Our 1917 time-traveller was at the dawn of the chemical revolution that gave rise to the mass production of skin creams. ‘Cold creams’ became the new ‘must have’ for the modern woman. These miracle creams were marketed intensively and sold like hot cakes, making manufacturers hugely wealthy. You may be surprised to know that moisturisers are made using the same basic formulation today. They are a water-oil emulsion that leaves the skin feeling cool after being applied because of evaporation of the water component, hence the term 'cold cream'.
To make a cold cream, an emulsifier is 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. However, as a plant oil tended to go rancid in the absence of a good antioxidant, it 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. As the years passed, more sophisticated emulsifiers, thickeners, and other 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 formulating skin care began all those years ago when it was deemed necessary to mix oil with water. The water component is included simply to dilute the oil and make it spread more thinly on the skin. The active part of a skin care formulation is the oil. The presence of water in the formulation means that the cream needs to contain a potentially toxic preservative, since it is water that allows microorganisms to grow, as well as a range of other synthetic ingredients including emulsifiers and thickeners, many of which are made from palm oil.
Our 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 be something we would happily eat. In contrast, all mainstream skin care and most certified organic skin care contains water, synthetic emulsifiers, and synthetic preservatives - something we would never want to eat, despite the claims of their manufacturers. 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.
As we are slowly discovering, when it comes to food, the more unprocessed and natural it is, the better it is for our health. When it comes to skin care, it makes no sense to tamper with nature by diluting, emulsifying and preserving products when their nutrients are just as available to our skin in their pure form.
This is the principle on which Mokosh certified organic 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 health. Best also for the health of our planet, removing the need to manufacture a swathe of synthetic substances. We have embraced the perfection that is Mother Nature, and we hope you will join us in taking this small step in the right direction.