Blush is a surefire way to create killer cheekbones, take years off your appearance and brighten your skin. Here’s your natural blush masterclass. [Read more...]
Switching to green beauty products can cost thousands of dollars, and for many of us, finding the right green product costs a bit of trial and error. Every year hundreds of green beauty products claim to be the newest, the best, and the greenest, offering effective treatments for everything from acne to wrinkles and all in between. We constantly look for the magic green and perfectly organic lotion or potion that would turn our skin from bumpy and wrinkled to clear and taut overnight and give us that flawless look we see on covers and pages of glossy magazines.
And since many green beauty manufacturers are not likely to start cleaning up their act anytime soon (ever tried finding a shampoo with words “all natural” on the label next to the ingredient list full of sodium laureth sulfate and PEGs?), your best strategy is to become literate in basic cosmetic ingredients. This is what The Green Beauty Guide is about, and here on this website you will find lots of useful tips. But here’s a green beauty shopping strategy in a nutshell:
When choosing skincare products to take care of your skin, you should always look at the ingredient list. According to the new Canadian legislation, product labels must list all the ingredients regardless of their quantity. Often cosmetic manufacturers will separately list the concentration of the active ingredient, such as “2% lactic acid”. If you are savvy enough, you would easily spot ingredients you should keep away from, as they may irritate your skin or cause other unwanted reactions.
The truly green beauty product will be free from petrochemicals, sulfates, synthetic fragrance additives, PEGs, propylene glycol, triethanolamine, diethanolamine, and parabens.
Always request a sample. Of course, most pharmacies don’t carry sample sizes of $10 cleansers. To avoid disappointment, check the ingredients for possible irritants such as lemon oil, orange oil, grapefruit oil, or menthol, as well as harmful chemicals listed above. If you consider buying a skincare item from a department store, don’t be shy to request a sample. Many private pharmacies will decant a small amount of a cleanser or a moisturizer in a clear jar.
Always return the product that gives you irritation. This way, you will un-clutter your beauty routine as well as indicate the cosmetic company (in a very remote way) that there’s something wrong with their product. If drugstore refuses to refund, ask for the address of the company’s headquarters or a local rep and return the product with an explanation.
Accept a store exchange if refund isn’t working or you don’t want to bother with returns. Take an organic substitute of a bothersome product if the store has it in stock, or take any sensitive skin product that you can use to calm down the irritation.
Read unbiased reviews on skincare boards and forums such as MakeupAlley.com. In most cases, the product that caused 75% of reviewers to break out will break you out, too. Same refers to redness, stinging or flakiness.
Read the label carefully. Watch out for commonly used skin irritating ingredients that do little to minimise your wrinkles yet can break havoc on your skin. You can find a list of harmful ingredients in alphabetical order in the appendix of this book. Print it and carry with you when you go shopping. You may also use the handy Shopping List feature at ewg.org—simply enter the features you expect from the product.
Opt for natural preservatives in your skincare. There are many gentle preservatives used in organic skincare products that prolong shelve life but do not disrupt your health: grapefruit seed extract, potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, tocopherol (vitamin E), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
The best way to shop for skincare products is to become ingredient-wise. You have to stop being afraid of fine print and learn to read product labels to determine good and bad product ingredients, so that you can select skincare products that are most beneficial for you.
Fluid mineral foundations may be more beneficial for your skin than powder ones. I have been diligently using my powder mineral foundations for five years now, and something was always bothering me. I couldn’t believe that inhaling those small particles of microfine powder can be really good for me. Each time I performed that obligatory “tap, swirl and buff” technique I could feel the powder coating inside of my nose and scratching my throat. I am not sensitive to any chemicals and I am not prone to allergies. So maybe inhaling mineral foundation isn’t really good for us?
It appears I was right. In March 2008, scientists from the University of Kyoto found that when mice inhaled titanium dioxide microparticles, they are invaded in alveolar, transferred to organs through blood vessels and may express biological effects were carried. After animals inhaled titanium dioxide powder, they accumulated the mineral in liver, lung, kidney, spleen and brain. (Sakai, Matsui, Yamamoto et al. Biodistribution of ultrafine particles of titanium dioxide by intratracheal administration to mice. J UOEH. 2008 Mar 1;30(1):27-38.)
Earlier 2007 study found that lung cleansing cells, macrophages, inefficiently clean nanoparticles of titanium dioxide which means that this mineral can accumulate in lungs with unknown delayed effects.
Biological activity of inhaled microparticles is nothing new to science. Spray-dried drugs are widely used to deliver medications to lungs – it’s called pulmonary drug delivery. Nanoparticles are used to treat tuberculosis and other lung diseases.
