Ruth Griffin: Natural state skin
Return your skin to the way that nature intended with Ruth's in-depth four-week guide. Today, she begins by showing you how to ditch the chemicals and make a fresh start
Many of our New Year's resolutions will revolve around things that will make us happier and healthier in 2018. Doesn't your skin deserve the same treatment? In order to have happy, healthy skin we need to press pause on our overly complicated, product-laden skincare and make-up routines and go back to basics.
Today, and over the next few weeks, I'm going to be showing you how to give your skin a fresh start and return it to its natural state.
I'm beginning this week by looking at the increasingly popular world of natural beauty products. Research has shown that natural, toxin- and chemical-free beauty sales are seeing a massive 10pc growth in sales annually. The worldwide market looks set to be worth $16bn by 2020, with sales in Ireland alone now valued at €146m!
With the rise in healthy eating, and a whole generation of people rejecting heavily processed, preservative- and chemical-riddled food, has come a growth in the numbers drawn to organic, chemical-free beauty. We all know we are what we eat, but we are becoming aware that anything we slather on our skin or lips is absorbed into our bloodstream and digestive system.
A recent Mintel study found that 71pc of consumers are educated on the ingredients of their beauty products, and are looking to natural brands. The UK Soil Association similarly reports a 13pc growth in certified organic beauty and well-being products - the sixth year of consecutive growth for the sector. Indeed, such has been the tsunami of interest in natural beauty that mainstream brands are becoming more conscious of it.
Established lines like Estée Lauder have added more natural ingredients and removed potentially harmful ones from some of their products. We look back in horror at the beauty buffs of centuries gone by and the poisons they slathered on themselves: the ancient Egyptians who lined their eyes with copper, the citizens of the Roman Empire who rubbed lead on their faces to whiten their skin, the Victorians who washed their faces with arsenic and dropped belladonna in their eyes to get that doe-eyed look. One famous Irish beauty, Marie Gunning, Countess of Coventry, died in 1760 at just 28, of lead and mercury poisoning from her beauty products. The press dubbed her a "victim of cosmetics". But are we much better now?
Yes, our beauty products are miles safer and we are infinitely better informed - but we still have work to do. We have a brilliant system in the EU regarding ingredients that can be used in skincare and beauty products. Other countries (notably the US) have much less stringent laws, so with internet beauty buying we should be aware of these discrepancies.
Chemical-free beauty is not entirely chemical-free, as every ingredient is, at a fundamental level, chemical. It is the overuse of certain synthetic (man-made) chemicals which have been proven to be damaging to our health that is of concern. See my Avoid List (right) for the nasties to steer clear of as much as possible when you are shopping for new products,
A common, and I think justified, complaint regarding 100pc natural beauty products is the expensive price point. To combat this - and bearing in mind we're all pretty smashed after the Christmas excesses - my top natural goodies (right) include affordable, really long-lasting and extremely effective options.
I'd encourage you to experiment with them and see yourself what a difference they can make to the mind, body and soul.
8 of the best natural skincare boosters
● Best Serum
Tata Harper Boosted Contouring Serum, €211, from Harvey Nichols and net-a-porter. A great all-natural, skin-boosting glow-maker. A good alternative for January wallets is Antipodes H20 Hosanna Intense Skin Plumping Serum, €37.50.
● Best Exfoliator
Green Angel Sunrise Body Smoother, €29.95
Ditch the plastic micro beads, which are soon to be completely banned as they cause major pollution in our oceans. They are also not very good exfoliators! A much more effective exfoliator is a nutshell or sea salt scrub. This Irish product is the most beautiful scrub I've used - the grapefruit and lemon smell is to die for!
● Best Eye Cream
Dr Hauschka Eye Cream, €34.45
Dr Hauschka is a wonderful natural skincare and cosmetics line that has been a staple in beauty buffs' make-up bags for decades. Their eye cream is deeply nourishing and all their products smell divine.
● Best Soap/Shower Gel
Dr Bronner's Liquid Pure Castile Liquid Soap in Almond, €13.70
This multi-tasking soap can be used to clean face, body, hands, clothes, your floors - even your dog! A little goes a looooong way and a bottle will last for eons. If you prefer soap bars, try Weleda Neroli Ylang Soap, €4.15.
● Best Moisturiser
Sukin Super Greens Nutrient Rich Facial Moisturiser, €13.99
For a chemical-free, natural ingredient facial moisturiser, try this seriously hydrating option. If you prefer a moisturiser with an SPF, there's Green People Company Day Solution with SPF 15, €13.95.
● Best Toner
Atlantic Aromatics Rosewater with Atomiser, €8.35
For a great natural toner, try rose water to soften and soothe your skin. A spritz of this post- cleansing will prep your skin beautifully, without an iota of alcohol. For acne-prone skin, try Weleda Purifying Lotion, €11.95.
