Sunday 19 November 2017

Naturally Nice

The jury is out on whether natural products are any better, says our expert, but it feels good to be virtuous
Pictured, from left, L'Oreal Elvive Low Shampoo; Alfaparf Precious Nature Double Cream with Fig and Walnut; Inglot O2M Breathable Nail Enamel in 536; Mustela Light Legs Gel; Surya Brasil Sapien Women Shave Gel
Pictured, from left, L'Oreal Elvive Low Shampoo; Alfaparf Precious Nature Double Cream with Fig and Walnut; Inglot O2M Breathable Nail Enamel in 536; Mustela Light Legs Gel; Surya Brasil Sapien Women Shave Gel

Sarah Caden

If it feels good to take care of yourself, it feels better when the products literally feel nice, and that's only ramped up further when we indulge in natural products. Luxury is one thing, but virtuosity is even better. It's like making that extra effort to take care of yourself, even if natural products don't necessarily work any better than their chemical-laden counterparts. But simply accessing one's inner Gwyneth can feel fantastic.

Fully natural and organic products are rather rare. Most natural products are partly natural, and if that makes you happy, that's fine, so long as you're not being fooled. The most important ingredients that experts say we should avoid are parabens and sulphates. There are concerns about overuse of parabens and how they might be stored in the body and alter oestrogen levels, in particular. Sulphates, then, are foaming agents that some consider a health hazard, particularly with overuse. These are the two major bogeymen these days, and while the jury is out on whether they are actually dangerous, maybe overuse of them, and flushing them into the environment, is no good thing. And with the products listed, you can dodge these and other so-called nasties.

Best Overall

L'Oreal Elvive Low Shampoo, €6.29, available nationwide

Most of us would agree that we over-process our hair these days, with a lot of us washing it daily in the shower, not to mention loading it with styling products. L'Oreal's new Low Shampoo range contains no sulphates, which means there is no foam. None. And, yes, this is disconcerting initially, but used according to the instructions, hair is both cleaned and conditioned and noticeably soft and shiny. "If you get over your obsession with suds, this is a charm, said a panellist. "Used twice or three times a week, I think my hair is less frizzy and more shiny."

Best Deep Treat

Alfaparf Precious Nature Double Cream with Fig and Walnut, €14.95, selected salons nationwide, tel: (045) 856-490, or see xpertpro.ie

This line of hair products is aimed at "Hair with Bad Habits", which means all that heat and product exposure and too much washing. The range is soap-free and low-foam, with ingredients more commonly used in Italian cooking, in this case, figs and walnuts. This thick cream can be used as a leave-in product for very dry hair, or as a weekly treatment for everyone else. "It smells like a creamy dessert," said one panellist. "and was a great moisture boost."

Best Natural Nails

Inglot O2M Breathable Nail Enamel in 536, €15, Inglot shops nationwide, see inglot.ie

We've all been told to give our nails a break between manicures, particularly the long-wear variety. Inglot was the first to offer breathable nail polish as a no-damage manicure. The idea is that the nail and nail bed are not being suffocated and dried out by varnish, though there is a counter-argument that a porous polish can result in trapped moisture and infection. "This is a fabulously glossy red," said one panellist. "And I like the idea of nails that are not hermetically sealed. I think my nails seemed less brittle on removal."

Best Perfect Pins

Mustela Light Legs Gel, €17.10, selected pharmacies nationwide

Newly arrived in Irish pharmacies, this is a brand that skincare-savvy mothers have been hauling home from continental holidays for years. It's not just gentle, it's effective on sensitive skin and specific skin conditions, and the small maternity range is very impressive. This is a wonderfully cooling and skin-improving gel for "heavy" or tired legs, with no parabens or alcohol. "Great relief after a long day or high heels," one panellist said. "A pleasure to use."

Best Less Lather

Surya Brasil Sapien Women Shave Gel, €17.99, health stores nationwide, or see yourtonic.com

Summer is a while away yet, but bookmark this as a great addition to the holiday toilet bag. It's a really gentle shave gel that also works well as a wash, and a lot of what we now know as "nasties" are omitted. In this case, these include sulphates, artificial fragrance, alcohol and mineral oil, among others. It's also suitable for all over your body, and is enriched by a number of Amazonian oils. "Smells delicious, with a gliding texture for shaving, and a skin-softening effect," a panellist said.

Email thepanel@independent.ie

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