Tackling My Acne Without Chemicals and Parabens

As I mentioned in my last post, I am ridding my daily beauty routine of chemicals.  So far I have stopped using my hair cream, face toner, face moisturizer, and body lotion.  I have replaced the hair creme and body lotion with coconut oil with great results so far (my hair has never looked better!).

Now I am tackling the rest of my face care products.  I have suffered from cystic acne since I was twelve and, as a result, have tried just about every product available over-the-counter, off infomercials, and from a doctor.  I’ve chemically burned my skin, deteriorated my muscles, and wasted hundreds (if not thousands…) of dollars.

So I’m ready to try something new and chemical-free.  My mom recently participated in the free Body Enlightenment Beauty Mini-Makeover and recommended I check out their recommendations for a natural way to tackle my acne.  As part of the promotion for the launch of this program, Paula Davis wrote a great post over on Tera Warner’s site about how she stopped being a Pimple Potion Junkie.

Inspired by Paula’s success and the easy steps laid out in the free e-program, I went out and bought my supplies.  I am slowly implementing one step a day to see how my skin reacts to the subtle changes.

My army:

Chemical Free Acne Treatment

Jojoba oil, tea tree essential oil, lavender essential oil, coconut oil, thyme essential oil, and a more natural (it still has chemicals) blemish concealer.  The blue glass bottle behind the concealer is to make a spritz with.

I’ve already began using the coconut oil and thyme essential oil before bed.  Today I am trying the jojoba oil as a cleanser and the new blemish concealer (I’m going to brave leaving the house WITHOUT foundation).  I will update you on my progress, including a post with progress pictures in the next couple weeks.


Cover Me in Chemicals! How Our Daily Beauty Routine is Killing Us

I’m sharing this as someone who was raised to not question mass-marketed beauty regimens and doctor-recommended medication and treatments.


I’ve had cystic acne since I was twelve-years-old, which means I’ve tried pretty much every acne-fighting lotion, potion, and drug available over-the-counter, off infomercials, and from doctors.  I read a book proclaiming to have the “acne cure,” which essentially was incredibly high topical dosages of acids that I promptly tried and that promptly left me with a chemical burn.

I went on Accutane at 15 (including the required hormonal birth control that was prescribed with it) until it began deteriorating my muscles to the point I was in chronic pain, while still suffering from acne.  I also had to fight with another dermatologist a few years later to NOT go back on the drug after she tried treating my acne.  She insisted that if they monitored it and added an anti-depressant to the mix, I’d feel fine.  I had to tell her she was wrong and cite medical research on the drug, but she still said that I was misinformed and was not open to the best treatment for my skin.

I believed that if I just kept searching for the next latest and greatest product that eventually I would find something to cure my acne, as well as the scarring, skin discoloration, and dry skin that the chemicals caused.  I went through a phase where I believed that the higher levels of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid the better.  The longer the ingredient list, the better– I mean, didn’t that mean there was more working to clear my skin up?

As I’ve started embracing a cleaner, more plant-strong diet, I’ve been on the hunt for more natural skin care products.  I found a few that I liked and thought that maybe natural products could work on my skin too.  Little did I know, they actually were just as toxic as the highly chemical ones (more on this in a bit).  After reading a lot natural health websites and books, I realized finally that my skin is my biggest organ.  So how can I be so concerned about what I’m digesting, but not concerned about what I’m putting on my skin?

After finally coming across a concise, well-written list called “Top Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products” from NaturalHomeAndGarden.com, I decided to tackle my stash of personal care items to see what ones had the bad ingredients.

The results: The only items I currently own/use that do not contain ingredients from the list are one perfume, an eye makeup remover, and my shampoo.  Every thing else– my body wash, conditioner, moisturizer, lotion, foundation, mascara, hair spray– all of it contains at least one ingredient from the list (see picture below of the offenders), with several containing 3-5 ingredients.

Toxic Skin Care Products

The most common offenders?

Prefixes Ethyl, Methyl, Butyl or Propyl
What It Is: Parabens
Health Risks: Endocrine disrupters that mimic estrogen; linked to weight gain and breast cancer
Found In: Lotions and shampoos

Polyethylene glycol (PEG, PPG, Cocoate), propylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene mineral oil
What It Is: Petroleum byproducts
Health Risks: Carcinogen; liver and kidney effects
Found In: Lotions

Dyes: Blue 1, Green 3, Yellow 5 & 6, Red 33
What It Is: Coal tar
Health Risks: Carcinogenic
Found In: Hair color, medicated shampoos

One of the worst offenders I owned?  My Garnier Fructis Style: Curl Sculpting Cream Gel with nourishing shea.

