It can be difficult to know where to start, when you begin learning about potentially toxic synthetic chemicals and want to avoid them in the products that you and your family use. Some people are able to just blitz their cupboards of anything containing suspect ingredients, ditch the lot and restock with more natural products.
I wasn't one of those people and I know I'm not alone. I've been a teenage mother. I've been a working-on-a-low-income mother and a stay-at-home mother. I'm currently a mum-of-many-children mother (six, plus two grandchildren, in case you're wondering). All of these things can bring financial challenges and, lets just say that we are, like very many, are on a budget.
I've had an interest in, and been talking about, "cleaner beauty" for over 17 years now (there is a story behind this for another time). However, if I was just starting out finding out about potential toxins and wanting to #DitchTheJunk, I wouldn't be able to simply empty all of my cupboards and buy all new.
I've been doing this more natural product thing for a while now and so I have a few tips. Leaving aside alternatives to household cleaning products (which I hope to cover in another post soon), I do have some great recommendations for basic buys if you're a family on a budget.
Avoiding potentially toxic chemicals in the bathroom
Many synthetic-filled cosmetics are cheaper than more ethical and natural brands. This is often because many of the chemicals that are better avoided are used as cheap fillers to maximise the profit of the brand. Chances are these chemicals have also been tested on animals at some point (regardless of any "cruelty free" claims currently made by the company). These same ingredients may have been sourced solely based on their cost vs the profit that they make, rather than any consideration for the wider environmental and social impact.
It is this attention to the sourcing and cultivation of good quality ingredients, plus a commitment to producing products that are free from petroleum-derived ingredients; GMOs; synthetic chemicals, preservatives and fragrances; that have not been tested on animals; that can make more conscientious brands, such as Weleda, appear more expensive than some synthetic alternatives.
However, what really makes me baulk is how much MORE expensive some well known mainstream brands are when you realise that their ingredients are predominantly synthetic and potentially toxic!
A quick trawl through the internet (or your local supermarket, chemist, etc) and you will find day creams that are easily £40 or more. They still have many of the cheap fillers, you're paying the extra for their branding and advertising!
Compare that to the classic Weleda Skin Food, recent winner of Marie Claire's Most Iconic Product and Best Natural Formula (October 2020), which, at 30ml comes in at £7.95!
Suddenly more natural and ethical companies such as Weleda start to look a whole lot more reasonable!
So what do you do?
Now, it is bluntly true that I could choose to not use any bought cosmetics at all. As a trained aromatherapist, I have made quite a few of my own cosmetics in the past:
Homemade deodorant actually worked quite well short term - but, in the long run, bicarb can disrupt the ph of your skin (despite what many bloggers will tell you!) and after a little while I started developing an itchy rash!
I have also tried the "no poo" thing and just used things like bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar to "wash" my hair.
Lip balm - I still make this and other balms, this is a fun thing to do with children as well and I occasionally run workshops.
Facial and body oils and scrubs - again, something I definitely still do and if you have the interest, again, I run workshops (including online!)
But, chances are, you may not want to go all out crunchy and skip everything you are probably used to using, or don't have the time to make everything yourself! The thought of doing so probably brings the majority of people out in a cold sweat.
Where to start?
You want to move away from those potential nasties hiding in your bathroom cabinet and make-up bag, but you're on a budget and you want to know where to start.
Pare it down:
What are your must haves?
Any specific skin issues?
Do you have children to buy for as well?
Start with the basics and add in one thing at a time.
I came across Weleda when I first started exploring 'natural beauty' brands and have now used their products for over 17 years, both with my own family, but now also within my therapy practice. This is why they form the basis of the recommendations that I make, because they're an established, respected brand that I trust.
My Top Five Basic Buys for a family From Weleda
In no particular order, based on my own family's basic cosmetic and personal hygiene needs:
You will likely be wanting to wash yourself and the Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash is a two-in-one product suitable for all the family. Made with extract of organic calendula and organic sweet almond oil, this shampoo and wash is gentle and light-smelling and good for sensitive skin.
This was one of the first shampoos I switched over to when I first developed sensitivities to SLS/SLES and, despite forays into trying other brands, this is what I keep returning to and currently use. Weleda offer other 'adult shampoos', but, for me, the Calendula one leaves my hair feeling fantastic and doubles up as being able to be used with my youngest children (aged 8 and 5).
There's also a Calendula bar soap - which is gentle on your skin and I hear some people are having good results with for washing hair as well!
Don't forget to recycle your tubes through the Terracycle recyling scheme - Doncaster Wellbeing is a drop-off point! This scheme supports the Whitely Fund for Nature, who is supporting the Global Penguin Society conservation charity.
Unless you're a fan of making your own toothpowder, you will be wanting a toothpaste of some sort to clean your teeth! Weleda offer a range of toothpastes, but if you have children you might want to start with one specifically for them that can be used by all the family. Fluoride-free Children's Tooth Gel looks after new and developing teeth and provides natural protection. With "extract of organic calendula flowers to keep gums healthy, silica for thorough cleaning and natural flavours of fennel and spearmint" there aren't any unpleasant ingredients that could cause harm if swallowed.
