From oils and clays to industry inclusivity and empowerment, here’s your guide to next-level natural beauty mastery.
1- Acquire a bottle of Dr Bronners soap. You can find it practically everywhere, from co-ops to big box stores. It’s your initiation.
2- Embrace green beauty as an empowered choice to advocate for yourself and your wellness.
3- Reconsider coconut oil as a one-stop skin cure-all. I won’t deny it, coconut oil is pretty fabulous. But there’s a wide, wonderful world of oils you may miss out on if you never branch out and experiment a little. Get to know sweet almond oil, sesame seed oil, avocado oil, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, grape seed oil, marula oil, papaya seed oil, watermelon seed oil, chia seed oil…the list goes on!
4- Don’t settle for products you don’t like. Just because the ingredients are pure and safe doesn’t mean that it’s okay if it doesn’t work. Effective natural products that you’ll adore are out there.
5- Choose products that list ALL of their ingredients. It’s kinda crazy that some products don’t list every single ingredient, but it’s a fact of life until the laws governing such matters change.
7- Find out if you have any well-curated green beauty boutiques in your area. Laguna Beach has Roots Beauty and Boston has Credo Beauty…discover what’s in your neighborhood.
9- Familiarize yourself with essential oils other than lavender. Here’s five awesome ones to add to your beauty routine.
10- And while you’re at it, be smart about essential oils in skincare. Although essential oils can be tremendously useful, they can also sometimes be irritating. So if you have sensitive skin, or have just switched to natural beauty products and can’t figure out why your face has staged a rebellion, essential oils may be to blame.
11- If you’ve been using conventional beauty products for so long that you feel like there’s no hope for you, be encouraged that switching to clean beauty CAN make a difference. Take a look at this rather remarkable 2016 study that showed even a short break from certain kinds of makeup, shampoos, and lotions can lead to a significant drop in levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals in the body.
12- Get totally annoyed that the word “natural” officially means nothing. In 1998 the FDA tried to establish an official definition for the term, but the initiative was overturned in court.
13- Now that you know “natural” doesn’t mean much, be smarter than the marketing lingo on the front of a bottle. Be that self-assured woman in the store aisle who isn’t afraid to flip a bottle over to check out the ingredients.
14- Download the Think Dirty app. Use it often.
15- Get to know awesome inexpensive natural skincare names like Acure, S.W. Basics, Andalou Naturals, Desert Essence, Weleda, and YoRo Naturals. Some of the best natural beauty products you’ll come across don’t have a hefty pricetag.
16- Familiarize yourself with luxe skincare names like True Botanicals, Vintner’s Daughter, May Lindstrom, Marie Veronique, Tata Harper, and African Botanics. These brands have loyal followings for a reason.
17- Know the shelf-life of your cosmetics. Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA and will have an expiration date printed on the packaging. Other products will often have a little jar symbol printed on them that will let you know how long after opening the product will expire. If you see 12M printed on that symbol, it means use the product within 12 months of opening. If there’s a 6M, then use it up within 6 months. But use common sense. If your favorite face cream begins to smell funky, toss it!
18- If you’re interested in making your own natural beauty products, check out this accredited online school that’s just for you.
19- Don’t believe everything you read on Pinterest. Pinterest has a bogus health info problem. If a snazzy-looking pin promises that a mixture of garlic and lemon juice will erase your freckles overnight, or that cinnamon will cure your cancer—RUN. Or, at least, IGNORE.
20- Bookmark this product guide: Natural Skin Care: 99 Amazing Products to Transform Your Skin. It’ll introduce you to a wide selection of the best beauty products.
21- While you’re at it, check out the makeup guide, too.
22- There are a variety of certifications to help you evaluate the quality of a product, but don’t get overwhelmed by them. MadeSafe, USDA Organic, ECOCERT, BDIH, EWG Certified, and the Soil Association are just a few of the logos you may see on natural cosmetics. They’re all a little different but can be useful in making an informed choice in which product to purchase.
23- Don’t stress if your makeup isn’t certified organic. Many of the mineral-based ingredients in high-quality color cosmetics are, by definition, inorganic.
25- While we’re on the subject of fragrance, go ahead and watch a movie called Stink. You’ll never look at the products you buy the same way again.
26- Remove your makeup with an oil. Who knows, you may like it.
27- “But the saleslady said it was natural” is not an excuse. Never take a sales rep’s word for it that any product is made with clean or safe ingredients. She has a job to do, which is to make a sale. Instead, go straight to the source yourself and find out what’s actually in the bottle and who the company is behind the product. No one can advocate for you and your wellness better than you can. That job belongs to you.
28- Read a book.
29- Support the Environmental Working Group’s efforts. They educate consumers, provide groundbreaking research, and stand up for public health when government and industry don’t. They’re all about protecting human health and the environment and work closely with legislative issues that impact the products you use. See all the ways to get involved here.
30- Get acquainted with clean haircare brands like Rahua, EVOLVh, Acure, Playa, Seaweed Bath Co, and Yarok.
31- More power to you if you’re paraben-free/phthalate-free/GMO-free, but please avoid building your beauty routine based on what it lacks. Green beauty isn’t just about stripping away what you don’t want, it’s also about natural, organic, wild-crafted, good-for-you abundance. Substance matters. Choosing products based solely on what you’re avoiding robs you of the pleasure of the positive qualities they may contain. You aren’t only defined by what you are not; shouldn’t your cosmetics be given the same courtesy?
32- If vegan is your thing, bookmark PETA‘s cruelty-free company database. Refer to it often.
33- Please never allow the phrase “chemical free” to fall from your lips. It makes no sense. Instead, commit this wise ancient saying to memory: “Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.”
