Most of us would agree that a little self-pampering is a good form of stress relief. Some would prefer soaking in a bath full of bubbles in candlelight, others might opt for having a massage or a facial… Either way a little “me time” and a treat to yourself feels quite luxurious – what’s not to like??


But what if I were to point out that this experience might actually be UP-ING your stress levels? If I were to say that:

  • many bath products on the market are full of industrial chemicals.
  • candles can contain almost as many toxins as cigarettes [click here for more].
  • parabens in facial products MAY be hormone disruptors and may be highly detrimental to human health.

…would you think again?


Granted, there is a lot of scaremongering out there on this one. It can be confusing reading the endless articles in the media on the subject, and there are many grey areas where more research is necessary. HOWEVER, my logic says to me that it’s really quite simple: why use products which MAY be seriously damaging to my health when there are other, natural alternatives…?





  • our skin is a complex structure, and often works as a very effective barrier. It was brilliantly designed to protect us from the daily onslaught it received from the environment, BUT that was the environment of yester-year. In today’s world, toxins are far more rife, so the barrier doesn’t always work so efficiently…
  • our skin is the largest organ of the body and is exposed to endless chemicals on a daily level. Whilst some of these are never absorbed into the system, others are. Equally, the oft-made claim that “all cosmetics enter the bloodstream” is NOT true. However, it is true to say that some do…
  • The skin’s ability to absorb is affected by many factors: skin type, age, ethnicity, environment, seasonal change, extant skin conditions…
  • 90% of the chemical ingredients used in self care products have never been fully evaluated for safety.
  • Many of us use endless cosmetics without even consciously realising it. On a daily basis we may use deodorant, toothpaste, shower gel, hand wash, shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, cleanser, moisturiser. In addition there are those products which we perhaps use less often: facial masks, exfoliators, bath products, hair masks, hair gels & oils, foot balms, antiseptic creams… Surely then our choice of self-care products matters just as much as our choice in nutrition?

I am NOT here to tell you that you will get breast cancer if you use the wrong deodorant, nor that your paraben-loaded facial cream will slowly kill you: it is just not as simple as that. What I am saying however is that much of the research IS worrying: surely if there is a possibility that these chemicals are detrimental to our health, and there are other options on the market that

  1. don’t contain these toxins
  2. actually contain ingredients that are BENEFICIAL to our health

…then it is worth re-vamping our bathroom cabinets to contain these?




There are various factors to consider here:

  1. Our face and scalp absorb 5-10 times more quickly than other parts of the body, so facial and hair care products immediately have more potential for damage.
  2. Hair products are absorbed into the scalp, AND then wash over the rest of the body. Consider also that reading the label on a “typical” shampoo bottle, “you may see as many as 20 ingredients, many of which have been synthesized in the lab”.
  3. Generally speaking, those products which we wash off will have less chance of penetration. Some products spend much longer on our skin: consider body creams; hair and face masks; deodorants; moisturisers, make-up.
  4. Deodorants used on the armpits are relatively close to the breast. Aluminium is a common ingredient in deodorants, and can clog lymph nodes in this area. Aluminium has been found in breast tumours so using such deodorants MAY present cause for concern.
  5. When it comes to our children’s skin, we surely want to avoid all toxins: consider the sheer quantity of creams, powders and oils we often drown our babies in… A particularly worrying example is eczema creams which often contain steroids (and this is made more poignant when we consider the belief – held by many – that numerous of the chemically laden moisturising creams on the market are one of the chief causes of eczema in the first place). 


There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that many of these ingredients are harmful and may produce long term health issues, though more research is needed to substantiate this. I would still insist: why encourage chemically derived products that your body simply doesn’t recognise and cannot synthesise when there are other natural options? I know with surety that I would rather not use bath products which contain petroleum, or deodorants containing aluminium, when other products do not include these potential toxins, and in addition they DO utilise ingredients which enhance my health…






1. If I am soaking in a bath it may seem wonderful to watch those large, soapy bubbles around me, but these are typically created by a surfactant or detergent (usually containing petrochemicals). Try instead a product containing coconut oil, which will produce bubbles whilst also offering a host of health benefits. It’s naturally antibacterial and anti fungal, so as well as being an effective, natural moisturiser it will boost your immunity too.

