My Favorite Natural Beauty and Body Products
I’ve had a long love affair with beauty products, and it hasn’t always been a healthy one. At age 11, I was frustrated with my face full of freckles and translucent skin that showed my purpley veins underneath, so I snuck some stark-white clown face-paint from our family’s Halloween supplies bin and rubbed it all over my face, then went to church hoping nobody would notice. By 12, my mom was buying me powder from Maybelline, so I didn’t keep making myself look totally ridiculous— literally, like a clown. I was going to use makeup, no matter what, even if it came to that.
I’ve always been a makeup minimalist, though, so I would try out the available affordable options, find the best colors for my skin tone and the best-working stuff, and then use the same brands for years and years and years. Once I find something that works and looks great, I’m not going to fall prey to all the makeup sales pitches, of which there are MANY. (Goodness gracious, the multi-level-marketing schemes. I hide from any “party” that’s really not one.)
But imagine my despair when I realized that ALL of the products I’d been using for all those years were full of crap, industrial chemicals and even straight toxic metals, many of which are known to cause...
and strongly linked to
Your skin is your largest organ, and most ingredients you put on it don't just stay on its surface. They are designed to penetrate, and they wreak havoc once they do.
In 2007, when I was trying to get pregnant for the first time, I read a book called the Complete Organic Pregnancy, which went into how bad most cosmetics were, and even recommended not using nail polish at all. Back then, there weren’t many good natural alternatives, so I tried what was out there, and only found Burt’s Bees facial cleansers (a win!), rock crystal deodorant (which I didn’t know then actually still contained toxic Aluminum!), and BareMinerals makeup (the foundation I actually ended up returning when the powder ran off my face when I cried after my first miscarriage).
It took a mysterious full-body itchy rash that lasted a FULL month, with a completely elusive cause, for me to open my eyes to the true toxicity hidden within my beauty products. In my search for the cause of this rash, I wondered if it was cancer. I thought perhaps my liver was failing. I was a mess.
So I got brave, and looked at my eye shadow — it contained aluminum. My foundation — parabens and phthalates. My shampoo — “fragrance.” My blush— formaldehyde. My MAC lipstick — just about every artificial coloring like Red 40 and Yellow 5, artificial vanillin flavor, polyethylene — a plastic microbead, an estrogenic sunscreen chemical, and aluminum. Whew. So began my full-scale purge.
After a boatload of money blown on trying random organic products, many many of them failing me miserably, I arrived at the products that I’m sharing below, that I can happily say are SAFE and they WORK.
Our Toxic World
When I think about how sick our generation is, I get hopping mad. I seriously cannot handle the idea of people — especially kids — suffering needlessly. Almost everyone I know has someone in their family dealing with the health effects of our toxic environment: the brain fog, the chronic fatigue, the cancers, the ADHD, the migraines, the asthma, the autoimmune disorders, the birth defects, the infertility. These things were NOT commonplace 100 years ago. But now, there are more than 120 million industrial chemicals registered, and many of them are turning on genes that would not have bothered us before the chemicals existed.
Many of the chemicals are KNOWN to cause or contribute to cancer, and many are KNOWN to be toxic to the endocrine (hormones) system leading to infertility and defects. So this isn’t some hippie crazy talk. And most of these chemicals overwhelm your body’s detoxification burden. So maybe you could handle the pesticides on your vegetables, and the chlorine in your water, but the cosmetics may just put your body over the edge into inflammation or autoimmune disease.
When your body is carrying around too many toxins, your genes don’t work properly, and in many cases, your body begins holding onto excess fat as a place to store the toxins and prevent them from damaging your heart or brain. I’m convinced this is why so many Americans are obese — it’s their body's protective mechanism!
And if you are thinking of becoming pregnant soon, it is absolutely critical that you get toxic chemicals out of your life before they are passed on to the baby at conception, through the placenta, and later, in the breast-milk.
Before I share my line-up of my favorite Natural products, here are the biggest red-flag ingredients for me. Believe me, there are literally thousands of other toxins added to cosmetics/body products, but these I see most frequently in things that I would buy if I didn’t know better.
Getting these off the skin and out of the body could prevent a breast tumor...or prevent a birth defect...It's serious stuff.
Stay Away from These Ingredients
My number one worst offender! In a study by EWG, it was found in 2/3 of all personal care products they tested! It’s a “plasticizer” making things stretchy or dissolving other ingredients. Phthalates also happen to be POTENT endocrine disruptors — and have been strongly linked to birth defects in the male reproductive system. Specifically, they make males more female. They're gender benders.
2. Fragrance (or “parfum”)/Artificial Colors
Can cause allergy and chemical sensitivity. The artificial colors (like Red40 or Yellow5) are often in lipsticks that you end up eating — yikes. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds – even thousands – of potentially toxic chemicals. “Fragrance” also often contains phthalates (see above!).
