On my recent trip to India I tried out a lovely little product from Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) – their spearmint bath and shower gel. It’s a great product that goes a long way; plus it smells uber fresh and invigorating. As readers of this blog well know, I’m always searching for the best that natural and organic beauty has to offer and I REALLY like this brand, what they stand for and what they’ve achieved.

BWC offers cruelty-free, vegetarian body and hair care products made with the finest natural ingredients and organic aroma-therapeutic essential oils. Founded in1963 by the trustees of BWC Charitable Trust, an animal welfare organization, the company’s goal is to manufacture and distribute natural cosmetics not tested on animals and not containing any animal ingredients.

The benefits of BWC’s natural skin care line include:

▪    pH balanced

▪    Paraben free

▪    100% vegetarian

▪    Organic ingredients

▪    No synthetic fragrances

▪    100% pure organic essential oils

I highly recommend giving BWC products a try. You can order online from Harmless House.

Beauty Without Cruelty Shower Gel


Having a mosey around Jozi’s gorgeous Market on Main a few weeks ago I discovered Two Man Jam – makers of high quality home-made Eastern preserves.

This wonderful local preserve company uses natural spices and low levels of unprocessed brown sugar, with no artificial preserves or flavourants.

“Two Man Jams is on a mission to re-vitalise peoples’ perceptions on preserves. We start by using age-old eastern spice recipes delicately combined to act as a preserve and to give the fruit a truly delicious taste. We combine these spices with the freshest, high quality fruits and vegetables sourced from local farms in the Western Cape. The key is that instead of using vast quantities of sugar, we use minute amounts and rely on spices to give taste.”

They also run a fantastic initiative called “Spreading the Love Campaign”. A portion of their product is given to a school-feeding program.

“We hope to partner with nearby stores that make good healthy breads and make healthy sandwiches for children at under privileged schools. A section of every pot of preserves we make is kept for the Spreading the Love Campaign.”

They have a good selection of different preserves including: Just Peachy; Peach and Plum; Classic Plum; Pink Plum; Ruby Plum; Mango Spice; Jungle Jam (papaya compote with ginger and granadilla!); Pink Pineapple; and their flagship compote One and Only –  the best selection of granadillas and yellow baby plums.

I highly recommend you try them out (yum!) if you happen to find yourself at Market on Main, and support a small independent producer at the same time.

Two Man Jam

In the kitchen with Two Man Jam

What’s cookin’?

Kate Townshend, founder of Harmless House is guest blogging about the use of parabens in mainstream body care products and why we should be avoiding them.

A supermarket aisle is a great place to see where one’s priorities lie. Down the food aisles people are reading ingredients, list-checking for artificial colourants, fat content, and if this bag of lettuce is organic? However, in the body care aisle there maybe someone stopping to smell a new deodorant, but usually they are simply viewing the good ‘old faithful’s’- shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, body cream and the like. But with the average person applying 126 unique ingredients to their skin everyday are the products we use not worth some consideration? Why is it that nobody stops to turn these bottles over and scrutinise  whether the ingredients are harmful?

One of the most common cosmetic ingredients is parabens, an ingredient which has had a fair amount of research done on it in the last few years. Parabens are used to extend the shelf life of products as they prohibit the growth of mold and bacteria- essentially a preservative. They fall under many names, but the most common ones are: Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben and Isobutylparaben. 

But it’s only going on your skin right? So it doesn’t really matter?

Sadly this thinking could not be further from the truth. The chemicals in the food we eat are filtered through our kidneys and liver and a percentage at least is excreted from the body. What is applied to the skin however is absorbed straight into the blood stream. Chemicals from our products are often deposited and stored in fat around the body, and in the case of parabens, research is suggesting that these particular chemicals often accumulate in breast tissue. Approximately 75 to 90% of products use parabens, with water being the one ingredient used more frequently. 

So, what is the cost of having these chemicals in our products?

Parabens mimic oestrogen which is one of the factors in the development of breast cancer. Research is starting to show a frightening link between cancer and the products we use. Recent research published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in January 2012 found parabens present in 99% of breast cancer tissues tested.

 These ingredients feature in almost all products and most governments do not require health studies to be conducted on body products before they are released onto the market. A lot of the ‘problem ingredients’ are still used in products today because they are the cheapest available option and manufacturers are more concerned with their bottom line than they are with the consumers safety.

What are the more natural alternatives?

A bit of knowledge can go a long way, and almost everything you need to know is on the back of the bottle. Along with learning what to avoid and watch out for,  it’s also good to know which ingredients are good. Avoiding parabens is an excellent first step, but there are many other harmful ingredients. A product that is ‘natural’ means very little, and holds no weight legally.  An organic certification is a good  way to know that your product does not contain any parabens or other chemically derived ingredient.

Harmless House offers a complete range of natural and certified organic bath and body products. The brands represented are harmless to people, animals and the environment and do not contain any parabens, chemical foaming agents or synthetic fragrances.

Okay ladies I am going to make this one short and sweet. I am a HUGE fan of Mooncup (read about why) – it really is the way forward. But spending three months in India I decided to go for a more ‘disposable’ option.

I have been trying out two eco-friendly feminine hygiene products:

1) Masmi – “An alternative product line made from natural materials and whose production has less of an impact on the environment.”


