These days scrutinising food labels for any nasties is second nature to many of us, but how often do we read the small print on our beauty products? For Jayn Sterland, Managing Director of top natural beauty company Weleda UK, this is a life-meets-work philosophy, and she’s keen to spread the word about how clean beauty can benefit our health – as well as the planet.
‘For Weleda, it’s about being conscious of everything we use on our skin and in our personal care routines, where it comes from and where it goes to after application,’ she says. ‘This is important as research tells us that we use (on average) about twelve different cosmetics daily, many of which can contain a whole host of different synthetic ingredients, and we know we may be absorbing up to 60 per cent of products we put onto our skin.
‘Many of the conventional care products that we buy are created using synthetic ingredients in the lab rather than in the field. Whilst some ingredients are there as ‘actives’ for performance (think fluoride in toothpaste), many are used as fillers, perfumes, preservatives, or to create a more pleasurable experience (like foaming agents). These will often end up in our waterways as they are not biodegradable. We can end up not just causing potential damage to ourselves, but to nature as well.’
For Weleda the focus is on supporting the health and wellbeing of the customer. ‘We use the natural preservative powers of our plant ingredients such as essential oils,’ says Jayn. ‘We have never used – and would never use – potentially irritant man-made preservatives like M.I (methylisothiazolinone) or phenoxyethanol to prolong the shelf life of a product.
‘We also use packaging that helps us preserve the product naturally, for example aluminium tubes which keep the air out rather than bounce-back plastic tubes which fill with air as they empty. Our body lotions use airless ‘bag in bottle’ (BIB) technology that keeps air out, thanks to a clever little vacuum bag inside. This bottle design protects the preservative-free formulations, whilst remaining fully recyclable.
‘In our haircare, instead of mineral oils and silicones, we use natural plant oils which are not only organic, but also sustainable. Our nourishing jojoba oil is sourced from Argentina from a long-term organic farming partnership established over a decade ago, which takes into account fair working conditions for employees as well as the biodiversity of the area. Indeed a mix of native trees and herbs are now growing between jojoba trees on the farms.’
As Jayn acknowledges, this is taking the clean beauty concept to another level, but adopting a clean beauty approach can be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be. So we asked her for her top clean beauty tips…
8 steps to a clean beauty routine
1. Focus on everyday essentials
Clean beauty can easily be incorporated into daily life, by simply replacing each conventional cosmetic product with a natural and organic alternative when you run out. Start with the products you use most of – your toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant.
2. Read the labels
Familiarise yourself with the ingredient names that you want to avoid. Websites such as the Women’s Environmental Network and EWG’s Skin Deep are useful references. Or try apps such as SkinNinja or ThinkDirty to identify common culprits with a quick product check.
3. Start small
You could begin by simply deciding to avoid a couple of particular ingredients that you have concerns about. For instance, if you are pregnant, it may be that you are keen to reduce chemicals such as triclosan or parabens (EDCs).
4. Ditch the bubbles
At bath time, in the shower, even when cleaning your teeth. Detergents such as SLES are not skin-friendly and foaming agents do not make you any cleaner. They are also known to cause skin irritation for many of us (research shows that one in two under 35 year olds have a skin sensitivity, ranging from mild dermatitis through to severe eczema). Weleda uses plant-based cleansers, such as Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, which is made from coconut oil and plant sugars, is biodegradable and creates a low foaming lather.
5. Wash less (no, really)
Not something that you will find many beauty brands suggesting! But if we wash less, we use fewer products, which means we are less likely to strip our skin of its natural protection or alter its PH, which in turn means we don’t need to replenish it with moisturising products (We’ll waste less water too! Over the past thirty years we have tripled the amount of water that we each use daily from three gallons, to more than fifteen today.)
6. Simplify your beauty routine
This is important if skin has become particularly sensitised or you are stressed. Certified natural baby products are a good option. For example, our top selling product is our Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo & Body Wash and it’s equally popular with adults who want to reduce the amount of products they are using.
7. Look for multi-taskers
This is so that you are exposed to fewer ingredients. Weleda’s Skin Food is my own ‘miracle cream’ – always in my pocket, bag, car and by my bedside. You can use it anywhere – for dry skin, hands, feet, face. I have even been known to use it on my hair! A classic product formulated in 1926, it uses just five simple natural ingredients and it works. It’s Victoria Beckham’s favourite Weleda product too so I’m in good company!
8. Get certified
Look out for a respected natural or organic certification standard’s logo on the pack. This means you can know at a glance that the product won’t contain potentially troublesome ingredients that you want to avoid. For example, every single Weleda cosmetic bears the NATRUE seal.