I love this time of year and I love the magic that kids experience through Christmas. It truly is the best time of year.
And yet with gifts to buy, shows on offer, grottos and markets galore, the budget can certainly get stretched at this time of year. In fact, we barely make it to the big day sometimes as last minute shopping can certainly do my wallet in.
I want my children to take in as much as they can this season- the lights, the markets, meeting Santa. But we honestly can’t do it all. We’d bust.
And I know we’re not the only family out there feeling the pinch at Christmas. The challenge? How do we ensure our kids can experience the magic without breaking the bank?
See Chelsea light-up at the magical Christmas Lights Switch-On on Saturday 17 November.
Meet the real reindeer and even see Father Christmas turn on the lights with his special helper! Entertainment and Christmas treats will be available across the area from 2pm – Duke of York Square, Pavilion Road and Sloane Square. Visit the Festive Food Market to pick up delicious treats and explore the area with complimentary horse & carriage rides taking place throughout the afternoon. Enjoy magical performances from local choirs – the Chelsea Pensioners and Holy Trinity Church, as well as Salvation Army Band – singing carols leading you to the switch-on moment on Sloane Square at 5pm.
Children will discover the magic of the holiday – 18th century style – with crafts and treats. Sing along to festive classics like Jingle Bells with accompaniment on the glass armonica, the instrument Franklin invented at Craven Street. Enjoy holiday treats and deck the halls with Christmas crafts to make and take home! Suitable for children aged 5-11
Show off your best fancy dress and learn dance moves to your favourite seasonal hits at this winter ball, featuring games and festive fun for the entire family.Those who want to show off their costumes can join in with the Penguin Parade, a People’s Catwalk with a festive twist.
A completely different festive experience! Expect live DJs, comedy, musical bingo, roaming magicians, kid’s raves, Mexican wrestling and a family Christmas show on a double decker bus.
Elsewhere in our pop-up town you can skate on our outdoor Ice Rink, enjoy sensational food from Street Feast, lose yourself in Backyard Cinema’s Christmas maze, catch club nights in the Roller Disco, play crazy golf on a UV-powered course, ride the Big Wheel, enjoy cocktails and craft beer in themed bars and find unique gifts in Solo Craft Fair.
Ticketed shows include Chivaree Circus, Lucha Britannia Mexican Wrestling, Rabbit Rabbit Comedy, Bus King Theatre’s What Is In My Hat, Big Fish Little Fish family rave, Okido workshops, Mariah & Friendz, Mighty Hoopla’s Christmas Jumpergeddon, U Okay Hun and The Cocoa Butter Club. Open 15 Nov to 23 Dec, Winterville is brought to you by the co founders of Field Day, Mighty Hoopla and Street Feast.
I’ve banged on before about how much representation matters. From buying dolls to choosing books to the movies your children watch, seeing themselves reflected in their everyday is so important for a child’s self esteem and for their aspirations to believe that they can achieve anything.
So, as part of that series, we are bringing you the ultimate guide to multicultural toys and black dolls with natural hair. From dolls to figurines to bags, subscriptions, puppets, games and more… And the best part? You don’t need to order from across the pond! This list should appeal to both boys and girls but if you’d like us to include anything else, just write a comment below! In the run up to Christmas time, this is the perfect Santa list for your little ones.
Designed by Berengeuer, these Lots To Love Babies are the perfect bath and playtime doll. Chubby and sturdy – who wouldn’t love these dolls. Perfect for bath or play. Comes with removable nappy. Able to sit independently. Outfits available.
Snowflake Princess is a very soft and cuddly toy. 15 inches or approx 36cm in length. Lightweight and very flexible. Very soft material body with beautiful pale blue princess dress & crown. Light tan complexion.
I love a good puppet and Granny ventriloquist is a fantastic option! High quality full body ventriloquist style puppet made by Silly Puppets. Easy to move mouth. Hand entry through the back of the puppet. Includes 1 arm control rod which can be clipped to either hand for movement. Height is about 65cm tall. Lightweight at just around 500g. Puppet can be re-dressed in child size 18 month clothes.
