Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Responsible Self Customization

For my upcoming birthday my hubby just ordered me two awesome palettes from BHCostmetics.com. I plan on doing a box opening video when I get to open them (probably closer to my actual birthday next month) that I will share here. I am really excited! He took advantage of their amazing New Years sale last night so both palettes were only 10 bucks. Since we did not get to exchange Christmas presents this year due to financial stuff I am even more excited than I normally would be!

I also have the flu so I have spent a lot of time in bed watching makeup and nail art tutorials which I find to be very relaxing, but this has gotten me thinking about how crazy the beauty industry is. Many women eat organic foods but buy any and all makeup and skin care products without batting an eyelash. I spent many years abstaining from makeup and nail polish because of the potential toxicity of all that gunk, not to mention the packaging waste and animal testing. 10 years ago there was MUCH less awareness about what was in these products than there is now, though, and the research I have done recently has given me the confidence to return to the things I enjoy about using cosmetics without putting toxic products on my skin and without contributing to animal cruelty. I recently vowed to stop purchasing nail polish brands that don't have a confirmable track record of not testing on animals (though the dollar store foils my good intentions EVERY TIME! I'm not perfect, but I am doing my best to remain aware of the companies I buy from).

I've compiled some information about using self customization products responsibly for your body, the environment and furry creatures.

Some things to be aware of: It is my understanding that any company that sells cosmetics to China does participate in animal testing as  per China's requirements. MAC was, until recently, a cruelty free company. However it is now owned by Estee Lauder, which sells products in China. Logically, we can assume that all products coming FROM China have been tested on animals. Also, many beauty products from China contain harmful ingredients that are illegal for cosmetic use in the US.

If you're just getting started with cruelty-free cosmetics let me suggest LeapingBunny.org's shopping guide as an excellent resource for all things cruelty-free. They offer pocket guides and downloadable PDF files detailing which companies are certified cruelty free. Just be aware that these companies pay for that certification and, as such, many cruelty free companies that lack the certification (but may offer cheaper products) are not included. Use your best judgement and independently verify the reputation of a company before you buy. PETA also has similar information available at their website, however I cannot condone many of PETA's advertising methods or their policies and so I have not included any links to their website. I  recommend cross-referencing companies you plan to buy from among several sources you trust.

Non-Evil Cosmetic Companies (that I have personally researched or purchased from):
According to BH Cosmetic's FAQ, none of their products are tested on animals. I attempted to independently verify this (just because one company does not use animal testing does not mean their ingredient suppliers do not) and while I did not come up with much, they do have a really awesome reputation as a company and are widely considered to be a source for cruelty free products in the industry. Their stuff is affordable and apparently high quality! Also, some of their products are made in the USA!

Beneficial Minerals is an Etsy seller that offers vegan mineral cosmetics. I have not personally shopped with them yet but I do plan to. According to their website the founder has a background in forensic science and had experience working with many of the ingredients used in mineral cosmetics prior to starting her company. Mineral cosmetics are generally considered to be better for your skin and less likely to have harmful or less-than-eco-friendly additives (though some do debate this - certainly just because something is a mineral does not mean it will not harm your skin, particularly if you have allergies). I did note that "goat hair" brushes are included with some of their make-up sets, FYI. Animal hair for make-up brushes is typically not harvested from live animals, meaning animals are killed for their fur and are almost certainly either wild caught (as with badger hair used in contemporary shaving brushes) or kept in substandard conditions.

SignatureMinerals.com offers free mineral make-up samples, you pay shipping cost. You can also purchase additional samples inexpensively. I have used their products personally and I really loved them. Their eye shadows, particularly their shimmers, are VERY highly pigmented (the inside of my makeup box can attest to this ...shimmery pigment everywhere years after the fact!) and they claim to be free of many additives that are not good for you or your skin, including Parabens. They offer detailed ingredient guides for their products which is especially wonderful if you have allergies to certain cosmetic ingredients. Their FAQ is very nicely organized and informative. I have not been able to determine if they are a cruelty free company so I just sent them an inquiry and will update this post when I get a response.
 Edit: Here is the nice response I got from Signature Minerals: "Animal testing is an issue that is very dear to our hearts - We absolutely do not participate in animal testing. At the bottom of our site, you can see our bunny with our No Animal Testing statement.