Nanoparticles can also kill. If you inhale small particles of talc and silica, found in many drugstore brands of mineral foundations, you can up your chances of getting lung cancer – not pretty at all! Silica and talc act similarly to asbestos, although they are not as deadly, but itâ??s not the reason to inhale them by spoonfuls.
I found that using a pressed mineral foundation, such as Jane Iredale PurePressed mineral foundation, are less likely to form a cloud of fine mineral dust during application. But I had a couple of jars of a really nice mineral powder foundation – and no way was I going to bin them.
Here’s my recipe for a quick homemade firming mineral fluid foundation.
9 g jar of mineral foundation of your choice
30 ml (1 oz) rich facial moisturizer (I use my own moisturizer for sensitive skin from Petite Marie Organics line but rich organic body cream works well, too. Thick, rich creams will blend easier, especially if you add some liquid active ingredients.)
1 g green tea polyphenols (from SkinActives or other websites catering for beauty enthusiasts)
1 g Dermagen (blend of Matrixyl and hyaluronic acid)
Pour the mineral foundation into a clean wide-necked jar (beware of inhaling the powder!). Now pour in the cream. Slowly blend with a spatula until uniform, adding active ingredients one by one.
I expected this blend to produce quite light coverage but it appeared to form really dense, smooth finish and blended really nicely. You can experiment by adding a pinch of mineral aluminum-free shimmer for additional glow.
Mineral foundation and other mineral makeup blends are easier to create than you think. You will need to assemble a basic artist’s set of paints, or in this case, a few smaller jars of mineral pigments that you can blend and toss together. You will also need a basic paint palette, ideally made of plastic, with round shallow wells, and a few miniature palette knives or spatulas, similar to those found in upscale moisturizers in jars. For precise measurements invest in a set of miniature measuring stainless steel spoons that can pick exactly a pinch or a dash of fine powder.
For basic blending you will need a small (2 gram) jar of each of the following:
- The lightest possible shade of mineral foundation
- Plain golden shimmer
- Plain silver/icy shimmer
- Deep bronze foundation
- A basic rose/pink mineral blush with no shimmer in it
- Optional shades: light green, pale lilac, light pink shimmer.
Now you are ready to customize your colors. Here are some basic combinations that you can use to correct the wrong color, or when the color you’ve been faithfully wearing for a long time suddenly feels off. Instead of spending money on a slightly different shade, why not improvise?
If the foundation started to accentuate fine lines, it’s probably too dark for your skin. Combine a pinch of your usual foundation with a drop of the pale one and add two drops of light pink shimmer.
To instantly transform your powder foundation into an oil-free fluid, combine a pinch of your foundation with an equal amount of chamomile hydrosol or witch hazel. Blend carefully in the paint palette.
If your foundation feels too pink for your skin, add two drops of pure gold pigment and one drop of the palest foundation in your palette and blend carefully. Apply as usual.
If you have olive skin and it suddenly feels washed out, add a drop of pale lilac shimmer and a drop of pure gold shimmer to a pinch of your foundation.
If you are dealing with a sudden bout of redness, correct the problem by mixing a tiny drop of pale green shimmer to a pinch of your foundation. Another solution is to add a drop of pure silver/icy shimmer but if you don’t like too much sparkle, then pale green should work just fine.
To create your own bronzer that will bring a healthy glow without a hint of brick, combine two drops of your usual foundation, one drop of pure gold shimmer, one drop of light pink shimmer, and one drop of deep bronze foundation. Blend well and apply sparingly with a blush or all-over fluffy brush. Don’t apply bronzer with a kabuki brush, or you’ll shine like an award statue!
When it comes to lip color, let the words “green” and “delicate” be your keys. After all, you want the focal point to be your lips, not what’s painted on them. Bright colors on your lips will distract from your eyes and overall complexion. Always accentuate, not hide, your natural beauty. Yet, finding a pure lipstick is today as hard as it was ten years ago.
We literally eat lipstick off our lips, yet they often contain potentially toxic components such as petroleum, aluminum, synthetic dyes and colorings. Even with otherwise perfectly green brands, lipsticks often end up stuffed with silicones, parabens, and FD&C dyes.
Of all the organic beauty products, natural lipsticks feel the most glamorous compared to their synthetic counterparts. Natural brands avoid the use of petrochemicals by using natural ingredients such as carnauba wax, beeswax, jojoba oil, and shea butter. Instead of paraben preservatives, they may use vitamins and citrus oils. Instead of shimmering flakes that may contain lead, aluminum and even mercury, they use mineral mica. Aveda’s lipsticks are tinted with organically grown plant derived pigments uruku while others use mineral pigments, which can deliver a deep, rich color.
