>> 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?
- Use fewer products. Take a look at your makeup stash. Is there any way you could tone it down? Fewer products equals fewer chemicals applied to your skin.
- Follow the guidelines for makeup expiration to avoid bacterial infections like pink eye and skin breakouts. Didn't know that makeup expires? I didn't until EcoYogini mentioned that we should be replacing our mascara every three months to avoid infections. Woops! Here's a list of expiration dates for other cosmetics.
- 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...