Thanks so much!
Customer Support
Signature Minerals

A note about make-up brushes: Opt for high-quality synthetic brush bristles. I reviewed an E.L.F. brush I recently purchased and I was so surprised at how soft and springy the bristles are! NOTHING like what we were accustomed to in the 90's.

Nail Polish

E.L.F.OPI, China Glaze, Hard Candy, ORLYWet n Wild and Butter London offer cruelty nail polish. Before you purchase, make sure your polish is 3-free too! There are many lesser known companies that also offer cruelty free polish so if you're looking for a specific shade you're sure to find it from at least one of the reputable companies out there. The companies listed above are all well known and widely available at most drug and beauty supply stores and online.

Don't Believe The Hype About Skin Care

The cosmetic industry has many people convinced that if they are going to spend large amounts of money on  any cosmetic product, it should be a skin-care product. I, personally, think this is crazy talk. What do you need to do for your skin? Clean it, right? And bar soap probably dries your face, often contains gross fragrances and may come from a dubious source, right?

So use witchhazel! My mother taught me this trick when I was in my teens and prone to breakouts. Use a cotton pad to swipe witchazel (available in most drug stores) over your oily spots. Now your skin is clean. You can use it often without drying out or damaging your skin, too.

And you probably want to moisturize your skin, especially if you are prone to dryness or have been exposed to too much sun, right? And, you probably don't like having product left on your skin after applying sunscreen or makeup, right?

Use oil! MANY make-up artists recommending using oil as a natural makeup remover and moisturizer. I would recommend using this prior to applying witch hazel, and I would also recommend avoiding baby oil, which seems to be the most commonly used oil for this application. Jojoba oil, or even olive oil, is just as effective. You may prefer certain oils over others based on how heavy they feel and what sort of residue, if any, they leave behind.

Steam is your friend! I used to own a facial steamer that I loved, and it is available for purchase for about $20 at many drug stores. Saunas are great and also (and I know this is going to seem a little counter productive) sweating is GREAT for your skin! If you want to remove and prevent blackheads, pimples and clogged pores, then either steam or sweat is the way to go. (Hot yoga, anyone?). A cold washcloth or an ice-cube applied to the face after steaming/sweating and then cleansing will shrink and close your pores, preventing future clogs.

Looking for something extra? DIY facial masks using either toning and cleansing ingredients (i.e. drying ingredients like astringents and clays) and/or moisturizing ingedients like oils, combined with an abrasive like ground oatmeal, sugar or salt (I recommend using salt on the rest of the body but not on the face) or baking soda are easy and cheap to make. Adding dairy products can also encourage sloughing of old skin cells (of course only if you're not vegan. Despite my preference for vegan products I do not adhere to a vegan diet).

I plan on making a coffee scrub using the recipe in this video from VenusAngelic.

You can make a spritzer using a small spritzing bottle from Sally Beauty or similar, combined with 1/2 oil of your choice and 1/2 water. Shake, spray and you're moisturized. Some people also use milk as a spritzer though it's less portable.

I have done my best to minimize the use of the word "beauty" in this entry because I do not believe beauty comes from any product, natural or not. I enjoy self-customization for the artistic expression, but I realize that it can be triggering for many women who are working toward a balanced, healthy view of themselves and their bodies and appearance. My final piece of advice is to check in with yourself frequently and question your motivations for any self-customization you do. If you do it for yourself and for your own enjoyment, then you're probably on the right track. If, on the other hand, using cosmetics makes you feel badly about yourself, or makes you feel compelled to hide what you perceive or have been convinced are your "flaws" then put the brush down and step away. Every body is beautiful and no body has ever been or will ever be perfect or free from perceived flaws. Don't let the world pressure you into feeling obligated to look a certain way. This takes a lot of self-awareness and confidence, but if ANYTHING is sure to produce beauty it's CONFIDENCE! Cultivate it, spend time with confident people and do things that make you feel confident, capable and healthy. This is the ONLY real path to beauty you will ever find - but don't let me tell you what to do because the truth is no on can discover this but YOU.