I love summer. I feel happiest when it’s about 85 degrees and I’m able to hit the beach as much as possible. I have a healthy tan. Most of the other women I know are terrified of the sun – they wear huge hats, sit only in the shade, and lather sunscreen all over themselves and their kids. While the danger of skin cancer is real, I also think there are healthier ways to enjoy the sun.
It seems like everyone in the health community is talking about safe skin care these days. Your Instagram feed is probably loaded with cleansers, makeup, and masks. Why the huge pop in the topic? The truth is that it’s the evolution of this thing we call ‘wellness’. What does our skin have to do with it?
Paleo got people focusing on what they were eating. Going back to real food and realizing that quality matters was just the beginning. Then it led us to the sustainability side of the coin: how it’s about more than protein, fats, and carbs, but it’s about how animals are raised, how crops are harvested and what that means for the environment. We oil pulled. We shopped for chocolate that doesn’t contain soy. We made sure that our eggs were from pastured chickens. We put on blue blocker glasses when we skimmed through our news feeds at night. Yet in the morning, many women would wake up, use their ‘anti-aging’ store bought moisturizer, and then layer their skin with convenience or departments store make up, with not much thought about it. We worry about liver detoxes, adrenal function, and if our intestines house all the right bacteria…but have we forgotten about one major organ?
Your Skin: The Biggest Organ You’ve Got
Your skin does a whole lot more than just keep everything else in its package. It’s a shied against the outside world. Protecting us from pathogens and toxins. It’s a major player for the immune system. It even keeps your body temperature resulted via blood vessels that wind through just below its surface. Our pores and sweat glands provide a major means of detoxification. It’s a pretty amazing casing we’ve got.
Enter skin care and make up. In the US, we’ve sadly been saddled with a cosmetics industry that’s seemingly able to toss whatever they want into the products we slather on our skin. Skin is very absorbent. What goes on, goes in. We know it’s true with food, yet we seem to have overlooking what we put on our faces.
Question Your Products
Let’s start with a little background on the formulation and regulation of the cosmetics industry. First off, the FDA does not require cosmetic companies to test their products for safety. Most ingredients used are not even approved before they hit supermarket shelves, with the exception of specific color additives and active ingredients. Unfortunately, the number of banned chemicals and ingredients is lackluster in the US when compared to other countries. The EU, for example, has a list of over 1000 banned cosmetic ingredients, whereas in the US, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has labeled only 11 as unsafe. Something doesn’t add up.
That review board is the self-regulating panel that the cosmetics industry uses to police itself. We all know how well that works.
So why does it matter? We’ve already addressed that the stuff you put on your skin does, in fact, get into your body. Many of the elsewhere-banned chemicals that can be found in US products are carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and are potentially damaging reproductive health. Common cosmetic and sunscreen ingredients, like parabens, plastics, and even pesticides, are some of the major ingredients of concern. Even more so because most cosmetics contain ingredients that actually increase the level to which the skin absorbs them.
Even many organic and ‘natural’ products are questionable. They too often contain unsafe synthetic ingredients. Certified organic cosmetic and skincare products must contain at minimum 10% organic ingredients by weight or volume. Sadly, that means up to 90% can be untested synthetics. Luckily for us, there’s EWG.org/skindeep. This database allows you to look up virtually any skincare or cosmetic product to see how safe it is, or how high in synthetics and toxins.
Sunscreen and sun exposure are major concerns for many. This can be tricky. Sun exposure (UV-B rays, specifically) triggers our skin cells to produce immunity-strengthening, metabolism-boosting, thyroid-helping, cancer-fighting vitamin D. That thing that everyone is paying for in a pill you can make right in your own body by using the very free sunlight on bare skin. Many folks miss out on this by slathering skin in UV-blocking creams before ever setting foot in the sunlight. While you shouldn’t go out and bake for hours on end until you’re burnt to oblivion, there are ways to safely expose your skin to the sun.