Among the safe and pure lipstick brands available, Origins and Aveda have the best selection of colors and textures (yet some contain synthetic ingredients), while Dr. Hauschka offers the most moisture and glamour factor. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers are the most economical option, with pretty, wearable tiny lipsticks hanging in between balms and lipsticks. Other perfectly green brands of lipsticks to try include U.S.-based Ecco Bella, German Lavere and Australian organic makeup darling NVEY Eco.
Many natural lipsticks go to great lengths to use sustainable packaging. Aveda uses recycled plastics for lipstick tubes and recycled paper for boxes. They even have refillable lipstick cases! Canadian cult make-up brand Cargo introduced a line of natural-based lipsticks packed in tubes made entirely from corn. Celebrity-designed shades of Cargo Plant Love Biodegrable Lipstick are sold in boxes that grow wildflowers when planted. Now, that’s truly green beauty! Plant a box and maybe grow a lipstick?
When choosing a lipstick, I recommend subtle neutral shades, at least for daytime. You can stay neutral and still enjoy a range of options. If you have a yellow-toned complexion, you can use warmer shades, from pale bronze to warm rose. Olive tones can experiment with girly pinks and lilacs for daytime, but save deep berry shades for the night, adding drama to little black dresses. Dark skin tones can try rich chocolate and true reds.
If you have a fair, pink-toned complexion, use subtle colors from light pink to soft plums to enhance your skin tone. For dramatic nighttime use, go for deep plummy reds, adding a sweep of black kohl for a modern screen siren look. Redheads look gorgeous in apricots and corals, but sheer yet intense raisin tints can really lift up porcelain skin.
As a general rule, lipsticks have more lasting power than lip glosses, go on more smoothly and are better for moisturizing your lips. During the summer, or at any time when the sun is shining, try to add some lip protection by rubbing a little bit of mineral foundation on your clean lips before applying the lipstick.
For a quick lip exfoliation, use ripe, juicy papaya. You may use leftovers from the fruit salad of a dessert. Mash the papaya flesh into a juicy paste so that you get at least a tablespoon of puree. Apply a generous amount of papaya pulp to the lips and skin around the lips. Leave on for ten-fifteen minutes. Rinse off with warm water and enjoy smooth, flake-free lips. An even quicker exfoliation would be rubbing the inside of papaya skin against your lips for a few minutes.
Iron oxide pigments and mica create most color variations in mineral makeup. Most iron oxide pigments used in cosmetics are approved by the FDA. When used in extremely high concentrations—for example, during tattooing and permanent pigmentation of eyebrows and lashes—iron oxides can cause irritation, but in mineral makeup the concentration is far lower. If you have a family history of allergies, you will be better off with plant-based kohl eyeliners instead of dark mineral eye shadows.
Some of the greenest cosmetic pigments come from fruits and berries. Blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, grapes as well as ground black tea and cocoa can all lend their colorings to mineral makeup. 100% Pure makeup brand uses fruit, seed, tea and coffee pigments in their delicious and completely natural makeup creations. Since pigments in plants act as antioxidants, fruit pigments work double duty by adding color and protecting skin from free radical damage.
Clay pigments are best avoided, however, because most mineral clays contain silica and aluminum hydroxide, and I would rather avoid prolonged exposure to either substance, especially since so many options are available. To learn more about toxic ingredients in your skincare, download our comphensive free guide.
Here’s a quick reference guide that you can keep in your wallet – it comes handy when you plan to buy a new mineral makeup product.
Ingredients to Look For
Black tea pigment
Green Tea Extract (ideally organic)
Grape Seed Extract (ideally organic)
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
Ingredients of Concern
Dr. Brown explains that lip balms and glosses actually attract the ultraviolet rays. In fact, one quarter of all Americans do not appear to use any form of lip protection. The skin on your lips is very thin and is more prone to ageing from sun damage, compared to the skin in the rest of your body.
Shiny lip balms and lip glosses have the opposite effect of sun blocks – they attract the rays to the lips. Lip gloss or a lip balm should only be applied after a layer of sun protection has been put on the lips first – the sun protection should be under the shiny lip gloss/balm. If you are going to be exposed to sunlight for over 20 minutes you should apply a sun block with an SPF of 30 beforehand, says Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown explained that skin cancer is potentially much more aggressive when it is on the lower lip – there is a higher likelihood that it will metastasize to surrounding lymph nodes.
