You buy only the best wild Alaskan salmon. You seek out organic spinach and blueberries. You carefully avoid trans fats in your crackers and high-fructose corn syrup in your jam. And you go to great lengths to avoid chemicals of any kind in your food. But if you're buying cheap cosmetics, you may still be putting those chemicals in your body.
What conventional cosmetic manufacturers don't want you to know: Their products may contain chemicals that have been linked to increased risk of cancer, developmental disorders, reproductive damage, and other health hazards. Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require health and safety studies or testing of cosmetics, manufacturers may use almost any raw material in formulating a product-and some of them are pretty dirty.
"There is no burden placed on manufacturers to be sure a product is safe before it comes to store shelves," says Leeann Brown, press secretary for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). "There's no government oversight, no non-biased organization evaluating products for safety. There's really not much regulation at all of what can and cannot go into personal care products."
So if you're using conventional products, they may contain phthalates, propylene glycol, parabens, and other chemicals that can increase cancer risk, lead to organ system damage, and cause reproductive harm. "It's a real horror show," says Bruce Blumberg, PhD, professor of developmental and cell biology at the University of California, Irvine. "All the things we work so hard to avoid in food are used in vast quantities in personal care products." No question about it-natural and organic is the only way to go.
Natural and organic beauty items are free of toxins and high in nutrients-just like your organic peanut butter and pomegranates. Confused about what to buy? Try these green and clean, products-our 2011 Best of Natural Beauty Awards Winners!*
Weleda Gentle Cleansing Milk
This creamy cleanser gives you a deep clean while leaving your skin soft, thanks to Biodynamic iris root (a rejuvenating and moisturize-retaining herb), jojoba oil, and witch hazel. Great for all skin types.
Organique by Himalaya Neem and Turmeric Face Wash
Especially great for acne and oily skin, this soap-free face wash leaves skin feeling clean and toned. Organic neem and turmeric, a classic herbal combination in India, help soften and clarify the complexion naturally.
Derma E Vitamin A and Green Tea Advanced Wrinkle Treatment Créme
This luxuriant, thick créme quenches dry skin without feeling greasy. Vitamin A and antioxidant-rich green tea help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and also enhance the skin's cell renewal.
Home Health Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizing Cream with Restorative Hydration Complex
Capture the ultra-hydrating benefits of hyaluronic acid with this soothing cream that also features green tea extract, grape seed oil, vitamins, and skin-rejuvenating herbs.
Toners and Scrubs
Pangea Organics French Rosemary & Sweet Orange Facial Toner
We love the scent of this hydrating toner, ideal for dry or mature skin. Use in between cleansing and moisturizing for best results. All Pangea Organics products are handcrafted and fair trade when possible.
Emerita Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub
If you haven't tried Emerita, you (and your skin) are in for a treat. This skin-renewing scrub is made with botanicals, antioxidants, and fragments of shells and minerals.
Reviva Labs Collagen Serum
This silky serum boasts a hefty amount of soluble collagen that penetrates almost instantly for a soft, smooth complexion. Continued use helps ease fine lines, diminish wrinkles, and improve skin texture.
MyChelle Dermaceuticals Apple Brightening Serum
Featuring niacinamide, peptides, and PhytoCellTec Apple Stem Cells-a breakthrough technology that triggers skin's regeneration process-this unique serum helps reduce age spots, even skin tone, and repair UV damage.
Juice Beauty Organic Facial Rejuvenating Mask
Get your glow on with this concoction of natural ingredients including organic lemon and grape juices, olive oil, raw cane sugar, honey, geranium, and carrot seed. Revives dull skin instantly.
Annemarie Borlind Anti-Stress Mask
Fatigue and stress can show on your skin. Revive tired, stressed-out skin with this rejuvenating mask featuring hyaluronic acid and carrot protein. Great for all skin types.
Essential Formulas Dr. Ohhira's Kampuku Beauty Bar
Probiotics are the secret weapon in this skin-perfecting and purifying beauty bar, which is also packed with other nourishing ingredients such as brown seaweed and herbs. Deep-cleansing yet gentle enough for all skin types.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Bar Soap
Available in a range of scents-from Hemp Almond and Hemp Lavender to Hemp Peppermint and Hemp Rose- this classic soap is perfect for keeping your entire body squeaky clean.
