Being pretty, or even presentable, can take a lot of work. Most women's daily arsenal includes some combination of shampoo, conditioner, hair product, face wash, shower gel, shaving cream, moisturizer, deodorant, and various kinds of makeup. But while a health- and beauty-conscious gal will religiously inspect the labels of whatever she puts into her body (how many calories is that again?), she may not extend the same attention to what she puts on it.
The truth is, most beauty products contain a ton of chemicals that can be detrimental to our bodies and the environment. Because of lax government regulations, companies can put almost unlimited amounts of chemicals in their products, with very limited testing.
This is kinda scary, considering that the epidermis is our bodies' biggest organ; it can even absorb things right into the bloodstream.
And when you think about all the nasty toxins produced during the production process of these products (not to mention the animals that die needlessly during testing) the decision becomes clear: green is the way to go.
But don't worry, this doesn't mean you have to turn into a patchouli-smellin', quilt dress-wearin' flower child. We promise.
Luckily, green is in. The intense popularity of "natural," "organic," and "botanical" products has led many companies (like Smashbox, Physician's Formula, Sally Hansen) to start green lines, while even stores like Target now have a green section in the beauty aisle.
However, this can lead to a lot of confusion. What's the difference between these terms? And, since there are no strict government regulations, how do you know they didn't just put "natural" on the label to cash in on the trend?
It's almost enough to make a girl give up on going green. But don't give up just yet. Here are some tips for finding good products:
• Know your lingo. Natural vs. organic. "Natural" is not regulated at all by the FDA, and it generally refers to plant-based and naturally-derived ingredients. "Organic" refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic products generally have to be certified by an independent organization to claim this on their labels.
• Be label smart. Don't assume that a "natural" or "organic" label means it's true. Look for the USDA Certified Organic Seal or the EcoCert label (a popular French-based certification organization). But even if a product doesn't have an official-looking seal, it doesn't mean it isn't green. Do a little research on the company, and check out the ingredient label.
• Know what ingredients to avoid. Many ingredients used in cosmetics have been linked to cancer or were created using toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Kaiahouse.com has a list of the most unwanted ingredients in cosmetics, ranging from petrochemicals to parabens to formaldehyde. When you're trying to translate a list of ingredients, keep in mind that the top third usually makes up 90-95 percent of the formula, while the bottom third generally makes up 1-3 percent. So if all the healthy ingredients are hanging out at the bottom, know that they're very negligible amounts.
• Embrace internet shopping. A number of websites provide a wealth of information on environmentally responsible beauty products. They do the legwork for you, investigating and testing out products in an effort to provide you with all the information you need to make good choices. Some of our favorite green beauty product websites are Futurenatural.com, Kaiahouse.com, and Saffronrouge.com
• Explore your local beauty store. Check out Target's new green section. Stella Nova and Ulta carry green products (though you'll have to search for them). And of course, Whole Foods and EarthFare are always great resources.
Here are some of our favorite brands:
Dr. Hauschka. With ecologically sound growing methods, unique manufacturing processes, and international fair trade initiatives, this German green giant offers a wide range of products for anyone looking to go green. Their extensive website is incredibly informative. www.drhauschka.com
Juice Beauty. These certified organic products are created with a rich organic juice base, and they all sound good enough to eat. They contain no pesticides, parabens, or petroleum derivatives. We like their lip plumper, the green apple peel, and the blemish clearing serum. You can find their products at Ulta. www.juicebeauty.com
Nature Girl. The labels might be our favorite thing about this brand. Or maybe the product names like "Flower Power," "Nature Groupie," or "She Dreams in Green." For the hippie beach girl, these products featuring organically grown and "wildcrafted" ingredients from small family-run farms are a dream come true. Try the lemon peel sugar scrub. www.nature-girl.com
John Masters Organics. This luxury beauty line is one of the most respected organic brands in the world. It's pricey, but John Masters is considered by many to be the best stuff you can get. Try their "lip calm" or the herbal cider hair clarifier and color sealer. www.johnmasters.com
Modern Organic Products. These products can be found all over Ulta, with hair and body potions in bright, minimalist packaging. We love their shine-boosting Glisten line and the mixed greens shampoo, which blends cucumber, watercress, and artichoke. www.mopproducts.com
Korres. This Greek company claims its roots in Athens' first-ever homeopathic pharmacy. The company offers a complete line of skin and hair care, makeup, sunscreens, and herbal preparations. Try the shower gels with scents like basil lemon, fig, and vanilla cinnamon. www.korres.com