Caring for your hair and skin the organic way
Moisturiser, face wash, shampoo – most of us have a daily routine designed to treat our hair and skin right, using products that will provide gentle nourishment. Luckily, the shelves are full of products that are ‘organic’, ‘non-toxic’, ‘natural’, and ‘green’ – but are these buzz words actually disguising a cocktail of chemicals?
As beauty expert Katey Denno told Elle last month, there are no real industry standards in the US when it comes to defining these kinds of terms. In the UK, the CTPA (Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Perfumery Association) states that the Cosmetics Regulation doesn’t officially regulate the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’.
That means it’s down to you to scan the ingredients to figure out which products live up to their labels and which should stay on the shelf.
There are plenty of simple changes you can make to ensure you’re choosing brands that are good for you, along with alternatives that you can whip up in your own kitchen. We’ve also outlined some of the most common, harmful ingredients found in mainstream beauty products, so you know what to look out for next time you’re shopping.
How to build a natural hair and skincare routine
To make sure that you’re choosing products that are good for you and for the environment, you need to change your approach when restocking your toiletry cupboard.
1. Do your research
A little bit of research can make a lifetime of a difference for your beauty regime.
Familiarise yourself with cruelty-free brands that are available in your local stores, take the time to read through lists of featured products, and cross-reference labels to make sure they’re made from the right kind of ingredients.
2. Trust your instincts
When you’re out shopping and don’t have time to delve into a mini chemistry class by researching every single ingredient, read the label and trust your instincts.
If a product claims to be ‘natural’ but is full of convoluted terms and words you don’t recognise, consider putting it back on the shelf. Look out for ingredients with names that you actually understand.
3. Make your own
If you really want to ensure your products don’t contain anything harmful, simplify your stock and stick to using raw, natural ingredients. There are many things you might already have in your kitchen that can act also be great for your hair and skin!
A great alternative to butter and vegetable oil when cooking, coconut oil can also help out your skin and hair. It has natural moisturizing qualities and will provide gentle hydration when you apply a little bit to dry areas of your skin.
It has also been proven to reduce protein loss and strengthen hair – rub a small amount to the ends when your hair is damp.
The thick, rich texture of shea butter makes it a great natural moisturizing product. It’s also the perfect base for your own home-made beauty products and can be mixed with other ingredients such as sea salt, organic sugar, and natural oils to make face masks or body scrubs.
Apple cider vinegar
This almost magical ingredient has been praised for improving digestion and whitening teeth – and it can also be great for your hair and skin.
Dilute apple cider vinegar (about 1tbsp in 1c water) and apply as a facial toner, or up the quantity (about 1/3c in 4c of water) and use it to rinse out product residue and balance pH levels of your hair.
We all know about the glorious benefits avocado can bring to your diet, but this mighty green warrior can also work wonders for your skin and hair. Next time you’ve let one get a little too ripe, mash it up, apply it to your hair, wait 10 minutes, and then rinse it out to revel in shiny, healthy locks.
You can also scrape the rinds off the inside of the peel and using them as a relaxing face mask – the vitamins will hydrate your skin and encourage natural collagen production.
Avoid these ingredients
You wouldn’t eat something that you knew was toxic or harmful, and it’s important to bring that same level of care when selecting toiletry products.
The things you apply to your skin and hair can be absorbed into your bloodstream and interact with the natural chemistry of your body. Of course, that’s the entire point of having a beauty routine – but some ingredients can do more harm then good.
When shopping for skin and hair products, look out for:
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole): BHA has been found to cause cancer and interfere with reproductive processes in animal studies.
Coal Tar (Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine): Found in hair products such as shampoo and dye, it’s listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Most variations are banned in Europe.
Parabens: When scanning the ingredients, look out for anything that contains ‘paraben’ at the end of the word. Used in many different types of toiletry products, including moisturizers, makeup, and shampoo, studies have linked parabens to cancer and fertility issues.
Oxybenzone: A common ingredient in sunscreen, studies have shown that oxybenzone can interfere with hormones and affect fertility.
Formaldehyde: Sometimes found in nail polish and products like body wash and bubble bath soap, look out formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing products (such as DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate), which are proven to be carcinogenic.
Triclosan: Often used in deodorant and as an anti-bacterial preservative in hand sanitizer and cleansers, the EU has classed it as toxic to aquatic life. Some studies also suggest it can affect hormone function.
DEA (diethanolamine): Found in many different types of cosmetics, DEA helps products achieve a creamy look and texture. It has been linked to different kinds of cancer, as well as being toxic for the environment.
Other ingredients that Elle recommends avoiding include: sulfates SLS and SLES, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, hydroquinone, and triclocarban. If you want to learn more about how these products can be harmful, visit The David Suzuki Foundation.
There are plenty of ways you can change your beauty regime in a way that’s better for you and for the planet. It might take a little time, research, and awareness, but soon you’ll be on your way to feeling just as good as you look!