Beauty & Health, First Blush

First Blush – May 2014

Stop and think for a minute; just how many products do you spray, slather, and swipe on from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, without a second thought? If you’re anything like me you have dozens of products scattered atop your dresser, lined up in your bathroom, and overtaking the shower shelf. And that’s because cosmetics and personal care products are supposed to be fun to collect and experiment with. Everyone knows the thrill of testing that talked about new shampoo or saving up for the must-have lipstick of the moment, but how thrilled would you be if you knew most of your tried and true favorites are chock full of harmful chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens? And what’s worse—no one is telling you.

Lead in your lipstick. Dioxane and formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) in your favorite shampoo. Parabens (linked to cancer) in your deodorant. Diethyl phthalate in your perfume. What gives? Although difficult and depressing to accept, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cosmetic products and their ingredients do not require FDA approval before they go on the market to be sold to unsuspecting consumers. The FDA actually has no authority to require safety assessments on cosmetics before they are sold for both salon and customer use, making them some of the least-regulated and least-reviewed products on the market. Some numbers say as much as 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetic products have not been evaluated whatsoever. And what’s worse, it seems America is behind on the game—the European Union has already banned 1,200 of these harmful chemicals while the United States has only banned 10.

In short—no one is making sure your moisturizer, mascara, shampoo, or even baby products are safe. Americans are at serious risk of being unknowingly exposed to harmful chemicals. Scary stuff. Don’t believe me? Head on over to the FDA’s own website: “FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA pre-market approval authority, with the exception of color additives.”

When you think about all the products that go into your Saturday date night or happy hour with the girls, or even the several products you use to simply take a shower, small exposure to these chemicals consistently over time can add up to some harmful outcomes like cancer, immunotoxicity, or developmental and reproductive issues.

So What Can You Do?
Thankfully, a trend has been surfacing where consumers are making themselves more aware of what goes into their products, and demanding that manufacturers be more transparent about their ingredients. But what’s a girl to do when said ingredients make as much sense as hieroglyphics? A “fragrance” labeling alone can contain up to 3,163 different harmful ingredients, and most of us won’t be memorizing those any time soon. Well, naturally, there’s an app for that!

I’ve found the simplest and quickest way to stay on top of what’s really in my products is by taking advantage of some of the wonderfully detailed and informative apps available for your smartphone. Technology takes all the guesswork out of clean, green beauty shopping. My personal favorite is Think Dirty. This app is the nearly fool proof answer to learning the truth about the potentially toxic and harmful ingredients in your products. Simply type in the name or scan the barcode of 68,000 North American and European products and Think Dirty rates them on a “dirty scale” from one (cleanest) to ten (dirtiest).

You can be an educated, empowered consumer and receive straightforward, easy-to-understand information as well as several options for cleaner alternatives, all from your phone.

When I first heard about Think Dirty, I straightaway typed in the products I had been using for almost a decade. You know, that staple face scrub that never fails you, or your tried and true mascara you’ve never seemed to beat. I was shocked and honestly upset to see that the face wash I had stood by since my preteen acne days was a whopping 10 on the toxicity scale. Despite its crisp white bottle and wholesome-ingredient, all-natural marketing angle, I was indignant that I had been duped by great packaging and smoke and mirrors.

But I am optimistic that one day soon we won’t have to choose between our favorite products and our health. With the rising popularity of this app (it’s already been downloaded more than 70,000 times!) and similar ones, like The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep, there is real hope that the go-to brands we’ve come to love will be held accountable and their manufacturers will actually change their formulas to substantially reduce or eliminate harmful ingredients.

If you’re more of a website person (or you’ve refused to retire that handy flip phone) head on over to The Environmental Working Group (, where you can peruse the Skin Deep database, a cosmetics and personal care products safety guide launched in 2004 that, to date, has rated 80,000 personal care products with the same goal as Think Dirty; to educate and help people find safe products with fewer untested and potentially hazardous ingredients. Skin Deep provides information about regulations, toxicity, and safety ratings.

Products & Brands
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that couldn’t be truer in the case of safe cosmetics and care products. Even as little as a decade ago it would’ve been nearly impossible to find all the products you love and use regularly in a safe, organic, toxic-free line, let alone a variety of lines and brands to choose from. Using only certified organic ingredients and/or a mix of natural and organic ingredients can be limiting, so most brands don’t go that far, and a lot of the standard, big names aren’t as all-natural as they claim to be. And honestly, it’s more about what these organic lines aren’t using that matters here: absolutely no unnecessary chemicals, parabens, fillers, preservatives, or additives.

