All Natural Cosmetics – Healthy or Hype?
With the vast array of cosmetics on the market today that all seem to claim to be the best this or that, it can be very hard to choose. While there is nothing wrong with having a variety of products, what it really comes down to is the ingredients. If you have thought about making the switch to all natural cosmetics, let me give you several good reasons as to why you should.
Click an item in the table below to skip to a specific question, or continue to read the whole article.
The skin is our largest organ and studies have shown that it absorbs 60% of what we put on it. This is why nicotine and birth control patches are so effective. A lot of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. Pretty crazy right? It is really important to be aware of what you are using on your skin, eyes, and lips.
In 2005 the Environmental Working Group published two combined studies that found toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord of newborn babies here in the U.S. in the fall of 2004. They checked more than 400 chemicals, and a staggering 287 were found in the umbilical cord blood of these babies. Of these 287 chemicals, 217 were found to be neurotoxins, and 208 are known to damage growth or cause birth defects. Yikes! So again, it all comes down to the ingredients in the products you are putting on your skin.
What Is All Natural Makeup?
It means zero chemicals, artificial dyes, preservatives, fragrances, harsh surfactants, formaldehyde releasers or petroleum-based ingredients. When you look at the list of ingredients you should only see fruit, flower, herbal or plant extracts, natural plant-derived oils, etc.
Some examples are –
- Aloe Vera Juice
- Rose Flower Water
- Olive, jojoba or Almond Oil
- Pomegranate Seed Oil
- Carnauba Wax
- Peach, strawberry or cherry fruit extract and/or color pigments
- Natural mineral pigments
- Hibiscus flower extract
- Rice or cornstarch
- Red or black clay
You should not find any of the following –
- Phthalates/DBP (Dibutyl phthalate)
- Formaldehyde/Formaldehyde resin
- FD&C (coal tar) dyes
- Lead or other heavy metals
- Mineral oil
- GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
And many other toxic ingredients
So, when you hear the term all natural makeup what we are talking about is just that. Natural cosmetics should not contain any harmful or synthetic ingredients. The ingredients they do contain should actually benefit your skin and may enhance your complexion even after you have removed your makeup for the night. Makeup with chemicals is not helping your skin. It is just covering it up.
What Are Parabens, Phthalates, Etc And Why Should You Avoid These Ingredients?
You may be thinking, all of these ingredients are in products that are approved to be on the market and have been sold for years so they can’t be that bad. Yes and no, while some ingredients are more toxic than others it is still pretty shocking what is allowed in our everyday cosmetics.
There are thousands of chemicals used in cosmetics, household cleaning products etc, that are unregulated.
Here are some of the top ingredients to avoid –
Parabens – are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic, and pharmaceutical products. Parabens are used to prevent the growth of yeasts, molds, and bacteria in cosmetics products. Parabens appear in some deodorants and antiperspirants, in addition to personal care products that contain significant amounts of water, such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and facial cleansers, body washes, etc. They’re also widely used as preservatives in food and pharmaceutical products. Here are some of the names you will see them listed under –
That doesn’t sound so bad, why should they be avoided? These chemical preservatives have been found to be estrogen mimickers. They can be absorbed into the bloodstream and digestive system.
Health concerns –
Reproductive and developmental toxicity, cancer and endocrine disruption.
Phthalates – pronounced THAL-ates, are a class of chemicals used to as a solvent and to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics and vinyl. They are used in hundreds of consumer products including cosmetics and personal care products, including perfume, hairspray, soap, shampoo, nail polish, and skin moisturizers.
According to the FDA – historically, the primary phthalates used in cosmetic products have been dibutyl phthalate (DBP), used as a plasticizer in products such as nail polishes (to reduce cracking by making them less brittle); dimethyl phthalate (DMP), used in hair sprays (to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair); and diethyl phthalate (DEP), used as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. According to FDA’s latest survey of cosmetics, conducted in 2010, however, DBP and DMP are now used rarely. DEP is the only phthalate still commonly used in cosmetics.
Health concerns from products containing phthalates include –
Damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes, according to animal studies.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers – are preservatives such as imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, polyoxymethylene urea, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold in water-based products and can be found in color cosmetics, nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair straightening and smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap, and body wash.
Health concerns –
Skin and eye irritation and possibly even cancer.
Lead and other heavy metals – lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium, and iron can be found in a variety of cosmetic products such as lipstick, foundations, eyeliner and nail polish. Lead in lipstick was considered a myth or urban legend at one time, but it has since been found to be true.
Health concerns from exposure and absorption of heavy metals include –
Neurotoxicity, reduced fertility in men and women, delayed onset of puberty, cancer, organ system toxicity and environmental concerns.
Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Liquid Paraffin – is a colorless and odorless petroleum byproduct left over from the distillation of gasoline. It prevents the skin from losing moisture and is It is used in many creams, lotions, foundations, cream blushes, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, etc.
It is very inexpensive and this is why a lot of cosmetics companies use it, but cheap is not always the best way to go. It does not allow the skin to breathe, provides zero nourishment and cannot be metabolized by the body and has been found to be stored in our fat cells and in breast milk. Pretty gross.
Health concerns –
Possible carcinogen due to trace contaminants (remember this is a petroleum byproduct from the manufacturing of gasoline), estrogen dominance, it is classified as a xenoestrogen, acne, since it acts as a sealant on the skin it can make sunburns and other types of burns worse.
GMO’s – Genetically Modified Organisms or simply called GMO’s is the result of a lab process where genes from the DNA of one species (such as spiders or fish) are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans and is supposed to make the plant or whatever these foreign genes are introduced into resistance to pests, viruses, etc.
