I have loved makeup and beauty since the time I could remember what it was. My mother wasn’t a glam goddess–she rocked a beautiful, no-makeup hippie aesthetic–but she was devoted to her skin care. And it paid off; her skin was flawless. For Euro-blooded Southern California ladies, this is a tough feat. Skin care lectures came as early as sex talks from my mother: Always wear sunscreen. Never go to sleep with makeup on. Drink tons of water. It rubbed off on me; I’m as adamant about these rules as I am about brushing my teeth and breathing.
That devotion led to beauty-product overload. I became obsessed with trying any and all products to find the very best. This type of vanity can make a gal poor, but I was lucky: I spent several years as a beauty editor and had access to professional skincare products of all types, regular facials and makeup as far as the eye could see. This experience gave me the skills to spot parabens (preservatives that can cause cancer) and faulty claims in complicated ingredients listings. But it also made me a product junkie. I needed to reform.
My skin craved consistency and my conscience weighed heavily from all the consumption–and potential toxins I was releasing. So I threw it all out, responsibly. I recycled all the packaging and containers that I could, properly disposed of shampoos and nail polishes, and donated the rest to women’s shelters, which are always in desperate need of basic hygiene products; a few tubes of unused lipstick can be luxuries.
I now keep my makeup bag limited to one item per facial feature–brows, lashes, cheekbones, eyes, lips–and my skincare is a simple three-step process: cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize. I have learned to make many of my own beauty products–easier than you think!–which saves money and has helped my carbon/toxic footprint to dissipate significantly. And my skin feels great. Unburdened by all that gunk, it can breathe. Finding the feminism in going green feels good in more ways than one. This small amendment to my beauty routine has influenced me to look for ways to make small-yet-significant changes in other aspects of my life. Here are just three that can make a big difference:
Go through your makeup bag and medicine cabinet. Throw out anything with an expired date, no expiration date, or that you haven’t used in three months. Or completely use up what’s left of your favorite items before buying a replacement product. Visit treehugger.com, thedailygreen.com or allure.com to find articles on how to recycle and/or dispose of your products safely. Or donate unused items them to a local women’s shelter.
Read your product labels. If you can’t make sense of them, do some homework. Find out what’s in the stuff you put on your skin, and then wash into the drain. You don’t have to go total-organic skincare to make a difference for your health or the planet. Find a balance between natural and clinical that works for you. The point is to know what you’re using. Online beauty glossaries such as cosmetic-products.net and theorganicsalon.com can help define the big words.
Learn to make at least one of your daily-use products yourself. Whether it’s vitamin-C serum (powdered C + vegetable glycerin + water = homemade anti-aging gold!) or body moisturizer (bulk tub of shea butter + essential oils = nontoxic hydration and a signature scent!) you’ll save money and feel great knowing what you’re slathering on your skin. Green blogs abound with DIY recipes. Two of my faves are gorgeouslygreen.com and simplefives.com, both founded by women who created brands from their personal passions.