Conscious Living is about more than just organic skincare.
We have been on a wonderful journey in the last few years and wanted to take the opportunity to share some experience and hopefully good advice with you.
Please don’t take this as prescriptive – we all follow our own path.
A personal story
My name is Quentin and I am lucky enough to be a partner here at Conscious Skincare.
I was a child of the 70’s and grew up not really thinking about organic – it wasn’t even a word we used! Part of my life was helping my dad with various DIY jobs at the weekend. You didn’t get people to do those kind of things, you just got on and did it yourself. The exposure to all those paints and chemicals was not even considered as we didn’t bother with any protective gloves, masks or clothing.
A huge change occurred several years ago when one weekend I had been out treating a summerhouse with wood stain. In the evening I noticed a slight tingling in my fingers, and felt unwell.
This was the start of an event that culminated about 2 weeks later with being admitted to hospital with shaking so severe I was virtually unable to walk. Symptoms included no appetite, a strong metallic taste, excess sweating with metal odour, totally inability to sleep, total loss of appetite, headaches, nausea, tremors, constant and uncontrollable shaking, to name but a few.
My stay in hospital was shortlived as they were unable to determine the source of my illness. Unfortunately once the standard investigation checklist has been followed I was advised that repeated experience of this would result in me being referred for psychiatric help!
Have you ever tried to find out what is in a tin of commercial wood preservative?
It was not until several months later I discovered after independent blood tests that effectively I had been poisoned. The wood stain, some of which had absorbed directly through my skin (a patch was on my elbow unnoticed) was the final straw for my body. Years of not giving a thought to the world of toxicity that surrounds us, sleeping at that time on a recently purchased mattress full of chemicals such as fire retardants, effectively tipped my body over the edge.
I did recover over time, although had I known now what measures I could have taken to help would have definitely speeded up my recovery. Long lasting symptoms like muscle fatigue still exist and I doubt will ever go as my system changed forever, but following the kind of lifestyle described below along with a constant awareness of the chemical world that we live in certainly helps.
These are some of the things our family puts into practice – I hope it helps!
Why Organic Skincare?
Did you know your skin is the largest organ in your body and accounts for 70% of your body’s composition. It absorbs and protects.
I think about exposure to chemicals on a daily basis. What about the products you use every day?
Hand wash, face wash, shower products, how many times a day do you wash your hands – what soap are you using? What do you wash up the dishes with, what does it contain?
I use our organic products as much as possible because I know what is going into them. I understand where they are made, and I know that they are completely cruelty free. They are a small but important part of the overall picture, but one that you can make an active choice over.
Think about the harsh ingredients and toxins that are going into your skincare and is then directly absorbed into your system. Some chemicals are unable to be broken down by our bodies and accumulate in fatty tissue as the body does not have anywhere else to put them. Years of exposure can lead to accumulations of pounds of toxins building up in our bodies.
Recently after years of using the same roll on deodorant (good basic ingredients, aluminium free, free from any harsh chemicals) I got a skin reaction on both armpits. It just shows that you can develop a reaction to a product at any time.
The only solution for me has been to go back to basics. Stop using the product immediately, and currently I apply virgin organic coconut oil. Soothing and anti microbial. After a couple of weeks the reaction has completely gone.
I am currently experimenting with various essential oils and if successful it could be the start of a new product for us!
Here are some top tips on ingredients to avoid when going green.
We also need to think holistically about our life in general
What lifestyle choices you make are entirely personal of course.
Diet is a huge topic, but I try to be relatively good. Sourcing organic food locally is a always a great starting point – we are lucky enough to have the BBC award winning local food market in St Dogmaels on our doorstep. Wherever you are there is usually a good local producer or farm shop nearby. Ours smells of wonderful fresh produce when you walk in. We supplement fresh fruit and salads with home grown sprouting seeds for example.
There was a great programme on recently on the BBC about the benefits of following a vegetarian diet and how it can increase life expectancy.
But interestingly not all organic food is the same. Shopping organic is expensive, and in my view a price worth paying. In the 50’s we used to spend 1/3 of household income on food. Now it has dropped to 15 % with the advent of cheap food with little or no nutritional value. Keeping food a priority in life is expensive but hopefully a beneficial choice you can make.
