I Need...Makeup

>> Thursday, December 10, 2009

Once as a teenager, I camped overnight in a cave with a group of youth from my church. I don't remember much from that trip (beyond a vague memory that sleeping in a cave is really spooky and not very comfortable, as is peeing in a cave) but I do distinctly remember the tour guide commenting that bat poop is used as an ingredient in mascara.

I'm not going to dwell on that disgusting tidbit of information (a quick Google search reveals mixed results about its authenticity), but I will say this...How many of us have a clue about what really is in our mascara? Our lipstick? Our blush?

Most of us apply these products to our skin, mouths, and eyes without a second thought. But considering that the cosmetics industry is one of the least regulated industries - according to the Environmental Working Group, only 11% of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products have been tested for safety - we shouldn't be surprised that independent researchers are finding that many of the ingredients we use every day are actually not good for us.

Besides the potential health problems, makeup also comes in those pesky little non-recyclable plastic containers. It's like cosmetics companies don't even try.

So what can you do?


  • Look up your products on the Skin Deep Guide, the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database. They have tested thousands of products for toxicity and rank them on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being the best and 10 being the worst. Even some products labeled as "natural" rank high on the scale, so it's important to check out all products before you buy.
  • Avoid the Dirty Dozen. These are the ingredients that have been most commonly linked to health problems.
  • Look for products with better packaging. Fake Plastic Fish had a post the other day about a cosmetics company (Organic Essence) that has a few products in recycled paper packaging and is working on more innovative packaging solutions. I know a number of companies are working on this, so keep your eyes peeled for better makeup packaging in the future.
  • Switch to mineral makeup, which is made of natural minerals instead of synthetic chemicals, like those listed on the Dirty Dozen.
  • Set aside one day of the week to be slouchy. Pick a day, pull your hair back into a pony tail, and lay off the make-up. You even have my permission to skip the shower if you want. And I'm over-ruling What Not to Wear's insistence that you shouldn't wear pajama pants to the grocery store. On slouchy day, it all goes.
  • Wear makeup for special occasions only. Maybe you could save the makeup for work. Or church. Or just for weddings.
  • Go without. Set the makeup aside for good and show off your inner beauty.

Where I'm At

When it comes to make-up, it's a lot easier to hand out advice than to follow it. Last summer, I left my makeup kit at a relative's house while travelling, and since these were the type of relative who never mails things back to you if you forget something at their house, I realized it was time to begin my quest for eco-friendly make-up.

So I carefully copied down this list from Smart Family Tips of EWG approved and readily available cosmetics and headed to the drugstore. Which did not carry a single item on my list. I don't know if it was just that particular drugstore or if those products are actually discontinued, but it does seem like the cosmetics industry is constantly thinking up new products that we must. buy. now.

But rather than going to another drugstore, I decided to head to Whole Foods because although they sometimes carry products that don't meet my standards, most of the time I can trust them. I think.

"Oh my freakin' crap!" (That was my exact thought as I stared at the price tags at the makeup counter at Whole Foods).

So I decided to look online. Once again: Oh my freakin' crap! People actually pay these prices for make-up?! (Not me. If I'm going to have to replace my mascara every three months, I'm going to buy the cheapest kind possible.) And besides that, I didn't really want to buy makeup online because who knows what colors I'd end up with.

So back to the drugstore I went, and I stared and I stared, and I thought and I thought, and I read every single stinkin' label. And I went home with foundation, a bronzer/blush duo, two shades of eyeshadow, and mascara from the Physician's Formula Organic Wear line. It doesn't rate too badly on Skin Deep (though not too great either), the blush and eyeshadow come in paper packaging, and it's affordable. But I'm not 100% satisfied with it.

The search continues...

Have you tried finding eco-friendly makeup? What do you use?


Jeannie,  December 12, 2009 at 5:11 AM  

I too went through sticker shock when shopping for friendlier and safer makeup. I took the other route and decide to spend the money but buy less. I use Dr Bonner's Magic Soap (bar) for cleansing (Trader Joe's offers it for cheap), Jane Iredale powder (mineral makeup with SPF) and Zuzu Luxe mascara (Earth Fare has the best pricing.) To moisturize, I use Cetaphil lotion, which can be brought a a good discount at Costco or BJs. Both places run coupons on it regularly.

Cherie December 12, 2009 at 9:39 AM  

I have the makeup dilema, too. I want to use all natural products, but sometimes it's hard for me to locate them in my area. There's a local shop that carries some cosmetics but she marks up her products above retail! Most of the time I purchase cosmetics at Earth Fare when I'm in North Carolina.

Two things got me really thinking about what I put on my face: 1) a friend once commented on where our lipstick goes - we EAT it! 2) with all the pharmaceutical patches out there I came to realize that our skin really does absorb chemicals; they don't just sit on the surface.

I have decided that I'm going to try coconut oil as a makeup remover and moisturizer. Once upon a time I loved Burt's Bees but then it was bought by Clorox - yuck! Now, I only buy it as a last resort. I've used Ecco Bella and Zuzu mascara and like them both.

Jessica Nichols December 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM  

This is a really tough one for me. I rarely spend money on personal care like hair & makeup so when I do decide to spend & face those steep prices, it's hard. Although cosmetics outside the drugstore cost plenty anyway. On my birthday this year I put my head in the sand & went to Sephora. I'm not proud of myself but I was so tired of my daily slouchy existence. Sigh!!!

