We don’t like to eat chemicals in our food, why would we want to put them on our skin? Here’s how I transitioned to a natural beauty product routine and why you might want to as well.
Istood in front of my open bathroom door holding a heavy-duty black trash bag. Over the course of the next hour, I’d proceed to toss 95 percent of my beauty arsenal, from toothpaste to eyeliner. I was sick of not being able to pronounce the 50+ ingredients on the back of my face wash that I always accidentally swallowed. Plus, I was inspired by my effortlessly beautiful friend, Caitlin, who recently shared she used plain coconut oil to remove her makeup, moisturize her shaved legs, and sauté her veggies.
My hasty approach left me with an empty bathroom—and my armpits were already starting to stink. After a trip to five natural beauty boutiques in a single Saturday, I came home with bags of natural, organic, eco-friendly, green, clean, vegan, cruelty-free, [insert-buzzword-here] products, and five jaw-dropping receipts.
Over the course of the next few weeks, some of the new stuff worked (like my peppermint body wash and charcoal face mask). But some didn’t live up to the label’s claims. Though I felt good about my decision to transition to natural beauty, I wish I had gone about it more strategically and less drastically.
Here are the three things I wish I’d done differently, plus a few tips from a natural beauty expert I probably should have consulted first. (My wallet would’ve thanked me.)
Ditch the trash bag, take it slow
Instead of overhauling your entire bathroom like I did, choose one product per week (or month) to transition. Replace the next beauty product you run out of—whether it’s your conditioner or mascara—with a natural alternative.
Hannah Brady, the in-house esthetician at Credo Beauty, suggests starting with what matters most. “When customers are new to natural beauty, I recommend beginning with lip products and eye makeup, which enter our system directly,” she says, as Credo Beauty sells only clean cosmetics.
“Then, I recommend switching body products, because any toxic ingredients in body care are absorbed into a wider surface area than our face.”
Starting with a few products at a time, and not throwing out half-used bottles makes the process more manageable and affordable. But ultimately, what you toss and when is up to you.
Do your homework
If I had simply taken an hour or two to do some research before boldly embarking on a beauty spree, I would have saved myself so much time and money. As natural beauty becomes more widespread, there are many resources as your disposal to help you make informed decisions.
Unfortunately, many brands jump on the natural beauty bandwagon but don’t belong there. I ended up buying a few products that claimed to be “natural” because they had a single natural ingredient. Informing yourself on what terms like “organic” and “natural” actually mean ensures you won’t fall victim to misleading marketing.
Besides using the label to review or Google ingredients, resources like the USDA, Leaping Bunny, Safe Cosmetics, and EWG can help you learn terminology, recognize product labels and seals, and look up specific products to see if they abide by your personal standards.
Doing your homework has other wallet-friendly perks, too. “By getting comfortable reading labels, you might find that an expensive natural cream you love has the same ingredients as another more affordable natural option,” adds Brady.
Raid the grocery store
I should had taken a cue from my friend Caitlin, who buys her coconut oil when she makes regular trips to the grocery store.
“I use honey to wash my face and coconut oil to moisturize,” says Caitlin Thompson, a 31-year-old marketing associate in Austin, Texas. “I get them both at Whole Foods. They’re more simple and affordable than any natural products I’d buy at a beauty store.”
These multi-taskers can also be used in the kitchen, which may save you money in the long run. I now buy many beauty products at the grocery store, even though I initially overlooked this destination. For example, I use apple cider vinegar as a facial toner to fight bacteria and take a weekly oatmeal bath to moisturize and relieve any itching. I find them to be just as effective as beauty-specific products and cost less.
Many health foods stores also have a beauty aisle full of pure, single-ingredient products like argan oil or shea butter. “A 100% rosehip oil can work wonders for your skin,” says Caitlin. “It’s loaded with nutrients, omegas, antioxidants, and often will cost less than formulated serums with more than one ingredient.”
With natural beauty on the rise, making the transition has never been easier. There are stores, like Credo, completely devoted to the movement. “There are so many fantastic brands to choose from these days,” echoes Caitlin. But before you grab that heavy-duty trash bag, keep these tips in mind to ensure your green efforts are practical, financially friendly, and most importantly, enjoyable.