The Reverend PeaceBang has kindly invited me to write to her gentle readers about safe cosmetics. Itâ€™s a subject I happened upon during my ministerial internship, when the congregation I served hosted a film about a breast cancer survivor (One in Eight: Janiceâ€™s Journey). From the panelists afterward I learned about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Groupâ€™s Skin Deep database. (Sadly for my meager intern pocketbook, this occurred just after Iâ€™d just invested a bunch of money I didnâ€™t have in â€œtrying to look more professionalâ€ with new cosmetics products that turned out not to be too good for me.) At the panel, I learned that in the US, ingredients in beauty products are not regulated in the same way that our food and drugs are. There is no FDA that makes sure your eye shadowâ€™s ingredients wonâ€™t give you cancer, or guarantees that ingredients in your anti-aging crÃ¨me wonâ€™t mimic hormones and cause you reproductive harm. Our skin absorbs so much of what we put on to it. If youâ€™ve ever used those menthol pain patches, a nicoderm patch, or the birth control patch you know this. What I put on my skin is of great concern to me. Iâ€™ve lost too many members of my extended family to cancer. I know that we can only control so much in this regard, but I do try to take control of what I can.
Fortunately, thanks to the Environmental Working Group, you can find out whatâ€™s in the products you use and you can switch to less harmful ones. I advise looking up products before buying them. Labeling can be deceptiveâ€”things that say â€œnaturalâ€ and â€œorganicâ€ are not necessarily any more free of toxic ingredients. And things that donâ€™t say â€œnaturalâ€ arenâ€™t necessarily any more bad. And some products that people tend to think are harmfulâ€”aluminum-based antiperspirant, for exampleâ€”actually arenâ€™t as harmful as rumored. Itâ€™s other stuff in deodorantâ€”like â€œperfumeâ€ containing phthalatesâ€”that you have to look out for.
Here are some of the products Iâ€™ve used and recommend:
Body Moisturizer: Avalon Organics Hand and Body Lotion â€“ Lavender, enriched withBetaGlucan â€“ itâ€™s better at treating my super-dry skin than the more toxic Lubriderm or Aveeno ever were. Avalon Organics has recently reformulated nearly all their products to meet Safe Cosmetics guidelines.
Facial Moisturizer: Aubrey Organics Green Tea & Ginkgo Moisturizer SPF 15 or Avalon Organics Moisture Plus Lotion with SPF 18 â€“ These are both good but slightly greasy on my skin. They donâ€™t contain the toxic â€œpenetration enhancersâ€ that my old facial moisturizer didâ€”I think thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re greasier, so I just live with it.
Deodorant: Ban – Original Formula Roll-On, unscented. One of the safest on the market, and works well under those clergy robes on hot days!
Sun Block: Bull Frog – Surfer Formula Gel SPF 36. Itâ€™s ironic that so many people wear sunblock to avoid skin cancer, yet sunblock so often contains ingredients that can make a person more likely to get cancer. Scary! Bull Frog isnâ€™t the absolute safest sunblock, but itâ€™s safer than most on the market and it rubs in to my skin. (Many of the safer sunblocks Iâ€™ve tried make meâ€”dry skin womanâ€”look like a pasty Goth, but they work better for an oily skinned friend of mine.)
Shaving Cream: Natureâ€™s Gate Organics Creamy Shave Gel. Good stuff. Natureâ€™s Gate is not a safe brand overall, but their line of â€œOrganicsâ€ is quite safe in general.
Shampoo & Conditioner: Natureâ€™s Gate Organics or Avalon Organics
Shower Gel: Avalon Organics
Styling Products: Aveda â€œBe Curlyâ€ and Aveda Brilliant Forming Gel Light Hold. Though Aveda portrays itself as â€œgreenâ€ and â€œnatural,â€ not all of their products are good for you. These two products are OK. They represent a compromise between choosing the safest products and choosing products that actually work in my hair. Some of the safest stuff (like Kiss My Face â€œUpper Managementâ€ hair gel) just didnâ€™t agree with my tresses. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is trying to get Aveda to sign their pledgeâ€”they havenâ€™t yet.
Makeup: Sorry, I canâ€™t help you thereâ€¦ When I started wearing makeup to look â€œprofessionalâ€ last year I got comments from many folks that they liked my look better without makeup. I think it was because of the particular makeup I chose and my lack of experience in makeup application techniques (I havenâ€™t worn it regularly since Junior High.) This is why I read â€œBeauty Tips for Ministersâ€ ;-). Iâ€™m planning to venture out into the realm of makeup again one of these days, and Iâ€™ll be sure to consult Skin Deep to find safe(r) products.
Iâ€™ll be interested to hear othersâ€™ recommendations for high quality, safe, beauty-enhancing practices and products. Inner beauty always works well, and it doesnâ€™t cost a cent.
Peace & health to all,
Rev. Sarah in California
[PeaceBang here, darlings, who knows Sister Sarah and can attest to the fact that she is one of those extra cute, shiningly beautiful young thangs who can get by with a bare face and a slick of lipgloss. Thank you, Sarah! I like Aubrey Organics a whole lot and will be buying more of their products in the future, thanks to you. – P.B.]