Do you spend a lot of time pondering over which cosmetics are best for you? Do you often feel the more money you spend the better the product will be? If so, you are not alone, millions of women drop thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money annually on cosmetics and beauty products.
There are creams to banish your wrinkles, potions to regenerate new skin growth and collagen, lotions to do away with our stretch marks and age spots, and on and on it goes. If you have a beauty dilemma, a skin condition, don’t like the way your eyes droop a little… there is a solution to be found at your drugstore cosmetic counter. Or at least, that is what the cosmetic industry giants want us to believe.
Do these products actually work, or is it all in our head?
I have never been one to wear a lot of makeup or use a lot of products. I can always remember when I first went to college and was living in the dorm. Girls were arriving with bags and bags of what they called toiletries. To me, toiletries included my toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, a brush (0n a good day) and some cream.
They had solutions for their hair and body… more solutions than I had ever seen before. My eyes were opened for the very first time about how our culture tells women of all ages, some very young, that the only way they are going to be beautiful is if they use a lot of “products.”
Well, while my friends were busy putting a mixed cocktail of beauty sauces on their skin, I continued with my same old routine, which took me all of about five minutes each morning and evening. My philosophy was, if you don’t put it all on, you don’t have to take it off. All through college I believe I got a good hour or more of sleep than my peers simply due to the fact that I didn’t need the time to get ready each morning.
As I have aged, I have come to realize that the skin becomes much less forgiving, and now I do have much less collagen to work with. I do have wrinkles, grey hair and other signs that I have been around for some time. However, my mindset has remained pretty much the same when it comes to spending a lot of time on covering up what is real, or spending money on products.
For me, it is about finding ways to nourish my body starting from the inside out. I have adopted a whole food, vegetarian diet, drink plenty of water, don’t drink (apart from the occasional glass of red wine), don’t smoke, and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
I also won’t put anything on my skin, or in my hair, that I wouldn’t eat. While this may sound strange, it assures me that I will not be introducing strange chemicals into my body that have been scientifically proven to cause damage.
According to a survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 25 percent of women use more than 15 products each day that contain over 126 different ingredients, with as many as one in five being carcinogenic.
At present, our government does not require health studies or any pre-market testing of the chemicals in personal care products, even though we are “eating” them on a daily basis. According to the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the FDA, a cosmetic manufacturer can use almost any raw material in the making of a product without approval.
The cosmetic industry is allowed to self-police using the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. However official it may sound, this board has only rejected 11 ingredients for being unsafe. This is in comparison to the European Union, which has banned hundreds of ingredients. Here are just a few to be very concerned about:
Synthetic colors: Derived from coal tar, which when injected into lab rats causes cancer. This is typically listed on products as D&C or FD&C.
Diethanolamine and triethanolamine (DEA and TEA): These two dangerous ingredients are used as emulsifiers and are known to cause lab rats to develop cancerous tumors. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review recommends only small amounts; however, small amounts add up over time.
Titanium dioxide: This is found in concealers and is noted by the American Cancer Society as being one of the top five most carcinogenic substances on earth. It has been implicated in asthma, cancer, kidney disease, loss of fertility and Alzheimer’s. Found in some vitamins, cheeses, yogurt, fast foods and tomato ketchup, this highly toxic chemical is also fed to animals bred for human consumption.
Heavy metals: Of course, lead has been found in over 500 brands and shades of lipsticks, and although the FDA says that trace amounts are not dangerous, numerous studies show that lead builds up in the system and is indeed highly dangerous. Metals are also used for color, and many lip glosses contain aluminum compounds.
PVP/ VA copolymer: Bronzers, eye makeup and hair products contain this known toxin. In laboratory settings, rats who ingested PVP intravenously developed tumors.
Petrolatum: This is what we know as petroleum and is used in many popular moisturizers. It forms a layer on the skin, blocks evaporation and prevents toxins exiting from the pores of our skin.
Triclosan: Found in a number of cosmetics and even toothpaste, it is thought to kill bacteria. It was actually invented to be used as a surgical scrub for medical professionals, not for putting on your face or brushing your teeth.
Putting any of these toxic chemicals on your skin can actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, your saliva and stomach help to break it down and get it out of the body. However, when the skin absorbs something, it goes straight into the bloodstream without being filtered. Without the necessary enzymes to break them down, these toxins accumulate over time and wreak havoc on the body.
Nature has an answer
Thankfully, nature has provided a solution for those of us looking to maintain a youthful glow without compromising our health. Here are some of my beauty secrets from nature that I personally embrace and highly recommend.
Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus globulus): Eucalyptus oil is loaded with natural anti-inflammatory properties and is also an antiseptic and astringent. I use the oil if I have a blemish, bug bite or other skin irritation. I mix equal parts of the oil with apple cider vinegar and dab on the problematic area. Within a day, the redness is gone and the skin begins to heal.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis, Gynostemma pentaphyllum): I love, love, love green tea. Not only is it a wonderfully soothing drink, but it also fights free radicals, and lightens and brightens skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines. This powerhouse tea contains super-antioxidants known as polyphenols, which help to reduce oxidative stress and also protect against premature aging.
