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When’s the last time you thought about what’s in the foundation on your face? Heck, when’s the last time you replaced your eyeshadow palette? Often it’s the products we use the most that we tend to overlook and forget to question because we love these products and the way they make us feel.
We live in a toxic world, from our industrialized food system to mold overgrowth to chemicals in household products. It’s easy to feel like we have no control over what we’re exposed to and in some cases that’s true. However, we do have control over the products we buy and what we choose to put in and on our body by making safer choices.
There haven’t been any updates to regulations on skincare and makeup since 1938 - take a second and think about what that means. There are little to no laws companies need to abide by when distributing personal care items to the public and there is no approval needed by the FDA. These are products that are applied to your largest organ, your skin. Conventional products can contain chemicals such as phthalates and formaldehyde, which can have serious implications on our health such as disrupting hormones and infertility (Source). The European Union currently bans over 1,400 ingredients in personal care products for these very reasons. Want to know how many the US bans? 30.
Do you ever read the labels on the personal care products you buy? It’s something we easily can overlook just like a food label. To make things more complicated, ingredients aren’t even required to be on the product bottle requiring more work on your end to discern what is a “good” brand versus a potentially hazardous products. Some brands now use ‘ greenwashing' as the public has demanded better products. Greenwashing is when brands use words like “organic” or “natural” to market their product as safer. The problem with this marketing is that these words are essentially meaningless in the beauty industry. The word organic on a label could just mean that ONE ingredient in the product is organic, never mind the other 30.
OK YIKES… where do i begin?
It can be extremely overwhelming to overhaul all of your personal care products and even if you want to make the switch throwing out all your current products and replacing them with better options isn’t realistic, not to mention very expensive. Focus on one product at a time, making the best choice you can for your values and budget.
How do I know what is good vs. greenwashed?
First, take your phone and go to the app store and download the free Environmental Working Group Healthy living app. I love this app because you can type in or scan the barcode of any product and they will give you all the information on what is in that product. It gives you the list of ingredients in the product and breaks down the ratings by allergy, cancer, and developmental concerns. I suggest deciding your level of comfortability with the rating scale of 1-10. For example I like to stay below a ‘3’ with my products. You might pick a 5 and from now on try to make purchases that have ingredients below that 5 rating.
How do I know what to start with?
Start small by replacing each product as you reach the end of the bottle. It’s wasteful to toss a full bottle of product, so when it comes time to purchase a new one take the time to research a better alternative. This also helps to space out these investments so you can gradually makeover your beauty bag. This is the process I took for overhauling my products and it took me about two years.
If you are looking to buy products ASAP I have two suggestions. Start with products you use the most or start with products that cover the most surface area. Things like deodorant, cleanser, or hand soap you probably use every day. Since you’ll be using these products more often it’s worth it to invest in quality options. Another way to tackle it is to look at the products that serve as your base layers – moisturizers, body lotion, facial oils, and foundation all cover more of your body than say a dab of concealer.
but like, i’m on a budget
Girl, I feel you. It can be disheartening to want to make a change but feeling that the options are out of your financial means. Luckily, things in the beautyscape are really changing as consumers demand changes. You can now find cleaner brands in more accessible locations such as Target or health food stores. Just bring your handing Healthy Living app along and scan as you browse.
My favorite strategy is to look for loyalty programs or gift with purchase to get more with your dollar. I love strategizing my purchases to get the most bang for my buck. One program I really loved was Beautycounter’s Band of Beauty membership where you got 15% back in product credit for every purchase you made along with a free gift when you joined. This quickly added up to free full-size products! Credo Beauty often offers free samples and gifts with purchase so you can try before you buy a full-sized bottle. Even Thrive Market has stepped up its game and offers natural beauty brands like Acure and RMS Beauty at affordable prices.
Truly, these products are an investment. I get it, I’m living on a grad student budget y’all. Think of it this way, when you invest in something of quality you are more likely to take care of and get use out of that purchase. When you purchase a cheap eye shadow or lipstick from the drug store, how often are you back wandering the aisles the next week and tossing another color in your cart because it’s only $3.99? By investing in products that cost more you are less likely to spend money on smaller purchases that add up really quickly and you will likely squeeze out every last drop before purchasing another bottle. You and your health are worth the investment.
Alright I’m intrigued, got any recs?
DO I??? This is only my favorite topic. There are so many amazing cleaner beauty brands out there now that I guarantee won’t make you miss the quality of your current Sephora favorites. Here’s the ones through trial and error I really love and recommend:
Serums + Oils + More
Blush + Bronzer
Whew, that was a lot but I hope it helps you to navigate the world of personal care products. Do you have any favorite cleaner beauty brands?