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Clean up your act

Toiletries we all use on a daily basis are a source of damaging chemicals and harmful ingredients. Now there is a natural alternative to every product in a health store near you

What’s in your bathroom?

Many conventional shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, fake tans, perfumes and hair dyes contain health-threatening chemicals.

“Our skin is porous and can absorb substances into the bloodstream,” says Suzan Turan, owner of health store The Aquarian in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry. “Often those chemical or synthetic substances can cause allergic reactions, itching, skin irritation or some more serious illnesses if used persistently. SLS/SLES are synthetic compounds that make things foam. Artifcial fragrances can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. Parabens are preservatives in soaps, make-up, body lotions etc. If overexposed, they can have a negative effect on our endocrine (hormonal) system. Aluminium may be the most important ingredient to eliminate. It is mainly found in anti-perspirants and stops you from perspiring.”

“Some of the worst conventional toiletries in my opinion, include hair spray, baby wipes and exfoliating scrubs,” says Niamh Larkin, beauty specialist at health store Evergreen in Mainguard St, Galway. “Hair sprays contain almost exclusively chemicals, and because they usually come in an aerosol can they’re not only damaging to our scalp and lungs, but also to the environment.”

“Synthetic chemicals like mineral oils, petroleum, SLS and parabens have an impact on your skin and the environment,” says Ingrid Hume of beauty company Pravera.

“Synthetic, harsh ingredients can be damaging to our health and the environment,” says Ellen Cox of Atlantic Aromatics. “Our skin is a carrier not a barrier, some of what you apply to it is absorbed into the body.”

Natural options

“Natural versions of almost anything you can imagine are available in most good health stores,” says Niamh Larkin. “With more and more people making the switch to eco skincare, even big brands are feeling the need to offer natural alternatives to the more chemical-flled personal care products calendula oil is often used to soothe irritated skin. Essential oils can be diluted and used to enhance a body/ face oil, body scrub, face mask and bath oil. Camomile, frankincense, geranium, lavender, rose and sandalwood are all good.”

Alternatives to hair spray, wipes and scrubs

“Natural hairsprays will usually come in a bottle with a spray top, instead of an aerosol can,” says Niamh Larkin. “They generally contain natural ingredients to assist with volume and hold, as well as ingredients that actively care for the hair like jojoba oil, aloe vera and botanical extracts (nettle for purifying, rosemary for stimulating etc). Although natural, biodegradable face wipes are available, I would always advise using a flannel and a gentle oil, cream or gel cleanser on a daily basis. For those occasions where wet wipes are essential, look for biodegradable wipes with plant-based preservatives and gentle ingredients like aloe vera. The tiny plastic particles found in most scrubs are known as microbeads and are in the process of being banned in Europe due to their damaging effect on our ecosystem and marine life. There are several natural alternatives using sugar, salt, ground almonds, jojoba beads, ground coffee beans, ground walnuts and poppy seeds.”

The benefits of going natural

“Using biodegradable toiletries is the first step to healing our environment,” says Niamh Larkin. “Premature ageing is often a result of chemical overload. The same can be said for several skin conditions including acne, dry skin and uneven skin tone.”

“Your body absorbs what you put on your skin so going natural and using natural and organic plant extract ingredients within your toiletry products is much better for your skin,” says Ingrid Hume. “Many natural skincare products contain nourishing antioxidant ingredients that the skin loves.”

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