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Organic Beauty & Cosmetics – Where Do I Begin?

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Elena wearing All-Organic CosmeticsIs it easy being green?

The question that comes up most frequently from women who want to make healthier and eco-friendly choices in the makeup aisle is: “Where in the world do I begin?” It’s easy to simply hunt for the perfect new shade of lipstick. But when you stop and think about what is actually in that lipstick, it can be very scary indeed. We all know by now that anything we put on to our skin will ultimately, in some amount, end up in our blood stream affecting our health. If you don’t think this happens, just ask any doctor you know about medicated creams that are all the rage in everything from hormone creams to topical headache roll-ons.

Making the shift to reading each label and having ingredient awareness is like going to the gym for the first time after a long break. The hardest part is that first step in getting yourself up and going. Once you’re there and getting your body moving, you are ecstatic that you jumped over that first hurdle. That’s because you know it’s good for you! The same scenario rings true for making the leap to reading every label and gaining awareness for the extensive list of ingredients in the beauty and skincare products you buy.

Once you are aware of many ingredients, you will be hard-pressed not to freak out. At first glance, it can feel as if you need to become a bio-chemist to decipher the astoundingly confusing laundry list of ingredients found on a simple box of lip-gloss. However, you do not need to earn a degree in all things toxic to go natural and organic with your cosmetics. With a few easy tools in your (organic) bag, you will be able to stroll into the cosmetics aisle and make a sensible, healthy and fabulous pick.

Cosmetics Database To The Rescue

The Cosmetics Database is an incredible free resource founded by the Environmental Working Group. This diligent group of scientists created the Skin Deep Report, an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products based on the combined information from more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases. At CosmeticsDatabase.com, you can look up the toxicity rating of beauty products you are already using or products that you are considering purchasing. The database analyzes and rates companies, brands and individual products on a scale of 0-10; 0 being least hazardous, 10 being the most hazardous.

To stay toxic-chemical free, only choose products that earn a rating between 0-3. At CosmeticsDatabase.com, you can also find a list of companies who have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. This is the pledge not to use ingredients that cause cancer and/or disrupt hormones.

10 Ingredients To Avoid

  1. Aluminum – blocks pores, trapping sweat and toxins in the skin; has been linked to lung disease and Alzheimer’s
  2. Artificial Colors – F, D, and C are all derived from coal tar; low-level exposure is linked to cancer, allergic reactions, nausea, fatigue and skin problems
  3. Dibutyl Phthalate – found in all people tested by the Center for Disease Control in 2000; causes birth defects in animal testing
  4. Formaldehydes – used in the medical profession as a preservative; also listed as: Imidazolidinyl, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium 15, Diazolidinylurea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, and 3-diol
  5. Fragrances – this category contains up to 200 undeclared substances (scary!); fragrances are known to cause skin irritation and hyper-pigmentation
  6. Isopropyl Alcohol – is made from petroleum and acts as a drying agent
  7. Parabens– made from petroleum, parabens are thought to play a role in decreased sperm counts and increasing rates of breast cancer; used in 99% of all cosmetics; these petrochemicals are known to be estrogenic, carcinogenic and allergenic
  8. Paraffin– made from petroleum and is used to block pores, trapping toxins in the skin
  9. Phenoxyethanol- is a synthetic ether alcohol preservative; this ingredient can cause contact dermatitis
  10. Talc– an extremely popular ingredient in makeup and baby powders; current research has shown that it can contain asbestos and has been linked to ovarian cancer

Signing off…EcoDiva

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15 Responses to “Organic Beauty & Cosmetics – Where Do I Begin?”

  1. Jim says:

    Since I don’t wear cosmetics, I had no idea! Fragrances have up to 200 undeclared substances!?

    I guess since you don’t ingest it the FDA isn’t really all that concerned what is in it, but I imagine going organic is certainly something that could make you healthier if you must put on the war paint. :)

  2. My wife is big on this. The big issue is that most of the all-natural/organic cosmetics can be quite expensive.

    Also, the FDA really should be concerned with it. Chemicals don’t only enter your body through your mouth. Many can easily be absorbed through the skin.

  3. beautymatters says:

    The cosmetics database isn’t something that I’d rely on exclusively, as it is a bit alarmist.