Black Panther… the movie of all time. And it’s great that lego has the toys to keep the play alive. Includes three minifigures: Black Panther, Okoye and Killmonger. Rhino features a minifigure seat, posable head and legs, rhino horn elements and two stud shooters. Mining cart features a tipping function and translucent-blue vibranium nugget elements. Activate the rail track’s explode function to knock over the cart.
This Nahla 18 inch doll is fully pose-able. She comes with 2 outfits and extra accessories including a story book. Eyes open and close. and you can buy lots more great outfits, accessories and accessory sets in the Our Generation range.
A fun game for Doc McStuffins fans. Help Doc find her missing instruments and fill her. Game play based on the popular pre-school TV show. Perfect for children aged 3 and up, 2 to 4 players. Easy to understand rules combined with a unique and fun game play.
We love crafts in our house and having the option to use different coloured pegs to make a puppet or figurine is such a great idea. Just wrap with fabric to ‘fashion’ an outfit. Decorate with acrylic paint, twirly hair, fabric and yarn (not included. Comes in 5 assorted colours – Dark Brown, Tan, Orange, Peach and Beige.
Get a monthly subscription box with 2-3 children’s books featuring characters of color plus fun book swag! Finding the best African American children’s literature can be challenging. We’re here to help! Every month we hand-select books to send to your child. In addition, we include fun and educational activities to enjoy with your family.
The Tidlo Little Friends Puzzle features eight little friends who come in pairs – a boy and a girl in each set. The head, body and legs of each character lift out separately, leaving little ones with the task of piecing them back together – working out which piece belongs to which character! A line drawing underneath each piece can be used as a guide to find the correct slot! Or, for a little extra fun, why not mix and match the character pieces to create some funny new characters. The puzzle splits into 24 chunky pieces that are ideal for little hands to lift, grasp, examine and replace. With a bright and colourful design, this wooden puzzle is sure to attract the attention of youngsters and is a great way to improve early shape recognition.
Explore the world of medicine with Barbie dolls and medical play sets! Barbie baby doctor doll is ready to see patients with furniture for an exam table and accessories to care for two adorable babies. Details are realistic with colourful touches and office-inspired elements. Teal scrubs and white shoes are a perfect professional look. Barbie baby doctor doll does double duty with an exam station that features two tubs, a moving mobile and storage space. Accessories let young minds care for baby patients with a stethoscope, two baby towels, a bottle and a medical chart. Young doctors will love giving their patients a clean bill of health with baby doctor Barbie doll.
Get your girls and boys dreaming big with Barbie Robotics Engineer doll — this Barbie Career of the Year doll introduces a partnership with Tynker, a game-based platform that teaches kids how to code and inspires them to explore STEM opportunities! Barbie doll comes with a silvery robot and a purple laptop — that shows a screenshot of her robotics project. A career-themed look includes a white t-shirt with rainbow tech-inspired graphic, a denim jacket, black pants, white sneakers and protective goggles.
Have twice the slamming ideal time with the WWE Battle Pack. No-holds barred personality pack celebrates key rivalries, champions, WWE Women’s Division competitors, manager and talent, tag teams and siblings. With the included iconic accessory and authentic WWE detailing, you can recreate realistic, big event matches with two approximately 6 Inch superstar figures.
The name Lela is of Swahili origin, meaning black beauty. Lela loves to be creative and express herself in everything she does. She is confident and full of enthusiasm and loves all things pink and sparkly. Welcome to the wonderful world of Lela, a place where kids can feel good about themselves. Lela products are appropriate for many gift-giving occasions, from birthdays to Christmas’s and more. This back pack is beautifully made with lovely detail making this a bag any little girl would love to take with her everywhere.
Finally, a musical jewellery box with a black ballerina, which is the perfect keepsake gift a little girl will treasure for years! Wind the key and lift the lid to see the beautiful ballerina turning to a melody. Illustrated in a colourful image with Nia Ballerina sitting at a dressing table getting ready makes this music box ideal for little girls to keep their jewellery and special memorable items safe.
A Happy African-American Family including Grandma, Grandpa, Mum, Dad, sister and brother. Perfect idea for any kids’ doll house. The family is also fun to play with on its own. Beautifully crafted dolls made from friendly fabric and quality hardwood. Helps develop role play and dexterity as well as playful storytelling.
