Wearing cosmetics doesn’t mean having to slather yourself in chemicals.
by Michele Wojciechowski
Makeup has been around for thousands of years, with the ancient Egyptians getting into cosmetics in a serious way around 10,000 BCE. And while we’ve moved away from rubbing berries on our lips and cheeks to add color, that doesn’t mean that our makeup needs to be filled with chemical additives that aren’t good for us.
In fact, experts say there is plenty of natural makeup available on the market today that is both good for your skin and won’t break the bank. You can find the whole gamut in natural forms too—foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, eye shadow, eyebrow powder and blush, among others.
Before you switch to makeup that doesn’t contain the same old stuff,
remember not to be lulled into complacency by the term “natural.”
“Just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be safe or tolerated for any particular individual,” says Janet Prystowsky, MD, PC, a New York City dermatologist. Because of your skin’s physiology, Prystowsky explains, you could still be allergic or get an irritation to makeup
even if it’s composed of all-natural ingredients.
A classic example, Prystowsky says, is when a patient will ask her if lotion or makeup containing botanicals will be good. “Just because something is from a plant doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be okay,” she says. “Poison ivy
is a botanical.”
Especially if you have sensitive skin or particular allergies of any kind, Prystowsky suggests that when trying out a new makeup or skincare product, do a patch test. Put a small amount in the inside crease of your elbow (the place where blood is drawn). This area is good for testing because the skin tends to stay warm and hydrated. So if a product is going to cause you sensitivity, this provides a good environment to see if it will be agreeable or not.
If you try the product for a couple of days, and there’s no irritation, next try it on your face.
Less Is More
When scouting out natural makeup, less is better.
“I always say start with as few ingredients as possible,” says Marianne Skiba, an Emmy Award-winning celebrity makeup artist and owner of Glam Earth Natural & Beauty Boutique in Pittsburgh. Skiba has worked as the department head for makeup for the movie “The Fault in Our Stars” (and other films) and was the makeup artist for actress Shailene Woodley,
in addition to serving as makeup artist for “Law & Order” and as Susan Lucci’s makeup artist for years on “All My Children.”
For all her experience, though, Skiba didn’t begin working with natural products until she was diagnosed with mercury poisoning, which she says was perhaps triggered by dental work.
“If the ingredient list is a mile long, there’s going to be a good percentage of things in there that you’d like to avoid,” says Skiba. Often, both natural and organic makeup will give the classic names of ingredients, but also break it down into what it really is. For example, you may not know what “Lonicera Japonica” is, but you may recognize it as Japanese honeysuckle.
The Good Stuff
There are a number of beneficial ingredients to look for in natural makeup.
Prystowsky says that beta keratin, an antioxidant, is helpful, as is green tea extract. The latter, she says, has been shown in research to protect skin from tumor formation when exposed to ultraviolet light. “So you don’t just have to drink green tea to get some ultraviolet damage prevention benefit,” she says. Other ingredients soothing to the skin are oatmeal, aloe vera, licorice and cucumber.
A number of natural oils are garnering attention in the skincare world, including argan, olive, safflower and walnut. “All of these oils naturally have vitamin E in them and other essential fatty acids, so they’re helpful for the skin cells in general,” explains Prystowsky.
For most people, nut oils are fine for their skin. If you have a nut allergy, however, you may want to avoid them. As Skiba puts it, “What you put on your skin goes into your body.” She adds that if you are allergic to gluten, make sure that the makeup you choose is gluten-free as well.
Skiba says that jojoba and coconut oils are great, as are essential oils. “I love essential oils because they have a lot of properties—from healing to disinfectant to preservative properties.” Lavender, peppermint and grapefruit oils are wonderful anti-bacterials and preservatives, adds Skiba.
In addition, Skiba loves shea butter as well as cosmetics colored with fruit and vegetable dyes. Though the color range is more limited, says Skiba, “the colors are beautiful.”
Minerals provide another natural option. Some women find regular makeup to be heavy and oily, and prefer the mineral versions, which consist of mostly finely pulverized minerals and natural coloring agents, applied in very sheer layers. Unlike regular makeup, mineral cosmetics are less likely to become a breeding ground for microorganisms. What’s more, minerals’ refractive power helps provide glow while making fine lines and other imperfections less noticeable.
Do Your Homework
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2014, Cindy Rack of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, decided to go chemical-free, and that included her makeup. “I look for plant-based products,” she says, “[and] something that’s made out of essential oils.”
Rack agrees with Skiba: “If I can’t read the name of it, it’s probably bad.”
As for where to find natural makeup, Skiba suggests looking on the internet as well as at local farmers’ and craft markets, where people who make organic products may sell them. In addition, a number of health food stores carry natural cosmetics as well as natural skin and hair care items.
As for price, you can find natural/organic makeup in all ranges, just as you can with other makeup lines. “Some people like status,” says Skiba. “You can still pay $200 for a moisturizer—but for an organic product.”
Both Skiba and Rack turn to the website EWG.org, which is run by the Environmental Working Group. The site details a range of products, including makeup. The organization’s smartphone app, Skin Deep, allows you to type in a product’s information or scan its barcode and find out the EWG ranking from zero to 10. If it’s not in the EWG database, Rank says they will research it for you.
“Zero to four is acceptable in my eyes,” says Skiba. “It depends on your personal situation. Some people only want zero.”
Looking your loveliest doesn’t require a ton of unpronounceable ingredients. Natural makeup provides a cleaner alternative.