Green With Beauty

Organic skin-care products are good for your body—and the environment.



Now that going green is trendy, many beauty companies are labeling their products with such eco-minded buzzwords as “natural” or “organic.” Some of them also include “no” or “free” boastings on their labels: “No parabens,” “Contains no artificial fragrances,” “SLS/SLES free,” and so on. What do they all mean, and just how green are these products? Confused, I turned to Kimberly Button, founder of greenWell, getgreenbewell.com, an Orlando-based eco-wellness consulting company.

Button informed me that “natural” has no real meaning for consumers seeking healthy, green beauty products. After all, there are plenty of naturally occurring substances, such as lead and arsenic, we wouldn’t dream of applying to our skin. “Organic” ingredients, on the other hand, have been produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or other potentially harmful methods. According to Button, “‘100 percent organic’ means just what it says—and that’s a good thing.” A label that simply says “organic” means that the product contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients, and products labeled “made with organic ingredients” is comprised of at least 70 percent organic ingredients, a percentage that’s “still a pretty good ratio,” Button says.

Many of the ingredients commonly listed on beauty product labels are harmful to the environment—and to us. Parabens are considered hormone disruptors that may be connected to some breast cancers. SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), ingredients that help soaps and shampoos produce thick, foamy lather, can irritate skin. The chemicals used to create artificial fragrances can trigger allergies and breathing problems in some people. Other “nos” often found in labeling are propylene glycol, a natural gas product that may cause skin irritation, and oil-based petroleum and petrolatum, possible cancer triggers.

Armed with this information, I sampled a variety of products touted as green to see how they perform and how they compare to their chemical-laden cousins.

1. School Garden Company
$3.50-$15
schoolgardenco.com
These handmade body care products are made from olive oil, plants, essential oils and beeswax, including certified organic ingredients. The “handhelp” moisturizer, a super-rich concoction scented with lavender and rosemary, is ideal for chapped or extra-dry hands. I found it works best if applied at bedtime and allowed to work overnight, since it’s a bit greasy-feeling. As for the “simmer down bathsalts,” when my daughter came home tired and stressed from lacrosse practice, a good soak in them left her feeling relaxed and refreshed. It was also nice to see that the bath salts didn’t leave a ring around the tub, which some of the more bubbly bath products can do.

2. Softlips PURE
$2.99 each
Drugstores, supermarkets and mass retailers, including selected Target stores
The accurately named Softlips PURE line of organic lip conditioners is USDA-certified organic, which means the ingredients have been produced according to strict, independently verified standards. The conditioners are made of organic oils, beeswax, shea butter and vitamin E. The PURE lip conditioners I tried glided on effortlessly and left my lips feeling well moisturized. I liked the matte gloss effect as well—no color, but just a little healthy-looking shine. PURE comes in subtle yet tasty pomegranate and honeydew flavors, and new ones are just out on the market: peppermint, acai berry, papaya and green tea.

3. Coco-Zen
$4.50-$14.50
coco-zen.com
These chocolate-scented products smell good enough to eat, and they’re made from organic ingredients. The positively yummy lip balm contains a jolt of peppermint oil and is so tasty that frequent applications were necessary. The aroma of the lotion is so convincingly chocolaty, I expected the lotion itself to be sticky. It’s not, and is a nice, light moisturizer. Like the balm, the soap combines mint with chocolate scents, and it’s an effective cleanser—but its dark-brown hue can stain light-colored washcloths. The body scrub is unpleasantly oily—and the salt in it can sting even the smallest cut, so don’t use it immediately after shaving.

4. Skincare by Feleciai
$10-$15
skincarebyfeleciai.com
Handmade soaps and body creams from Skincare by Feleciai are made from food-grade olive, coconut and palm oils, and are scented with essential oils in such delectable combinations as orange-cinnamon, lemon-sweet basil-orange and lime-spearmint. Although they don’t lather as dramatically as their SLS- and SLES-made cousins, the soaps clean effectively. The large-sized bars are a little hard to handle at first, but since they’re softer and less dense than a lot of mass-produced soaps, they get smaller fairly quickly. Feleciai’s rich, moisturizing body creams are made with organic shea butter from Africa as well as pesticide-free jojoba oil, so they’re Earth-friendly, too. After using these products, my skin felt clean and soft, and the fragrances were incredibly intense and refreshing.

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