Health Concerns – According to the Center for Food Safety health risks from exposure to GMO ingredients include toxicity, allergic reaction, antibiotic resistance, immunosuppression, cancer, and loss of nutrition.
I could go on and on about the many different chemicals used in beauty products, but I think you have gotten the idea by now that it is good to avoid these ingredients as much as possible.
The benefits of cleaning up the products you use in your daily routine include clearer skin, fewer skin allergies or rashes, reduced exposure to carcinogens, xenoestrogens, and other hormone disruptors.
You will be using products that will actually benefit your skin like aloe vera, which is soothing and is known to reduce redness, so using an aloe based foundation can help those with sensitive skin, lipsticks made with jojoba oil and cocoa butter are deeply moisturizing, etc.
Who are these products really for?
Natural, non-toxic makeup is good for everyone! They are not reserved for the rich elite, you don’t have to belong to some special club, be a crazy health nut or carrot chomping hippy. Not that there is anything wrong with chomping on carrots, they are very high in beta-carotene and other nutrients. Hippies are all about freedom, peace, and love, which is always a good thing! My point is, stereotypes aside, we can all use these products.
Does All Natural Also Mean Cruelty-Free?
Unfortunately not always. This is actually one of the main things I look for when I am checking out new products. An easy way to tell if a company is cruelty-free is by going to their official website or by looking for symbols on their product labels such as the leaping bunny symbol.
Become a label detective –
It is really important that you get yourself educated on the ingredients in your cosmetics and while I have given you a lot of information above it is always best to dig a little deeper yourself. Just because a product is labeled all-natural or the brand name has it in the title doesn’t mean that it actually is. Always check the ingredients yourself, I really can’t stress this enough since I myself have fallen victim to false marketing because of the use of certain buzzwords. While the task of reading product labels can seem daunting and time-consuming a lot of great resources are now readily available to help make it easy for you. Look for labels or packaging that is marked paraben-free, phthalate-free, cruelty-free, etc (still read the full list of ingredients).
Two websites that I use frequently are the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database and Think Dirty where you can search more than 60,000 products and look up individual ingredients. They have a rating system so it makes it easy for you to tell how clean a product is or is not. They also have a phone app available which is really handy for when you are out shopping.
How To Make The Switch –
Clean Up Your Beauty Routine
Now that you know why you should make the switch, you may be wondering where to start. As fun as it may sound to just grab your makeup bag and throw all of its contents out the window, that is just not practical for most. Start slowly, chances are you will need to do quite a bit of product testing to find which new brands work for you. Your skin may also need to go through an adjustment period. So, let’s go over the basics –
- Primer and foundation/concealer. Since these products cover the majority of your face and come in direct contact with your skin I would start with these first.
- Lipstick and nail polish. These two products are known for containing heavy metals like lead and most nail polishes contain formaldehyde. So, make purchasing all natural lip and nail products a priority. The nail polishes from 100% Pure Cosmetics are 10-free (i.e. they do not contain any free of formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates, and animal ingredients).
- Mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow. These products go on your eyes, enough said. If you are really on a tight budget switch out your mascara first since it coats your lashes and is used closest to your eyeballs.
- Blush and setting powders, highlighters. Using all natural cheek products are important since like foundation it is applied to your face. If you switch to an all natural foundation first then at least you will have that as a barrier between your skin and the blush or setting powder and highlighters. So, that’s why I did not place these higher on my list.
It’s also good to look for refillable and recyclable packaging when possible. Some companies offer a recycling program where you mail in your empty tubes and compacts in exchange for a free product for example, while others provide refillable eyeshadow and blush compacts.
What Products Are Available and What Are The Best Brands?
The natural cosmetics industry has really grown over the past decade. Once upon a time the product and color selection and texture of natural cosmetics were not so great. Those days are gone and buried. Today all of the usual products you use are available from primers, concealers, foundation and setting powders to highlighters, bronzers, mascaras, lipsticks, etc. They come in all of the same great on-trend colors you see in magazines or on social media, so you can look just as glamorous as the next gal. Only you won’t be poisoning yourself in the process.
Some top brands are –
- DAB Herb Makeup (on Etsy)
- Plant Makeup
- Root Cosmetics
- Honeybee Gardens
- Red Apple Lipstick (they also sell eyeshadows and mascara)
- Ecco Bella
- Gabriel Cosmetics Inc.
- Zuzu Luxe
- Vapour Organic Beauty
- 100% Pure Cosmetics
- Au Naturale Cosmetics
- Habit Cosmetics
- Afterglow Cosmetics
- Mineral Fusion
How Much Do These Products Cost?
Luckily, you can find good, quality products to fit every budget from $8 to $45 per item. If you follow my guide above sticking to a budget will be easy. A lot of natural makeup brands offer coupon codes or have reward points you can earn with each purchase. Looking beautiful does not have to be expensive!
Where Can I Buy Them?
You can find all of the brands listed above online and many are available at your local natural foods store (like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s). Some grocery and drug stores are beginning to carry natural cosmetics now too.
If for some strange reason none of the stores in your local area have any natural cosmetics at all, then I would strongly urge you to put in a request with customer service and then just order online in the meantime. Vote with your dollars! The more we demand that companies and stores provide us with safe, natural products the more these products will become widely available.
So, tell those customer service peeps at your local grocery store that you want them to start carrying all natural lipsticks and eyeshadows, etc if they aren’t already. Also, tell your local beauty salons and boutiques!
Become a green beauty advocate. Going clean in 2016 is a club that is open to everyone, so stop using toxic junk. Real beauty is clean beauty, make the switch, feel the difference and gain even more confidence by knowing that the cosmetics you are putting on your skin are actually helping it instead of harming it.