Welcome to the first Audacious blog beauty post! This Be-YOU-tiful category has been sitting up there just waiting for me to finally syphon through all of the potential topics and decide how to begin. But of course, the best way to begin is always just to do it, so let’s dive in!
This week I want to talk about “products”. Cosmetics, personal care items, makeup, all those tubes and pots and containers that clutter up your bathroom counter and fall into the tub while you’re showering.
There is always a new product to brighten and tighten and illuminate and cover and exfoliate and highlight. And even if you have all of those, there will be a new one next week with a new ingredient that for sure, this time, is going to make your skin/hair/nails/body the best it’s ever been. Like we even know what this stuff is… Colloid, emulsifier, essential oil, retinol. Seriously. The top Google results for moisturizer includes Purple Carrot + C Luminous Night Cream, Life Revitalizing (like, seriously?) Sleeping Cream, Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm (which is just 5 words chosen from a hat), or maybe Alphamoist Alpha Hydroxy Skin Renewal, or Plum Green Tea Mattifying? (If you want to know about those, you’ll have to Google them. I would put links so you could marvel at the ridiculousness yourself, but I’m not gonna promote this stuff…)
All of these companies know that we have absolutely no idea what to choose, so they just throw on a bunch of words designed to make you say “WHAT?!” and pick up the jar. Then it’s already in your hand, and it’s easier to keep it than to keep trying to decide whether you need Skin Balance Nourishing Lotion or Skin Balancing Hydrating Cream…
Unfortunately many of these companies take advantage of the fact that we’re overwhelmed with options, don’t actually know what we need or what any of this stuff will actually do, and yet really want the result they’re promising. If we’re completely lost when we get to the store and are confronted with 300 shades of red lipstick from carmine to wine, and five finishes from ultra-glossy to matte, they’re relying on the fact that we won’t have the energy to wonder what’s inside of the product and whether we can trust it to be safe for use.
Getting the matte finish we love in a lipstick, high foam soap and toothpaste, volume from shampoo and mascara that will last through a marathon of Hallmark Channel movies interspersed with Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercials, are usually all achieved by adding additional chemicals. Any product on your skin enters your bloodstream, and while scientists know that some of these chemicals are harmless, others are known to be harmful to the human body. There are countless others that no one has bothered to do testing with, and we don’t really know what those do to us.
Chemicals found in common products sold in stores in the states have been shown to cause skin issues, hormone interruption, neurological damage, and even cancer. I’m not trying to be alarmist, but that is certainly something that we should know about!
Usually there are two instinctive reactions to this information. We either know this and have resigned ourselves to the fact that “everything is going to kill us” and there’s nothing we can or should do about it, or we purge our cupboards, shelves and vanities in fear and get paralyzed every time we need to brush our teeth or wash our clothes (yes, even your laundry detergent can be hazardous to your health). I’m here to offer some support, as someone who has taken turns in both camps.
Let’s look at the first reaction first. With all the information that we find out about the companies that we have trusted, the fact that our cosmetics are tainted and no one cares seems like just one more thing. We have to keep eating, we have to keep cleaning ourselves, we can’t be hyper-vigilant and let a few chemicals keep us from living our lives. If we can’t protect ourselves from everything what’s the point?
What’s the point of a single mile on the treadmill? What benefit is there in eating a single salad or not eating ice cream for breakfast one day? As we’ve discussed, little actions combine over time to create an overall picture of either health or disease, wellness or chaos. The same is true for the products you use. No one shampoos with a phthalate rich product one day, and loses their ability to reproduce that night. You won’t brush your teeth with SLS and fluoride at night and struggle to breathe in the morning, and it’s more than likely that you never will. But you should know the facts about what is in your products, what those ingredients are for and what they do in your body.
If a scientist told you “Hey, I love your mascara! There’s a chance that it will make your eyelashes fall out at some point and you may lose your vision, but you’ll probably be ok”, would you keep on using your mascara? You might, depending on a few variables, and that’s cool. It would be an informed decision and yours to make. I encourage you to do some research, check out the Environmental Working Group product database, and decide for yourself if there are some additives that you are unwilling to have in your products.
To my “throw everything away but the coconut oil, honey, and apple cider vinegar” friends, I get you. If you’re happy going product free, and you and your home can function that way, more power to you. If, however, you like the feeling of clean sheets, making your own toothpaste makes for a pretty gnarly tooth brushing experience and your coconut oil deodorant isn’t quite cutting it for workouts, you don’t have to panic.
For one thing, as much as a skeptic like myself wants to distrust all companies and question their motives, not all manufacturers are slipping neurotoxins into their products just to make money. And some of the things they’re slipping in there aren’t as toxic as we’ve been led to believe. (See earlier statement re: fluoride and sodium laurel sulfate.)
More and more companies are attempting to limit the potentially harmful chemicals from their products. If you look you can find many manufacturers, from tiny, new, local businesses, to big chains, cleaning up their products. The EWG database listed above is a great resource in finding product lines that are free from your hot button ingredients or concerns.
My only request/challenge/encouragement is this: read some studies, figure out what, if anything you want to limit or eliminate from your products, read some labels, and find something new. Even if you only choose to limit your consumption of the least toxic thing you find, you’ll be making a change and taking a step for your health, society, and the world.
Yeah, that’s right. Phthalate free shampoo is totally changing the world.
Way to go, you revolutionary you ❤