in many cosmetics. Some of them you may recognise. Mineral Oils, Propylene, Toluene and Phenoxyethanol to name a few. I remember everyone switching to soy candles because they didn’t want the paraffin wax burning in their homes, however it would seem that instead of burning it they are still letting it enter their bodies, but through the skin. Ever seen the words ‘Fragrance’ or ‘Parfum’ listed as ingredient? EU law says that companies are under no legal obligation to disclose the ingredient of those scents.

So as consumers we just have to accept that there are a lot of man-made synthetic chemicals, including petrochemicals and possibly carcinogens, in those products. Some companies are open to you asking what is in the scent so it is worth contacting them, and some are completely transparent and will list the ingredient of that scent on their website.

So why do these companies use Petrochemicals and why not opt for a gentler plant based alternative? I don’t know, is the simple answer, but I would hazard a guess that it’s cheaper and easier to access in bulk without too much hard work for the brand.

What other concoctions are hiding in our cosmetics? Some of these man-made chemicals penetrate the skin and allow others to be absorbed into the bloodstream. How about Endocrine disruptors? Yes it is true that the companies that make these products and sell in the UK are governed by the EU, and the EU have some of the best regulations in place for cosmetics. However, they do allow companies to sell products without disclosing the full ingredient list, which makes me feel very uneasy.

And what about animal testing? Is a product truly free from animal testing? We have a ban on it in the UK, and thankfully yes, for cosmetic products at least. In 2013 the EU made the landmark decision that prompted other countries to follow suit. No ingredient tested on animals is to be used in cosmetic products, regardless where the ingredient was made. However, this doesn’t mean that a company can’t test on animals outside of the EU and sell their products to countries that allow testing to happen. In particular those companies that sell in China, will have tested on animals as China demands that it be done.

Wanting to move away from any man-made chemical concoctions I ditched my favourite low waste self-care product store because they couldn’t tell me what was in that scent, and were using petrochemicals in some of their products, very disappointing! I opted to purchase true, naked and natural shampoo bars from a smaller online business (www.friendlysoap.co.uk), and I bought my soaps from a lovely lady I met on Instagram (www.conchus.co.uk), she makes natural soaps that smell amazing, and not of a chemical concoctions. The rest I make myself, and I have to say I love it. It was a natural transition for me, as I was already making my home a low tox place to live by making Natural cleaning products. It’s so much fun making up a new batch of hand sanitiser, face and body cleanser, face toner, or anti-aging oil.

I started to experiment with things I used on my skin. I found that seaweed powder makes a lovely face exfoliator. Just a small amount in the palm of your hand mixed with a little water to form a paste and rub over the face for a nourishing and deep cleansing, yet gentle exfoliant. A whisked egg on my hair for 20 mins and then rinse with cool water just before using the Natural Shampoo bar is great for adding shine. However I am now going shampoo free, but i still use the egg method. A simple low waste natural life, that’s the only way forward for me. Making products for me and my family, and finding ingredients that is natural to work with. And ultimately passing on that knowledge to my daughter, so that when she is older it’ll feel as natural to make her own products as it is to breath.

How to make a Natural Make-up Remover

1 part alcohol free Witch Hazel

1 part Apricot Kernel oil Pour into a sterile bottle. Shake before each use.

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