L’il Flava (my 5’1″ Asian-American Catholic theologian bud from NYC) called from South Bend, Indiana with this to say:

“Catholic religious: making the world safe for cowlicks.”

C’mon, kids, all it takes is a little bit of product.

To which Flava says, “if you’re ethnic, don’t fight the hair. Work with the hair.”

What I want to know is, why in the world would anyone be in South Bend, Indiana??

Sister Sarah On Safe(r) Cosmetics

The Reverend PeaceBang has kindly invited me to write to her gentle readers about safe cosmetics. It’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: Janice’s Journey). From the panelists afterward I learned about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. (Sadly for my meager intern pocketbook, this occurred just after I’d just invested a bunch of money I didn’t have in “trying to look more professional” 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 shadow’s ingredients won’t give you cancer, or guarantees that ingredients in your anti-aging crème won’t mimic hormones and cause you reproductive harm. Our skin absorbs so much of what we put on to it. If you’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. I’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 what’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 deceptive—things that say “natural” and “organic” are not necessarily any more free of toxic ingredients. And things that don’t say “natural” aren’t necessarily any more bad. And some products that people tend to think are harmful—aluminum-based antiperspirant, for example—actually aren’t as harmful as rumored. It’s other stuff in deodorant—like “perfume” containing phthalates—that you have to look out for.

Here are some of the products I’ve used and recommend:

Body Moisturizer: Avalon Organics Hand and Body Lotion – Lavender, enriched withBetaGlucan – it’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 – These are both good but slightly greasy on my skin. They don’t contain the toxic “penetration enhancers” that my old facial moisturizer did—I think that’s why they’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. It’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 isn’t the absolute safest sunblock, but it’s safer than most on the market and it rubs in to my skin. (Many of the safer sunblocks I’ve tried make me—dry skin woman—look like a pasty Goth, but they work better for an oily skinned friend of mine.)

Shaving Cream: Nature’s Gate Organics Creamy Shave Gel. Good stuff. Nature’s Gate is not a safe brand overall, but their line of “Organics” is quite safe in general.

Shampoo & Conditioner: Nature’s Gate Organics or Avalon Organics

Shower Gel: Avalon Organics

Styling Products: Aveda “Be Curly” and Aveda Brilliant Forming Gel Light Hold. Though Aveda portrays itself as “green” and “natural,” 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 “Upper Management” hair gel) just didn’t agree with my tresses. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is trying to get Aveda to sign their pledge—they haven’t yet.

Makeup: Sorry, I can’t help you there… When I started wearing makeup to look “professional” 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 haven’t worn it regularly since Junior High.) This is why I read “Beauty Tips for Ministers” ;-). I’m planning to venture out into the realm of makeup again one of these days, and I’ll be sure to consult Skin Deep to find safe(r) products.

I’ll be interested to hear others’ recommendations for high quality, safe, beauty-enhancing practices and products. Inner beauty always works well, and it doesn’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.]

Vests, Men’s Shoes, Dressy Shorts

I went to Target today to buy some mundane household items and spent about half an hour trying on chunky necklaces (very au courant). Good therapy for the Easter-addled soul. Then I decided to swing by the clothing section — you know, just to look, on the way to the bleach and garbage bags. I had already purchased a swoon-worthy pair of Steve Madden corky platform strappy sandals at Famous Footwear and was feeling so ecstatic about them, and a pair of flattering jeans, that I figured it would be too much to ask the shopping gods for more good luck.

But when I saw the vests, I stopped short and almost wept with joy. The gods had blessed me again.
Not just vests. Fitted, gorgeous vests with LAPELS, people. Vests that flatter the curvaceous figure and also look professional with a touch of sex appeal. Vests that you can wear with a crisp white shirt and big chunky beads and a pair of black trousers and ankle-strap platforms and look just totally fabulous. I bought a black one and a grey pin-striped one. I love vests. I am so happy that I will willingly stay up all night tonight to finish my doctoral proposal that’s due in the morning.