2. If you don’t feel the bubbles themselves are such a necessity, then how about going for a bath oil instead? There are many natural bath oils on the market, or you might choose to create your own. If you’re getting creative, it is important to help your chosen essential oil(s) to disperse by placing them in a base or carrier oil: this will also avoid any possible skin irritations from direct contact oil-to-skin. In addition, a carefully chosen base oil will help to naturally moisturise and nourish the skin. Examples are apricot oil, safflower oil or olive oil. [N.B. some essential oils will irritate skin and/or mucous membranes so should be avoided in bath creations – e.g. clove, cinnamon, spearmint. Try starting with some of the milder options which are definitely kind to skin, such as lavender, rose or chamomile].

3. The fragrances typically used in cosmetics can also emit endless pollutants: in a world so heavily populated by cars (meaning that burning of fossil fuels – and therefore air pollution – is ever on the increase), surely it makes sense to replace chemical fragrances with a more natural alternative where possible? Try products containing essential oils, which will produce a wonderful fragrance (opening a bottle of lemon or orange essential oil is EXACTLY like cutting the fruit in front of you & drinking in those wonderful scents). Additionally, these oils are derived from nature, and if used carefully can offer a myriad of benefits for both mental & physical health. Many are naturally antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and they are also believed to balance mood, to help boost immunity and influence hormones… Why oh why use chemical fragrances when you could choose essential oils which will genuinely enhance health holistically?



4. Our 21st century mania with keeping “clean” to avoid picking up bugs and viruses seemed innocent enough, and certainly explained soaring sales of anti-bacterial hand washes. Since 2017 however, when the American Food & Drug Administration (FDA) pointed out the potential health risks these gels and liquids present, many of them were banned in the US. The two ingredients that were deemed especially worrying were triclosan and triclocarban, but there were in fact a total of 19 suspect ingredients. Washing hands WELL in plain soap and water is actually just as effective and far less damaging, but if you’d like a further boost, guess what my fave suggestion might be? Oh yes, it’s essential oils!! So many of these oils are anti-bacterial, and by using them you will of course reap many other health benefits. Click here for more.

5. Anti-ageing creams would seem to be another 21st century mania.  Yet again, many potential risks have been at least anecdotally connected with these creams. Why not look instead for a natural alternative? At the risk of becoming repetitive, essential oils step in once more. There are many oils which possess anti-ageing properties, whilst also enhancing health on so many levels. Just one example is frankincense:

“…a cytophylatic oil which means it aids the process of skin cell regeneration. Tonifying and rejuvenating, it’s one of the most important oils for improving skin tone and treating aging skin as well as reducing scar tissue.”

6. If you use exfoliators this should be looked at both in terms of your own health and that of the planet. Most commercially produced scrubs contain microplastics which are massively damaging to our planet and by default to ourselves. Alternative options might be oats, apricot kernels, ground rice, crushed seeds, or sea salt (for a body scrub rather than for more delicate facial skin).



This really is a post which could go on forever, but I feel I have covered those self-care products which I feel most strongly about, and those which come up in conversation with clients most often. Taking on the task of switching ALL your products may seem like a mammoth job, so do be realistic and try making the change bit-by-bit. Similarly overwhelming is the job of deciding which products to change to, especially when labelling is often less than helpful in this sector. For a reliable guide to more ethical and genuinely natural products click here.

If it does all seem a little insurmountable, try to see it as a fun process: the chance to explore new products that will smell & feel fabulous as well as being good for you! And hold on too to the fact that you are making a decision which is powerful on so many levels. You will be reducing your own stress levels, enhancing both your physical and mental wellbeing, and encouraging the health of our beautiful planet as well: surely that is a decision worth making. So go on, take the plunge and start to make that change…TODAY.


DO YOU LOVE CANDLES? Why sitting surrounded by calming candles may NOT be the best stress reliever..

DO YOU LOVE CANDLES? Why sitting surrounded by calming candles may NOT be the best stress reliever..

Picture the scene: lighting a few of your favourite #candles and then sitting with a well-loved book or magazine, or listening to some relaxing music. Such a perfect way to chill and de-stress! Those candles give off such a warming glow, which in itself is relaxing – quite mesmerising in fact – and the scented ones smell so fabulous too!

So what if I were to tell you that rather than de-stressing by sitting amongst those candles, you may actually be “upping” your stressors…how would you feel? Probably stressed!! I certainly did…



I was sitting at home one Saturday evening, waiting for a friend to pop by for a glass of fizz. The kids were in bed and (finally!) settled, and I’d lit a selection of different coloured candles and arranged them in height order in my fireplace: in spite of being simple, cheap candles they looked so lovely! And I just loved that smell of vanilla… I remember tuning the radio in to something soothing and looking forward to a chilled evening of catching up.

