Reusable Makeup Remover Wipes

I would undoubtedly be a much more eco-friendly human if I didn’t add cosmetics to my regular consumption of products, but it’s one thing I haven’t yet been able to give up.  I have done a lot of research on which makeup products are the healthiest for my body and which companies have sustainable sourcing and production practices. But the makeup removal part of the equation is just as relevant in my quest to reduce my consumption of manufactured products. After all, how many are made in the form of disposable wipes that get one use and then are dumped into the trash can?  And also of concern, how many makeup remover products include chemicals that are irritants or hormone disruptors? A lot of them! I should know, I feel like I tried them all over the years.

For the past few years, I have used something for removing eye makeup that I’ve discovered to be as effective as the complexly formulated products sold in stores.  Coconut oil. A swipe of it over my eyes removes the makeup and, bonus, moisturizes my under eye area. I already had a container of organic coconut oil in my kitchen for baking recipes, making granola, greasing baking pans, etc.  Now, I also keep a container in my bathroom for removing mascara at the end of the day.

Although the product itself could not be more simple or natural, using cotton balls to apply the coconut oil (and witch hazel for astringent that I use daily) felt wasteful.  1-2 cotton balls per day doesn’t seem like much. But I pictured every cotton ball I’ve used in my life piled up in a landfill, and decided there had to be a better way. So one day, as I was retiring some bath towels that had become faded and thin, I decided to sub them in for cotton balls.  I cut the towels up into little squares, about 3” x 3” and quickly settled into a new routine. Each night I use a mini towel square to apply the coconut oil to my eyes. Because the oil is solid at room temperature, I rub the towelette onto the oil rather than dip it. One gentle swipe on each eye and my makeup is gone and my eye is moisturized! Then I fold over the towelette and use the other side to apply witch hazel to my whole face.  I throw the little towelette in with the rest of my laundry and, voila! Reusable makeup remover wipes.

Do you have any DIY hacks to cut down on consumption? I’d love to hear about them!

It’s The Pits

My last real hold-out on personal products containing chemicals has been deodorant.  I’ve found great toxic-free alternatives for everything from shampoo to nail polish.  But fresh-smelling underarms was the one thing  that I was unwilling to sacrifice in my quest to use products without toxic chemicals.  (I don’t want to scare off my friends by stinking!)  Consequently, I was hesitant to toss out the conventional sticks and venture towards natural alternatives.

Aluminum fact

First, let me specify that when I say “deodorant” what I’m referring to is deodorant/antiperspirant.  Most conventional sticks do both.  Deodorant covers body odor and anti-perspirant prevents sweating so the two work together for fresh-smelling underarms.  It’s the main ingredient in antiperspirants that raised a red flag for me.  The NIH’s National Cancer Institute cites, “Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.”  NIH does state that there is no conclusive evidence showing that underarm antiperspirants cause cancer.  However, I don’t particularly want to roll aluminum into my armpits every day for the next 30 years waiting for them to find something “conclusive.”  As I feel about most products, if there is a more natural alternative, sign me up.

During my teen and college years, I used Dove Go Fresh “cool” scented sticks.  Dove had just become very trendy at that time and they continue to do a great job with their marketing campaign aimed at women.  They even make their products seem natural.  But if you read the ingredients, the main one is aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex GLY.  It also lists fragrance “parfum” as an ingredient.  Interesting…no extract of cucumber which is the picture on the front?  I guess nobody would buy it if the cool cucumber slice graphic was replaced with chemistry pipettes.

For several years I used Secret Clinical Strength “light & fresh” scented stick.  For the first time, I felt like the antiperspirant was really doing its job.  I liked the fragrance and I wasn’t sweating as much. Likely because this stick contains 20% of that same aluminum product to Dove’s 15%.  But when I began to take a closer look at the chemicals in my personal products, I knew I wanted to find something without aluminum, petroleum products, and vaguely-labeled fragrance.

Finding an effective natural deodorant was a two-step forward, one-step back process.  I tried many and was often disappointed, so I kept my conventional sticks in circulation for a while.   I first tried Crystal Essence stick which lacks aluminum so it was like, why bother.  It did nothing to stop sweating.  Now I understood why all the conventional products used aluminum.  So I tried a Tom’s of Maine product: Naturally Dry “natural powder” scented stick.  This does contain aluminum so it works as an anti-perspirant just as other mainstream sticks do.  The small difference is that it doesn’t contain other toxic chemicals like synthetic fragrance or petroleum-based products.  I figured this was at least marginally better than the other mainstream products I had been using for years.  

