It can be difficult, when starting out trying to minimise potentially toxic synthetic chemicals in your household, to know where to start. Some people are able to just blitz their under sink and bathroom cabinets of anything containing suspect ingredients, ditch the lot and restock with more natural products.
I wasn’t one of those people and I know I’m not alone. I’ve been a teenage mother. I’ve been a working-on-a-low-income mother and a stay-at-home mother. I’m currently a mum-of-many-children mother. All of these things can bring financial challenges and, lets just say that we are, like very many, on a strict budget. If I was just starting out finding out about potential toxins and wanting to #DitchTheJunk (link at the end of the post), I wouldn’t be able to simply empty all of my cupboards and buy all new.
However, I’ve been doing this more natural product thing for a while now and so I have a few tips and, leaving aside alternatives to common household cleaning products (which I hope to cover in another post soon), I do have some great recommendations for basic buys if you’re a family on a budget.
Often you seem to pay for what’s left out (rather than put in) and many synthetic-filled cosmetics are cheaper than more ethical and natural brands. This is often because many of the chemicals that I am trying to avoid are used as cheap fillers to maximise the profit of the brand (and chances are said chemicals have also been tested on animals at some point – big sad face!) Chances are that these same ingredients have been sourced solely based on their cost vs the profit that they make, rather than any consideration for the wider environmental and social impact.
It is this attention to the sourcing and cultivation of good quality ingredients, plus a commitment to producing products that are free from petroleum-derived ingredients; GMOs; synthetic chemicals, preservatives and fragrances; that have not been tested on animals that can also make more conscientious brands, such as Weleda, appear more expensive than some synthetic alternatives – however, what really makes me baulk is how much MORE expensive some well known mainstream brands are when you realise that their ingredients are predominantly synthetic and potentially toxic! A quick trawl through the internet (or your local supermarket, chemist, etc) and you will find day creams that are easily £40 or more. Compare that to the £7.95 Calendula Face Cream, featured in a Marie Claire article as one of their best moisturisers for under £10 (please note that since the Marie Claire article there has been a price rise to £9.50 – but still under a tenner!)
Suddenly more natural and ethical companies such as Weleda start to look a whole lot more reasonable!
Now, it is bluntly true that I could choose to not use any specific bought cosmetics at all (and I have tried the “no poo” thing and just used things like bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar to “wash” my hair; made my own deodorant; etc) but, chances are, you may not want to go all out crunchy and skip everything you are probably used to using (and the thought of doing so probably brings the majority of people out in a cold sweat). You want to move away from those potential nasties hiding in your bathroom cabinet and make-up bag, but you’re on a budget and you want to know where to start.
So what do you do?
Pare it down. What are your must haves? Any specific skin issues? Do you have children to buy for as well? Start with the basics and add in one thing at a time.
My Top Five Basic Buys for a family
In no particular order, based on my own family’s basic cosmetic and personal hygiene needs.
You will likely be wanting to wash yourself and the Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash is a two-in-one product suitable for all the family. Made with extract of organic Calendula and organic Sweet Almond Oil, this shampoo and wash is gentle and light-smelling and good for sensitive skin. In time you could maybe look at one of Weleda’s dedicated shampoos and there’s a fantastic range of body washes and also a few bar soaps, but if money is tight and you need to double-up, you really can’t go wrong!
Children’s Tooth Gel £3.75
Unless you’re a fan of making your own toothpowder, you will be wanting a toothpaste of some sort. Weleda do a range of toothpastes, but if you have children, you might want to start with one specifically for them that can be used by all the family. Fluoride-free Children’s Tooth Gel looks after new and developing teeth and provides natural protection. With “extract of organic calendula flowers to keep gums healthy, silica for thorough cleaning and natural flavours of fennel and spearmint” there are no ingredients that could cause harm if swallowed.
In practice here we have both the Children’s Tooth Gel and I favour the Calendula. However, my middle daughter and son and partner favour the Ratanhia (my partner says that it tastes more like how he thinks toothpaste “should” taste, i.e. strong and minty – whilst I love mint tea and often make my own from home-grown mint, I’ve grown unaccustomed to it in toothpaste, hence my preference for the more gentle tasting Calendula). The Salt toothpaste (pictured at the beginning of this article) is also a very popular buy!
Yes, this is becoming a bit of an ode to Calendula, but please bear with me, it really is an excellent first port of call! Weleda offer a gorgeous selection of body oils (and lotions if that is your preference) but made from just organic Sesame oil and extract of organic Calendula flowers, the gentle Calendula Baby Oil is simple, unfragranced and suitable for all the family. If you prefer a lotion, the Calendula Baby Lotion is a light, gentle lotion, formulated to care for delicate skin – again, perfect for all the family!
