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Green Beauty Part 2 – skin and body care


Sorry about the delay, but finally, here is part two of my Green Beauty series! In my previous post I talked about what strategies I used to gradually change my beauty routine from a regular one, to a more green, eco-friendly one. Today I will talk about the actual products I switched to, and why I chose those particular ones.

I believe the very first stop when looking at “green” and “natural” products is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They have thousands of cosmetic and personal care products listed, give them a number from 1 (very good) to 10 (very bad), and then list each ingredient and how it contributed to the overall ranking. This is the part I like the best, since I don’t always agree with all of their findings. For instance, a number of natural essential oils (especially citrus oils) have quite high numbers because they can be irritants. Since they are not irritants for me and my family, I discount these ingredients being rated “poor”. On the other hand, a number of ingredients they flag as being poor are a real concern for me, so I really pay attention to avoid products that have these listed.

The EWG has a list of 10 ingredients that they think are of particular concern:

  1. PEGs and other ethoxylated surfactants
    These include polyethylene, polyethylene glycol and polyoxyethylene and are used as foaming agents, emulsifiers and humectants. The major concern is that carcinogens (cancer-forming chemicals) are formed during the manufacturing process.
  2. Sodium Lauryl (and Laureth) Sulphates (SLS)
    These are cleansing agents that can be very irritating to the skin.

  3. Diethanolamine (DEA)
    These are used as foaming agents and emulsifiers and the US National Toxicology Program found clear evidence of carcinogenicity in mice exposed to DEA (but did not link it to cancer in humans). Still, if it clearly caused cancer in mice, then I would prefer to be on the safe side!

  4. Triethanolamine (TEA)
    Similar to DEA for its uses, and also has evidence of carcinogenic activity in mice.

  5. Propylene glycol
    A solvent that is easily absorbed through the skin, and frequent exposure can irritate the skin.

  6. Formaldehyde
    A skin irritant that also causes respiratory issues, headaches and dizziness, it is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer

  7. Parabens
    These are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics and act similarly to estrogen. These have been linked (though not conclusively) to breast cancer.

  8. Triclosan and triclocarbon
    These deodorant and preservative ingredients have been associated with endocrine disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity.

  9. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
    This is used in some lipsticks and is anticipated to be a human carcinogen due to the evidence of carcinogenicity in animals.

  10. Toluene
    A solvent used in some nail polishes that can cause dizziness. Long-term exposure at even low levels can affect the kidneys.

The very first personal care item I changed over was our toothpaste. I chose Toms of Maine’s Anti-plaque, Whitening, fluoride-free toothpaste because it was the most like regular toothpaste (a lot of natural options I tried had a gritty texture, or an unpleasantly salty taste). It was fluoride free (obviously!) which was important to me, and was rated 1 (Low Hazard) on the Skindeep Database.

Next came the body wash for the whole family. My husband has very sensitive skin, as does my daughter, so this was a really important change, and made a huge difference to their skin. We switched to DermaVeen Soap Free Wash Sensitive, an Australian brand that features colloidal oatmeal as a soothing ingredient. Since it is Australian it is not on the Skindeep Database, but looking at the ingredients, I don’t think it would rate as even mildly hazardous, since it does not have parabens, SLS’s or even fragrances in it.

For my skincare, I have now almost completely switched over to REN Skincare, a British brand that believes in “Clean Bioactive Skincare”. I love that all of their products are free from parabens, petrochemicals and synthetic dyes, and rate from 1-6 (low to moderate hazard) on the Database so they are great for the environment and for me. Their packaging is all recyclable (but like most other cosmetics, still somewhat excessive). The specific products that I use are:

  1. REN Mayblossom and Blue Cypress Cleansing Gel (rating – 4) This is rated 4 mostly for its allergy potential, but the rest of the non-allergenic ingredients seem pretty harmless. None are on the top 10 list, which means no SLS. Because of this, it doesn’t seem to foam as much as a regular gel cleanser, but I still love it. The fragrance is best described as a fresh pine forest, which is great in the morning. I also love that it doesn’t leave my skin tight at all.
  2. REN Matte Balancing Fluid (rating – 3) I am in love with this daytime moisturiser! It seems to perfectly balance my skin, keeping my drier areas hydrated, but not leaving my oilier T-zone shiny. It has a very mild lavender fragrance. Like the cleanser, its rating is mostly from allergenic ingredients, with none on the top 10 list.
  3. REN Frakincense Revitalising Night Cream (rating – 4) This is a case where I don’t 100% agree with the Database rating. One ingredient lifts its rating up, which is limonene, found naturally in the oil from citrus peels (eg lemon essential oil). I have no issue with this one because I know that lemon oil has been used safely for centuries for people not sensitive to it (some people on the other hand find it very irritating for their skin). This night cream feels both rich and light at the same time if that is possible! It goes on feeling rich, but does not feel heavy on the skin at all. Initially, you smell a bit like a church (frankincense is one of the main components of church incense) but I still like it and it fades really quickly for those who don’t.

At night, I clean my face with either a homemade cleansing balm or homemade cleansing oil and I will post recipes for those soon.

The one skin care product that I haven’t been able to give up is my Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peels. It is rated 4 on the database, but includes retinol that the database rates an 8! But I just haven’t been able to find a more natural, safer product that has the anti-aging abilities of these. In this case, I have to confess that my vanity won out!

As The Closet Therapist said in the comments of my previous post, finding a natural, but good, shampoo has been my hardest challenge. For the kids, I have switched them back to the baby shampoo we used to use, Gaia Natural Baby hair and Body Wash. It is free of SLSs, parabens and petrochemical derived ingredients, and includes a large amount of organic ingredients. Most importantly, it leaves their hair silky smooth.

For me, I haven’t had as much luck. Plenty of the ones I have tried have gone straight into my laundry cupboard to use for cleaning after just a few uses. Straw might be natural, but I certainly don’t want my hair to feel like it! At the moment, I have just finished David Babaii for Wildaid’s Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner. This is rated 8 (!) on the database; when I looked into it, Fragrance and Vitamin A seem to be the two ingredients of concern, while the rest of the ingredients rate between 0 and 6, with most at the lower end. I do like that they are free of SLSs, parabens and petrochemicals and I love the fragrance (almost like a tropical pina colada!) but straight after shampooing, my hair feels terrible and knotty, and I have to use a lot of the conditioner to make it nice again. I have just started using their ColourMaxx range (no rating yet, but I assume it is similar) and it seems to be treating my hair better. I will keep you updated!

For my body moisturiser, I am now using plain old organic coconut oil. I keep it in the shower during winter so I can put it under the hot running water to melt it; in summer our bathroom is hot enough to keep it liquid!

So that pretty much covers what I use for skin and body care. Stay tuned for part 3 where I will go through the Green Cosmetics that I have switched to.

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