My deodorant evolution…

...felt almost as gradual as this

…felt almost as gradual as this

Then, one day while I was browsing the selection at Union Market’s lovely Follain shop, I came across Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant Cream which comes in a jar.  You scoop out a little bit and massage it into your armpits with your fingers.  This sounds really weird, but I used it after showering as an overnight deodorant and the grapefruit scent was fresh and lasted all night.  Arrowroot powder and magnesium are the natural antiperspirants in that product.   A friend also gave me a jar of Soapwalla Deodorant Cream that she had tried but that had irritated her sensitive skin.  I used it and never experienced a rash or noticeable irritation, but with its baking soda formulation, it is significantly grainy so it does scrape the skin a bit more than the smoother Meow Meow Tweet.  I also didn’t love the scent as much.  The same awesome friend (who shares my love of natural products) gave me a stick of Lavanila deodorant which I had been wanting to try.  Finally, this Goldi-pits has found a deodorant that is just right!  I love how Lavanila (original vanilla scent) smells and it does work as an antiperspirant, miraculously without aluminum.  It contains ingredients derived from things like artichoke, tea tree, and valerian.  Also, cornstarch is a main ingredient.

So if you’re looking to make the switch to a more natural deodorant, I would recommend Lavanila and/or Meow Meow Tweet (both are $14).  And have no fear about stinky armpits.  Both products get the job done and won’t make you nervous about rolling toxic chemicals onto your body’s largest organ.

Smell Ya Later: Perfume & Toxic Chemicals

“I love to stink!” said nobody, ever.  Let’s face it, we live in a relatively vain and materialistic society where we are drawn to products that make us smell good — perfume, lotion, body wash.  And not just women.  Men use cologne, body spray, etc.  The thing is, that floral perfume or fruity body wash that you’re using probably doesn’t even contain the flower pictured on the front of the bottle.  A fantastic article by Courtney Humphries of Wired reads,  “By volume, perfumes today are mostly synthetic chemicals that tend to be cheaper and more manipulable than natural materials…To mimic an aromatic substance like an essential oil using a man-made molecule, chemists first analyze it through gas chromatography and mass spectrometry in an attempt to figure out its chemical components. Using this information, they can sometimes identify which molecules are responsible for the odor and then re-create them synthetically…It’s common for companies to use these analytics to reproduce a well-loved smell in nature, like pear or lilac flower.”  Perfume ads usually show a beautiful woman in a flowing dress running through a field of wildflowers.  Probably because you wouldn’t sell as much perfume if you showed 10 chemists in white coats pipetting in a lab.  model-chemist comparison

Another issue of concern with fragrances is that, like make-up and other personal products, fragrance manufacturers are not required to label the ingredients on the packaging and so most perfumes and other ‘smelly’ products include several chemicals that the consumer is just not privy to.  The Environmental Working Group cites, “In the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans (Silva 2004) and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies (Swan 2008), and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk (Hutter 2009; Reiner 2007).”

You may be thinking, ‘Psssh, it’s fine.  It’s only a tiny bit of chemicals.’  Just remember that your skin in your body’s largest organ.  And  think back to every perfume, scented lotion, deodorant and body wash you’ve used every day of your life.  That tiny bit is actually regular exposure to lots of chemicals that can stay in your system for a long time.

fragrance ingredients

Wait…daisies aren’t actually in this perfume?!

Do a little experiment tonight and look at the ingredient list on the back of your shampoo, lotion, or perfume.  Almost always, one of the ingredients is “fragrance/parfum” with no more explanation than that because it isn’t legally mandated.  So it could be anything from all-natural lemon essential oil to butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane.  Companies like Burt’s Bees often list fragrance as an ingredient but note that it is a natural fragrance instead of chemical.

I said goodbye to my Chanel Chance and Versace Bright Crystals bottles months ago, but I quickly found that there are great non-toxic alternatives for smelling yummy.  Natural food stores like Whole Foods and Roots sell natural perfumes and you can buy them online once you find a brand and scent you like.  My favorite scent is from a little shop called Bath Time in Cape May, New Jersey.  They have an apothecary-style set up in a the back of the store where they will mix any combination of essential oils for you and put it into a rollerball stick.  My coconut and açaí berry essential oil stick makes me feel happy every time I put it on — happy because I smell like tropical vacation and I’m not spritzing myself with toxic chemicals.

 

Note:
If you are interested in taking action to eliminate toxic chemicals from the products you use, you can:

1: Educate Yourself:  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group are great sources for additional information on this topic.

2: Stop buying those products and supporting those companies’ bottom lines!

