“Safe” Cosmetics

May 12, 2008 at 8:53 am 40 comments

Lately I’ve been thinking about more natural ways of living, more simple ways of living, etc. I hesitate to say “going green” because that means so many different things to so many different people. One area I’ve been researching a bit is safer cosmetics.

Some of what I’ve found is alarming. Some of what I’ve found is overwhelming. I simply don’t know how far to go with this stuff. Do we only put natural, “safe” cosmetics on our skin to prevent things like cancer, neurological disorders, and reproductive damage? Or do we live with what the cosmetics industry gives us and trust that they are going to do the right thing by the human race in general? Or is there a middle ground?

Most of my internet research has been at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website. On this site, they identify companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

Part of why I feel like I just want to give up on this whole issue is that there is so much information to know, so many products to avoid, so many more dollars to spend on “safe” products. I’m just overwhelmed.

Here’s the tension:

  • I want to be responsible with my body and the bodies that God has entrusted to me as a caregiver.
  • I also want to be financially responsible with the resources God has given me. I simply cannot afford to go out and buy all new stuff and experiment with the hundreds of brands out there until I find one I like.
  • As a Christian, how “safe” can I be in this world? I read one verse like this: Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe,” and I question the issue as a whole.

If any of you out there have committed to safer cosmetics, or have been researching and are farther along than me, I would love your advice and feedback. For others, what do you think about this issue in general? Obviously I haven’t made a decision either way, so I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on the matter.


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40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. funwithsoap  |  May 12, 2008 at 9:09 am


    I try using as many natural ingredients as possible when making my own goodies. You can visit my other site …www.soapsensations.iblog.co.za


  • 2. J.Evans  |  May 12, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I started using “greener” (don’t care for the term either) cosmetics after my own body’s reaction to my beloved brand. I tried a few different “natural” brands with no avail. And finally tried bareminerals… it works for me. And my skin is in much better shape due to it. It is on the pricey side, so I just started buying one thing at a time, until my entire system was bareminerals. One thing that I have found is that I don’t run out of make up now, like I did before, because it takes so little to cover my face at each application. So I spend less money, because I buy less.

  • 3. Mrs. MK  |  May 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I switched to Aromaleigh Mineral Make-Up about 2 years ago. I love it, and it does last quite awhile. So far I only use the foundation powder and a bronzer powder. I really like that it blends into my skin without streaks, and is much quicker to apply.

    I am also thinking of making my own soap and laundry soap—-but then again, I like doing things the hard way, just for fun. 🙂

  • 4. Stacey  |  May 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I use the bare minerals also. I love it. You can get an introductory kit at their website or also off of QVC or HSN, can’t remember which one. It lasts forever. I find that now that I don’t work. I don’t wear makeup most days anyway. That cuts way down on consumption. I use clinique for my skincare and always have. I don’t know if they are “green” but they are hypoallergenic. They are the only true hypo-allergenic supposedly. I feel you go “green” in areas that you can afford to. It isn’t cheap. I have definately tried to go green in my cleaning products. I used club soda and a rag to clean all of my stainless steel appliances, I use vinegar on my windows and shower door, lemon juice and baking soda to clean my grout.

  • 5. Jenn  |  May 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I am interested in seeing what everyone else says. I started researching this a while back and gave up because of all the overwhelming information out there. But I would like to revisit this issue again… thanks for discussing it.

  • 6. melissa e  |  May 12, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I am torn about the sunscreen thing. I mean, I don’t wear cosmetics daily and if I were REALLY worried, I could just stop altogether. But sunscreen is a one-or- the-other kind of thing, isn’t it?

    I mean, either sunscreen causes cancer (as many say–just look at the ingredients) or the sun does–which is it? Or maybe the question is better stated, “which is <i. worse?”!

    I have chosen for now to use it if we have a scheduled poolside thing midday, but I try to plan our day around being inside throughout the 11;30am – 3:00pm time frame and other things, especially swimming, after that.

    Advertisements and popular opinion says to wear it all day, every day but I can’t see how that is good…

  • 7. Laurie  |  May 12, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I haven’t even considered the whole health benefits of certain types of makeup, but I am happy to hear that bare minerals is okay. I use it purely because it is a fabulous product and really does make your skin glow.

  • 8. Molly Piper  |  May 12, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Good stuff so far. I am wondering–does anyone use shampoos/conditioners without the sodium laureth sulfates in them? What kinds? Do they work? Apparently sodium laureth sulfate is a degreaser, and is terrible for your skin, but it’s in EVERYTHING!

