Natural Beauty

Last week, I had a big moment. A moment that included me suddenly becoming so decisive about an issue I have cared little to nothing about that started with me downloading an app, involved me throwing out half of my medicine cabinet somewhere in the middle, and ended with my boyfriend asking was I “ok”.

Skincare and makeup have always been part of an important ritual of self-care for me, a way I could indulge my otherwise stressed out self in some nice smelling things that make me soft and pretty and remind me that I can indeed take care of myself. So while “natural” has always been nice when it is on the packaging of these products, it has never been a priority for me.

A few months ago, I read about makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift who created the truly organic and healthful line of RMS Beauty after her own experience of severe illness due to the metals in cosmetics. Her intention with RMS Beauty was “creating a product that’s not only non-toxic, but that actually heals and nourishes skin.” This idea of makeup being nourishing and restorative, way beyond just being “not toxic”, really struck me. My makeup could make my skin better, not just hide the bad? This felt radical.

But I did nothing, mostly because makeup is a little intimidating.

Last Friday at work, an email reminded me of the GoodGuide mobile app, which ranks products and the companies that make them on health, environmental and social factors. I gave it a quick download out of curiosity, and the first ratings I searched for was the makeup I use, and IT WAS BAD. It was really bad. Some of the ingredients were banned in other countries. One of the ingredients is suspected of causing developmental, reproductive, and/or skin or sense organ toxicity. The guide is not perfect (I’m still questioning the basis of brand’s social and environmental scores), but the health score and ingredient list is firmly based in facts.

As soon as work was over, I walked right out and bought my first RMS Beauty product. I even struck up a conversation with a fellow shopper who apparently makes her own skin cleansing oil at home (It’s cheaper than face wash and way more balancing even for oily skin. Learn more here.). I’m pretty sure we were supposed to be best friends, and I should have taken her out for a glass of red wine so she could teach me everything else she knows, but that’s beside the point.

On Saturday morning, I kept the process going. I threw out a ton of products in my medicine cabinet (recycling when possible of course), and I felt no regret. And then, I took the next leap: I bought a new natural deodorant that everyone has been raving about, but I was too scared to try because it comes in a jar and you have to use your finger to apply it. Yes, it sounds weird, but the Soapwalla organic deodorant cream is amazing. The natural formula doesn’t include those metals that make your deodorant into an antiperspirant (i.e. they interrupt your body’s natural sweating mechanism so that you can’t release moisture – yikes!). So while it won’t make you stop sweating, it will keep you dry and fresh.

My whole skincare and makeup routine is not totally natural yet. But I’ve already come to one big realization: I wasn’t using natural products before because they didn’t “feel” or look like what I was familiar with – deodorant is supposed to be in a stick, shave gel in a resource-intensive aerosol bottle, and microbeads make for a great scrub. But just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is safe. The aerosol and the metals in my deodorant are pretty darn bad. And those microbeads are actually plastics that are polluting our oceans.

Natural products are going to be an experiment for me, and they are not always going to come in the familiar forms that I’m used to. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work as well. In many ways, they could work even better, like RMS’s promise to improve skin. I’ve also found that sometimes they take awhile to really prove that they are working, because our bodies have been compensating for those harsh chemicals for so long (think of your greasy hair – your body is producing extra oil because that harsh sudsy shampoo is stripping it of natural moisture!).

So what’s next in natural beauty? Besides updating my products, I’m also thinking of how else I can change my routines. I’m even thinking of trying dry shampoo, so I wash my hair less to shorten my showers and save water. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Find out the details of some of my favorite natural beauty products on my Pinterest board, Natural Beauty. And don’t forget to share your favorite natural products, whether bought or made at home.

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  3. TinaPete

    Great post; thanks for reminding us of what harm may lurk in our cosmetics. And to recycle so that harm doesn’t get into the water and microbeads don’t fool fish into thinking they’re food. Two sites that I like are Crunchy Betty (where I found out about oil cleansing) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics where you can learn about cosmetic products’ ingredients.

  4. Danielle

    We should also be best friends because I am currently in this stage, as well. I haven’t thrown everything out of the medicine cabinet and makeup bag just yet, but over the last year I’ve been incrementally switching over to more natural, less harsh products.

    Some of the things I’ve learned:
    – Topical acne products are a waste of time: acne is the result of what’s going on inside your body and the topical creams and gels and washes are simply messing with that system rather than fixing it.
    – The Body Shop has some great, affordable products that are 1) fair trade, 2) eco-friendly, and 3) high-quality. I really like their tea tree oil face wash and their non-toxic moisturizing lipstick.
    – Clarisonic exfoliator is a more sustainable, effective way to gently remove dead skin cells without succumbing to ocean-polluting micro-beads.
    – THINK DIRTY app is super helpful, but also super alarming. You can scan bar codes and look up products (similar to Good Guide but more specific to cosmetics and beauty products) to see who they rank and what ingredients are really in there.

    Let’s talk more about this! :)

    • Rebecca

      Danielle, love these insights, especially the one about acne. Would love to hear if you’ve changed your diet and seen improvements. Looking up Think Dirty now too! And yes, please, let’s talk soon! When are you next in NYC? :)

  5. Samantha

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been thinking a lot about switching to a more natural beauty routine, especially since a ton of super safe and effective beauty products can be DIY’d really easily (lip scrubs, body exfoliants, oil cleansers, etc.) It’ll probably save me money in the long run, plus the amazing long term benefits of using healthier and natural products. I thought it would be pretty difficult to find very ingredient-safe, eco-friendly beauty products, but it’s actually surprisingly easy. So many great resources out there.

    – Samantha

  6. Emmy

    I generally use the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database when I want to know about the dangers of certain products.
    One of my favorite things to use on my face at night is organic shea butter. I have very sensitive, dry skin and this stuff is great. Make sure to use shea butter that hasn’t been refined using hexane. NOW brand is inexpensive, organic, and doesn’t use hexane. Although I’m sure it’s better for you, I haven’t used unrefined yet because of my hesitation about being sensitive to it.
    As for a daytime moisturizer, I use Shaded Rose with SPF by Sanre. They use organic ingredients, products aren’t tested on animals, and the sunscreen doesn’t contain nanoparticles.

    • Rebecca

      Hi Emmy, thanks for sharing this great resource. I haven’t used that before so now will definitely look up EWG’s database. Another great resource that I didn’t mention here is Women’s Voices for the Earth – they have a ton of very practical resources on women’s health and beauty products.

      Also, definitely looking up these product recommendations and doing my homework on hexane. Thank you!!


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