I used to be addicted to cosmetics and body care products. I spent far too much time and money in the beauty aisle of the drugstore, checking out new products and filling my bathroom with more bottles of random substances than I could ever hope to use. I was vaguely aware of this being an unhealthy habit, but it wasn’t until I read a book called There’s Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon (Penguin Canada, 2011) that I was scared – or, rather, educated – into changing my ways. Deacon’s book explained about the toxic ingredients that go into most mainstream cosmetics, particularly in North America where the beauty industry is not nearly as well-regulated as it is in Europe.
The first thing I did was pitch the majority of my products. Then I headed to the local health store to buy some basic necessities. I wasn’t willing to go completely au naturel – my addiction was too entrenched for that – but at least I learned what pure alternatives existed. Deacon’s book was also very helpful as a consumer guide. That was nearly three years ago, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries since detoxing my beauty routine:
First, less is more. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Since there were fewer products for me to choose from, I began to realize how many items I don’t need. Because natural products are more expensive due to their higher quality ingredients, I became more frugal with the quantities I used. I also discovered that a single product could have multiple purposes. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap is body wash, shampoo, and toothpaste all in one. Weleda’s Calendula Baby Wash works wonders on my hair and can be a shaving lotion, too. Olive, grapeseed, and sweet almond oils are excellent facial cleansers and skin moisturizers. Salt and sugar are natural exfoliants.
Second, my senses came alive again. After several months of using natural products that are free from artificial fragrances, I noticed an increased sensitivity to most mainstream products. The smell of Pantene shampoo in my mother’s shower was almost sickening, as was the intense floral odour of someone’s hand lotion or perfume. It tickled my throat and made me feel a bit suffocated. As inconvenient as this can be at times, I don’t think of myself as having created a new sensitivity to fragrances, but rather I’ve lost the desensitization that I’d developed from years of using mainstream beauty products.
Third, I feel healthier. My skin and hair is thanking me for no longer loading it up with chemicals on a daily basis. My face routine consists of minimal eye makeup cleaned with a natural cream remover and water. There’s no face wash, no toner, no moisturizer, and my skin has never looked or felt healthier. My hair gets less greasy now that it’s accustomed to natural shampoo, so I wash it less often. Some of my friends swear by the oil cleansing method (OCM), based on the idea that “like dissolves like,” so good, nourishing oils can be used to ‘wash’ away bad facial oils without throwing off the natural oil balance of your skin. (Check out the informative “Skintervention Guide” to learn more.)
Detoxifying your beauty routine is less intimidating than it seems. All it takes is a bit of education about reading labels and ingredients, as well as paying closer attention to what makes your skin feel truly good. Soon the healthy glow that’s idealized (and airbrushed) in all the cosmetics ads can be yours for real.
Gillian Deacon's Handy Wallet Tips Sheet
"The Green Beauty Guide" by Julie Gabriel
Purely Primal Skincare
Why You Should Stop Washing Your Face
Get Shopping: Top All-Natural Body Products to Buy