At what age does this start – What really hides behind a sweet scent?

This picture is of one of our youngest independent customers who uses her own pocket money when she needs to restock her soap. If only we could train everyone from a young age to understand how beneficial it is to use good quality basic ingredients!

From the start of life we are drawn to things either by; Smell, Touch, Visual or Sound.

I can guarantee when it comes to soap it is definitely about the smell.   It is like a moth to a flame.

When I am at an event over a number of days, I have a lot of time to people watch. I often see  someone come past the stall like a sniffing tornado, starting at one end picking up one soap inhaling the scent before moving onto the next.

When they  stop at one, you can see a glint in their eyes of recognition as the scent prompts a sense  pleasure or memory from the past. Then comes a smile and sometimes they stay and sometimes they move on.  I remember one time this lovely lady who did just that and stopped at the Damask rose with a sigh of enjoyment.I said to her, “To be honest as long as the smell is right do you even care what the ingredients are?” and with a big smile she put the soap down and moved on with her day.

Why do we not question beyond the smell that lingers from your soaps or washes?  There are 100’s of ingredients that can be used in making soaps and skincare, some are safe natural and others are  derived from petro-chemicals or other synthetically concocted ingredients. Many have been determined to be skin irritants, hormone disruptors & carcinogens*

There  is no real regulatory body and therefore poor regulations to monitor  the long term effect these synthetic ingredient have on our skin.

A simple solution?  Read the ingredients list.

Our #1 belief to skincare is  “If you cannot read the ingredients then you shouldn’t put them on your skin”.  Most of the time you wouldn’t choose to eat food with ingredients with names that are half of the alphabet, so why put these on your skin skin?

Do you read the ingredients list on your products?

Here are 2 papers that recently came my way about the effect that some ingredients can have on your or your loved ones and friends. For me one was not a surprise but the other came as a bit of a shock. Have a read to learn more.

Chemicals in beauty products may explain girls’ earlier puberty

Warning hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to skin creams made from paraffin.

Choosing safe skincare should be a priority, regardless of whether you have a visible reaction to certain ingredients or not. When making your choice, always read the ingredient list and think simple ingredients. If you do have a reaction, take note and look for a common ingredient that continually shows up on the ingredients list; it  may be to blame.

Below is our list of 9 Ingredients that should be avoided in your soaps and skincare:

1/ Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS)

–Whoever determined that an abundance of this chemical left over from the second world war that was used to clean machine parts would make a great ingredient for our bodies still baffles me.   I am sure though that they got a huge promotion as it changed the world of cleaning products forever!

Why is SLS so bad for us?

SLS is primarily used as a foaming agent, SLS makes your products have big bubbles. It is found in soap, body washes, bubble bath, shampoos, toothpaste, most of your cleaning and washing products and more.

It is known as major irritant to the skin and can strip the skin of natural oils therefore lead to excessive dryness irritations like eczema, dermatitis, itchy skin & scalp.  As it strips the skin of its natural oils, using products with SLS on your face can lead to an overproduction of oil as the skin compensates for loss of oils that have been stripped away leading to increased T Zone, acne, rosacea and dry face.

Something I find just as scary as SLS or SLSE is another coconut derived ingredient called Cocamidopropyl betaine.  It is used as an alternative to SLS therefore being able to label their products as SLS free or Natural and this ingredient can react on those with sensitive skin with itch redness or rashes.  Boy, have I heard some stories about how these products have reacted to some skin types. Even mainstream TV with Dr Chris from Trust Me I’m A Doctor shows the negative effect on your skin and why you should to stop using it.

2/ Parabens: (ethyl, butyl, methyl, propyl   –No these the names of your great aunts)

In the world of skincare parabens are used as a preservative to stop mold and growth developing in products. As an ingredient itself, it is questionable if it is problematic and anyone who has sensitive or reactive skin can react from these ingredients.

They are widely used as a cheap and effective ingredient in products like soap, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, creams and moisturisers.

The  actions of these chemicals are the  greatest concern. Parabens are known as a disruptor of hormone function and mimics oestrogens in our body. This is a major concern as oestrogens dominance has a direct link to early onset of puberty, infertility and some forms of breast cancer.  Research does not determine if parabens cause these cancers but these ingredients are found in breast tissue of people who have these forms of breast cancer. *

It’s hard for companies that wish to stock major department stores around the world as they often require a shelf life of a minimum of 3-4 years. This can sometimes be hard to achieve with non chemical preservatives.

There are many alternatives to parabens but they cost more and take a bit more effort to make the  product stable.

3/ Fragrance & Perfumes:

The words sound enticing and mysterious but these words can be used to disguise many ingredients. Fragrances have a synthetic base and like many of the ingredients on this list have shown to be disruptive to our bodies hormonal balance.* When companies use the words Fragrance and Perfume , it means they don’t have to tell us the  ingredients like phthalates and hundreds of other ingredients can are contained in their formulation.

4/ Artificial colour.

Artificial colours are put into our creams to stabilise colour,put into soaps to give them a bright pattern or lipsticks for their alluring shades. While manufacturers are required to list the dyes used in the ingredients list, they won’t list out the individual chemicals used to create the dye. In most cases you’ll find the artificial colour will be labelled with letters like C&D before a numbers.

When artificial colours are put  into things like lipsticks, we ingest these into our stomach and research shows them to be considered as carcinogens.

