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Save some face: Go au natural with eco-chic beauty products

by Beacon Staff • September 28, 2011

strongStephanie Thomas, Beacon Staff/strong

Mama always said put your best face forward. But when it comes to the globs of moisturizer, zit-be-gone cream, or aftershave that inhabits your skin, is your best face the cleanest it can be?

For the average student, ingredients in a cleanser look like gibberish and even if you can pronounce cetyl alcohol, do you know what that scientific name means? If you’re curious, it’s whale sperm. That’s right, there’s a chance a whale’s swimmers have gotten cozy in your pores.

Animal products are found in thousands of ingredient lists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) provides a list of animal-based ingredients (and some cruelty-free alternatives to look for) on their website.

Keratin, a common base for shampoos and other hair products, is made of pulverized hooves, feathers, and other parts of various animals. A simple replacement for keratin is soy-protein.

When seeking an earth-conscious beauty regime, consider taking a look at GoodGuide.com. This website provides readers with scientific information about the health, environmental, and societal impact of consumer products.

By giving a number ranking in these three categories for specific products, like Maybelline mascaras, which score highly, and Clinique mascaras which score considerably low, GoodGuide attempts to separate the naughty from the nice. Not only is Maybelline the eco-friendly choice, it is more reasonably priced at about $5.00, or one-third of what Clinique costs.

While saving the animals and the environment is trendy, you should also think about your personal health. Many ingredients can prove harmful to your body, regardless of how oh-so-pretty they make you look and feel.

Nivea Men’s Body Wash contains propylene, a chemical linked to a variety or potential concerns including brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities, according to greenlivingonline.com. St. Ives Swiss Formula Protective Moisturizer contains Oxybenzole, a nasty additive that makes skin more susceptible to UV ray damage.

For many, the hardest barrier to overcome is labels. It’s not uncommon for companies to slap the word “natural” on a product to reel in environmental-newbies. PETA says that cruelty-free products are based on a trust system a majority of the time. You can never know for sure what exactly goes into a tube of lip gloss. But co-president of Earth Emerson Erin Moriarty, a junior marketing communication major, said it is a risk worth taking.

Chemicals that could possibly be in one’s makeup wind up on the face and in our water, Moriarty said.

Tyler Ferreira, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major, uses hemp lotion.

“I’m pretty sure it’s natural — it’s fresh,” he said.

It is often prudent to switch to things labelled “natural” to avoid harmful ingredients, but when making the jump into the land of no-preservatives, keep in mind they are different from their drugstore counterparts. Not all beauty items are created equal.

Rachel Flaherty, the manager in training of the LUSH Cosmetics Newbury Street location, warns that organic makeup and beauty products don’t last as long.

“There are no preservatives, but that means your product is going to be more active and alive as you [use] it,” Flaherty said.

Without the toxic chemicals and preservatives found in regular cosmetic products, one could theoretically eat organic beauty goods. Making a meal out of your getting-dolled-up kit might not be appetizing, but it helps prove the safety of green makeup choices.

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emLauren Moquin, Beacon correspondent, contributed reporting to this article. /em

emThomas can be reached at stephanie_thomas@emerson.edu. Follow her on Twitter @petites_verites/em

emUpdate September 28, 2011: This article was edited to correct the spelling of Rachel Flaherty's name, as well as her title./em