This is the makeup bag I carry around in my backpack or purse. I know I said a week ago I’m a low maintenance kinda girl and rarely wear any makeup at all. I just carry this stuff around in case the need arises, like an unexpected group photo at work or a special night out with Michael (to whom I’ve been married for 3 years as of yesterday!) It’s all plastic, of course, but I bought it all before I decided to go plastic-free and figured it would take me so long to use it all up, I wouldn’t have to worry about finding plastic-free alternatives for quite some time.
And look at this drawer full of plastic. It’s the makeup drawer in my bathroom. Don’t know how a low maintenance girl ended up with so many pots and trays and tubes and bottles. A few of these things I’ve had since the early 90’s. The only time this drawer gets opened is for Halloween or the occasional 80’s dance party, when even Michael will wear a little eyeliner. (It looks great on him!)
So then why am I suddenly bringing up cosmetics? Because I read a distressing article in the November issue of Common Ground Magazine a few days ago,”Beauty News We Can All Use: Facing up to the toxic truth about cosmetics,” by Stacy Malkan, which woke me up to the myriad toxic chemicals I’ve been putting on my face all these years. Thankfully, I don’t do it every day or even every week. But many of us do. And it turns out that the plastic packaging is the least of our worries.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now about reports of lead in some lipsticks. And many of you probably also know about other toxins in cosmetics, including phthlates in fragranced products and “petro-chemical ingredients such as parabens, PEG, sodium laureth sulfate, DEA and other synthetic substances that are either toxic or may be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities.” While I had heard these things too, I didn’t feel I was in much danger with the few products I was using so sparingly, until I read this article and realized that the danger is in the accumulation of these chemicals in the body, the body’s chemical burden, over time. I encourage you to read the article for yourselves!
Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent cosmetics database called Skin Deep where you can look up thousands of products and find out their toxicity rating. So last night, I sat down and attempted to look up everything in my bag and drawer. Many of these products are too old to be listed in the database at all, but of the ones that are, none of them received a low toxicity rating (0-2 out of 10.) Most were in the moderate toxicity range of 3-6, while my Max Factor Stretch and Separate waterproof mascara received a whopping 7 toxic points out of 10.
A handy feature of the database is that if a product isn’t listed, you can enter the ingredients yourself from the label (if available) and receive a provisional score for the item. And while it can be tedious to enter a long list of ingredients by hand, if you can find the product online on sites like Sephora or Beauty.com or Drugstore.com, you can just cut and paste from their ingredients listings.
So what have I decided to do? For now, I’m keeping anything with a rating of 3 or lower. Anything over that goes in the bag for the Household Hazardous Waste facility. And if a product is too old to be listed in the database and can no longer be found online, it goes bye-bye too, as it’s probably crawling with cooties at this point anyway. Here’s a picture of my makeup drawer after removing all the offenders. Not much left.
Next step will be to search out plastic-free non-toxic alternatives. Last week I mentioned Cargo Plant Love lipsticks that come in corn-based containers. Unfortunately, the Skin Deep database gives them a provisional rating of 5 out of 10. Not so great. Chemicals in them include BHT as well as a bunch of parabens. So those are out.
Last week, Burbanmom mentioned Ecco Bella cosmetics, some of which come in paperboard compacts rather than plastic. While most of their products are not in the Skin Deep database yet, a quick look at the ingredients shows that they are indeed all natural. And tonight, while passing by an Origins store, I happened to notice another brand of skincare products called Farmaesthetics which are creams, lotions, powders, and oils packaged in glass jars and metal tins and are also made from all natural ingredients. I’ll warn you though, they are pricey.
I’ll keep my eye out for other non-toxic and plastic-free cosmetics. Let me know if you come across any, too. In the meantime, the only things on my face will be my glasses and my smile.