Toxic Garnier Fructis Curl Sculpting Cream Gel

It contained Proplyene Glycol (Endocrine disrupters that mimic estrogen; linked to weight gain and breast cancer), PEG/PPG-4/12 (Petroleum byproducts; Carcinogen; liver and kidney effects), Methylparaben (Endocrine disrupters that mimic estrogen; linked to weight gain and breast cancer) ,Ethylparaben (Endocrine disrupters that mimic estrogen; linked to weight gain and breast cancer).  And those were just the obvious bad chemicals in this product!  I could only pronounce two of the ingredients (Avocado Oil and Shea Butter), so who knows what the rest of the ingredients are.  Also, manufacturers are great at listing ingredients as different names or using abbreviations.

Another trick?  Partial ingredient or hard-to-find ingredient lists.  Since the FDA doesn’t regulate many parts of the cosmetic industry, tracking down a COMPLETE list of what is in many projects is nearly impossible.

The worst offender?  Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Consultants for Mary Kay are able to access ingredient lists on their consultant website, which is not visible to the general public (full disclosure: I was an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay for about two years).  Their products often come in a jar/bottle that is inside a box.  The ingredient list is either on the box or paper insert with the jar/bottle.  So when you start using the product, you throw out the box and paper insert and are left with no ingredient list.  Through some Google searching, I came across a fabulous list on Paraben Free Princess of which Mary Kay items contain some of the most common harmful ingredients, especially parabens (great explanation of parabens found here on TheGoodHuman.com).

I was particularly pissed when I discovered a Conditioning Clay Mask I purchased from “The Power of Plants Botanics” line included Butylene Glycol among its ingredients.

Toxic Power of Plants Botanics Clay Mask

Yes, I know some will argue that Butylene Glycol isn’t considered carcinogenic.  However, as pointed out by health advocate Ann Marie Gianni:

As someone who wants to apply only natural, nourishing ingredients to my skin, I would recommend that you avoid butylene glycol, mainly because it is derived from petroleum, and doesn’t really add to the health of your skin. (Kind of like eating a Twinkie—may not hurt you, but certainly isn’t going to help you.)

So, Butylene Glycol is not an ingredient I want in a product that’s professing to harness the power of plants!

As I’ve shared with people my plans to start ridding my skin/body care stash of chemicals, most ask: “So what will you use?”

Growing up, I had fairly sensitive skin.  In recent years, my sensitive skin has gotten worse as it now reacts to most fragrances and dyes by swelling up with red, hot welts.  So, I am taking my time with this process to make sure I am only adding quality products to my beauty routine that don’t contain toxic chemicals and won’t cause any sensitivity reactions with my skin.

At this point, I have added Coconut Oil.  I am working on a full post about all the different ways I am using this product and natural oils to replace about half of my skin/beauty care products.  I won’t leave you hanging though– here’s one example of why I love coconut oil!

Coconut Oil and Thyme Essential Oil

Remember that toxic Garnier Fructic curl cream?  Since last week, I’ve been washing/conditioning my hair like normal, then applying a small amount of  coconut oil once my hair is brushed and damp.  That’s it.  No creams, gels, sprays, spritzes, etc.  My hair has never looked better!  I have bouncy, tight curls that I haven’t had since I was about 6-years-old.  And the best part: No toxic chemicals!  The only ingredient: mechanically (expeller) pressed naturally unrefined virgin organic coconut oil.

So there you have it: my take on toxic chemicals in our skin/beauty care and how they’re hurting our bodies.  I have a series of posts coming about what products I am using to replace the toxic ones I was using.

Have you switched your beauty routine to be chemical-free?  What are you using?  Share in the comments below!

Can I live on used goods?

I’m volunteering for The Angel Museum today by sitting at their rummage sale site and taking donations. As I sort through donated holiday decorations, kitchen items, and glassware, I wonder if I could commit to significantly limiting the new items I purchase.

I could obviously still buy food and hygiene items, as well as non-self-makeable items for my crafts (I.e. super glue, spray adhesive, etc). But what if I committed to only buying my clothes, household goods, furniture, and books used?


Why I’m Bartering

I’ve decided to start bartering— trading goods and services without the exchange of money.  To facilitate this, I set up a new page on my site listing the current things I need and the things I am able to trade for them.  Obviously, most of these require that you are in or around the Southern Wisconsin/Northern Illinois area where I live; but there are some items you could do via mail.