34- Understand the significance of bioaccumulation, which is when a substance progressively builds up in an organism because the rate of intake exceeds the organism’s ability to remove the substance from the body. This is why it’s erroneous to assume that toxic ingredients in cosmetics are too minor to cause adverse health effects. Chronic, low-dose exposure to toxic chemicals affects your quality of life.
35- Don’t be colorblind, part 1. Did you know that beauty products marketed to women of color generally contain more toxic ingredients than products marketed towards white women? This is not okay. No one group is more entitled to safe, healthful beauty products than another.
36- Don’t be colorblind, part 2. Green beauty should be a space inclusive of all people. Makeup brands—and green ones in particular—have a reputation for not selling an adequate range of makeup shades for deep skin tones. This has got to change! Otherwise, the green beauty industry risks being an exclusive “by white girls, for white girls” club. Eww. Instead, encourage the clean makeup brands to create wide shade ranges to support the needs of all consumers. And if they think there isn’t a market for it, just whisper this one word: Fenty.
37- Learn the seven ways to use jojoba oil. And rejoice that it works for SO MANY SKIN TYPES.
38- Be smarter than ultra-high SPF sunscreens, because high SPF doesn’t always mean better protection. Even the FDA stated in 2007 that any SPF greater than 50 is “inherently misleading.” SPF only accounts for protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays, but you need protection against both. So which sunscreen gives you true broad spectrum protection? Continue on to #39, my friend…
39- Fall in love with zinc oxide. As a sunscreen agent, it’s safe and offers stable broad-spectrum protection. And—as if you needed any additional reasons to ride the zinc oxide train—it’s less likely to irritate sensitive skin. True Botanicals, Ursa Major, Babo Botanicals, and MD Solar Sciences make some extraordinary zinc oxide sunscreens. (If you need more details about the other sunscreens, and why they’re problematic, check this out. Fair warning: you’ll wonder why no one ever told you that certain sunscreens make their way into breastmilk and mess with your hormones.)
40- Celebrate the EWG’s annual release of their Guide to Sunscreen like it’s the Oscars. Extra points for themed cocktails.
41- Make your voice heard. Sometimes companies will reformulate based on consumer outcry. Take, for instance, the curious case of Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo, which until 2014 still had a formaldehyde releaser called 1,4-dioxane in its formulation. Formaldehyde is considered a “known human carcinogen” by the International Agency on Research for Cancer. It’s also a neurotoxicant and developmental toxicant. Although the FDA actively regulates food and drugs, they don’t review or approve the vast majority of personal care products before they hit the shelves. These days, large retailers like Target and Walmart are pledging to set standards for the personal care products they sell. This type of change isn’t trickling down from legislative action in Washington D.C.—it’s an outgrowth of consumer demand. So continue to demand better, safer products.
42- Speaking of Target, their green beauty selection has become impressive. Check it out the next time you’re there buying toilet paper.
43- If you use tampons, find out if your brand is free of pesticides and harsh bleaches. If not, switch to an organic version—or better yet—a menstrual cup. #TeamDivaCup
44- Be your own advocate. No law or government safeguard can ever replace your capacity to make well-informed choices that respect your body and wellness.
45- Did you know that the CDC demonstrated that oxybenzone is present in 97% of American bodies? This popular sunscreen ingredient is bioaccumulative and may cause endocrine disruption. Tell everyone you know about this. Make it a bumper sticker. Get this infuriating statistic tattooed on your arm.
46- Know that “deodorant causes breast cancer” isn’t really a thing that’s backed up by science. Still, mainstream deodorants often contain problematic ingredients which probably aren’t up to your high standards.
47- Find a clean deodorant that works but doesn’t contain nasties like aluminums or synthetic fragrances. Ursa Major, Soapwalla, and Freedom all make lovely deodorants that’ll get the job done without screaming dirty hippie.
48- Support safe and healthy working conditions for people working in nail and hair salons. Salon workers face long-term exposure to toxic chemicals that are linked to conditions such as asthma, reproductive harm, and cancer.
49- Avoid lead acetate in hair dye. It’s been banned in Canada and the European Union because it can increase the body’s lead level. If it’s not good enough for Justin Trudeau’s luscious locks, it’s not good enough for you either.
50- Remember that natural doesn’t always mean safe, and synthetic doesn’t always mean dangerous. Some synthetics used in beauty products have a longstanding and trustworthy safety record. And that’s okay.
51- If you wear mineral makeup, be careful around bismuth oxychloride. It isn’t dangerous, per se, but its ragged molecular structure can irritate skin, making it red and itchy. Thankfully, brands like Lily Lolo make excellent mineral foundations without bismuth oxychloride.
52- Get on board with eco-friendly packaging. Look for packaging that’s recycled, biodegradable, renewable, or reusable. Or—at the very least—avoid cheap plastics.
53- Support companies that value their employees, like Dr. Bronners.
54- Support companies that ethically source their ingredients and empower female cooperatives worldwide, like Kahina Giving Beauty.
55- Play with clay! From French Yellow to Rhassoul and Bentonite to Cambrian Blue, there’s a wide range of clays that can be used as facial masks and spot treatments. This is where skincare experimentation gets fun.
56- Eat in a way that reflects your natural beauty practices. Stick with real foods. Avoid processed junk and pesticides and synthetics and cheap preservatives in the things you eat. Learn about traditional foods and cooking practices.
57- Identify the foods in your kitchen that double as face masks: egg whites, rice flour, honey, banana….
58- Fall in love with raw manuka honey. Learn how to use it as a cleanser, mask, and exfoliant. Then add a dollop to your tea.
59- Vote with your wallet. Each time you spend your money on a natural deodorant, lipstick, or face cream, you’re telling the beauty industry that this is what consumers want, and therefore this is what brands should make more of.