I love this idea but beware it’s not cheap and it takes 6 weeks to arrive. But, these replica dolls can be custom made designed after you or your loved ones! Features, hair style, colour, clothing and all! The base price includes one 30 cm (12 inch) tall doll, with clothing (max. 2 garment) that you can specify in detail.
*****This post contains affiliate links. It’s how I pay for this site but each and every one of these items was fully researched to bring you the best and most creative ideas for your mixed kids. Get buying!****
Halloween is next week and while I’m thinking of the usual ideas like zombies, witches and ghosts, for the first time, I’d like my daughters to consider that representation matters.
I’d like them to see themselves represented, not just in the shows they watch, the books they read and the movies they go to but ALSO in the costumes they choose. Why not? They’re still young enough to want to dress up- even when it’s not halloween.
They seem to have a million and one princess dresses but I’ve been trying to be intentional about finding them non-princessy type dressing up outfits. Since then, I’ve added a fire fighter, police officer, pilot and construction worker to our dressing up box.
So this year, for Halloween, I’m not just thinking about gender but about real life (or fictional) characters who are black or non-white and in whom my kids might see themselves reflected. Even if they’re joke characters, it’s important that there are diverse characters that look like them. Few as there might be, I’m determined that they see them.
Try some of these out and tell me about more so I can add them below!
Diverse Halloween Costumes Ideas
Our favourite Disney princess, if you’re daughter is obsessed with dressing up as her favourite Disney character, why not play feature Moana this family movie night and see how keen she is to wear Tafiti’s heart.
Sort of a no-brainer, Black Panther was THE black superhero we’ve all been waiting for. Look no further for a great superhero for your black son or daughter. Great costume, great movie.
For your art-inspired little ‘uns, Frida Kahlo’s style lends itself perfectly for Halloween costume inspiration. Her story is intriguing as well. She will, no doubt, become your daughter’s new hero.
Again, a no-brainer for your Disney inspired princesses. Princess Tiana is a great black character and inspiration for frilly, sparkly obsessed little princesses.
Shuri Black Panther
Wow. I love this costume. Not just for the character in the movie, but for how cool it looks too. More superhero inspiration for kids wanting to shun the usual gender-specific costumes but instead come out fighting.
Looking for something different? Go historical. One of the most intriguing women of our history, Cleopatra is a perfect fit. Teach your daughters and sons about her and Anthony, her empire and her eventual fall. Great history lesson along with a very cool costume.
Rhianna from Home
No need to buy anything here. Simply don your child in an orange coat and jeans and see how cute they’ll look impersonating the cutest character from Home.
We all love Maui from the wonderful Moana movie. He’s a great character and has inspired many little boys.
We had to go 80’s! Always a winner for any little boy. He’s funny, tough, has his own style and will make you take a walk down memory lane.
Good ol’ Doc McStuffins will never disappoint. She’s an aspiring doctor, black and a girl. You don’t get better role models than that. Let your daughters dress up and bring along a stuffy to complete the outfit.
And finally….’ it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white’, Michael Jackson appeals to ALL children- even years after his death. He’s still the king of pop so get your kids to dance along to some of his best hits and they’ll be killing it on the dance floor.
Good luck and have fun with it!!
*******This post contains affiliate links***********
Of all the things that will change when my daughter starts school this year, perhaps her self-image is the most profound. From the relative intimacy of a pre-school environment, she’ll suddenly become a small fish in a big pond, surrounded by many similar fishes.
She will probably learn about comparison and self-appraisal at an unprecedented rate. Like all girls, she may encounter objectification of her appearance and uncharitable assessments of other aspects of her worth.
This brings out the lioness in me. I will protect my daughter’s ability to love herself, with roars and claws if necessary.
I Like Myself is my current favourite weapon in this war. In it, a girl uses affirming and celebratory words about herself. She announces that she loves her body, doesn’t care what others say, and knows that what other people see is not the total of who she is.
“I like myself because I’m me, and me is all I want to be!” is our new family mantra. My daughter is lucky if I’ll read her anything else right now: why tell her stories of male trains or a piggy family when I could boost her self-worth by chanting the catchy lyrics of I Like Myself again? And again? And AGAIN! Better still, the central character is a girl of colour.
