Sunday, August 15, 2010

Making your hair shinier and bouncier...while simultaneously giving you cancer

Feminist debates over unrealistic standards of the beauty industry set aside, people like to use beauty products. And these products should be unquestionably safe.

Annie Leonard, the creator of the well-known video the Story of Stuff, recently released the Story of Cosmetics which reveals that most of the beauty products available on supermarket shelves are loaded with cancer-causing chemicals. The video was released on the heels of the introduction of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, a bill which aims to update the regulations of the cosmetics industry.

Leonard provides some suggestions for giving the cosmetics industry a "make-over" (such as supporting the bill), but it got me thinking about what sorts of products to use in the meantime.

Recently I went to Target to buy a few personal care items. As usual, I deliberated over which items to purchase. I went with the most eco-friendly items that were available:

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps
Target is now carrying Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. I'd seen the Dr. Bronner's website before but didn't want to pay shipping and handling for a bottle of soap, so I decided to buy it in the store when I found it. At nearly $10 a bottle, it's not exactly affordable, but it is efficient. It can be used for almost anything - as a body wash, shampoo and as face wash. According to the bottle, it doesn't contain foaming agents, but it's just as lather-y as other soaps. What's even better is that it's certified fair trade. It looks like more local stores are carrying Dr. Bronner's soaps, but, of course, you can always order them from the website.

Yes to Carrots
I bought my first Yes To Carrots product a couple of months ago, also at Target. I bought the Soothing Eye Gel to remedy the many stressful, sleepless nights of my last semester in college. At $14.99 for a 30ml bottle this also was expensive. But I've been using it regularly and I have noticed a difference (and I honestly don't believe that's just a result of me trying to catch up on sleep). According to the website, "Yes To combines high-quality organic fruits and vegetables with a special mineral elixir derived from the Dead Sea to nourish and hydrate naturally." I also purchased the berry Yes To Carrots lip balm. I'm a BIG fan of lip balm (I have at least one stick in my pocket at all times) and I only buy certain brands. But I really liked this one and at $2.99, I think the price was comparable to other major brands like Chapstick. I'm actually at the very end of my stick and will probably buy a new one this week.

But, anyway, on this particular visit, I purchased Yes To Tomatoes facial wash. It doesn't irritate my skin like other facial soaps. My face really does feel smooth and clean when I use it. However, one container costs $9.99, so my wallet certainly wasn't as happy as my face afterward.

evolution of smooth
Lastly, I purchased evolution of smooth shaving cream for the second time. To be honest, I purchased my first bottle awhile back on a whim when the bottle's design caught my attention. Generally I try not to buy things because of packaging, but the front of the bottle also boasts that it's paraben-free and it wasn't much more expensive than other shaving creams. Later on, my roommate asked me about it after she read about the shaving cream in Bust magazine. That's when I started to pay attention. eos seems to be really into the whole image/marketing image thing, but if the products are paraben-free and use natural ingredients, then that's fine by me.

After buying and using these products, I came to two (probably obvious) conclusions:

1. Organic/natural/whatever ingredients are healthier for us and work better
2. but they're damn expensive.

Currently I am so unemployed and so broke that I'm living with my parents again. But I justified buying these products because I thought of them as an investment in my health. I might be a little more broke now, but if I don't have to pay for chemotherapy treatments in a few years, I'll be better off in the long run. And I'd much rather give my money to a company like Dr. Bronner rather than a mega-corp. like Procter & Gamble.

However, I realize that that justification certainly will not work for everyone. Especially now, during this economic recession, it's unrealistic to expect most people to pay more for certain products. (Intersectionality alert!) This certainly could inspire a discussion of the injustices surrounding classism, but...I will save that for another day.

That said, today I came across few recipes for DIY products on Rowdy Kitten, like this one for using baking soda as a shampoo and this one for making lip balm and lotion.

Another resource I've found is Make Your Place, a $7 book all about making your own cleaning products, from shampoo (and pet shampoo!) to floor cleaners. The author has also written companion zines such as How To Make Soap Without Burning Your Face Off.

I also found an instructable about DIY mineral make-up, which seems pretty cool.

But for those of us who are not burgeoning chemists or just don't have that much time on our hands, what do we do?

It seems that until cosmetics companies choose to update their standards, we will have to make sacrifices - either money or time - if we want to use safe products.

What kinds of products do you use? Have you ever DIY'd your make-up? Leave any suggestions in the comments!

For more about natural beauty products, check out the following links:
The Thrifty Girl's Guide to Primping
Organic Makeup and Skincare

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