We all like to look good, and companies all over the world are cashing in by selling us cosmetics. Unfortunately, a lot of these products are quietly harming our health. Parabens, phthalates and fragrances are just a few of the dangerous ingredients lurking in your daily beauty routine. Rather than sacrificing your rosy cheeks and flawless complexion, look for alternatives to the big-name commercial products for a solution.
Photo by Fotolia.
The Environmental Working Group states that the average woman uses 12 products, containing 168 ingredients, daily. Skin is our largest organ and it’s a perfect entry point for many of these substances to enter our bodies.
• BHA can cause abnormal hormone levels, cancer and reproductive issues, yet it’s found in a number of beauty products in the United States.
• Boric acid and sodium borate are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and can cause big problems for men’s reproductive systems.
• Formaldehyde not only is carcinogenic, but it is toxic to the brain and lungs. It is used in cosmetics as a preservative, but its use is diminishing.
• Fragrance is a very widely used substance composed of chemicals. They can be loaded with EDCs and allergens.
• Nanoparticles are found in some powders. Unfortunately, this won’t be listed on the label. Nanoparticles easily penetrate skin and enter your body.
• Oxybenzone can cause allergic symptoms and may interfere with hormones. It is used as a sunscreen.
• Parabens are used as cosmetic preservatives and can likely cause reproductive and endocrine issues.
• 1,4-dioxane is thought to be carcinogenic and still resides in cosmetics.
• Petroleum distillates are found in mascara and may cause cancer.
• Phthalates harm the reproductive system and often are in fragrances.
• Retinol can break down into free radicals when exposed to the sun. Free radicals damage DNA and encourage cancer growth.
The Environmental Working Group also mentions the following ingredients as ones to avoid: Animal based ingredients, triclosan, toluene, rescorcinol, methylisothiazolinone, lead, hydroquinone, and coal tar ingredients.
Okay, there is your scientific overload for the day. Keep a close eye out for these substances. Even if a product claims to be “natural,” it often contains some ingredients that can be harmful to your body. Take the extra time to research products before you head for the store.
Mission: Safe Cosmetics
There are, however, campaigns that are fighting for pure cosmetics because they believe we should be able to purchase products with confidence. Below is a statement from one of these organizations, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics grew out of concerns about phthalates, a set of industrial chemicals linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. It has since evolved to include many other chemicals of concern found in personal care products. American consumers use an average of 10 personal care products each day, resulting in exposure to more than 100 distinct chemicals, and potentially dozens of hidden ingredients. Toxic cosmetic ingredients are ending up inside our bodies, our breast milk and our babies, and these chemicals also go down the drain and pollute our waterways and drinking water. Toxic exposures from personal care products add to our daily dose of hazardous chemicals from air, water, food and other consumer products. The Campaign uses a science-based foundation and an engaged public to push companies to make safer products, and to convince the government to pass laws that protect our health. We continue with the campaign because we have had many victories that have made a difference.
* We effectively educate consumers and companies on how to make safer, more informed purchases. We created RED LISTS of chemicals of concerns to avoid in hair products, nail products, makeup, hair products, sunscreens, skin lighteners, anti-aging products and fragrance.
* We successfully advocate for stronger laws and safer Products — Over the past decade, we have made huge strides in convincing the big multinational cosmetics companies to stop using chemicals linked to adverse health effects including 2 phthalates —DEHP and DBP; triclosan, parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.
* We got the three biggest manufacturers of nail polish to shop using the toxic trio of toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.
* We have helped to grow the safe cosmetics sector into an $11 billion industry by generating consumer demand for safe products. And we convinced the world's biggest retailers —Walmart and Target — to make safe beauty and personal care products storewide priorities. We also advocate for stricter federal oversight of the $71 billion cosmetics industry so everyone will be protected and are working to secure passage of meaningful, health-protective federal cosmetic safety legislation in the U.S Congress.
I understand many of you, including myself, are hesitant to chuck your favorite makeup in the trash and venture out to try to find something new. So I have decided to do a bit of first-hand testing of some safe cosmetics to give you an idea of what is available. I’ve only tried a few things, but have been pleasantly surprised. After hours of searching the Internet, I ordered my first bottle of completely natural, organic foundation from Juice Beauty and lip tint from Purple Prairie Botanicals.
