face off

The comments on that last beauty post opened a major can of worms. Between those comments and the news stories below, my head was spinning with terms, chemical names, and a complete sense of panic!!

1. Aveda founder’s mission: to clean up beauty industry act
2. Delicious but deadly: why cosmetics might be bad for your health
3. A New Study from Canada Reveals Heavy Metals in Most Cosmetics

Except for the occasional Chanel lipstick, I mostly stick to pretty natural stuff, right? Wrong. As I dug through my so-called-pure products, my jaw dropped to see the toxins listed in these articles pop up on the ingredients list. (I’m looking at you, Philosophy!!)

If I’m detoxing my body, I should try to clean up my act on my skin. I spent hours reading labels and tossing the expired and toxic products I had. I returned the products I could still return. Then, I took a look at what my daily product needs really were, and restocked with the least toxic products I could find. Do you know how hard it is to find toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate? So hard!

I’m hoping the list below will save you some time if you’re also looking to avoid some of these genotoxic chemicals.

It felt good to pare down what I put on my face daily, to clean the cabinets of junk that had been sitting there for years (gross) & to vow to stick with the tried, true, and all natural from here on out.

Lotion: Shelter Skincare
Face Wash: Body Deli Rose Geranium Cleanser
Face SPF: Body Deli Solar Day Cream
Deodorant: Herbal Magic Roll-On Deodorant
Shampoo: Collective Wellbeing
Toothpaste: Nature’s Gate Natural Toothpaste
Eye Cream: Pangea Organics Eye Cream
Soap: Body Deli Rose Euphoria Soap
Lip Balm: Weleda Everon Lip Care

I’m still looking for a blush & pressed face powder, and a moisturizing conditioner that actually lets me comb my tangles out without crying. Ideas? I’m talking crazy natural, like “you can eat it” natural. And you know what? I’m angry at the manufacturers who continue to poison women without thinking twice about it.


  1. One of my best friends who has very very curly hair sometimes uses pure coconut oil as a leave in treatment and/or conditioner.
    I tried it and it was waywayWAY too heavy for my basically straight cuticle hair, but maybe it would work for you, and yeah, you can cook with it.

  2. I LOVE Devita Spf 30 (it’s aslo a fab moisturizer with hyalauronic acid in it) and it’s #2 on the EWG’s list of “best sunscreens.” No icky chemicals, great spf, no grease. :)

  3. Thanks for listing a toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate! I’ve been looking for awhile, but I just could not locate one. Well, not until now.

    1. It’s totally nuts – I looked through a wall of them at a “natural” pharmacy, and they all had it! Sean was just reading studies done in Japan about how it changes the DNA in cells so drastically that within 3 days they are unrecognizable, and it’s banned in many European countries. SO INFURIATING.

      1. Good god! I wish hygiene and beauty products were more regulated in the U.S. I don’t want to die just because I want to wear some mascara, or, heaven forfend, take a damn bath and slap on some deodorant. :( Thanks for posting your suggested products — at least there are some better, healthier options out there.

  4. I’ve been using Vapour Organic for my foundation/cream blush. Not sure what kind of coverage you’re looking for, but the foundation is liquid but goes on with almost a powder consistency. It’s hard to explain. It doesn’t really look like I’m wearing anything, which I like.

    Thanks for posting this and the giving the heads up on the body deli sale!

  5. Not everything natural is always good for you. Many essential oils and herbs can be irritants and harmful with prolonged use. Not all cosmetic chemicals will poison and kill you!

    I noticed that the Shelter lotion didn’t contain a preservative. Preservatives are pretty much essential for most safe cosmetic formulas. If a company says that they’re “all natural and safe” and I don’t see any preservative (synthetic or naturally derived) on their ingredient list, that raises a red flag for me.


    The “if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body” train of thought is a little silly. What about vegetable derived emulsifying wax that thickens your lotions and creams? Safe surfactants derived from coconuts in your shampoo? Hell no I wouldn’t eat that shit, but it makes a great product AND it’s safe!

    I also very much recommend the episode of Penn and Teller BS on organics.

    1. Sorry, I always forget there will be someone on the internet taking hyperbole literally. “Crazy natural, like “you can eat it” natural” was a figure of speech, I am not literally going to eat beauty products.

      I don’t mind refrigerating lotions to avoid some preservatives, and I use them quickly enough. Many of the Body Deli products should be refrigerated as well.

      There’s enough evidence that these chemicals are hormone disruptors, and enough countries have banned them for me to make the personal choice to steer clear of them. Obviously some herbs are irritants (I once put tea tree oil on a blemish and got a huge blistering rash!) but for the most part, I’ll stick with the natural products – and LESS product of any kind.