● Best Cleanser
Sukin Micellar Cleansing Water, €10.50
This gorgeous micellar water is as pure as you can get your mitts on. Others are the Eminence Organic Rice Milk 3 in 1 Cleansing Water, €46, and Burt's Bees Hydration Cream Cleanser, €14.95.
● Best Lip product
Burt's Bees lip balm, €4.95
We end up eating a lot of our lip products (lipsticks, glosses and balms). There is a myth that we eat 7lbs of the stuff over our lifetimes - the real figure is actually approximately 3.7lbs, which is still no small amount. A natural lip balm with no petroleum or camphor is a must. This beeswax option is a staple in my make-up bag.
Did you know that you can get organic cotton pads? These lovelies are from Simply Gentle, €2.95
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Describes products using primarily ingredients found in nature. Look for “100pc natural”, otherwise it can mean only a tiny fraction of the product was made with natural ingredients.
Describes products that are entirely free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and petrochemicals.
Describes products that have been made from organically grown ingredients. No chemical fertilisers or pesticides were used in the growing of the skincare ingredients.
Don’t fret! If you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t figure out what the best natural options are for you and your family, look for the UK Soil Association COSMOS stamp. This will ensure the product you’re buying is 100pc natural, clean and organic.
LOOK OUT FOR…
Naturally powerful skin-boosting ingredients to pop into your shopping cart:
• Shea butter
• Argan oil
• Rosehip oil
• Aloe vera
• Cucumber and kale extract
• Coconut oil
• Castor oil (for mascara and eye make-up removal)
• Rose oil
• Jojoba oil
• Sweet almond oil
Chemicals that we should try to avoid in our skincare products:
• Benzalkonium chloride: in sunscreens, moisturisers.
• BHA and BHT: in lipsticks, moisturisers, nappy creams.
• Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar shampoo ingredients.
• Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA): in hair colour, moisturisers.
• Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA): in hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens.
• Formaldehyde: in shampoos, body wash, and bubble bath.
• Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone in shampoo, conditioner, body wash.
• Oxybenzone: in sunscreens and moisturisers.
• Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others): in shampoos, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.
• Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): in synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray.
• Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds): in creams, sunscreen, shampoo.
• Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES): in shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
• Synthetic fragrance: in a range of cosmetics.
• Toluene: in nail polish.
• Triclosan and Triclocarban: in liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.
Information supplied by Beautycounter. For more information on natural skincare options, see beautycounter.com
Ask the expert
CREATOR OF HOLOS SKINCARE, NIAMH HOGAN
Niamh is the CEO of Holos Skincare. She has 15 years' experience in natural health and holistic therapy. See holos.ie
What ingredients should we eliminate from our skincare?
Not all synthetic ingredients are bad - it isn't a case of natural equals good, and synthetic equals bad. It is more about safe amounts of ingredients used. If, however, a product's ingredient list is made up purely of words you cannot pronounce, I'd avoid it. Look out for preservatives such as parabens. There is evidence they may be endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Sulphates have been shown to irritate the skin and rob it of its protective barrier. 'Fragrance' is really a word for "we're not telling you what's in here" and can cover a vast array of ingredients.
What is an all-natural cleansing routine?
Use oil, oil and more oil but make sure it's a plant oil rather than mineral (petroleum) oil. Massage it in and remove with a warm, damp towel. Plant oils such as sweet almond, coconut, and grape seed are excellent for melting make-up, everyday grime and excess oil away. They are also full of nutrients that naturally protect the skin from the signs of ageing. The Holos This is More Multi-use Plant Oil is an excellent 100pc natural cleansing product.
What are the best natural skincare ingredients?
My favourites are plant oils such as argan, rosehip and coconut. They contain nutrients that feed the skin like food feeds the body to maintain health and protect from the signs of premature ageing. Essential oils are not just for aroma and can have real benefits on the skin. Ingredients such as lime (in small amounts) are antibacterial. Frankincense and rose are two of the most anti-ageing oils you can use. Combined, they keep the skin hydrated and fight off inflammation. For really dry skin and even eczema, you can't get better than shea- and cocoa butter.
What's the biggest natural skincare myth?
Assuming that because a product is natural it is "harmless". I'd be wary of farmers' market brands, as many are not tested for safety. When properly tested and adhering to EU legislation, brands using natural ingredients have major benefits for skin health and can compete with the biggest brands out there in areas such as anti-ageing.
What's the main benefit of all- natural skincare?
Absorbency! Plant oils have tiny molecules that penetrate the skin to lock in water and help prevent the signs of ageing.