Friday in Focus: Skin care products

I'm a girl of habit. I've used the same facewash, shampoo, and make-up for years. If something works, I tend to stick with it. So you can imagine that the idea of changing all of those things made me a bit apprehensive. To benefit my own sanity, I didn't try to do it all at once, but I did have some lofty goals. I wanted (and still want) the unguents and potions that I put on and in my body to come from natural and non-petroleum-derived sources, to come in packaging that is recyclable or reusable, and to be effective. And it also wouldn't hurt if they were locally made or at least made by ethical companies and didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Got all that? Luckily, my lack of any real employment for many years had whittled down my personal care products to a bare minimum. As much as I enjoyed glitter-coated skin and a painted face, these things had already gone by the wayside. But even my pared down personal hygiene regimin contained a surprising number of products. How to "green" them all?

First, I'm going to limit this to just facial skin care. Dental, body and hair care are involved enough that they deserve their own posts. Environmental Working Group has already done the arduous task of figuring out what all the ingredients in personal care products are (Cyclopentasiloxane, anyone? How about Cetyl Dimenthicone? Yeah, me 'neither) and then rated products based on the toxicity of their ingredients at their website Skin Deep. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing and a great place to start. The facewash that I've used for the better part of a decade has bleached all of my towels and several of my shirts. And this is what I'm putting on my face. Not a good idea, I've decided. So a massive purge ensued. I debated on what to do with all of the make-up, facewash, and nail polish that I now considered too toxic to use on my own body. Throw it away? Give it away? Dispose of it as hazardous waste? I decided to give it away on Freecycle, a decision that I really agonized over. But, ultimately, I decided that it is up to each of us as to what we are or are not going to put on and in our bodies. If people are going to use cheap, toxic make-up, they're going to do so regardless of what I say. So, giving it away to someone for free who would buy those same products anyway seemed to make sense to me.

This left me with very little in the drawers of my bathroom vanity. Here's a run-down of what I purged and what I replaced it with:

Facial cleansing: For as long as I can remember I've used Acne Free face wash and blemish treatment. It's similar to ProActive and is a basic benzyl peroxide treatment. Giving this up was incredibly hard for me. I was not blessed with beautiful, glowing skin and as much as I would like to believe that we don't judge books by their covers, I know that we do. I tried Kiss My Face's olive oil bar soap. I liked that it had a simple list of recognizable ingredients and came in a simple paper wrapper, but it didn't really leave my skin feeling clean. So, I decided to go hard core and not use any product at all. I dabbled with The Oil Cleansing Method.  Yes, for almost a month and a half, I cleansed my face with nothing other than a mixture of castor oil and jojoba oil. In all honesty, my skin has never felt softer than it did during that period. It was like I was giving myself little mini spa treatments every night. But a hormonally-induced bout of vicious adult acne and the time investment needed to maintain this method told me that I'm not as hard core as I'd hoped and this wasn't the right option for me. So, I started using Grandpa's Oatmeal Soap, again because it had simple, natural ingredients and came in a recycled and recyclable cardboard box. And for the most part, I've been really happy with it. I've switched back and forth between it and Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Complexion Soap. Burt's Bees is fine, but it's owned by Clorox...not exactly the "small family business" that I'd prefer to support. My goal for the future is to make my own, vegetable-based soap to use as a face wash. But, I think these last two options are decent enough for the time being.

Make-up:  I admit that this is an area that I have stubbornly refused to change. I've been using Neutrogena liquid make-up and Rimmel pressed powder for as long as I can remember. I did switch to a different blend that doesn't contain salicylic acid, but that's about as much of a switch as I can handle right now. Let me tell you something about all natural liquid make-up, it's expensive. Much more than this girl can afford, and right now, this is not my top priority. Honestly, I'd prefer not to wear any make-up at all, but until the aforementioned hormonally-induced bout of vicious adult acne clears up and/or I'm no longer a member of the 8 to 5 office crowd, it's something I've just got to live with. I did, however, make some changes in the auxiliary make-up that I occasionally wear. Because mascara lives so very close to my delicate eyes, I decided that I would invest in a non-toxic option. I was delighted to find T.W.I.N.K Beauty on Not only is their mascara non-toxic and all-natural, it also comes in a metal tin (No plastic!) and they also sell refills, so you produce even less waste. This is cake mascara, so there was a learning curve on how to use it (just a drop of water, I learned!) but it covers well, doesn't cake or flake. They are also my source for eye shadow and, for awhile, I used their face powder, all of which I highly recommend. I love that it is a small company (just two women working out of their homes). Whenever I can give my money to people rather than corporations, I do. I almost never wear lipstick, but I do need some lip moisture on a daily basis. Years and years ago I bought some Pussy Pucker Pots lip balm and I've never looked back. All natural, plastic-free packaging, independently-owned and operated, and celebrating progressive feminism? How could I say no? And finally, I ditched my plastic-handled make-up brushes in favor of EcoTools. They're made from bamboo and recycled metal, how cool is that?

So, am I where I want to be in this arena? Not even close, but I do think that I've made some progress. My ideal would be to find simple, natural solutions that I can make in my own home to solve problems like dry skin and to take care of my daily needs. I know this is possible, but, for me right now, I think that's a little bit idealistic. So, the compromise is to find products that meet as many of my criteria as possible. This is an ever changing process that I'm constantly learning about and revising. It's also overwhelming, so I try to take it one step and one product at a time.

How about you? Have you given thought to the products that you use on your face? Have you made any changes in this arena to reflect your values and ideals?

1 comment:

  1. Personal care was the first thing to change for me. I found myself trying product after product and having my skin and hair get worse (I'd break out or my dandruf would be horrible and my hair dried out) and someone reminded me of a comment I made in high school (they complemented my skin and asked what I used... in my semi-conscious state I answered "absolutely nothin'!").

    So I gave away anything unopened and above a 4 on the skin deep scale, went to Etsy and found a lovely local-ish (within-state) small bath place that makes soaps, shampoo bars, deoderant... and jumped in with both feet. I tried four different products and loved the results.

    And with my aversion to clutter, it really paid off. I now have a small basket for bathroom items (anything I need for the shower) and I got rid of all the bottles and junk that I had around that didn't work.

    Still working on the makeup thing, but since I normally don't wear makeup, it's not such a big issue. It would be less of an issue if I just kept myself hydrated so my skin wouldn't look dry but that's another post entirely.