    2. Essential oils can also be very harmful to cats – but it’s best to keep all beauty products away from your animals anyway. They’re beautiful on their own :]
      (though I have heard that Manic Panic hair dye is safe to use on dogs, muahahaha)

  6. It gets easier! I used to be so overwhelmed by the process of de-toxing everything in my home but now I don’t think twice about it. Also, this is going to sound weird, but try apple cider vinegar for your hair. It may be wrong for your hair type (it makes my hair a bit wispy) and it seems counter-intuitive but it works. What I do is keep it in a spray bottle in the shower, spray it on just the ends after shampooing (just a little bit! you may need to dilute it) and then rinse it out. I also love adding a little baking soda to my shampoo or using it alone to combat the summer oilies. (great as a face scrub also)

  7. Also, I heart everydayminerals.com for foundation, eye shadow and blush. I mix some of the mineral foundation powder with sunscreen because I hate brushing it on. It’s also crazy cheap.

  8. I had to come back and leave a comment. I thought about your post for half a day or so. Then went and talked to some people about toothpaste! I get so overwhelmed with this stuff that lately I have stopped trying. Generally my habits are good for looking for safe products but like I said lately I’ve been feeling a bit fatalistic. I have so many allergies and dealing with it makes me sad. I hate that Canada has really really lax laws re having to list this stuff on labels. I think North America is a dumping ground for products that other countries have stricter laws about and won’t take. I’ll go and switch toothpastes again. And thank you very much for the list. I had seen that David Suzuki info elsewhere and have some other links too. I’ll try to find them. Thanks!

  9. I’m making similar efforts right now, too, and it’s HARD. My skin is acne & rosacea-prone, and after giving up prescription skin meds about 10 years ago, I’ve been all too willing to use whatever works without even thinking about potential toxicity.

    I just switched to Everyday Minerals a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been great. I’m allergic to various ingredients in most mineral makeups (and other makeups in general—at least foundations/powders), but EM so far seems to be fine, and my skin hasn’t looked this good in years.

    Also, Tom’s makes an SLS-free toothpaste that might be easier for some people to find. I think Kiss My Face does, too, though I haven’t tried it. If you need a good backup deodorant (I sometimes have to switch off in order for them to stay effective), Kiss My Face Liquid Rock roll-on is wonderful.

    In the shower, I’m just using castile soap.

    I do like cleaning my face with a grapeseed/castor-oil mix (3:1) and a hot washcloth. The former makes a nice “serum”, too.

    I have to admit, though, that nothing makes my face look as good as Mario Badescu Carnation/Rice Oil Milk…but it has methylparaben in it. The only sunscreen I’ve found that doesn’t cause problems for me is a Paula’s Choice spray, but it contains a siloxane. SIGH. I wish I knew if the levels they contain and the amount of exposure time are actually enough to be harmful, but of course it’s virtually impossible to know.

    1. I’ll try the oil cleanser idea! The Tom’s toothpaste I had & others I looked at all had SLS, so I didn’t know. Seriously, I was even looking at crazy hippie ayurvedic ones and they had it. So weird.

      The deodorant was a recommendation from my aunt, who’s a nurse! I don’t actually wear deodorant every day (it rarely gets above 80 here) so they tend to work ok.

    2. Thank you for the suggestion of grapeseed and castor oil as a cleanser. I’m going to try it. I tried olive and castor having read about the Oil Cleansing Method but it didn’t agree with my skin. Oddly I have found that arnica gel takes care of blemishes. It will clear most blemishes overnight! (I was amazed by this as I used to use the Clinique blemish gel and thought that nothing else would work). I happened to use a gel made by A. Vogel. I’ve yet to find out if any arnica gel would work as this 100ml tube has lasted for months! It only has four other ingredients, one of which is ethanol. I suspect that the ethanol is helping to dry out the blemish but it’s gentle enough not to cause redness or flaking, even on my picky skin.

  10. I use straight jojoba oil for most of my beauty needs. I have dry skin so I use it as an all over body moisturiser,but also as eye make up remover (melts mascara off so easily, even waterproof though you probably won’t be wearing that any more) and face cleanser (rub in oil and wipe off with a hot flannel feels so good and then no need to moisturise). It really simplfies things having one product that serves multiple purposes.
    I’ve used coconut oil as deodorant in the past too. Good on you for reducing the toxic load on your body.

