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The big soak

Your local health store is the place to go when shopping for genuinely natural shower gels, bath oils, soaps and body washes

“All bath and shower products are designed to remove dirt and excess oil from the skin,” says Ian Taylor, cosmetic scientist at Green People, “but some can be quite harsh on the skin and may strip away too much of the protective oil layer that plays an essential part in the skin’s barrier function. They can also cause irritation and sensitisation of the delicate tissues under the skin surface and may aggravate skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.

“Conventional products use many ingredients which can cause skin irritation and allergies and many are tested on animals,” says Lucy Kerr at The Good Earth in Kilkenny.

“Many synthetic cosmetic ingredients are developed to have specific skin feel and touch and whilst they may have aesthetically pleasant textures, they don’t offer any real benefits to the skin,” says Ian Taylor. “They may form a protective film on the skin’s surface, but this can interfere with the skin’s ability to breathe and sweat, both of which are natural and essential functions of the skin.”

Best natural ingredients

Lucy Kerr’s favourite natural ingredients:

  • Coconut oil – a great all-rounder, it contains antibacterial and antifungal properties and is extremely nourishing for dry, irritated skin.
  • Lavender oil – smells great, really soothing and healing. Great for calming any irritation and the smell is really relaxing.
  • Tea tree oil – contains antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties. Really good for healing and cooling inflamed skin. Also great in shampoos for calming flaky or irritated scalps.
  • Calendula – really good for chapped or irritated skin. It’s especially good in baby products.

“In the context of bath and shower products which are only in contact with the skin for fairly short periods of time, this is perhaps of less importance than when considering leave-on products that will be in contact with the skin for many hours,” says Ian Taylor. “However it is still important to look for ingredients that offer as much benefit as possible. For example, using organic aloe vera juice as a base for shampoos and shower gels instead of just water will mean that the product is rich in natural polysaccharides which have a soothing and healing action on the skin and help to reduce any potential irritation. Extracts from marshmallow and chamomile have soothing and calming effects on the skin, whilst yucca extract increases the cleansing effect of products.”

Other natural bathing ingredients include sea salt or sugar exfoliants, essential oils in bath soaks, coconut in unscented soap, Dead Sea salt and Epsom salts with added essential oils and essential oils mixed with unscented base oils such as almond, jojoba and macadamia to make natural massage oils.

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