‘To receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples; today you have to eat 36’
Did you know different food contains different amounts of ‘chemical calories’. What does this mean – well it is worth paying the price to buy the organic alternative to food that is high in chemical calories – i.e has a high chemical content. Analysis shows some food has a much higher content e.g fresh fruit and veg whilst dried fruits are generally much lower. 30% of bread in the UK contains the probable carcinogen Glyphosate.
Exercise is of course really important. In combination with the benefits of regular saunas I have found this to really help in reducing the chemical burden on our bodies.
How about the water you drink?
On a daily basis in the UK on average we use 157 litres of water a day. During my poisoning experience I tried to find out what our drinking tap water at home contained. This was pretty difficult, but the water companies own analysis showed our water contained several banned pesticides (even ones like DDT which have been banned since the 1970’s). These are deemed OK for us to drink as they are ‘within acceptable EU limits’.
I didn’t like the idea of consuming this and installed a filter to our drinking water. You can find some good advice here at the freshwater filter company if you are interested. I have found the filters to work really well with great tasting water in the knowledge that at least we are trying to take out some of the nasty stuff present in our drinking supply.
Another health decision I made was to remove all my mercury fillings. Having read lots of information on the subject (there is tons out there) the thought of having some of the most toxic chemicals millimeters away from our brains didn’t fill me with hope. Although the replacement fillings are probably still full of who knows what, I hope that taking the likes of mercury out of my system is a better choice.
Another huge topic is our houses and indoor air quality as it is where we spend a great deal of our time. I can’t do it justice in this article but hope to add to this content over time as it is a topic close to my heart.
Furniture, bedding, flooring, paint, soft furnishings all are giving off toxins into the air. This is without adding to it with air fresheners, scented candles, washing powders, sprays etc .
How do you start to resolve this?
Stop using all of the artificial fragrance producers and think about every single item you are bringing into your house. Does it have to be new? Please see the section below on purchasing. If so, can you buy an alternative?
In my life I recently had to replace the mattress I suspected of adding to my chemical overload. Faced with that experience, I could not buy another chemical laden mass produced item as it is where we spend such a significant amount of our lives.
Fortunately I found Dojo Ecoshop who hand make organic wool mattresses. Rebecca and I paid them a visit to try out the different mattress styles and were massively impressed.
Sarah and Jonathan were extremely helpful, and the quality of the mattresses are fantastic. Latex cores are wrapped with organic wool outers – and having slept on ours now for several months I can say they are comfortable and affordable in comparison to the cost of mass produced commercial ones. You can enjoy a great sleep in the knowledge there is nothing harsh from a chemical perspective affecting you.
We also have wool pillows which are great as they are soft and always have the right temperature for the conditions. It is worth investing in a good mattress protector to also help keep dust mites at bay.
If you are planning on some decoration it is worth considering the paint you are going to use. Have you ever looked at (or tried to) what a tin of paint contains?
Paint tends to offgass VOC’s for years after painting. Just the smell during application even with low VOC commercial paints is too much for me.
We have used ECOS paints for several years and I think the quality is excellent, whether in matt for a wall or a wood paint. I am currently painting my son’s chest of drawers a nice bright lime green.
For a fantastic range of paints and some great advice I would highly recommend Celtic Sustainables. They stock a comprehensive array of Earthborn Clay paints (even better than ECOS) aswell as loads of natural building and energy saving products. You will be amazed at the quality and range, and it really is such a pleasure to paint without getting headaches from VOC’s. You are also safe in the knowledge you are not destroying the indoor air quality for yourself and your children.
I am sure you are also familiar with how awful and irritating conventional loft insulation is to use. Check out the natural insulation range that Celtic Sustainables have for some really easy to use wool based products – this stuff feels great.
Plants can also be a great way to help filter air and improve indoor air quality. Specific plants can be very good including peace lilies and spider plants. We have some of these dotted around to assist in purifying the air.
Our old cottage also suffered from indoor mould problems, which can really affect some people. We found Airpure purifiers to be really effective in bringing down mould levels.
