Every day I talk to people about skincare, skin conditions, ingredients, what products to use, what products not to use, how to reduce the amount of chemicals used by the family; the list goes on. I am encouraged by the growing number of people that are becoming conscious of the toxic chemicals and ingredients we are exposed to every day. Yet, it surprises me how many people are still blissfully unaware of the dangerous chemicals we expose ourselves to on a daily basis.
Before I started in the organic skincare business I also had very little knowledge of the chemical consumption that we have become accustomed to. I believed that if something was packaged in a can, box, bottle, jar or just a wrapper, that someone in some authority must have checked it and made sure it was safe for me and my family.
It took me a while to figure out that this was simply NOT the case; it took me even longer to realise that I could no longer rely solely on the companies making or selling products to keep me safe. I decided that I had to educate myself and decide what I would tolerate and what I wouldn’t.
Let me start with saying that not all chemicals are bad – some chemicals that are naturally occurring like salt, can be good for us. However, many of the synthetic toxic chemicals found in our food, skincare, drinks and house hold items are dangerous and simply do not need to be there.
The problem with many chemicals is that our bodies can’t metabolise them, so they are stored in our fat, blood vessels and organs. Many of the chemicals found in the products we use and eat affect our hormones, mutate our cells, change our blood and interrupt the body’s normal functioning.
Becoming aware of how we use products is a journey. I am constantly looking for more information and coming up with ideas on how to reduce our exposure to chemicals, make our house and family healthier, and perhaps teach my children an alternative way of consumerism.
What I have come to learn is certainly not a conclusive list; it is not even a qualified list. However it is what we have been doing in our house and it works for us. If there is one idea you can glean from this, then that’s fantastic! Here's our list:
1. Decide what is important to YOU
Food, cleaning products, skincare, homecare, linen, clothes….the list goes on. Decide on the top three things that are most important to you and family. For our family it is:
Eat healthy (organic where possible) and make as much of our food as possible from the source.
> CLEANING PRODUCTS
Use products which will contribute to, not contaminate our house, community or the environment.
Reduce screen time and spend more time reading, playing board games and enjoying outside activities.
2. A list of non-negotiables
These are the chemicals, food and ingredients that are a NO GO under any circumstances in our house! This list can take a while to compile, as it requires some research and information gathering, you will probably keep adding to it as you discover new information. Try to keep this list simple so that you can remember it in your head and make sure you do research the ingredients so you know what and why they should be avoided. Our list looks like this:
• Sodium lauryl sulphate
• Parabens (in food or other products)
• Processed meat (especially chicken nuggets!)
• Chemical cleaning products
• Artificial colour or fragrances
Everyone’s list will be different, just make sure you keep it short and sweet!
3. Reduce DON’T eliminate
When I first started becoming conscious about our chemical usage, I started to clean out cupboards and throw out anything and everything that I thought was bad for us. The problem was that sometimes there were no healthy replacements or if there was - it was impossible to afford them! So, I decided that I would opt for the reduce method – which is looking for “healthier” options rather than eliminating the product completely. Life is not about denying ourselves simple pleasures, so if you enjoy something and there is no healthy option – keep it and enjoy!! I always try to keep an eye out for new products appearing on the market and I get excited when I can completely change over to a green or organic version of a product that is not harmful. There are some clever people developing and making some amazing products for us to enjoy! Start with the easy things: fresh food, non processed foods and meats, chemical free cleaners, home made products – then more on to the trickier ones!!
I am always in awe of what my mother and her mother did to keep us well fed and nourished. Growing, harvesting, making, baking, preserving food, to ensure we ate healthy, good food was a full time job. I look at my generation and we are losing the ability to bake, preserve and make food the way it was intended. There is something wholesome and warming about making slow roasted tomato chutney or making raspberry jam for the kids – I am not one of the world’s natural cooks, but I do enjoy making all our biscuits, baking bread and knowing that we are eating good, healthy, unadulterated food!
Last year, I decided to bake all our biscuits and cakes rather than buying them at the supermarket. We also have a small vege garden; I try to grow a variety of different veges (sometimes successfully, sometimes not)
for us to eat.
My new challenge is to reduce the amount of processed food that we eat. So, out go the cans, processed pasta, and other foods that we could make ourselves – I am not sure how well this will work, but I am going to give it a shot.
While it is difficult or perhaps even impossible to completely eliminate our exposure to chemicals in this day and age, I truly believe that with small steps we can keep our families safe and healthy by greatly reducing the amount of toxic ingredients we consume.
Penny Vergeest began researching the beneficial properties of natural minerals, essential oils and pure extracts and their effect on the body while training as an aesthetician. This research led to the formulation of the geoskincare range. Penny is passionate about eco-living and is constantly looking at ways that she can make eco and sustainable choices for her family - whilst juggling a business and the demands of parenthood!