Why Natural and Organic Toiletries and Cleaning
High street skincare and household cleaning products invariably contain synthetic
chemicals which can cause allergic reactions or ill health. Since scientists now
suggest that up to 60% of what we apply to our skin can be absorbed into our bodies,
and that some compounds are very difficult to break down and excrete, there is
increasing concern about these substances.
Mainstream products are often
not as 'natural' as their marketing claims. They may not even be as effective
as they sound. Standard 'anti-ageing' creams could actually have the opposite
effect, as various man made compounds can irritate and dry out the skin, exacerbating
wrinkles and speeding the effects of ageing. In fact, chemical components in any
traditional skin care product can aggravate sensitive skin, acne, eczema, rosacea
and so on. Genuinely natural products are ideal for sensitive skin and any skin
But far more worrying than any cosmetic considerations or short
term affects (of which there are many), research is beginning to link some widespread
chemicals with serious long term endocrine and hormone disruption, as well as
chronic diseases like cancer. Scientists at Reading University have, for example,
recently discovered that there might be a link between paraben preservatives in
deodorants, and breast cancer.
In an average day we are apparently exposed
to over 1000 chemicals. Perfumes (or 'parfum' added to most toiletries and cleaners)
are amongst the worst offenders. They are made up of dozens of different chemicals
containing solvents like those found in glue, and benzene derivatives, many of
which are known toxins, capable of causing cancer, birth defects, and central
nervous system disorders (including depression and seizures). Fragrances are absorbed
through the skin, and then accumulate in fatty tissues or become toxic to the
liver and kidneys - with children being particularly vulnerable because their
skin is so much thinner.
As long ago as 1986, the US National Academy of
Sciences identified fragrance ingredients as neurotoxic chemicals that needed
thorough investigation to determine any potential harm to health. These chemicals
were associated with insecticides, heavy metals, solvents and food additives as
probable primary causes of disease. Many body care products are heavily perfumed,
and at least one study has linked heavy perfume exposure during pregnancy with
learning disabilities and behaviour disorders in children.
evidence has now emerged to cause legitimate concern. More research is clearly
required, but government and industry are slow to demand or fund investigations
while synthetic chemicals provide such cheap manufacturing solutions.
apart from the benefits to human health, truly natural products are also good
for the environment. They are produced using methods that respect sustainable
manufacturing practices, are never tested on animals, and are ultimately biodegradable.
Natural and organic products provide the desired effects without the potential
threats to our health and the environment.
There is a rising demand for
products that are based on milder, natural and organic ingredients such as plant
extracts, and vegetable and essential oils, rather than chemicals and synthetic
compounds. However, with an absence of official regulations and research about
these ingredients, it is difficult for people to distinguish between legitimate
natural products and conventional high street ones. 'Natural' and 'organic' labels
can be misleading because pseudo-natural and organic products may also contain
chemicals with a known risk to health.
However, people can now find natural
alternatives for every beauty and household cleaning product they have ever used.
Firstly, we can all scrutinize labels. The main ingredients to avoid are
artificial preservatives (like Parabens, Diazolidinyl Urea or Imidazolidinyl Urea),
DEA or TEA (emulsifiers and foaming agents), Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate (detergent),
Petrolatum or petroleum-derived substances (emollients), Propylene Glycol (humectant),
Stearalkonium Chloride (emollient), GM ingredients, artificial colours, and synthetic
Online stores like The Natural Shop are dedicated entirely to
the purest products, and provide a lot of useful up to date information at the
Julie Gibson B.A., M.Sc.