In a world of children’s books that is still inexplicably dominated by male characters – even animals are routinely masculinised by default (looking at you, Giles Andreae) – and white ones at that, this is a breath of fresh air. It’s a catchy, funny, brilliantly illustrated read that is fabulous for all kids, but for mixed or Black girls I imagine that our heroine would make an especially good role model.
As parents, if we want to counteract the culture that cause our girls to dislike how they look, or even who they are, we have work to do. Words help ideas take root in a child’s mind: they have the power to instil a sense of worth in our kids as they encounter an objectifying world.
This book is a fun, beautiful and powerful tool in our toolboxes, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. AGAIN!
*** This was a guest post written by Zoe Sanderson that has been republished***
“You don’t look Iranian, you look white. I’m just surprised.”
How many times have I heard those words said to me when I’m asked where my name comes from.
I was born in Iran. My father is Iranian and my mother is white English. My family emigrated to Canada from Iran via England when I was 4 years old.
So I was young enough when I got to Canada to assimilate into Canadian culture, adopting the accent, the mannerisms and the language to present myself as white to my peers.
But something about describing myself as ‘white Canadian’ has never and will never sit right with me. Because my experience was never like my peers. Because my experience has always been mixed.
I remember being told once by my best friend, ‘your house always smells like exotic food’. Childhood memories are filled with big family gatherings, relatives all speaking Farsi, special occasions like the Persian New Year filled with feasting and big Iranian community parties. We were a classic immigrant family in all senses of the word. My English Mum had learned- from her 10 years spent in Iran early on- how to cook Iranian food and most nights, our table overflowed with rice and Persian stews smelling of pomegranate and sour cherries.
Don’t get me wrong. I hated being different, constantly searching for ways that I could easily pass into white culture if I needed to. Wanting desperately for my father not to speak with his thick accent in front of my teachers or shout too loud at my soccer games.
That’s the thing with being mixed though. Our experience can sometimes betray our appearance and how we’d like to present to the world. Then, throw in the fact that how we understand ourselves can often be in direct conflict with how others understand us.
Identity is about understanding your place in the world. ‘Feeling’ one identity, more than another because of how you were raised or where you grew up can sometimes not resonate with what you look like so it leads to internal struggles with identity.
When I’m confronted with the question, “what are you?”, I honestly don’t know how to answer. To lay claim to an identity that is symbolised by its language (most of which I know very little) and appearance, I often feel like a fraud identifying myself as Iranian. I feel like I need permission to sit at the ‘mixed’ table and I’m conflicted that I don’t have the colour to back up my feeling that I am mixed.
And yet, to say I am ‘white’ feels disloyal and untrue to the parts of me that have been exposed to immigration, racism, Iranian culture and food.
Sometimes it is not about choosing one identity over another. My preference is to straddle multiple spheres, knowing I don’t exactly fit in when I’m amongst the Iranian community doesn’t make it any easier when I’m around white English folk.
I feel like society wants me to pick one. To box me politely into what they think I shouldbe based on my appearance and how I behave. Why can’t I be multiple things at the same time? I wonder.
My friends have always been foreign. I’ve somehow gravitated towards others who have a similar experience- whether they’re African, European or Mixed, I’ve always found things in common with those who have experienced ‘other’.
My husband and children have made my identity journey even more complex whereby my husband is Nigerian, and my 3 daughters are being raised half Nigerian, Iranian and English.
But their appearance suggests they are black or Biracial and whether there’s space in there for them to identify as anything but that, will be an essential part of their story. The thing that makes them ‘stand out’, their colour, is what will be notable to others. So even if they wanted to identify as white, they probably couldn’t.
As they grow, like other multiracial black and white mixed people, the fraught history between black and white will make for mental and emotional struggles. And it can become intensely personal. Allying yourself with your ‘black side’ can be partly a way of gaining solidarity with a community. It certainly was for me in high school and eventually University where I embraced my Iranian-ness but was only allowed a half- membership. I wanted desperately to find my belonging.
Our appearance as mixed people can tell a story entirely different to the one we’ve experienced. I remember wishing and wanting darker skin so that my ‘claim’ to being Iranian didn’t feel so disingenuous. My siblings, both with darker skin colour and perhaps more Iranian features have a different story to tell.