Sibu Beauty Sea Buckthorn Age Defying Eye Cream
This secret behind this hydrating eye cream is sea buckthorn, a berry naturally rich in omega fats and antioxidants. The cream, which also has pumpkin, helps firm skin around the eyes and lessen fine lines.
Beauty Without Cruelty Green Tea Nourishing Eye Gel
This light gel feels great going on and revives tired, puffy eyes with the help of green tea, grapeseed, and ginkgo. Designed to help reduce fine lines and protect against signs of aging and perfect for all ages.
Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal Roll-On
Hypoallergenic and fragrance free, this soothing deodorant really works at keeping you smelling great all day. It's especially beneficial for those with sensitive skin.
French Transit Crystal Body Deodorant Towelettes
These individual biodegradable towelettes are the perfect on-the-go deodorant, made with natural mineral salts.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Hugo Naturals Vanilla and Sweet Orange Volumizing Shampoo & Conditioner
Some volumizing products can make your hair dry, but not these. With the dreamy scents of vanilla and sweet orange, this shampoo and conditioner boost volume while leaving hair soft.
Nature's Gate Pomegranate Sunflower Hair Defense Shampoo & Conditioner
Antioxidant power from pomegranate, sunflower, and red tea leaf help keep colored hair vibrant, shiny, moisturized, and fade-resistant. Other nourishing ingredients include panthenol, soy protein, borage flower seed oil, and vitamins C and E.
John Masters Organics Bourbon Vanilla & Tangerine Hair Texturizer
Made with organic ingredients including castor oil, tangerine oil, glycerin, vitamins C and E, and shea butter, this lovely scented texturizer defines and boosts hair's shine.
Earth Science Olive & Avocado Conditioning Hair Masque
Feed thirsty, damaged hair with this intensive conditioner. Packed with nourishing ingredients including olive, avocado, soy protein, jojoba oil, and nettle.
Aura Cacia Heart Song Natural Aromatherapy Bubble Bath
We love the romantic rose scent of this bubble bath, made with 100% essential oils including lavender, rosewood, and geranium.
EO Balance Bath Salts Rose Geranium & Citrus Bath Salts
Soak in the harmonizing effects of rose geranium and revitalizing citrus essential oils-the perfect antidote to stress. Made with mineral-rich Himalayan salt crystals and California sea salts.
Sonoma Soap Company First Crush Bath & Shower Gel
Escape to the vineyards of Sonoma in your shower with the intoxicating scent of this moisturizing body wash. Features organic grape seed, red raspberry, and green apple extracts. Leaves skin feeling soft and nourished.
Earthly Elements Hydrating Body Wash in Moroccan Vanilla
Pre- and probiotics, along with hydrating extracts and omega-3 fats, give this revitalizing body wash an edge. The exotic vanilla scent and rich lather leave you feeling pampered. A keepsake charm adorns each bottle.
Jason Apricot Pure & Natural Hand & Body Lotion
Protect and soften your skin the natural way with this soothing hand and body lotion. The delicate scents of apricot and almond do not compete with other scents or perfumes you may be wearing.
Desert Essence Organics Bulgarian Lavender Hand & Body Lotion
Deeply moisturizing, this rich, nongreasy lotion is perfect for everyday use. The lavender scent is uplifting during the day and relaxing at night. Perfect for extra-dry skin.
Alba Botanica Very Emollient Lavender Sunblock SPF 45
Recently reformulated with natural emollients and therapeutic antioxidants, this nongreasy lotion penetrates quickly, thanks to a new delivery system.
Badger SPF 30 All Season Face Stick
This handy sunblock takes you from skiing to surfing-so whatever you're doing, this grab-and-go stick has you covered. The formula is unscented and water resistant.
Burt's Bees Multicare Toothpaste (with Fluoride)
We love the fresh taste and deep-clean feel of this toothpaste. It also boasts the addition of cranberry, which has been shown to help prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth so they can't cause gingivitis.
Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Sensitive Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
The mineral potassium nitrate is added to help protect sensitive teeth from pain from a variety of causes, including hot or cold. Continued use helps strengthen teeth and provides even more protection against sensitivity.
Nature's Answer PerioWash Cinna Mint
Protect your gums, combat bad breath, and alleviate dry mouth with this alcohol-free mouthwash. It tastes wonderful and leaves your mouth feeling fresh.
Garden of Life Extraordinary Beauty Probiotic Smile
These tasty mints with xylitol and probiotics perform triple duty: whitening teeth, freshening breath, and promoting teeth and gum health. That's one powerful mint!
Organic Grooming by Herban Cowboy Aloe Shave Cream in Dusk
Upgrade your shaving cream (and your cool factor) with this organic, vegan grooming aid for men. Aloe, lavender, and peppermint give this cream a clean scent. No dyes or alcohol are used.
Depth Body Shave Cream in Bay Coconut
This thick shave cream has a fresh, tropical scent that's perfect for men and women. Sea botanicals, including sea lettuce, seaweed, and kelp, nourish and protect your skin while you shave.
Emani Minerals Hybrid Créme Color
Is it a piece of art or the perfect mineral makeup? Both! These stunning handmade palates (chose from 12 color combinations) feature natural waxes and mineral pigments that can be used on eyes, lips, and cheeks.
Suncoat Natural Liquid Eyeliner
Made with natural, sugar-based biopolymer (no synthetic plastics), these long-lasting eye liners come in six vibrant shades: Black, Brown, Navy Blue, Purple, Jade Green, and Smokey.
Nails and Feet
SkiKai Borage Dry Skin Therapy Foot Cream
Pamper your feet with this thick, silky cream. You can feel relief from dry, cracked skin the moment it goes on. And you'll notice a difference (softer skin, less cracks and dryness) with continued use. Healing borage oil is the secret ingredient here.
Organix South TheraNeem Neem Scrub Nail & Cuticle
What a find! This natural scrub uses neem (full of antioxidants and omega fatty acids), sea salt, and natural oils, including grapeseed and spearmint oils, to exfoliate dead cuticles and nourish your nails.
Out of Africa Organic Shea Butter Lipbalm with Vitamin E
Lips feeling dry as the desert air lately? Rescue them with this silky lip balm, made with organic shea butter-in fact, this lip balm feels like "buttah" on your lips.
Aubrey Organics Organic Lip Balms
These balms feel sublime on dry, chapped lips. The secret is deeply moisturizing rosa mosqueta oil. Although not tinted, the balms give your lips a healthy pink glow. Available in Spearmint, Peppermint & Tea Tree, Tangerine, Vanilla & Honey, and our favorite, Raspberry.
Avalon Organics Essential Lift Firming Moisturizer
Protect against sun damage and deter signs of aging with this light, absorbent cream. The blend of herbs, natural oils, and more than 70 micro-minerals from the ocean plumps and tones.
ReserveAge Organics Keratin Booster
Is it possible to fall in love with a supplement so fast? Yes, when it features the only form of solubilized keratin mixed with resveratrol and biotin. Keratin helps brighten, strengthen, and improve hair; skin and nails also get an amazing beauty boost.
Natrol Shen Min Hair Nutrient Original Formula
There's a reason this herbal formula has been around-and been wildly popular-for so many years. It works! The blend of Asian herbs nourishes hair follicles and stimulates hair growth naturally.
Buried Treasure Hair, Skin and Nails Complete
Get therapeutic amounts of beauty nutrients in a highly absorbable liquid form. MSM, biotin (2,000 mcg), vitamins A and E, horestail leaf, aloe, zinc, and other natural ingredients provide targeted nutrition to hair, skin, and nails.
NOW Foods Derma-Vits
Enhance your natural beauty from the inside out with this comprehensive formula. Hair, skin, and nails are nourished with the help of MSM, silica, B vitamins, amino acids, and a host of other natural beauty boosters.
Natural Factors BioSil ch-OSA Advanced Collagen Generator
The secret is out among Better Nutrition staffers: If you want longer, healthier hair and beautiful, strong nails, use BioSil for incredible results. Also improves skin texture and bone health.