      1. I should have also mentioned dry skin brushing. Nothing will make your (body) skin feel silkier and it is helpful with detoxing too, the skin being our largest organ of elimination. Your shower filter doing magical things is what made me think about it. Seriously you’ll be running your fingers along your skin you wont believe how soft you feel.

        1. I’ve been doing it for detox help! But I do forget, I need to hang the brush in a more visible place so when I stumble awake in the AM I remember!

  11. Skin/hair care and makeup are one of the top culprits for breast cancer, so they should be one of the top concerns for women. It’s so great to see more people starting to be more conscious about what they put in and on their body!

    About the toothpaste, I’m been using Tom’s Of Maine for a while now and I love their “Anti-plaque/Whitening” toothpaste. It feels super minty and doesn’t have SLS or flouride. I love it!

    Thanks for the Vapour Organics recommendation, I just ordered a sample kit from them!

    1. I don’t know why all the Tom’s I looked at had SLS? I guess I just didn’t pick up the right tube.

      Especially at my age (35) it’s nervewracking to realize how much crap I’ve slathered on in my lifetime that’s possibly toxic. Now I just want to use less stuff & be more conscious of what’s in it!

  12. Ugh! I will confess…I have put off thinking about this for a very, very long time now. I think the only thing I currently use that is considered “clean” or non-toxic is the thai crystal deodorant stone/spray…and I am not even 100% sure about that.
    Although, I think Jason’s toothpastes may be SLS free? Or at least some of them are? Here are the ingredients for their “Healthy Mouth” toothpaste, which as I recall was not too awful: “Contains CoQ10, tea tree oil, aloe vera leaf gel, silica mineral, neem oil, parsley extract, bamboo stem powder, perilla seed extract, grapefruit seed extract, cinnamon oil, menthol, and clove oil.”

    But just thinking about getting rid of all my stuff sort terrifies me and pinches at me with a sort of low grade annoyance. What if I don’t find anything natural that works as well as the chock-full-o’chemicals brand? And – all that money down the drain!

    It’s all about trade-offs, I suppose. Smooth hair and longer lashes and a body riddled with tumors? Or stubby lashes, frizzy crackle tresses and a life worth living (or at least the secure knowledge that you did all you could to ensure that)? You wouldn’t think that should be something to really deliberate on when you get right down to it.

    1. My shower filter is doing MAGICAL THINGS!!! That sounds dirty!! But I haven’t even needed the usual hair treatments post shower, it’s making nice curls and soft skin – without products! So I’m hoping that keeps working. But yes, the clean out was brutal. Luckily, I had a lot that needed replacing, and a lot that really was OLD and shouldn’t have been kept anyway. I didn’t have any “I MUST HAVE THIS PRODUCT TO MAKE ME BEAUTIFUL” type things, except my face wash, which is listed above and already awesome. So that was good.

      But I haven’t been wearing face makeup and it makes me sad. I need some color!

      1. I just somehow ended up on your blog, and thank god I did! Could you pleaseeee tell me what shower head you bought?! I have crazy allergies and all the fragrance free shampoos are doing a number on my hair, I went from always pretty hair to wth is on my head can’t go out. So if this could change my hair life even 10% I’m willing to dish out good money for one!
        Thank you so much =)

  13. It IS difficult to switch to natural products and find effective replacements for things you’ve used for years. If anyone feels overwhelmed by the idea just remember that any change is a good thing and it’s better to take a gradual approach than decide to do nothing. When you run out of a product then replace it with a natural equivilant. (The more you learn the faster you will want to do this but it’s just important to take the first step). I started with finding a SLS free shampoo and natural conditioner because the SLS was causing sore lumps and bumps on my scalp. It took AGES for me to realise the culprit and I have been bump free since I switched. (I use Louise Galvin’s Natural Locks shampoo and Culpeper’s conditioner but they make be UK only). I found the simplest clean cream cleanser that I could and my skin improved (Liz Earle cleanse and polish is great but there are less expensive options around). It drives me crazy when ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are used on labelling and the product is chock full of harsh chemicals. It’s far from perfect here in the UK but I can’t imagine buying a product with incomplete ingredient listing! I was stunned to find most LUSH products had SLS in (as well as other nasties). The only shop I could walk into and be safe choosing any products was Neal’s Yard Remedies. Fantastic products and a great safe-haven for anyone wanting to go chemical free in one swoop.

