This post has been mulling in my head for weeks. The topic is one that many passionately side with or oppose and is particularly relevant to the current trends… Is natural effective? What about safe? Where are we getting our information from and who can we trust?

We have been doing a series on eczema that has sparked some very insightful comments and questions from our community (you!) and has challenged me to pull together my own thoughts and insights, as well as search for some answers. We are in the midst of a huge movement toward natural, organic, and alternative approaches to medicine, which is really challenging and changing the way we look at so many major areas of our lives; from what we eat, use on our skin, wear, sleep on, play with, drink from, and our perceptions of health care. In general, I believe it is safe to say that we are grasping for answers that don’t always come easy and are often conflicting.

One of the questions that continues to come up, is whether or not natural products are effective in treating skin issues and are they safe? While discussing eczema during the past few weeks, many comments have been posted from mothers who are frustrated with the lack of education and treatment options they are receiving from their physicians. Some reported pediatricians telling them not to use natural products because they don’t work and actually aggravate issues. (Here is where I have to interject that in at least one of these cases, the mother reported that this so-called “ineffective” natural product (our Extreme Cream) that was the first and only product to actually clear up her son’s eczema. Go figure!)

Although I don’t think I have ever watched an episode of Dr. Oz, I came across this segment recently that really drove home the idea that there is a great division in the medical community regarding the use and effectiveness of alternative medicine (to watch all 3 segments of this interview, look further down the page for parts 2 and 3.)

A few weeks ago we posted the results of our Extreme Cream survey. Three moms with children who suffer from moderate to severe eczema were given a 2 oz jar of our organic Extreme Cream and asked to use the entire jar on their child over the course of a few weeks and then fill out a survey online letting us know how the Extreme Cream affected their child’s eczema. If you haven’t read this post, please take a moment to do so. Not only do the results speak volumes for the effectiveness of natural ingredients, but if you look closely at what pediatricians ARE recommending you may be appalled!

I came across this great post months ago regarding the #1 dermatologist recommended product for skin issues; Cetaphil. What is remarkable to me is that 5 of the 8 ingredients in the product are on the “dirty dozen” list! Not a single ingredient in this product contain nutritional value for your skin. Where are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and protection? I mean, seriously?! One of the 8 ingredients of Cetaphil is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which has been found to irritate skin, decrease the natural lipid barrier and thin the skin. So why the heck would this be recommended for eczema? Here is an article further supporting the case against emollient based creams for eczema.

Ok, let’s take another highly recommended product, the beloved white Dove soap bar. One look at the ingredients of this product leaves you scratching your head and if you have spent any time educating yourself on ingredients to avoid, “fragrance” and “tetrasodium EDTA” should alert your sensors.

My point is not to discredit the medical community. I am very much an advocate for a balance. What I am trying to point out is the importance of not just taking something for face value. What is popular, may not be what is best. I have learned over the years to trust my discernment as well as evidence. When I began developing formulas for organic products, I was amazed at the results. My belief in pure, plant-based ingredients came from witnessing the results first hand.

I recently participated in a webinar where two experts in the cosmetic industry where discussing the overwhelming number of “junk” products out there. It is still amazing to me how a little marketing and campaigning can create this incredible loyalty for toxic sludge. I suppose it is the same with food. Until we see the value in what we feed out bodies, we aren’t going to spend the extra time and money to make more educated choices.

So, what is it about the natural products that make them so effective? Take a look at our ingredients page for a list of the benefits of each ingredient we use. It isn’t enough to just eliminate the harmful stuff. That’s like saying we can be sustained on water. We need nutrients. We need vitamin rich cell rejuvenation, anti-inflammatory -calming botanicals, free radical fighting antioxidants, and a protective, fortifying barrier. Why would anyone recommend or choose a synthetic concoction consisting of water and some toxic chemicals and preservatives over concentrated, 100% organic, botanical food for their skin?

With that said, not every botanical ingredient is safe or equal. Just as you wouldn’t run to the store and grab an herbal supplement without doing some research, I don’t recommend just picking up any natural skin care product without checking the ingredients list and checking the product’s claims for accuracy. The cosmetics industry is still widely unregulated, making the task of understanding what is safe, even more daunting. Check out the Environmental Group’s Skin Deep Database for some general guidelines and ratings on the products you use.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. We love interacting with you so much that we are going to give away a Zoe Organics product of choice to one of you for participating! Please leave a comment on our Facebook wall answering one or more of these questions, then come back and post below telling us you did:

1. Do you struggle with the delicate balance between what is popular/traditional and a more holistic approach?
2. Do you have a testimonial regarding a natural product you have used in contrast to an unnatural product?
3. What factors most influence your decisions (physicians, research, friends, product reviews, etc.)?
4. Anything else you found interesting or compelling about this article. Feel free to disagree…

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