Women spend a lot of time worrying about the people and things they care about, sometimes at the expense of themselves (me included!) Like so many other lessons, nothing has solidified this belief for me like weddings. As a makeup artist I get the pleasure and honor of hanging out with the bride and those women closest to her on one of the most unique days of her life. Time after time I've seen the caregivers of the bunch- the mothers, sisters, and maids of honor, wait until the very last minute to put on their dress or sit down to have their makeup done, all because they were making sure everyone else was prepared.
For "green ladies," those of us who put the same kind of effort into making sure we are taking care of not just the people we care about, but the environment as well, have an additional dilemma: we don't want to take care of ourselves at the expense of the planet. We don't know how to reconcile our desire to look our best with our obligation to other living, and non-living, things. Like other aspects of leading a eco-friendly lifestyle this is can be a very frustrating experience with seemingly no good answers.
However, we also know that we cannot really take care of others if we do not care for ourselves- for example, if you are sick, your energy is spent on getting well, and often there is not a lot left over. Luckily, when it comes to makeup and skin care, the things that are good for us are usually good for the Earth as well.
Below I've given you my "Crap List," aptly named because it's all crap. These ingredients do not belong in your body (your skin absorbs everything you put on it), or in our Earth.
(List courtesy of The Environmental Working Group's "Skin Deep" Cosmetics Safety Database. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, so if you have questions or want to search a specific product in depth, go to www.cosmeticdatabase.com. Bookmark it, and if you use it often, like me, consider donating to their efforts.)
Mercury, also called "thimersol" : Um, it's mercury and seemingly too dangerous for therometers but "a okay" for cosmetics and skin care in the United States. The EWG says it has been linked as a cause in everything from high blood pressure and menstrual disorders to cancer, infertility, and seizures. Don't mess with this stuff.
Placenta: Placenta is a lining of the uterus present only during pregnancy- and there is a very good biological reason for that. When you see "placenta," read "hormones" (like estrogen). Hormones in skin care and makeup actually have an effect on your endocrine system. That's why it's an illegal ingredient in Canada. It is not good for you, and they kill pregnant animals to get it (gag reflex kicking in...let's move on.)
Lead: Again, banned as an ingredient in Canada, but not the US. There is strong evidence linking lead to cancer, and also is toxic to the respiratory and reproductive systems. It's actually bioaccumulative, which sounds like nothing but means it builds up over time. Very small particles, called nano particles, of lead can be absorbed directly though the skin- making it very dangerous in cosmetics.
Fragrance: I wonder if there is any fragrance called "Toxic." Maybe one of Britney Spears'? If there was, it would be the most honest in the industry. Fragrance is tricky because most of the time it is not listed on the label, and we don't know a lot about what it does because there are so many possible compound combinations. However, it is known that fragrance is toxic to the immune system, and growing evidence that it affects the nervous system as well (which includes your brain...so maybe you weren't just imagining things when that cheap cologne made you want to faint). Fragrance is shady; better to leave it alone.
Mink/ emu oil: To me, this stuff just sounds nasty, but if you need another reason not to use it, it is a penetration enhancer. That's right, mink or emu oil make it easier for other, nastier things to easily penetrate your skin's protective barriers. It is the gateway toxin.
Hydroquinone: Another highly toxic doozy. It affects nearly every body system, as well as being a skin irritant (which will also make your skin sensitive over time, as its effects are not reversible). As if this isn't bad enough, some studies have proven it to be mutagenic- as in it damages your DNA. If you see this on a label, drop it like it's hot. Your future children will thank you.
Buckey balls, also called: nano metals, microspheres, fullersomes,calcium carbonate, tin oxide, barium sulfate, boron, zinc, zeolite,coper, titanium dioxide/calcium/magnesium oxide, silicon dioxide: Companies do not always describe these ingredients as "nano" or "micro", so for this reason please double check exact products with the Skin Deep website. In brief, these ingredients are possible carcinogens, toxic to the immune systems, and can produce excess oxygen in the cells- leading to cell death and possible genetic mutation. Some, like nanoized mica, can increase skin's sensitivity. The key here is the size of the particles; if they are too big to absorb in to the skin, you're good.
Phthalates: These mess with the endocrine system, and build up in the environment. Phthalates are very bad news for organisms that live in water, which is bad news for us too. Studies have shown phthalates to be toxic to male reproductive hormones and organs in particular, so check out your man's stuff too. When he asks you why you're going all high maintenance on him, just tell him its for his testes' sake.
Petroleum anything: Do I really have to explain this one? It's PETROLEUM, as in fossil fuel. The only place it belongs is in your gas tank, and I'd argue it doesn't even belong there, but that's a story for another blog.
Parabens, particullarly sodium methyl-paraben: Impairs the ability of your genes to express themselves, as well as being toxic to most of your bodily systems. I've also heard of studies that argue it weakens our water supply and messes up river ecosystems. I feel like a broken record now but the bright side is this one hasn't been linked to cancer...yet...
I know you are planning a wedding, and this may seem like too much to handle right now. Like all education, though, I find that knowing what I should and should not look for is liberating. If you know both fragrance and parabens are bad news and the foundation or face wash you just picked up has both, you're empowered to put it back and find an alternative. Or, if everything seems to have some of these ingredients, go with the one that has the least or whose potential effects worry you most. With so many products out there, you can't afford not to pay attention to the Crap. Trust me, your photographer will thank you, your makeup artist will thank you, and you might rest easier in your "self indulgence" knowing that you are taking care of the planet, and yourself.
Written By Crystal Germond of The Esthete
Crystal is a make-up artist and skin care expert. Her experiences in this field led to the development of her unique style- Esthetics. Her goal is always to create a sophisticated, soft, and perfected look that allows people to see the person, not the makeup. She is an advocate of sustainable beauty, and utilizes natural, eco-friendly, and healthy makeup because beauty shouldn't be a mirage, but a state of mind and health.