Monday, July 26, 2010

My Beauty Epiphany

For the last couple of years I've been hearing things here and there and becoming more aware of all the chemicals we put in and on our bodies on a daily basis.  While there is no definitive study that I'm aware of linking most of these chemicals to illnesses there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests we are doing ourselves major harm.

With my new little man I'm trying to be even more careful about what chemicals he comes in contact with. Last year I switched from a major name brand of baby wipes to Safeway's Mom to Mom brand, mainly because they don't contain DMDM Hydantoin, a relative of formaldehyde.  It's used as a preservative to make sure the wipes don't get moldy, but there are other options for that function!  I've also made some homemade wipes, but my "getting green" self hasn't actually gotten around to using them yet.  I'm not sure how well that will go over with the hubby, and of course it's not really practical when away from home for extended periods of time.

The big realization came in the last few weeks however.  I ran out of my moisturizer (again, from a well known beauty company) and ordered some more.  The ingredients are listed on the box rather than the actual tube and I gave them a cursory glance.  Imagine my shock when I realized the same chemical I wouldn't allow on my baby's bottom I was putting on my face!!!  I then went around reading labels on all the personal care products in my bathroom and was just as surprised to find it in my shampoo and conditioner!  These are products that I bought from the beauty supply store (for quite the $$) and specifically asked for the most organic and botanical ones available.

Now, you might be asking how I figure out which ingredients in products are harmful?  To find out I generally turn to Skin Deep, a website run by the Environmental Working Group (note that I do NOT agree with all their policies and agendas, but I find this site to be particularly useful).  I also have a minor in chemistry and a college roommate with a major that I run stuff by.  I frequently read news relating to scientific studies as well, like the one recently talking about how Vitamin A in your sunscreen is probably causing you more harm than good.  It's supposed to be good for your skin, but when exposed to sunlight can actually cause your skin cells to mutate much more than if you hadn't even been wearing sunscreen to begin with!  And most common sunscreens do have Vitamin A in them.  (look for retinyl palmitate, retinol, or some combination)  Many lotions and moisturizers also have Vitamin A in them so beware of other products that you leave on your skin.

So, I've been trying to find a new moisturizer, face wash, and shampoo, but not really knowing where to look.  I also don't want to break the bank and go with a European home based cosmetics company that a friend of mine runs.  We are after all on a budget!

Luckily, we happen to be in Oregon visiting family and they have this cool little store simply called The Co-op.  I had a hunch I would find a lot of options there.  My mother in law and I even got to do the eco-friendly version of transportation to get there... walking, since it's close to their house!

I think I spent about an hour in the body care aisle (yes, they have an entire aisle and the most "nasty" ingredient I found was the above mentioned Vitamin A in some lotion).  There were almost too many choices!  Eventually I settled on a skin care line made by Alba - which I have seen at my local Target so hooray, I won't have a hard time restocking!  I know I can probably order most of this stuff online, but the ingredients aren't always listed and I'm also highly sensitive to smells, particularly lavender, so I need to smell things before I buy them.  (of course I find a couple days later that Fred Meyer here carries almost all the same things that I bought for about 30% cheaper, but they didn't have the selection or the employees to help me like the Co-op did either - and since Oregon is even more crunchy than Washington I'm not sure our FM carries them all)

I also got new shampoo and bar soap by Kiss My Face as well as some lip balm by Crazy Rumors (Lemonade - my husband says it's like kissing a lemon!) that doesn't have sunscreen in it - since I didn't realize until standing in the aisle that would also be a hazard.  Of course I'll still wear it when needed, but it's not something I need to be licking all the time either, and yes, I'm addicted to lip balm!

I also got some new baby wash that smells heavenly!  It's called Angel Baby Shampoo and Body Wash. I had been pretty happy with my Burt's Bees baby wash until they changed up the formula and it now makes my babies smell just as bad as J&J's.  Yuck!

Can you tell I'm more than a little excited about all this?  So, where does my epiphany come in?  (and if you've read this far, kudos to you, I didn't intend to go off on such a "soap"box!)

Well, after coming home and chilling out I started thinking about how I'm actually really lucky to live in the Northwest where it's not that hard to find a store carrying things like this.  We're not called crunchy and granola without reason!  Most days I don't even wear makeup and while the "makeup people" would tell you you're helping your face with all their products I'm not so sure I'm convinced.  I do like to look nice, especially for pictures, but I don't really care most days that I look "glamourous".  For me, it's more of an inconvenience than an accessory to my life!  And again, I can get away with this because I live in the great Northwest!

But honestly, I think I'm more happy about the fact that I don't need makeup to be me.  With two small boys I rarely have time to look in the mirror so I am not focusing on what I look like.  And if someone wants to judge me entirely on my outward appearance, well, they're probably not the kind of person I want to have a close relationship with anyway!

I haven't talked a lot about the things I'm doing to be more "green" or eco-conscious, but perhaps I will go into that more in future posts!  Thoughts?

Now the question is: what do I do with the (rather large) bottles of shampoo and conditioner I have left that I spent good money on?  Use them up or throw them out?  And I don't even feel that comfortable passing them on to someone else...


  1. Hey! Just wanted to say I read the whole thing ;) LOL
    Very informative! I never know what is not good in the stuff I have. I'm sure I would be horrified if I began to look! ;)

  2. Just found your blog and am fascinated by what you say about skin care products and sunscreens. I always worry about chemicals, especially in the foods we eat. I eat many fruits and veggies, but don't always buy organic, and then hope they're not sprayed with cancer-causing chemicals

  3. Anonymous4:26 AM

    You can give all your old products to me! I guess I should be more concerned, but am not. ;) I totally agree with you on the joys of not having to wear makeup every day. And I love having a husband who thinks me without makeup is my best look. Allison

  4. I share the joys and liberty of not applying makeup!

    Like you, I'm appalled with the long list of chemical components we can hardly list on soaps and shampoos today.


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