While the coverage of Juice Beauty’s Perfecting Foundation doesn't quite match the ability of more toxic options, it does pretty well. The color blended nicely and created a smooth finish, all while leaving my skin feeling healthy and hydrated. (I recommend applying it with your fingers.) After smoothing it over your face, pat the foundation with your fingertips. I found that this gives it a more natural texture. After twelve hours the foundation seemed to be relatively intact. It does not seem like it would provide buildable finish or coverage, but it is good for smoothing out skin tone and removing redness. Juice Beauty has a variety of other products I have yet to try, but am likely to give a shot.
I like to add a little color to my lips, but have stopped using most lipsticks; It kind of freaked me out to think I was pretty much eating the stuff. Ew! For the past year I have been buying sunscreen and lotions from a little place I stumbled across called Purple Prairie Botanicals. This earth-friendly company produces pure and organic products that I am completely in love with. They don’t carry makeup, but they do have tinted lip balms, which come in rose pink and brownish red. Both give my lips a nice, natural hue.
Call for Back-Up
Slowly trying to rid my makeup bag of all toxic products hasn’t been easy, but I have found an amazing app to make the transition smoother. Think Dirty (and no, it is not what it sounds like) allows you to look up and even scan the barcode of many household and beauty products. Each product is given a rating from 0-10, with 0 being most pure and 10 being most toxic. The app also lists which ingredients are toxic in each product and why. If you can't find the product you are looking for, you can register it and they will research and add it. It has made operation "pure beauty" much easier.
Through using the app, I have discovered several safe drugstore selections. Some Almay products rank low along with certain varieties of Revlon lipstick. Be cautious: Some items from the same brand can rank drastically different. Some items from Physicians Formula and other claimed "natural" makeup lines actually rank fairly toxic. The truth is in the ingredient list!
Makeup should be a simple concept: pick your favorite look or color, and buy it! Unfortunately, we can’t do that, yet. Until cosmetic ingredients are more tightly regulated, we have to educate ourselves on what is safe and what isn't. You can absolutely still enhance your natural beauty with makeup, just pay close attention and be selective about the products you choose to use.
Learn more about how to care for your skin naturally in Best Natural Skin Care for Every Skin Type.
Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.
"Who cannot love herself cannot love anybody, who is ashamed of her body is ashamed of all life, who finds dirt or filth in her body is lost, who cannot respect the gifts given even before birth, can never respect anything fully.” —Anne Cameron, "The Women's Society," from Daughters of Copper Woman
Its mid-summer, are you showing off your gorgeous skin? No, why not? Anyone can have gorgeous skin and it doesn’t require a lot of time or money. So ditch the expensive lotions, spray tans, scrubs and chemical peels and try this super-simple detoxifying, five-step skin care ritual for your best summer skin ever.
• Raw honey
• Coconut oil
• Natural loofah
TIME: 2.5 Hours
STEP 1: Exercise hard for one hour. Cycle, jog, hike, lift weights—do whatever, just exercise, push yourself and make sure you sweat! (I will follow up with an article on weights for strong arms and back and bum and legs separately.) Cool down with some simple, relaxing stretches.
STEP 2: Apply a face and neck mask. Raw honey is an easy-to-use, inexpensive, effective mask for all skin types, including dry, aging skin and oily acne prone skin, as it is moisturizing and antibacterial. It will leave you with a rosy, dewy complexion. Mix 1/8 teaspoon honey with a few drops of warm water in your hand and apply to your face and neck, leave on for 20 minutes. Now jump in the shower and rinse off.
STEP 3: Buff your body, all of it! If you have a private yard or sunny patio, wrap yourself in a towel and grab your loofah and coconut oil. Lay your towel in the sun and get comfy. I like this loofah by Bass. Make sure the loofah and your skin are dry to assist the lymphatic system in cleansing your body of toxins and metabolic waste and to slough off dead skin cells. Start at your feet—do the bottoms well—and in long, firm strokes buff up your legs, arms and entire body always moving toward your heart.
STEP 4: Oil up. If you are a lotion user, give coconut oil a try today. Once you see and feel the results of oiling your skin you won’t want to go back to lotions. Be generous with the oil. Start at your feet and work up your legs, paying special attention the knees and backs of the knees, groin, belly, armpits, elbows and chest.
