Mirror Mirror On The Wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Oh to be Snow White and have that fair complexion. Ever wake up and think more along the lines of Mirror Mirror on the wall, I wish I didn't have to look at all!?!
In our pursuit of ‘fairness’, natural skin care is another theme dominating social media feeds and new brands are constantly emerging, ranging in price, general success at achieving youth full, as well as healthy skin, minus evil toxins and promising plump, line free, spot and blemish free complexions. To be ‘fair’ we now not only need to be eating clean but exercising to stay lean and nurture every cell in our body and polish and maintain it naturally on the outside too!
Having had cancer I have gradually become more and more conscious of changing my own skin care. This has been a very slow process for practicality and cost reasons. I am a sucker for packaging, Ill be honest, but I want to know that these pretty labels are doing me good as well as looking good! I also want to know that I can buy these products without having to scour the aisles at the local health food shop and with supermarkets and high street stores now jumping on the band wagon, is being the ‘fairest’ of them all sustainable or simply another short lived craze?
With recent articles about much loved products such as ‘Johnson’s & Johnson’s' containing harmful ingredients, we are becoming more savvy with our skincare and pro active; reading labels and shopping around. Due to stress, higher rates of disease and illness we are not just aware of what we are putting in our bodies, but what we are putting on them too!
Labels on cosmetics and body care products are a tough code to crack. The industry is so shockingly unregulated that it’s usually impossible to trust the claims that manufacturers place on their products. A word such as “natural” can be used by anyone for anything. Even “organic” is misleading. Companies are supposed to use an organic label only if all ingredients are certified-organic, but they can also say it’s “made with organic” if it contains a minimum of 70 percent certified-organic ingredients.
With the ingredient lists on our bathroom products being a total minefield with ingredients such as Parabems, aluminium and sodium laurel sulphate transpiring to be some of the main culprits for causing so much bad press, we are demanding more transparency from the ingredient lists.
I am no beauty journalist (so please bear with me if this sounds like an article from Marie Claire!) I also apologise if it is slightly long, but after being pro active for my own wellbeing, I have embraced experimenting with different skincare products and wanted to share some of the brands that I have come to know.
Jennifer Young was approached a few years ago to develop a skin care range for the cancer patients at her local hospital. Jennifer took on the challenge and developed this incredible range of products that are suitable for everyone! While on one of Jennifer’s workshops last year, she told me something that has shaped my choice of skin care ever since.
‘Creams are a mix of oil and water and as oil and water don’t mix, lots of ingredients have to be added in order to turn oil and water into a cream…..Oils and balms can be very simple formulations and, as they don’t contain water, they are a more intensive experience. A little goes a long way.’
- Jennifer Young, Defiant Beauty
I now, personally prefer to stick to oils and balms rather than creams. Jennifer has worked hard to make a range of products that are natural, organic and do what they say on the bottle, but you don’t need to have been unwell to appreciate the care and quality.
The toner smells amazing, locking in lots of hydration and the hand balm is magic and a top present for anyone having treatment as the skin becomes so dry. This balm is easily absorbed and makes a huge difference. The skin oil is another favourite. It was primarily made to rub on scalps after hair loss. The scalp becomes so sensitive when having chemo and this is soothing, helping nourish the follicles making it less sore and irritated. I bought it way after my hair grew back and have been using it as a body oil too!
Defiant Beauty is now training beauticians in specialist treatments with these products.
‘Therapists are taught that cancer is contraindicated for their treatments (except reflexology and reiki). Using my biologists brain I couldn't work out why and did the research - there was no evidence to support this, it was based on fear. I knew that those going through treatment for cancer wanted therapies and that therapies would benefit them. I knew therapists wanted to work with those going through treamtent and it was time to change things.’
Jennifer worked with insurers and a lot of experts to create routines and now offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Oncology therapies. These are the first accredited one day qualifications. I had a treatment a few months ago at the Hale Clinic in London and my skin looked amazing afterwards. It was one of the most relaxing treatments I have had, probably because I knew the products well, trusted Jennifer and her training and was intrigued how they were used professionally. I had an hours facial and my skin felt soft and looked radiant, even without make up!!! My hat is off to jennifer and how she has created not only an incredible range of products but has demystified the area of oncology massage/facials with a short and concise course helping therapists help others in this situation.
