Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Do You Really Know What You're Putting On Your Skin?

Last week I attended a small class on natural skincare held at independent health shop 'Healthy Spirit' in Didsbury, Manchester. The class was held by a lovely lady called Anne Conway who is a Wellbeing Advisor for beauty brand, Weleda. I was unsure what to expect from the class and thought we might be mashing up fruit and vegetables to use as face masks - it turned out to be one of the most interesting, informative and eye-opening events I've attended so far since starting my blog. It made me realise that, until now, I was completely oblivious to what I was putting on my skin.

Our skin is hugely important and is the largest living organ in our body. It covers two square metres and weighs approximately 3kg. It has the ability to maintain, heal and replenish itself if we look after it correctly, and we could actually be doing it more harm than good without realising!

If you pick up a skincare product and look at the ingredients would you know what they were? No, me neither - until I attended Anne's class. Would you know if one of the ingredients was actually a harmful chemical? On average, before we leave the house each morning we use over 20 different products. You may think that sounds like too many but think about it - shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body moisturiser, toothpaste, mouth wash, cleanser, toner, maybe a serum, moisturiser/day cream, hand wash, foundation, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, eyebrow pencil/powder, blusher, loose powder, deodorant, perfume - the list can go on - and what goes on us goes in us! We absorb roughly around 5lbs of chemicals through our skin each year. It only takes between 5 and 26 seconds for products we put on our skin to be absorbed directly into our bloodstream and our bodies have no real method of breaking down these chemicals. There are probably hundreds of chemicals that are added to cosmetic products but in the class we discussed these three:-

Mineral Oils - such as white oil, liquid paraffin and petroleum jelly. There is no proof that these are harmful chemicals and they are probably the least 'nastiest' of those that get added, however, their purpose is to seal in moisture but moisture needs to leave our body in order to eliminate toxins.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphates - these are in products that stick to us (e.g. lipsticks) or products that foam up (e.g. shampoos, shower gels, mouthwash, etc). Most products will have 'safe' levels of sodium lauryl sulphates which have been approved by the EU, but if you find that a product has left your skin feeling dry, tight, itchy or irritated then it probably contains sodium lauryl sulphates. 

Parabens - these are nasty little things! Parabens are basically chemical preservatives that are added to products to kill and prohibit the growth of bacteria and prolong shelf life. Worryingly, a study carried out in the UK by the NHS tested 40 women with breast cancer and the results showed traces of parabens in all 40 samples. They have also been linked to some allergies, endocrine disruption and reproductive disorders. 

More and more studies are showing that increasing numbers of women are developing certain diseases and disorders - could it be because women use more cosmetic products than men and it's down to the chemical ingredients that are being added? Nothing has yet been proven but it has certainly made me think!

I'm now looking into using more natural skincare and cosmetics, but that too can be very confusing with clever marketing tactics by companies to make you think that something is 'natural' but it really isn't. There are actually no legal requirements for natural cosmetics and skincare products and only 1% of the ingredients in a product have to be organic for a company to label and sell it as 'organic'. Unfortunately, many companies will make us think that products are natural and kind to the skin but in reality they aren't. For example, I have a hand and body cream on my desk at work which is part of the 'naturals' range from a certain company, but when I read the ingredients label I noticed it contains two different types of parabens - hardly 'natural'!! If you want to know for sure that a product you're buying is genuinely organic you should look for certification labels by The Soil Association or Natrue - ingredients have to be at least 75% organic for a product to be certified by them. 

It isn't just the products we use that have an effect on our skin - it's no surprise that what we eat and drink massively contributes to this too. We all know that drinking lots of water is important for healthy skin, but so are leafy greens, nuts and seeds. If we are eating poorly and our digestion is sluggish this will have a noticeable impact on our skin. The way the body eliminates toxins and waste is through our sweat glands (sounds unpleasant, but true!) so if we have high levels of toxins in our body the skin won't be able to eliminate them all. One way we can help is by drinking herbal teas. Here are a few that we discussed:-

Green/White Tea - contain powerful antioxidants.
Rose Tea - has anti-ageing properties and could help to keep skin clear.
Chai Tea - great for digestion.
Rooibis Tea - a great all round tea for your skin. 

I really am so glad I attended Anne's class. It's given me the knowledge and awareness to be able to choose what products I want to put on my skin rather than just believing what companies tell us. I'm now looking forward to trying out genuine natural products from companies like Weleda and seeing the difference they make.

If you want to find out more information or enquire about attending one of Anne's classes you can contact her via Twitter at @rejuvenatemancs or by email anne.conway@weleda-advisor.co.uk  -  I highly recommend it!


  1. I really enjoyed this post. Often people jump straight to mineral oil and claim it is the devil of all ingredients, when actually there are reports for AND against mineral oil.
    Tbh I'm still undecided as to how i feel about it. I think I may just limit my use of it in products to be safe.
    I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for parabens though. It baffles me how companies can get away with calling products "natural".
    Great post, now I'm off to drink some green tea so as to have perfect skin!

    Katie xx
    Too Many Freckles

  2. Wow what a glowing report. I am really happy that I have helped yiu become more aware of what we put on our skin. By no means do I want people to become 100% natural but knowledge is power. Its really annoying when you think you buying something natural only to find nasties in there uuggh.
    I work independently alongside Weleda mostly because I adore their products, but there is some fab priducts out there. Thank you for an amazing blog and for coming along x

    1. Thanks Anne! I hope your next class goes well. Hope to see you soon!x

  3. This is a great post shell! I think more and more people are weary about ingredients in products nowadays which is a good thing x

  4. great post! i always try and avoid SLS in skincare, as well as mineral oil, as it does absolutely nothing good for your skin!

    from helen at thelovecatsinc.com

    1. Thanks Helen, I really appreciate your comment x

  5. such an informative post! thank you!

  6. It's incredible how much we put into our bodies! And annoying how companies pass things off as being 'natural' Best get drinking those teas. Such an informative post, thank you :)
    Love Kate xx

  7. This is so interesting, I'm definitely going to look into attending one of the classes!
    Tor at That's Peachy Fashion & Beauty Blog xx

    1. Thanks Tor, yes you should definitely go! Anne is lovely and you will learn so much!x

  8. Loving this post, can't wait to go to the class on Monday!!


  9. this post is so interesting love it opened up my eyes so much thank you


    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Emma, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!x


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