Friday, May 10, 2013

Navigating the Eco-Beauty Products World

EcoYogini shares her secrets to figuring out beauty and baby products...

Ever find yourself in the beauty-baby-makeup section of a natural/health foods store feeling like you just want, for once, companies to be HONEST about what the eff they put in their products?

These days being a green consumer in the beauty product/baby product industry means you have to be super label, greenwashing, ingredient and company practices savvy. It can be overwhelming.

In order to avoid random screaming in public and ranting to whomever will listen, I use several strategies and tips to make informed decisions about my product purchases. After a few questions on twitter and from a colleague on facebook, I thought maybe I'd share it with my Booth Peeps!

First things first: just because the product is in the "Natural" section or in a Health/Natural Foods store (or farmer's market) does not automatically mean that the product is free from chemicals or toxins. There are shades of "green" in the eco-beauty world with some products being cleaner than others.

Also, it's important to recognize that some claims and labels have virtually NO policing or standardization and are basically meaningless. Companies can actually MAKE UP fake, or almost meaningless labels (I know! crazy eh?)

For beauty-baby products there really are only a few labels that are of high quality and that matter: The Leaping Bunny (cruelty free), USDA Organic, EcoLogo and Canadian Organic (Bio).

All other claims such as "Natural/Organic" simply stated on the product have absolutely no meaning- you should still peruse the ingredients closely. Even "Not Tested on Animals/Cruelty-Free" with any sort of image other than the leaping bunny don't have any standard testing or ways of proving it.

A good tip would be to download this handy dandy Eco-label guide (Canadian based) via David Suzuki OR check out Adria Vasil's phenomenal book Ecoholic Body for more resources and product/ingredient/logo explanations.

For myself, the quickest way to finding a company or brand that I could trust was to just go through the work of checking the ingredients on the labels. Eventually, I recognized which companies were "cleaner" (ie less synthetic chemicals) than others. One way to familiarize yourself with ingredients is to read books... and since my eco-book preference is body product books this was not "work" for me. My two favourite eco-product books are:

1. Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil (fantastic ratings, resources and reviews!)
2. There's Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon

Another way I navigated through the ingredient searching was to memorize a few key, AVOID, ingredients:

  • Parabens: anything ending with "paraben" should automatically be a "no buy"
  • SLS: sodium laureth sulfate (foaming agent)
  • "urea": I use this word as a cue to stay away (I only ever manage to remember that the full term starts with a "d": diazolidinyl urea
  • Parfum/Fragrance: this ingredient often hides phthalates and hormone disruptors (unless specifically stated that it is from essential oils)
  • PEGs (they typically have longer scientific names, but I just remember the PEG part)
  • Phthalates 
OR you could download and print this handy "Mean 15" pocket guide from Ecoholic and refer to it while out and about.

There's also the David Suzuki Queen of Green "Dirty Dozen" printable list AND a really fantastic mobile guide!

OR you could simply avoid any ingredients with long scary sounding names. This is tricky as some natural and safe ingredients may be listed by their scientific name, but for the most part companies will put their generic name in brackets afterwards.

Whenever I found a product I was unsure about, or an ingredient I wondered about, I would go home, type in the product or ingredient in Skin Deep Database and go from there.

Although some companies have my trust, I feel like the ingredient checking really is a BIG part of figuring out what products are the "cleanest" and what you can feel like you can live with. I rarely rely on company claims and am a habitual ingredient checker.

Although it's a bit more awkward, I even check ingredients at craft fairs and farmer's markets. Lots of people use palm oil in their products (a no-no unless it's from certified sustainable sources!) and sometimes I will comment on an ingredient (often it's around soap- it's possible to make soap without palm oil so I'll gently decline buying the soap by saying I'm avoiding palm oil).

Finally... I just started making my own body products. Like beet blushsoapsugar scrubs, body lotions, body barshair pommade (for the hubby), bath melts, face wash and face exfoliant. Check out Crunchy Betty for fantastic DIY recipes.

How do you manage the stress and work of choosing beauty or baby products?


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Great post! You can also check out eco-labels by consumer reports but I think you've covered everything pretty nicely here.

I buy as few personal/ baby products as possible b/c it's just a pain to research them. I rely heavily on Skin Deep Database. I've basically given up on makeup for the time being b/c I don't really have time to wear it/ take it off anyway, but I do occasionally wear lipstick:

And in this post I wrote about finding non-toxic hair products:

For babies, I use almost no products. Occasionally use baby wash/ shampoo and very rarely use diaper cream. Skip all the rest.

Alli said...

Great post. Sounds like my strategy and it can be quite overwhelming sometimes! The only difference is that I only use eco-friendly, non-toxic make-up on special occasions and even though I do some crazy vintage hairstyles I only use my own homemade pomade (Thanks Lisa!) and hairspray... who would have thought that boiling lemons for an hour would make good hairspray! Here is link if you want to try it out

Eco Yogini said...

@Betsy and Alli: thank you for the links! I'm going to check them out!! :)

Anonymous said...

Very informative. Such a tricky area to navigate though because some of those ingredients just seem impossible to avoid. Here's to reading every label!

Anonymous said...

Great post, as always, Lisa! said...

Love this!! Found you through Nicole at Fitmom!

I was recently horrified to learn that my Burt's Bees lip balm has some lead in it! Grr! I'm trying to only purchase products that are cruelty-free/ want to avoid palm oil/parabens etc and it gets confusing!

Thanks for all of the links and tips!


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