As we all become increasingly aware of the toxic cocktail of ingredients in many commercial personal care items, we’re finding ourselves curious and gradually more inspired to make better choices for ourselves, our loved ones, and the environment. Nowadays being green doesn’t have to mean compromising on glamour! I’ve always been a beauty hoarder but I can confidently state that I’ve switched all my toxic products to greener alternatives which are just as effective, if not more effective! That’s right! Even that illusive ‘perfect red’ lipstick, which is one of the most difficult switches a green beauty enthusiast will have to make (it took me 4 years, but I did it!).
The skin is our largest organ and acts as both a barrier and a waste removal system. It’s porous and semi-permeable, which allows it to help with eliminating toxins (through perspiration), but can also allow absorption of things we put on it…
Many people shy away from making changes as “going green” has developed a bit of a reputation of being over-priced but this is a complete myth! There are plenty of simple, cost-effective ways to transition over to the green beauty world without breaking the bank!
Why Go Green?
The skin is our largest organ and acts as both a barrier and a waste removal system. It’s porous and semi-permeable, which allows it to help with eliminating toxins (through perspiration), but can also allow absorption of things we put on it (this is how nicotine patches work). Obviously not everything will absorb through your skin, absorption depends on a variety of different variables such as molecule size, age, skin type, chemical solubility, and whether or not the chemical reacts with your skin. An isolated ingredient may show in tests to be un-reactive and ‘safe’ but when it comes into contact with specific skin enzymes it could change the structure of the molecule and could potentially cause toxicity in the body. That’s just one single ingredient! You favourite beauty product contains a cocktail of different ingredients with cosmetics such as foundations containing a staggering 24 potentially toxic chemicals alone!
To make things even more complicated, we can’t just look at single ingredients and their effect on the skin and within the body we’ve also got to understand the potential dangers of ingredient combinations! Dr Vyvyan Howard, a toxicopathologist at the University of Liverpool states: “There are around 70,000 chemicals currently in commercial use, with about 1,000 new ones added each year.”.
To test just the most recent 1,000 toxic chemicals in unique combinations of three would require at least 166 million experiments! In other words, while science can tell if a certain ingredient will have a toxic effect of the human body, no one knows how a combination of 2 or 3 will react – let alone the 515 ingredients the average woman uses on a daily basis! With so many thousands of potentially toxic chemicals being used in everyday skincare isn’t it just safer to stick with what Mother Nature supplies?
How to Go Green?
Feed your skin
Raiding your fridge with skin-friendly foods is an excellent way to get thrifty with green beauty. I’ve tried many cleansers over the years and my favourite? Raw honey! It gently cleans, exfoliates, and softens the skin and because of its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties it’s perfect for acne prone skin.
Do you love fresh pineapple in your morning smoothie? Keep the skins in the fridge during the day and give you skin a ‘fruit acid facial’ that evening! Enzymes in fruits like pineapples and papaya can help loosen the bond between dead skin cells and living skin. Combining some pineapple pulp with some loose chamomile or green tea makes a great DIY exfoliator which gently buffs away dead skin cells to expose new healthy ones, unclog pores, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and scars. Fruit enzymes can also help even out skin tone, age spots, and blotchiness over time!
While it may be tempting to give your entire bathroom cabinet a green over-haul, it may be rather costly! To make things easier on your wallet start simple. Switch one thing at a time, maybe something you use everyday that is applied to a large surface area of skin like your moisturiser or shampoo! If you have children switch their products first. Studies have shown children’s skin is around 30% thinner than adults’ skin which makes it more susceptible to the effects of toxins as their body systems haven’t yet fully matured.
Look for multi-use products
There are lots of products out there that aren’t just good for one thing, they have multiple uses making it a cost-effective way of keeping things green! For example, coconut oil can be used as a hair mask, moisturiser, cleanser, and shaving balm – you can even mix it with some coffee granules to make yourself a simple body scrub! Another example is castille soap, it can be used for everything from bubble bath, surface cleaner, washing-up liquid, and pet shampoo! It’s economical, concentrated, and a bottle will last you ages as a little goes a long way.
Shop in one place
Online stores such as Naturismo, LoveLula, and Content Beauty & Wellbeing are all great places to shop for natural and organic products. They regularly have special offers so you can easily pick up some great bargains and free worldwide delivery means you can save even more of your hard earned cash!
