As a mother of 2 small children, I have experienced firsthand my sensitivity to chemicals during my pregnancies. I specifically remember a time when I was shopping and happened to be wandering through a large chemist looking for a natural facial cleanser when I stumbled across a well known brand that I was familiar with. It contained herbal extracts and natural essential oils. I was feeling light and happy about my bump and thought I would treat myself to a luxurious product; in other words, more expensive. I had used this particular product years before and as I was feeling a little nostalgic, (as one does when they’re in the thrust of a major life changing event) thought I deserved a little indulgence.

To my surprise, it was not the same experience that I had had years before. Rather, this time the product made me feel quite nauseas and I wondered how I ever liked using it in the first place. Further investigation made me realise that this 'natural' cleanser was not what it seemed. All the ‘ingredients’ of success were there, bar one. It had a catchy name, fancy packaging and big brand advertising. It had also been certified organic, whatever that meant. I decided to look up the word 'organic' in the dictionary only to discover that it relates to any compound that contains carbon. Well that’s reassuring! Which makes me wonder how such certification actually improves its quality or does it just 'improve' its price. Yes, everything about this product emulated quality except, of course, the actual product ingredients. This seemed to be the area quality control went ‘out the window’. For whatever reasons they may have had; to say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

I had always been the one to avoid the ethereal toxic haze of the 'cleaning isle' in the supermarket and it left me shaking my head to find that a company would add natural herbal extracts to a 'quality' product then essentially negate all good intentions by adding a cheap chemical perfume & artificial preservatives. One must ask whether they are simply jumping on the ‘natural’ marketing bandwagon to enhance their sales creating the perception that if it looks good or smells good people won’t know the difference. Whose to know that the consumer won’t put two and two together and realise that the 'natural' product they left on the bathroom shelf since last 'God knows when' still hasn’t gone off. After all if something is truly natural don’t expect it to last through the heat & humidity of a long hot summer without some deterioration in its quality. When you actually think about it how can anything have a long shelf life if all its ingredients are entirely natural? Now there’s a paradox for you!

There is a common misconception with the not so discerning shopper that the stronger or more unique a scent is, the better its quality must be. In fact it was revealed to me by an employee of a skin care company purporting to offer 'organic' (there’s that word again) ingredients that they were in-fact not at all as they appeared to be. Essential oils, for example have different grades where the poor quality ones are more suitable for industrial use as opposed to the delicate nuances favoured in good aromatherapy skin care products. A company worth their salt would have strict laboratory testing and analysis in place to ensure that each oil is free of contaminants and meets high international therapeutic standards. If the company confidently discloses their standards then they have nothing to hide. Yes it’s true we live in a world of ubiquitous illusion and deception but we all have the freedom to make an informed choice; the convenience of the artificial or the security of the natural.

As I have discovered, the more you remove yourself from artificial chemical substances in your day to day life, the more sensitive you will become to their toxic tentacles. We are becoming a society that is indubitably weakened by diseases such as asthma and severe allergies to chemicals everywhere. Our children are constantly bombarded with artificial chemicals and external visual stimuli. Exposure to computers, television, plethora of shops, furnishings, carpets, sprays, cleaning products and toys full of manmade plastics etc is enough to send their immune systems into hyper overload. These things are all around us – all the time. It’s easy to ignore and see it as simply ‘the sign of the times’. We as human beings come from nature but how much nature do any of us, especially those locked away in their suburban enclaves or city high rise, truly experience on a day to day basis? And more importantly, how can we balance out this toxic overload?

There are changes that we all can make to avoid the so called toxic time bomb.

1. Use natural personal care products. Quality Aromatherapy products in a vegetable base should fit the bill providing there are no artificial fillers. Remember that some well known brands have to cover their expensive brand name marketing costs by either increasing price or decreasing quality, so buyer beware.
2. Eucalyptus is good for removing grease from most clothes. It is also a great disinfectant so can be used in the kitchen or bathroom. Naturally it is great for treating coughs and colds so keep it in your home remedy kit.
3. For household cleaning try the old fashioned but effective use of bicarb-soda and vinegar. These are time tested favourites. Add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil such as lemon, lime, maychang, orange or lemongrass. If you find the citrus oils too bright soften with a drop of lavender.
4. Remove chemical based cleaning products from the home and replace them with microfibre cleaning cloths. Just add water and your favourite essential oils once again. They last for months and months and will save you a lot of time and money with their multi-purpose uses.
5. Make up your own air fresheners for bedroom and bathroom. Add your favourite citrus blend for the bathroom and something more floral like rose and ylang ylang with a touch of earthiness for the bedroom such as cedarwood, sandalwood or vetivert.
I am now reminded of a time when I nursed an old blind man in England who told me that drinking pink baby lotion, (the same one that is used for nappy rash) kept him, and I quote, "smooth on the inside"! It makes you wonder about the other chemical cocktails he was taking to supposedly improve his health. How desensitised can you get?

We owe it to ourselves and our family to become discerning in our day to day choices and not blinded by slick marketing and advertising hype. Maybe the person selling these so called natural products should adapt the phrase of a well known fast food chain and ask you before you finalise your purchase, "Would you like some chemicals with that?"

Author's Bio: 

Angela Power has been practicing aromatherapy for nearly 20 years & enjoys writing articles on natural skin care & the benefits of essential oils. She provides her knowledge through her real life experiences & her ‘Garden Apothecary’ website features informative articles on Aromatherapy, Natural Skin Care and Essential Oils.