So, you’ve decided that the hype about toxic chemicals in beauty products really isn’t hype at all. You’ve reached the conclusion that the dangers in these toxins are very real indeed. You’ve made an informed decision to jump on what you once thought was a trendy bandwagon filled with terms like “organic” and “natural”, and now realize that it’s actually a really smart thing to do for yourself. Eureka! You are going to detox your beauty routine. Just one problem, though: you haven’t the faintest idea as to where or how to begin. Well, you’re not alone. When I decided to do a beauty detox, I was seriously overwhelmed by the debates, the controversy, and the general idea of navigating these chemically charged waters. Who was being honest? What ingredients did I need to eliminate? (Talc! Parabens! Sulfates! Oh my!) What were some brands I could actually trust? How would I find a natural alternative to the mascara I’d been buying for seven years? There are answers to these questions, but they can be confusing, especially when mixed claims and an assortment of conflicting opinions run rampant on the topic of cosmetic safety.
The reality is, if you want to go natural, you’ve got to be your own advocate and you must arm yourself with your most powerful weapon: education. There is a rapidly growing awareness and public demand for information on the ingredients that make up the plethora of products we use on our skin each day. I wish that meant that the supply matched the demand, but it doesn’t. Research and information is certainly available, but in a lot of cases you really have to dig for it. The good news is that if you dig, you will receive. At least enough to create a much cleaner makeup kit than the one you’ve got.
We’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg in the quest to understand and eliminate carcinogens, hormone disruptors, irritants and other nasty toxins from our beauty products, but there are resources and brands that can help you purge the harmful chemicals we do know about and replace them with products that are packed with safe yet high-performance alternatives. Using my own experiences, research, and the resources and brands I know to be available, I’ve created this guide to simplify the process of a beauty detox. So now you’ve got no more excuses. Take a deep breath and know that yes, this will be somewhat time consuming and yes, you will have to shell out some cash, but you won’t regret it. After all, your health is the most important thing, isn’t it?
Detox your beauty routine in five steps.
Step 1: Learn to read the label.
It seems that every day a different ingredient is being debated, banished, hailed as the new natural all-star or tongue-lashed as the most dreaded toxin. And everybody seems to have a different take on it. So who do you trust and how do you know? The first step in detoxing your makeup is turning over that lipstick, foundation, or what have you, and looking beyond the imagery and keywords flashing at you from the front. Look at the ingredients every single time you consider buying a product. Many are greenwashed, which occurs when a product that contains toxins is branded in clean, simple-looking packaging, often with trees or leaves, and/or labeled with words like “organic”, “natural” or “green.” You’d be surprised how many of these products are anything but natural, and it’s all fair game, at least legally speaking. Those catchphrases can be used anywhere on the product, as long as no direct claim is being made. This means that a product could be called, for example, “Super Organic All-Natural Lipstick” and still be packed with harmful chemicals, as long as there is no “this lipstick is all-natural” claim. It’s all in the wording, and that’s how many brands weave their trickery. The most important thing to know is that the ingredients tell the real story. But now that you’re looking, how on earth do you understand the myriad ingredients that you can’t even pronounce?
Luckily the solution is simple. If you’re out shopping and you want to analyze a label, simply whip out your trusty smartphone and enlist the help of the good old search engine. Resources such as David Suzuki’s dirty dozen (a dozen ingredients to shun – search “Dirty Dozen cosmetics” in the search bar at Davidsuzuki.org) and the Skin Deep Cosmetics database (www.ewg.org/skindeep) are very helpful. The former is a list of ingredients with information on what they are and why to avoid them. The latter gives you a toxicity score from 1-10 per ingredient, outlines the concerns of any given ingredient and lists the other names it can go by (trust me, you’ll be surprised by how many monikers a chemical can have). The built-in search engine even allows you to search a specific product or brand. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can either write down the ingredients or commit them to memory and look them up when you get home, or just find the product online and take it from there. Now, what if the ingredients aren’t even listed? If you ask me, that’s a red flag. When a brand isn’t forthcoming enough to disclose ingredients at first sight, it often shows that they’ve got something to hide. But you can always contact the company themselves and ask for full disclosure of ingredients in the product, then research from there. If you hear nothing back or get a vague response, it’s best to skip that product and find a suitable alternative. It’s tricky to learn the names and implications of what can feel like an endless array of chemicals, but the first step in learning to read labels is knowing that it’s important. Once you’ve established that, there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips and no reason why you can’t find out what is known about the ingredients you’re putting on your largest organ.
Step 2: Embrace the change.
