Author of the Gorgeously Green book series, passionate environmentalist Sophie Uliano believes transforming your beauty case to eco-and-health-friendly doesn’t have to compromise on style. A sought-after spokeswoman for the eco lifestyle movement, Sophie makes it her mission to find natural alternatives that work just as well—or better—than the chemical-based skincare and cosmetics.
Why should we be considering natural and organic products?
Organic skin care and beauty is important because many companies are now green-washing their products by labeling them as being “natural”. This means absolutely nothing. As consumers we need to understand what a “clean” product is. A certified organic beauty product will have gone through a rigorous inspection process to ensure the essential oils, plant oils and other ingredients are organic and non-toxic.
What would people be most surprised to learn about traditional beauty products?
Many of them contain a plethora of chemicals that can be irritating, harsh, ineffective, disrupt your hormones and even cause cancer.
Why Gorgeously Green?
I’m all about the “gorgeous”. I don’t live in a yurt and wear hemp! I want to find beauty products that are clean and yet out-perform many of the products we see in department and drug stores—products that are over-priced for what they are. I think as green women, we should still be able to be into the gloss and fun of beauty.
What are your top tips when it comes to seeking out authentic eco beauty?
Always look for a third-party certification. There are a few now, depending on which country you are in. Don’t trust labels such as “organic”, “natural” or “made with botanicals”. Look for companies that produce in small batches to ensure freshness. It’s best to try to buy products that are made in the country in which you live, because they won’t have had to sit for days or months in a freight container.
What are the top five most toxic ingredients in common beauty products and their side effects?
1,4 Dioxane: Found in an alarming number of products, especially baby products. This chemical is a byproduct of the process ethoxylation (increases water solubility). Can also be listed as PEG or ingredients ending in “eth” or “oxynol”. The EPA classifies it as a probable carcinogen to humans. It is readily absorbed through the skin and also found in hair products, lotions, face creams and anti-aging products.
Parabens: Listed as methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl paraben and found in 75 to 90 percent of all products. This preservative can disrupt your endocrine system (hormones). It is a known medical fact that estrogen stimulates breast cancer and anything absorbed through the skin may be as high as 10 times the concentration of an oral dose. It’s found in many products from lotions, scrubs, conditioners, shampoos and makeup.
Formaldehyde: This had been recently added to the “known carcinogens” list. It’s most commonly used as a water solution called formalin, rather than in its pure form. With the help of preservatives, formaldehyde is released in small amounts over time to help protect cosmetic products against contamination by bacteria during storage and during continued use. Also referred to as Quanternium-15 or DMDM hydantoin. It is found in nail polishes, nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps, makeup, shampoo, lotions and deodorants and hair straightening treatments.
Phthalates/Fragrance: DHP, DBP5, DEHP, and dibutyl phthalate are used in personal care products and considered probable carcinogens by the EPA and likely to cause cancer. Phthalates are also known endocrine disruptors (may interfere, mimic or block hormones), development toxicants (can interfere with the normal development of a fetus or child), and a reproductive toxicant. Phthalates can be inhaled and also absorbed through the skin via perfume, nail polish, skin lotion, deodorant and some hair styling products. Since the ingredients are not required on fragrances, there is no way to know if phthalates are in a fragrance. A safer alternative is to choose pure essential oils instead of perfumes.
Coal Tar Dyes: A known carcinogen and made from bituminous coal. Coal tar is found in dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, anti-itch creams, hair dyes and other cosmetics. Also listed as p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as “CI”, “FD&C,” or “D&C.”
Others to be aware of include: Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Petrolatum, Triclosan, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Phenoxyethanol, TEA (triethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine) and MEA (Monoethanolamine).
Why are companies still including such toxic ingredients in their products?
Because it is cheaper to use these chemicals and it’s an easy fix to obtain a texture and fragrance that consumers will like. They also extend the shelf life considerably.
I think as green women, we should still be able to be into the gloss and fun of beauty.
What’s the number one thing people should look for on the label when choosing an eco beauty product?
What are your favourite eco beauty products and why do you like them?
There are so many companies that I barely know where to start. I love Nvey Eco and Jane Iredale makeup, and I love Avalon Organics, Living Nature, Lavera. That said, I review hundreds of beauty products every year, so it’s tough to pick out favorites!
What can people expect when they visit your blog?
You will find my “Gorgeous Find” reviews of all the new and wonderful beauty products out there. Also recipes, how-to videos, how to make your own skincare and much more.
Sophie Uliano, www.gorgeouslygreen.com