However, there may be another explanation: the average lip gloss is packed with synthetic chemicals, many of which have potent carcinogenic activity. Many of us have heard about lead found in lip color products, but there are many other things to beware of. Letâ??s take a look at one of the most popular lip glosses on the market:
LANCOME JUICY TUBES
What they claim: Shine Refined.
But beware: Along with petroleum-derived polymers and emollients this popular lip gloss contains silica and aluminum as well as central nervous system disruptors (benzyl salicylate, limonene, geraniol, linalool and hexyl cinnamal), hormone-disrupting preservatives (isobutylparaben, butylparaben), formaldehyde- and phthalate-releasing polyethylene terephthalate, carcinogenic substances such as saccharin and BHT, not to mention fragrance that contains an unnamed bunch of unwanted chemicals.
Synthetic colors used in this lip gloss include FD&C Yellow no. 6 that can give you hives and allergic rhinitis, FD&C Blue no. 1 (banned in Europe, but allowed in the U.S.), and bismuth oxychloride that may irritate lips causing a condition called cheilitis.
Lip gloss doesn’t have any staying power. It is easily ingested when it comes into contact with food or when we lick our lips. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a great deal of toxic eating.
Mineral makeup is a hot trend today, and conventional cosmetic manufacturers are making their own versions of mineral foundations, blushers, and concealers. However, most drugstore products contain talc, silicones, paraben preservatives and other fillers. Since there is no set regulation for what constitutes a “mineral” makeup, any product containing some minerals as a primary ingredient can be marketed as such—even if it contains a whole lot of synthetic ingredients.
“Mineral makeup formulas generally fall into two large camps—those that take care not to use synthetics, like paraben preservatives and other fillers, and stay true to the original intent of pure mineral makeup, and those that do add the fillers, colors, binders, preservatives and other chemicals to their formulas,” says Kristen Adams, of AfterGlow Cosmetics, “Consumers must look beyond the “natural” label.” The bottom line is simple: Be a vigilant consumer and always check the ingredients list for synthetic junk.
Here are a few companies that make excellent mineral foundations, tinted moisturizers, finishing powders, and concealers. I am just about to do a review of a new brand Mineral Hygienics which fits my green bill pretty well, so please stay tuned.
This ingenious California-born line contains zero synthetic ingredients which means no artificial fragrances or colors, no petrochemicals, artificial fragrances or other nasties. All products are biodegradable and cruelty-free. The color cosmetics is made with fruit and vegetable dyes (no FD&C colors!) and smells and looks divine. The foundations, bronzers, and powders are currently available on QVC only.
Superfine, breathable mineral foundations by Alima are extremely suitable for rosacea-prone skin and blend well with moisturizers. As if it weren’t enough, Alima is now offering a waste-reducing jar return program: send five empty jars (any size) back to Alima headquarters and get a free eye shadow of your choice. Now, that’s truly green. Available online, at fine health food store and better spas.
This brand has the biggest mineral foundation palette I have seen so far, and all shades come in matte, satin, pearlescent, and plain shimmery finishes. I especially adore Ultra Resolution Finishing Powder that works very well for creating that unrealistically flawless finish required by high definition cameras. As always, nanoparticles require cautious handling, so prime your skin first! The makeup comes packaged in recyclable aluminum sifter jars, and to make themselves even greener, Aromaleigh donates a portion of profits to buy animals for families in need. Available online and
Holistic makeup by German skincare brand contains generous amounts of extracts from biodynamically grown plants such as rose, black tea, and chamomile. My favourite products would be Toned Day Cream and Bronzing Concentrate, since loose powders, pressed powders and bronzers contain pure silica and diatomaceous earth, also a source of silica. The line is available at Whole Foods Markets, better spas and salons, and online.
The makers of ever-popular PurePressed SPF20 Pressed Minerals and Liquid Minerals with hyaluronic acid, coenzyme Q10 and tons of other antioxidants for dry, mature skin recently came up with Dream Tint, a luscious line of mineral tinted moisturizers and primers in skin-friendly shades of lilac, peach and bronze for adjusting face tone in case of emergencies. The whole Jane Iredale family of makeup contains no FD&C dyes, talc or parabens (it contains silica and boron nitride, though). The line is available at Whole Foods Markets, better health food stores, dermatologist offices, and fine spas.
This makeup is unique: it officially contains no nanoparticles, which doesn’t make its mineral foundations bulky or cakey. There’s also no bismuth oxychloride, talc, FD&C dyes, or synthetic junk of any sorts. Titanium dioxide in pressed foundations is coated with dimethicone, and mica is coated with amino acid lysine, which supposedly offsets some irritation potential, but loose foundations also contain powdered silica.
