By Rachelle Carson-Begley
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a girly-girl. I love to look fresh, pulled-together, and effortlessly beautiful. And years ago, I went to any lengths to achieve a flawless look, regardless of the consequences. I slathered on baby oil and baked in the sun, I scrubbed my face with god know what, used petroleum jelly as lip gloss, applied makeup full of chemicals and parabans to achieve a flawless complexion.
As I became involved in the green movement and the concept of green living began to take hold in our culture, I started to slowly dip my toe in other areas of green. I thought that if I could take steps to make my home and living environment green, I could certainly do it for my body, too. After all, I had already given up coffee and alcohol. I was diligently doing my Pilates. And my curling iron was now on the “watch” list (thanks, Ed). I thought, I work hard not to put unnecessary toxins inside my body, so why should I put them on my body?
It was harder than I thought.
Ingredients that are applied topically to the skin can be compared to food: they can be natural, organic, and pesticide-free, or they can be filled with chemical ingredients, parabens, phthalates, carcinogens, and dies. And, like food, these ingredients are absorbed into the body every day by our skin, the body’s largest organ. And while I knew this fact intellectually, it was challenging to put it into action physically. Here are some simple things I’ve learned, and I’ll hope you incorporate as you move toward green beauty:
Reduce your stress levels.
It’s been well documented that stress affects our mind, body, and spirit. In my opinion, nothing ages our body and skin more than stress. Over the years, I’ve gone to great lengths to breathe, exercise, dance, laugh, shrug annoyances off my shoulders—you name it. Do something healthy every day to reduce your stress, and that will be your first healthy move toward green beauty.
Train yourself to gradually increase your water intake.
The skin works to remove toxins and waste from your system, so you must continuously flush your skin and keep the pathway of elimination open. Water cleanses and nourishes your skin from the inside out and is critical to skin’s beauty and health—so I always bring a refillable glass (never plastic) water bottle to refill and refuel. If it’s not empty by the end of the day, I sit for a minute in my garden and finish it off before entering the house and getting into my evening routine.
Start reading labels.
Become aware of what’s in the products you are using to cleanse your skin and face.
At first, I started to look for products that were paraben and PCB-free. Then I started using products “made with organic ingredients” (organic meaning those plants are grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides) and with labels that contained words I could pronounce—until I understood that there were levels of “organic.” Just because a product says it is green, doesn’t mean that it is. By definition, to be “organic,” the product must contain at least 95% organically produced food ingredients, according to USDA Organic certification; to be “100 percent organic,” the product must contain only organically produced food ingredients. Through the National Organic Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates food ingredients found in cosmetics, although it doesn’t regulate plant-derived ingredients such as essential oils. Although I don’t feel you need to be obsessive about it, you do want your products to bear the USDA Organic seal whenever possible.