Of course there’s privilege to blending in and invisibility. Ambiguity allows you to flirt with many identities and cultures and to use those identities interchangeably.
The debates about mixed people being caught in the in-between and ‘confused’ have thankfully moved on. But is the response just that it’s multi-faceted? Will it ever be possible to be black/mixed and white at the same time?
But the fact is having a shelf full of diverse children’s books is important for ALL children. It doesn’t matter whether it’s to instil in them a view of the world that goes beyond their immediate environment or to feature inclusivity, tolerance and respect through the books that they read.
ALL of the above reasons are important. And athough diversity is still not truly representative in our art, media, tv shows that we watch and see all day, we can make it a priority through our choice of diverse children’s books.
With the wave of technology and more and more authors choosing to self publish, we are lucky to live in an era where diverse children’s books are appearing more often in our book shops.
This guide features not only the best books but the BEST diverse children’s books LISTS broken down by theme for your child’s bookshelf. Have a look and choose a few today!
It’s been a long summer and although we spent quite a lot of time outdoors, our evenings were quiet, stay-up-late-and-sleep-in-the-next-day kinds of summer nights. Mostly spent cuddled up in front of the tele watching movies.
We got through some of our favourite childhood 80’s flicks but more importantly, we watched some amazing kids’ classic black movies.
Representation matters… but why?
Our children notice colour from as early as age 2 and if you don’t think they do, go ahead and ask your child who is most likely the princess in the fairy tale. Then hold up a brown skin doll and and a white, blonde hair doll. *This experiment was done as part of a 1970’s university research project. It has been replicated many times since then and can be replicated even today amongst my own daughters.
Unconscious bias seeps in so early we almost don’t notice. And because of that we know, as parents of mixed race kids, that seeing characters and role models that look like themselves is essential. It gives them a reflection of who they are and who they can be.
So without further ado, we have compiled a list of our favourite kids’ classic black movies featuring black or mixed race characters (for kids around 3-10 years). These are in no particular order as you’ll see many of these described as our favourites! Be sure to tell us any others that we’ve missed!
THE ALL TIME BEST KIDS’ CLASSIC BLACK MOVIES
No, not the 1970’s flick. The newest remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, amongst others. It’s still the Annie story but a more modern version for a kid in foster care who meets hard-nosed billionaire and mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). Stacks believes that he’s Annie’s guardian angel, but the plucky youngster’s confidence and sunny outlook may mean that Annie will save Will instead. One of our favourites!
A sweet movie featuring a friendship between the last girl left on earth and her alien friend. Another favourite of ours, we love the curls in this cute flick. After a hive-minded alien race called the Boov conquers the Earth, they relocate the planet’s human population — all except for a little girl named Tip (Rihanna), who’s managed to hide from the aliens. When Tip meets a fugitive Boov called Oh (Jim Parsons), there’s mutual distrust. However, Oh is not like his comrades; he craves friendship and fun. As their distrust fades, the pair set out together to find Tip’s mother, but, unbeknown to them, the Gorg — enemies of the Boov — are en route.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
One of our ALL TIME favourites! Not only because it features a mixed race family, a female black curly girl heroine and some famous names like Oprah Winfrey, but also because she’s a science geek who’s able to blend magic and theory. It’s got all your kids will want in a movie.
Cinderella (1997) Featuring Brandy
Another remake of the classic fairytale, this version is more modernised and representative of the real world. And it’s packed with stars we all recognise and love. Cinderella (Brandy) chafes under the cruelty of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her evil stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle), until her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) steps in to change her life for one unforgettable night.
Karate Kid (2010)
Yet another remake but again one of our classic 80’s favourites so who could complain when it’s a story of a black kid who learns martial arts to fight off the school bully? When his mother’s career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying.
Black Panther (2018)
I’m not into superhero movies that much but I could recognise the importance of this movie. Loaded with powerful characters and a plot line to boot, it’s the movie ever child has been waiting for featuring black superheroes. After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people. Definitely not one to miss.
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
This is a really sweet movie, (or so I’m told). We’ve not actually seen it yet but it’s on our list of favourites given the reviews. It’s about Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, who discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother’s objections, Akeelah doesn’t give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dream come true.
