Monday, September 13, 2010

Mineral Makeup

You may have noticed in recent years the words "mineral" popping up in the makeup aisle. A mineral makeup is a great option if you're looking for a natural change. But as always, check the label and be sure it's truly all-mineral. Typical and good-for-you minerals include mica, zinc oxides, titanium dioxide and iron oxides.

A pure mineral makeup does not require any additional preservatives or chemicals since there is nothing in the formula that can "go bad". But some products include essential oils, plant extracts, vitamins and antioxidants to provide additional benefits to your skin, which may require a preservative, so check to be sure they haven't snuck in a paraben or anything else you want to avoid.

Two main ingredients to look out for particularly in mineral makeup are talc and bismuth oxychloride. Technically, bismuth oxychloride is minerally derived, but is not naturally occurring (it's a by- product of lead and copper processing). It's also a skin irritant and if overused can cause cystic acne. It's used to bulk up the product, a filler. So you get less of what you want, and more of what you don't. Talc is a mineral from crushed talc rock, and while only the purest form is supposedly allowed for use in cosmetics, there is still concern about links to lung and ovarian cancer. This risk comes when anything less than "pure talc" makes it into cosmetics. Talc rock naturally contains traces of asbestos. Cosmetic-grade talc is supposed to be purified of any asbestos, but as a consumer, you can't know for sure.

Many people are also concerned about nanoparticles - when minerals such as zinc oxide are broken down into microscopic size. When applied to healthy skin, nanoparticles are perfectly safe, resting on the surface and providing the added benefit of sunscreen. But at such a small size, the metals are able to be absorbed into the blood stream, particularly through damaged skin. There is also concern about nanoparticle metals and inhalation. That is going to happen with a mineral powder, so look for mineral products that note they are nanoparticle-free or nanotechnology free. A good thing to keep in mind when looking at sunscreens too... Ah!! Will it ever end!!! Personally, I would take a nano-zinc oxide sunscreen over a chemical sunscreen anyday.

So, that being said, here are a couple companies to consider that offer an awesome range of mineral makeup products at reasonable and even great prices. They both offer inexpensive or even free tester kits so you can find what colours and tones work best with your skin.

Erth Minerals - - This company got it right. Completely awesome with every item you could need, samples and money back guarantee. They also offer a line of organic skin care products at great prices. - You have to check these guys out, just for their fun designs! Across the board 5 stars, nano-free, chemical-free, organic, vegan, sourced and made in Austin, TX. They also offer free samples and great discounts.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


One of the hardest things for me when going natural was confronting the oil-a-phobe in me and allowing products with oil to be put on my face. As someone who is prone to breakouts, I was a committed "oil-free" facial product user. It was a good move at the time, since most products use mineral oils like paraffin and petrolatum. "Oil-free" on the label usually meant those weren't in the mix. The reason mineral oils will clog your pores is because they tend to solidify as they settle on your skin. They also don't absorb and rather sit on top of  your skin creating a waxy layer that blocks your pores and doesn't allow them to breathe and release toxins as they should.

What I didn't know, and was so happy to learn, is natural oils act very differently. They remain in a liquid state (save a few heavier oils) and are absorbed directly into the skin, allowing it to breathe and actively nourishing it with beneficial vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Some oils, such as olive (extra virgin), jojoba, sweet almond, and mandarin actually have cleansing properties, and many others include benefits such as wrinkle-reducing, cell renewal, toning, brightening, sun filtering, anti-inflammatory.... and the list goes on and on. My skin is definitely clearer, softer and brighter since making the switch. If you are concerned with breakouts, avoid using moisturizers with avocado and coconut oil on your face. They do wonders for the lips and body, but can potentially be too heavy for the face for those with acne-prone skin. Coconut oil specifically is a solid at room temperature and will block facial pores if used too heavily.

The bonus of natural plant oils is they are biodegradable and completely consumable, so you know the 60% being absorbed into your body is only going on to have added therapeutic effects.

Some tips on moisturizing:

Always apply your moisturizer immediately after cleansing and toning to allow the plant oils to trap moisture in the skin. This is especially important as we age, as the collagen and elastin fibers in our skin are less able to hold onto moisture.

If you have oily skin, don't overwash your skin (more than 2-3 times a day), it encourages additional oil production. Also avoid over-moisturizing, especially on skin that hasn't been cleansed first. This is an easy way to trap dirt and other pore clogging particles.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And a few more for the sun...