Whether it’s a move, a breakup, or a clean-out of your makeup, change is tough. As human beings, we are inclined to attach ourselves to material things and our associations with them, and the idea of giving up something we know and love can be downright unfathomable. But as high-performance and gorgeous as your tried-and-true beauty essentials may be, guess what? They could be aging you, and they could be making you sick, as you’ll learn throughout your research. The toxins are simply not worth the glow they give you, especially when there are perfectly good alternatives at every price point. Yes, you will cringe when you say goodbye to the chemical-laden products that fill your makeup bag. Yes, you will have to spend both time and money to detox your beauty routine. But your health is of immeasurable value, so much more than the cost of a collection of high-end lipsticks that may just be hurting you on the inside more than beautifying you on the outside. So, if you’ve done your research and made an informed decision to purge and restart, just do it. And if you can’t do it all at once, start small. Replace a lipstick, then an eyeliner, and keep going until you’ve rid yourself of toxic cosmetics entirely. Your body will thank you, and I promise that you won’t ever regret closing the lid on the most colourful trash can you’ve ever seen.
Step 3. Define your natural.
What exactly is “natural”, anyway? It depends on who you ask. Since there is no governmental regulation as to its definition in products, it’s impossible to simply take a product at its word. You’ve just got to find your own definition. My idea of what is natural may differ from yours, and yours may differ from your mother’s. The best thing to do is research, and find out where your boundaries lie. What you’re comfortable and uncomfortable using in terms of ingredients is something only you can determine. Find out as much as you can about the contents of your beauty products (see the first step), and restock according to what you feel you should eliminate. It ends up being less about the word “natural” and more about knowing the risks and defining what’s healthy and right for you. Of course, there are certain chemicals that are more pressing because they’re more dangerous, but you’ll find all that out when you do your digging. In the end, though, this is all about your life and your body, so be aware and be proactive, and you’ll do just fine with your detox.
Step 4. Budget!
Allot yourself a certain amount for a detox fund, based on what you can afford. It all depends on what you wear, what you want, and what your highest beauty priority is. If you wear foundation and mascara every day, make those your first targets and replace the rest as you go. If you’re a full-face-of-makeup kind of girl, you can still get one piece at a time, or just splurge and get it all at once. The wonderful thing about detoxing is that non-toxic makeup isn’t nearly as pricey as you think. From drugstore to high-end, there are lots of choices at all price points. Write down each purchase and keep your receipts. If you find you’re spending too much, scale back a bit and maybe buy a smaller size or try a more affordable brand. One thing is certain; if you educate yourself and make a detox plan before you buy, you can replace all your staples without spending any more than you’ve spent in the past, and sometimes even less!
Step 5. Find your favourites.
Now that you know what you’re looking for in terms of ingredients to avoid, it’s time to search for brands that are right for you. Remember to be aware of greenwashing and false advertising. Search for all-natural or non-toxic makeup online, and make sure you’re checking the ingredients. Reading reviews is also a great way to learn about a product. Most websites have a section for customer reviews, and some of the non-toxic brands are present on Makeupalley.com. which is a huge, fantastic resource for thousands of cosmetics reviews under one roof. Another great resource for finding safe cosmetics is the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ list of “champions” on their Market Shift report. According to safecosmetics.org, “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ report Market Shift describes the seven-year project during which the Campaign worked with companies through the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, the voluntary pledge to avoid chemicals banned in other countries, avoid harmful ingredients whenever possible and fully disclose product ingredients. Market Shift highlights the 322 cosmetics companies (we call them “Champions”) that met the goals of the Compact.”
*You can find the list at http://www.safecosmetics.org/downloads/MarketShift_CSC_ChampionsInnovators.pdf
Something else worth knowing when you’re on the market for non-toxic makeup is that you don’t have to commit right away. Most companies offer very inexpensive samples, filled with enough product to try a few times, so that you can get a feel for the product’s performance before committing to a full size. I am confident that you’ll be able to find a non-toxic match for everything in your makeup bag, within your budget.
The constant theme in this guide, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is research, research, research. As has been outlined throughout all the steps, detoxing your cosmetics is going to take time, and you will have to shell out cash and toss out things you’ve spent money on. But you can do it at you own pace. You can do it in a way that’s affordable. You can do it, period. And you’ll be glad you did. Because there’s nothing pretty about makeup that can compromise your health.
Here’s to beautiful, healthy beginnings.
A few of my favourite non-toxic brands:
Sappho Organic Cosmetics
Natural Beauty Skincare
Just Pure Minerals
Pure Fusion Cosmetics