Can I say that we have several favourites? This is definitely high on that list!! Everyone in my family (from hubby to 3 year old) love this movie. It’s got a wonderful story about a daring teenage girl who wants desperately to be independent and prove herself to her father. A funny demigod, Maui whom she meets along the way in her quest to save her people and an action-packed voyage. A beautiful story to boot that is about identity, nature, spiritualism and culture.
The Wiz (1978)
Featuring an all-black cast and with the soundtrack borrowed from the 1975 musical, this classic movie couldn’t be more groundbreaking that it is. Featuring Diana Ross as little Dorothy from Harlem and one of the last appearances of Michael Jackson in his ‘natural youthdom’, this movie was bound to steal hearts. Sit back and enjoy an absolute classic.
Are We There Yet? (2005)
This was a a laugh out loud funny story about Nick, a guy (Ice Cube) attempting to win the favor of the newly divorced Suzanne (Nia Long). Nick offers to accompany her children on a flight from Portland, Ore., to Canada to see their mother. With a load of mishaps and obstacles in their way and one accident after another, this is a cute movie with a happy ending.
Dr DooLittle 3 (2006)
The third and sequel to the famous Dr Dolittle played by Eddie Murphy, this is an interesting change to cast Maya Dolittle, the youngest daughter of the man who can talk with animals. She has inherited her father’s amazing gift. However, the ability has brought only trouble. She heads to a summer camp to get in touch with her gift, then realizes that she holds the key to helping the financially strapped camp win an upcoming rodeo. Tell me what you think because the jury’s up on this one though we do love the preteen drama in the script.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Of course we couldn’t leave out Disney’s one and princess movie featuring a black princess. A good attempt at keeping it diverse and the story line was good but there were bits that were a bit stereotypical. But it was a cute movie which my daughters enjoyed and which yours will love I’m sure.
A Ballerina’s Tale (2015)
A documentary of Misty Copeland- the first black ballerina at New York’s American Ballet Theatre. Not only is Copeland a significant role model for any young girl who dreams of a career as a dancer, she’s also emerged as a important example for the black community, showcasing the ways the rarified world of classical ballet is evolving and becoming more diverse. Featuring lots of amazing dancing, the film is excellent for any young girls who are fans of ballet.
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon. But I’m glad I did.
From the first page, it gripped my kids because it paints the picture of a little girl who stands out. Not because she’s popular but because she is the ‘shortest girl in first grade’. But that doesn’t stop her.
She has buck teeth, she’s short, has a voice like a bullfrog and she has wild curly hair. But she doesn’t care. She holds her head high and uses her limitations to stand tall no matter what.
But one day, she has to leave her friends and her supportive grandma… and start a new school.
She got called “Shrimpo” by the school bully and “Buck-tooth Beaver” but she doesn’t let that get her down.
An absolutely adorable book for children nervous about going to back to school, changing schools or facing bullies.
Molly Lou Lemon shows us that bullies will never win. That if you hold your head high, people will see the light within you. What a character and a lovely story. Perfect for ages 3-8 years.
We’re all pretty aware of the harmful toxins and chemicals we’re not meant to put inside our body. Organic, fresh, local ingredients are what dominate our thinking when it comes to food.
Therefore, doesn’t it follow that what we put on our skin and hair should also be fresh and organic- free of chemicals?
When it comes to hair products, we’re much less informed. And though we seem to understand that ‘no parabens’ and ‘no sulfates’ is a good thing, not many of us (myself included before researching this post) are informed about the reasons why.
How many of you have seen the popular signs indicating ‘no parabens, no toxins, no sulphates’ popularly painted across the packaging of our favourite kids’ products?
Admittedly, I have actively searched them out not knowing exactly what these can do to my kids and what harmful effects they could actually have. I’ve also not really sought out paraben- free and sulfate-free alternatives if I’m honest and just simply accepted that ‘paraben free’ means what it says on the label.
Well, if you’re like me, you may want to become more informed before you buy your next hair product that doesn’t contain sulfates and parabens so you know exactly why you’re paying the extra £6 for the ‘vegan-friendly’ stuff over your favourite drugstore brand.
What are Parabens?
Parabens are a family of chemical preservatives that are used to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold in perishable goods. They basically prolong the shelf life of our products.