    This website/blog is a great source of information:


    They have lots of reviews of products and a simple guide to what you don’t want in your products. It’s less useful for me as the products are generally available here but that makes it more useful for the majority of your readers! :-)

      1. They are generally pretty good about returns at LUSH so I think that it’s worth a go. They were my first port of call for ‘natural’ products (it’s definitely the image they project, I think) so I was stunned when I couldn’t find an SLS free shampoo. At the time they said they were hoping to move towards SLS free products by Christmas (2009) but they actually went in the opposite direction and added SLS back into the few products I could use! It was even in the sensitive skin products! Of course it’s not just SLS that is the problem, that was simply my starting point in this journey.

        I also wanted to say to the person that was worried about the ‘dangers’ of preservative free natural products that often there are preservatives in the formulations, it’s just that they aren’t listed in those terms. Vitamin E is an effective preservative and will be listed as tocopherol. Beeswax is also effective, as is benzoin tincture (Styrax benzoin). There are many other options but it’s a case of getting to know your Latin names. I found this book invaluable:


        I make my own cleansing balm (separate blends for daytime and evening) and the beeswax (sourced locally) is enough to ensure the product remains stable. The upside of the horror of learning about how chemical laden products can be is that I’ve enjoyed learning how to make my own products (with the exception of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel – I leave that to the experts, though I do use coconut oil as a deep conditioner as someone else suggested).

        I hope that you don’t mind my lengthy responses but I like to encourage others to get started with this as I think that it’s really important. (In my case I have a long term chronic illness and I was reacting badly to chemicals and assuming that it was my body at fault, not the products…)

        Best of luck getting LUSH to refund you. They don’t like to disappoint people so I really think they will help (I’m a born optimist!)

  14. This is such an important topic and I wish more women knew about the risks of using cosmetics and toiletries loaded full of chemicals. :( Nasty stuff! Our skin is our body’s largest organ, so we should treat it just as carefully as we treat our other organs! It makes no sense to eat healthy, organic foods but then to load our skin full of yucky synthetic, toxic stuff….yet, I know so many people who do this.

    My rule of thumb with my skin is to not put anything on it that I wouldn’t eat. It’s amazing how many edible things are really, really wonderful for our skin. My face is SO smooth after a simple plain yogurt mask. It glows after a honey and oatmeal scrub. It’s firm and rosy after I moisturize with a little dab of pure coconut oil.

  15. I feel for you– I freaked out pretty badly when I found out about all the toxic chemicals in cosmetics, too. So badly, in fact, that my skincare routine is now extremely simple. Here’s the stuff I use, if you or anyone else who may read this is interested:

    cleanser: Home Health Facial Cleansing Gel

    exfoliator: exfoliating sponge for the face (‘natural’ fruit or sugar scrubs contain harsh granules that create tiny tears in the skin, and the microbead scrubs tend to have toxic chemicals as well, so I just exfoliate manually)

    toner: rosewater

    moisturizer: jojoba oil, or Aubrey Organics Rosa Mosqueta Moisturizing Cream when my skin is especially dry

    All of these contain as few ingredients (and as many natural components) as possible, and most are roughly the same price or cheaper than the stuff they sell at a pharmacy.

    If only it were easier to find non-toxic makeup (that’s actually fun to wear).

    1. I switch between jojoba, argan and rosehip oil as a night-time moisturiser, depending on what my skin seems to need. Sometimes I layer all three! I also have preblended oils (made in very small batches so that they stay fresh – 10 to 15ml in an amber or blue glass bottle kept out of direct sunlight) which are tailored for different skin states. If I want something richer then I will use a blend that has avocado oil in, which tends to be too heavy to use neat on the skin. It’s pretty great to be able to tailor make your own blends! You can learn a great deal from established, often pricy, brands and then make your own version. I found a reliable seller on eBay and it works out surprisingly cheaply to blend high quality oils (argan, borage, macadamia nut, evening primrose – there are wonderful possiblities out there :-) ) Also, I put a small amount of argan or jojoba oil through my hair when it’s about halfway to being dry and that has worked wonders, especially on the ends. A 100ml bottle of any of these oils last for months and months (I buy from someone who sells fresh oil, bottled to order, and advises how long the oil will remain useable – often up to two years).

  16. And this is why I put next to nothing on my skin. It’s Tom’s toothpaste…also salt/baking soda mixes work great…you can add a little peppermint oil if it tastes funky or coconut, apparently, although I’ve never tried that… http://www.naturalnews.com/029140_toothpaste_fluoride.html

    I wear big brimmed hats, the very rare mascara, and wash my hair once a week or less. I’d rather look ugly than use most products. Grapeseed and sesame oils are lighter than olive oil if you need to condition, also this is awesome… plain yogurt, egg and banana. Ha. Three course meal on your head! http://aunaturale007.blogspot.com/2009/09/natural-yogurt-hair-conditioner.html It seriously works though. XXOO See you soon!

