I recently received this lovely e-mail from a reader. She asked such a great question that I wanted to share it with you along with my answer. I love getting e-mails from readers. Feel free to send your questions to Katherine [at] naturalbeautee [dot] com anytime and I’ll post the best questions along with answers.
I'm a big fan of your blog and twitter and think that you're absolutely stunning and inspiring. I am 30 years old and after stumbling upon your 30th Birthday post I thought I'd write in. Basically, as an eco-beauty beginner, I get overwhelmed by all the names of things to buy and don't know where to begin. I'm not ready to throw away it all and start over. Do you maybe have a Top 5 products that one should originally switch over to? Say, is using synthetic shampoo better for you (relatively) than chemical facewash? Keep up the great work!
Thanks, 30 year old (eco beauty) virgin
First of all “wow!” and “thank you!” Second of all I love that you are interested in reducing the toxicity of your existing beauty regime. There’s a couple of ways to approach your question. Strictly speaking from a health perspective the best thing would be to look up your most commonly used beauty products in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to find out which products you’re using are the most toxic and replace the products with the highest toxicity scores. This is easier than trying to remember a long list of complicated chemical names to avoid. If there are any products in your bathroom that score more than 7 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, I would discontinue use immediately. Products that tend to be rated the highest are hair dyes, nail polishes, and anti-aging products. Coincidently these are also the hardest products to find natural substitutes for that will perform in the exact same way. However, this is improving all of the time.
However, since you are a self-proclaimed eco beauty virgin (your words!) you might want to start with some easy wins. There are some great natural beauty cleansers, toners, and moisturizers out there. My favorite brands include: Pai, Liz Earle, and Neal’s Yard. Look for cream or oil based cleansers, or foaming cleansers that don’t contain sulfates (SLS, ALS, etc). With moisturizers avoid those that contain parabens, mineral oils, and petro based chemicals. As moisturizers aren’t washed off your skin there is greater chance for absorption into the blood stream so it’s important to be cautious in selecting moisturizers.
Whatever you do, do NOT change your entire skincare regime in one go. Otherwise you run a high risk that your skin will freak out and I don’t want you to get discouraged since you are so enthusiastic about making the switch to natural products. The best thing to do is to replace one product at a time and slowly introduce new natural products into your skincare regime. If money is a concern then start by replacing the first product that you run out of. If money is less of a concern, start by replacing those products that are the harshest to your skin. Alcohol toners are notoriously drying so if you switch to using a flower water or non-alcohol based toner then you’ll need less moisturizer since your face won’t feel as tight. The same will happen if you switch your cleanser to an oil or cream based (non-SLS) version.
The goal is to get your skin to balance itself. This means that your skin produces exactly the right amount of sebum so that your skin is neither oily nor dry (also known as “normal” skin in the beauty industry. But what is normal, right? Ironically the people who I know with the best skin don’t even wash their faces. I used to not believe them (it just seemed too unfair!) But now I do think that there’s something about not interfering with your skin’s own natural sebum production. If you gradually start introducing natural products into your skincare regime you skin will naturally rebalance itself over time.
If you’re feeling more adventuresome you can try your hand at making your own natural beauty products. That’s the best way to make 100% sure that you’re not introducing anything toxic into your skincare. Easy products to start out with are scrubs, balms, toners, facial oils and masks. Sometimes you can save money doing this as well but bear in mind the products won’t last as long without preservatives (about 3-4 months). So you’ll need to make sure that you’re making up new batches regularly. I actually like this because it means I get more variety and am always looking for new and creative products to make.
I hope that helps you on your natural beauty quest. Let me know how you get on and if you need anymore advice!