Ever since my cancer wake-up call, I started looking very carefully into the ingredients of every product that my body comes in contact with, be in from the inside or the outside. Skincare and beauty products are no exception. I’ve been searching for non-toxic foundation, non-toxic mascara, and other safe cosmetics and I’ve settled on the ones that are clean, effective, and beautiful. Here is the round-up of my favorites.
Why is it important to check ingredients in cosmetics?
Before I go into specifics, let’s delve into the question of why is it so important to switch to cleaner and safer beauty. One partial answer is pretty obvious: our skin is our largest organ and anything we put onto it, sinks into the skin at least partially and enters our bloodstream.
Additionally, it is crucial to realize that the practices of cosmetics manufacturers and the regulations imposed on them are not on the side of the consumer. Here are the two most alarming facts:
- In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration does not even require the most fundamental, basic safety testing of ingredients in personal care products before they are used.
- While the European Union has banned close to 1500 ingredients from skincare and beauty products, the United States has banned only under 40 such ingredients.
Products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 percent organic ingredients by weight or volume.EWG Skin Deep Database
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To find safer beauty, it’s best to research the claims that various cosmetic brands are making. Saying that lipstick is natural or even organic without an actual certification to prove that claim does not amount to much unless you are really sure that the claim is backed by data or you can trust the producer. Maybe your friend makes natural lipsticks and you know for sure that she is using only organic ingredients to make them.
I make my own skincare and I make sure that every ingredient comes from a reputable source. Before I can claim that my finished serum is organic, I make sure that the vast majority (upwards of 80%) of the ingredients that go into the product are certified organic. But, short of such trust, we need to find the data.
Luckily, we do not have to have a degree in chemistry and a lab at our disposal to find out. The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful tool called The Skin Deep Database which scores skincare and makeup products on a scale from 1-10 based on the ingredients and manufacturing practices. The lower the number, the safer the product. The scores 1-3 get also a green, 4-6 get a yellow, and anything above gets a red score.
The truly safe beauty products are actually EWG verified which means they got a stamp of approval because there is absolutely nothing worrisome about the product and it can be used safely.
When you see the EWG VERIFIED™ mark on a product, you will know that the product meets EWG’s strictest criteria for transparency and health.EWG
My switch to toxin-free makeup and skincare
Some chemicals in make-up and skincare can lead to a whole slew of problems ranging from mild allergies all the way to cancer. Here are some of the most crucial concerns when it comes to toxic cosmetics:
- Developmental and reproductive toxicity
- Allergies and immunotoxicity
- Endocrine disruption
- Organ system toxicity
- Persistence and bioaccumulation
People are exposed to cosmetics ingredients in many ways: breathing in sprays and powders, swallowing chemicals on the lips or hands or absorbing them through the skin. Biomonitoring studies have found that cosmetics ingredients – such as phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks and sunscreen ingredients – are common pollutants in the bodies of men, women and children.Skin Deep Myths
At the outset of my cancer battle, I realized that it won’t be enough to just rely on the medical treatments and then hope that things will just be back to normal. I knew that many things might have contributed to me developing cancer: genetics, nutrition, exposure to toxins, exposure to radiation (Tschernobyl), and stress.
I realized quickly that getting back to the same lifestyle I lived prior to being diagnosed would probably lead me to a recurrence of cancer. So, it was time to change. You can read more about all the changes I implemented since the beginning of my cancer journey here. One of them was detox and one of the biggest parts of it was the switch to exclusively clean cosmetics. I researched which ingredients are the most toxic and these were the first to remove from anything my skin would come in contact with.
The most toxic chemicals to avoid
Here are the main ones to avoid at all cost:
Boric acid and sodium borate
These chemicals can disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system. Both the EU and Canada restrict these ingredients in body care products but there are no similar safety standards are in place in the U.S.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
The National Toxicology Program classifies BHA as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage; causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas; and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels.
This preservative is classified as a “known human carcinogen” by the International Agency on Research on Cancer.
Formaldehyde releasers (Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and quaternium-15)
Cosmetics preservatives – widely used in U.S. products.- are known human carcinogens and can also trigger allergic skin reactions.
Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Research from EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products, and none of them was listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top five allergens in the world.
Fragrance may include any number of the industry’s 3,100 stock chemicals (IFRA 2010), none of which is required to be listed on labels. Tests of fragrance ingredients have found an average of 14 hidden compounds per formulation, including ingredients linked to hormone disruption and sperm damage.EWG Website
These chemicals help fragrances last longer and are used to keep products (nail polishes, hair sprays) pliable. You’ll find them on an ingredient list abbreviated as DEP, BBzP, DBP, and DEHP. They are linked to a slew of health issues.
Where there is the vague ingredient fragrance, there are phthalates—most of the time, anyway. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive and hormonal harm in children and men. Some studies have linked phthalate exposure to obesity, type 2 diabetes, reduced sperm count, breast cancers, reproductive malformation, infertility, and cardiovascular events.Harper’s Bazaar
Methylisothiazolinone (MI/MIT), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) and benzisothiazolinone (BIT):
Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber, found in the bodies of nearly all Americans, and linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies.
Parabens (specifically propyl-, butyl-, isopropyl-, and isobutyl- parabens)
Parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics and have been detected in virtually all Americans. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, certain parabens (propyl-, butyl-, isopropyl-, and isobutyl-), may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.
PEGs and ceteareth
These synthetic chemicals – used in a variety of cleaning products and some cosmetics – are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which can penetrate the skin and is considered a probable human carcinogen.
Petroleum-extracted cosmetics ingredients may cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities.
