(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Beauty has become a fundamental part of our morning routine – whether it’s that hot shower first thing in the morning, a splash of perfume or a full-on make-up effort. It wasn’t always this way. Jen Marsden writes.

Photo credit: N E P L O H O

The Way We Were

In fact, aside from Cleopatra’s rather lavish affairs bathing in milk and honey, beauty was an almost non-existent enterprise: our ancestors would prefer to change their clothes rather than bother to wash, and it’s this activity which drove fashion.

Another consequence of smelly 17th Century people is today’s modern perfume industry, which began with the use of natural scents to cover up unavoidable whiffs. Citrus was popular as were Eastern spices. The very action of following a beauty regime and, in particular, applying make-up, can be viewed as creating a mask for ourselves, deciding deliberately how we wish to be portrayed to the outside world. Yet we all have our natural beauty too – even the most made-up celebs have days off from slapping on their war paint.

Pretty Woman

Some celebs have the high cheek bones, the wide eyes, smooth complexion and the perfect button noses that give their face the perfect symmetry. Some don’t, and are proud of showing off their bare skin, pimples and all. Whether you choose to be a make-up-free beauty or not, your skin deserves some attention, in particular your face, which is always on show.

Skin has a surface oil called “sebum” which is often the cause of problem skin. Sebum is released from glands on the forehead, chin, cheeks and the middle of your back, which can be tackled with a daily regime. Dermatologists recommend the “cleanse, tone and moisturise” approach, using soap substitutes, gentle toners and where possible fragrance-free moisturisers. Balm Balm’s Fragrance Free Moisturiser is suitable for all skin types.

You might like to try Melvita’s range of light and gentle moisturisers and cleansers too. Always use tepid water when washing your face to prevent blood vessels from being damaged underneath the skin. Different times of year require different skin activities. Spring is the time to exfoliate and encourage your skin to produce new cells, while winter requires nourishing moisturisers with Vitamin E and D. Jason offers a Vitamin E revitalising and moisturising face crème. 

Photo credit: N E P L O H O

Moisturisers with an SPF of at least 20 are recommended to protect your skin from harsh sun. Steaming your face by placing your face over – but not touching! – hot water and rock salt also helps to unblock pores and prevent  blackheads and spots. Skin sensitivities such as dermatitis, eczema and swelling usually occur when contact allergens interact with your skin type. The well known offender is parfum, which BigGreenSmile.com has mentioned previously.

Try A Little Tenderness

Certain types of parabens used to preserve water-based products are also considered allergens. Some studies even suggest that there are health risks with parabens too, which is why organic and natural certification systems have adopted a “precautionary principle” and err on the side of caution by not allowing them in certified products – or only in tiny quantities below usual safety regulations.

Another reason for skin irritation is the “cocktail effect” of several ingredients. Using lots of products, such as soaps and detergents, can strip skin of its natural protective oils and leave it dry.

Most conventional skincare ingredients derive from petroleum. These ingredients are used to prevent products from drying out and are used as a “smoothing” ingredient by coating skin in a plastic-like layer. Instead, they often dehydrate the skin and exacerbate acne, and some skin experts believe, encourage premature ageing. Which, let’s be honest, gets us reaching for more of the miracle anti-ageing cream.

There’s more that may not appear on the label too. 1-4 dioxan and formaldehyde are residues occasionally left in toiletries from the manufacturing process, particularly those that have the ingredients ‘PEG’, ‘polyethene’, ‘polyethene glycol’ and ‘oxynol’ in them. Up to eight per cent of the population are allergic to it. 1-4 dioxan was banned by the European Union last year, and formaldayde has been banned in Japan and Sweden for its rumoured respiratory irritations and carcinogenic properties. Scientific safety ratings for these ingredients and more can be found at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database, from the US-based Environmental Working Group.

Natural, organic products are not free from the allergen effect either, as individual skin may react to the botanical ingredient or from an essential oil’s components. The best thing to do is conduct a skin patch test prior to using the product all over.

Photo credit: N E P L O H O


A new area recently emerging in the cosmetics and beauty sector is “green chemistry”. This is predominantly the merging of plant-based ingredients with science, whereby raw materials have undergone chemical modifications and reactions. Some companies use the highest quality ingredients, but others react to the price demands of the market and use cheap processes. How natural these products are is to be judged by the consumer and their skin tolerability, which is why it is best to follow trustworthy certification. Just in case.

Disclaimer: Skin types vary depending on the individual. If irritation occurs, always seek medical assistance from your GP or a dermatologist.