Lifestyle

Natural Products

What does it really mean to be "natural"?

When we think about a natural product, it usually conjures up images of something that is really safe and that is free of chemicals and anything “man made”.

Organic products take it one step further. In addition to being free of chemicals, they are completely made from plants.

These days we tend to think that anything man made is likely to be harmful and that any “chemical” is going to be “toxic”.

Why are we thinking like this? Is there any truth in it? Should we be believing what we read on the internet and hear in the media about what a toxic environment we live it? Why, if the world is so toxic, are we so much healthier and long lived than we were 100 years ago?

When it comes to products that you use on the vulva, just what is “natural” and what is not?

There are lots of products that may come in contact with the skin of the vulva. This includes soap, washes, feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons, deodorants, condoms, lubricants and moisturizers.

If you have a vulval skin condition, in addition to this you may be using antifungal creams, antibiotics and cortisone creams.

Are any of these things “natural”?

The short answer to that is “no they aren’t”. But that doesn’t mean they are unsafe or in any way better or worse than a natural product.

Virtually every cream has to have preservatives in it. If not they would rapidly grow mould. Preservatives are man-made chemicals.That doesn't mean they are "toxic".

Many ointments are based on white soft paraffin (vaseline), a petroleum product. Most creams are based on liquid paraffin and contain mineral oil: they are petroleum products. These products are widely used because they have a very low potential to cause allergic reactions. These “toxic petrochemicals” as so many would have us believe, have been around for 100 years and in all that time there has been no evidence emerge that they are dangerous.

Perfumes and colourings are rarely natural because the natural variety is not as dramatic as the artificial one.

Medications are definitely man made but they are also stringently safety tested, according to government regulations that protect the public before they are allowed on the market.

Things that are made from plants deteriorate rapidly unless there is a preservative, usually man-made, in them.

Many products which are mainly man made, may contain some natural products such as honey or plants. That gives them the right to claim to be natural. But that may just be 1-2% of their ingredients.

Now let’s look at some truly natural products. Lanolin is an ointment derived from sheep’s wool. It’s a natural product but in pure form it looks yellow and has an unpleasant smell. So it’s usually mixed with colouring agents and perfumes. Lanolin is a common cause of allergic reactions. Olive oil is natural. But it hasn't really got the sort of smell that you might like to put on your vulva.

Plant products deteriorate very rapidly without preservatives. In addition to this, plants run the risk of causing allergic reactions.One of the commonest causes of allergic reactions skin specialists see is the Grevillea plant. The Rhus tree is another plant that can cause terrible rashes, so much so that it has been declared a "noxious weed". But we've seen natural products that contain "Rhus extract". These things are natural but that doesn't make them safe.

Let’s be very honest about what is really in products that claim to be “natural” and let’s realize that the word "natural" has a powerful message that sells products. Furthermore, just stop for a minute and ask yourself whether the people who are selling these products might be just the ones who are telling us that other products are dangerous.

Whenever you buy a product that has the word “natural” on it, take a close look at the ingredients, if they are stated on the package. Chances are, these products will still contain preservatives, colourings and possibly petrochemical bases containing paraffin and mineral oil.

So don’t get too worried about having to use “All-natural” products. In general they are no safer and often a lot more expensive than the so-called “Toxic petrochemicals” that we have safely used for so long. And it's not unusual for them to contain something man made themselves.