Known neurotoxin (affecting brain and nervous system!). Endocrine disruptor (hormones! infertility!). In most antiperspirants and in many eyeshadows, including one I used for 10 years. Has been suspected to be increasing breast cancer rates, as it has an easy route to upper quadrant of breast tissue when it travels through shaved/nicked skin when antiperspirant is applied near that area.
These compounds cause many allergic reactions and are strongly linked to cancer and toxicity. Many of them also release dioxane, a known carcinogen.
5. Formaldehyde, or any Formaldehyde-releaser like Bronopol, Quaternium-15, or Diazolidinyl Urea
Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen (causes cancer) and skin allergy. RUN from these products.
A synthetic preservative that mimics estrogen in the body. Again, found in nearly all Americans’ bodies. Can cause reproductive and developmental disorders!
7. Retinal Palmitate or Retinol
Often in skin products to be anti-aging. But when it is exposed to sun when on your skin, it can break down into free radicals which damage DNA and speed up tumor formation.
Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light-absorber, found in the bodies of nearly all Americans! Another endocrine disruptor, acting like estrogen in the body. Linked with negative outcomes in birth weights, alters sperm production, associated with endometriosis, easily penetrates the skin, and has high rates of skin allergy. Banned in Hawaii just this month!
But here’s the GOOD NEWS.
Though the government doesn’t really regulate the cosmetics/body products industry, allowing almost any chemical in your lipstick, many companies are way ahead of the game, bringing us healing, truly skin-nourishing products. Honestly, we don’t want the government involved anyway, since their regulations make it SO HARD (so expensive) for small companies to join the market.
And then there are the great third-party verifiers like Think Dirty and EWG already checking to make sure the natural companies are what they say they are! There's definitely a tendency for companies to "greenwash" their products, making you believe they're natural, when really they're anything but!
I use two great Apps to see how toxic or clean my products are:
I scan the barcode with my phone and the apps will tell me what's in the product and give it a rating, "0" being cleanest. I usually will run a new product through both of them and look at the detailed ingredient list. All the products I have listed are rated "3" and below, except for one "4".
These apps won't tell you how well a product works, though. You could buy all "0" rated things, but the eye-shadow may crumble down all over your face, the moisturizer could be greasy, and the cleanser may make you look like you've got scales instead of skin. Hence my recommendations. The following products all work well!
I'm in the cool position where I am not owned by these companies, nor did they contact me to market their stuff. I actually sought out these products and USE them on a daily basis.
So here we go!
My Favorite Natural Beauty and Body Products Line-up
*I recommend trying only one new product at a time, so you know if you have a negative reaction.*
All of the photos are links, and at the end of each description, I included the Think Dirty rating.
100% Pure Burdock Shampoo: I've tried about 50 different natural shampoo formulations, and it's so frustrating trying to find one that works with my extremely thick dry hair. This shampoo is pure, smells invigorating, helps with winter dryness, and cleans well. The honey-coconut one is excellent as well. I actually also use this as my shaving cream! (1)
Innersense Organic Hydrating Cream Conditioner: Perfectly moisturizing for my very dry, thick hair. I don't love the smell (patchouli) or the price, considering how little comes in the bottle. But the purity is worth it. The company that makes it thinks of every possible combination of ingredients to create the MOST pure product possible, where it's actually nourishing to your scalp! (The company's story: After the wife's many years of toxic exposures behind the chair in a salon, her daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder, and this propelled them into cleaning up their lives and products.) (0)
Giovanni Hair Spritz: Hairspray was one of my last hold-outs with natural beauty care. I was still using some TOXIC aerosol fragranced stuff until 2.5 years ago. Then I went on a natural haircare mission, and started with one hairspray that was just water, sugar, and essential oils. Didn't work AT ALL. My curls instantly fell. I tried many others, and the curls still fell in the Virginia heavy humidity. This Giovanni has been the only "natural-ish" product that actually works holding my thick hair style in summer.(4)
Badger Kids Sunscreen SPF 30: Most conventional sunbock products are TOXIC and likely CAUSING skin cancer. We've used natural Badger since before kids in 2007! It is the old fashioned white zinc-oxide formula that lays on heavy and doesn't rub in. (If a sunscreen rubs in, it's penetrating your skin, causing toxicity!) We look like we're wearing a physical layer of sun protection. On the plus side, it works, and it smells like an orange creamsicle! (2)
Plant Therapy Lavender Essential Oil: I'm not a huge essential oil person, as again, I'm very sensitive to potent chemicals — even completely natural ones. But lavender in very tiny diluted doses works for our family. I'll occasionally add a drop to the kids' bath for soothing their skin, and I'll put it on itchy bug bites, and as a natural alternative for ringworm medication. And I really only stick with Plant Therapy because it's organic.
