In this edition of Town & Country, Katherine and Margaret share how they care for their skin and hair.
Katherine: Less is more
My beauty routine has changed drastically over the past three years, ever since I began learning about the chemicals that are in most skin and body care products. I’ve reduced many of the products I use, and replaced what’s left with safer, green ones. The result is a much-simplified beauty routine that takes up far less of my time (a big bonus for this busy mama with two little boys to chase after) and money.
The flipside is that I don’t look as ‘put together’ as I used to, but neither does it matter as much as it once did. It’s funny how one’s priorities evolve with age. There was a time when you wouldn’t catch me dead outside the house without makeup, but now that’s a common occurrence. Here’s what my routine looks like these days.
Makeup: My favourite green brand is Dr. Hauschka, an all-natural line of products made in Germany. Most days I wear their regular brown mascara, just to add a bit of colour to my almost-invisibly-pale eyelashes. To step it up a notch, I use their eyeliner, eye shadow, and voluminous black mascara. I do not wear foundation, powder, cover-up, or lipstick because I don’t like the feeling of having those artificial ‘layers’ on my skin. If I need lip colour of some kind, I use Kari Gran’s tinted lip whip, which feels like a tingly, juiced-up balm. I also like the All Good Natural Mineral Lip Tint from Elemental Herbs.
Skin: There’s not a single bottle of lotion or moisturizer in my house anymore. Instead I use straight oils to moisturize; coconut and sweet almond are my favourites, but sometimes I use grapeseed and olive oils or cocoa butter. I usually have a batch of Vanilla Bean Body Butter beside the bed, which I rub in after shaving. Any irritations or rashes are healed quickly by Weleda's Calendula Diaper Cream (I bought it for my kids, but use it for everything) and Elemental Herbs' All Good Goop, which is a lovely blend of beeswax, olive oil, and lavender.
Cleaning: Occasionally I use the oil-cleansing method to wash my entire face, but usually I just rinse my face with water in the shower, with a dash of Dr. Bronner's castile soap to scrub away any eye makeup. I rarely moisturize my face because it never feels dry. When I do, I love the natural face creams made by Farm to Girl that come in refillable glass jars.
Hair: As regular readers of TreeHugger might know, I’m a fan of the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method for washing hair. I’ve been doing it diligently for 8 months and continue to love the results. My hair has never felt healthier. Lately I’ve been washing only every 5 to 6 days, which would have seemed impossible when I used shampoo. I don’t own a blow dryer, so my hair is always air-dried. Occasionally I add coconut oil to reduce frizz (although I don’t have much of that with my new washing method) and define curls, or I style with a curling iron or straightener. Most of the time, though, I keep it in a loose braid or ponytail because I have my hands full at home.
Nails: Conventional nail polish is such vile stuff and the so-called ‘natural’ versions are so inferior to the conventional polishes that I don’t even bother. I prefer to keep my nails short and plain, also because I hate how gunk accumulates under the nails as soon as they grow out a bit. With all the cooking and digging in the dirt that I do, I’d rather take hygiene over appearance.
Margaret: What is "Natural Beauty"?
I’m much newer to the world of natural and organic personal care products than Katherine, and have only started to actively change which products I buy and use in the past year. That said, I’ve always joked about being bad at “being a girl”—and have never had the patience for a high-maintence beauty routine. On one hand, I’m lazy about makeup and on the other hand, not having a ton of makeup and care products means a smaller environmental impact.
For a long time, I’ve taken a decidedly “freegan” approach to the products I use. At past gigs like Seventeen and Country Living, freebies abounded and I never thought much about it. I’d use the shampoo my roommate didn’t like or whatever items people gave me as gifts. But as I’ve learned about the regulation gaps for personal care products and all-too-often lack of safety oversight, I’ve begun to gravitate towards more organic solutions to personal care.
Making choices about beauty products has been difficult for me. Being a skeptical journalist, I am often dissatisfied with the options available. I understand the dangers associated with the lack of data about many ingredients in beauty products but I’m also aware that a lack of data about chemicals doesn’t always spell out harm. At the same time, “natural” doesn’t always equal safe.
So, while I do my best to research the companies and products that I buy, I don’t think that I’ve found the definitive answers or that they’re the right choices for everyone.
Skin: Like Katherine, I’m a big fan of using coconut oil for moisturizing, although I also sometimes use Burt’s Bees lotion on my face. It has SPF and comes in glass container. It doesn’t contain parabens, which although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits, the European Union has banned in several forms.
Hair: As Katherine mentioned, she and I both took a challenge to ditch shampoo in January. I found that baking soda is a good way to get rid of grease, but I wasn’t totally thrilled with the “no poo” experience. Since then, I’ve been washing my hair about every other day with Dr. Bronner’s Organic castile soap. I like the lavender scented one.
About once a week, I also use argan oil on the ends of my hair for conditioning.
Cleaning: Dr. Bronner’s Organic castile soap also works as a body scrub, or I use organic lavender soap. My skin tends to be on the dry side, so once a week in the summer and a couple of times in the winter I use Sabon’s sea salt scrub. It's also paraben-free and comes in glass, which Sabon will collect for recycling (but not refilling). It also feels really nice.
Nails: The one beauty item I’m a pretty obsessed with is nail polish. It’s incongruous, I know. I’ve been happiest with Zoya nail polish, which is free of the “big five” toxic ingredients found in most nail polishes: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor & dibutyl phthalate. I’ve found it to be more chip-resistant than other brands.
You can make your nail polish to last way longer by storing it in the fridge.
Makeup: I wear makeup very rarely. The item that I used the most is mascara, which I acquired before I became more conscious about products that I’ve decided to use up before replacing. There are a few other items in my cabinet that I’ve decided hang onto a bit longer, but I don’t want to endorse them by writing about them. The only organic beauty item I’ve actively excited about is the “Living Luminizer” from RMS Beauty, which I use in the under my eyes to lessen the look of dark circles.
Makeup is a very personal choice, and I don’t judge anyone for why or how they choose to wear it. But I'd like to take a moment to discuss the idea that we don't need it. The makeup industry is large and profitable, and survives by creating “needs” from people’s insecurities about their looks. I would love to live in a world where people choose to wear makeup because it’s colorful and happy, and not because they feel a necessity to look “put together” or conform to the photo-shopped world of conventional beauty.
May we all one day embrace “natural beauty” as something that can't come from a bottle or jar, but as the way we are when we feel happy and healthy.