German bestselling organic makeup line with strong celebrity following has perhaps the most conventionally-looking foundations – in tubes and wand sticks, rather than sifter jars. The creamy foundations are choc full of organic emollients, antioxidants, with color imparted by titanium dioxide, mica, iron and zinc oxides. Very soothing and moisturizing, these would be the great choice for sensitive, mature, dry skin. The line is available at better health food stores, spas, and online.
This hard-to-find Australian brand delivers gorgeous fluid Translucent Foundations, cream concealers, traditional powder mineral makeup as well as bronzers made with certified organic ingredients.
This mineral makeup brand has a very extensive, sophisticated palette from fairest porcelains to deepest chocolate browns. Handmade foundations also come in creams and ingenious Moisture Mousse – looks yummy, and sounds even better. To reduce waste and save money all foundations can be purchased in “refill baggies” that you carefully pour into your existing sifter jar. Very green and practical!
This Australian makeup darling packs its foundations with plethora of beneficial plant extracts, such as nettle, horsetail (natural source of safe silica), thyme and rosemary. However, the careful review of ingredients (those who have read my book, The Green Beauty Guide, know that I am obsessed with ingredients) in Moisturising Fluid Foundation revealed the presence of phenoxyethanol and denaturated alcohol. Both aren’t exactly the bestingredients for your skin, so I’d rather stick to cream-to-powder Creme Deluxe Foundation and ultra-potent concealer Erase Corrective Make-up. The line is available at Macy’s stores nationwide, better health food stores, and online.
If you are going to buy just one cosmetic product, make it mineral makeup. It is going to sit on your face all day long, so going mineral helps you avoid unnecessary synthetic fillers and preservatives contained in a conventional foundation. It looks more natural, too – and we are all for natural perfection, aren’t we?
Not all mascaras are created equal, and when it comes to eye makeup, green beauty industry is still hanging behind. Most natural mascaras that we have tried (including Miessense, Dr. Hauschka, Lavera, Nvey Eco) always lacked that little something that makes someone repurchase a makeup product. Either a texture is too runny, or a smell is off, or it flakes into contact lenses. Aveda and MAC make acceptable formulas without parabens and obnoxious synthetics.
So why won’t you just grab some bestselling tube with a magic wand that will separate, elongate, curve, nourish and de-clump your lashes, singing a happy song in a process? Because, as you take a look at the ingredients of some of the most popular mascaras, the contents are far from pretty.
In addition to a potent blend of ingredients that may cause eye irritation and contact dermatitis (quaternium-22, shellac), all conventional mascaras we checked in our local drugstore contain nitrosamine-forming triethanolamine and formaldehyde-releasing quaternium-15. While the amounts of each ingredient are minuscule, lots of mascara ends up in our eyes when we wash it off, cry or smudge it.
Here are some of the noxious ingredients I found in a classical mainstay of cosmetic bags worldwide, Maybelline Great Lash mascara (non-waterproof): triethanolamine, propylene glycol, methylparaben, butylparaben, quaternium-15, quaternium-22.
What gives the mascara its color? Lots and lots of color pigments. In this case, we find various iron oxides, mica, titanium dioxide, chromium oxide – so far so good. Vegans won’t be happy about use of Carmine CI 75470 which is derived from crushed cactus louse beetle, but it’s not toxic. So was I wrong about FDA-certified colors? Are they safe? One of the ingredients in conventional mascaras is Ferric Ferrocyanide CI 77510. This inorganic dye, also known as Prussian Blue, has been awarded code S24/25 by database of chemicals Chemblink. S24 – Avoid contact with skin. S25 – Avoid contact with eyes. Does that mean we should keep this mascara away from our eyes?
So what do we want from a green, all-natural mascara?
The good natural mascara should not be runny. Nothing ruins the mood than imprints of upper lashes on the eyelid. One of the recent discouraging finds that is incredibly runny is UNE All-Purpose mascara – it’s not good even for eyebrows.
The good natural mascara should not smell funny. Leave the essential oil fragrances for sensual massage lotions. The eye product must not be scented. Period.
The good natural mascara should contain least possible amount of alcohol, for it can dehydrate sensitive lashes – that’s why Dr Hauschka mascaras are not really fitting the bill.
Natural mascaras – of course! – should also not contain any FD&C colors. Ideally, all pigments in my perfect mascara should be minerals and iron oxides, with an occasional addition of some plant dyes.
Green mascara should not be literally green. It has to be purest black, but should wash off easily (so please don’t load it with oils – the problem with Lavera mascaras).
If you happen to find a really remarkable natural mascara, please be a green sport and drop us a line!