The beginning of Beginnings, handmade, natural, organic and luxurious soaps & body products made in Mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland. 100% Natural.
I first became interested in natural bath and body products when my son developed eczema when just a few weeks old. I went through all the usual steps, dairy free diet, loads of prescription creams and bath products, but it did not work. Yes, a prescripton milk powder and dairy free diet did show a good improvement, but the eczema never went away. The prescription creams were not popular with my wee son, and he often cried when I put them on as they caused stinging. Although they seemed to help they did not make the eczema disappear.
So, I started buying creams and baby bubble baths that were more "natural". In other words they didnt smell like perfume, they weren't brightly coloured and they were more naturally preserved ( no parabens). The trouble is that the more I read up about the ingredients, the more restricted I became in what I wanted to buy. The truth of the matter is that our chemists and supemarkets are laden with products that are potentially very dangerous and not without controversy. Online shopping became a necessity for me, and my son soon got to the stage where he simply did not need cream applied every day, his skin was clear. He does still have the odd mild patch or break out, usually at Christmas and Easter due to eating too much chocolate!
As for when I crossed the line in starting to make my own products, I can't actually remember, but I soon became fascinated with the old traditional method of cold process soap making. You are much more likely to see colourful displays of "Handmade" soaps in shops that have been made by the melt and pour method. You will recognise this type of soap easily, if it is brightly coloured and smells of things like strawberries, honeysuckle or baby powder you can be sure it is made from a bought in soap base that is melted, laced with synthetic dyes and fragrances and labelled "Handmade Soap". Ridiculous, but true! I do have a good advantage in having a degree in Biological Sciences, soap making is chemistry, chemistry, chemistry!!! Cold process soap making is certainly not for the faint hearted, but for me it is by far the best method for producing natural, effective soap bars. I also have great faith in the potential healing properties of herbs and other botanicals, and try to introduce these to my soaps.
As I read more and more, I became aware that creams and lotions often contain about 50% water. Not only are the producers charging a lot of money for water, but because of all this water, chemical preservatives must be added. However, I then became aware of balms and butters, which do not contain water and so do not need preservatives. Eventually I began to make some simple combinations of oils, butters and essential oils. What surprised me was the fact that eliminating chemicals from products does mean less in terms of performance and effectiveness. The natural ingredients produce amazing products that actually work, that have numerous benefits and nutrients and that can that be enjoyed safely. It can be confusing sorting the truly natural from what is labelled as being natural, this table is added as a rough guide.
|Ingredients To Avoid|
Environmental Working Group(EWG) list that phthalate exposure has been shown in scientific studies to be linked with reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, hormanal and reproductive changes in men and early puberty onset in girls.
What are these chemicals you may well ask? They are found in many synthetic fragrances. Sadly, almost all products are fragranced entirely or partly synthetically as essential oils are a much more expensive option. These phthalates do not have to be listed on the ingredients label, it will simply say parfum or fragrance, etc. In other words, the only way to be sure of avoiding such is to buy unscented or truly natural products with pure essential oils. Phthalates are also found in soft vinyl products such as childrens lunchboxes, be careful what you buy, plastic codes 1, 2 or 5 are preferable.
The average consumer has now heard of the infamous parabens. They are very effective preservatives in cosmetics, and widely used. Since this recent awareness, some companies have now started to remove them and state they are paraben free. Sounds great? Don't be deceived, they are replacing them with other preservatives, I cannot think of a single one that I would happily use in my products, which is why I make 100% natural, products free from water, which do not need a preservative. Listed as many different forms, look out for anything ending in paraben, eg. methylparaben(E218) Ethylparaben(E214), butylparaben, isopropylparaben, Propylparaben(E216) etc.
Why avoid them? Many state that they cannot be absorbed into the body, if that were true why are they often found in breast tumours? I could go on and on, check this out yourself online, there is a whole minefield of information.
Used as a highly effective anti bacterial agent, this is found in many liquid soaps, shower gels, clothing, household goods, among others. It is hoped that it is to be phased out due to safety concerns, make sure you avoid it in the meantime.