  • 9. Stacey  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I have had a VERY hard time w/organic shampoos. The shampoo doesn’t seem to lather up….i don’t know if it is just my hair or what. Perhaps you don’t need it to lather up to clean your hair but I guess it is a personal thing w/me…..I need my hair all sudsed up and soapy in order to feel as though I have cleaned it. I need bubbles people!!!!!!!!!!! So I am falling short in that department where organics are concerned.

    I try and stay out of the direct sun on most days. I walk in the evenings. I don’t like putting all that sunscreen on. If I am going swimming or to the beach I use 45 or I know I am going to be out in direct sunlight. They say you need 15 min. of direct sun everyday in order to not have a vitamin K deficiency. You could drive yourself to the looney bin though tyring to do EVERYTHING they say you need to do in order to be healthy. Been there and done that…..just try and find the healthy balance that is comfortable for you and your family. It is HARD though when you hear of so many people developing cancers, leukemias etc. and hearing all of our products are causing illnesses etc. No one wants to have to go through that just because they microwaved some mac n cheese in a plastic container.

  • 10. Crystal  |  May 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I know what you mean about how thinking about being more natural can lead to becoming overwhelmed. I’ve been thinking about a few different things lately (I hadn’t made it to cosmetics yet), and I’ve started to wonder where the balance lies. Mostly I don’t wear makeup very much, but I have fallen in love with bare minerals for when I do. Also, I got hooked on Burt’s Bees products when my son was a baby and couldn’t use a lot of the regular lotions and washes–and it’s sort of local. I’m glad to see they are on the list in your link. I’m drawn to the idea of simplicity and natural products of all kinds but there comes a point when it isn’t simple anymore.

  • 11. Erin James  |  May 12, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I use Arbonne for skin care and cosmetics. They also have a line for little ones. My two older kids (6 and 2) both have eczema and were on a prescription medication until I started using Arbonne. They sell all-natural, all-botanical products from make-up to shampoo and conditioner. I love everything they have. You can check it out at Arbonne.com. Their tagline is “Pure, Safe, Beneficial”. Inerestingly, through reading their research, if (on a panel of 10 people) 4 people react to a product, a company can still claim their product is “hypoallergenic”. Also, if a product is touted as “dermatologist recommended” that simply means they handed out samples. I know Arbonne hires independant dermatologists to test everything and they don’t market something until all people tested (10 out of 10) come back without any side effects (ie: rash, dryness, etc.) They even carry a men’s line! 🙂

  • 12. amandaginn  |  May 12, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Molly,
    My mom has long tracked the potential pitfalls of many cosmetics, shampoos, laundry detergents, etc. Now that I am expecting my first, she’s even more concerned as “Grandma” and is always looking for safe alternatives to over-the-counter stuff.

    She has found that NEWays products are a good alternative. A few weekends ago she gave me a “Convert Your Bathroom” kit that included shampoo, deodorant, body lotion, and so on. I have really enjoyed it, and I do have an added peace of mind that I may be keeping avoidable toxins and carcinogenics out of my system (at least when it comes to bath products).

    I don’t know what the right answers are… there is so much out there and so many studies and it’s very overwhelming. If you’re really wanting to look into this more, maybe this website would be helpful for you: http://www.1000moms1000dollars.com/gg/products/

    If you can get past the bright colors and some of the cheesy web design, the products are actually very nice. 🙂 I hope you find products you like… somewhere!

  • 13. Stacey  |  May 12, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Just an fyi…….Clinique will not sell a product that ANYONE on their panel of testers has a reaction to. So if one person out of 150 they test it on has a reaction it doesn’t make it to market.

    I LOVE Burt’s Bees also. The lady that started that company actually sold it. It is a really interesting story. The diaper ointment is so rich and thick….a little goes a long way. Whenever I smell that Burt’s Bees smell I think of babies.

    Dr. Oz says that if you eat the correct way and get all your daily vitamins & minerals then you don’t need to use deodorant because you will barely sweat and when you do it won’t stink because you won’t have the bacteria in your system that causes those issues w/proper nutrition. Maybe in a perfect world, eh??? I am not giving up ice cream or the occasional Dorito…….bring on the secret solid.

  • 14. Jason Pauli  |  May 12, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I think every woman looks more beautiful without them.


  • 15. J.Evans  |  May 12, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    BTW, Ulta and Target carry bareminerals product, of course the MOA has the bare essentials store, too. 🙂

  • 16. Grampa Rick & Gramma GG  |  May 12, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Hello Molly,

    I am Amanda’s mom and a “lurker” reader of your site since she introduced me to it. LOVE IT!!

