Everyone always forgets that our skin is our largest organ and its pores provide a natural way for the body to shed toxins. Because of this, skin breakouts and rashes are a clear sign the body is trying to fight something. So why do we combat this by putting chemicals on our face that wouldn't pass muster on the ingredient list of an organic counter spray?
As a gluten-free chef and health-conscious food writer, I put a lot of emphasis on avoiding pesticides and processed foods in my diet. But the endocrine disrupters in everyday beauty products are equally harmful to your body.
As part of my monthly wellness challenge series, I decided to do right by my liver by going off alcohol, caffeine and sugar for a month. It was amazing to see what an impact honoring this organ had on my skin. But to limit my liver woes on a daily basis, I knew I also had to make moves to more natural beauty products.
If you're having a mild panic attack right now thinking about going without your double matte powder or spending half your monthly paycheck on organic shampoo, trust me when I say I know what you're thinking. Please also trust me when I say that the most daunting part of this green beauty experiment isn't the price tag, but rather, knowing where to start.
Here are some tips I picked up from talking to natural cosmetics advocates that helped me tremendously in making the transition to natural personal care products.
1. Go item-by-item.
There's no need to throw out your entire makeup cabinet tomorrow. The stress of that prospect would probably do your skin more harm than the toxins you're eliminating! You can replace things as they run out, which should help ease any budgeting concerns.
2. Check on EWG for red flags.
If you're really worried about some brands, do a quick cross-reference on the Environmental Working Group's website, Skin Deep. If the product is a level 1 or 2, it's probably not worth throwing away immediately. But a code red? Toss it in the trash and never look back. You might find yourself blown away by the levels of certain toxins in some of your beauty mainstays.
3. Start with the products that stay on your skin the longest.
Face moisturizer is the number one place to start as it immediately gets absorbed into your skin and you (should) use it twice daily. Next up is foundation, unless it's not something you use frequently. Take into account how close each product is to your skin's surface (what order you apply products in is important), and how long it sits on skin (conditioner you rinse out after a minute can wait for round two or three).
4. Forget the front of the package.
Just because something says it's natural doesn't mean bubkus. This is all part of a strategy called "greenwashing" used by big beauty. Even labels like "cruelty-free" and "organic" are beginning to lose some of their meaning. Plus, like small farms, not every bootstrapping beauty brand can afford these labels, even if they're made from the cleanest ingredients.
5. Read ingredient labels.
Begin by scanning for the biggest offenders: fragrance, parabens, sulfates, phthalates. Then take into consideration what the active naturals are and where they fall on the list. If the first ingredient is water, the formula isn't going to be as concentrated and give you as much bang for your buck. If the front of the package touts rosemary and it's one of the last ingredients, chances are only a drop went into the vat and therefore will not have a huge impact on your skin.
6. Find brands you trust.
Just like getting to know the farmer's at your local market or the designer behind your favorite pair of skinny jeans, learning more about the mission and people behind your cosmetics is the best way to navigate the landscape. Chances are, if you believe in the mission behind a company, you'll trust and believe in their products as well.
Remember: Cut yourself some slack and try not to stress too much about these environmental toxins. The only thing worse for your skin than chemicals is stress. There's something to be said for cosmetics that make you feel beautiful, even if they're not made of things that will make you prettier from the inside out. One day, I hope you'll feel the same way about your new natural options as you once did about the brands advertised in glossy magazines. If it makes you feel better about taking the leap, I can assure you that I now do.