Words by Elle Halliwell
Elle Halliwell, as 2019 Australian Organic ambassador, launched Australian Organic Awareness Month, hosting the campaign’s annual lunch. The lunch kicked off the initiative and featured the best of Australian organic produce. The month celebrates the hard work of organic producers from a range of key industries including the popular organic beauty and skincare industry. Media, influencers and celebrities including Jules Sebastian, Zoe Marshall, Lana Jeavons-fellows and Zoe Bingley-Pullen were in attendance. And no surprise, but very pleasing, Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford confirmed everyone’s gut feeling: “The Australian organic domestic industry is growing rapidly year on year”.
September is Australian Organic Awareness Month
Australian women are getting smarter and more discerning when it comes to the contents of their beauty cabinets. And as more information becomes available about some chemical soups hiding within the lotions and potions at the beauty counter, conscious consumers are keenly seeking out greener and cleaner alternatives.
It pays for us all to be aware of marketing spin and the trend of ‘Greenwashing’. This is when some companies are letting the industry down by marketing their products as natural when a glance at the ingredients list reveals they are clearly not, so it’s important for you as a Beauty Advisor in a position of authority, educating your customers to do your research.
Since my cancer diagnosis in 2016, I’ve armed myself with the knowledge and skills to make sure the products I put on my skin are as natural as possible.
September is Australian Organic Awareness Month, so if you’re selling and are interested in organic skincare, look out for the certified organic “bud logo” on the label – which tells you if a product is genuinely organic.
When studying ingredients on labels, here are the main culprits you need to be aware of:
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)
SLS is a surfactant which allows foam to form – in other words ‘the lather’ in shampoo and shower gels, as well as helping to remove oils. Surfactants can strip lipids from the skin, causing irritation and dryness, although it depends on how much you use and how naturally sensitive you are. A lot of natural hair products use alternatives such as decyl glucoside and lauryl glucoside, which are safer alternatives.
Parabens are the main preservatives that help products last longer. They’re used in pretty much everything including skin lotion, mouthwash and toothpaste. Some research indicates that parabens may be hormone disrupters. The Cancer UK foundation says parabens have similarities to oestrogen – high levels of which can cause cancer. However, they are in a weaker form, so any effects might be overwhelmed by natural oestrogen produced in the body – as long as the body is in good health. Other preservatives to look out for are imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, phenoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and formaldehyde which can exacerbate skin allergies.
I’m personally a big fan of essential oils. I use them for everything; making my home smell beautiful, as an addition to my homemade laundry and cleaning products, for body and face care (added to a carrier oil) as well as a treatment for minor ailments.
For example, I love adding a few drops of lemon myrtle, eucalyptus and peppermint oil on a linen bag a bag of soap nuts before adding it to a load of washing, as it makes clothes smell incredible. I also add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil to coconut oil and dab on my temples for a boost of energy in the afternoon.
However, for those who suffer from eczema or sensitive skin, then they should go easy with them and test small patches of their skin first to see how it may react.
According to a study from the University of West Georgia as many as 30 percent of people said they find scented products irritating. Those with asthma or chemical sensitivities may find strong scents particularly problematic due to the allergy-like symptoms they cause. Basically a ‘perfume allergy’ is either a fragrance sensitivity or a reaction to some chemical irritant in the perfume. It’s a bit of a grey area because whilst one perfume may make you sneeze like crazy, another one won’t. There are so many wonderful essential oil-based fragrances on the market these days, that they’re worth checking out.
What you can do if you’re sensitive?
Obviously, I’d advocate for going all-organic with beauty products! However, if there’s a few items that have become ‘can’t live without’ products at least check out those with the fewest ingredients as this will lower the chances of a reaction. Also recommend patch tests, suggest applying fragrance to clothes, not the skin, and beware of labels that insist they’re ‘hypoallergenic’ or ‘dermatologist tested’ as we just never know how each individual will personally react.
Elle Halliwell is a media personality, health coach, author and mum of one. She is a current ambassador for Australian Organic.