Pick up a bottle of your favourite moisturiser and glance at the ingredients. Chances are, you will see a long list of chemicals with unpronounceable names. But who cares, you’re not eating the cream! You’re just applying it on your skin, and that can’t be bad, right?
The skin is the largest organ of our body, and it is porous. Anything applied to it gets absorbed into our bodies and finds its way into our bloodstream. Some chemicals are harmless, but others, regularly used in skin care products, are known carcinogens or endocrine disrupters. Certain products do contain substitutes of harmful chemicals, such as No Ammonia hair colour, but how safe are these substitutes? No one knows. Glamorous ads and pretty packaging have us hooked, even though study after study has proved how infective many creams are. In addition, all that packaging, pretty as it is, ends up in the landfill.
While you may not want to compromise on certain products like perhaps your anti-ageing facial cream, others, such as hand cream, body lotion, toner, foot cream, scrub, cleansers – are easily replaced by natural substitutes. So if you want healthy, glowing skin (who doesn’t?) stop looking for miracles in a jar. Look for them in your kitchen instead. You’re sure to find the perfect natural substitute for almost every need.
Raw milk (preferably organic) makes a great cleanser. It is gentle, and is a powerhouse of nutrients. These nutrients work effectively to remove oil and protein based impurities and dead skin cells, in addition to moisturising and strengthening skin. Dip a small ball of cotton wool in a couple of teaspoons of raw milk, and swipe it around your face.
Curd and besan (gram flour) is another age-old remedy for cleansing and moisturising your face, and is perfect if you have problem-free skin.
“Powder a tablespoon of quick cooking oats, and add it to a mixture of any cold pressed oil and honey,” shares make-up guru Shveta Raju. “Wet your face and gently rub this mixture in, taking care not to be too rough. You can use this scrub all over your body, obliterating the need for harsh soaps.”
“Boil a quarter cup of rose petals in one cup or one and a half cups of water. When it boils, reduce the flame and simmer until the rose petals have turned pale and the water is a lovely, pink shade. Turn off the gas and let it cool. If you have dry skin, add 3 drops of glycerin to the rose water,” shares Shveta.
“One of the best natural moisturisers is coconut oil. This can be found in most households. There are many pure, virgin, cold-pressed varieties now available in india, which I highly recommend for skin and hair,” says leading dermatologist, Dr Mukta Sachdeva. For daytime use, apply coconut oil, wipe off with a damp cotton ball after ten minutes, and follow up with sunscreen. At night, cleanse your skin, apply the oil, and wash off in the morning. If you have oily skin, wash off before sleeping. However, coconut oil can clog pores, and may not be ideal if you have open pores. Opt for extra virgin olive oil.
Problem skin? Reach for combinations of turmeric, honey, and lemon juice, all of which have antiseptic or anti-fungal properties.
Lemon juice also helps remove pigmentation, even skin tone and brighten skin. But, it stings! Mix it with cucumber juice, and leave on for a minimum of ten minutes before washing off. You will notice brighter, clearer skin almost instantly.
Did you know that bananas, papayas or avocados work great as skin softeners and moisturisers? Feed your skin it’s share. Mash an over-ripe fruit with a fork and spread it on your face, arms and legs and leave on for a bit before going in for a shower. No over-ripe fruit? Just scrape out the remnants from the inner peel and apply to your face.
After a shower, take a few drops of almond oil, massage it between your palms and spread all over damp skin. Pat dry. You will never need a store-bought body loti
Stretch mark solution
The bad news is, you cannot get rid of stretch marks – and creams that claim to do so are full of sh#@. You can however prevent further marks from developing, or prevent your children from developing these marks.
Massage your thighs, upper arms and belly regularly, with a mixture of coconut, olive and castor oils. These areas are the most prone to stretch marks, and regular massage will make the skin supple and able to withstand stretching, especially during pregnancy or weight gain. Start young!
You can also tattoo over stretch marks, but, needless to say, you need to go to an expert!
Good skin care isn’t just about the products you apply to your skin. It is a function of your lifestyle.
- Eat well balanced meals, and ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C.
- Get yourself regularly dewormed.
- Stay hydrated by drinking at least two litres of water daily.
- Avoid junk food, quit smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation.
- Move it! Exercise flushes your skin with oxygen and gives it a natural glow.
And finally, use your judgment. Eye creams are applied in such tiny quantities, over a minimal amount of skin, so feel free to use a good one. Invest in a safe sunscreen as it is difficult to make your own. In addition, creams containing retinol have been proven to be effective, so use them sparingly, at a later age, and combine with natural treatments to reduce your exposure to chemicals.
Playing it safe
- Change your facial moisturisers regularly to reduce exposure to the same chemicals.
- As an easy-to-follow rule, stay away from creams that list these two main offenders in their ingredient list: parabens and fragrance (unless the fragrance is from a natural essential oil)
- Visit EWG and enter the name of your product in the search bar. It will rank your product on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the safest. It also lists numerous options with rankings, so you can switch to safer brands.
- Where children are concerned, stick to natural skin-care routines and reduce their chemical exposure. You will be doing them, and our planet, a favour.