My favorite way to use green tea is as a facial splash in the morning. I brew a cup, let it cool and splash it all over my face. After this I rinse with cool water and my skin feels fresh and ready to go. Another way you can use green tea is to simply grab your tea bag from your cup and dab it all over your face.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis): Aloe vera is amazingly hydrating to skin and also helps the skin to retain its own moisture. Aloe vera is my go-to moisturizer and I always have some on hand. It works really well because it is able to penetrate the skin and provides numerous healthy substances that help to keep skin flexible while oxygenating the cells. This helps our skin cells stay strong.
I keep several of these beautiful plants around my home and simply cut off a piece when I need some gel. You can also purchase high-quality gel without any additives to keep in your beauty bag. Just dab some of the gel on each morning and night to feed your skin.
Calendula extract (Calendula officinalis): Not only is calendula a beautiful flower from the marigold family, but the oil that is distilled from the flower tops is soothing to the skin. Calendula oil is an emollient and helps to moisturize dry skin. In addition, this oil contains carotenoids, which help to nourish and feed the skin, keeping it soft and supple.
If I have to spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun and wind, I always apply a little calendula oil to help revive my skin. I also use my homemade calendula wound salve on what seems like a daily basis as it is good for wounds, bites, rashes, eczema, etc. This is my favorite salve recipe — I mix it in big batches and keep it on hand.
Juniper oil (Juniperus communis): Another one of my favorite face washes is made with juniper oil. It improves circulation and also detoxifies the skin. It is a natural astringent and antiseptic.
Other natural things I love for my face
Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar balances pH and has natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties. In addition, it contains malic acid and lactic acid that help to exfoliate and soften skin. I mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and use a cotton ball to wipe over my face. I leave it on for about ten minutes and rinse with warm water.
Baking soda: Baking soda also balances the skin’s pH levels and helps if you have acne. It is considered a mild antiseptic and has anti-inflammatory properties that can calm the skin. I use baking soda as a gentle exfoliator. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to form a paste. Exfoliate in a circular motion and rinse with warm water.
Lemon juice: Lemon juice contains L-ascorbic acid, which works as a natural astringent to reduce excess oil and unclog pores. This inexpensive natural juice also helps to slough off dead skin cells. I always use fresh lemon juice, not the stuff in the bottle, because it has more helpful compounds.
I just squeeze the lemon juice into a little cup and moisten a cotton ball. I then wipe it over the affected area. If your skin is sensitive, dilute the juice with a little water. Leave the juice on for about 30 minutes, or even overnight, and rinse with warm water.
Avocado: I use fresh avocados in the winter to keep my skin supple. Moisturizing your skin with an avocado mask will make your face feel soft and refreshed. Using a food processor, purée one half of an avocado, then add a 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey and one teaspoon of olive oil or yogurt. Cleanse your face of any dirt, and then apply the mask evenly to your skin. Leave it on for approximately 30–40 minutes. Gently rinse and pat dry so that you don’t draw the moisture out with the towel.
Raw honey: Organic raw honey contains many wonderful properties. As mentioned above, it can be paired with avocado for a refreshing mask, or it can be used by itself to permeate and soothe the skin.
Simply apply the honey directly to problematic dry areas and gently massage it in. Once it has been applied, let it sit for 3–4 minutes before gently rinsing it off. You will have softer skin in no time.
Oatmeal: Oatmeal is actually used as an ingredient in many commercial beauty products and lotions. Once the oatmeal has been cooked and cooled, it can be used to promote healing by applying it to areas of sunburn or other irritations, such as a poison ivy rash.
Do you suffer from acne flare-ups? Cook some oatmeal and allow it to cool down to a lukewarm temperature; it can then be applied topically to problem skin areas. Let the concoction sit for 10–15 minutes before rinsing off with warm water. The oatmeal can help soak up excess oils and remove dead skin cells.
You can also rejuvenate and moisturize your skin in a luxurious oatmeal and milk bath. Start by running a warm bath, then add one to two cups of ground oatmeal and a cup of milk. Soak in the bathwater for at least 20 minutes to let your skin reap the full moisturizing benefits.
Coconut oil: The great thing about coconut oil is that it can replace moisture in the skin all by itself — right out of the jar with no prep work needed. You just open the lid and apply it wherever you have dry patches of skin. That being said, coconut oil also works great in conjunction with other natural ingredients. For a luxurious sugar scrub, mix a 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 cup of brown sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Next time your find yourself searching for the perfect skin rejuvenator, look to nature instead of your local drugstore. Your skin and your wallet will thank you.
— Susan Patterson
Susan is the Content Director at The Alternative Daily, a Certified Health Coach, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor and Master Gardener. With an extensive knowledge of whole foods and wellness, Susan enjoys educating others on how to live healthy and sustainable lives. She presently lives off grid in the middle of the New Mexican high desert with her three children and numerous animals.