Friday, September 16, 2011

Natural Beauty

Recently I've had a couple friends asking me about what natural beauty products I use - so I was thinking I could do a post and share what brands/products I've decided to use and why.

Firstly, I'll tell you why I've decided to use natural beauty products - and it is for pretty much the same reason that I have decided to eat more naturally as well: for my health and the health of the environment.

I decided a while back that I wanted to know exactly what the things were that I was putting into my body, the things I was ingesting - and so I follow some pretty simple rules (re: Food Rules by Michael Pollan). Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! I should care just as much about what I'm putting on my body as in my body! Your skin is, after all, your largest organ, and should be high on your priority list of things to take care of! Whatever you put on your skin your body absorbs, so it matters a great deal.

Some of the more sketchy ingredients in cosmetics to watch out for are parabens (a preservative), pthalates (a plastic - PVC), lead and a whole numbers of others - this video on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does a really great job of explaining the impacts of toxins in our beauty products - impacts such as chronic toxicity, cancer, nervous system damage, gene mutations, birth defects and reproductive problems (this one is especially important - whatever your put on your skin can potentially cross the placental barrier and affect a fetus, and the fetus is very vulnerable to toxins, especially in the first three months of pregnancy. Here's a list of things to specifically avoid during pregnancy.)

In fact, in the course of writing this blog post I found that even I didn't look closely enough at all my products!!! I am still learning so much. Thanks to my friend Janean - even though she considers me a beauty product guru, she has helped me to really evaluate the products I'm using! It's tough, it is hard work to research and know what ingredients are toxic, especially since many go by many different names, and to spend the time reading ingredients labels on every. single. product. Take it a little at a time, it's overwhelming but soon it will be second nature.

So there are three ways in which you can address toxic or unsafe beauty products: 
1. Continue usings any product. (Many contain petroluem, pthalates, parabens, and other harmful synthetic chemicals. Consequences are at your own risk.)
2. Use natural or organic products. (Generally safer and a great option, though be wary of false advertising - like me!)
3. Discontinue use. (The safest alternative!)

Therefore, I first decided to simply stop using some products for good. These include hairspray, hair dyes, perfume, nail polish, lipstick, cream hair removers, and so on. These are not essential, so they were all out. The last time I had my nails painted was for my wedding - and I feel liberated by it!

Obviously there are some products that are necessary, such as shampoo & conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, facial cleanser, lotion, lip balm, make-up, tampons and *eh-hem* condoms and lube. For these products I have chosen natural or organic alternatives. This is just my current list, it is always changing as I learn more about companies and ingredients and as I try new products, and the list of safe cosmetics brands here is a great resource to further investigate and explore options.

Shampoo & Conditioner: I used to use Trader Joe's Nourish Shampoo - but when I looked at it tonight for doing this blog I found that it contain parabens. Guess I'm on the hunt again! ARG! See how you can't even trust a company that makes it seem like they are all natural and doing the right thing? It's all marketing sometimes. Boo Trader Joe's, Boo. My friend Hayley recommends using a shampoo bar from Lush - and it since it is a solid you can take as much as you want through security! I'm ordering it tonight and going to give it a try.

Soap: From the Farmer's Market, Goat's Milk Soaps, or One With Nature Dead Sea Mud Soap
Buy local and handmade if you can! We like to cut our own at the Coop - they have this Cedar Soap that I love to smell on Ross. Drives me wild. This is above one I've tried that I have liked a lot that is available in many stores. I use soap for shaving as well - keeping it simple.
Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh Peppermint 
Love it, but as Tom's was acquired by Crest I am thinking of searching for a new brand. I've also heard that most brands of toothpaste have plastic particles in them - which is how they scrub your teeth. GROSS. Any suggestions on brands to try?
Deodorant: Nature's Gate Spring Fresh - made with Witch Hazel and Oak. I used to use Tom's of Maine but they have recently changed their formula and something in it gave me an awful itchy rash - very unpleasant under the arms. This one not only works better (I can hike and get sweaty and it still works!) but it is gentle on the skin. This was the first product I ever changed to natural when I learned there might be a link between aluminum in deodorant and breast cancer.

Facial: Yes to Carrots Exfoliating Cleanser, Witch Hazel Toner, and Avalon Organic's Vitamin C Serum.

Lotion: Jason's 84% Aloe Vera - great everyday moisturizer and gentle on sunburns.

Lip Balm: Burt's Bees, Yes to Carrots, or something from the Farmer's Market

Make-Up: I honestly haven't been too stoked on anything for the cost/value, but Physician's Formula does a pretty good job and I like their Mineral Wear Talc-Free Correcting Powder. I'm not too much of a make-up person, I keep it really simple and use only powder unless it's a special occasion. I don't even own mascara. If anyone has recommendations of make-up brands I would love to hear them.

Tampons: NatraCare
Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed agricultural products - and considering this is one you put on the inside - I definitely have decided to go with organic cotton. Plus you can opt out of the applicator and cut down on plastic use! They have pads and liners as well.

Condoms: Umbra did such a wonderful job on this that I am going to refer you this article on green condoms. I really do appreciate that Sir Richard's donates a condom to someone in need for every condom purchased, and that they offer an extra large size, but I have yet to see them in stores, which is disappointing and makes it a little more inconvenient.

Lube: Aloe all the way. I love this AloeLife Personal Gel Lubricant for all my intimate needs. And just because it is interesting - it says that it is safe to ingest! I definitely stay away from any lubes that are "tingling" or "warming" because that usually means they contain menthol. Ouch.

On that note - if you are still with me after my essay - then I want to address just a few more things that might be on your mind:

It's more expensive - I'm on a budget! It really does mean that you have to spend a few extra dollars for natural and organic products, it takes more time to research and find them, and I am definitely in the grad-school-broke-as-ever stage. However, my health and my family's health is not something I am willing to sacrifice, and the thousands of dollars I could save on medical bills in the future or preventing cancer or birth defects in my children is worth whatever debt I incur now. Even if you might think that I've gone totally overboard and am overreacting that's fine, but I am a firm believer in the Precautionary Principle: essentially, better safe than sorry.

I'm overwhelmed! Holy cow this is a lot to think about, I don't want to throw out all my stuff and start over tomorrow, I'm busy, and then what about my cleaning products? Medications? Clothes? Yoga mat? ACK! Ok, those last few categories are perhaps better addressed in a future post, but honestly you can take it one step at a time. Educate yourself. Change one product at a time, try things out, see what you like. Ross and I have "grandfathered" things in. That way the financial burdened is lessened, you're not wasting the products you already have, and you can take it slowly and learn more.

In the end, here's to a safer, healthier, and naturally beautiful you! 


Krystal said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

OMG, I had no idea there were green "intimate" products out there! Great blog post - lots of new tips. You inspire me!

Jenn said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Krystal Thanks Krystal! Many of these products just aren't mainstream and you can't find them in the stores where you usually shop, so it takes extra effort to research, find and order them. I'm glad I could help!