Just Short of Tree-Hugging

I’ve always been a big recycle-reduce-reuse nerd (I was born in the 80’s).  I’m always on the hunt for ways to repurpose, ways to save energy, and ways to be nicer to the planet in general.  However, until recently, I hadn’t really applied this line of thinking to myself.  Like, my own body.

Of course, I always try to eat healthier, and if I don’t recognize the majority of ingredients on the label, I tend to steer away from it and opt for fresher, less processed things.  (And of course, the unrecognizable things on the ingredients list are usually preservatives.)   But I hadn’t put a whole ton of thought into this being applied to some of the items I use topically… like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, make-up, et al.

Then I read somewhere that we absorb 60% of what goes on our skin!

Then I read somewhere else that that wasn’t necessarily true…

Then I read about the evils of parabens (a preservative found in many cosmetics and personal care products).  Then I read about how benzoyl peroxide has been restricted in Europe (this is my go to when I use a medicated face wash).  Then I read about sulfates (found in detergents and shampoos) and learned how they have a pretty bad rap, too.  Then I read… A LOT.

Then I read a few articles that “scoffed” at the natural community for getting their panties in a wad over the whole thing.

Then I thought…. and pondered… and considered.

And then I did what I do with politics: I didn’t lean to the right… or the left… but somewhere right in the middle.  A Moderate, if you will.  (Fence riding can be exhausting, but someone’s got to do it.)

And what it came down to was this: Applying the same line of thinking that I use for choosing food options, I decided if I didn’t understand — or couldn’t pronounce — the majority of the ingredients on a label, then it wasn’t for me.  I don’t necessarily rule out any and all other products that I may have used before, I just use carefully and/or sparingly.  Because while there is some bad press for the movement towards all all-natural, there’s an overwhelming amount of bad press for continuing to use the products we’ve all been using (but no one can make me give up my Loreal Voluminous mascara, not even the dumb girl who told me when I was thirteen years old that mascara was made out of bat poop — and I believed her for a good five minutes).

And this resolve was further justified when I stopped and made a list of all of the cosmetic and personal care products I use.  Are you ready?  For someone who can get ready in  fifteen minutes, this is quite a list:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hairspray (flyaways, y’all!)
  • Bodywash
  • Facewash
  • Hand Soap
  • Body Lotion
  • Facial Moisturizer
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental Floss (EVERY DAY)
  • Fluoride rinse (I have a tiny, cavity-prone mouth)
  • Nail polish
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Deodorant
  • Lip Balm
  • Lip Gloss
  • Lipstick
  • Foundation (like, the makeup kind)
  • Powder
  • Eyeshadow (three different colors for contrast and definition)
  • Eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Perfume
  • Vaseline (for really dry skin)

Yeah, quite a list.  (But unlike a lot of ladies I know, I don’t use concealer, hair dye, tanners/bronzers, and a slew of other topical products, so I consider my crazy long list not so long by comparison.)   However, when I first created the list, I found it daunting; I was at a loss for how to choose which new natural product to use and how I would afford to switch over ALL of these different products (this is the Ginger Penny Pincher, after all).  Overwhelmed, Party of One.

So I laid a few ground rules for myself:

  1. I could only switch over to a new, natural product when I was about to run out of an older, slightly more harmful one (I mean, I made it this far).
  2. I couldn’t buy a product if it was significantly more expensive than my previous one (like twice as much = no bueno).
  3. I could only buy a product (or keep using one) if it made a 3 or better on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.  This AMAZING resource breaks down everything that is found in common cosmetics and personal care items — you can even send off for a handy pocket guide for when you go shopping:

(I totally squealed when it came in the mail.)

So those are my three criteria.  This resolve began March 1st, and since then I’ve switched over about half of my products.  I’m pretty happy with my choices so far, but I’m open to other options as well; in other words, I’m not married to any particular brand.  I browsed the personal care products section of my local natural foods stores, Flatbush Food Coop and Natural Frontier Market (this was before I discovered the even more fabulous natural care section of my beloved Fairway).  Keeping a mental note of what brands they had, I sort of reverse looked up everything in the EWG database to figure out, of all of the easily accessible brands, which were best).  The sky’s the limit when you order from great sites like Vita Cost or Drugstore.com, but I wanted to be able to walk a few blocks or drive a few miles and get whatever I needed, rather than have to wait on the delivery man (who can be a little unreliable in my area).  So choosing commonly found brands like Desert Essence, Tom’s, Jason, Avalon Organics, Kiss My Face, Nature’s Gate, and Dr. Bronner’s just makes more sense (and some of these are even available at drugstores and Target).

Here’s my updated list, with the new products (and my brief review) in boldface.  Again, I haven’t switched over everything, but I’m getting there…

  • Shampoo — Nature’s Gate: no problems yet!
  • Conditioner — Nature’s Gate: Sulfate-free and complaint free!
  • Hairspray (soon)
  • Bodywash — Dr. Bronner’s: If you can get past the trippy labeling, you’re set.
  • Facewash — Desert Essence with Tea Tree Oil, and then I use straight up tea tree oil applied with a Q-tip for problem areas.
  • Hand Soap — Dr. Bronner’s 
  • Body Lotion — Coconut oil (like the stuff for cooking!)
  • Facial Moisturizer — Again, coconut oil.  It has many uses.
  • Toothpaste — Tom’s of Maine, Cavity Protection: No problems so far!
  • Dental Floss (soon)
  • Fluoride rinse — The Natural Dentist, fluoride-free, made of leprecaun magic and pixie dust.  It is some GREAT stuff.
  • Nail polish (this is going to be a hard one)
  • Nail Polish Remover (yep)
  • Deodorant — Tom’s of Maine: It’s been great during the winter; we’ll see how it holds up in the warmer months :)
  • Lip Balm — Burt’s Bees, of course
  • Lip Gloss
  • Lipstick
  • Foundation
  • Powder —  I found something new at Target called Boots Botanics — made in the UK.  Loving it so far.
  • Eyeshadow (three different colors for contrast and definition)
  • Eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • Perfume
  • Vaseline — Back to the coconut oil

For the items I haven’t switched, I have Pinned on my appropriately themed Pinterest board (check it out!) —  in hopes of going back to them when it is time to switch over.

Here’s where the cool community part of this blog comes in handy:  Has anyone else switched over recently?  Or do you have any natural products that you swear by?   A natural deodorant that really works? A cavity ridden horror story about using natural toothpaste?  Please share any and all suggestions.  I’d love more feedback as I go through this transition!  I’ll try most anything, short of scraping tree bark against my elbows.  Or using bat poop as mascara.

 Or giving up Diet Coke.

I mean, I do have some standards.

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