How dirty are you?
The perception of natural beauty products–that they are for people diagnosed with serious illnesses or for crunchy hippies–is antiquated. While not yet mainstream, the organic personal care market is estimated to grow to a market size of almost $16 billion, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc., a San Francisco based market research and consulting company.
Natural, organic beauty and skincare products appeal to the growing trend of people desiring to be healthier, decrease chemical use and implement preventative measures, while maintaining their beauty standards without committing to a lifestyle. With products on par with the brands at departments stores and Sephora (some are even sold there now) and more rapidly entering the market, there’s options to fit into or even replace everyone’s beauty regimens.
Keep reading to learn everything from if natural products will induce breakouts, shelf life, ingredients to avoid, and how to transition to a natural, organic beauty and skincare routine.
What is a “natural” product?
All natural products are free (or mostly free of) chemicals that are absorbed through your skin, exacerbating a myriad of allergies and illnesses. Some features of natural products include:
- organic or wildcrafted
- gluten and GMO-free
- vegan and cruelty free
- artificial fragrance and preservative free
- minimally processed
- easily understandable ingredients list (note: some of the Latin words are used when listing plants)
While most of the ingredients in natural products are oftentimes not synthetically produced in a lab, therefore considered safer, they still may elicit an adverse reaction, especially if an incorrect ratio of ingredients is combined. As with any beauty product, test on your wrist and wait before applying elsewhere.
All cosmetics–natural or not–are not required to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but are given laws to follow. At this time, the FDA does not define, certify or have specific regulation for cosmetics that are labeled “natural” or “organic.” While a product may fall into one of the United State’s Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) four organic categories, it still must conform to the FDA’s cosmetic regulations. There are also several certifications not regulated by the USDA but based on private standards from organizations like ECOCERT, Leaping Bunny, the Natural Products Association, OneCert, Oregon Tilth, and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
The distinction of what should be considered natural is a personal choice. Not every natural product you use needs to meet all of the above criteria, so do your homework on the ingredients first (see below for useful tools). If you can’t pronounce it, it most likely shouldn’t be on your hair or skin.
What is greenwashing? [BEWARE!]
Greenwashing is alluding to or labeling a product “all-natural,” “botanical,” “clean,” “cruelty-free,” “organic,” “nontoxic,” “pure,” or any other term that portrays itself as “natural” when it is not. Although the FDA provides regulations that make adulterated or misbranded cosmetics illegal, deceptive marketing tactics happen a lot in the beauty industry, especially because natural and organic cosmetics are not legally defined. Some cult-favored brands that are commonly assumed to be natural are: bareMinerals, Boscia, Caudalie, Kiehl’s, Lush, Ole Henriksen, Origins, Tarte, and The Body Shop.
Why should I stop using brands that work for me?
Anything you put on your skin can be absorbed by your body. Skin absorption is based on several factors: skin health, concentration, duration of contact, solubility of product, the part of the body exposed, and even some products themselves. While your current brands might be working and making you look amazing, the issues they could be causing, under the skin and in your future are copious. Some side effects that can occur are:
- allergic reactions
- Alzheimer’s disease
- cancer (breast, ovarian and others)
- eczema and other skin irritations
- endocrine (hormone/thyroid) disruption
- reduction in muscle function
What are the benefits of a natural beauty routine?
- less or no acne and skin irritation (no more dry, itchy eyes from mascara was a monumental gain for me!)
- allergies and illnesses prevention
- products for every price point and proclivity, whether DIY or luxury (see more below)
- products that are vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly–if you’re into that
- eyelash growth (this personally happened to me!)
Does it cost more?
No. Just like with regular products, there are a lot of options and price points available that you can easily incorporate into your beauty routine, whatever your budget.
For a long time I believed the pretense that because a beauty product costs more that it was innately better for my skin (evidenced by my total VIB points at Sephora…). But, one of the advantages of natural beauty brands is that they care about the process as much as the product and refuse to sacrifice quality. Natural luxury products, usually priced higher than most, primarily feature ingredients like essential oils, that cost more, increasing the price of the product.
Will it make me breakout?
When changing any beauty product–regular or natural–skin might react at first–which is normal and even happened to me. Your skin is releasing the toxins that were trapped underneath, so don’t throw away the new products too quickly. It took my skin about a month to adjust completely and show positive results.
If you are having other issues, such as an allergic reaction, then obviously, you will need to stop using that product immediately.
What is the shelf life of natural beauty products?
One of the perks of natural beauty products is that several contain little to no synthetic preservatives which depending on your perspective could be a negative, since they do not last as long as other chemical-laden cosmetics. The FDA does not require expiration dates for cosmetics and they consider expiration dates a “rule of thumb.” Storing your products incorrectly can make a product expire sooner and sharing your makeup could contaminate it. Keep the products in a cool, dry space and make sure they are securely closed after every use. If it has a bizarre consistency or smell, throw it away immediately to avoid infection.
