Conscious Living: 5 Beauty Habits of the Eco-Chic Maven

Ironically, many of the products we use to clean our bodies and homes are “dirty” when it comes to toxins and environmental impact. Similarly, many of the products we use to make ourselves feel beautiful may actually be doing the opposite: wrecking havoc on our skin, our bodies, and our planet. We even need to be wary of the brands toted as “green” and “eco-friendly” because, as it turns out, regulations for these sorts of branding claims are relatively loose and companies are managing to conceal toxins and chemicals within regulatory loopholes. The watch-dog of this industry seems to be off-duty and false “green-washing” is becoming widespread. SO, it’s important for us, as conscious consumers, to do our homework and know what to look out for when we are crafting our daily beauty routines. The last thing we want to do {i’m assuming you’re along for the eco-ride with me since you’re here reading this} is use our purchasing power to unintentionally support brands and trends that cause harm to the planet and our health. We want to be using products with side-BENEFITS, not side-effects so we can return to our vibrant, supernatural, glow-state.

Here are some easy ways to start switching over to a more eco-chic routine, from product swaps to better habits. Let’s let ‘er rip:

1. EVALUATE THE STATUS QUO: WHAT’S IN YOUR COSMETIC BAG AND CLEANING CLOSET?

The first step is admitting we have a problem. Let’s dump out our cosmetics bag and start doing some investigating. Just like your closet, the goal isn't to just throw everything away and buy hundred of dollars worth of new, eco-friendly makeup {that would actually be MORE wasteful as it would all end up unused in a landfill…no thank you!} But, we will want to target some of the toxic heavy-hitters and get rid of those immediately. Really, we want to get to a place where we’d be willing to EAT our makeup. Sure, it likely wouldn’t taste great, but the point is that your skin is absorbing >60% of what you put on it, relatively unfiltered into the bloodstream…which is the same place the nutrients, vitamins and minerals in the food we eat end up…see where i’m going with this? we are cautious about what we put IN our bodies, but we need to be equally cautious about what we put ON our bodies. So, the worst offenders have gotta go. Check out the graphic below for some guidance and hit up the research articles on PubMed (most are available to the public) to dive even deeper.

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One of my favorite tools to use is the Think Dirty app. When you scan a product, it gives you a rating from 1 (the best) to 10 (the worst), based on three categories: Carcinogenicity, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicity, and Allergenicity and Immunotoxicity. The Think Dirty database is not complete. It’s not uncommon to scan a product, only to find that it does not have a rating yet. However, you can request the item be added, which usually happens relatively quickly. In the meantime, you can reference the product’s ingredients list and look up suspicious-sounding chemicals and preservatives individually. This app makes it SO much easier to make a decision when we are opting for conscious beauty products.

2. KISS MICROBEADS GOODBYE

The second and possibly easiest step in creating a healthier, more ethical skincare routine is to stop buying anything with microbeads. A super easy decision with a HUGE positive consequence. ‘Microbeads” are those tiny little “exfoliating” plastic pieces that are found in face washes and toothpastes. Not only are they not-so-great for your skin, but they’re terrible for the environment. These tiny little pieces of plastic are too small to be filtered out through our water systems, so they make their way to oceans and lakes, where they are currently severely disrupting entire ecosystems. We already have enough plastic in our oceans and coastlines…these beads are a) unnecessary and b) super easy to avoid…so just do it.