This is another big subject but you may like to check out this link the a review of healthy flooring by ethical consumer.
It is important to think about hard floors being better than carpets not only from a cleaning perspective (they trap less dust and allergens), but carpets are also notorious for off-gassing in a similar fashion to paints – just think about how a room with a new carpet smells.
Using wood flooring helps – but you need to think about how the wood has been sourced and also have glues / varnishes etc been used in the construction and finish of the product.
One of the best we came across and found to be high quality was MOSA bamboo flooring – ethical, great looking and the lowest rating I could find from a tested source for any harsh VOCs.
Perhaps an alternative such as cork may work (insulating and from a renewable source) or linoleum (not the stuff made from petrochemicals).
Does Wi-fi concern you?
It does us. Our brains work on an an electrical basis and I am sure that constant wi-fi signals 24 hours a day is a ticking time bomb.
I was particularly concerned with it affecting the sleep pattern of children as they are trying to grow and develop. However with modern life it is difficult to get away from the handy wi-fi with smart TV, phones and tablets all reliant on this device.
One great solution we used was to first install a wi-fi router that can have the wi-fi part switched off (but still function as a router). Then to get several small plug in devices that fit into your electrical socket into which you plug your device. Hey presto – your broadband signal now goes through the wiring system of your house and you can have your laptop and smart tv functioning as normal without the wi-fi signal on. A great idea that sounds a bit crazy but it does really work. You could of course just limit the wi-fi on to just a short period of time instead!
What kind of cleaning products do you use? For years we have used home made cleaning sprays with a vinegar base….. very effective and good to know you are not breathing in anything nasty.
Try a solution of 50% distilled vinegar, 40% water, a squirt of eco washing up liquid, a dash of lemon juice and a few drops of antibacterial essential oils like ti tree, peppermint or lavender!
Also best to use a vacuum with a good HEPA filter to help keep that indoor air free of allergens.
What about when we need to go and buy things in life?
This infographic illustrates how many planets we need to support different groups of consumers around the world.
I follow the premise that if it is possible to buy it second hand and re-use then all the better. Not always possible, but I have just re-painted a lovely old stag wardrobe found in our local second hand furniture shop. Already 60 years old but as solid as the day it was made. It is hard to find items of this quality of manufacture these days.
At Conscious Skincare we believe it is important to consider all aspects of your life when thinking about sustainable and ethical goods. Please see the carefully selected sources of information below to help you discover the many wonderful businesses out there!
The Compassionate Shopping Guide is provided by Naturewatch Foundation, an animal welfare charity promoting ethical companies that have a cruelty-free animal testing policy in place. The guide helps you use your purchasing power to influence companies to seek a more ethical animal testing policy, so why not check it out today!
I would firstly highly recommend ethical WARES. They have been selling Vegan footwear since 1993, and now have a tremendous range of animal and people friendly footwear (aswell as lots of nice fairtrade and cruelty-free clothing and accessories).
The fantastic part is that the income from ethical WARES goes to fund the care of the 50 or so animals living there at Caegwyn (near us in West Wales). ‘A motley crew if ever there were one; consisting of goats, sheep, pigs, 2 old horses, cats, dogs, rabbits and Aunt Dotty the cow.’ Fabulous!
We are personally huge fans of BAM Bamboo Clothing, an ethical UK company which has a really fantastic range of clothing made from sustainable bamboo. Having tried many items from the range ourselves we can certainly say these are some of the nicest clothes you can buy!
To compliment your BAM clothes we can also personally testify that Will’s Vegan Shoes are not only human and animal friendly, but of a fantastic quality. It is brilliant that there are UK companies out there offering these kind of quality products.
SOURCED is a British manufacturer of Truck Tarp bags and accessories. They produce a range of goods including Messenger bags, Laptop cases and iPad sleeves in Cornwall. Having purchased one of these as a present, the quality, look and feel are excellent.
Have you ever thought about jewellery that is not only bespoke, beautiful and hand made in England, but ethically sourced aswell? Visit our friends at LaJewellery for more information.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article, watch this space for more information coming soon!