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Pure and simple

Natural options for shower, bath, body and hair products, plus how you can make them at home

“We are often so careful about what we put into our bodies by way of food, but can forget about being careful about what we put onto our bodies,” says Sian Morgan from Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. “There are a large number of potential nasties in our skincare and haircare routines. Some of the main names to avoid are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) as well as parabens, pthalates, triclosan and talc. Most mainstream products would also contain strong artificial fragrances which can be problematic, particularly for sensitive skin types.”

“Synthetic ingredients including fragrances can be harsh and irritating to the skin, often stripping the important protective outer layer,” says Ellen Cox of Irish essential oil company Atlantic Aromatics. “Remember that our skin is a carrier and not a barrier, meaning unwanted ingredients can be absorbed into the body.”

Natural options

“It is perfectly possible to use natural toiletries, with many options available for all types of skin and haircare,” says Sian Morgan. “There are natural and organic skincare ranges for all ages, from babies, through the teenage years, to more mature skin. Nobody should feel that they have to opt for mainstream cosmetics if they are concerned about the ingredients contained in them.”

“Natural and certified organic shampoos and shower gels are made using mild and gentle foaming agents that have minimal risk of causing skin irritation,” says Ian Taylor, cosmetic scientist at Green People. “Instead of using plain tap water, they may use organic floral waters produced during the distillation of essential oils, or organic aloe vera juice which is famed for its soothing and healing properties. The preservatives used will be limited to those that have excellent safety profiles and which are approved for use in cosmetics by independent organic certification bodies such as Soil Association and EcoCert.

“Natural and organic products will often have added plant extracts for specific benefits. These could include extracts from green tea and rosemary, both rich sources of antioxidants; quinoa protein to condition and protect hair and skin; yucca extract to soothe the skin and reduce the potential irritancy of the foaming agents; and marshmallow extract to help lock moisture into skin and hair to reduce dryness.”

Making the best choice

“The fewer ingredients beauty products contain the better,” says Ellen Cox. “When selecting body oils ensure they include cold pressed and unrefined vegetable oils as they are packed with essential omegas which help to nourish the skin.”

“Your local health food store will carry a wide range of products for bath, shower, bodycare and haircare,” says Sian Morgan. “Natural toiletries will often, though not exclusively, be organic. They will contain gentler foaming agents or none. They will either be unscented or contain essential oils as fragrance. They will often consist of herbal or plant extracts and oils from seeds, nuts or seaweeds. Natural bodycare and haircare products will typically have far fewer ingredients listed than mainstream products.”

DIY natural beauty

“Many products can be made at home,” says Sian Morgan. “Some can be made from scratch, whilst for those who don’t feel quite so adventurous, it is possible to buy bases for creams, shampoos, body washes and so on and you add your own favourite essential oils for fragrance.

“A hydrating face mask can be made using half a ripe avocado, 1tsp natural yoghurt and 1tsp honey. Mash the avocado and mix in the yoghurt and honey. Apply to the face and leave for 10 minutes before washing off. A teaspoon of almond oil could be added for extra skin softening and nutrition.”

“As far as creating home-made products is concerned it is best to stick to simple products such as face masks made from mashed avocado and/or bananas, and conditioning hair oils such as jojoba or sunflower oil,” says Ian Taylor.

“My favourite face mask recipe is organic rosewater mixed with kaolin clay,” says Ellen Cox. “Body butters are fun to make using shea butter, raw cacao, coconut oil, vegetable oils and essential oils. There are lots of video tutorials for how to do it online.

“Why not incorporate essential oils into your bath routine and enjoy their many benefits,” says Ellen Cox. “Essential oils need to be diluted before adding them to the bath water. For best results, while the bath is running blend essential oils in a vegetable oil, apply to the body then get into the bath. Relaxing oils include camomile, frankincense, geranium, lavender, rose and sandalwood.”

Did you know?

Exfoliating is one of the most important parts of your skin routine (and often overlooked). Without regular exfoliation your moisturiser can’t penetrate and do its magic. Enzymes from pineapple or papaya will do the job. Pineapple contains a natural enzyme called bromelain which helps to break down the keratin proteins that form dead skin cells. Use a thin slice of papaya or pineapple and gently rub over your skin to help lift dead skin cells and exfoliate. Ian Taylor

Ellen’s home-made body scrub

This is a great revitalise and detox blend.

  • 6tbsp Epsom salts
  • 6tbsp sweet almond oil (or other quality vegetable oil)
  • Mix the oils together then add pure essential oils – 15 drops geranium, 10 drops juniperberry and 5 drops grapefruit (half this quantity for sensitive skin types)
  • Apply the scrub to dry skin before turning on the shower. Pat skin dry.

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