8 Eco-Friendly Beauty Tips
Concerned about safety and the environment, many women are embracing
For most women, the term natural beauty might seem like something of a misnomer. After all, women spend an estimated $200 billion annually on cosmetics—substances that are specially designed to beautify, promote attractiveness, or alter appearance, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That figure hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement for embracing the natural look.
Increasingly, though, concerns about the safety of standard cosmetics and the impact they may have on the environment have prompted consumers to seek out eco-friendly alternatives. In fact, according to the U.S. Market for Natural Personal Care Products, the natural and organic cosmetics market is expected to reach $5.8 billion this year—an average growth rate of about 9 percent a year since 2003.
Want to start going green with your beauty regimen? Follow these eight easy guidelines.
1. Make it yourself.
One of the easiest and most rewarding ways to go green is to create your own beauty products. And in many cases, you'll find all the ingredients you need right in your own refrigerator or cupboards. For an easy at-home facial mask, combine one tablespoon of yogurt with a teaspoon of honey, apply, and remove after 15 minutes. For a brightening hair rinse, mix one egg with a tablespoon of olive oil and a quarter of peeled cucumber; let sit for 10 minutes, and rinse.
2. Conserve, conserve, conserve.
It may sound simple, but by making minor changes to your daily beauty regimen, you can conserve natural resources. When showering or washing your hair, be conscious of the amount of water you use, and consider investing in a low-flow showerhead. Instead of using standard incandescent light bulbs when applying your makeup, switch to compact fluorescent bulbs—they use two-thirds less energy and last 10 times longer.
3. Reuse and recycle.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 2 billion disposable razors wind up in landfills every year. To minimize the impact on the environment, choose a razor that allows you to change the blades (instead of regularly tossing a plastic, non-biodegradable razor into the trash) or better yet, invest in an electric razor. In addition, consider switching to recycled plastic bags for makeup storage and recycled toilet paper for makeup removal.
4. Don't be cruel.
While many cosmetics companies have adopted cruelty-free policies, there are still brands that regularly test on animals. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the safety testing of chemicals and consumer products currently accounts for about 10 percent to 20 percent of the use of animals in laboratories, or approximately 2 to 4 million animals in the United States. For more information on which brands and products test on animals, visit the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) online.
5. Learn the language.
Currently, cosmetics companies aren't required to meet any formal standards to use the term natural on their labels. For that reason, many critics claim that the natural-cosmetics market is just a pretty marketing ploy. The term organic, however, is regulated by the USDA's National Organic Program and may only appear on products that conform to manufacturing regulations established by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). For more information on organic standards, visit the NOSB's website.
6. Beware of parabens.
Most natural beauty gurus urge consumers to watch out for parabens, which some experts believe may disrupt hormone function and contribute to breast cancer. These are most often found in shampoos, shower gels, shaving creams, and lotions, and are usually listed on labels as methylparaben, ethylparaben, p-propylparaben, isobutylparaben, n-butylparaben, or benzylparaben.
7. Ditch the DBP.
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) has long been a staple in nail polish, hairspray, and sunscreen. But in recent years, studies have linked DBP to cancer in lab animals and to fetal-development problems, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. As such, many brands have started removing DBP from their products. Some cosmetics, however, still contain the ingredient, so be sure to look at the label.
8. Read the finer print.
In addition to parabens and DBP, there are several controversial ingredients that are prompting some women to think twice about their purchases. Although study findings have been mixed, most consumer advocate groups encourage consumers to research the health effects of aluminum, petroleum, sulfates, nitrates, and propylene glycol. As always, it's best to talk to your doctor about any safety concerns you may have.