The doorbell went and in came my friend (also Liz): I poured us each a glass of bubbles before leading her into the ‘chill zone’ of my little sitting room. Suddenly, we are anything but chilled!

“What on earth are you doing?” exclaimed Liz.
“Whatever do you mean?” I replied, laughing.
“Those candles!! Do you want to create a gas chamber for yourself??”


I should perhaps explain at this point that I was still undergoing treatment for a lung condition, hence the strength of Liz’s reaction! For my part, I felt incredibly silly for the fact that this was something that had honestly never occurred to me. In spite of preaching for years about the importance of what we put into our bodies in terms of our nutrition, I just hadn’t considered the importance of what we breathe in to our lungs – in spite of my own health condition!


Research indicates that some scented candles “produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes”: surely then this is something we should ALL be aware of? Few of us allow cigarette smoke indoors in today’s day and age – instead we ask smokers to go outside where the smoke fumes will at least be free to dissipate. And yet we light candles in small rooms, and then shut the door to better enjoy the scent! With little ventilation, we are fully exposed to this potent form of indoor pollution.

The fact is that we need to educate ourselves as to what is actually contained within our candles: we should be “reading the label” just as we do in our food products. (There is actually CLP legislation covering what must be included on candle labelling, though admittedly this is mostly concerned with fragrances and dyes, and not with the wax itself).
So what exactly is it that we should be careful about?



The majority of candles are made from PARAFFIN. This is the final by-product created when petroleum is refined (is that really what you want to be inhaling for your stress management??) Burning paraffin releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene and benzene (both known carcinogens). Short term exposure can cause irritation to eyes and to breathing; long term exposure meanwhile can lead to more serious health problems, and can certainly exacerbate complaints such as asthma and eczema.

  1. Candle wicks are typically made of braided cotton, but metals are often added to make the wick stand up straighter. Until more recently many scented candles contained LEAD within the wick: a “dangerous heavy metal”, considered to be especially detrimental to children’s health. (Back in 1999, a study produced by the University of Michigan found that approximately 30% of scented candles released lead into the air). It is now claimed that candles made in the UK and the USA rarely use lead wicks, HOWEVER there are endless cheap brands on the market imported from China and Hong Kong where there are no such promises… By far the safest way forwards is to only purchase candles which advertise that they are lead free.
  2. The SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES within candles are often derived from petroleum: possible effects range from allergic reactions to hormone disruption to birth defects… Bear in mind also that those candles that are most fragranced produce more soot, and release more dangerous toxins when burning. Soot can be inhaled when it escapes into the air, and its particles are so tiny that they can permeate deep into the lungs…
  3. SYNTHETIC COLOURING is the final consideration. Pigments used are varied, but in most cases “synthetic dyes will give off some unsafe particles on burning”.


So the good news is that we can still enjoy candles, but – much as with our nutrition & cosmetics – we do need to genuinely know what each candle contains, and to enjoy healthy candles you will probably need to spend a little more money. So, which candles should we be buying?


  1. Soy candles avoid the health risks discussed above (though this brings up the GM question, and hence environmental pollution and other health related issues).
  2. 100% beeswax candles (which have the added bonus of emitting negative ions, and therefore actually purifying air quality!) are a great option. They are also hypo-allergenic, and have a much longer burning time than paraffin candles, and rarely drip.
  3. More and more natural candle alternatives are appearing. A recent discovery is a coconut and apricot wax blend…keep your eyes peeled for more!
  4. In terms of scents, candles which use essential oils are natural and avoid all the dangers of synthetic fragrances, whilst also offering benefits to both physical and mental health for those who believe in the benefits of aromatherapy.
  5. Creating natural colour for candles is more difficult, but certain herbs and spices do work well…



So, the final answer is that yes, you can enjoy your candles. But please, please do stop and think, do the research and ask, ask, ask, rather than relying entirely on labelling which is often less than helpful. If you choose carefully, candles can in fact enhance your health. Only by making considered and informed choices will you be able to create that “chill zone” you picture, complete with flickering flames and sweet-smelling scents.

I still think of my friend Liz every time I light a (natural) candle…and am so grateful for her “gas chamber comment” – even if it did scare the life out of me at the time!!

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