Really quick, some more sun options and better prices. My sister mentioned they use Banana Boat, which I have in the past too, and I know a lot of people do because of the awesome price for the giant sized tube, but unfortunately, that tube is packed with pretty much everything I listed in my first skin post. Bad for the environment, for your skin and eyes, for your hormones... But works great! It's a tradeoff. I don't think you'll find it cheaper than that, but here are some options that aren't too much more, and considering your health, well worth the few extra $:

Loving Naturals - 5 oz $9.39 - Great reviews, long-lasting, not thick or greasy, light natural smell

Nature's Gate Sunscreen - you can get a 3 pack (12 oz. total) for $26.70 at Amazon, or they're $8.99 each. Also great reviews for the Aqua Block  -  it's hard to find all natural block that will stay on during water sports, but several people swore by this as being long lasting and great in the water. Also light and non-greasy.

Goddess Garden - 6 oz $17.99 - Excellent reviews, not greasy, very effective and long-lasting. Some mentioned it needs to be rubbed in well, but is invisible after that.

Soleo Organics - 5.3 oz $23.92 - A little more expensive, and tube needs to be squeezed around a bit to mix up before use, but other than that people love it.

Alba Botanica - 4 oz $8.74 - This product had great reviews, and the price is pretty good, but it does have one ingredient to avoid - dimethicone, which is a non-biodegradable emollient. All the other ingredients are great. Compared to a lot of other sunscreen options it's far and above better for you, so I wouldn't rule it out.

I've linked the titles to their company websites, where you can buy most of the product, but you can also find them at Amazon at good prices, and I'm sure in stores too. What I love about Amazon are the reviews you can read, which helps a ton when considering a new product. Anyway, there you go!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sun Options

I've had a few people write in about sunscreen and wanted to do a quick update with some recommendations. While there are surely many more options than I will post here, these are just a few that I've found at good prices.

I mentioned Invisible Zinc, which is an Australian based company. It's easy to find in Australia, but has only recently been introduced to the US in May, so may be harder to find there. They do ship overseas, and you can buy it on Amazon, but it's a bit expensive still. $20-$30 for SPF 30 sunblock, and $37 for the daily tinted moisturizer with SPF 30.

Another great daily skin care option, that we've used, for our Aussi-based friends, is Dermorganics. You can find it at chemists that like to stock natural products. They have great products- free from silicas, parabens and all the bad stuff, and excellent prices too. They have daily facial moisturizer with SPF 15 (Zinc Oxide). It's a neutral scent so great for men and women.

Available in both the US and Australia, is Burt's Bees, which I also mentioned below. They have not only body sunscreen up to SPF 30, but also a daily moisturizer called 'Radiance Day Lotion' with SPF 15 (Zinc Oxide). It's priced between $10 and $18 in the US, but probably a bit more in Aussi. The reviews for it have been great, I'm definitely going to give it a try! Did I mention I LOVE Burt's Bees???

Badger Balm - Available in the US and Australia, they have great prices, all natural goodness and have a range of sunblock at about $14 a bottle. Sorry, no daily facial skin care product though.

A few other US based body sunscreens I think are worth checking out are:

Smart Girls who Surf - This Laguna-based company looks like they know their stuff and have some great beach worthy products that are biodegradable and chemical free. They have stuff for guys too and also offer a daily tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 ($28.99). SPF 15 and 30 are $14.99 a bottle, SPF 32 face stick for $12.99, lip balm SPF 15 $3.99. They also support some great organizations and donate product locally, so definitely worth checking out.

MelanSol - This website looks a bit flashy, which usually turns me off, but their product is completely free of any chemicals, is biodegradable so great for the beach, lake or pool and is packed with lots of great botanicals to nourish your skin while protecting it from the sun. It's a bit more expensive - $20-$30 for a 6 oz bottle. I haven't tried it personally, but thought it looks good.

There are bunches more, but there's a few for now! If none of these interest you, I recommend going to your nearest health food store and seeing what they carry there. Just be sure to check the labels! 'All natural' and even 'Organic' don't necessarily mean they're free of harmful chemicals.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Skin Food For Thought

Did you know your skin absorbs 60% of what you put on it?
I have been wanting to write this post for a while, hoping to pass on some of the things I've learned over the last year or two about what we put on our skin. I started thinking about it initially because I was hoping to make some changes in my life to eliminate unwanted exposure to chemicals and toxins that often come in surprisingly appealing packages. I was particularly aware that in the upcoming years I would want to have a baby and wanted to give him or her the best growing environment possible! I also wanted to be sure not to use lotions and washes on them that could be potentially harmful. These reasons spurred the idea of creating my own botanically-based all natural products.
I knew it would require a lot of research before I could even begin to formulate. I needed to understand what all those complicated words on the ingredients list actually meant. You'd be surprised, a few things that sound like potentially hazardous chemicals are actually natural! Tocopherol Acetate, for example, is just the chemical name for Vitamin E. But more often than not, they are harmful chemicals, usually found at the end of the list where ingredients of lesser quantity are found, such as preservatives.  I put a list at the end of this post of things to steer clear of.
I also wanted to know more about botanicals and what they can do, and wow! You would think it would be a finite list of general benefits that come from generally healthy foods and herbs. But I found that each plant/flower/fruit/or seed has it's own unique benefits to offer. Just a few examples:

Raspberry oil - a natural sunscreen
Yucca extract - combats hair loss
White Tea extract - powerful anti-ageing properties
Hemp Oil - especially effective for healing dry scalp or dandruff
Pineapple and Kiwi - non-abrasive exfoliants. Both have enzymes that break down dead skin cells.