All three of the main Calendula products (including the Calendula Lotion) in my Top Five Basic Buys are all in regular (and in the case of the toothpaste, daily) use in my house, but we also have our own personal preferences from the further range of body oils and lotions and I will be covering this in another post.
Almond Facial Oil £17.95
Just in case you thought I was having a solely Calendula love-in in my Top Five Basic Buys, here’s something from a different range. I’ve been using almond oil on my skin for well over a decade now. It’s simple and multi-purpose – you can cleanse and moisturise with it (it makes a good eye make up remover for teens who favour heavy black eyeliner and mascara as well) and a little goes a long way! It is the oil I use when doing facials and I really cannot recommend it enough. Personally I stick with it just on my face (there are more economical oils to use for moisturising the rest of you!)
Almonds are packed full of beneficial minerals and vitamins and are high in unsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E (a known anti-oxidant that fights free radicals that age the skin). Perfect for nurturing and protecting even sensitive skin, the Almond Facial Oil is gentle and suitable for family to use (from 40 down to toddler). Yes, I also have a favourite cream I use, but my bottle of almond oil is still in regular (usually daily) use and in past difficult years, whether they be financial or the blips I have had with my skin being very sensitive and dry, almond oil was my skin saviour when I had to simplify!
Citrus Deodorant £9.50
I’ll let you into a secret, I am a big fan of home-made deodorant made from coconut oil and bicarb, perhaps a couple of drops of essential oil, honestly it’s great! But my partner isn’t as convinced (he won’t try it) and my teenage daughter would prefer to spray and this is where the Citrus Deodorant comes into play as it’s useable by all deodorant-using family members (ie the three oldest here) without affecting any gender preferences.
Weleda offers a further range of deodorants – I love the rose and the sage is a great choice for both men and women as well. However, where money is tight and something needs to be shared, I think the Citrus is a happy medium that suits all of us – plus it’s a nice burst of uplifting citrus first thing in the morning when you could maybe do with a pick me up.
Deodorants are rather notorious for containing some nasty ingredients (see Breast Cancer UK’s excellent #DitchTheJunk campaign, link at the end of this post), but with Weleda deodorants you can rest assured that there isn’t any aluminium and all the ingredients are natural (they also come in a recyclable glass bottle with a non-aerosol pump spray).
After the Basics, What Next?
Now having covered what I consider to be the basics for my family, ie washing, teeth, moisturising and deodorant, what would I go for next?
Skin Food £10.95
It had to appear in here somewhere! I have dry skin – not helped on my hands by me needing to wash them a lot during the day (small children and more than a few animals) and me preferring to garden without gloves (soil can make your fingers very rough!) or my feet from me pottering around barefoot as soon as the weather warms (I love the feeling of soil on my bare feet in the summer). Not just for your hands -in cold winter weather it makes a great barrier (although Weleda do produce a Weather Protection Cream) and is fantastic for preventing chapping. I’ve heard stories of people putting it on the ends of dried out hair and as a make-up primer (I’m sure there’s more!) It’s also a multi-award-winning product that has stood the test of time (having celebrated its 90th birthday at London Fashion Week in 2016).
Shaving Cream £10.50
Not just for men, great for anyone who shaves. Anecdotally I’ve heard the body washes are also creamy enough for helping with the shaving of body parts.
Calendula Nappy Cream £6.95
Not just for sore bums! This is the first product from Weleda that I ever bought. Desperate to find something to help with my eldest daughter’s awful nappy rash when she was a baby I tried the nappy cream when it was recommended by a number of people on various Bulletin Boards (remember them? The forums used before things like Facebook?) The same, now teenage, daughter uses it on her spots and it is also good for any area that is itchy and sore.
Not a cosmetic product, but a basic in this house. Perfect for those inevitable bumps and bruises. This is another Weleda product of longstanding in my household and well worth adding to a basic kit. I will be writing a further blog post on the various Healthcare products available from Weleda, but out of all of them, this is the one most commonly used here!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the suggestions. They constitute what I consider are good basic recommendations for a family to start with if you’re on a tight budget, but every family is different and you may find other choices more suitable. In my family we have various other products that we use in addition to the above depending on the person – which I will save for another article – and of course, in time you can build upon any basic buys.
What are your favourite Weleda products? What would you recommend?
NB: prices subject to change, but correct at time of writing. I endeavour to update them, but may miss the occasional one if there’s a price rise. Quotes in quotation marks are taken from my webshop.