    1. Some Tom’s has the SLS chemical, though. I thought about the baking soda thing & then I was like I AM NOT THAT HIPPIE YET. When I move home I’ll start. 😉

      I don’t wash my hair much, but without conditioner I have big fat dreads.

      6 weeks til hometime!!! I CANT WAIT!! We have to go canoeing! And we want to go house-peeping too!

      1. Ha ha! My bf teases me for my ‘hippie-ish’ ways but I still use pre-made products on my hair, just ones without nasties. I’ve found that I wash my hair less since switching to gentler products. I only wash my hair once a week (or even ten days – eeek!) and it’s often at it’s best a few days into the week. (I have long, thick hair that doesn’t get greasy but definitely needs a good conditioner :-) )

  17. I have fine, very curly, easily tangled, frizzy hair and use straight coconut oil for deep conditioning however I find that Weleda’s Rosemary Hair Oil works better on a daily basis for me as it is a bit lighter. I wash my hair once a week but rinse it everyday and then comb through a wee bit of Rosemary Hair Oil while my hair is damp. It leaves me with soft curls and no need of additional styling product. If you are still okay using Weleda products, it might be worth a try!

  18. i have only skimmed the comments so far, but have you tried weleda toothpaste? no sls! no fluoride either, but some people think we get too much of that, too. we use veerrrrrry little in terms of beauty/bath products around here. partially because we’re broke, but also partially because i’m nervous about chemical unknowns as well. dr bronner’s soap, coconut oil, baking soda and apple cider vinegar have been our staples. we’re not pretty, but we’re pretty healthy!

  19. so glad you posted this! such a serious topic that is (finally) getting more attention…

    there is a trader joe’s all-natural peppermint toothpaste that is vegan and SLS-free and super affordable!

    also, all of aubrey’s products are nice and all-natural. i use the facial lotion for sensitive skin and it is a little thin but works nicely.

    i use a salt egg for deodorant that i bought at whole foods and apple cider vinegar for conditioner (which makes your hair so soft once the smell fades away hehe).

    i use coconut oil for everything! hair conditioner, split end tamer, body lotion and eye makeup remover.


  20. I was beyond excited when I read your post. I honestly thought I was the only one who cared about using SLS and fluoride free toothpaste and that spent hours reading and checking ingredients on every bottle of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, and tube of toothpaste I buy. I’m obsessed that it be like “you can eat it natural”….so far the best & most legit I’ve found (other then like, making your own right out of your fridge and kitchen) are…

    Juice Beauty…all things face. http://www.juicebeauty.com/

    John Master’s Organics….haircare, skincare, petcare. http://www.johnmasters.com/dhs.htm

    JASON makes some amazing toothpaste… http://www.jason-natural.com/products/powersmile.php

  21. The best ‘discovery’ I’ve made, recently, is plain old drugstore .99 stick of 100% pure cocoa butter. I have extremely sensitive, breakout prone skin and it moisturizes and heals my face without making me break out worse. The jury is still out as to whether it actually minimizes stretch marks and scars, but I swear when I use it on zits or little scratches, they heal days faster.

      1. I just got my period, the weather is getting warmer, and I didn’t feel that I needed a base today. Something must be working! I’ve been trying not to use foundation unless I really need to, instead of every day as I had for MANY years, so that might also be helping.

        Here is a list of common ingredients and their comedogenic and irritant rating. Cocoa butter seems to be highly comedogenic, yet it’s not bad for me. It makes me wonder how BAD what I’d been using/doing really was!


  22. I meant to leave this comment back when you asked about products for curly hair, so here it goes! I really, really love the Kinky-Curly leave-in and curling custard for my fine, curly hair. I’m not sure if it’s really all natural, but I think it’s pretty close. The shampoo I love is DevaCare LoPoo, which doesn’t really foam. It’s great!

  23. Have you heard of Arbonne? It’s pure, safe and beneficial. There is a skin care line, personal care line, cosmetics, baby care, men care and a health & wellness program. The products do not contain any animal products or by-products and they are toxin-free (no phthalates, no paba, parabens, formaldehyde, etc.) I use the FC5 shampoo and conditioner with the Sea Source mask for my hair, which is pretty unruly, and I love it…and I’ve tried a lot of different things. As soon as I changed to plant-based products, my hair got shiny and silky…


  24. I would love an update to this post if you feel so inclined! I reference it every once in awhile when shopping for lotions and such, and I’m curious if anything’s changed in three years.

Leave a Reply to Elise Cancel reply