3: Lobby for change: You can write to your Congressional representatives asking them to pass legislation to regulate labeling OR write to companies asking them to remove toxic ingredients from beauty products.   No need to re-create the wheel; you can sign onto petitions already written with just a few clicks: EWG – Tell Congress to Reform Our Broken Cosmetics Regulations and CSC – Tell L’Oreal: Cosmetics With Cancer Chemicals are Not So Glamorous!

Friday Favorite: Non-Toxic Beauty Products

A few friends have asked me lately which toxic-free products I use and like, so I thought it might be helpful to share my list here.  When I first took an interest in avoiding chemicals, I sat down one night with a legal pad and wrote down every category of product I regularly used, from hand soap to face lotion, to laundry detergent, to toilet cleaner.

For a few weeks, I researched other blogs, online stores like Amazon.com and Vitacost.com, and organic grocery retailers to see what alternative products were available, and what other users thought of their price and effectiveness.  Then I filled in a few products to try for each category on my list and over the past year, have put them to the test for myself.  Doing that research turned out to be a good plan of action because I didn’t have to start from scratch and go through 5+ products that were more hype than help.  So I’m hoping to use my research to pay it forward to you.  Here’s my exhaustive list of toiletries — I’ll share my favorite household cleaners later:

Product Category Favorite Non-Toxic Product Why I Love It Other Non-Toxic Products Tried Would still like to try
Astringent Dickinson’s Witch Hazel Witch hazel is nature’s astringent and I haven’t found any better man-made alternatives. Dab some on a cotton ball and swipe over clean skin.  Witch hazel all the way, baby!
Bar Soap Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All-One Hemp Pure-Castile Soap Almond I went straight for this bar after smelling all the bar soaps in a natural food store and haven’t looked back since. It’s terrific. Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Bar Soap
Body Lotion Burt’s Bees Cocoa & Cupuacu Butters Body Lotion I was looking for a big bang for my buck and at $10 for 12 oz. this seemed a better deal than most tiny lotion bottles.  The lotion itself is great, but I’m open to finding other favorites EO Essential Oil Products Everyone Lotion Coconut and Lemon Alba Botanica Very Emollient Body Lotion
Body Wash 100% Pure Body Scrub Coconut I LOVE this body scrub. Exfoliates skin, but very moisturizing and smells DELICIOUS! Honest Shampoo & Body Wash Absolutely nothing.  I LOVE the 100% Pure Scrub
Bug Spray  Honest Bug Spray  This spray seems to work as well as mainstream bug spray and smells just like citronella candles. Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent
Conditioner Dermorganic Intensive Hair Repair Masque with Argan Oil The Dermoganic masque smells great and really moisturizes hair, even when it’s been destroyed by hairspray and curling irons Shea Moisture Organic Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Hair Masque Allafia Shea Butter Moisturizing Conditioner
Deodorant Lavanila “The Healthy Deodorant” AND Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream Deodorant is challenging when it comes to finding a non-toxic alternative. Read here why aluminum-free is the thing to look for Tom’s of Maine Naturally Dry Antiperspirant Nothing — I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!
Facial Cleanser Burt’s Bees Deep Cleansing Cream Soap Bark & Chamomile It’s the natural equivalent of Noxzema cream cleanser.  Makes my face feel cool and clean. Burt’s Bees Peach & Willow Bark Scrub Acure Organics Facial Cleanser Superfruit plus Chlorella
Facial Moisturizer Herbal Choice Mari Day Cream Herbal Choice Mari is not a mainstream brand yet. But this lotion is so moisturizing even on dry winter skin, and the hint of orange essential oil adds a great scent. Love that it contains SPF too. First Aid Beauty Daily Face Cream; Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Lotion; Burt’s Bees Renewal Day Lotion SPF 30 Everyday Coconut Daily Face Lotion, SPF 15
Hairspray Andalou Naturals Medium Hold Hair Spray Sunflower and Citrus Honestly, non-aerosol hairspray doesn’t spray evenly. It just doesn’t. But regular pump spray bottles are more eco-friendly and I like the refreshing citrus scent of this spray. It does firmly hold flyaways. Alterna Bamboo Smooth Anti-Humidity Hair Spray
Hand Sanitizer Honest Hand Sanitizer Gel The Honest gel feels slimy until you rub it in. Then you realize it’s actually just very moisturizing. EO Hand Sanitizer Spray, Lavender
Make-Up Remover Pure coconut oil Yup I’ve tried a few things and the very best for removing eye makeup is a dab of straight coconut oil on a cotton ball. You can buy it at any health food store, and now at most grocery stores. Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes  Pure coconut oil is the best thing out there!
Mouthwash Tom’s Wicked Fresh I initially tried making my own mouthwash but I didn’t feel the minty burn. So I tried Tom’s and it definitely freshens breath without fake dyes or chemicals Tom’s Cleansing Jason Sea Fresh Sea Spearmint Mouthwash
Nail Polish Mineral Fusion I thought that nail polish was inherently full of toxic chemicals but was thrilled to find more natural alternatives. This brand works as well as the standard OPI. 2 coats plus a top coat lasts a week. 100% Pure Nail Polish; Scotch Naturals; Piggy Paint; Zoya
Shampoo 100% Pure Mint & Kelp Volumizing Shampoo The shampoo is sort of thin and runny but don’t let that deter you. A little goes a long way, and it really lathers unlike some other chemical-free shampoos. The mint scent is really refreshing and my hair feels really clean after using this shampoo. Honest Shampoo & Body Wash; Acure Clarifying Shampoo 100% Pure Yuzu & Pomelo Glossing Shampoo
Sunscreen Alba Very Emollient Sunscreen Sport SPF 45 Yes SPF 45.  I am REALLY pale and SPF 15 is like, why bother?  I previously tried Aveeno Naturals, but it had a cottage cheese, greasy consistency. Aveeno Natural Protection Lotion SPF 50  MyChelle SunShield-Coconut SPF 28
Toothpaste Tom’s Sensitive I have always used Sensodine toothpaste and when I switched to a more natural alternative, I was glad to see that Tom’s has a variation for sensitive teeth. It’s the same taste and consistency as regular toothpaste, so I’m sticking to it.  Haven’t seen other natural toothpastes that are sensitive-teeth-specific.
Wrinkle Cream Acure Argan Oil & Starflower Line Eraser I was worried an oil-based wrinkle treatment would make me break out but Acure is great. I can’t say my wrinkles have been erased, but I think using it regularly going forward will help prevent them from deepening. Burt’s Bees Radiance Eye Cream Alaffia Everyday Coconut Eye Cream