Create a list of non-negotiables
This is a great way to prioritise where you want to start when it comes to switching up you green beauty regime. Build a list with a criteria that’s most important to you at the top (SLS-free, ethyl alcohol free, paraben-free, vegan, certified organic etc.) and ingredients that you’re not as concerned about at the bottom of the list. David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen List is a great resource to get you started on understanding the different ingredients you may want to avoid so you can spend your money wisely on greener products which are best suited to your needs.
If getting creative in the kitchen isn’t your thing or the idea of rubbing pineapple skins on your face just doesn’t appeal to you then you may find that some products might cost a bit more than your everyday discounted brands found in your supermarket or local Boots. This is mainly because mainstream brands use cheap, synthetic ingredients made in a lab that have little to no benefits on the skin/hair/body whatsoever. In fact, most commercial brands will contain between 0.5-6% active ingredients (the rest will be water and synthetic fillers) while certified organic brands will contain 90%+ active ingredients that all work to nourish and repair your skin. This also means that organic products are much more concentrated than high-street alternatives so you get a lot more bang for your buck as a little will go a very long way! Despite the generally higher price tag, I have found some great budget buys that mean you can still enjoy cleaner, greener skincare and cosmetics without going bankrupt!
My Top 10 Beauty Picks for under £10
Unlike conventional cleansing wipes that contain skin-drying alcohol and preservatives, these biodegradable towelettes are perfect for evenings when we just can’t be bothered with the full beauty routine! Natural. Vegan.
Multi-use products are a great place to start when switching to a greener beauty regime and with this handy product you can cross off make-up remover, cleanser and toner in one easy step! Natural. Vegan.
Enriched with Argan oil, Shea Butter and Jojoba this antioxidant face cream will leave your skin feeling soft and nourished without any nasties! Certified Organic. Vegan.
Cool and refresh tired, puffy eyes with this super-powered eye serum that contains active ingredients that are proven to reduce wrinkles and nourish the skin. Certified Organic. Vegan.
Perfect for men and women, this natural anti-dandruff shampoo contains cornflower extract to help eliminate dandruff while soap nut extract helps to prevent dandruff from forming. Certified Natural. Vegan.
This natural and biodegradable product isn’t just for hands, it works brilliantly on the entire body, including your hair! Made without alcohol and skin-drying SLS, it leaves you feeling soft and nourished. Certified Organic. Vegan.
This is another great product you and your partner can share (if you want!). Whether you use it on legs, pits or face, this skin-softening cream produces a creamy lather that helps you achieve a close shave without the skin irritation. Certified Natural. Vegetarian (contains goat’s milk).
Finding effective natural make-up can be a tricky task but if you suffer with problem skin, it may be one of the first areas you want to start with. This soft blendable pencil, available in two shades, will conceal blemishes and brighten your eye area. Natural. Vegan.
Available in 12 gorgeous everyday shades, these pressed mineral eye shadows are easily blendable, highly pigmented and silky smooth. Natural. Vegan (except shade: Peekaboo, contains Carmine).
Easy to wear and available in a variety of shades, these matte, full coverage shades are perfect for both subtle every day wear and bold statement lips. Natural. Not tested on animals. Contains Carmine.
For the kids?
This scent free baby bath wash & shampoo is ideal for little ones with very sensitive skin as even natural essential oils can irritate young, delicate skin. Certified Organic. Vegan.
This gentle and protective barrier cream with calendula cares for bums and nappy rash and helps prevent soreness and reduce redness and irritation. Certified Natural. Vegetarian.
When making the switch to green beauty, a good rule to adopt is: read the labels on your skin care products! And remember, if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!
Have you got any budget natural beauty tips?
- Throw out the bath water?. (2015). In The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/chemicalworld/story/0,14534,1210214,00.html. [Accessed 04 September 2015].
- Dallmeier, L. (2013). Can Cosmetics be absorbed into your Bloodstream?. In Herb & Hedgerow. Retrieved from http://www.herbhedgerow.co.uk/can-cosmetics-be-absorbed-into-your-bloodstream/#ixzz3klk5Wxm2. [Accessed 04 September 2015].
- ‘Dirty Dozen’ cosmetic chemicals to avoid. (2010). In David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/. [Accessed 04 September 2015].