But ask and you shall receive! Us beauty lovers and product-hoarders have spoken, and with our demands we have noticed a surge in just how many great lines and brands there are these days offering safe, harm-free cosmetics. Even big name brands are starting to roll out safer products one by one. Read on for my personal recommendations on which clean products, brands, and lines are worth your time, money, and consideration.

Nail It Down
The one beauty product that’s seen the most change is probably nail polish. Even a number of high-end, prestige designer brands like Dior, Givenchy, and Chanel got on the bandwagon and made their nail polishes Five Free—free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene—plus formaldehyde resin and camphor. Check out the list of chic, richly pigmented, luxe polish brands with less-toxic or non-toxic formulas. As far as worrying about your friends stealing them, well, that’s another story…

Deborah Lippmann
Zoya Nail Polishes
Vapour organic beauty vernissage nail lacquer
Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics vegan nail lacquer
Scotch Naturals
TenOverTen polish
Kure Bazaar
Acquarella Non-Toxic Nail Polish
Chanel Le Vernis
NCLA Nail Lacquer
Mineral Fusion Nail Color

Other Safe Products to Love
SW Basics Cream: face and body cream with only three ingredients— coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter.

Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater: Use as a toner or face and body mist; gentle enough for children too!

Alpine Made Certified Organic Unscented Goat Milk Soap: Extra gentles soap great for sensitive skin. No parabens or anything synthetic whatsoever—all natural and pure.

Aura Cacia Avocado Skin Care Oil: Rich, skin-rejuvenation oil; very high in oleic acid; excellent for massage or moisturizing post-shower.

Be sure to check out these other awesome, safe brands!

Sappho Organic Cosmetics
Josie Maran
100% PURE
Bite Beauty
Physicians Formula
Ecco Bella
Pure and True
Bare Minerals
Afterglow Cosmetics
Zuii Organic
RMS Beauty
Tracie Martyn
Seventh Generation
J.R. Watkins
Balanced Guru
Tata harper
Votre Vu
Kora Organics (supermodel Miranda Kerr’s line)
Antonym Cosmetics


And of Course, You can always DIY

Lemon Hair Lightener
Instead of the harsh chemicals required for permanent highlights at the salon, try subtle highlights in light colored hair by simmering two sliced lemons in water for one hour (add more water if needed). Strain, then pour into a spray bottle for easy spritzing.

Baking Soda Skin Soother
If facial scrubs irritate your skin, here’s a gentler alternative: Mix about ½ tablespoon of baking soda in your palm with enough water to turn it into a paste. Massage into damp skin, then rinse.

Baking Soda Hair Cleanser
What doesn’t baking soda do? Use it to remove product buildup from your hair, too. Just add a pinch or two of baking soda to your shampoo once a week. Bonus baking soda use: Dust it under your arms to absorb body odor.

Shave Cream
1/3 cup shea butter
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup jojoba or sweet almond oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
3-5 drops peppermint essential oil

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine shea butter and coconut oil, stirring until just melted. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl. Add the jojoba oil and essential oils. Stir to mix. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill until solid. Remove from the refrigerator and whip using a hand beater or a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into a jar. Lid and keep in a cool, dry place.

Conventional mouthwash can contain harsh detergents and sugars (like sorbitol and saccharin) as well as synthetic colors, aroma, and flavorings. Try making your own!

1/2 c. aloe vera juice
1/4 c. water
1 tsp witch hazel
1 tsp baking soda
10 drops peppermint essential oil

Combine the aloe vera juice, water, and witch hazel in a bottle. Gently add in the baking soda, being careful that a reaction doesn’t overflow. Add in your drops of peppermint essential oil, cover, and shake vigorously. Store in a cool, dark area for up to 2 weeks.

Traditional antiperspirant and deodorant contains aluminum, phthalates, and fragrance which have been liked to neurological problems, cancer and reproductive toxicity. Try  making your own non-toxic, plastic free, and sustainable version.

5-6 tablespoons coconut oil
1/8 cup arrowroot powder
1/8 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
Several drops of bergamot oil [optional]

Mix the powders together in a jar and slowly add the coconut oil until you have a “pomade” consistency and powders are mostly dissolved. Add a few drops of oil until desired scent is achieved. To use, scoop out a pea sized amount and rub between your fingers to melt and create a smooth texture. Apply under your arms and rub any left into your hands as a moisturizer.

Written by: Genevieve LeFranc

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