Each year the Soil Association runs Organic Beauty Week as part of their Organic September initiative to celebrate natural and organic beauty and highlight all the fantastic certified skincare brands out there. For the last two years they have also thrown the spotlight on the confusions surrounding natural and organic claims with their Campaign for Clarity and Look for the Logo campaigns to encourage greater understanding and prevent consumers from being misled.
That desire for clarity was the absolute starting point which led me to develop my own range so I would like to share with you the story of how Nom Nom was born.
Twenty years ago whilst working as a massage and nutritional therapist, I developed a passion for working around pregnancy and babies. I have always believed healthy early foundations are essential for physical and mental wellbeing and was keen to encourage these by offering fertility and preconception programmes, pregnancy and baby massage and pre and post-natal nutrition talks.
Ten years into that career I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was not only a shock but a great surprise given my healthy diet and lifestyle and lack of family history. While recovering from surgery I received a newsletter from my massage association mentioning a study identifying concentrations of parabens preservative in biopsy samples from breast tumours (Darbre, 2004). Naturally this resonated with me and I immediately scrutinized all my skincare product labels for this ingredient. Like most people I had not previously inspected my skincare with the same rigour I applied to food labels, partly because cosmetic ingredients labelling is so hard to decipher!
I had been choosing and recommending organic food for many years and the comparison between organic food and organic skincare is significant because it is a legal requirement for organic food to be certified and clearly labelled but the same is not true of organic skincare.
I could be confident that foods I bought were genuine and was keen on organic growing not only for reduced pesticide use and benefits to the environment but for its wider health benefits. Organic certification means strict guidelines on which non organic ingredients are permissible so I knew choosing organic food for myself and my children was a sure way to avoid undesirable ingredients such as hydrogenated fats, MSG, artificial colours and sweeteners and many E numbers. Many companies now make a big show of having removed these from their products, but the Soil Association were ahead of the game in rejecting ingredients with potential adverse health implications.
I was already a fan of natural beauty products but I had taken at face value the skincare range which highlighted its use of natural plant ingredients or the deodorant which proclaimed itself organic. I discovered during my inspection that these, and many other products in my bathroom, did contain parabens along with other questionable chemical ingredients. The organic products I had been using were not certified, and did not need to be, as the regulations which apply to food do not apply to cosmetics. Had they been, parabens would have been banned, in the same way they were from the organic food I purchased.
I began researching the label claims of skincare products, discovered other undesirable and unnecessary ingredients and sought out brands which were genuinely free from these. I realize there is still more research to be done on parabens and other endocrine disrupting chemicals before an association with breast cancer can be proved, but having suffered I am motivated to do everything I can to prevent a recurrence so this includes making sure the products I use on my skin are truly clean and green.
Following my diagnosis and recovery many friends and colleagues imagined I would use my experience to specialise in nutrition and massage for other women affected by breast cancer. However, I was as keen as ever to follow my passion for working with mums and babies. There are huge numbers of studies supporting the belief that good health and the prevention of a whole host of ailments and illnesses later in life begins in the womb. My own experience with cancer and the assertion of my consultant that “it probably started when I was a foetus”, reinforced my certainty that more attention should be paid to this crucial stage of life.
When I returned to my practice many of my clients shared similar concerns about chemicals in the skincare they were using on themselves and their babies. With issues such as cradle cap, nappy rash, dry, sensitive skin and eczema they needed effective solutions which were also gentle enough for delicate skin. Many also discovered ranges they believed to be natural or organic were, on further examination, anything but. They had the incentive but as busy mums they did not have the time to dedicate themselves to learning how to understand cosmetics labels. My increased awareness of these issues coincided with my infant massage association (IAIM) sharing advice on current research regarding suitable oils for baby massage. Having thoroughly researched different brands I realised that products which matched all the criteria given by them were very limited and didn’t exist as a range. So with feedback from hundreds of mums and mums to be I set about developing my own.
Organic certification was a priority from the beginning when creating Nom Nom in order to give new and expectant parents assurance that the products are not only genuinely organic but also free from the chemicals they may wish to avoid. I believe consumers should have the same clarity when choosing skincare as they do when buying food as what “goes on” is as important as what “goes in” so my range developed with the principle of without within at its heart.
Following Soil Association/COSMOS guidelines the percentage of natural or organic ingredients is clearly stated. Organic is only used in the title of the product where at least 95% organic ingredients are used. I offer as much information on my labels as the constraints of size will allow and ingredients are listed in English as well as Latin for clarity. What is left out is as important for Nom Nom as what goes in, so I created a list of these which can be found on the website as well as sharing my practitioner knowledge with massage and nutrition tips and advice. These go hand in hand, supporting good health from without and within, to promote a healthy pregnancy and baby and a healthy beginning.
Jayne Russell has over twenty years of experience as a pre’ and postnatal massage and nutritional therapist and is the founder of Nom Nom – award winning, certified organic pregnancy and baby skincare. Sign up for your free skincare guide “10 Steps to Super Healthy Baby Skin” at nomnomskincare.com