Republic of Tea Get Gorgeous Herb Tea for Clear Skin
Like the name says, this yummy, antioxidant red tea helps fight free radicals for clearer, brighter-looking skin-one delicious sip at a time.
More Than Skin Deep:
The most compelling reasons you'll ever hear to buy natural and organic beauty items
- Your skin is a sponge. "Your skin is your largest organ and it is known to absorb more than 80 percent of what is applied to it," says Josh Onysko, president and founder of Pangea Organics. Dermal exposure is just as valid a route of exposure as inhaling and swallowing, says Leann Brown, press secretary for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). "The average woman is exposed to about 120 different chemicals daily through personal care products alone," she says. "We don't yet know what happens with that cumulative effect. But we know it's there."
- Chemicals make you old before your time. You work so hard to stay youthful, but every time you rub synthetic oils, artificial colors, and preservatives on your skin, you're aging it. "Skin has a specific and narrow pH balance," says Lily Morgan, founder of Lily Organics. "Chemicals upset that balance and can contribute to wrinkles, dryness and sagging skin." Some conventional products also contain highly acidic ingredients, and price is no indicator of quality: Even expensive toners may contain acetone, the same chemical that's used in nail polish remover.
What natural products add is as important as what they avoid. Most have soothing botanicals, healing oils, and protective antioxidants in therapeutic amounts-unlike the dabs used in many conventional cosmetics.
- They might make you and your children fat. It's well known that some chemicals used in personal care products are associated with reproductive harm. But did you know that they might also be associated with weight gain? "Phthalates, for example, can activate receptors that stimulate stem cells to become fat cells, and also encourage deposition of fat in existing fat cells," says Bruce Blumberg, PhD, professor of development and cell biology at the University of California, Irvine. It's a new area of research, and studies are currently underway, but what is widely known is that the estrogenic activity these chemicals exert is associated with increased body fat. It's especially important for pregnant and nursing women to avoid these chemicals, since early exposure can predispose a child to becoming fat.
- They cost less than your latte. Natural products have a reputation for being wildly expensive. But it's just not true. Most are substantially cheaper than department-store brands. And compared to drugstore brands, in most cases you can upgrade for pennies a day. Swapping your dime-store items for clean versions will run you about $50 to $65 a month-less than what it costs to have a latte each day. And aren't you worth it?
Meet Our Beauty Advisory Board
We would like to acknowledge and thank our Beauty Advisory Board members, each of whom helped us in selecting products for our Best of Natural Beauty Awards.
Kim Erickson is a Las Vegas-based health and beauty writer and the author of Drop Dead Gorgeous: Protecting Yourself from the Hidden Dangers of Cosmetics. She is also the owner of Kim Erickson's Everyday Organics-a natural skin care company that targets the causes of premature aging. Erickson has been featured in numerous publications and most recently in the documentary America the Beautiful (americathebeautifuldoc.com). Erickson writes Better Nutrition's regular beauty column "Inside and Out." Email your health and beauty questions to everyday-organics.com.
Better Nutrition Beauty Editor Sherrie Strausfogel is the author of Hawaii's Spa Experience: Rejuvenating Secrets of the Islands. Writing about beauty, spas, health, cuisine, and travel, her work has appeared in more than 100 magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, and Web sites, such as Elite Traveler, Health, The Los Angeles Times, Men's Fitness, Spa, USA Today, and Westways. Based in Honolulu, Strausfogel is a world-traveler and spa devotee who has visited more than 50 countries and many of the world's leading spas.
She writes Better Nutrition's regular personal care column "Natural Beauty."
Lisa Turner has been researching and writing about nutrition, cooking great natural meals, natural health, and natural beauty and personal care for more than 20 years. She has written five books on food and nutrition and hundreds of magazine articles. Turner also writes Better Nutrition's regular column on natural food products, "Off the Shelf."
Turner is a Certified Food Psychologist Coach and nutrition educator. She is a faculty instructor at Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Boulder, CO, where she also lives. To learn more, visit inspiredeating.com.