    Amanda let me know your concern over the complications in making good decisions about products for your home and family while being mindful of your budget. Trust me when I say, ” I KNOW of what you are seeking!”

    THAT area of living is a PASSION of mine and has been for most my life, thanks to my mother. This kind of responsibility to my family and what goes IN and ON their bodies is truly important…and one only WE as moms/dads can make.

    I’ve puttered around for our 26 years of marriage with various ways to get GOOD quality, safe products for our home and family living. I’ve tried the group Co-op buying, the “make your own” route, the direct selling business…you name it. Eventually the WORK to GET the products or the COST to get the products became too much!

    The GOOD NEWS is…”By George! I think I’ve GOT it!”

    I found Neways, a US business with 20 years experience in researching, developing, trial testing, manufacturing and distributing NON TOXIC, NON CARCINOGENIC products for your home and personal care! Its ALL good!

    SIGN UP is FREE!…so that’s GOOD news! YOU order WHEN you want WHAT you WANT with NO minimum order to maintain!…so that’s MORE GOOD news! You can “work” it like a business IF YOU CHOOSE…so that may be GOOD news!…but you DON”T HAVE TO TELL A SOUL ABOUT IT IF YOU DON”T WANT TO AND STILL GET THE WHOLESALE COSTS!…so THAT”S Good news too!

    I have websites which you can breeze thru and read until your head goes numb….

    I also have a Yahoo group open to anyone to discuss healthy alternative products for your family and home use.

    All of these websites feature Neways products/info…they just refererance different approaches to health and wellness.

    In BOTH cases, there is NO awkwardness in joining Neways.

    My intent is education FIRST AND FOREMOST!

    Here’s some sites to view:

    Yahoo group:


    Enjoy your family Molly.

    GG Freitag

  • 17. Katie R.  |  May 12, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t have much to add… I just want to say that I wrestle with those same 3 tensions in this area, as well as other areas! I haven’t done much research, though, into all this. Let us know what you decide to do, short-term & long-term! 🙂 Thanks for posting on this.

  • 18. Sandy Harberger  |  May 12, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Molly,
    This is so funny! I’ve just been researching this stuff- I found that same website- Campaign for Safe Cosmetic- just last week!

    I really like Burt’s Bees. They have all sorts of beauty products. I look for “safe” alternatives at Target. They seem to be the one chain that has those options. So, that’s where I decided my line was for being healthy and financially smart. I have to be able to buy the “safe” stuff at Target.

    I just read this book called “Green Housekeeping” by Ellen Sandbeck. What it boils down to is white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide for most cleaning- kitchen, bathroom, etc. Super Cheap!!! I also like the “Method” cleaning products.

    I feel like it’s such a big endless hole, and it’s hard to make everything healthy all at once. So, when I run out of something, I just try to replace that one item with a better version. One step at a time…


  • 19. brandi  |  May 12, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I use Arbonne. They are natural, and carry mineral powder foundation as well. They even have lots of things for kids.
    You have to get it through a representative (like Mary Kay) but it is totally worth it!

  • 20. Sunshine  |  May 12, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Wow – I went through a phase about ten years ago where I tried to do “all natural” everything – then I got married and had kids and the expense just was not in the budget (although recently I have started doing green smoothies and they are surpisingly yummy…sorry off topic) – but one thing you said that struck me is the question – how safe can we be and the verse from Proverbs about trusting in man and how it lays a snare for us – I never thought about the verse in terms of day to day living – so thank you for the new perspective. I always thought of it in terms of people approval (something I struggle with) – so instead of being able to offer you any advice I thank you for allowing me to see that verse in a new light! Sunshine

  • 21. eclexia  |  May 12, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I wrestle with similar questions. Not just in the makeup area. I wrote a post a while ago wrestling with some related thoughts:

    I’ll warn you, it takes me a lot of words to think things out. I think people like your husband, with his 22 words per post, were put on this earth to balance out people like me 🙂 So, the post I’ve linked to above is long. I talk about health concerns about halfway down the post, and I’ve been told I get too cerebral and think too much about stuff, making it more complicated than it needs to be. But, anyway, it’s my take on the things your post makes me feel and think about.

    Where I’m at now is that I care about health and safety, but I just can’t and don’t make it my starting point. Living longer on this earth is not my end-all goal. Granted, I don’t want to stupidly hasten my demise, but, at the same time, “living forever” on this earth isn’t the whole point. I want to be wise, but when I start letting myself be driven by fear, I find I’m less wise and more, well, just more afraid.