Retinyl palmitate and Retinoic acid
EWG list these as ingredients to avoid, found in anti ageing creams and sun screens. May actually increase the risk of skin cancer. Under review for safety. Avoid sun screens with a SPF higher than 50, or those with added insect repellents. Irecommend the Badger suncreams, available from Amazon.
Formaldehyde and nail polish/products
Chemical hair straighteners may contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent). They often list misleading safety claims, EWG recommend you avoid them altogether.
Also found in nail polish and other nail products. If you really MUST use nail polish opt for one that says 'three free'. These are free from formaldehyde and two known reproductive disruptors, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene. However, it is now emerging that these claims are not to be relied on for a safe product. If you are pregnant I seriously advise you totally avoid nail products.
PEG's (Polyethylene glycol) and propylene glycol
Both found in emulsifiers, skin conditioners, cleansing agents among others. Increased risk for cancer, often contaminated, it opens the pores in the skin helping it to absorb even more of what is applied to it. May have a number after it, egPEG-7, propylene glycol may be labelled under PPG, and many other names.
Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate (SLS)
Used as foaming and thickening agents. Widely used as foamer in shampoos, soaps, etc, skin irritant.
1,4 - Dioxane
In a study done by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 32 out of 48 childrens products had this detected in them, some of them claiming to be natural and organic. Won't be listed on ingredients, look for PEG ingredients, as above.
Urea, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Bronopol, Tetrasodium EDTA
Very widely used as preservatives, the problem here is that they can possibly break down into or release formaldehyde or nitrosamine, both known to cause cancer, and thought to affect hormones and reproduction.
Petrolatum (Petrolium jelly and mineral oils)
Made from crude oil, widely used as an emollient as it is very cheap. It creates a barrier on the skin, toxins cannot be released and pores are blocked, causing problems. I find it hard to believe that it is used to treat dry skin problems??? used widely in lip balms, lipstick, baby lotions, baby oil, creams etc etc. Petrolatum isnt the problem, it is the impurities it contains that are linked with cancer.
Used as a preservative, often in baby wipes, shampoos, baby lotions, perfumes, hair colours, head lice treatments, etc etc. Thought to be a neurotoxin and skin irritant.
The list goes on and on and on.......
I cant include everything here, but as a general rule, products you buy cannot be trusted with their claims for being natural, safe, organic, approved by doctors etc etc. If it contains a list of chemical sounding names and letters and numbers I seriously advise putting it back on the shelf very quickly or if you have bought it, dump it! Money isn't everything, you can't buy your health.
Please note that this list is by no means comprehensive, if you come across an ingredient and are unsure if it is safe, simply google the name of the ingredient and the word danger or health hazzard. There are websites such as the skin deep cosmetic database that provides a hazzard rating out of ten for individual products.
Some good general advice is to open your mind as to what is going on. Just because something is legally on sale, by well established brands, sadly does not mean that it is good, wholesome and trustworthy. Often it is simply down to cost, the cheaper they can produce something the better. Once you have used a truly natural product you will realise that you have been paying a lot of money for products which often fail to produce the desired effect, never mind the dangers associated with controversial ingredients. We have an abundance of natural oils, butters, essential oils etc. that have been created for our benefit, yet man in his arrogance thinks he can manipulate these natural resources, or worse, create his own toxic creations for our use. Bear in mind that approximately 60% of what is applied to the skin is absorbed into the body. If you think that sounds far fectched, think how quickly the ingredients of a nicotine or hormone patch reach the blood stream. Toxic ingredients applied to our skin via body products are absorbed and then stored in the body, indeed parabens(preservatives) have been found inside cancerous breast tumours.
You may be reading this and thinking that you don't need to use natural products, as you don't suffer from skin problems. Unless I am badly mistaken I would assume that you like to use body products that work, that feel great and improve your skin. Beginnings products do all this and more.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, but why not do a little online reading yourself? There is an abundance of material relating to such matters, it is time for the public to stop buying rubbish like blue shower gels, stripy toothpastes and "strawberry" lipbalms, and get the message across to the makers of this junk that we have had enough!