When did ‘natural’ become so unnatural?

Did you know that here in the EU, there are no regulations governing use of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ in cosmetic labelling/branding? You can (if you have very little in the way of moral conscience) produce a cosmetic ‘health/beauty’ product that contains only a tiny amount of organic matter – and sell it to the consumer as ‘organic’.

Boots (the parent’s favourite no??) did this just recently – in 2012 the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) investigated Boots ‘little me organics oh so gentle body wash’. They concluded that the label was misleading, as organic ingredients made up only 5% of this product. And there are other culprits. Nivea ‘Pure and Natural’ handcream, is found to contain an ingredient (Methylisothiazolinone if you must know….) which is suspected to be carcinogenic. Organix ‘coconut shampoo’ apparently contains no organic ingredients whatsoever. According to Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, “Ingredients ofetn found in antifreeze, floor cleaner, oven cleaner and car oil, and ingredients banned in children’s food and toys  are making their way into non-certified beauty products labelled as organic or natural due to a lack of industry regulation”

Oh. My. Lord.

I have a massive issue with this. Massive.

Seems that if you are big enough, brash enough, and (of course) high-profile enough, you can make any (very loosely termed) ‘beauty product’ out of any load of toxic old crap. And call it ‘natural’. Am i right?

I dont want to frighten you or anything – but here is a list of non-organic ingredients that the Soil Association has found in products labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’:

  • Non-natural Propylene Glycol (PG): active component in antifreeze, which might cause brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: found in laundry detergents, liquid dish detergents, cream cleansers, all-purpose cleaners, window cleaners, floor cleaners, countertop sprays, stain removers, linen washes, room sprays, air fresheners, carpet shampoos, and wipes.
  • Parabens: made from a petrochemical and has been linked with breast cancer, such as methylparaben.
  • DMDM Hydantoin: this is a preservative that releases formaldehyde.
  • Phthalates: used as an additive to PVC (polyvinyl chloride products to make them flexible, and to personal care products to make fragrances last longer. These have been banned from use in children’s toys, and can also be found in paint and packaging.
  • PEGs – (polyethylene glycols): are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Found in oven cleaners. PEGs are commonly used as cosmetic cream bases.

Now then, each and every single product that i painstakingly make by hand in my draughty (but very pretty) little studio is 100% (read it – 100%) NATURAL. I would love to get certified by The Soil Association – but since the fee for this is over £500, i’m afraid that will have to wait. Please read your labels folks, and be aware of what you are cleaning/moisturising yourself and (more importantly) your kids with. When on earth did ‘natural’ become so unnnatural?

 

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When you find the ‘right’ doctor……

I have made countless trips to my local GP surgery with my precious precious boy. In his short little life so far, he has been stripped, examined, prodded and poked too many times to mention. And yet, the response was always the same. ‘Hydrocortisone twice a day for 5 days’, ‘Doublebase on the skin and in the bath’ (or Hydromol, or Epaderm, or Oilatum, or some other horrible bucket of grease – we were offered them all), ‘anti-biotic cream’ (thrown in for good measure). And my pleas of ‘but its not working’, ‘his skin cant breathe’ etc etc fell on deaf ears. After i started making my own body butter for him, i just took the prescriptions, every time they were given, and binned them. Never bothered cluttering up my bathroom with anymore of those horrible clinical looking pots of gunk.

And horror of horrors – she’s making her own ‘stuff’!!!!!! I made the mistake once of telling a GP (i’m not sure i ever saw the same one twice) that i had created my own cream for my baby. Ha, that went down like a lead balloon. The disapproval! I mean, after feeding him, clothing him, nursing him, keeping him ALIVE for heavens sake (well, thats what we do essentially isnt it?!) – how on earth could i be trusted to take control over/make decisions about what i put on his skin???Well, take control is exactly what i did. No more petroleum based rubbish. And his skin was not miraculously cured – but it is beautiful and soft and moisturised and plump and delicious.

Anyway, the story doesn’t end there. I have since found a doctor – consultant none the less – who has transformed our lives. She understands eczema. She understands my son. She understands me, as a parent. And she is fabulous. I look forward to our visits. I hang on her every snippet of advice and insight. I would do ANYTHING she advised me to do for my son. The improvement has been remarkable. Y’see its all about finding the ‘right’ doctor. Dont give up. Whatever you do, dont give up.

Summertime and eczema

Summertime has been a tricky time for us for the past couple of years. I knew that my son’s skin would benefit from being ‘aired’ and exposed to the sun a little, but as soon as he was unclothed he would rake and scratch at his skin’s surface until it bled. Unless his nails were cut to the skin, he’d use them like little razor blades, clawing and clawing at his arms and legs. Very distressing to watch, and almost impossible to manage. Leaving him clothed however, during any hot and/or humid spells, would bring his eczema up in red, angry wet ‘welts’. It was an agonising ‘catch 22’.

And thats not to mention the ‘stares’ from other parents….Eczema becomes a very public condition in the summertime. Open for all to see. People would ‘kindly’ comment on my beautiful boy – “oh poor thing”, “he must be so uncomfortable”, “cant the doctors do anything?”. And me? I just felt terribly judged. All i could ‘hear’ was “isnt she doing anything to help?” and “how can she let him suffer like that?”. I felt like the biggest failure ever. What kind of a mum was I, that i couldnt prevent this agony? I felt terribly sad, and incompetent. Most of the time.

Nights were pretty bad too. Any clothing seemed to increase his temperature, and therefore the itch. But then, leaving him nude was not an option. The scratching was just an unbearable temptation for him – and he’d choose that over sleep night after night. We gave him anti-histamine at bedtime (medication = terrible parent?) and we’d coat his skin in hydrocortisone (medication = terrible parent?) and i’d lay awake for hours desperately searching for an answer.

Some relief came, for all of us, when i embarked on my quest to take control over what we applied to his skin. I HATED using petroleum based products (they didnt seem to work anyway), and i knew some basics about ‘dermal absorption’ – so i felt that using anything OTHER than natural ingredients was akin to ‘poisoning’ him (in a sense). We all benefitted immediately, in so many ways, when i started my business. And the liberation i felt when i realised that there WAS something i could do for my baby, was something i could not put into words. Ha, it makes me tearful to think about even now!

But summertime, continued to be a difficult time for us. Despite using only (my handmade) natural products from 6 months of age, i was unable to find a suncreen he could tolerate. And i wasnt yet experienced enough in skincare to create one of my own. Ive learnt a LOT since then.

I have since discovered a suncreen he can tolerate – Green People. And inspired by this, i have researched the ingredients that go into a natural suncreen – that incidently, can be of benefit to eczema conditions – and have gone on to develop my own. Its a beautiful cream. His skin looks great. We’ve been shopping for shorts and t-shirts:)