Primal Pit Paste: This is all organic, the purest deodorant on the market--you could eat it. I like to rotate my deodorant brands, so this is always in the rotation. I get the unscented paste version that you have to rub in with your fingers, which I think is useful to get to know if any of your lymph nodes are swollen in your armpits. (0)
Primal Life Dirty Mouth -- Sweet Bubblegum Tooth Powder: I had one child with cavities that developed due to eating too many grains (especially oats -- watch the oatmeal and things made with oat flour like Cheerios!) and between cutting back on grains and sweets, adding in more vitamin A foods, and using this tooth powder, this child's teeth are improving!
Jack N' Jill Natural Toothpaste Organic Strawberry: Kids do a pretty terrible job of spitting, so you want this stuff to be straight edible. We never use fluoride (there is a wealth of information showing its incredible toxicity), and this product is nearly all organic and pure. The tube is super small, so the two-pack is useful. It's a clear gel, so no foam or residue. (2)
100% Pure 2nd Skin Foundation: Hallelujah, praise the Lord, this exists! Foundation is THE number one hardest thing to find that is NATURAL and that WORKS. This is a sheer, slightly oily-dewy finish foundation, that feels really interesting to put on. But I've been getting lots of compliments with it, as this color (I'm using shade 4 right now) adds life to my face and the texture adds youth to my dry skin. You can buy a sample of 5 colors straight from the 100% Pure website — I did! (0)
AnnMarie Gianni Mineral Foundation: I like the look of this on my skin, but I don't love the price! I use the Honey color when I have a spring/summer tan, and the Sand color in winter. I put a few drops of oil in my hand and drop some of the powder in, and mix them together for a liquid makeup. Very simple and pure ingredients. Get the sample set on www.annmariegianni.com to pick your perfect color.
BareMinerals "Warmth" Bronzer: I've used this product to add warmth to my skin, since the beginning of my organic health journey in 2007. A little of this bronzer goes a long way to make this pale skin look a little more alive! *Note, as of October 2018, I am currently searching for a replacement for this product, as I got a hair metals test done and came up high in BISMUTH, a metal found in this product! (3)
Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm, Pink Blossom color: With how toxic most lipstick is (even the so called "natural" versions like BeautyCounter often contain Red40 and other synthetic colorants), I have almost completely given it up. Burt's Bees has some great options. For daily wear, this tinted balm is what I reach for year-round. (3)
Mineral Fusion Lipstick in Charming: Creamy and vibrant. This is one of EWG's top picks for clean lipstick! I don't wear lipstick often, except on occasions like church or date night! Lipstick is generally one of the the most toxic products, with hidden metals like lead. So I am extremely careful, using only well-made products like this one. (1)
Lauren Brooke Cosmetique Eye Shadow in Smokey Plum/Sweet Pea: The eye shadow I loved for 20+ years before switching contained aluminum (!) to give it shimmer, and it was hard giving that beautiful grey-mauve color up! Most natural versions stick to the crease or fall under your eyes creating racoon effect. This one is really pretty. I combine it with a Mineral Fusion shadow, below.
Mineral Fusion Eye Shadow in Density: This has the best texture, very velvety and stays on better than most other natural eye-shadows. It *does* contain retinol, but I'm OK with it since it's only on an area that doesn't see much sun. I use the dark purple color most, for eye contouring, especially in fall/winter.(3)
Burt's Bees Eyebrow Pencil in Blonde: Ah, I really like this one. The color is a perfect match for my eyebrow hair, and I like the little brush that comes on the end. This is new and hasn't been evaluated by Think Dirty or EWG, but is 100% natural, and the only questionable ingredients are hydrogenated oils.
Clothing we spend the most time wearing needs to be as pure as possible too, especially pajamas and undergarments. Since our children were born, they've all had organic sleepwear, mostly from Hanna Andersson, Burt's Bees, and L'oved Baby. We are extremely careful to avoid pajamas that are made of synthetic fibers (like polyester — a plastic) or are treated with flame-retardant chemicals.
Hanna Andersson Organic Cotton PJs: We have these for our entire family, me and Jeff included, and our kids have many prints and patterns from this brand. They're extremely durable organic cotton, and can be returned at any point if the fabric wears out in the knees or the zipper breaks! Be careful, though, as they do carry some synthetic fabrics in the nightgowns for girls!
These are all my tried and true organic cotton pjs/essentials: for women's underwear I have iKotton and PACT, and InTouch for organic leggings, Fair Indigo for sleep shirts, and I have and love this PACT organic wrap dress.
Beyond this, it's important to think about sheets, towels, and home-cleaning products, but that's a post for another day!