Urban Turban
Urban Turban

Why go natural?

The answer might be obvious, if you experiencing excessive dryness and heightened sensitivity, all of which means the High St. formulations you’ve used for years, are no longer hitting the spot. For the past 3 years I’ve been attending the ‘Face Forward’ workshop run by the Wallace Cancer Centre, attached to Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge . This is a super workshop it covers all sorts of information pertinent to women undergoing cancer treatment. Part of it is dedicated to skincare and cosmetics - current research and thinking on skin absorption levels etc. are discussed. The point to take away here is that there is some evidence* to suggest, that what we put on our skin does get absorbed into the bloodstream. So a balanced overview of how regularly we apply certain products and how much we use is probably a good idea. If you are a regular user of body moisturisers, deodorants, bath oils, then it might be an idea to consider some natural alternatives, alongside the products you feel you can’t do without.

The purpose of this short piece is not to terrify, (we’ve all done too much late night reading on the Internet!) More to consider good natural alternatives for the everyday products we use and to identify what ingredients we should be monitoring in our skincare and cosmetic products. Half the battle would appear to be – how do you recognise what chemicals to avoid? The back of the bottle often reads like a chemistry lesson. So if you want to wise up to what’s in the bottle, here is a short list of some to look out for.

Parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl) - Parabens are common synthetic preservatives that elongate the shelf life of the product. (However research* suggests they have an ability to mimic oestrogen, and the body finds it hard to break them down and get rid of them.) Many manufacturers' are now beginning to change and there are plenty of products out there (at all price levels) that can now be found in the cosmetic departments of High St. retailers. Cost is always a consideration, and products maybe slightly more expensive (although not always) because the paraben preservatives have been taken out.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate(ALES) – this is the ‘frother’ in shampoos and bubble bath. They de-grease and clean, but can be fairly harsh on the skin. If you are experiencing increased sensitivity there are gentler, natural alternatives out there – Green People – Shampoo Organic Base.

Mineral oil – this is a petroleum by-product that coats the skin. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is cheap. It comes in other guises - white mineral oil; medical white oil; paraffin oil; liquid paraffin; petrolatum; petroleum jelly; E 905. For some reason mineral oil sounds as if it should be healthy, but it clearly isn’t!

Aluminium Salts – You’ll already be aware of this one, if you are under-going radiotherapy treatment. Metallic element used in anti-perspirants and antiseptics. Once again natural alternatives are getting better and better – crystal/ Alunite deodorants – Aloe Vera Roll-on Deodorant - (Be aware it is unlikely that you’d be able to use an Alunite product whilst undergoing radiotherapy, always discuss with your care team what you are thinking of using.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, simply some of the more common ones. It is also worth remembering the most common irritants appear to be fragrance, alcohol, colourants, preservatives (parabens), lanolin and its deriatives - p-phenylenediamine (PPD) and propylene glycol.

So if you are left wondering, what can I use? There are a multitude of natural brands out there, the Internet is a good source of suppliers – check out the Beauty Shortlist which recently put together a cancer beauty special of skincare and beauty products. Our featured range of Unica products boast 100% natural ingredients that are almost good enough to eat – they certainly smell delicious! Kiss It Better moisturising cream is a real treat for thirsty, dry skin patches and gentle enough that it is suitable for eczema prone skin. Sonia Valentini has developed the brand along the lines that everything used comes from vegetable, mineral or plant sources and not the petrochemical industry. Unica have gone back to basics and taken the natural approach combining ingredients such as rosehip oil, calendula – well known for their soothing, healing properties. Where they score highly, from the feedback we’ve received, is the natural prebiotic ingredient they include in most of their formulations. (Nothing to do with the similar sounding but medical - antibiotics.) Green Valley – body cream contains prebiotics and aloe vera, both help the skin to rebalance and have a pleasant soothing effect.

Bliss So Soothing– lip balm stick is a natural alternative to the more petrochemical based balms widely available. It comes in a Mild Orange Blossom version which has a refreshing feel to it, as well as tending beautifully to your dry lips. And the good news is that they now supply a body balm supersize stick (Bliss So Soothing Lotion Stick), – so if you really get on with it, you can liberally apply the bigger version to such areas as nails and cracked skin on hands and feet. Unica are passionate about the quality of what they do and have produced a range of pure and well-priced products.

* Dr Philippa Dabre, University of Reading - http://www.health-report.co.uk/parabens.htm
** This feature is intended to be informative not medical, there really is no substitute for the professional medical advice of your care team.