Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sister Sarah On Safe(r) Cosmetics

The Reverend PeaceBang has kindly invited me to write to her gentle readers about safe cosmetics. It’s a subject I happened upon during my ministerial internship, when the congregation I served hosted a film about a breast cancer survivor (One in Eight: Janice’s Journey). From the panelists afterward I learned about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. (Sadly for my meager intern pocketbook, this occurred just after I’d just invested a bunch of money I didn’t have in “trying to look more professional” with new cosmetics products that turned out not to be too good for me.) At the panel, I learned that in the US, ingredients in beauty products are not regulated in the same way that our food and drugs are. There is no FDA that makes sure your eye shadow’s ingredients won’t give you cancer, or guarantees that ingredients in your anti-aging crème won’t mimic hormones and cause you reproductive harm. Our skin absorbs so much of what we put on to it. If you’ve ever used those menthol pain patches, a nicoderm patch, or the birth control patch you know this. What I put on my skin is of great concern to me. I’ve lost too many members of my extended family to cancer. I know that we can only control so much in this regard, but I do try to take control of what I can.

Fortunately, thanks to the Environmental Working Group, you can find out what’s in the products you use and you can switch to less harmful ones. I advise looking up products before buying them. Labeling can be deceptive—things that say “natural” and “organic” are not necessarily any more free of toxic ingredients. And things that don’t say “natural” aren’t necessarily any more bad. And some products that people tend to think are harmful—aluminum-based antiperspirant, for example—actually aren’t as harmful as rumored. It’s other stuff in deodorant—like “perfume” containing phthalates—that you have to look out for.

Here are some of the products I’ve used and recommend:

Body Moisturizer: Avalon Organics Hand and Body Lotion – Lavender, enriched withBetaGlucan – it’s better at treating my super-dry skin than the more toxic Lubriderm or Aveeno ever were. Avalon Organics has recently reformulated nearly all their products to meet Safe Cosmetics guidelines.

Facial Moisturizer: Aubrey Organics Green Tea & Ginkgo Moisturizer SPF 15 or Avalon Organics Moisture Plus Lotion with SPF 18 – These are both good but slightly greasy on my skin. They don’t contain the toxic “penetration enhancers” that my old facial moisturizer did—I think that’s why they’re greasier, so I just live with it.

Deodorant: Ban - Original Formula Roll-On, unscented. One of the safest on the market, and works well under those clergy robes on hot days!

Sun Block: Bull Frog - Surfer Formula Gel SPF 36. It’s ironic that so many people wear sunblock to avoid skin cancer, yet sunblock so often contains ingredients that can make a person more likely to get cancer. Scary! Bull Frog isn’t the absolute safest sunblock, but it’s safer than most on the market and it rubs in to my skin. (Many of the safer sunblocks I’ve tried make me—dry skin woman—look like a pasty Goth, but they work better for an oily skinned friend of mine.)

Shaving Cream: Nature’s Gate Organics Creamy Shave Gel. Good stuff. Nature’s Gate is not a safe brand overall, but their line of “Organics” is quite safe in general.

Shampoo & Conditioner: Nature’s Gate Organics or Avalon Organics

Shower Gel: Avalon Organics

Styling Products: Aveda “Be Curly” and Aveda Brilliant Forming Gel Light Hold. Though Aveda portrays itself as “green” and “natural,” not all of their products are good for you. These two products are OK. They represent a compromise between choosing the safest products and choosing products that actually work in my hair. Some of the safest stuff (like Kiss My Face “Upper Management” hair gel) just didn’t agree with my tresses. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is trying to get Aveda to sign their pledge—they haven’t yet.

Makeup: Sorry, I can’t help you there… When I started wearing makeup to look “professional” last year I got comments from many folks that they liked my look better without makeup. I think it was because of the particular makeup I chose and my lack of experience in makeup application techniques (I haven’t worn it regularly since Junior High.) This is why I read “Beauty Tips for Ministers” ;-). I’m planning to venture out into the realm of makeup again one of these days, and I’ll be sure to consult Skin Deep to find safe(r) products.

I’ll be interested to hear others’ recommendations for high quality, safe, beauty-enhancing practices and products. Inner beauty always works well, and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Peace & health to all,
Rev. Sarah in California

[PeaceBang here, darlings, who knows Sister Sarah and can attest to the fact that she is one of those extra cute, shiningly beautiful young thangs who can get by with a bare face and a slick of lipgloss. Thank you, Sarah! I like Aubrey Organics a whole lot and will be buying more of their products in the future, thanks to you. - P.B.]

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