    Blessings on you. I enjoy your blog.

  • 22. Elizabeth Esther  |  May 12, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    i rarely wear makeup either and my husband agrees with jason #14.

    here in CA., though, i am very careful about sun exposure. my dad (a surfer) had malignant moles which had to be removed. i wear SPF and a hat during the summer.

  • 23. gaby  |  May 13, 2008 at 5:21 am

    hey molly! i dont know about the states, but here in europe the cosmetics bought in a pharmacy is very good…i dont even know whether you can get hold of it in the states or how much it is there, but a very good brand that uses mineral water in their products is (oh, i found an us site for it) vichy http://www.vichyusa.com/_us/_en/home/index.aspx and also a very good cosmetics which i LOVE (not as expensive as vichy but as good as vichy) avene (also a us site) http://www.aveneusa.com/ . i dont know about vichy, but avene does not use any fragrances and is hypoallergenic.

  • 24. Memory  |  May 13, 2008 at 8:39 am

    I started my own “going green” phase several years ago with food, and initially I wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t organic. That spilled over into everything I bought – makeup, cleaning products, etc. Then Hebrews 13:9 was brought to my attention: “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.”

    I know the issue at hand is cosmetics, but I think the verse is a guide for cosmetics in the same way it is for food. We are strengthened most by grace, not by “picking the right products.” The lesson I learned is to not be consumed by this avenue of study.

    After having said that, I do use “safe” cleaners, shampoos, and cosmetics, but I think finding what works for you is the same as in the “unsafe” world. As seen by comments already given, different people find what works best for them.

    And even though I try not to be too opinionated on the issue, I do think it is important to do what we can, with the means God provides, to do what is best with what God has given us – our bodies, our homes, our planet!

  • 25. Christen H.  |  May 13, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Hi Molly –

    We’re (my husband and I) have been trying to learn more for the past year or so about all this and balance with the fact that, as one of our “all natural” friends always reminds us, ‘you can’t escape the fall’.

    Just to answer your question about shampoos – we’ve used Burt’s Bees and other brands that are on sale at the “earth” store in town. Another great option is shampoo bars – you can make them last a long time. I bought some off a store on ebay and got the worst dandruff ever, though. Tropicaltraditions.com makes all of their products out of coconut oil (really good for you, in and out) and have shampoo bars for pretty good prices.

    This has nothing to do with cosmetics, but one of the best things you can do for your family as far as “organic” stuff goes is to buy raw milk if at all possible. It tastes great and has so many benefits – and not dangerous like you might hear it is unless it comes from a dirty dairy farm, but states require “raw” dairy farms to be extra clean anyways.

  • 26. sayrefam  |  May 13, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Molly,

    I am a silent reader that has followed your blog for some time now. I enjoy your gift of sharing with words. I could relate to your feelings so well as you shared about the “overwhelmingness” of chemicals vs. natural/organic. Once you start in one area, it mushrooms and suddenly there’s evil toxins everywhere, not just in your cosmetics! There has been an ebb and flow in how much I pursue this–I wonder too if it becomes the “fear of man” to some extent. And how much of this debate is fueled by advertising ambitions on both sides? As many have said here, I think finding things that have the greatest impact while being the least drain on our time and finances can be a fun challenge to pursue within reason. Something I’ve really enjoyed in housecleaning is microfiber. The original company who came out with this product has several high-quality tools to do your whole house using only water and microfiber. I especially love the all-purpose cloths and the mops. They’re a little pricey, but you don’t buy household cleaners anymore, so you save in the end. Check out their site at http://www.actnatural.net

    Thank you for your posts on grief. I had my second child days before Felicity was taken to Heaven. Especially during pregnancy, I have wondered about the incredible difficulty of what you and Abraham have gone through~thanks for giving all of us readers a window in. It has ministered to me and helped me grow in thinking about reaching out to others in the midst of grief.

  • 27. JenR  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Okay, so I have tried to respond twice but for some reason my response isnt posting, so this one is just a test…

  • 28. JenR  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:43 am

    It worked!!!

    I completely agree with your apprehension towards the phrase “going green”. I, too, have gone on a journey in this area for 3 reasons. 1. I am very very frugal and love the thrill of saving money without being a miser. 2. I am totally obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and all things Jane Austen, including how households were run before the days of 409 and other modern conveniences. 3. I believe that we have a responsibility to reduce our consumption footprint in order to be more balanced with the rest of the world and to allow the developing world in on the “good living”.