Listening To Your Skin
The main method? Listening to your skins own timer. That little pinking you get when you’re out in the sun with bare skin? That’s your queue to get some shade or cover up. Crazy how that works. A big problem WITH sunscreen is that it allows us to avoid that signal, and we actually end up in the sun for way too long without getting that little hint that it’s time to pack it in because we’ve created enough Vitamin D for the day. Another issue is that not only do those sunscreens block the beneficial, Vitamin D (and burn) creating B rays, but they don’t totally help block out the deeply damaging UV-A rays. So we turn off our natural sun-alarm clock that let’s us know enough is enough, allowing us to sit in the sun, soaking in those UV-A rays for as long as we want. Once again, in an effort to be smarter than mother nature, we make the problem worse.
Now, there are some folks who seem to burn almost instantly (often of Nordic or English decent), and there are probably going to be days where you’re simply going to be in the sun for long period of time with no options for shade or covering up. The farm crew likes to wear long sleeve, light fabric shirts and pants to protect them from the rays. Maybe it’s just too hot for layers, your out in the garden or at a sports game for hours on end, or you’re on the beach all day long. In these cases, some protection may be worth while. How do we find safer, effective, sun protection?
Luckily, where there is demand, supply will follow…
1. Non-Nano Zinc Sunblocks
You’ve probably seen zinc used as sun protection and didn’t even know it. Remember those lifeguards in movies with the white noses? That’s zinc! Non-nano zinc oxide provides ample protection from BOTH UVA and UVB rays (remember, the UVA are the ones that traditional sun blocks don’t do a great job of blocking, yet are the ones that are deeply damaging to skin cells), with minimal health concerns. Now, many sunscreen companies use Zinc nano-particles to avoid the white-tint when used. Why does it matter? According to EWG.org, the smaller particles improve SPF protection, but DECREASE UVA protection.
My solution? BeautyCounter All Over Sunscreen, SPF 30
Beautycounter is getting a lot of love lately for their high-performance, yet safer products. Their sunscreen is water-resistant, and despite using non-nano zinc oxide, blends well into the skin without the lifeguard white-nose look. It’s formulated to protect against BOTH UVA and UVA, plus helps with damage by free-radicals with the inclusion of antioxidants from blood orange and green tea. They also carry a face stick and lip balm with the same protection.
2. Keep your skin healthy year-round
Even though we’re mostly talking sun-protection today, healthy skin year-round is just as important. You can’t ignore a patch of soil all year, and then expect it to grow something in the spring, can you? No. You have to tend to it! Same goes for your skin.
3. Get in on DIY Beauty
Did you know that you can totally make your own shampoos, exfoliators, tooth paste, lotions and deodorants? One way to make sure that only the most natural products are ending up on your skin is to do it yourself! Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus has put together an amazing eBook filled with DIY personal care recipes that will get you started. Learn more.
4. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
It may seem like everything you read about natural skin care has a section about the importance of hydration. It’s just so very important! Hydrated skin (from the inside out), looks brighter, has more elasticity, and can even improve acne or breakouts. The Life Factory 22 oz glass water bottle or Ello 20 oz glass bottle both look great and provide you with a safe container to keep filling with water throughout the day to up your hydration game without buying plastic water bottles over and over again. We certainly didn’t avoid plastics in our make up and sunscreen just to drink our water out of it. Other water bottles to consider:
5. Use Safer Beauty Products All Year
It’s time. It’s time to ditch the grocery/drug/department store junk and invest in some safer options. There are a few brands out there, but Beautycounter has really stepped up the game when it comes to performance that can go toe to toe with the brands we’re used to. If you think about how often you’re putting concealer, moisturizer, and foundation on your face (don’t even get me started on what’s in most lipsticks that you know, goes on your mouth), you realize how crazy important it is to be making sure that you’re putting your best face forward. Literally. Your face deserves a safer option. The Beautycounter concealer pen, Charcoal Cleansing Bar, Tinted Moisturizer, Soothing Face Oil, and everything from lip gloss to makeup removers provide the function you’re looking for without the worry of sketchy ingredients.