Homegrown Clean Cosmetics
Some women have shoe fetishes; others go crazy over jewelry or lingerie. For me it’s lotions and potions. Queen of dry, sensitive skin (doubly blessed) that I am, I’m always in search of just the right product. And lately, my quest has taken on some new criteria in light of the growing controversy over which ingredients are safe and which are not. I want the cleansers and moisturizers I apply daily to my body to be clean and chemical-free. For starters, I’d like just to be able to pronounce the ingredients on the label.
I’m inclined to follow the advice of Dr. Catherine Jones, a naturopath at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. “Read the ingredients,” she says. “If it sounds more like a laboratory than a garden, you’re probably getting chemicals you don’t need.”
Two synthetic substances included in many skin care products that have attracted a fair amount of media attention are phthalates and parabens. Research involving laboratory rats and mice suggests that high levels of exposure to certain phthalates may cause cancer or reproductive system abnormalities.
A study published in May 2005 linked phthalates to altered reproductive organs in baby boys. This year some of the biggest cosmetic makers removed phthalates from nail polishes; they had been used to make the polish more flexible and chip-resistant. Cosmetic companies have also begun removing the chemicals from some shampoos, hair spray and lotions, but many of these products still contain them.
Because phthalates are seldom listed as ingredients, avoiding them may be difficult, even if you want to. These chemicals are often used in fragrances to make scents last longer, so a label may simply say “fragrance,” even if it contains phthalates.
Concern over the use of parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl parabens) as preservatives in many skin, hair and body products has risen since British researchers found traces of the chemicals in the tumors of 20 breast cancer patients last year. Parabens have been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of breast tumors.
“The body recognizes parabens as it does estrogen, but to a much lesser degree,” says Jones. “I’m not so sure all (parabens) are bad, but the flag’s gone up enough times that people are taking a good look at them.”
In general, cosmetic ingredients need closer inspection,
and that includes natural substances, Jones says. “They’re
not sufficiently tested. Frankly, we have to sit down and take a serious
look at them.”
There are a number of small companies right here in Washington
State that have vowed to keep their skin care products free of controversial
chemicals and as organic as possible, sometimes even “edible.”
Most have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to make safe
products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of public health,
religious, labor, women’s, environmental and consumer groups working
to ban the use of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic
mutation or reproductive harm.
If anything sets this Bellevue-based skin care line apart, it’s the way it makes your face feel: very alive. “Everything is really active,” says company co-founder Jimm Harrison. “It’s like eating organic food. You can feel the life force.”
With several years of experience in the health and beauty fields, Harrison and co-founder Martha Buldain set out five years ago to create high-quality products that would be “intensely therapeutic,” working to reduce fine lines and rejuvenate damaged skin. “Our intent was to make something we could believe in,” says Harrison. “Not only would it be non-toxic but it would have the finest quality of herbs and botanicals.”
The list of ingredients in their five products (cleanser, exfoliant, toner, healthy aging complex, moisturizer, and night cream) is long. Most are recognizable, but what I appreciate most in the small, fold-out flyer included with the products are the explanations about where individual ingredients come from and what they do.
Key ingredients in the Intensive Healthy Aging Complex, for example, are cranberry seed, raspberry seed, blackberry seed and rosehip seed oils to “nourish the skin with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that regenerate skin cells and hydrate, balance and protect the skin.”
In its quest for quality, Spirit of Beauty imports its essential
oils from all over the world – organic blackberry seed oil from
Columbia, jasmine from a small producer on Corsica, and so on. Of course,
the quality and exotic nature of the products are reflected in their prices.
They’re not cheap: from $42 for the Phyto Nutrient Face Wash to
$95 for the Intensive Healthy Aging Complex. The company has a less-expensive
line called Organic Healthy Aging that is designed, Harrison says, to
maintain healthy skin. (Prices range from $14 to $32.) While both lines
have been available at various stores throughout the greater Seattle area,
Spirit of Beauty products will soon only be available in spas and through
the company’s Web site (www.spiritofbeautyorganics.com).
For more information about where to find either line, visit the site or
From their herb farm in sunny Sequim, Russ and Vicki Fiorini create salves for just about every minor ailment you can think of, including dry skin. The all-purpose SupHerb Salve is the company’s mainstay and is pretty much the same formula Vicki Fiorini, a nurse, first made for her family 10 years ago. Roughly 20 ingredients go into the salve, including calendula, comfrey, chickweed, elder flowers, lavender, echinacea, tea tree oil, thyme and olive oil. “It’s an antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory that’s worked on bruises, burns, rashes, even diabetic ulcers,” says Russ.
Every ingredient comes from the Fiorini farm or another organic source, Vicki says. She uses vitamin E oil or grapefruit seed oil as preservatives, and the salves last from one to two years when stored in a cool cupboard. For the face, she suggests SupHerb Wrinkle-less as a “light moisturizer that won’t irritate the eyes and isn’t greasy.” I bought the Fiorini’s SupHerb X-Zema in a health products store on Bainbridge Island and discovered that it not only soothed my son’s chapped wrists, but it also turned out to be a nice after-shower body moisturizer for me.
Most 2-ounce salves are $12.95 and lip balms are $2.95.
Larger sizes are available on request by calling the Fiorinis at 360-681-6445.
The products are available in stores on Bainbridge and the Olympic Peninsula
or by calling and ordering direct.