I studied a number of natural product companies that I admire, researched their ingredient lists for all kinds of products, their philosophy and ingredient sourcing. A few companies I found especially admirable for their across the board commitment to not only great natural ingredients, but also eco-friendly packaging, and supporting fair-trade communities are: AvedaOriginsAesop, and Burt's BeesI also was disappointed to discover that several shops I knew to have great lotions that boasted wonderfully natural ingredients were actually full of all the things I am now trying to avoid. I was so sad to walk into The Body Shop - who make a big deal about their natural ingredients, only to find parabens and silicas galore on all the ingredient lists. I hope they start transitioning because I love, love, love their coconut body butter!
I also found the most amazing natural skin care products in New Zealand. Aveda and Origins are incredible, but also expensive. I do think some of these companies ship overseas though, so if you're interested, have a look at these: Tebe and Olive, Pure Source, and Wild Ferns.
Suncare - You have to have sunscreen. This presents a problem. A hat only goes so far and especially if you're at the pool, the beach, or working outside, a good cream is important. But studies are showing that the common chemical sunscreens used in nearly all sunscreen products, while blocking the sun, are actually powerful free-radical generators which leads to aging and cancer initiation. They are also estrogen mimics which can cause a host of trouble. Luckily PABA, the worst offender, has been removed from products, but most still contain one or more of these - Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)Cinnamates (including octocrylene)Salicylates, and Avobenzone. The EU has banned the use of most of these chemical sunscreens, but they are still used widely in the US. Zinc Oxide is a completely natural, physical sunblock that works, but it's not very attractive.  You've all seen the guy with the blue nose at the beach. However this excellent company has developed a zinc-based natural sunscreen and moisturizer line that is transparent. Great for the pool, the beach, and they even have daily sunblocking moisturizers with a light tint. As an added benefit, Zinc oxide does a far better job at blocking UVA rays than chemical blocks. I recommend checking it out: It can't hurt to look for other "invisible zinc" products too. This is the original, but other companies are picking up on it.

I suppose I could write a book, or maybe start a separate blog, but I just wanted to get my family and friends thinking about it if nothing else. It's one thing to say, hey, don't use that, and quite another to offer a great alternative. I expected natural products to be far less superior in performance than my usual things. But I've found it to be the opposite. My skin has been noticeably healthier and much less prone to blemishes since switching to all-natural skin products. And it took a while to make the full conversion. It costs too much to buy everything at once. I had some great advice from a woman in Taupo, New Zealand. She said, start with changing the more important things - like your daily moisturizer and cleanser or even lip balm. Things your skin is exposed to the most often. Then gradually replace other things as they run out and you have to get something new anyway.

When I get my own line started I'll let you know :) In the meantime, if you want any more info, or want product recommendations, please send me a note!
Things to avoid and look for instead:

Parabens - (methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethyl- parabens) are very common preservatives found in skin care products. Although they are found in nature they are hormonal mimics and disrupt hormonal levels. They also contribute to increased tumor growth. There are many natural alternatives to use, and I've noticed many companies are starting to incorporate them and label their products as "paraben free". Look for natural preservatives like Linalool, Limonene, Citronellol, rosemary leaf extract and grapefruit seed extract.

Mineral Oil - Minerals are great, mineral oil, not so great. Most high-end cosmetics use mineral oils such as paraffin and petrolatum as moisturizing agents because they are cheap and chemically stable. Mineral oils simply coat the skin, rather than absorbing, which keeps the skin from breathing and also leads to clogged pores. They are also petroleum based, so avoiding them not only is better for your skin, but as a side bonus means you aren't feeding the oil industry.

Silicas - Methicone and dimethicone (really anything with -icone) are synthetic emollients which, like mineral oils, inhibit the skin's ability to release toxins and are also non-biodegradable and potentially toxic.

SLS and SLES - Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is widely used in skin care products because it produces a rich foam and is inexpensive to make. Unfortunately it's a major irritant, it breaks down proteins and can cause skin and eye damage. It is also easily absorbed through skin into the bloodstream, where it can cause more damage. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is less irritating, but carcinogenic. Not only this, but a by-product of its manufacture is Dioxane, a major environmental toxin, which comes back to hit us a second time, most likely through food consumption.