|Courtesy Skin by Monica|
“My philosophy is that you should treat your skin as the most expensive silk dress you own,” says Monica Olsen.
And she does. Growing up using just milk and water to wash her face, the former model considered starting her own all-natural skincare after studying up on the harsh chemicals included in some cleansers and toners.
But it was having her children — now 3 and 5 years old — that really pushed Olsen to make a change.
“When I was pregnant, I read books about the ingredients in skincare products,” she tells PEOPLE Moms & Babies. “Some of the chemicals mentioned were used in baby washes, bubble baths. I knew they were harmful, and I didn’t want my kids exposed to them.”
So Olsen, whose husband makes vitamins, took matters into her own hands, and launched Skin by Monica, an all-natural skincare line with lotions, cleansers and more for adults and babies.
“I wanted to make something for the whole family,” she says, adding that “everybody should treat their skin as if it were baby skin.” Olsen says there are several ingredients parents should avoid when looking at baby skincare products.
“Sulfates are number one,” she says. “They’re used to clean the floors of industrial facilities. It’s a highly astringent chemical made to make your product bubbly, and strips your skin of the oils it needs, instead of the dirt.”
Parabens are a no-no, too. “They’re preservatives, and they’re carcinogenic,” Olsen sys. “I use all-natural preservatives, like grapefruit seed extract.”
When dealing with diaper rash, Olsen urges parents to look for a cream that has less than 10 percent zinc oxide. “Anything beyond that is too strong,” she warns. “It can get into the blood stream, and the rash will come back again.”
Strong essential oils can be problematic, too. “There’s a certain level that exceeds what I believe is good for a baby,” she explains.
“A lot of products out there use essential oils, which is great, but you have to look at how much they’re using. It’s like cooking: how much baking soda do you really put into cookies? Even in the natural world, there are botanicals and essential oils that make sense for some, and not others.”
If possible, skip the alcohol. “It’s cheap, it doesn’t work and just dries the skin,” she says. “But if you try to purchase products that don’t use it, you’ll be left with very few options.”
Finally, Olsen offers a last tip, as a mom who’s been there. “Kids have fun with foaming baby wash [in] colorful bottles,” she says. But, again, she stresses, some such products can contain potentially harmful ingredients.
If you happen to have a fun bottle of bath bubbles, or a similar product, sitting around at home, she urges you to empty it out and fill it with a natural wash instead. “Say ‘Here, you can have this,’ and they’ll never know the difference,” she says. “But you will.”
For more of Olsen’s ingredients to avoid, check out skinbymonica.com.