Unless otherwise stated on the product label, here’s my “rule of thumb” based on personal usage:
- bronzer/blush: six to nine months
- concealer/foundation: six to nine months
- essential oils: varies based on the oil
- eye makeup: six months
- hair products: six to nine months
- lipstick: up to 12 months
- mascara: two months (if it’s dry, discard it, don’t add liquid!)
- moisturizers: nine to 12 months
- serums: six to nine months
What are the ingredients I should avoid?
Here’s a quick guide:
- artificial fragrance
- bismuth oxychloride
- bisphenol A
- butyl, -butyl, butyl- (isobutylparaben, butylene glycol, etc.)
- cinnamyl alcohol
- mineral oil
- paraben, -paraben (butylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, etc.)
- polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
- propylene glycol
- sodium lauryl sulfate
Where can I look up my current beauty products and products I want to test to see the ingredients?
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Learn more information on general product safety.
Look up different types of beauty products and see common ingredients, why they are used, and their safety level.
Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary
Search by category or alphabetically more than 1,800 ingredients color coded and rated best, good, average, poor.
Skin Deep Cosmetics Database
The Environmental Working Group’s app and website, offers more than 61,000 products as well as the ability to look up individual ingredients (helpful if you’re reading a product label in a store). Unfortunately the ingredient data is limited but it gives a started point for research.
This app shows you all the “dirty” ingredients in almost half-a-million of your most beloved products and rates each product 0/green (cleanest) to 10/red (dirtiest). Users can click on each ingredient and it will show why it’s rated a certain number and the side effects and illnesses it can cause. If you can’t find the product you’re looking for, you can submit it through the app by scanning the barcode. Because each product is reviewed by the Think Dirty team, the product will not pop up as soon as you scan it (a cool feature in theory, but I appreciate their thoroughness).
I used this app when I was learning more about the chemicals used in all of my beauty products. It also helped me convince my somewhat-stubborn mother to transition to an all natural lifestyle too. The information was shocking enough to get her to change her dirty ways the next day!
One of the drawbacks that I noticed in a few products is that not all the ingredients are always listed, but the last time I noticed that was about a year ago and could be worked out at this point.
What if I can’t find a good alternative to my name brand beauty product?
One of the frustrating parts of shopping for replacements for anything is not being able to find something that matches your high standards. While natural beauty products are plentiful for skincare, there are not as many options for makeup as there are for regular products. If you can’t find a product on my website, I would love to personally help you find what you’re looking what you need. Email me at email@example.com, subject line: product request.
Where do I shop for natural, organic products?
Here’s a few great options:
- Credo Beauty
- Joy Provisions
- LeVert Beauty
- Petit Vour
- Seed to Serum
- Shen Beauty
- Spirit Beauty Lounge
- The Detox Market
- Urban Outfitters**
- Whole Foods
*Use your own judgement. Their “natural” filter on the website includes some brands that I would not consider natural. But, especially in the past year, their selection of natural products continues to grow.
**Urban Outfitters sells some natural beauty products but not all of their brands are natural.
How do I start integrating natural, organic products into my regimen or completely transitioning to a natural, organic regimen?
Before you use a product on your face or neck, do a patch test on your wrist and wait 24 hours to see if you experience a negative reaction. Only integrate a few products at a time to give your body the opportunity to acclimate and to notice any subtle differences the product incurs. Skincare products are easier and cheaper to replace than makeup, so starting there is the most manageable. I’ll be featuring in-depth product reviews, so stay tuned!
Based on speed and number of products, there are three ways to begin:
- slow: assimilate essential oils, like argan oil and rosehip oil, into your nightly beauty routine. A few drops can be mixed with a night cream or serum, or used as a serum themselves. Once you are comfortable using essential oils, find the beauty or skincare product you use the most and replace that with a natural product.
- medium: find products that are almost empty and replace as they run out. Do you ever notice how half of your 4,597 products are empty all at the same time, even if you didn’t purchase them at the same time? Rude. If that’s the case with you too, replace the products you use the most, like face wash, daily moisturizer and night cream and then repeat the process each time.
- fast: Below is an example of a standard breakdown for hair, makeup and skincare products that can be easily modified for your initiation to the natural, organic world.
hair: shampoo and conditioner
makeup: lip balm, lipstick, lip liner
skin: body and face wash, daily (SPF) moisturizer, night cream
hair: hair mask
makeup: eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara primer, mascara
skin: serums and eye creams
hair: styling products
skin: face masks
makeup: primer, foundation, bb/cc creams, concealer
makeup: blush, bronzer, highlighter
skin: hand cream, miscellaneous products
I’m 100 percent committed to a natural, organic lifestyle, 90 percent of the time. I would love to hear about your experiences and any questions you may have. Let’s discuss in the comments section below!
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