The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 5, 2007

Thinking about cosmetics sooner than I’d planned…

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 or, 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.

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Lisa @ Retro Housewife Goes Green
13 years ago

You have made me think I need to contact the make up company I use. They do already us post consumer plastic but I wonder if they would take back the containers, clean them and reuse them, use more glass or something. They are always looking for more ways to be green so not a bad idea. For now at least it’s made only a state away, less plastic than most, shipped in paper, and great ingredients. (it’s

Parental Units
14 years ago

Thanks for this post. This weekend is my “find-safer-cosmetics” time! =)

15 years ago

This week’s experiment involves making my own cosmetics using things like beeswax, olive oil, beet root powder, turmeric, food-grade charcoal, etc. I’ll be posting results on my not-very-active blog (I hope).

If anything works, I’ll definitely post recipes! :D

- jesse
15 years ago

Dear god. Thank you for posting this! I have a bunch of 4’s around, apparently. Usually my 1st issue is whether something is tested on animals.

Anyway, the Rosebud Strawberry lip balm is a 1 and comes in a metal tin.

15 years ago

Beth, I’ve had great results with pure beet juice (squeezed out of a boiled beet) as lipstick. It gives just the right touch of color and contains no bad stuff at all. (beets are really good for you!) The rest of my makeup is mineral makeup, which is supposed to contain no bad stuff either.

15 years ago
BEST COSMETICS EVER. Better than MAC, better than Maybelline, better than any other conventional brand and WAY better than ANY other natural brand I’ve tried. Why do i love them so bad?

Ok, so i ordered four make-up samples from them on Wednesday. The package arrived on Friday. There was enclosed a small letter explaining their philosophy on packaging, which is basically that minimal is best. Their jars (though plastic) can be returned to the company for reuse and recycling through their “Jar Return Program”, and the “cellophane” bags are compostable. The invoice had “Thank You” written on it, by hand, in sparkly red pen as well. (I’m a sucker for personal touches. :-P)

Additionally: The colors are FABULOUS. Tigereye, Aubergine, and Plum are beautiful, radiant eyeshadows. With a quick base coat of lotion or shea butter they last all day, with very, VERY little creasing. (If you don’t already do that, TRY IT! you’ll never go eyeshadow-commando again!) Oh, and even though the shadows are loose, there is nearly ZERO excess dust-stuff that gets all over your cheeks. It sticks to a brush VERY well.

Oh, and their shipping rates are fabulous. Plus, Sample jars are only $1 for eyeshadow and $1.50 for concealer and foundations. Since buying my first set of four samples 2 weeks ago, I’ve already reordered once, made an order for my Mom to get me as a Christmas present, and I’ve been recommending them all over the place (as you can see).

I <3 Alima!

PS: Oh yeah, AND they sent me three additional mini samples for free with my order. Again: I <3 Alima!

har mar
15 years ago

AH! that was the article i was telling you about last time you were here visiting me!! the one that brought up the whole makeup thing with you! it freaked me out!

ps..i LOVE sephora. for e.

happy anniversary!

Robert &amp; Anjanette
15 years ago

I’ve used ecco bella blush for a while now and I really like it. I think that it is very flattering simply because it blends in so well. My husband thinks it smells though… haha????

Rejin L
15 years ago

Happy anniversary Beth!
I gave up wearing make-up ages ago, just because I couldn’t spare the time to use them in the morning. Always felt too dressed up in make-up, too. Its things like moisturizers that get me, because I have really dry skin. I’d better look around for something with natural ingredients. A refillable container would be nice, too, but unlikely.

terrible person
15 years ago

I get it now! The makeup industry makes products with toxins (toxics?) in them that make users’ face break out and their eyes puffy, etc. To cover up the puffy eyes and bad skin, you need more makeup. Which makes your skin bad and your eyes puffy ….

15 years ago

I have another comment. How ironic that the advertisement for is Dove Pro Age along the right hand side for this article. They score 4’s and 5’s.

15 years ago

First congratulations on the anniversary. My four year is a week from today. Second, this points out the sad truth (applies to me) that we are vain and want to conform to the standards of society. Plus I feel great when I put my makeup on. I am losing weight (20lbs since Aug.) and my confidence is higher than it has ever been in my 26 yrs. Guess I’ll have to start paying attention and if we are all truly low maintainance then we don’t need to buy as much so it will be okay to pay a little more for higher quality products. I just hope they work well. Thanks for your heads up. I’ve been trying to keep my head down on this one and now I’ll start paying a little more attention.

15 years ago

You’ve cited the reasons I’ve mostly given up wearing any cosmetics at all. A while back I read an article about lipsticks and unless you’re buying organic you’re ingesting a lot of toxins. Just think of how many times you lick your lips!

15 years ago

Okay, here’s my beauty tip. I use lipliner INSTEAD OF lipstick. Lip pencils are just concentrated lipstick and I just put it all over my lips and then follow up with some lip gloss/balm/whatever to give it much needed moisture. It lasts longer than lipstick and the pencil is made from wood (although the caps are often platic. I think estee lauder uses a metal cap though). Maybe that helps! Oh, and the best part is that I looked mine up (“MAC lip pencil, lipliner”) on the cosmetics database, and its rated a 2. I bought it well over a year ago and use it everyday. Thanks for the info. This post reminds me of the cutting board one a few weeks back. How are they allowed to do this!?

15 years ago

Thanks for the link to the great (and disturbing!) article! I’ve already switched *most* of my cosmetics and hygiene products over to more natural choices — this will motivate to finish up the job!