5/ Petro Chemicals:

I say to teenagers that come to our market stall, it they listen to nothing else I say STAY AWAY from lip balms containing Vaseline. Vaseline is a petro-chemical and easier to say Vaseline is Gasoline.  The main problem with petro chemicals be it Vaseline or Sorbolene they draw the moisture from the body & skin and actually dehydrate you therefore leading you to have to keep reapplying. Just like the colours in lipsticks as above you also eat the Vaseline and it accumulates  in your breast lymphoid tissues which is not suitable for anyone.

6/ Propylene Glycol or PEGs:

This is a  known skin irritant and can lead to hives and dermatitis.  It is found in moisturisers, makeup, shampoo and conditioners and used as a skin conditioning agent. PEGs can easily be contaminated with highly carcinogenic compounds, some of which are also known to harm the nervous system.

7/ Chemical Sunscreens.

Ingredients like PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, benzophenone, exthoxycinnmate are used in sunscreen to absorb UVA rays.  Sunscreens have been developed to stop the absorption into deep skin which leads to things like melanoma but have been known to lead to more surface skin cancers like Basal Cell Carcinoma & Squamous Cell Carcinoma. These ingredients are also disruptors that absorb into the skin which can lead to cancer and cell damage. Islands in the south pacific have now started banning sunscreens due to the damage it is doing to the reefs & their food source

8/ Environmental disruptors.

Many businesses only list a selection of what they deem to be damaging ingredients. At Olive & Ash we consider environmental damaging ingredients as something that needs to be included.

It would be amiss of me to not include palm oil to my list of ingredients not to use in your skincare.  Adding palm oil to products in itself is not harmful for the skin but it is one of the most damaging products for the environment and therefore our health.  Palm originates from Western Africa and used to be grown in well managed small scale operations, but due to the world demand as a cheap alternative is where the issues arise. Does the product that you use include the words ‘sustainable palm oil’?  Only 21% of all palm oil is considered grown from a sustainable source. Our belief is unless the palm is grown in a non-deforested locations especially in Africa then it is not sustainable.

Palm oil hides under so many names and many companies that make or even buy in a cream base and then package it would not know unless they researched all ingredients if they indeed contained palm oil.

Most skincare is made from a palm based emulsifying wax but the origins of the oil on these waxes are not stated.  Some of the common names that palm oil hides behind includes Glycerine (that does not state is from a non-palm source, Polar Emulsifying Wax, Stearic Acid, , Caprylic Triglyceride, Etyl palmitate, Glyceryl Stearate, Vegetable oil, Sodium kernelate, Sodium laureth or Lauryl sulfate or many more.

As the word ‘sustainable’ is misused and ambiguous we do not support the use of palm oil in any way and do not  use palm oil in our products.

Wiping out rain forests, which are the lungs of the earth, not only kills flora & fauna but it removes  the main filter from the earth. This will affect us in many more ways with increased global warming, pollutants that the air cannot filter and therefore our overall health.

*you may not buy any products with the impact that they have on the environment in mind but all of the above ingredients and chemicals listed can wash into the waterways.  These compounds are then found in the rivers and oceans and consumed by wildlife that you then consume.

Apart from the alterations to species,increased infertility or gender alteration due to chemicals ingested, the toxins are then passed onto yourself and your family and will inadvertently have the same effects as it does on our  sea life.

9/ And many, many more

I have left number 9 for some of those that haven’t been included above.  This list can be endless and rather disheartening but the effects of those below are no less damaging in their effects on your body. I recommend   researching them further if you are concerned that they are in the products that you use.

Triclosan and triclocarban – Used as an antibacterial & anti-fungal agent in many household products like soaps, washes, toothpaste & some cosmetics. These chemicals are linked to the following effects on human health: Abnormal endocrine system/thyroid hormone signaling, weakening of the immune system. Children exposed to antibacterial products at an early age have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema and has been banned by the FDA in the use of antibacterial soap as it has not been proven to be safe.

Formaldehyde –  Used in skincare and cleaning products as a cheap form of preservative of which the USA Based EPA classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen when used for prolonged periods.

Toluene – Is a toxic chemical used in in nail products and hair dyes. Exposure to toluene can result in temporary effects such as headaches, dizziness and cracked skin, as well as more serious effects such as reproductive damage and respiratory complications. It is encouraged to apply and remove nail polish in a well ventilated room.

Retinyl palmitate – Is an active part of retinol and combined with palm oil. It can be a problem for the skin due the hyper sensitive to the sun and thinning of the skin and increased risk of cancer and should be used with caution

Aluminum – A common ingredient in deodorants  and some trials have linked it to increased risks of developing breast cancer due to the absorption of aluminum into the skin

DEET – The main ingredient in insect repellents, when Deet containing products are used on the skin for extended periods of time some side effects are irritation, redness, a rash, and swelling. If swallowed can lead to nausea vomiting and stomach upset.

The list could be endless so I will have missed many that could be of a concern to you.

So if nothing else please read your ingredients list and eliminate those products if you suffer from irritation, rash, redness, dandruff, outbreaks, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea to see if they can be causing these issues . Do this before you resort to soap free or petrochemical based products suggested by your doctor or dermatologist and use products that put goodness back into your skin and the ingredients are written in a language that you can understand.


Olive & Ash is a company who doesn’t want anyone to miss out! We offer soaps and skincare  full of beneficial ingredients the entire family can use. By being able to use the same products it stops clutter, confusion, waste and cleaning. With the important thing your family can all rediscover what luxurious, healthy skin feels like through our range of Olive Oil based soaps & skincare.


Deb (Naturopath)

Andrew (Skincare Chef)

Part of the Olive & Ash Team

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