3. CONSIDER STEPPING INTO THE WORLD OF DIY

It may sound daunting, but creating your own products is not difficult at all — and you’re hearing this from someone who has never been super “crafty” and doesn’t pour over Pinterest DIY’s…trust me. Especially with home cleaning products, there are so many dangerous ingredients that are contributing to indoor pollution {the EWG estimates indoor pollution to be 5x greater than outdoor pollution at this point…what?! it’s the aerosol sprays and bleaches mixed with our excellent modern insulation that’s causing these chemicals to just be continually recirculated through our homes…YIKES}. Further, studies are beginning to link some of these endocrine disrupting hormones, known carcinogens, and even flame retardants {yes, you read that right} to the uptakes of mental health concerns and chronic illness. If this is resonating, please go watch STINK, my absolute favourite doco on this very topic. Anyway, back to DIY…when we use simple, natural ingredients to clean our homes we a) know exactly what is in that bottle and trust that it is safe for our family, b) have the ability to up-cycle and reuse glass bottles so we are not continually rebuying and disposing plastic packaging from the local convenient store, and c) feel empowered AF because you have the power to control your health in your own hands! 🙌🏼 Here’s a fun older video of my mum and I going LIVE in my Manhattan apartment about natural, DIY, toxin-free, home cleaning. We talk through why this is critical, share some of our tips and recipes, and prove how EASY this really can be — even in a shoebox apartment. P.S.100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are an epic tool to have on hand when you’re approaching easy, natural home cleaning.

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4. BE WATER SAVVY

The average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day…but we don’t think about that much, do we? Water conservation is an important issue that often gets tossed aside in our comfortable, developed countries. But did you know that only 1% of the water on Earth can actually be used by humans to drink, bathe, clean, etc.? Fresh water is a fleeting natural resource that we must be more responsible with as the population grows. Easy things like turning off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, taking slightly shorter showers, filling up your washing machine and dishwasher all the way before you run them, re-using your pasta liquid, and checking for leaks are great ways to save water. Also, using less electricity will also shrink your water footprint as well as your carbon footprint, as power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool. Do your part to conserve power, and you’re indirectly saving water, too! We are all about minimalism here, but that also means maximizing what we DO use.

5. BE A GREENWASHING SLEUTH AND ASK MORE QUESTIONS

You may have heard this term before, but for the people reading this who thought “Greenwashing” had to do with laundry, here’s a quick definition: Essentially, it’s when a company markets itself as “eco” or “green,” but really isn’t. The beauty and hygiene industry is probably more prone to “greenwashing” than any other industry. That’s why we must look beyond the labels: just because a product says “Made with Natural Ingredients” and the bottle is green does not mean that it’s good for the environment or your skin. Another practice to be aware of is “Angel Dusting,” the misleading marketing practice of including a minuscule amount of an active ingredient in a cosmetic, cosmeceutical, dietary supplement, food product, or nutraceutical, insufficient to give any measurable benefit. The advertising materials may claim that the ingredient is helpful and that the ingredient is contained in the product, both of which are true. However, no claim is made that the product contains enough of the active ingredient to have an effect – this is just assumed by the purchaser. An example of this is found often in “fake” essential oils. A bottle will say 100% pure peppermint oil, but all that means is that within that bottle the full spectrum of constituents of a pure peppermint oil are present in some capacity…but that could mean that there is ONE drop of pure peppermint oil diluted with vegetable glycerin, or worse. These brands are intentionally manipulating consumers and I’m SICK of it! We have to demand transparency and be intelligent consumers. Digging deeper, asking the right questions, reading the ingredients list, knowing and utilizing our resources, and calling companies out.

I’ve been known to get on the company’s website, and even email them for further information when I’m suspicious. Note, they are very VERY rarely transparent about anything. Hmm. Red flag.

TAKE IT SLOWLY

As with any other aspect of your ethical lifestyle journey, don’t try to change everything overnight. You’ll most likely overwhelm yourself and your bank account. Plus, we don’t want to be wasteful. Throw out the worst offenders, certainly, but then phase out the rest. Start with just your makeup bag, and when you run out of one item, replace it with a more eco-friendly one. Then do your personal hygiene products, then move to the laundry room, then your cleaning supplies. Six months from now, you’ll have a healthier, more eco-friendly home… and your skin will thank you for it! You’ll be glowing from the inside out and feel empowered beyond belief, knowing that you are an eco-chic warrior, a sustainability maven, doing your part to protect our planet.

Regan Plekenpol