So here’s why I’m bartering:

-It’s Good for the Environment: We live in a “throw-it-away” society, where if something stops working, begins to wear-out, or we just don’t like it anymore, we throw it away.  We have landfill upon landfill full of our old belongings that could be upcycled or repurposed.

A second issue comes from the environmental impact that the manufacturing of new goods causes.  By swapping goods, we can limit the amount of new items that need to be produced, thus limiting the amount of toxins being released into our environment.  By bartering goods you no longer want, you keep the items out of the landfill and prevent toxins from being released from new manufacturing.

-It’s Economical: If you’re trying to save money, what better to do it than by not spending money.  The classic example: You’re a plumber whose kids need dental work done.  Find a dentist who needs plumbing work done and barter.  Money saved.

-It Let’s You Try/Have Things You Otherwise Wouldn’t: On my list, I have various lessons included in the section about what I want to trade for.  Yes, I could take lessons through a local college or pay someone to privately tutor me, but I don’ t have money in my budget for that right now.  The solution?  Offer up something I do well in exchange for someone to teach me what they know.  One woman got trapeze lessons in exchange for financial advice!

So that’s why I’m bartering: I want to help the environment, save money, and try something new.  Are you bartering?  Be sure to check out my list and email if you want to swap.

Debating if I Should Get Rid of My iPhone

After reading the post on The Minimalists about how Joshua Fields Millburn got rid of his phone, the idea of ditching my iPhone has been stuck in my mind. (Here’s the update on his challenge)

I got my first cellphone around the time I got my driver’s license.  It was basic flip, prepaid phone that I was only allowed to use for emergencies or to call my parents if I was coming home late.  My parents paid for the minutes on it and monitored the usage.

I got a real cellphone right before I moved in to my dorm my freshmen year of college.  It was a basic flip phone.  It was part of my parents plan, so I could make calls, but not send texts.  I finally convinced my dad to add a texting plan to our account my senior year of college.  I think it was something like I paid $7 a month for 250 messages.

After graduating college, one of my first “real adult” acts was getting my own cell plan and a Blackberry.  I went all out– unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, data plan, and a cool pink case.  Having a Blackberry equaled adulthood to me.  Never-mind that I didn’t have a job at this point and really couldn’t afford the phone…

After relocating to NYC in August 2011, my Blackberry could not get a signal because (unlike what my regional cell provider told me before moving), it had no service in NYC.  So at that point, I terminated my contract and went with a national carrier, which meant I had to get a new phone.  And in came my iPhone addiction…

the iOS family pile (2012) © blakespot

Luckily, I just have the one iPhone, though the damn Apple-lifestyle has me itching for an iPad and MacBook. Photo © blakespot

I’ve had some great times with my iPhone.  Apps are fun and good time-wasters.  It’s convenient to have all my email inboxes (I have 12.  Maybe more…) feeding into one place.  I love being able to tweet and post every random thought that pops into my brain.  It’s great to check the comments and traffic on my websites I manage while on-the-go.

But the trade-offs are what have me thinking I may be further ahead ditching the smartphone for a “dumb-phone,” where I can just make calls and text.  For starters, my iPhone costs me $110-$130 a month (depending on the minutes plan I’m using that month because I can’t find one that works for me).  A regular “dumb phone” plan with unlimited texting would only cost me about $55 a month, a savings of $55-$75 a month or $660-$900 a year!

Smartphones makes us perpetual consumers.  New phones are constantly coming out promising to be better than all previous phones.  We’re suppose to drop a few hundred (or more) dollars on each new phone every couple years.  How much money in our lifetimes will we spend on phones?  What happens to our old phones?  What impact does this have on our environment?

Also, as my smartphone usage has increased, my ability to focus has decreased.  I can’t carry-on a conversation without checking my phone every 10 minutes.  I’m constantly thinking about the next thing to post online instead of paying attention to what’s happening around me.  I sneak glances at my email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. while driving (terrible habit!).

I recently started working a part-time retail job where I’m not allowed to have my cellphone on the floor.  Though many coworkers break this rule and sneak their phones in their pockets, I see this rule as a much-needed respite from my phone.  An eight-hour shift without my phone is a relief!  The only thing I truly miss during that time is texting because, in the land of technology, it most closely simulates direct communication with another person.

On paper (or blog), I’ve convinced myself to ditch my iPhone and go back to a basic flip with no data plan, but can I really do it?  I’m still mentally preparing myself for this one.

photo credit: blakespot via photo pin cc