Now let me clarify. When I say vests I am not talking about some crocheted, shapeless thing that just hangs on the body (which admittedly looks great if you’re willowy and small-bosomed and are wearing an otherwise body-conscious outfit). Not a leather vest left over from your biker days that cuts you in half and makes every body part below the vest bulge unattractively. Not one of those vaguely ethnic vests that could be cute if it wasn’t worn with a corduroy A-line skirt the size of Kentucky, or with a pair of Mom jeans and frumpy shoes. (If you’ve got one of those ethnic vests, it would be cute with a pair of fashionable cropped pants, with a nice sandal. If you have a good figure, you could wear it with a very fitted crew-neck t-shirt and a pair of dressy shorts or gauchos, with a pair of woven sandals. Very chic.)

Speaking of dressy shorts, ladies,
I went into some stores and looked at the new dressy shorts for you, and I can report that they’re not bad. PeaceBang almost bought a pair of below-the-knee lined white ones, which looked smashing when she was standing up but then didn’t look elegant enough when sitting down. If I lose another ten lbs. soon maybe I’ll go back and get them. Do check the view while seated, since this is how people see you at meetings and in counseling. And don’t go with anything above the knee if you’re considering shorts. Yes, they’re very stylish. No, they shouldn’t be above the knee. Period. Non-negotiable.

Men, I don’t think you can wear shorts for church meetings or events. I know everyone else does. I just don’t think you should. Maybe during the most sweltering days of summer you can wear a pair of Bermudas of modest length, but PeaceBang is of the opinion that it is hard to take a man seriously when he’s in shorts. Besides, khakis are handsome and linen trousers absolutely smart with a clean and pressed polo in a bright color. Don’t you want to look smart? Why, you might even find some lovely soft leather shoes that aren’t sneakers to go with your summer wear! And won’t you be smashing?

Look at these! They also come in orange and turquoise! How whimsical!
Or these, very smart:

Note to You-Know-Who: yes, I’m coming over and going through your closet and throwing out all those disgusting, pitted-out golf shirts you insist on wearing. And not only will you not fight me about it, you’ll thank me and take me out to dinner afterwards.

Is Your Mascara Toxic?

Sister Sarah in California alerts all the beautiful readers of this blog to research their cosmetics on this site:

You may find that your blush is full of harmful chemicals. You may learn that your hair conditioner is less about making your head all shiny and more about making the water supply unsafe. Of course I exaggerate, but considering how many products PeaceBang personally uses, and how many she is encouraging you to use, do consider this other perspective.

PeaceBang just learned that Physician’s Formula blush is listed as high risk for icky ingredients. Just goes to show, ya can’t tell anything from a name.

Let’s be careful out there!

Fresh and Young

I just found the most darling blush and lipstick and wanted to tell you about it:

The brand is Lola (slogan: Lust Often, Love Always) and the blush is just the softest pink I’ve found, and I’ve been looking for years. This is the kind of pink a pale-skinned girl wears when she wants to feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel who has just gone walking on the heath in a beautiful empire-waist dress. It doesn’t matter that in real life, she’s walking over to church to polish the Communion silver and to make Xerox copies of the order of service, she feels romantic anyway.

Lola powder blush in One Night Stand (not that PeaceBang condones such behavior, of course, she just likes the blush), which comes in the most adorable red compact with the most cunning little powder puff applicator! I’m sure a blush brush would work, too. You need a very light hand with this stuff, and it’s got to be blended like mad or you wind up looking eccentric rather than romantic, with two crazy clown apple cheeks.

If you’re into pale pink lipsticks — and I am, when a bit tan* and well-rested, as it looks great with a dramatic black eyeliner — Lola makes several and one of them is bound to work on you. I bought Tea Rose, and squealed when I found the mirror on the side of the lipstick case!

*by that I mean, “tan by the magic of Trish McEvoy bronzer” not “baked to a nice pre-cancerous condition by the actual sun”

PeaceBang Recommends:

Lola powder blush in One Night Stand
Lola lipstick in Tea Rose
Available at