If we were able to transport a person living in the year 1916 to our homes and walk them through our daily lives, it would be interesting to discover what they would make of our lifestyle. The changes over the last 100 years resulting from the massive expansion of knowledge in all areas of science are staggering – from how we spend our leisure and work time, what we eat and who makes our clothes, to how far and how easily we travel.
Delightful in some respects, our time traveller may think, and not so wonderful in others. But whatever their opinion of our lifestyle, we might be less than proud to admit that it is, in a word, unsustainable. The incredible advantages that science has brought to our world have come at a considerable cost – uncontrolled warming of the planet, pollution of our oceans and rivers on an alarming scale, loss of massive tracts of native forests and species extinctions at a record rate. The price of our lifestyle is, incredibly, the health of our planet.
As we consider the enormity of what needs to be done, and the reluctance of our decision-makers to take drastic action, it’s pretty clear that in the absence of radical new technologies, it will be up to us as consumers to change the way we do things. The tiny house movement, increased support for organic agriculture and a growing awareness of the health and environmental disadvantages of processed food are symptoms of radical changes in our thinking – changes that might bring us closer to the lifestyle experienced by our time traveller from 1916.
When it comes to skin care, our 1916 counterpart was at the dawn of the chemical revolution that gave rise to the mass production of skin creams – the so called ‘cold creams’ being the new ‘must have’ for the modern woman. Cold creams were so named because they were a water-oil emulsion which, when applied to the skin, left the skin feeling cool because of evaporation of the water component.
To make a cold cream, an emulsifier was required to permit the blending of water and oil. In the early days the emulsifier was traditionally borax, spermaceti (from whales) and sometimes beeswax. The oil component, which did the work of improving the skin’s barrier by reducing dryness and smoothing its appearance, was almond oil or similar which, because it tended to go rancid quickly, was later replaced with petroleum-derived petrolatum. The invention of preservatives such as parabens gave a long shelf-life to these creams, allowing mass production and its necessary counterpart -advertising. As the years passed, more sophisticated emulsifiers, thickeners, and other intangible ingredients were created to improve the ‘feel’ of the product on the skin. This is where we find ourselves today: a small amount of oil (plant or petroleum-derived) mixed with water and a range of synthetic ingredients.
To our minds, the error in thinking about modern skin care began around 100 years ago when it was deemed necessary to mix oil with water. The active part of a skin care formulation is the oil – the water dilutes it, making it easier to spread, but serves no other function. Our ancient ancestors understood and embraced the benefits of using pure oils on their skin. In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition, the value of massaging the skin with sesame oil has been known for millennia, where it was used to slow ageing as well as to treat numerous skin and systemic conditions. Coconut oil was used by Polynesians for thousands of years to soften and protect their skin, and as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain. In western Africa, shea butter was treasured for its ability to treat burns and wounds, inflammatory skin conditions and keep the skin supple in an unforgiving climate. In all these cultures, the oils were valued as food and medicine, in addition to their role in skin health. These people knew that what we apply to our skin should not be considered differently to what we eat. We now know that our skin is an organ that is nourished from the inside, and also readily absorbs a wide range of molecules that are placed on its outside, nutrients and toxins alike, depending on their chemical structure.
As we are slowly discovering, it is difficult to improve on nature when it comes to food – adding synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilisers, sugars and colourings to pure plant foods tends to reduce their nutritional value. Eating pure unadulterated fresh foods is our best bet for a healthy life, whether they be ‘superfoods’ or the humble but super-nutritious parsley or oatmeal. When it comes to skin care, it makes no sense to tamper with these wonderful ingredients by diluting, emulsifying and preserving them when their nutrients are just as available to our skin in their pure form.
This is the principle on which Mokosh skin care is based. We have decided not to be part of last century’s industrial revolution that has brought us to today’s synthetic-laden offerings. Simple is best – the safest, smartest and most effective approach for our skin and body health. Best also for the health of our planet, removing the need to manufacture a swathe of synthetic substances. Embracing the perfection that is Mother Nature is one of many small steps we need to take in the right direction.