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The Green Life: Are Your Skin Care Products Toxic?

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June 25, 2013

Are Your Skin Care Products Toxic?

Question mark of beauty productsYou stand in the skin care aisle of the supermarket, confronted by a whirlwind of products touting natural ingredients. Which one do you choose?

From creams to soaps, nearly every product you buy for your skin care regimen can be made at home or substituted with an organic alternative. Here's our recipe for happy, glowing skin — without the toxic chemicals.

1) BE SUN SAVVY: We all know it's important to protect skin from sun damage. Wear a hat, use a bandana to cover you neck, and consider the benefits of using sunscreen. But choosing a sunscreen isn't as simple as it seems. Some products can contain chemicals that may be hazardous to your reproductive health. To help you understand the health risks and choose a safe an effective sunscreen, check out the Sierra Club's sunscreen fact sheet. Then consult the Environmental Working Group's 2013 Guide To Sunscreens to find the best brand for you and your family.

It is possible to make your own sunscreen if you are wary of using a commercial product. Most recipes call for the use of zinc oxide, an inorganic compound that sits on the surface of your skin (instead of being absorbed into your body), where it absorbs UVAs before they make it to your skin. 

Homemade soaps with lavender2) SWITCH BODY WASH FOR BAR SOAP: By making this switch you are already minimizing your environmental footprint. Avoid those plastic bottles and look for soap that has the least amount of packaging. Outside of making your own, the best option is to find local, organic bar soaps. If you're lucky, you might find them at your local farmer's market. Plus, by opting for natural soap, you can avoid substances like triclosan, a compound currently being reviewed by the FDA for possibly "alter(ing) hormone regulation."

3) DITCH THE POOF: A simple washcloth or a loofah makes a perfect substitute for those synthetic poofs. A natural loofah is biodegradable (made from a Vietnamese plant called luffa) and the uses of a washcloth are endless. If you can't bring yourself to part with the poof, make sure it is made from recycled materials or from bamboo.

4) EMBRACE MOISTURE: The easiest way to keep your skin happy is by drinking water and lots of it! Keep your BPA-free water bottle at arm's length at all times, and refill often. Topically, use oils or creams to help quench your skin's lust for moisture. Finding (and choosing) the right moisturizer is a relatively personal endeavor and dependent on your skin's proclivity for generating oil. That being said, what is best for your skin probably won't be found in the aisle at the supermarket.

Try making your own at home using jojoba oil or coconut oil. Aloe is also a great moisturizer as well. You're likely to find books on making your own creams at the library and a quick internet query will have you swimming in recipes. It's also important to note that what works well on your face won't necessarily work well on your body. 

Collection of mineral makeup and bamboo brushes5) FIND A NEW FOUNDATION: Your skin is an organ (the largest one you have) and every day it becomes clogged with dirt, pollen, oils, and dead skin cells. By using makeup, you are plastering an additional layer of (what your skin considers) gunk onto your face, preventing your skin from breathing. Substitute foundations and powders for an organic moisturizer (possibly even a tinted one) and your skin will thank you by looking more radiant than it ever could with the use of makeup. If you just can't do without, try to buy organic, cruelty-free makeup


--Image by iStockphoto/K-i-T

--Image by iStockphoto/amdezigns

--Image by iStockphoto/slowcentury

Christine Coester is an editorial intern at Sierra. A fan of flora and fauna, she has a passion for conservation and environmental stewardship. Currently a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, she is studying journalism with the hopes of making the world a better and greener place.


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