STEP 5: Soak up D sun. When you are finished oiling your body, lay in the sun for 30 minutes on each side. Vitamin D is critical to physical and mental health. Vitamin D deficiency is the biggest reason people get sick. So skip the sun protection today and get outside before 10:30am or after 4pm (depending on where you are, of course) to avoid burning. Towel dry. If you need to rinse off go ahead. I never have to, I just towel dry and it soaks in.
Tell yourself, “I deserve to be healthy. I am beautiful. I love my body and my skin.” Repeat this mantra several times a day, aloud and to yourself. Remember to SMILE.
Practice this simple, decadent and deeply nourishing routine several times a week for best results. You are glowing! You are beautiful. I love you.
Shar Veda is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, Yoga Therapist, and herbalist living in Ashland, Oregon. She works with at risk teen-aged girls and offers compassionate health and lifestyle counseling anywhere in the world via Skype and or the good old-fashioned telephone. Shar has had the great gift of studying with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism for nearly 20 years. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio and photos, or find her on Facebook!
Soften skin while removing impurities. Soothing jojoba, sesame and coconut oils work together in this gentle cleanser, perfect for normal skin.
To Buy: $16, Mad Hippie
Apple cider vinegar, the standout ingredient in this nighttime essential for oily skin, works to even skin tone and neutralize pH.
To Buy: $22, S.W. Basics
Argan Face Oil
Argan oil, an anti-inflammatory and moisturizing treat for dry skin, makes up this organic serum, along with avocado oil and vitamin E.
To Buy: $22, EO Products
Especially great for dry, sensitive skin, this soothing moisturizer calms redness and hydrates skin with a mixture of aloe and oat extract.
To Buy: $49, CV Skinlabs
Bulgarian Rose Water
This antioxidant-rich floral water, an amazing treat for normal and combination skin, is made by natural steam distillation.
To Buy: $24, Alteya Organics
Learn more about natural skin-care solutions in Best Natural Skin Care for Every Skin Type.
Sometimes my tresses need a little extra love and attention. So when I started to hear whispers about using plant oils on hair—a trend I had yet to try—I was very interested in giving it a go. I mean, it initially seems kind of counterintuitive, doesn’t it? We do everything in our power to keep our hair from looking greasy, and now we’re being told to put oil on our hair? But according to many beauty experts, using high-quality plant oils on your hair can provide an assortment of benefits, from sealing in the hair cuticle and protecting it against heat to repairing any damaged strands by replacing its essential lipids.
The product I ended up using the most, and with great success, was Badger’s Botanical Hair Oil for Dry & Damaged Hair. It’s enriched with argan, jojoba and baobab oils, and truly keeps my hair well-nourished.
Badger’s Botanical Hair Oil Ingredients
First things first: Let’s dig into the ingredients that make up this product.
Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Oil, Argania Spinosa (Organic Argan) Oil, Adansonia Digitata (Organic Baobab) Oil, Essential Oils of Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Organic Orange), Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Organic Bergamot), Santalum Album (Organic Sandalwood), Cananga Odorata (Organic Ylang Ylang), and Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E)
It’s simply a medley of organic, high-quality plant oils, essential oils and vitamin E oil. Nothing extra has been added to this product that we should be concerned about. Use freely!
As I feel about most products from Badger (you’ve likely tried their sunscreens or skin balms before and loved them), I love this blend of oils for dry, damaged hair. Not only does it nourish my tresses, but it smells amazing. Argan is one of my all-time favorite oils: Especially great for dry skin, argan oil is anti-inflammatory and super hydrating. And, according to Badger’s website, it can protect damaged hair from heat, chemicals and UV damage. In addition, jojoba oil deeply moisturizes strands of hair while baobab oil works to strengthen tresses.
For healthy, shiny hair, I have used this oil two ways. First, it makes a wonderful leave-in conditioner. Pump one to two drops of this oil onto your fingertips and apply it evenly to damp, clean hair, working from the tips to the roots. Start from the back of your head and work forward. You can leave this in overnight and rinse out in the morning, or—if you use the oil sparingly—style as normal.
Here’s the second, and my favorite, way that I like to use this oil. Again, I pump about one drop of oil—a little really does go a long way—onto my fingertips, but instead of spreading it evenly all over my hair, I simply pay attention to the ends of my strands and use whatever excess oil I have left on my fingertips to tame pesky flyaways.
