When I was in my early twenties, I went through a period of time where I was very vigilant about the strict use of green skin care, hair care, and body care products. I changed my whole routine around age 19 to reflect a more natural approach to self-care as the result of reading up on the pervasiveness of weird, unregulated petrochemicals in the things we slather on our bodies. I feel like I tried to change nearly everything in my home, all the way down to what kind of toilet bowl cleaner I used (and the buck stopped there; I hate to say that natural is not the way to go when cleaning the porcelain throne).
However, please note that there are still plenty of non-natural products that I’ve tried, loved, and continued to use alongside my natural ones. I’m never a fan of being pharisaical when it comes to “greenifying” your life. You’re not a brainwashed sheep if use a drugstore shampoo and really love it, or if you eat a fast food cheeseburger and really love it. There’s no need to condemn or talk down at others for the way they eat or clean their homes, or assume that you’ve done the “right research”, read the truly accurate websites, and have been given special revelation. Simply educate yourself, encourage others in love to do the same, and understand that we’re all trying to do our best.
My hair and skin both benefitted greatly from a few years of dedicated green treatment. The excellent condition my hair and skin were in on my wedding day was, for the most part, owed to a routine that consisted almost entirely of products found at Whole Foods or any other natural grocer found near by. I still use many, many of these products today, years after initially having discovered them. Below, I present you with a list of my very favorite green beauty products from almost ten years of trial and error (and the most expensive one is $32).
Shampoo- Rahua shampoo
This product is expensive, but it lasts me a very long time and I admit that I’m willing to spend a bit more on my hair (and it ultimately helps preserve my color, which cuts down on salon expenses throughout the year). This shampoo doesn’t lather the way most shampoos do, mostly because there’s really no detergent in it (and this is a good thing). For the past five years I’ve used this shampoo for every other wash up until a couple months ago, and I’m excited to start using it again once I run out of my Alterna Caviar Moisture. Read the ingredients list of Rahua- it’s packed with all kinds of amazing stuff, nothing petro-ish, and I think I’ve repurchased it about four times. If you’ve liked the way my hair has looked over the years, you can at least attribute a small part of its condition to Rahua. And bonus- it also looks like a fancy bottle of cognac in your shower.
Deodorant- Desert Essence Organics Tea Tree Deodorant
Now, will you still sweat if you use this deodorant? Probably. Will you still be a little damp at the end of the day? Maybe (though I’m usually not; I find that when I wear this deodorant, my armpits are only damp when I wear a sensitive fabric or have been stressed). Keep in mind that this is just a deodorant; it’s not an antiperspirant and I really don’t think there’s such a thing as a natural antiperspirant on the market. Our bodies were made to excrete waste through sweat, so the idea of stopping that sweating process all together seems a bit alarming to me. Attempting to neutralize odor is one thing; attempting to block and stop the natural excretion process of sweat is something entirely different. So, this deodorant has been my tool to try and achieve a happy medium.
This deodorant does an excellent job of getting rid of odor, and I’ve been using it long enough that my body has adjusted quite well to it. The one time I always, always use it instead of a conventional deo/antiperspirant is when I’ve just shaved in the shower. I never put conventional deo/antiperspirant on my armpits when they’re freshly shaved and the pores are open from the steam of a shower. That’s when your pores are most vulnerable and I don’t like the thought of rubbing an aluminum compound on open pores near my lymph nodes. So, give it a shot. I say it’s worth it. Oh, and a word of advice- use this deodorant, and not Tom’s of Maine, if you’re shopping for a natural solution. Tom’s contains propylene glycol as its first ingredient; I used it for about two years and then suddenly my armpits rashed over and felt like they were on fire one day. They had become bright red and were peeling, as if they’d been scorched by the sun. After doing some forum research I found that the same thing happened to numerous folks and the effect is attributed to propylene glycol. Desert Essence’s deodorant contains none of this.
Night creme- Acure Organics Night Cream
This might be a forever favorite. I’ve repurchased this four times and I don’t really see much of a reason to look for anything else. I love this stuff. I love its ingredient list, I love its texture, I love its price, and I love how my skin looks in the morning after I’ve used it. Think of it as giving your skin a ton of nourishing vitamins and oils to just work their magic while you sleep. I find that if I have a bit of pore congestion or dullness in the evening that this stuff just really, really helps to clear and brighten things up overnight. It also has the immediate payoff of being so moisturizing. My skin feels cool to the touch after applying it, and the scent is very calming and very “bedtime”. It does contain lavender and lemon oils, so beware in case you know if your skin is sensitive to one or the other.
I plan on using this for years, and I hope Acure never changes the formula!
Face wash- Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser
I used this cleanser to combat the drying effects of another natural cleanser that I’d been using for a long time that had a lot of tea tree oil in it. The tea tree oil formula had castile soap as its first ingredient, and over time it really stripped and dried out my face (as I’d been using it for half a decade by that point). I chose this Burt’s Bees cleanser for its great ingredient list and just as something that wouldn’t try to “do too much” to my skin. Sometimes it’s about meeting your skin’s basic needs rather than trying to “fix” things by going into overhaul mode. You do not need some nuclear-strength regimen that is about assaulting your face from the outside-in! I simply do not believe that’s the way our bodies were made to work in the long-run. I’ve long been convinced that gentle and natural is the way to go when your skin is upset and showing signs of distress, along with a bit of patience and lifestyle assessment (i.e. assessing your sleep, level of activity, sun exposure, stress levels, food habits, and water intake).