When Laurie Rosenberg first started experimenting with her own body care products nine years ago, it was to help relieve her son’s eczema. She found that a “bath fizzy” she made from baking soda, citric acid, borax, sugar, almond oil, sunflower oil, vitamin E and essential oils soothed and helped heal his irritated skin. Today her personal care products are available to the public, and she makes not one, but three, bath fizzies, each with different herbs and fruit oils. Her company, Cosmic Cottage in Indianola, also offers skin creams, lotions, gentle soaps and body polishes.
Like the Fiorinis, Rosenberg uses vitamin E or grapefruit seed oil to preserve her products and uses organic ingredients as much as possible. The products have a light fragrance, obtained from steam-distilled essential oils. The body creams, emu and a calendula version for vegetarians, have a light, whipped quality and spread easily over the skin. The body lotions, Rosenberg says, are a bit heavier but very moisturizing, which helps during the winter months.
Since I go through a lot of moisturizers, especially in
winter, I appreciate Cosmic Cottage’s reasonable prices: Four ounces
of emu or calendula cream, for example, is $8.50. Lotions and fizzies
are $8.50 and body polishes are $14.50 to $17.95. Cosmic Cottage products
are available in certain stores (check the Web site for locations) or
by ordering from www.cosmiccottage.com.
The tagline on Jody Berry’s brochure for Wild Carrot Herbals reads “Resist the urge to eat it.” And believe me, the buttery texture of these body creams will tempt you to do just that. The funny thing is, you probably could eat them if you really wanted to. Wild Carrot products contain all plant-based ingredients, many of which are, in fact, edible. Vitamin E and grapefruit seed, black willow bark, and rosemary extracts are used as preservatives, and fragrances are created with essential oils chosen for their aroma-therapeutic properties. Like other companies listed in this article, Wild Carrot tests its products only on human animals.
Wild Carrot, based in Olympia, makes eight body butters and creams, each with a different purpose in mind. The Rose Body Butter “for the driest of skin” has my name all over it. These creams are rich, rich, rich; even the lotions are thicker than many others I’ve tried. “I love products that look like frosting,” says Berry, a former organic farmer who started making her own products to soothe her sun and wind-battered body. “These products can be used by everyone. They’re intense. It only takes a little bit, but the skin takes it in. It doesn’t keep that heaviness.”
Wild Carrot makes a variety of skin care products, including
salves, massage oil, lip balms, aromatherapy infusions, bath and spa products,
as well as “Baby Carrot” washes, balms, salves and powders
for little ones. Prices for these products are also pretty reasonable:
Body butters are $16 for eight ounces. Body lotions (eight ounces) are
around $10 to $14. Products can be ordered from Wild Carrot’s online
catalog at www.wildcarrotherbals.com.
The emphasis at Kirkland-based Bodyceuticals is on body oils made from “totally edible ingredients,” says owner Angelique Grosvenor. Her top seller is a “kissable” spray-on body moisturizer called Body Cocktail, made from vegan fruit and nut oils, and rich in vitamins and amino acids. “It’s convenient,” says Grosvenor. “It’s lightweight and goes into the skin. It’s not tacky or greasy.” And you have a dozen scents to choose from, including unscented. Bodyceuticals also offers a therapeutic calendula oil that Grosvenor says is “very high energy” and “good for all skin issues.”
Grosvenor says she buys her ingredients from local farmers whenever she can and tries to keep her products as organic as possible. “Our big mission is to help educate people on clean body products and making healthy choices.”
Bodyceutical products, which sell for $9.95 to $19.99, are
available at several stores throughout the Seattle area and nationwide.
To find a retail location near you, visit www.skin-food.com.
The motto of this Port Ludlow-based company is “Healing Humanity One Body at a Time.” That means J.P. Durga’s wide range of body care products, including soaps, moisturizers, shampoos, deodorants, massage oils and creams are, like the other products mentioned in this article, free from any potentially harmful ingredients. The company uses suppliers of raw materials who extract their oils through clean processing such as steam distillation. And to keep ingredients as effective as possible, none of the products are overheated when they are manufactured.
All Durga products contain Herbalix™, a blend of 60 herbs (they’re not revealing which) with healing properties. The Geranium Body Moisturizer ($3.99 to $11.99) is one of the company’s best sellers. It’s a shea and cocoa butter roll-up that makes it easy to moisturize anywhere. Equally popular are the company’s scented and unscented deodorants for men and women ($3.99 to $9). To order or find out more about J.P. Durga products, go to www.jpdurga.com.
Brushing Your Face Clean
Whatever product you choose to cleanse your face, now there’s a new way to scrub. Think Sonicare for the face. In fact, the circular, oscillating brush that gently deep cleans the skin is made by the same Bellevue company that revolutionized oral hygiene with its whirring toothbrush.
Introduced to the market earlier this year by Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, Inc., the Clarisonic was first tested by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. In theory, the vibrating brush is gentle enough to use daily, but abrasive enough to leave skin cleaner and smoother. The flexing action between the outer and inner brushes, the literature claims, works with the skin, flexing pores to loosen dirt and oil, while the back and forth oscillating motion of the inner brush cleans, clarifies and stimulates the skin.
I’ve been trying out the Clarisonic for a couple of months, and at first it tickled a little. But after each treatment, my face does feel pretty darn clean, squeaky in fact, and smooth. My moisturizer has no problem soaking right in. The trick for me is remembering to use it daily; I’m a little lazy. And since the Clarisonic is an investment (about $195 at www.clarisonic.com), you’ll want to use it regularly to get your money’s worth.
Or you could just put it on your holiday wish list.
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