The most authentic beauty in the world is natural beauty. It can’t be faked or manufactured in a laboratory and it can’t be bought. But in the struggle to keep what we’ve got looking as good as it can be, and in our pursuit to retain those youthful looks even though we might be a bit beyond the teenage years, we could be putting our health at risk.
Why….?? What’s the Problem?
Many of the skincare, makeup and beauty products out there actually contain chemicals that have been linked to some serious health issues. Some are suspected or known carcinogens; some play havoc with our hormones and others can cause learning disabilities, birth defects and allergies. And as we liberally rub these products onto our skin, we also unwittingly apply these chemicals which are swiftly absorbed through the epidermis into our blood stream.
The quantities of each chemical in each product might be small, or even minute, and let’s be real here, we’re not suggesting that one application of your fave anti-aging face cream or a slick of that ‘dirty’ mascara is going to give you cancer. But the average user of beauty products doesn’t just have one tube or pot to fulfil their entire skincare regime….they have many!! And in using say…up to 10 products each day that contain harmful chemicals, the toxicity levels in your body can build up over a period of time, which is cause for concern.
So What Can I Do?
Our advice….be aware of these chemicals. Know their names, what they do, and where you’re likely to find them. And then avoid them wherever possible.
Arming yourself with information, actually looking at what you’re buying and having a clue when you read all those complicated labels is your best defence against harmful chemicals. We’ll come back to these in another post with much more detail, but some of the chemicals you should look out for and where you might find them are listed below:
- Phthalates: Commonly used in Perfumes and synthetic fragrances
- Fragrance: Potentially in everything…!
- Parabens: Used as a preservative in a wide range of cosmetics and skincare products
- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphates: Found in soap, shampoo, bubble bath and toothpaste
- Triclosan: An antibacterial chemical commonly found in toothpaste and antiseptic soaps
- Ethanolamines: Used to give a creamy texture and boost foaming, they can be found in soaps, cleansers, moisturisers, shaving products and more.
If you’re serious about natural beauty and keen to give your bathroom cabinet an overhaul, take a look at the products you use most frequently. Do the ingredients look scary…?? Pick one of the things you don’t understand or are not familiar with and use this great resource from the EWG, their Skin Deep database. Type in the ingredient that looks dodgy and see what the results show you.
Try a few more of the ingredients. You’ll get a summary of the ingredient including its EWG rating – a number/colour scale representing the hazard level of the chemical. Green results with low numbers are ideal….red results with high scores are to be avoided. If you come up with any red results, you should consider swapping out your product for something WITHOUT the red ingredient in it!!
Natural Beauty Alternatives
Of course, everything you find on Green Elephant is safe and natural. It’s what we’re about. Take a look at this ingredients list for the beautiful Nourishing Night Cream by Kaimai Skincare: Water, Olivern, Kowhai Extract, Olive, Shea butter, Avocado, Calendula Oil, Honey, Essential oils: Rose Geranium and Lavender.
Or these ingredients which is ALL you’ll find in the Moisturising Body Butter by Beekeepers Daughter: Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Shea Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Beeswax, Vitamin E and Lavender Oil.
So, these ingredients all sound familiar right…?? Or at least the very least, derived from nature. And this is what natural beauty is all about. You shouldn’t see long lists of chemical names or artificial ingredients in your skincare, and if you do….it could be time to make some changes.
Another easy thing you can do to minimise your exposure to harmful chemicals is to simplify your natural beauty routine. Find a good quality, natural, multi-purpose balm or oil that can be your eye treatment, your intensive night time moisturiser, your skin soother and your lip balm. This little gem from Neat Natural Products is a multi-purpose Nourishing Face & Hair Oil containing 100% pure cacay oil.
Cacay oil has super duper anti-aging properties as well being an amazing moisturiser. You can use it as a cuticle oil to fight dry nails and cracked cuticles, as a post shave soother and a healing treatment for burns, scratches and rashes. Oh…and it works wonders when applied to your dry, split ends too.
The Bigger Picture
But natural beauty products aren’t just about the ingredients themselves. We should be looking at the whole product life cycle, from how the product is developed through to its packaging.
Did you know that whilst New Zealand banned animal testing for cosmetics back in 2015, the ban doesn’t apply to imported products…?? And in some countries, animal testing is actually required by law…….???!!!
When you picture a natural beauty product, I’ll bet that lovely image doesn’t include a rabbit or a dog having had your product squirted into its eyes or pumped into its stomach just to check it’s OK for you to use it…?? No. Didn’t think so. BTW I make no apologies for the cuteness of the little fella pictured above….
Cruelty free beauty should also be on our ‘checklist’ when we’re choosing cosmetics and skincare. The ban on testing in 2015 was definitely a step forward, but there are still lots of products on the supermarket shelves that may have been tested on animals or that contain ingredients that have been tested on animals.
To make sure you know what companies you can trust, the SAFE for Animals website has a useful shopping guide listing accredited cruelty free companies in New Zealand. The list includes Aphelia, Fiji Spice Queen, La Sirene and Zoo Deodorant who are all part of the Green Elephant family….Yay!! Eco Boutique are also passionate about vegan and cruelty free products and their range of mineral makeup is certified by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and CCF (Choose Cruelty Free).
That being said, although not officially accredited, all our brands support a cruelty free industry. All products that you find on Green Elephant have been made with the greatest respect for animals and the environment.
Another thing that we can look for when shopping for natural beauty products is the traceability of ingredients. Have they been sourced responsibly i.e. if they contain palm oil, was it from a sustainable source…?? Even better, are the ingredients sourced locally…? Buying from New Zealand companies that in turn buy from other New Zealand businesses supports the local economy and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the product.
And finally, what is the packaging like…?? Is it recyclable, biodegradable or perhaps reusable..?? Some of our Vendors go to great lengths to make sure the end to end lifecycle of their product, including the packaging has minimal impact on the environment. These beautiful soaps from Camille Co. come boxed in card that is FSC certified with no adhesives or synthetic inks and of course they can be recycled after use. These Body Bars from Ama Balm also use minimal packaging which can be recycled and this cool deodorant tube from Bee Fresh is biodegradable so you can throw it on the compost!!
It’s unfortunate that it remains our responsibility as consumers to choose wisely. It would be nice to live in a world where governments and large corporates took charge and made sure that everything on the shelves was safe for us and safe for the environment…..but we don’t. It’s up to us to get informed, look at labels, make good choices and vote for better skincare with our dollars.
I hope this gives you an insight into what you need to look out for if you’re keen to green up your skincare routine!! A move to natural beauty is so much fun – who doesn’t like to try out new products…?? And sure…you won’t love every new brand you try but if you’re choosing natural beauty over chemical beauty, you’ll know what you’re putting on your skin is safe, better for you and better for the environment.