Editor’s note: We’re all coming around to the idea that unnatural chemicals in, on, and around your body are a cause for concern. (Umm, duh.) But for years, these synthetics have seeped their way into our bloodstreams in ways quite unexpected. While most people have an aversion to and suspicion of processed foods and chemicals in their diet, you’re average consumer hasn’t always given thought to these chemicals’ presence in other products: soaps, lotions, shampoos, and even clothing.
Thing is, our skin is a porous and absorbent membrane. What we put on it goes into it. So, we, at Trevida, reached out to Liz Thompson of Organic Beauty Source, who learned just how bad these chemicals are after a heartrending encounter with cancer in her family.
She’s since devoted herself to unveiling the dangers of not keeping it green — and cancer is only one of the many problems that chemical-laden skincare products pose. We asked Liz to share her expertise on keeping your skin care healthy, safe, organic, and still radiantly beautiful. Here’s what she taught us:
Trevida: There’s been a lot of progress in organic skin care in recent years. Where do you see this industry going?
Liz: I’ve always dreamt of walking into department stores and seeing counter after counter of clean beauty products, and I truly believe we are getting closer. Organic beauty sales go up every year (practically doubled since 2012), Nordstrom launched Natural Beauty Outposts in stores this year, and clean beauty items are making regular appearances in mainstream beauty magazines and blogs, and on celebs and red carpets. Organic beauty is no longer a fringe notion or trend, but something consumers want as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Trevida: What problems do you see consumers facing with keeping their skincare organic and natural, if any? Solutions?
Liz: Probably the biggest hurdle in using organic beauty is making the leap from conventional products. The idea that natural cosmetics are lower quality is super outdated. The organic beauty products of today are modern, high performance, and safe. I’ve included tips on Organic Beauty Source for making the switch to clean beauty.
The other problem that gets to me is greenwashing, or marketing to make a product made with toxins appear natural or safe. The solution here is learning to read product ingredient listings. Forget what’s on the front label, and flip that product over and see what it is made of. This is the only true way to ensure you are purchasing a safe product.
Trevida: Do you have a favorite all natural skincare ingredient that you always look for?
Liz: Oh, I love so many natural ingredients. But I guess the one that always stands out to me is rosehip oil. I’ve used it for years because it addresses so many skin issues: lightens spots, brightens the complexion, softens lines and wrinkles, and moisturizes. Plus, it’s super gentle. I also love sea buckthorn oil for its ability to give skin instant glow.
Trevida: Conversely, which ingredients do you most recommend staying away from?
Liz: You can view a more detailed list on my site here, but if you are just starting out as a label reader, I’d say get rid of any products containing petroleum ingredients (petrolatum, mineral oil) and synthetic fragrance first. Both natural and synthetic fragrance ingredients may appear as “fragrance” or “parfum”. A reputable natural beauty creator will usually note if fragrance ingredients come from natural sources.
Trevida: Why is it so important to keep it organic and natural?
Liz: If the body weren’t able to absorb ingredients through the skin there would be no use for transdermal medication patches, right? We know that the skin absorbs a large percentage of what’s applied to it. Just like we choose healthy ingredients for our diet, we need to use healthy ingredients on our skin. Not only is this a good way to ward off disease and other health risks, but our skin likes natural ingredients better. I used to think I had very sensitive skin. After I started using natural products I realized it was mostly reacting to synthetic ingredients.
Trevida: Do you have a strict skincare regimen? If so what is it?
Liz: Because a large part of my job is reviewing organic cosmetics, I do try many different products. That said, I have my favorites that I stick to on a regular basis but incorporate new items in as they come across my desk or as the seasons change. A mild cleanser, facial oils, eye cream, and daily moisturizer are staples. I also love a good cleansing balm and skin balm for winter. And I’ve discovered fruit acid exfoliants to get skin soft and smooth instead of scrubs, and love them!
Trevida: Any tips for keeping skin grease-free in the summer?
Liz: Those with oily skin may like a lighter, gel type moisturizer in summer months. Aloe is a great hydrator that is non-greasy and also super gentle. It’s important for all skin types, even oily, to keep skin properly moisturized. Attempting to dry skin out will only cause it to produce more oil, which results in flakiness and blemishes. So, I’d say the key to a grease-free summer is a lightly astringent cleanser, light daily moisturizer, and a dusting of mineral facial powder for daytime.
Trevida: And not too dry in the winter?
Liz: In winter I love to slather on the healthy oils. Of course, no one wants to go around looking like a grease slick during the day, so I leave the heavier moisturizers and balms for nighttime. One trick I like to use in winter is to apply a facial oil both before and after my daily moisturizer. Patting a light layer of oil on top of moisturizer seals it in, protects the skin, and prevents moisture loss. Another area we tend to overlook is our cleanser. If your skin is too dry, too oily, or otherwise misbehaving, make sure your cleanser isn’t either too drying or too oily.
Trevida: Do you have a favorite resource or book for learning about organic and all natural lifestyles/skincare?
Liz: Oh gosh, there are so many! I love The Chalkboard Mag for tons of great info on anything relating to health and wellness. Goop has great information on holistic healing and I love the recipes they share. Thoughtfully Mag is chock full of trusty green living advice, including green beauty. I use Dr. Axe often for research on natural ingredients and this site for details on the different essential oils. And there is a ton of material on clean beauty and health + wellness where I write at EcoSalon and Organic Authority.
Trevida: What’s your favorite makeup brand?
Liz: I don’t use just one brand, but will list out my fave makeup products. Lavera makes a super lightweight foundation that I blend into my moisturizer to create my own tinted moisturizer. I love it because it looks natural and I can’t feel it on my skin. They also make an eyebrow pencil that works well and stays put. Vapour Organic Beauty Illusionist Concealer is my must-have and Aura Multi Use in Charm gives a nice flush to cheeks. Benecos facial powder is the lightest, comfiest, best powder I’ve tried, and the eyeliner pencil is another must-have. RMS Beauty Eye Polish in Solar is so warm and pretty on lids and Living Luminizer brightens up any skin tone in an instant. Dr. Hauschka Volume Mascara simply cannot be beat. As for every girl’s favorite beauty product, lip gloss, I love so many … but in the name of choosing just one, I’m pretty hooked on Olio E Osso tinted balm in French Melon right now.