This product, as noted on the label, is perfectly suited for dry, damaged hair. If you have excessively oily hair, it may not be the right product for you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give it a try (in very small amounts). You may be surprised how much you love this extra boost of nourishment. Buy a 2-ounce bottle of this Botanical Hair Oil for $19 on their website, or find it at a store near you.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves that part of her job entails testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients.
With the coming of summer comes long hours in the sun and heat. Protect your mane from the summer sun without sacrificing all the summer fun by taking the right precautions.
Summertime causes several effects on your hair. The balmier weather will dry out your locks while UVA and UVB rays bake your hair, just like your skin, which alters the color and feel of it. These changes cause damage and allow your hair to deteriorate more easily. Much like the effect of heating implements on your hair, the constant high temperatures of the summer months can cause breakages and split ends. The outside coating of your hair, called keratin, is also affected by the sun. The often causes discoloration, frizziness, brittleness and even hair thinning.
Photo courtesy Shutterstock.
Since it’s more likely for your hair to be damaged while soaking up the sun, consider wearing a hat. While they can also protect your décolletage from overexposure to harmful rays, protecting your head (and the hair on it) is just as important. It’s also good to know that there are shampoos and conditioners that help protect against UVA and UVB rays. You can even dilute sunscreen to apply to your hair; just remember to use a clarifying shampoo afterward to get rid of buildup. Kerastase has great sun-care products under its Soleil line, including Huile Celeste Protective Spray which contains UVA and UVB filters.
You can also keep your hair strong throughout the summer months by using proper conditioning techniques. Ideally you should be conditioning your hair with every wash, summertime means your locks will need some extra love to stay moisturized. Use Moroccan oil to help lock in hydration. After spending time at the beach or pool, use a conditioning masque to help restore moisture. Try Aveda’s Sun Care After-Sun Hair Masque to neutralize free radicals with green tea extract and Vitamin E, while also boosting hair strand density with a patented protein and blend of plant oils.
You may also want to change up your beauty regimen during the summer months. Dye, style and shampoo less often! Crazy, you say? Bleach and hair dyes, along with curling and straightening tools are essentially the quid-pro-quo, but they aren’t putting your hair in the best starting position during summer. Additionally, shampooing your hair too often strips it of natural oils which cause it to become dryt—skip the shampoo as often as possible, especially if you’re about to go swimming in a chlorinated pool!
Make the most of the gorgeous weather without damning your beautiful tresses by using these simple tips.
Photo by Fotolia.
Step 1: Shape and Soak.
Clip toenails to a uniform length, aiming straight across in several small cuts to avoid encouraging ingrown nails. Then file nails in one direction. Fill a bowl with warm water and add 10 to 20 drops almond, jojoba, olive or avocado oil. Add 10 drops antifungal tea tree essential oil and 10 drops soothing lavender essential oil. Soak feet in water for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 2: Smooth Skin.
Dry feet. Make an exfoliating paste by mixing 1⁄2 cup sugar with 1⁄2 cup any oil of your choice. Apply paste all over foot, concentrating on rough areas such as the heels, and rub into skin for a few minutes to moisturize and smooth calluses. Rinse hands and wash feet. Apply 1 drop oil on cuticle of each toe and massage into skin.
Step 3: Enhance.
Buff nails to a sheen with a buffer block ($6, Sephora) or use a healthy polish such as Kester Black’s ($20) cruelty-free polish, made without toluene (a suspected carcinogen), camphor (toxic in large amounts), formaldehyde (a carcinogen) and formaldehyde resin (an allergen).
It’s easy to avoid the harsh chemicals common in skin-care products when we make our own—many of the nastiest compounds in conventional cosmetics are stabilizers and preservatives. Liz Marie Galvan, from Liz Marie Blog, offers this simple face mask made from edible ingredients. The honey moisturizes and cleanses skin gently. The cinnamon fights breakouts with its antiseptic properties, and the nutmeg sloughs off dead skin cells to reduce blackheads and even out skin tone. If you have sensitive skin, test these ingredients on a small patch of skin before adding them to your mask. If the mask doesn’t irritate your skin, apply once a week.
Liz Marie Galvan, founder of Liz Marie Blog (lizmarieblog.com), uses his all-natural face mask recipe to brighten and even out skin tone. Photo courtesy Liz Marie Galvin.
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Pour honey into bowl, then add nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
2. Apply mask to face, being careful to avoid the eye area.
3. Let sit 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Follow with a moisturizer.