In practice here we have both the Children's Tooth Gel and "adult" toothpastes. I favour the Salt toothpaste (I love how fresh it leaves my mouth feeling, but admit it is an "acquired taste"). My teen and partner favour the Plant gel, because, it tastes more like how they think toothpaste "should" taste, i.e. "minty".
It had to appear in here again, somewhere! I'm prone to dry skin, so I often reach for Skin Food! My partner has a manual job and gets very rough hands as a result, he also uses Skin Food to counter this.
Yes, in daily life I now use the Pomegranate facial range, but I still use Skin Food as a night cream when my skin is feeling challenged; and certainly on my feet (especially during the summer when I like to potter about barefoot). As the weather starts to chill, it will also come into its own as a balm to protect my (often chapped when I go out walking) face.
It's been around since the early 1920s (yes, it's almost 100 years old!) and wins countless awards - and there's a reason for that! It's a fantastic all-rounder and I wouldn't be without it! Not only do I use it personally, but it gets quite an outing in my therapy practice too, not least as part of a special Weleda Skin Food facial!
However, you'll need to cleanse your skin first and I recommend you start with the gentle Almond cleansing lotion, although the fabulous soothing almond facial oil is a great all-round that you can use to both cleanse and nourish your skin - if you want something that, again, doubles up. In past difficult years, whether financial or the blips I have had with my skin being sensitive and dry, almond oil was my skin saviour when I had to simplify, because a little goes a long way!
Almonds are packed full of beneficial vitamins and minerals and are high in unsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E (a known anti-oxidant that fights free radicals that age the skin). Perfect for nurturing and protecting even sensitive skin,
I'll let you into a secret, I was a big fan of home-made deodorant, but since learning more about the skin's delicate acid mantle and the effect that bicarbonate of soda (a common constituent of homemade deodorant) upon it, I started to look around for other options. I've tried a few different brands and Weleda came out tops for me.
This is where the Sage Deodorant comes into play as it's useable by all deodorant-using family members (ie the three oldest here) without affecting any gender preferences.
Deodorants are rather notorious for containing some nasty ingredients, but with Weleda deodorants you can rest assured that they are formulated without aluminium and all the ingredients are certified natural by NaTRUE. (See Breast Cancer UK's excellent #DitchTheJunk campaign, link at the end of this post).
After the basics, what next?
All of the featured products are in regular use in my house. Having covered what I consider to be the basics for my family, ie washing, teeth, moisturising and deodorant, what would I go for next? I've chosen three further products that you may find useful as a family.
Yes, this is becoming a bit of an ode to Calendula, but please bear with me, it really is an excellent first port of call and what's gentle enough for baby is usually gentle enough for the rest of the family too!
To care for the rest of your body, Weleda offer an excellent range of body lotions and body oils, however, the Calendula Baby Lotion is a light, gentle lotion, that glides on easily and is suitable for the whole family. When you're swapping over to something everyone can use, this is an excellent choice!
You can add a separate adult lotion or oil later - from fruity Sea Buckthorn to sensuous Pomegranate, there's something for everyone! And whilst, as a massage therapist, I'm a big fan of the body oils (and use them in my practice), I do like a lotion for a quick, easy-to-apply moisture boost in the morning and at time of writing this, I'm just finishing up a bottle of citrus - perfect for giving me a lift on a grey day!
TOP TIP: apply body oils straight after a bath or shower (on slightly damp skin) to seal the moisture in!
Not a cosmetic product, but a basic in this house. The Bumps and Bruises skin salve is one of Weleda's healthcare range and it does what it says on the tube - and what family with young children doesn't have its share of bumps and bruises? We have a selection of salves and sprays in our First Aid kit and this one is probably most it use! Possibly the next most used at the moment would be the Insect Bites Spray, followed by the Calendula Cuts and Grazes salve.
And finally, following close alongside is another arnica-based product: Arnica Muscle Soak. Not for use with small children, but perfect for tired adults (especially those who are on their feet a lot throughout the day!)
Arnica is a fantastic choice for soothing aches and pains, not only of the body, but of the soul as well! Sinking into a hot bath of this really helps lift your spirits and dispel those pinging feet and aching joints! Just what is needed at the end of a long, hard day!
I hope you've enjoyed the suggestions. They constitute what I consider are good basic recommendations for a family to start with. Of course there are home-made options - and at some point I'll likely cover this, but with a busy family there isn't always the time to make lots of things and so ready-made products that are tried and tested are the way to go!
If you'd like some support, why not book a FREE wellbeing consultation? We can discuss what your best options are (and you're covered by a 30 day money back or exchange guarantee so we can make sure we find something that works well for you!)
With thanks to Weleda for all product images.