Triclosan and triclocarban
Widely used in toothpaste and deodorant, and linked to endocrine disruption, possibly disrupting thyroid function and proper functioning of reproductive hormones. They are also very toxic to the aquatic environment.
Toxin-free makeup brands
As you can see, there are many dangers lurking in the mainstream cosmetics, skin and body care products and household cleaners. I make my own skin and body care which I know is safe for me and my family. But I still want to wear make-up occasionally, and I want it to make me look good and glamorous. For that, I need clean, green, and safe beauty. And here are my choices.
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Best non-toxic foundation
When looking for a great non-toxic foundation I want it to deliver as both: makeup and skincare. And, with the clean beauty brands, it is actually possible! Kosas is a relatively new brand on the safer beauty market, it is Leaping Bunny certified, and it claims their line is “quick, active, clean beauty that works the way you want it to.”
Kosas entire line of makeup is vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free. Everything is formulated without mineral oil, talc, silicones, fragrance, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
For medium coverage, I love Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation (it comes in 16 shades)
Everything inside this product does something great for your skin. The breathable, silky-clean formula features 15 skin-nourishing ingredients that moisturize, soothe and protect.Kosas Website
Wonderfully creamy, this foundation feels more like a serum that makeup. It’s light but buildable, it feels great on the skin, and it makes the face look polished and glamorously evened out. Its top ingredients are the skin-loving oils of avocado, red raspberry, meadowfoam, jojoba, camellia, and rosehip seed, and there are zero nasties added. What a treat!
For even fuller coverage, I opt for Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation SPF 15. It has a very light, mousse-like texture and it glides on, covering dark spots, redness, and imperfections and smoothing over the appearance of pores and fine lines. It has a more matte finish and also controls sebum production. Available in 34 shades and formulated without parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate.
Best non-toxic concealer
For these pesky dark circles and occasional imperfection, I need a nice creamy concealer. Here, I found that the Milk Makeup Flex Concealer delivers best. It offers medium to full coverage, and it’s infused with blue lotus to moisturize and chamomile to help calm redness and soothe skin. Available in 24 shades. Great staying power, no caking, nourishing.
Best non-toxic blush and highlighter
Back to Kosas. This is actually how I discovered the brand. They make these amazing sets of two types of blush/highlighter sets: creamy and pressed powder. Of course I had to try both and I settled on these two kinds:
- The cream blush/highlighter duo has apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, and rosehip seed oil to soothe and nourish while imparting this wonderful glow to the cheeks.
- The pressed powder set has natural mineral micas for color as well as several botanical extracts (rosemary, honeysuckle, sunflowers and rice bran) and nourishing oils of jojoba seed and moringa seed. The shades are beautiful. The one I got impaired the bronze, sun-kissed hue to my cheek for that California Girl look all year around. Love at first application!
Best non-toxic mascara
Ever since I rebuilt my lashes with the help of the amazing Eyelash Growth serum by Hello Lash, all I need is a non-smudging, slightly volumizing mascara. I also want my mascara to continue the good work of conditioning my lashes rather than assaulting them with harmful chemicals.
Milk’s Kush High-Volume Mascara delivers beautifully. The mascara is vegan, talc-free, cruelty-free, and paraben-free. According to the company website, “plant-derived oils fuse heart-shaped fibers to lashes for thickness without the fallout. … Tapered, tree-shaped brush with criss-cross bristles coats and lifts every single lash from root to tip for a defined, clump-free effect.”
Because the mascara is buildable, you can go for a casual or a truly dramatic look. It doesn’t clump and it feels very nourishing on the lashes.
When it comes to eyes, I also love the Milk Fiber Brow Gel. It also features the buildable fibers that add to the sparse eyebrows. Again, you can go for light effect, just adding a bit of shape to the brows. Or you can layer more for a dramatic look. Either way, the brows look and feel happy, and very natural. The gel comes in 11 shades so it’s easy to find that perfect match for your hair color.
Best natural eyeshadow
I do not use much of eyeshadow, but if I do, I also want it to not be harmful to my eyes and the delicate area around the eyes. Staying power is important too. Primal Life Organics Eye Shadows do deliver just that!
Unlike other eye shadows that are loaded with chemicals and toxins, these little gems are made up with nourishing clays and vitamin-rich ingredients like arrowroot, cranberry and beetroot. They come in beautiful colors as you can see in this picture. My faves are Charcoal for a dramatic cat eye and Lilac for a more romantic, whimsical look.
Best non-toxic lipstick
I used to be a fan of Chanel lipsticks, but no more, and I’m not really sad about it. Not even a bit. I can only recommend the amazing full coverage Kosas Weightless Lip Color Lipsticks.
The pigment is unbeatable, and the staying power is amazing. The lipsticks are semi-matte but feel super creamy. Here are the two I love: the lighter, nude one (Vegas) for the day; and the deeper, rose-peachy tone (Stardust) for the evening wear. Love!
Kosas lipsticks come in 11 wonderfully creamy shades, there is surely one or more for anyone amongst them.
Clean, Green Brushes
All the goodness of clean makeup can be a game changer for the skin. As you can see, these products deliver not only beauty and glam looks, but also the nourishment and continuous improvement of the skin. In oder to get most benefits, it’s also crucial to add natural applicators and brushes. I use and love the brush set from Primal Life Organics.
All brushes are made from only best materials, like “sustainable bamboo handles, recycled aluminum ferrules and cruelty-free, all vegan, amazingly soft synthetic Taklon bristles.Primal Life Organics
To sum up, every time I put something on my face, I want to feel good about it, not guilty or worried about potential side-effect or even long-term effects of the toxins penetrating my skin. The make-up I use is both beautifying as make-up and nourishing as skincare. This is the best of the two worlds. Glam and safety, we can have it all!