This cleanser is so gentle, and the scent is soothing and relaxing (although I do like the scent of their Sensitive cleanser even more). I’d recommend it for those with drier skin that are looking for something gentle and non-foaming. Some folks may feel that this doesn’t “clean” the skin deeply enough, but this is actually a preference of mine. You do not want your skin stripped dry. I first used it one weekend up in the mountains back in California, where my skin would always get horribly dry and then kind of break out in response. My skin was soft and moisturized all weekend, with none of the usual problems. It’s a perfect choice for the dry winter climate out here in the Midwest, too.
Conditioner- Desert Essence Organics Moisturizing Coconut conditioner
I’ve used a lot of the shampoos and conditioners from this line because they’re very reasonably priced and have a decent ingredients list, but this particular product yielded the most noticeable results to me. I am always looking for hair products that moisturize effectively, as dryness is my main problem when it comes to hair. I tried the coconut conditioner on a whim, and it left my hair beautifully soft and pliable after rinsing. I’ve now purchased it twice. This stuff also manages to fully rinse out, which is more important than you may think. There are those conditioners that just seem to stay on your hair like a film and weigh it down, but that’s not the case with this one. Sometimes I’ll use it (or actual coconut oil!) as a pre-wash treatment, and the condition of my hair has been great. I’m also addicted to the yummy scent. Tropical scents have a special, transporting quality to me that put a smile on my face (especially out here in the Midwest).
This conditioner combined with the Rahua shampoo is my best natural hair solution.
Lip care- Burt’s Bees Beeswax lip balm
There’s no better lip balm on the market, in my opinion. A good lip balm is one that doesn’t get you into the habit of needing to use it every hour- you shouldn’t have to; your lips should ultimately be able to bring forth their own moisture. The menthol in this one is so soothing, works quickly to help lips replenish their own moisture, and brings forth the lips’ natural flush. And the effects seem to last for hours! I only find myself reapplying this balm maybe twice a day. I also love the matte finish it gives; I never like shiny lip balm finishes (and the shine is usually a dead giveaway for petroleum, which you do not want on your lips). I have a bajillion of these in the bottom of all my bags, but I somehow seem to go through them all. It’s the best.
Body wash- Weleda Wild Rose Creamy Body Wash
This stuff is a bit of a splurge for the amount you get, but it’s pretty dreamy. I love a luxurious body wash to look forward to in the shower, and this is one of the more high-end natural brands that I consider more of a treat than a staple. There’s a pomegranate version that I’ve also tried and loved, but the rose fragrance just feels kind of clean and extra glamorous (and I’m not sure how those two marry, but they do in my mind). My husband and I used Dr. Bronner’s soap for a long time as body wash, but it left our skin just so dry that we had to try different things (though the Dr. Bronner’s is great for just about any other household use). When we’re not using Dove, I love to grab a tube of Weleda for some fancy Gwyneth Paltrow Goop-y vibes.
Face moisturizer- Weleda Skin Food
I have yet to find my holy grail daytime moisturizer- contains SPF, doesn’t rub off and pill to the touch, a natural formula, and a glow-giving finish, all in one. I confess that I’m still looking for that perfect mix. There are many moisturizers that can carry three of the four aforementioned qualities quite well, but I’ve never found one that hits all four. Most natural formulas with SPF I’ve tried have the problem of rubbing off and pilling. So, putting any makeup on top is out of the question, and most formulas like this also have the trouble of just sitting on top of your skin and never fully absorbing.
Weleda’s Skin Food does the following: it gives a beautiful glow, has a solid natural formula (packed with some seriously lovely fruit and botanical extracts), and doesn’t rub off (though I’d still give it a minute or two to absorb). It is categorized under “hand and foot creams” on Weleda’s site, but I’ve read about many a makeup artist using it on the face (including me!). If something is relatively natural and works great for the skin on the hands, chances are it’ll cause no different effect if applied to the skin on the face. I love mixing this with liquid foundation, and the scent is kind of mellow and citrusy. However, Skin Food contains no SPF and some may find it too heavy for everyday use. It is very rich and can be used anywhere on the body, but those with oily skin will probably not enjoy it as a facial moisturizer. I’ll keep you posted on if I find anything that fits all my ideal requirements, but for now, this is the one with the best ingredients list that I know of.
And there you have it! But I’d like to offer an important sidenote- after perusing through these favorites of mine, you may have noticed that none of these products are labeled as “organic”. That’s because none of them are. In order for anything to truly qualify as USDA certified organic, every single ingredient within the finished product must also be USDA certified organic, and the finished product itself will be visibly labeled as “USDA Certified Organic”. Within the realm of beauty, such a thing is still pretty difficult to find. Now, one singular ingredient within a finished product may be organic, or the word “organic” may be used in the brand or product name, but that does not mean that the product you are using is organic. And the use of the word “natural” in labeling and branding in beauty carries about as much weight as your body, on the moon.
So, with that having been said, you really have to just kind of learn to navigate an ingredients list. It’s difficult to find any kind of beauty product that is entirely USDA certified organic, but it is easy to learn the difference between a list of petrochemical and synthetic ingredients as opposed to a list of easily-pronounced, familiar botanical extracts. But again, just educate yourself, pay attention to the lists of ingredients you encounter, and keep doing your best. I’m right there with you. xo, MR