‘Back in January 2015, I was honoured to be involved in Jennifer’s new book ‘Recognise Yourself’. This book is a bible for anyone going through or affected by cancer treatment. The information on how to look after your nails, skin, hair and body is the perfect balance of research and patients experiences and is full of feel good information for the days you are feeling less than fair!
Defiant Beauty toner £20.00
Defiant Beauty hand balm £17.50
Skin Oil £17.50
‘Recognise Yourself’ Book; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Recognise-Yourself-maintaining-chemotherapy-radiotherapy/dp/1905367597/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459712971&sr=8-1&keywords=recognise+yourself
More information on Treatments at the Hale Clinic with the Defiant Beauty range can be found on;
The granny of natural skin care, Neals Yard have dominated the organic skin care market for over thirty years after opening in 1981 in Covent Garden. In the 80’s, Neals Yard were one of the first to encourage us to buy products without synthetic chemicals.
‘We believe in nature, honesty and transparency, and your right to know what goes into the products you buy’.
They are so much more than a skin care range and now offer courses in aromatherapy, nutrition and wellbeing and are involved in several environmental campaigns.
The rose balm has now become a staple. Particularly good for the colder months it gives a rich and deeper cleanse and smells amazing. My skin feels nourished and hydrated and in addition, it can be used as a face mask and works as a gentle exfoliator too if you use a flannel to wipe it off. It is more expensive than other cleansers but in my view, money well spent!
I have also been using the rose facial wash as well as the honey bee shower gel recently. Both cleanse my skin without stripping it dry. Having been the winter, it is interesting to see how well my skin reacts to cleansing this way (as my preferred method is an oil based cleanser) but these have been great and they don’t cost the earth!
Evening Cleansing; Rose balm (winter) £38
Morning cleanse; Rose facial wash £16
Bee Lovely Bath and shower gel; £14
I have never been a soap fan but was intrigued to know more about Ruth’s homemade products after seeing them on social media. Ruth and I have been in touch ever since and I am thrilled to see her business flourishing. After going through breast cancer herself, she wanted to take control of what she could use on her skin.
‘Many regular skincare products include synthetic chemicals that are known to interfere with our hormone systems and lead to increased levels of oestrogen….The majority of soap sold on the high street is not soap at all but chemical detergents, or a mixture of detergents and soap. Most contain sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) which is a cheap foaming agent and also a known skin irritant.’
Ruth makes her soaps from scratch with natural oils and butters. It is a double sided coin as she finds the creative process so relaxing she thinks of it as a meditation. She now runs courses encouraging others to have a go and wants to share the satisfaction of creating a bar of soap with the enjoyment of being able to use it, knowing exactly what it had been made with. She also makes gorgeous lip balms. I absolutely love these products and they are the perfect size to travel with too. Once opened the soap can just be popped in a little container or wrapped back up in their wrapper and put in a little bag. I especially love the Cedarwood and Pine soap.
Soaps £5.00 per soap
Maggie’s bespoke range of oils for cleansing and exfoliating are unique but as an acupuncturist she has a passion for working with women to make a totally unique skincare range and treatment designed to help with all sorts of skin conditions. She has taught me not just how to nourish my face but how to massage it too so invigorating and energising the facial muscles and pressure points helping me relieve pressure on my sinus’s and ease congestion and puffiness around my eyes;
‘I work with a talent aromatherapist and we find synergy between my chinese medicine diagnosis and her encyclopaedic knowledge of aromatherapy and decades of experience.’
My appointment with Maggie was wonderful and my whole evening skin care routine has changed! What stands out about this range is that it is totally bespoke. Maggie gave me a treatment after chatting about my current skin care routine and what I currently use. She then put together a stunning package for me, explaining how to massage my face with the products she suggested as well as why they were better for me.
Yin1 treatment oil £33.00
This balm is absolutely beautiful. Anything that has rose in it, is a winner for me (can you tell?!) It smells blissful and doubles as a brilliant hand cream. Natalie has her own website and I have found her products in pop up shops and online. Her brand is doing so well and her instagram feed is buzzing! I use this balm as a night cream in the really cold months and my skin wakes up feeling super soft.