Most of our beauty products contain parabens: toothpastes, deodorant, shampoos, skin lotion and makeup amongst other things.
So go check the ingredient list on the back of your beauty products and you’ll see parabens go by multiple names: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. But don’t just go by the label ‘no parabens’. Look at the packaging in detail to find out what are parabens and what do they do. Sneakily, these toxins can be disguised by names such as : Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates but they’re still every bit as much a paraben.
Why do parabens have such a bad rep?
In short, parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and our ability to reproduce. How? Well, numerous studies have shown that parabens can mimic the activity involved in the production of estrogen in the body’s cells which can lead to an increased risk of tumours. A 2004 British study even found the presence of parabens in 9 out of 10 breast tumours sampled.
Okay so the situation isn’t as bad as it could be. The amount of parabens in each product is safely controlled by the EU safety standards. And children under three especially are targeted. But it’s the cumulative effect of multiple products that can be harmful.
Are there alternatives to sulfates and parabens that aren’t harmful to us?
Nowadays, many natural and organic health care products have found alternatives to prolonging the shelf life of their products. But sometimes, these can be even more harmful to our skin or hair.
In general, never take marketing and adverts at face value. With so much information available, it’s easy to educate ourselves on the label content of our beauty products.
If you’re looking to steer clear of products that contain parabens, opt for ones that use ingredients such as ethylhexylglycerin (which is plant-derived) or phenoxyethanol, another alternative to parabens, a naturally derived ether alcohol.
The most common sulfate-based ingredients found in personal care products are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth ether sulfate (SLES), commonly known as sodium laureth sulfate. You can find them in soaps, shampoos, laundry detergents, dish detergent, toothpaste, bath bombs and more. Anything that gives you a lather.
Because that is the main use for SLS and SLES. It’s to create lather, giving a stronger impression of cleaning power. While sulfates aren’t “bad” for you, there’s a lot of controversy behind it.
Why are sulfates bad?
The highest risk of using products with SLS and SLES is irritation to your eyes, skin, mouth, and lungs. For people with sensitive skin, sulfates can also clog pores and cause acne. In the 90’s sulfates got a bad rep because they were believed to be carcinogenic because they are petroleum-based. This has since been disproved and the most harmful effect that has been proven is still skin, eye and mouth irritation made worse after prolonged exposure.
Some of the controversy also has to do with how sulfates are disposed of because they get washed down the drain through our sewage systems and can affect marine life.
Are there alternatives to sulfates and parabens?
Going sulfate-free depends on your concerns. If you’re worried about skin irritation and know that sulfate products are the cause, you can look for products that say sulphate-free or don’t list SLS or SLES in their ingredients. How sulfates affect your skin may also depend on the brand and manufacturer. Not all sources are the same.
It’s important to remember not all sulfates are bad. When they’re used in conditioners, they can actually help make hair smoother, softer, and visibly healthier.
Also, manufacturers haven’t been able to find proper alternatives for the foamy action that sulphates give to say, toothpaste. You can still use alternatives such as oils, olive oil, coconut oil etc to eliminate bacteria but you still won’t get the soapy-suds effect.
Still, there are alternatives.
For cleaning skin and hair: Opt for solid and oil-based soaps and shampoos rather than liquid. Some products to consider include African black soap and body cleansing oils.
For cleaning products: You can make cleaning products using diluted white vinegar. If you find vinegar unpleasant, try lemon juice. As long as you can ventilate your space while cleaning, there should be no irritation.
So, there you have it. Switching to products free from sulfates and parabens isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Parabens no. Sulfates, you can be choosy. Stay informed. Don’t just accept the labels you see which claim to be ‘free of everything and its brother’ but know your ingredients and what you can accept to be applied to your skin and hair.
Do you fancy a free book? One that teaches your multiracial or biracial kids to love their curly hair? Mixed.Up.Mama is giving away two copies of Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way, the much-celebrated third book from best-selling author of Daddy Do My Hair.
My daughters love this book and we all had the pleasure of meeting the author Tola Okugwu just this summer. Her book is a repetitive, delightful book that is beautifully illustrated and explores the joys and challenges of having curly hair through Kechi’s relationship with her Daddy.