I vividly recall the dawn of my love for skin and beauty products. It was a Christmas long ago, perhaps I was 5 years old or so. The twinkling lights of the tree were glowing in the dark, early morning hours as we (my 2 younger brothers, mom, dad & I) sat around the living room awed by the magic of Christmas morning and the wonders of the gifts that mysteriously appeared as we slept. The single gift I remember from that Christmas was a small set of Tinkerbell lotions and perfumes in a rigid plastic cylindrical case. The bottles were glass, so I could see the pink (PINK!) body lotion right away. That was all it took. I hadn’t even smelled them or put them on my skin yet, but I was smitten. I loved that set of good-smelling products and I requested similar items each year afterward.
Fast forward 40ish years. I still have a great love for products that smell and feel good on my skin, but my discernment for those products has been honed as I’ve educated myself about not only what I put IN my body, but also what I put ON it. As I made positive changes to my diet, choosing healthier whole foods and (mostly) eliminating processed food from my diet, I started wondering about the perfumes and skin care that I loved so much. At first, I shifted away from the fancy department store skin care and fragrances and began looking into more natural alternatives. Upon eliminating perfume from my routine, I noticed that I no longer had frequent headaches – headaches that I didn’t really notice I was having until I WASN’T having them anymore!
Switching over my facial cleansers and moisturizers, as well as my body moisturizers was a bit trickier. I began reading labels, as I was already doing with my food, and realized that I had no idea what all of those long chemical names were. I suspected that, since the skin is the largest organ and it is also permeable (meaning, what I put ON my skin can seep into my body via the bloodstream), I probably wanted to be just as selective with what I put on my skin as I was with what I put in my mouth. I discovered the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which rates a variety of skin care and beauty products on a scale from one (low) to ten (high) for toxicity. It was here that I learned that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT have any authority in testing (or requiring that companies test) these products for safety, and that the cosmetics/beauty industry largely polices itself for product safety.
While this might come as a surprise, it need not be completely overwhelming. There are a number of companies that produce amazing body care products that are not toxic – many of which are on the shelves at Monadnock Food Co-op. Of course, one of my personal favorites is W.S. Badger (made in nearby Gilsum, NH). The entire Badger line is rated very low for toxicity according to the Skin Deep database, which makes loving these products totally guilt free for me! And, should I be lured in by some sparkly, yummy smelling product, I always check the rating in the database before I put it on my body.
And so, it continues. I still love deliciously indulgent skin care products, though my selection criteria have evolved. This year, if a gift mysteriously shows up under my Christmas tree, I hope it is a gift certificate for a facial at Jeni Skin Care, where I will be pampered with luscious, low toxicity products and come away feeling renewed and radiant.