I hope this helps give you some ideas!

If you want recommendations on other products that I haven’t listed here, comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.  There is some information I didn’t include above due to space limitations.

Friday Favorite: Environmental Working Group

My favorite resource for researching the ingredients in my make-up and shower products is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.  The website (there’s also a free app!) allows you to search tens of thousands of products from mascara to toothpaste to sunscreen to see how they are rated in terms of toxicity.  For example Neutrogena Skin Clearing Oil-Free makeup scored an 8 and Dove Cream Oil Shea Butter Body Lotion scored a 6 (0 being low in toxicity and 10 being extremely high).  Before I started really looking at ingredients, those are both products I would have bought and used without a second thought.  Now, before I buy any new product I research it on the database first to see what the toxins in it are linked to (endocrine disruption! reproductive concerns! cancer!).  Given the choice between a face wash that has parabens or SLS in it versus one that is made with only nature-produced ingredients, I’ll take the latter.  I now try to stick to products that score a 0-3 on the Skin Deep database.  I encourage you to try out the user-friendly database — put in your favorite deodorant, perfume, blush, or face cream.  You might be surprised at the results!

Friday Favorite: 100% Pure Coconut Body Scrub

I have a lot of favorite things.  Favorite places, favorite reads, favorite products, favorite foods, favorite movies.  Actually as I write this I realize I should probably be more selective. Hmmm….

But alas, while these things are on my mind, I thought I’d share them with you on Fridays to kick off the weekend with a helpful recommendation.

My favorite non-toxic shower item is the Coconut Body Scrub by 100% Pure.  This is a California-based brand I researched when I was kicking my old, toxic-ingredient, skin-drying shower stuff to the curb.  100% Pure products are formulated with the knowledge that skin is our largest organ and we absorb toxins through it.  Therefore, the ingredients they use are all found in nature instead created with chemicals in labs.  And their products are made without animal testing — look for the ‘Cruelty Free’ bunny symbol on your products if this is something you care about.  The most amazing part of this company is that no fragrances are added to their products which blows my mind because they smell so good that I actually look forward to unscrewing the body scrub lid everyday.  It’s like my daily, at-home, luxurious spa moment.  It smells like dessert. And vacation.  All in one [recyclable!] plastic tub.  It felt a little oily on my skin when I first tried it, but I soon realized that it was the pure coconut oil, not an icky skin-clogging type of oil.  And after toweling off, I no longer felt oily.  Just blissfully moisturized.  My skin truly stays soft and smooth for a day after using it which means less of a need to slather on lotion.  The body scrub is not cheap, it runs about $22-28 (try Vitacost.com or Smile.Amazon.com).  But it lasts about a month even when used every day and I use it as sparingly as possible (whenever I accidentally drop a glob on the shower floor I practically cry).  If you’re in the market for a new scrub or body moisturizer, try it out.  You won’t regret it.