Simple, Natural Makeup: Safe Cosmetics and What to Avoid

by Kate on February 3, 2013

in Healthy Living, Natural Beauty, Simple Living, Skin Care, Women's Health

7-half-moon-brushAlthough I’m a big advocated for wearing minimal or no makeup on a day to day basis, sometimes you just need the added confidence and mood lift that a little bit of beauty in a box can give you. Unfortunately, simple, natural makeup can be hard to come by. Many cosmetics contain ingredients that are suspected carcinogens, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and other toxic ingredients. Cosmetic companies often explain that the small amounts of these ingredients their products contain are not toxic at such low levels.  That said, where there’s reasonable doubt about an ingredient that’s easy to avoid, it seems pretty senseless not to take some precautionary steps. When searching for simple and safe cosmetics, it’s important to be familiar with some of these common questionable ingredients so you can check the labels and know what to avoid.  Here’s brief list of ingredients it’s best to avoid:

  1. Parabens: Found in many cosmetics, creams, lotions, shampoos, and more. Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen and bind to estrogen receptor sites on cells, thereby disrupting normal hormone functions (which can contribute to breast cancer, and other negative hormonal effects). Most commonly listed as: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Cosmetics companies put them in their products to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
  2. Phthalates: Many studies have found that phthalates disrupt normal hormone activity.  Many cosmetics contain phthalates but do not list them as an ingredient. Why? Because they are often found in fragrances in cosmetics, and they can be added to fragrances without requiring disclosure. So it’s best to avoid fragrances in your cosmetics.
  3. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and Ethoxylated Compounds: Ingredients like PEG and any ingredient with “eth” in the spelling is processed using ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen.
  4. Petrolatum: A derivative of petroleum, found in many lip balms, lotions, and creams. May contain polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
  5. Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen. Would likely be listed as  Formallin, Quanternium-15, or DMDM hydantoin. Found in  makeup, shampoo, lotions, nail polishes, nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps, and deodorants and hair straightening treatments.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. These are just some of the most common offenders. That said, rather than check every item on a long label to see if it might potentially be harmful, I think it’s best to just try to find products with minimal ingredients. The fewer the ingredients, the less you’ll need to research. Here are a few of my favorite cosmetic brands, which tend to contain a small number of reasonably safe ingredients. Mineral makeup is generally a good way to go–just make sure your mineral makeup is formulated without nanoparticles (particles so small they may penetrate skin too easily, making a safe ingredient become potentially toxic) or a ton of additive ingredients. Generally mineral makeup will include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mica, iron oxides, and possibly boron nitride. So long as no nanoparticles are used, these ingredients are generally considered safe. That said, many mineral makeup brands include a whole host of other added ingredients, so you’ll want to check the label.

Face, Cheeks, Eyes: Mineral Makeup (Foundation, Blush, Eyeshadow)

Alima Pure Cosmetics: No nanoparticles, and most of their products contain no more than 4 ingredients (usually zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mica, and iron oxides). They also have a huge range of color options so you’re sure to find a shade that perfectly matches your skin. They even sell $1.50 samples of all their foundations so you can find the right shade. When I’ve compared mineral makeup brands out there I haven’t been able to find another that has the same purity of ingredients and wide range of color options for such a reasonable price ($25 for a .24 oz size).

Rejuva Minerals: They use no nanoparticles, no GMOs, and their products are gluten free. In fact, their products don’t even use titanium dioxide or mica (which are generally considered safe, but there’s little research to show what damage they may cause in nano particle form). Their powders contain Boron Nitride (which has in some cases been found to help acne), kaolinite (clay), rice powder, iron oxides, and generally a couple other fruit extracts. I’ve been wanting to try this foundation for a while now, but I’ve been really happy with my Alima Pure, so I just haven’t made the leap. Rejuva has this nice “trial size” for about $10 that’s large enough to use for a couple months to see if you like the color and make sure it doesn’t cause any reactions. In any case, I’ll most likely try it soon and include a review when I do.

Lips (Coconut Oil, or Natural Lip Balms)

I don’t recommend using much on your lips. Most lipsticks, glosses, and even lip balms contain ingredients that actually de-hydrate your lips and make them look worse over time. Plus while your skin absorbs (to a degree) any ingredients you put on your face,  you may actually swallow anything you put on your lips you, so you definitely want to be careful. If all you want is a little moisture, try coconut oil. It’ll add sheen and moisture without the stripping effects of lip balm. If you do want color, then try to find a tinted lip balm comprised entirely of oils, minerals, and natural extracts. Any natural foods store will sell these, but I’m a big fan of this Hurraw! Tinted lip balm in Black Cherry.

Anybody else have any recommendations for natural makeup ideas? I’d love to hear some homemade recipes too!

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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