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Real Beauty

Tips and tricks for natural body care

Choosing Healthy Beauty Products

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.

makeup palette and brushes
Photo by Fotolia.

Ingredient Watch

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.

Juice Beauty Perfecting Foundation bottle

My Thoughts:

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 WoffordKaryn 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.