    You can read this thread for more information.

    http://fray.slate.com/discuss/forums/thread/2496464.aspx?ArticleID=2211934

  4. lostAnnfound says:

    Better yet, ditch the makeup altogether. While some women feel they need to wear it for a skin condition (acne scarring, rosacea, etc.), most women would be better served not putting anything on their faces and just letting their natural beauty show (not to mention the money they could save!).

    • Jim says:

      I think the absence of makeup is most natural and most beautiful. While I understand why people put it on, just like how people like nice clothes, it seems a bit unnecessary.

  5. Matt Jabs says:

    As lostAnnfound & Jim suggest… stopping, or at least greatly reducing use of cosmetics altogether is by far the best option.

    I prefer a woman with little to no makeup at all. It looks better, exudes confidence, and is much better for their skin health… among other things.

    That said… a lot of woman still want to wear cosmetics, and if they do following these guidelines is a MUCH healthier choice than wearing traditional “big-company” cosmetics.

  6. Diana says:

    I don’t wear makeup anymore. Ok, for big nights out I do. The first thing I hear from other women is that its ok for me because I have beautiful skin. They didn’t see me when I was still wearing makeup and the process while I was quitting. It wasn’t planned, I was just so busy my routine kept getting smaller and smaller. My skin improved with everything I stopped wearing.

    I think most women have beautiful skin. They have just been wearing makeup so long they don’t know it.

    The power of advertising is amazing. I think about starting to wear makeup again every once in a while. It’s crazy, I don’t like the way my skin feels when I wear it. It’s considered Normal to spend hundreds per year (per person) or more on makeup. Why is this normal?

  7. Mia says:

    Cosmetics aren’t just makeup- baby shampoo, aftershave, cologne, hand soap, lotion- these are all “cosmetics,” so it is safe to say that we all use at least one cosmetic a day, and most of us use a lot more than one. Harmful ingredients in these products (and in air, food, and water)add up and may cause serious health issues.

    Label reading is so important, but since “contaminants” and “fragrance” ingredients don’t have to be on ingredient labels, even a conscious consumer is at a loss. We need cosmetics industry regulation! Please visit our website to take action. safecosmetics.org

  8. I read EWG and jotted down the healthier brands of most things Mia mentions. Turns out the stores on my beat (I live in the middle of a bustling section of Washington, DC) don’t have many . It takes a lot of time to look everything up all the time. To save time, I selected one or two brands that receive high marks and keep buying them. If not in stores, then when online stores have sales. Some, like the eco-Lush shampoo/conditioner bar last five months. (Don’t know where they stand on EWG’s current ist which doesn’t always review every brand on the market.)

    My problem is the recommended length of time you’re supposed to use them. Is mascara really going to go bacterial in 3-4 months? If so, why don’t they put it in smaller containers and charge less? Why would eyebrow liner go bad–you keep sharpening the point and using fresh color. For better or worse, I use my two lipsticks for at least year or more–wear it every day and apparently, not applying it often enough. Any thoughts on this?

    • Jack says:

      The industry makes more money if they can get you to purchase mascara 3 or 4 times a year INSTEAD OF once every 1 or 2 years. In order to have that happen you are told the product will “go bad”.
      1-Have you ever noticed your mascara “going bad”? LOL
      2- The products are usually made of crap and it amuses me to think of crap going bad-IT ALREADY IS!!LOL
      It is our responsibility as consumers to “figure out” what is true for our lifestyle. For you, changing your mascara once a year has not hindered you or hurt you in anyway- then that works for YOU. Who could possibly tell you what works for you with more intimate knowledge than yourself??

  9. Taylor says:

    I really enjoyed the article posted regarding harmful ingredients in personal care products. It was very informative, and I believe you are absolutely correct about the negative impact that these chemicals can have on our bodies. I have discovered several amazing reports to validate your position, and I think you would find the information fascinating. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please email me at your earliest convenience at tdeann24@gmail.com. One report in particular is very serious in nature and was documented on CNN. I’ll send you a link.

  10. Anita says:

    I wonder. It says no parabens and no phenoxyethanol. The main thing companys uses instead of parabens are phenoxyethanol. What should they than use for preservative in the products?


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