Lina December 12, 2009 at 8:59 PM  

This is definitely the hardest for me, less around the makeup (I don't wear it though I probably should) and more around the shampoo/soap/lotion type stuff. I'm with Jeannie on the Dr. Bronners and Whole Foods brand shampoo, conditioner and lotion are OK, I think. It seems to me though that companies even change the name of things - like calling sodium lauryth sulfate grapefruit seed extract or somesuch to make it even more confusing. And then you have to watch out for anything that has 'fragrance' in it since a company can put anything they want in the 'fragrance' category to hide it because its part of their secret recipe. Regardless, I always feel slightly defeated every time I buy any of this stuff.

The worst for me was discovering that the diaper cream Desitin has parabens in it. Ugh.

Anyway, good topic, thanks for writing on it.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper December 12, 2009 at 9:18 PM  

@Jeannie and Cherie - I'm going to have to check out Earth Fare since you both mention it. I was under the impression that it was exactly like Whole Foods, but it's farther away from my house so I've never been. Do they carry different products? How do the prices compare? I'm going to have to check out that Zuzu mascara!

@Jess - Sephora is one I was considering trying next. They have a new eco line that sounds pretty good.

@Lina - It drives me crazy that cosmetics don't have to list ingredients. It makes it so hard to be a conscious shopper in that category. And just like food, it ends up in our bodies, so we should have a right to know what's in it.

Eco Yogini December 12, 2009 at 9:21 PM  

yep- haven't quite made it with the green makeup stuff... i have mineral powder now, and the sugar-mascara has crapped out.
so.... eco-makeup is a lot trickier than expected. I've been trying to use less. :)

love your suggestions!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper December 12, 2009 at 9:30 PM  

@Eco Yogini - Except for mascara, I only wear make-up once a week most of the time. Mascara is the really hard one though, since as you say, we're supposed to replace it every three months. I just can't bring myself to spend big bucks on such a disposable product. But when I don't wear mascara, inevitably someone asks me if I'm tired. Grrr...I hope you'll let me know what you try next!

Jeannie,  December 12, 2009 at 9:52 PM  

@Erin I feel like I don't have to label read as much at Earth Fare as I do at WF's, as EF is more strict on the products carried (check out EF's philosophy on their website.) Their pricing is about the same; sometimes more since EF doesn't have the extensive generic label that WF offers. Also, EF is usually willing to special order items for me if it's available by their suppliers.

Maren Hansen December 13, 2009 at 4:42 PM  

I gave up on make-up early in my marriage when I realized it was all wearing off by the end of the day anyway. I'm glad I did because my skin has become more sensitive every year. Now I just wear a little powder to cut down on the shine from the forehead. I realized how much I was spending on make-up anyway, and how much stress and time went into putting it on, finding one that quality but not too pricey. can't say that I have any inner beauty to shine through, but I will say that one of the things I've noticed about people in general is that the healthier you are, the better you look. When you are in a good weight range, and have that glow that comes from good eating and exercise, plus the way it affects your mood (positively) all create a much better looking person than a bunch of bat poo... ;) (Did you know they use placental proteins in a lot of makeup, particularly lip balms too?)

Green Me Alison December 14, 2009 at 11:25 PM  

I've sort of always gone with the less is more philosophy on make-up. I do wear mascara most days from Reviva labs, because it is sold at our natural foods store and about $5. I like the way it accents my eyes, because I have dark hair, but light lashes. I also keep a concealer, powder, eyeshadow and a lip gloss on hand for special occasions. I find that if I only use make-up sparingly, it doesn't hurt so much to buy the spendier, better for the planet and me products.

Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish December 22, 2009 at 10:10 PM  

Just wanted to mention that 100% Pure colors their makeup with fruit pigments instead of dyes or minerals. I think that's even better, since minerals have to be mined. I wrote about this company a couple of weeks ago:


I knew about cosmetic expiration dates, and I just ignore them. I know, I might be asking for trouble. But the fact is that I use makeup so infrequently that I would be tossing nearly full containers every 3 months!

I don't wear mascara, which I think is the worst one for creating eye infections. I do have an eyeliner/shadow stick that I've had for over 3 years and continue to use every once in a while.

Anonymous,  April 22, 2010 at 2:17 PM  

I was really hoping someone had a home recipe(s). : ( I can't walk out the door without foundation. I reuse my facial moisturizing jars at home and work to hold things like paperclips. One of the mall makeup stores (Body Shop?) will take any brand's empty packaging to recycle.

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails


© 2008-2010 The Conscious Shopper

You're welcome to link to any posts at The Conscious Shopper, but please do not use images or content from this site without my permission. Contact me at consciousshopperblog@gmail.com.


I do not accept money for writing reviews, but I do accept products for review and to giveaway. When posting a review, I fully disclose any free samples received from the company. I include information provided by the company in my reviews, but all opinions about the product are my own and I will not provide a good review for any product or company just because they sent me some free samples.


The ideas on this blog are my opinion and are provided for informational purposes and entertainment only. I am not a financial advisor or medical professional. Please do not misconstrue the information on this blog as advice.

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP