Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Natural cosmetics and eclectic thoughts

Are you all bored with my raw desserts? I doubt this blog is ever going to have a clear focus, because it is a reflection of my thoughts and views on a healthy lifestyle. Well-being does not arise from fixing just a few aspects of your life, it requires a fundamental change in your mindset. As I have come to discover, even the smallest changes can snowball into great things. This change is by no means passive, but it is natural. Usually the first steps are the hardest, then you discover that you are already running. Finally, hopefully, you can inspire others to advance alongside you.

This blog is written by a scientist. I am skeptical, inquisitive and need reason to understand. As an example, for me it is not enough to read that aspartame is dangerous, I need to understand why (Please sign this petition against aspartame in infant antibiotics: ( For this reason, perhaps to my disadvantage, I find myself not believing in spiritual doctrines such as ayurvedic principles or Feng Shui. Although I do not mean to demean these philosophies in any way, they do not have a place in my blog for the time being.

I find it hard to say what this blog will be about and what I will not discuss. This is because I am going through huge changes in my life and it is difficult to predict where this is leading. Since this is my personal blog, I feel I can post about whatever seems interesting to me at the time. This post despite this long intro is about natural cosmetics. For me these changes all started from the moment I discovered I was pregnant. Like many expecting mothers, I wanted to be as healthy as possible and provide the best environment for my unborn child to grow and develop. I ate as healthy as I knew how and exercised. My food changed from low-calorie-carb-sugar (no sweeteners or MSG), to avoiding all additives and going organic. After she was born I have learned about raw foods, which really have brought my health to a new level. Before I was very ill very often, many times requiring hospitalization. I suffered from constant pain caused by chronic Lyme Disease (which the doctors initially misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia). The only way I could get through the day was horrible medication, which thankfully I stopped before pregnancy. Now, with this diet, all this is gone and I find that not only am I resilient to most infections, but if I ever feel like I might have caught something, my body fights it off immediately. This huge change has inspired me to limit my intake of dangerous chemicals from other sources as well.

Remember, that our skin is our largest organ. We absorb a large portion of the stuff we put on our skin, hair, lashes, lips etc. We even eat our lip sticks. Most store-bought cosmetics choose to hide their INCI (international list of ingredients), because it is unbelievable what can be found in them. The lists are miles long and even for a person who has studied years of chemistry in the university, they are difficult to understand. Here is a brief list of what I avoid when buying cosmetics:

- Sodium Laurenth/Lauryl Sulfate (SLS/SLES): skin irritation/corrosion, possibly harmful levels of the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane , environmentally hazardous, cannot be metabolized by the liver (possible cumulative effects in the long-run, liver damage)

- Parabens (Methyl-, Ethyl-, Butyl etc): effect hormone balance (estrogenic activity, increases risk of breastcancer), skin irritation and allergies. Used as preservatives because they inhibit microbial growth.

- Ethoxylated surfactants
("PEG", polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene): could contain carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.

- Formaldehyde: used also as embalming fluid, highly carcinogenic. also causes head aches.

- Silicone derivatives (Dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone): Blocks skin from getting enough oxygen. Non-biodegradable, which means they are environmentally unsafe.

I am still very new to natural cosmetics. Before I used to dye my hair bright red every 6 weeks, now I use henna and occasionally Herbatint (maybe 2-4 times/year). I am thinking of quitting the Herbatint though because it contains hydrogen peroxide. Probably just need to find the right type of henna mixture. Last time I used Macurth bright red henna with lemon juice and black tea. Next I will probably ditch the tea and add more citrus, like grapefruit juice. Any other suggestions?

Along with these changes I have made to my diet, not only have I opted for less toxic cosmetics, but also rethought what kind of make up I "need". I used to wear a fair bit of make up on my eyes, along with blush, foundation and powder. Now I have cut down to mascara, blush and powder. I find that I hardly need foundation these days because my skin is in great condition as it is. My self-esteem has also improved, which is why I don't think I need as much make up as I used to wear. I know I look just fine as I am, and I encourage you to find this confidence as well - it will make you shine so much stronger than any type of cosmetic product.

A new found natural product I have come to love is (pic is a link to where I bought it):

It's ingredients are: Silk powder, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, tapioca starch*, lauroyl lysine, mica, iron oxides. They also claim that this blush is "Made with natural ingredients from sustainable, agricultural sources. " Regardless, the color (mine is honey bronze) is amazing and natural. It blends well even without foundation, and enhances my glow.

I'm also currently using (and LOVING) this lip balm:INCI:
Octinoxate 6%, Benzophenone 3%, Titanium Dioxide .5%. Canola Oil*, Beeswax*, Lecithin*, Pineapple Fruit Extract*, Coconut Cream Flavor*, Vanilla Flavor*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Tocopherol, Royal Jelly, Propolis, Lysine.

Smells and even tastes good, of course I try not to eat any :) This is nice on occasion, I use it more as "gloss" to polish of a look.

I also ordered a number of new things to test:
Aubrey Organics Silken Earth Translucent base powder:
INCI: Silk powder, copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, tapioca starch*, lauroyl lysine, cinnamomum zeylanicum bark powder*, aloe barbadensis leaf*, oryza sativa (rice) starch, tocopherol, iron oxides, silica.

Tinted lip balm:
INCI: Active Ingredients: 7.5% Octinoxate, 6.0% Oxybenzone. Hydrogenated coconut oil, beeswax, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, mica, iron oxides, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, tocopherol and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), titanium dioxide, calendula officinalis flower and echinacea purpurea extracts, natural flavor and glycine soja (soybean) oil. Not Tested on Animals.

May contain: Mica, iron oxides, titanium dioxide.

AnneMarie Borlind Eyeliner pencil:
Hydrogenated jojoba oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, mangifera indica (mango) seed oil, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, glyceryl caprylate, copernica cerifera (carnauba) wax, macadamia ternifolia seed oil, tocopherol, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract, ascorbyl palmitate.

Does anyone know if Dr Hauschka mascara is any good? It seems to be hard to find one without any parabens or PEGs.

Very few of these ingredients are good, but most are harmless especially when only small amounts are used. From now on I will limit my daily make up to a touch of mascara (eyeliner for special occasions), blush, powder (if there is something to cover up) and tinted lip balm. This way I'll look polished enough for the office but also greatly reduce my exposure to harmful chemicals. I also have some organic eyeshadow, but I think I'll use it only for evening events.

At this moment I have no commercial ties anywhere, except an iherb discount code like everyone else. If you like, use the code BIQ066 for a 5 dollar discount off your first order. In the US, you can get free shipping for orders over 40 dollars, and Finns can get their package under 1,38kg to Finland in roughly 11 days for 4 dollars. There is also a -10% off all orders over 60 dollars valid until 31.12. I am not trying to promote iherb here, rather encourage those of you who think they cannot afford natural cosmetics.

I invite everyone to share recommendations and thoughts on natural cosmetics in the comment box! Especially links to affordable products are highly welcomed.

Edit: I almost ordered BWC (Beauty Without Cruelty) pressed powder, but then noticed that Aubrey Organics had my shade after all and seemed a much better product.

1,4-Dioxane Factsheet. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, February 1995.


HW said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I also struggle with the focus aspect as there are so many things you could emphasize, e.g. recipes vs. information - or both.

I especially like your blog and approach because of the scientific background you have. I am interested in healthy lifestyle, raw and organic food etc. but do not want to associate or tie them with Ayurvedic or New Age type of things either. Many bloggers in this "food scene" seem to be interested about these things also, but there are also many who aren't and I think your blog is nice just because there's not any this kind of a "philosophy" behind it.

Yaelian said...

A good posting Aletheia,and like HW above,I also like the fact that you have a scientific approach when you write about things.Most of the blogs don't have that, so that is what I like about your blog, because I am a sceptic too and have to find out everything before believing in something.
It is very good to hear that by changing your diet you were able to reverse the symptoms of an autoimmune disease.I too was wrongly diagnosed earlier this year (lupus)which I then did not have,thanks G-D;instead I had something much less severe and certainly eating the right way affects how you feel.
For the past few years I have also shifted to more ecological choices when it comes to cosmetics and skin products. Here we do have an abundance of companies producing natural,organic skin products and they are very good.My soap,shampoo, conditioner, skin creams etc. are all free of parabens and SLS.Part of make up products are not ,but as I finish one product I keep looking for an organic choice for that.

Aletheia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aletheia said...

HW, it really is challenging to choose what to write about when you discover new things daily. Although it is tempting to write content that intrigues other people and gets you more readers, it is still important to stay true to yourself- write precisely what you want, when you want to. Then again, it is also important to spread the word. Even if you think something is obvious, it may be news to someone else. Maybe we'll both manage this balance better after we get more experience with blogging :) Thank you for your positive words. I'm glad to hear you enjoy a more scientific approach to a healthy lifestyle, just when I was beginning to think I was the only one.

Yaelian, I did not have you pegged as a skeptic! It's nice to hear that you like my approach too. And what a great thing that it turned out you don't have lupus! My doctors initially thought I might have MS, so I have some idea what it feels like when doctors give a debilitating diagnosis.

I too am a firm believer of food as medicine - what it can't cure it can certainly help ease and manage. Regardless I still have respect for Western medicine, after all I work for one of the big players in the field. I could not do so if I didn't have faith in the company. My work contributes towards helping cure hundreds of children suffering from cancer every year.

You are so lucky to have those wonderful products and all locally! I am going through the same process as you are, I've tossed out the worst and using some until they end and will then replace them with better alternatives.

Paivi said...

I have experience of the Dr. Hauschka mascara, I bought it about a year ago. I must say that I loved the way it made my eyes look but the down side of it was that it got very easily smudged. If I rubbed my eyes or there was a slight rain or humidity I got the panda bear look (a bit exaggerated). During winter and especially these freezing minus degrees I could not wear it since I know the color would be on my cheeks immediately I went outside.
About natural cosmetics I would like to say that if and when you want to make the switch you really should buy all skin products natural since using one product that isn't natural could disrupt the functioning of other natural products. I used to use "normal" face wash with natural face moisturizer and ended up having unclear skin. Now that all my skin care products are natural my skin looks and feels great.

And I also agree with the others about that it's great and interesting that you have a scientific background and one of the reasons I'm reading your blog. So keep up the good work :)

Aletheia said...

What an informative comment, thank you Paivi! Sounds like I'll hold off the Dr Hauscka and continue my search for another one that meets my criteria. I'm glad you also shared the idea of not mixing organic with industrial cosmetics, it does make sense. It is an especially valid consideration for people suffering from skin issues. Fortunately my skin is doing well even though I am still using a few hypoallergenic products "from the past". They are all free of the listed chemicals though, maybe it is the reason I haven't had any interactions?

I'm pleased to hear you find my scientific education interesting and read my blog. I hope you continue to comment and share your knowledge in the future as well :)

Canada Guy said...

Cosmetics are clearly unnecessary and are produced by a massive and wasteful industry. We can choose to change our cultural values. After all, Natural is Green.

Aletheia said...

Canada Guy, I couldn't agree more. It would be amazing if they would just stop producing industrial cosmetics and everyone would start appreciating natural beauty. I find that this is however fairly unrealistic, and therefore it is clearly a step forward for every woman to think twice what they are putting on their skin. Both in terms of quantity and quality. Certainly moderate amounts of purely natural cosmetics (made of for example bee products, coconut oil and berry/herb extracts) have very a different impact on the environment than the commercial chemical cocktails.

Sarah Powell said...

Another great natural cosmetic company that is totally organic. I have been using their products for the last seven months-and now stopped!! Because my skin has naturally improved itself and I have seen a awful decline in the amount of scars on my face. I would recommend the herbal face cream. This is the cream I only used for seven months and now stopped because it naturally has improved my owns skins ability to heal itself and become flawless.

Dani said...

Being as green as possible is so important. There is a site that I love to shop at called Clean Spirited It sells all eco friendly products and has a green rating on each product to tell you how clean it is. They sell eco friendly organic apparel and bath and body products including lots of organic and natural skincare. One dollar from every order is donated to environmental causes. I love it!

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We all know that some people prioritized their beauty as the best asset and I heard that they are using the annemarie börlind which provides you a perfect beauty.

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