Rose and Geranium balm £15.50
Arbonne is a Swiss brand that is becoming very well known. The products are based on botanical research and inspired by nature. Arbonne were one of the first to go green in 1980 with no animal testing, paragons, mineral oil and nasties and their ingredient policy is totally transparent. I have a wonderful Arbonne rep who had skin cancer herself a few years ago;
‘I believe in Arbonne products because they reduce toxic load on our bodies and preserve the environment by using sustainable ingredients.’
- Sally Ann North
I am a bit precious about my hair (don’t ask!) and I cant go anywhere without my straighteners (Im working on it!) but I was keen to try a new shampoo and Sally Ann suggested one of the Arbonne range. The Daily Shampoo feels rich and though my hair is a little flyaway, it feels clean, healthy and shiny and there is no residue like some others I have tried. I have recently tried the pure vibrance conditioner too and it smells gorgeous.
I have also used Arbonne’s children's suncream. Their ABC Baby Care range is fantastic and I used the SPF 30 on my five year old and it didn't bother her sensitive skin at all and absorbed brilliantly. You are encouraged to use quite a large amount and I do like to use an SPF 50 as my daughter is very fair and she is prone to exzma, but she didn’t bat an eyelid when this went on! It is less chalky than some other natural suncreams I have used and is non perfumed too.
Nourishing Daily Shampoo £17.00
Kids suncream £28.00
Pai is a popular brand on the market at the moment and with a focus on sensitive and allergy prone skin, they were the first company to list all their ingredients in plain english which again, gives credit for transparancy.
Unlike many brands on the market, which commission factories to both formulate and manufacture their products, we have our own in-house R&D lab and manufacturing facility.
I stumbled across the KuKui and Jojoba Brightening scrub when my skin was really temperamental (after surgery my skin was not happy) and this not only made my skin clean but less irritable. It has a lovely lemon’y smell and gel consistency and it wasn’t too grainy either.
The rose hip oil has been an amazing skin care product for me ever since surgery. I have been really interested in the healing qualities of rose hip and I used this as a night treatment on my face for about three months (a bottle lasts a while) I have to say it felt softer and looked much brighter. I have also used it on scaring and it definitely helps the healing and elasticity. One snag is that I have also noticed that a slight orange residue has been left on my pillows but I have also seen a difference in applying this oil after a good scrub as it absorbs more effectively.
KuKui and Jojoba brightening exfoliator £26
Rosehip Bioregenerate oil £22
It is clear from the sheer amount of choice that skin care is now as important as healthy eating. I have met some amazing people working in this area and since this is long enough, I will soon be posting an overall list of these and all the other brands I have noted. Through our pursuit of ‘fairness’ we now want clean living inside and outside. Supermarkets, for one, are now making these products more accessible. Being able to click on a product and have it in our basket immediately is much more convenient and appealing to a younger market. With the help of bright photography, packaging and smells to rival a perfume factory, these brands have tapped into what the consumer needs as well as wants. Transparency equals trust and as a society we want to believe what it says on the bottle, both for our lotions and potions as well as diet.
The biggest downside is price. A lot of these brands are more draining on the wallet but aside from using totally natural products like beeswax and coconut oil, which has always been a favourite (I do use it as a hair treatment, body moisturiser, skin balm and bath oil too occasionally) we want products that are going to make us feel glamorous and feminine. For those going through treatment we also want to hold onto as much normality as we can and rather than having to go to ‘special’ shops, we can now access these products with minimal fuss.
Skin care is a hugely personal thing. Whether it be mashing an avocado onto our faces and resting with cucumber on our eyes or maxing out the credit card on bespoke aromatherapy products our pursuit of ‘fairness’ is something we are taking very seriously. My experience has dictated my awareness of staying healthy inside and outside, and if that is the highest price to pay, wouldn’t you agree that choosing organic toxic free skincare as one of the many pro active steps we can take to help our wellbeing, is totally ‘fair’ enough?
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These are a collection of blogs written by other cancer patients, survivors, friends and family as well as wellbeing and health therapists who wanted to share their expertise to help inspire and encourage us with recovery and healing. Over the last thirteen years I have put a lot of time and focus into my own self care and I have explored many activities and products that I wanted to share, so I have written a few too! Enjoy xx