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Your holiday health & beauty guide

There are compelling reasons to choose natural toiletries, hair, body and suncare products as well as insect repellents for your holiday. We check out your options

There is a wide range of natural and organic toiletries available for those who care about what goes on their skin and want to protect the environment,” says Ian Taylor, cosmetic scientist at beauty company Green People. “Consumers are realising that using such products does not mean compromising on the quality or effectiveness.”

Keeping fresh

“Although natural ingredients won’t stop you from sweating, they can still be effective in keeping you feeling and smelling fresh,” says Niamh Larkin of health store Evergreen in Mainguard St, Galway. “From baking soda sticks to waxy putty,there really is something for everyone.”

Rowan Green works with organic beauty and skincare company Pravera: “We use deodorant every day and because it is used in a sensitive area it can be potentially harmful. Shop around for deodorants that do not contain aluminium salts or added alcohol and go for one packed with organic and natural ingredients such as aloe vera and calendula.”

“When travelling, ideally you want to have as little baggage as possible but getting miniature versions of your favourite toiletries isn’t always easy if you use natural products,” says Niamh Larkin. “Castile soap is an oil-based, concentrated soap that can be used to clean anything and everything – from your face to your dishes and all that’s in between. It’s an ideal travel companion for camping trips, sun holidays and festivals. With no SLS and a super mild formulation, its suitable for all the family and kind to the environment too.”

Stunning summer hair

“Sunshine, sand and salt water can all take their toll on our hair, so summer is the perfect time to show your hair some TLC,” says Niamh Larkin. “A good silicone-free leave-in conditioner can make a world of difference to your hair. Look for good quality, natural ingredients like jojoba oil, henna extract and naturally-derived protein which all give hair a healthy shine as well as preventing breakages. Shampoo bars are becoming more and more popular, and are especially convenient for travelling.”

“Natural and certified organic shampoos made using mild and gentle foaming agents have minimal risk of causing skin irritation,” says Ian Taylor. “Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp and for many people this means avoiding Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. Go for products based on naturally-derived active ingredients including yucca, coconut, aloe vera, green tea, avocado, pineapple and beneficial essential oils such as neroli, bergamot, orange, mandarin and lavender.”

“Choosing a shampoo and conditioner that does not contain parabens, synthetic fragrances and preservatives will do amazing things for your hair as they will not strip your natural oils,” says Rowan Green. “Shampoos packed with organic almond oil and macadamia oil will give your hair an intense cleanse to leave it healthier than ever.”

Sun protection

Health stores sell a whole range of sun products such as sun sprays and creams with sun protection factors (SPF) of up to 30, lip balms, anti-age sun creams, after-sun milks and gels and self-tanning lotions. Sun creams and sprays contain ingredients such as organic carotene and sunflower oil, calendula extract, evening primrose oil, flower extracts and essential oils. Most natural sun products use zinc oxide to deflect UV rays away from your skin. Zinc is also anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory so it is good for sensitive skin.

“A natural and organic sun cream is dermatologically tested and never tested on animals, so you will not be rubbing any chemicals on to your skin in a bid to stay safe in the sun,” says Rowan Green.

“SPF (Sun Protection Factor) actually represents the length of time you can spend in the sun before burning,” says Niamh Larkin. “For example if you start to burn after 20 minutes in the sun without protection, an SPF of 10 will give you 10 x 20 minutes protection. So although SPF50 may sound like it’s stronger than SPF15, you get the same amount of protection from both – you’ll just need to apply the lower SPF more often depending on your sensitivity. This is definitely worth keeping in mind when choosing a sunscreen.”

“Go for natural suncare products made with a blend of earth minerals, a UV filter derived from cinnamon oil, and edelweiss extract,” says Ian Taylor. “For protection against UVA rays and premature ageing choose products high in natural antioxidants and skin vitamins such as A, C and E to help support the skin’s immune system and protect against cell damage. Myrrh and aloe vera have soothing, healing and moisture-binding properties.”

“The easiest thing to spot on the label is SPF – this should be no higher than 30,” according to incognito® founder and insect bite prevention specialist Howard Carter. “Anything higher than SPF30 has to contain toxins and is not natural. Also look out for the all-important COSMOS logo on the bottle. Lastly any cream that rubs in too easily probably contains nasties as well as nano particles to achieve this, and these have been shown to harm coral reefs. Instead look for suncreams that contain mineral-based zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.”

Before you go away take beta carotene – it can help build up your skin’s resistance to the sun, and astaxanthin from seaweed can help protect skin from the sun from the inside.

Burn relief

“If you are unfortunate enough to get sunburnt, the best advice I can give would be to keep the skin as hydrated as possible,” says Niamh Larkin. “Coconut oil, shea butter and aloe vera all work very well to keep the skin soft and supple, and minimise the duration of redness and the likelihood of peeling and blistering.”

Aloe vera gels and creams are the main go-to lotions to apply after being burnt by the sun. Natural live yogurt, vitamin E oil, cooled black tea bags, aloe vera gel and soaking in a bath of oats mixed with water with help soothe sunburned skin.

Repel those insects

“Nobody wants to get eaten alive by creepy crawlies,” says Niamh Larkin, “but we need to apply the same rules to our insect repellents as we do to our regular skincare choices – after all 60% of what we apply to our skin gets absorbed. Look for repellents containing neem, citronella oil, tea tree oil or lavender oil. If you get an insect bite apply lavender oil immediately to take the sting away.”

Go for unperfumed shampoos, body lotions and cosmetics - anything with a smell will attract insects.

Take a vitamin B1 supplement for three or four days before you go away and during your holiday – it gives out a scent that repels insects but people can’t smell it.

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