In our last article we wrote about why we tend to focus on balms over creams - which really translates to why we create oil based products over water based products. In essence, it means no ‘filler’ ingredients like preservatives and the presence of more rich, hard-working ingredients to nourish the skin.
Here, we wanted to talk about what natural ingredients are, why we favour them and what we use in our skincare products. For clarity, it’s not that skincare products that don’t use ‘natural’ ingredients are bad. There are lots of amazing products on the market and as skincare junkies we love to explore them all. However, natural skincare has particular properties that some people prefer, especially when you have sensitive skin, which is much more likely during cancer treatment.
What is natural skincare?
This is really where the confusion begins, because the term ‘natural’ covers a multitude of sins. In the ‘natural’ skincare industry there are lots of attempts to make products appear as such, where the provenance of ingredients is dubious or the product composition is only part natural - which seems to defeat the point.
What most of us really assume is that ‘natural’ refers to products using ingredients that have been used in the form closest to that found in nature. That might be plants or botanical oils derived from plants, but it can also mean animal byproducts, such as honey and milk. That’s important to know if you’re looking for vegan beauty products. There is also a general consensus that 'natural' has come to mean free from synthetic ingredients such as parabens (used as preservatives).
We consider natural ingredients to be from a plant and to have had minimal processing.
Why do we favour natural ingredients?
We use natural ingredients because we find them to be powerful, nurturing and (as long as you choose appropriately), they can be extremely effective whilst minimising the likelihood of negative side effects.
For us, it’s not just about natural products, but gentle, simple ones as well. By that we mean products with a minimum number of ingredients, but making sure the ones we use do their job. There’s a very good reason for this. The more ingredients in a product, the more things your skin is exposed to, which in turn increases the chances of a reaction.
For anyone going through cancer treatment, this is the challenge with most skincare products: the ingredient list is so long it’s impossible to know what you are reacting to if/when it does react, which can make it very hard to find any products at all.
Natural doesn’t mean ineffective
One of the things we often get asked about natural products is ‘do they work?’ We have found that when they’re based on a deep understanding of each ingredient’s properties, natural ingredients are both effective and extremely nurturing.
Being natural shouldn’t be conflated with either being ineffective or indeed with the idea that they are not potent. As mentioned, we choose natural ingredients in part because of the power that they yield. For example, calendula is a favourite ingredient for reducing the severity of dry skin.
With that in mind, it should not be assumed that just because ingredients are natural you can’t have any kind of reaction to them - their potency swings both ways. Reactions are only less likely in natural products if you know what you’re putting into them.
There are extremely powerful natural ingredients, and they should always be treated with reverence. For example, we would never advocate putting even the purest of essential oils directly onto the skin - as a case in point, some can cause photosensitivity.
Equally, as wonderful as essential oils are, they tend to be too strong for anyone undergoing active cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Therefore, we don’t include them in our Defiant Beauty collection, only (in small amounts) in our Beyond Beauty range where they are used for specific purposes.
What natural ingredients do we use?
At Beauty Despite Cancer, our products have been designed with two specific goals in mind:
- To provide effective skincare solutions to the side effects of cancer treatment.
- To provide nurturing skincare that’s suitable for anyone going through cancer treatment.
Of course, they can be used by anyone who likes them as well. However, with these two goals in mind the powerful natural ingredients we have chosen are selected because they are also gentle. Some of our favourites are natural oils including peach and calendula, vitamin E, jojoba oil, and apricot kernel oil.
To date, no one has had a negative reaction to them. That’s not to say it’s not possible as cancer treatment affects different people in different ways, but it’s always front and centre of our minds to minimise that likelihood.