2) Flushaway – Completely disposable and pretty much as the name says…


The pros are of course that both products are environmentally friendly and sustainably produced, but the questions is do they actually work? Well… how can I say this. Eloquently. From my BM (before Mooncup) memory they appear to work as well as the mainstream non environmentally friendly brands – which was never 100% without erm… ‘leaks’.

In my opinion invest in a  Mooncup. It’s a friend to the environment and your pocket, and really is the Mecca. But if it is not your thing then for the sake of the environment give the above products a try.

I’m not sure of all the South African stockists, but I bought them at Fresh Earth, Emmerentia.

That was relatively painless to write.

Eco-Dent Toothpowder

Eco-Dent toothpowder is my latest product review from Harmless House. Made with baking soda, sea salt and myrrh, it is said to be less abrasive and more effective, due to the effervescent action, than more commercial and ‘dirty’ brands.

I’m in India for three months and have taken with me the 2oz bottle (providing up to 200 brushes), which is super convenient for traveling. It is however quite strange getting used to a powder over a paste, but it definitely works. Really well. Though I do find it a little messy, but that may just be me… And despite the original mint flavour I’m trying out, I still get that smack of bicarb taste. Other flavours include: anise, cinnamon, fresh mint, dazzling mint and lemon lime, which may overpower the bicarb.

But taste buds aside it is very effective, and uber important, it is 100% cruelty free, SLS free, has no dyes or sweeteners and as the name says, it is eco friendly and sustainably produced.

A European company, Eco-Dent also has the following in their oral care range: mouthwash, tooth gel and vegan dental floss – which I LOVE!

Harmless House stocks the toothpowder, floss, mouthwash and the branded toothbrushes. You can also find the range at Fresh Earth, Emmerentia.

Eco-Dent also gets the professional stamp of approval. Dr. David C Kennedy, D.D.S., founder of the Preventive Dental Health Association and past president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, said: “I have used and recommended Eco-Dent for may years in my dental practice and can highly recommend this product for those who want an effective nontoxic cleaner.”

The above endorsement is a good reason to try it. The fact that it is cruelty free and eco friendly leaves you with no reason to continue using environmentally harmful animal tested commercial brands.

I couple of weeks ago I had some time to kill before meeting a friend in Jozi’s quaint Parkhurst village, so I took a wonder down 4th Avenue where I stumbled upon a charming and artsy little shop, The Windmill, which begged to be entered.

Bringing together a collection of gifts, homeware and decor products The Windmill is also proudly South African, stocking, as far as possible, locally produced ranges. “A lot of our products are either community products or small businesses that employ previously disadvantaged women.”

I’m a HUGE fan of supporting the small independent shops as apposed to the big giants taking over the world one forest at a time… (okay soap box moment over), and an even bigger fan when a small shop like The Windmill is in turn sourcing its products from local community initiatives.

Below are some of the crafts on offer and the stories behind the art. The Windmill, in my opinion, is definitely worth a wee mosey…

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Cozy Cups is a community project based near Mooi River in the Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands. The project gives unemployed women the opportunity to earn a living whilst staying at home caring for their dependents.

The beautiful quilt pictured above is a result of Nellie. Based in the Western Cape, employment created at Nellie gives capable artists the platform and tools to craft these innovative products.

Gogo Olive in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe gives over 25 local women the opportunity to use their craft skills to build a future for themselves and their families. Each animal is lovingly and completely handmade, and has as much character as the lady who knitted it.

A community initiative that began with the Petrusville women under the guidance of Zahn Spies, the knitwear includes kid mohair throws and bamboo scarves. The ladies use their existing needlework skills that have been traditionally passed from mother to daughter to create beautiful home works. Each item is handcrafted and signed by the woman who made it.

Visit The Windmill website for their product range.

Occasionally I like to blog about causes which I feel fit in with why I write Beauty in Balance. Recently I discovered Roots & Shoots South Africa, a wonderful not for profit organisation operating out of a small stone house in Zoo Lake, Johannesburg.

Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute’s international and humanitarian programme for young people, and their mission is “to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.”

Guided by Dr Jane’s philosophy that “every individual matters, every individual has a role to play, every individual makes a difference” the organisation has become international in scope with members in over 60 countries around the world. Each Roots & Shoots group is able to plan and implement projects based on its unique interests, resources and community concerns.

Juliet Pierce who manages Roots & Shoots South Africa had this to say: “We work with the youth of South Africa to address environmental, animal and humanitarian related challenges which our members feel passionate about. This is done by creating groups, developing Programmes that address such challenges in communities and providing continual education and encouragement to empower members.”

In South Africa there are groups set up in Gauteng and the Western Cape, from pre-school to university. Some of the projects currently running include:

Care of Domestic Animals in My Community programme, which aims to create animal ambassadors who will educate the community on animal’s basic needs.

The Greening in My Community programme focuses on creating school vegetable gardens, as well as the importance of the environment within everyday life.

The Food Garden Project directly addresses both human and environmental needs within schools and communities together with ongoing education that ensures the sustainable management of the gardens.

A Role Model programme has been set up to help teenage boys address their issues and encourages them to think differently about their role in the community and challenges they face on a daily basis.

So how can you help? Well they are always in need of donations, but in addition to money they also need resources like seeds and compost for the Food Garden Project. Or like me you can volunteer your time and lend your skills, whatever they may be, to supporting a charity that really is trying to make this world a better place for all living beings.

Please follow them on Facebook for latetest news and updates as well as twitter @RootsShootsSA.