HONESTLY, I'M NOT AN EXPERT...
But there’s a few things about me that give me a bit of an inside scoop into the world of natural health and beauty products. First, I’m a Holistic Nutritionist. What does that have anything to do with shampoos and skin creams? That’s where the “holistic” part comes in: health isn’t just about exercise and eating well. The things in our environment and the products we apply to our skin can have an effect on our total health(allergies, headaches, skin issues, etc). The skin literally “eats” everything we apply to it(lotions, shampoos, conditioners) and additionally, our noses pick up all the chemical fragrances added to theses products. Long story short, because our liver has to process all of these things(plus the food, alcohol, medications and everything else we’re exposed to), the liver can sometimes because tired and not be able to do it’s job properly(that’s where all the headaches, allergies and skin issues mentioned above can come from—an overworked liver).
Next, I’ve had my fair share of skin issues and sensitivities. Facial acne, skin rashes, and random flare-ups due to something I’ve eaten or been exposed to topically. Again, that doesn’t make me an expert, but I can tell you what’s worked for me and hopefully it will help you too!
Lastly, I worked at a local Natural Health Food Market for about a year and a half. A lot of people don’t realize that Health Food Markets often have healthy hair, make-up and skin products too, and if they do know that, they often hesitate to buy an expensive product not knowing if it’s really going to work for them or not. That’s where this blog post is going to be your best friend!
WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY, THE INSIDE SCOOP:
USE APPS ON YOUR PHONE TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE: ingredient lists can sometimes be long and written using scientific words or the Latin origin of that word. It can be really difficult to remember which ones are “bad” and which ones need to be there, so I like to use current research-based apps to help. My favourite one right now is the Environmental Working Group app called “THINK DIRTY” . Using bar code scanning of your body care or cleaning items, it will rate the item on a scale from 1-10(1 being pretty clean, and 10 being not so much). What’s better is that it actually breaks down the ingredients within the item as well and tells you which ones are contributing to the rating. It’s a free app, and I highly recommend you have it on your phone before navigating the aisles at the health food store.
INGREDIENTS YOU SHOULD TRY TO AVOID IN YOUR PRODUCTS: to be honest, the list is too long to cover now, but just a few to look out for and try to avoid:
Sodium Laurel Sulphate(SLS): this is a chemical foaming agent found in any body care item that “bubbles” when we use it: soap, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Because this ingredient is now being linked to hormone-disruption and cancer, a lot of companies are taking steps to avoid using it. Besides, it’s not a necessary ingredient, in the sense that we don’t “need” our body care products to bubble for them to be effective.
Fragrance: the word “fragrance” often refers to over 100s of chemicals mixed together, making our products smell better but also making that smell linger on our hair, skin or clothing for longer. These chemicals have also been linked to cancer and are also not “necessary” in the effectiveness of a product. Avoiding “fragrance” does not mean avoiding scent or nice smells. There are many natural scents that are added to body care products that don’t have the negative health consequences we see from chemical fragrances. *note: you may be the type of person who is sensitive to natural scents as well. If so, stick to completed unscented products(there are lots on the market).
Phthalates and Parabens: these(and many others) fall under the category of xenoestrogens, which are hormone-disrupting when they are applied to our skin and enter our blood stream. BPAs in plastics also fall into this category so we want to try to avoid that when possible too.
INGREDIENTS YOU WANT TO SEE IN YOUR PRODUCTS: ultimately, what we want to see is FOOD ITEMS! I know, that sounds silly, but realistically, if our skin is “eating” these items, we want the ingredients to be natural enough to eat as well. For example, many product lines are using ingredients like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar or plant-bases. The more of these items in an ingredient list, the better.
4. MOST STORES HAVE TESTERS: this is something a lot of customers aren’t aware of, but it’s something I learned while working in a health food store. Often times, there will be a tester bottle on the shelf next to the item you’re looking to purchase(from lotions, deodorants, to make up items). You can use the item right there of course, but you can also ask a staff member if the store allows for them to put a small amount of that product in a mini container for you to take home. That way, you can truly see if the item works for you over the course of a couple of days, before committing to the whole bottle.
5. CHECK OUT THE DO-IT-YOURSELF SECTION: sometimes, it’s not convenient to pay a lot for a very small amount of something….and sometimes it’s just more fun to make your own too! Most health food markets have a whole section dedicated to the do-it-yourselfer! That way, you can save some money by purchasing the ingredients in bulk, and have some fun making it too! Most stores sell containers of all shapes and sizes for your items, or if you have little mason jars at home, that works too.
MY HOME PRODUCTS AREN’T ALL 100% NATURAL
I get it, it can be a super expensive investment to suddenly rid your bathroom of all your products and start using natural ones. It’s a gradual process, and I’m taking it step by step too. But I do have some of my favourite brands that I’ve come across so far:
MY GO-TO BRANDS:
SHAMPOOS/CONDITIONERS/BODY WASH/SKIN CREAMS: I use one brand for all of these and they’re pretty much my favourite natural(and edible) brand! Carina Organics is a Canadian-made, organic, and coconut-oil based line of body care. I highly recommend this one if you see it at your local health food store!
FOR SENSITIVE SKIN: again, definitely try out Carina Organics, because the coconut oil base and the herbs can be super healing to skin or scalp.
Another brand I like is Andalou. Typically their products are very visibly colour labelled for the skin type(each bottle colour represent a different type of skin), so that can make things a little easier to select if there’s no staff member available to talk to.
Derma-e is a therapeutic line of skin products. They have psoriasis and eczema specific products, ones for acne-prone skin and naturally detoxifying face masks.
Elore Naturals makes an oil-free dead-sea mud mask and I think it’s pretty incredible! There is a regular one, as well as one for sensitive skin. I’ve used both and I love how smooth it makes my skin feel afterwards! For those who are experiencing back-ne(acne on your back), you can try using this product there too! Do it about once a week, let it dry for 20 minutes and wash it off with warm water.
If you’re a do-it-yourself-er, sunscreen is a super easy one to make! There are lots of natural and food-based items that contain a natural SPF(eg. Coconut oil, rosehip oil, zinc oxide, etc). These items are usually sold separately at most health food stores, as well as little mini containers, so it can be like a one-stop-shop if you want to make your own.
The most unfortunate thing about natural sunscreens is that almost all of them contain a mineral base(like zinc oxide). That’s a good thing because it’s natural! But it’s a bad thing in it’s appearance: zinc and some other mineral bases are stark WHITE! If you have naturally fair skin, you might be able to get away with really really rubbing it so it’s not noticeable. But if your skin isn’t stark white and you’re looking for something a little less noticeable, there are some BB creams with SPF you can try(which is a type of very lightly tinted moisturizer). My favourite one, that also smells great, is Andalou brand rose scented BB cream. It’s only SPF 15, but it’s ideal for your face on a daily basis(maybe not enough SPF on a beach day for example).
THE POINT OF IT ALL:
If there are 2 things I want you to walk away with, it’s:
Natural Health Food Stores DO often have natural make up, skin care and body care products. So don’t hesitate to walk in to your local store and try things out(ask the staff if there are testers of the products you like so you can try it at home).
There are lots of apps that can help you navigate the big long sciencey words written on the labels. My favourite app is “think dirty” and is free in the app store.
And as always, ASK ME if you have any questions! I love chatting about all things health, and I hope I can help point you in the right direction for your needs.