    I dont have any cosmetic advice (dont wear it), although I would like to say that if you are going to do the homemade body cleanser route, be very careful about using things that can spoil (bananas, avacado, honey, etc) b/c, except for one-time uses, the ingredients can foster all sorts of nasties.

  • 29. Gabby  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:48 am

    One of my absolute favorite shampoos comes from a line called Avalon Organics. There is NO sodium laureth sulfate in any of their products. They also have conditioner and lotion too. You can get them at any Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods grocery store (it’s cheaper at Joe’s!)

  • 30. JenR  |  May 14, 2008 at 8:50 am

    I would like to add that my favorite green/frugal thing to do (other than cooking from scratch), is to make all of our home cleaners. Pretty much everything can be made using vinegar, soap, borax, soap, water, lemon juice, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. Plus, all of these ingredients are cheap and safe (borax is not good to ingest, but there is very low risk of accidental “poisoning” b/c it is a powder, which is much harder to accidentally consume in large enough quantities than a liquid is).

    I also agree with the person who mentioned microfiber towels! I am not sure if they are made organically b/c they are all synthetic, but if you are looking for really cheap ones, Costco and Walmart sell them-Walmart in the automotive section at ~8 for $4.

  • 31. Bethany  |  May 14, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I think two of the best organic brands are Avalon Organics and Alba Organics. Aubrey organics are good too but I was allergic to something in the face lotion.

  • 32. Stacey  |  May 14, 2008 at 11:26 am

    oooh and also….I can’t remember whether it is QVC or HSN BUT, you can order online if you don’t have a tv. Debbie Meyer Green Bags……….you get like 25 bags or something for $25 but you can use them like 500 times. You store your fruits and veggies in them and instead of your stuff spoiling in a couple of days they will last on your counter or in your fridge for several weeks. These bags pay for themselves VERY quickly. Especially if you find yourself throwing out stuff. It has something to do with the ethylene gas that makes fruit ripen and go bad quickly. They are worth their weight in gold!

  • 33. heidi  |  May 15, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Hi Molly! Thanks for the great blog and excellent topic. I want to share another Web site:http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ It’s the Environmental Working Group’s database for safe cosmetics. It’s pretty comprehensive.

    I have a specific question – I have mild acne and am looking for products that are safe to use when pregnant. Any suggestions?

  • 34. robyn  |  May 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I don’t know how safe it is, but I love Bare Minerals, it’s my all time favorite makeup.

    you can find it at sephora. I recommend the “get started kit”

  • 35. Kirstjen  |  May 17, 2008 at 9:12 am

    So this is late to comment on this one, but we use Trader Joe’s shampoo and conditioner which say on the bottle they contain no sulfate ingredients. Best part is each bottle is right around $2.00!

  • 36. Sandy Harberger  |  May 18, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I read in a book (‘Green Baby, Sage Mom” I think?) that the mineral make-up is a possible “no-no” if you are pregnant because of the metals. Otherwise, it seems like a nice option.

  • 37. jess  |  May 31, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Came across this site where you can check the products you are using:



  • 38. Rachel  |  June 2, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Hi Molly,

    I am an esthetician which means I directly work with the skin. I love this question…. If you are trying to go more organic with your skin care there are a a few good lines I know about. Eminence is a 100% organic line that is great for your skin. You are going to pay more for this line but it is concentrated and will last you quite a while. I the other is Image. They have a line in it called OrMedic which is also organic. Again you will pay more for these but good skin care is so important. Also the most important thing anyone can do for there skin is wear sunscreen every day 365 days a year. You want to find a sunscreen that is a physical block rather than a chemical block. Look for titanium dioxide as a main ingrediet in your sunscreen. Hope this helps on your hunt for new skin products!!!

  • 39. rena  |  July 8, 2008 at 1:50 am

    The worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics is estimated at U.S. $18 billion.[4] Of the major firms, the oldest and the largest is L’Oréal, which was founded by Eugene Schueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company.
    DollarDays prides itself in supplying existing businesses as well as helping entrepreneurs open new stores and businesses.

  • 40. Julie Ann  |  July 23, 2008 at 6:08 am

    I just happened along your blog. I have a non-toxic skin care business of my own. I started out as you did looking for products that were non-toxic and was overwhelmed by the choices and the lack of ability to one-stop shop for everything I needed. I have had my line for a year now, but I am wondering if women would be better served if I pooled products from many of the wonderful companies out there into one site. As a consumer would you prefer to see a wide selection of many “safer” brands in one location or would the variety stil feel overwhelming?


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