Ever since a young age I’ve always loved make-up and for years I’ve carted around a giant make-up bag filled to the brim… well, what if I bumped into Brad Pitt?? To look my best I must have all the tools that I need with me at all times… as you never know who you’re going to meet on the streets of London!!
So when an Allergy Specialist told me some time ago that I’d become hyper-sensitive to a chemical found in most cosmetics and skincare brands, you can imagine I wasn’t too happy. My symptoms had developed over several months – starting as a small patch of dry skin on the bridge of my nose, which after a week or 2 began to spread! My eyes were incredibly itchy all the time and the rash, in the end, covered my forehead and cheeks. Thankfully (or so I thought) make-up covered it, but at night when I washed my face the rash was very “angry” looking and the dry patches were getting worse. Also, I’d get a burning sensation on my skin which was actually quite painful at times. Did I have eczema, atopic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, contact dermatitis or rosacea? Who knew??
I went to the doctors a few times, being prescribed steroid creams of varying strengths, anti-fungal creams and antibiotics. In the end I went to see the above mentioned specialist as nothing was improving. I had 2 patch tests done (the first was inconclusive) resulting in reactions to Ethylenediamine and a couple of other allergens that apparently weren’t relevant (meaning I had contact dermatitis). He also concluded my skin had become addicted to the steroid cream which I’d been prescribed by the doctor which was making my symptoms worse! Ethylenediamine is closely related to EDTA, DTA, DETA, PEHA and TETA, preservatives and chemicals used in skincare products and apparently my skin had had enough and gone on strike!
I guess some would say it’s my own fault. I’ve tried almost every lotion and potion out there (under the £100 price mark) and as I have combination skin, I’ve used the strongest spot creams I could get my hands on, home acid peels (not as bad as it sounds, I got it from No. 7 at Boots) and every scrub and face mask going. Therefore, when the specialist simply said not to wear make-up for a few months and see how things settled down, I won’t repeat the thoughts going through my head!!
In a nutshell, I wanted to say that putting on my make-up is a “daily ritual” and that casually wandering through the make-up department in Selfridges, seeking out exciting new products was as much part of my routine as weekly yoga… Then there’s the small fact that about 10 years ago I met someone without my eyeliner on and they asked me, with a worried look on their face like I was ill or something, whether I was “Ok”?? Now I’m not one of those creatures who can’t be seen without make-up on ever, I just know that I look a whole lot better with it on than off!
After the results of my patch tests I went straight to my usual go-to stores with my list of “no go” chemicals… and I was in for a shock. They were in everything – foundation, mascara, eyeshadow, shampoo, fake-tan…. The list was endless. I suddenly had a sinking feeling as I realised if I was actually going to try and avoid these so called “nasties” I was going to have to make some very big changes to my lifestyle AND make-up bag. I was actually going to have to start thinking about what I was putting on my skin…
I do have friends who have embraced the “Organic” path and one in particular spends most of her spare time in “As Nature Intended”, on Balham High Road in London. I had been in before for “special” tea-bags and the like but never for skincare stuff because I spent enough elsewhere and I wanted the best results possible, so assumed I had to buy things from “proper” skincare brands…
So after a bit of research, ok a lot of research, I decided to try a brand called Pai and give their cleanser and moisturizer a whirl. Pai was created by Sarah Brown, who suffered from a bad skin allergy herself – and it was fascinating to read on the website about how many women in their 30’s could no longer use regular cosmetics due to chemical irritant dermatitis… which was me! I’m certain that because so many strong products have been widely available to my generation since our teens, that we’ve basically overloaded our systems with chemicals and become hyper-sensitive! It made me think about the cleansers, toners and primers etc… (another endless list) that I’ve put on my skin… And I realised that I’ve probably absorbed more “evil” chemicals at the age of 33 than many people (who don’t wear make-up) do in a life-time!
So what’s the alternative? Well there are many organic skincare brands out there, even though I found make-up shopping more difficult. Apart from the Pai products I’m now using I’ve also visited The Organic Pharmacy on Argyll Street, off Oxford Street in London. They had a very good selection of products… But there’s one small problem – the cost. Recently, I have spent more on skincare and stuff than I ever did, which is saying something! Organic shampoos and conditioners seem to be especially costly – probably because I’ve been used to going into Boots and getting 3 for 2!
However, there is some good news. My skin is so much better and I feel less “allergic” generally. It’s taken about 6 months but I actually feel like I’m getting the chemicals (which let’s not forget are potential carcinogens) out of my system and I’m happy to be taking more responsibility for my internal well being. Going organic isn’t cheap and of course I will still buy the new “must have” MAC lipgloss/Chanel nail varnish etc (I haven’t completely turned my back on the old me! And maybe I’ll be able to re-introduce some of my old favourite products slowly?), but I feel that by changing even just a few of the products that we use daily, we can potentially reduce problems for ourselves in the future… Just take a look at the ingredients list on the side of your shampoo bottle when you’re next showering – you’ll be stunned by all the names, letters and numbers that you don’t understand. I didn’t do very well in A-Level Chemistry so I’m hardly an expert but regarding the chemicals we put on our skin, I’d say less is definitely more!
What I’ve tried:
- Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
- Blossom BioAffinity Toner
- Chamomile & Rosehip Sensitive Moisturiser
- Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil
- Eye cream and lip balm
THE ORGANIC PHARMACY – www.theorganicpharmacy.com
- Carrot Butter Cleanser (excellent!)
- Self Tan
- Organic Glam Foundation.
DR. HAUSCHKA – www.drhauschka.co.uk
- Volume Mascara
- Liquid Eyeliner.
REN – www.renskincare.com
- Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm (AMAZING!)
LAURA MERCIER – www.lauramercier.com
Laura Mercier isn’t exactly organic, but the mineral powder foundations tend to have less ingredients than other formulations and I found it great on my skin as an alternative to the Organic Glam Foundation. I’m going to use the latter when it’s warmer as I find the mineral powder a little heavy when it’s hot.
GREEN PEOPLE – www.greenpeople.co.uk
For shampoos, conditioners, fake-tan and suntan lotion
JOHN MASTERS – www.johnmasters.co.uk
Bare shampoo and Conditioner are expensive but very light
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