Fairfield County Edition

Natural Skin Care and Cosmetics:

Use This, Not That

The United States is the biggest cosmetic market in the world, with estimated revenue of about $55 billion, 7.2 billion of which came from Internet sales in 2010. As new cosmetics continue to flood the market, consumers must navigate many concerns, including what products are best for specific skin types or particular age-related concerns and perhaps most importantly, how the ingredients that comprise the products might affect
their health.

A dawning realization that the chemicals in cosmetics could increase the risks of cancer and other diseases has driven efforts to produce safer, more natural and organic products, free of the potentially harmful synthetic ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) researches and publishes data about the safety of cosmetics, expressing concerns about the lack of premarket safety testing for chemicals that go into personal care products. EWG notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated, “…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.” Hundreds of cosmetic chemicals that have been banned in the European Union continue to be used in the United States.

According to the nonprofit Story of Stuff Project, the self-regulated cosmetic industry has assessed just 20 percent of the ingredients in beauty products for long-term safety and has rejected only a handful. In the short film, The Story of Cosmetics, creator, director and host Annie Leonard notes that the average woman uses 12 personal care products daily and the average man uses six, each containing a dozen or more chemicals. With repeated use, many of these chemicals can be present at concentrations above the individual’s acceptable daily intake. The list of potentially harmful chemicals used in cosmetics includes many—such as lead, methoxyethanol, mercury, nitromethane and phenacetin—that have been linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, hormone disruption, brain damage and other health issues.

Unfortunately, many women are confused about how to find safe and effective beauty care products with which to replace the chemically laden ones. Several companies are committed to offering products to the public that are more beneficial for their whole well-being, not just how they appear on the outside.

Minimally Processed Skincare
One such business is the family-owned Neal’s Yard Remedies, founded in England in 1981. Independent consultant Rosanne Conoscenti, of Fairfield County, describes the Neal’s Yard approach to skin care: “We try to pinpoint the main skin care concern for each of our customers and address that first. Our skin changes with the seasons and of course, as we age, so we always need to be evaluating what products are best for us.”

Conoscenti says that it is important to evaluate and potentially change the products we have been using because the skin is the largest organ of the body and may absorb many of the ingredients that we apply to it. “There are many well-publicized trials showing that as a population, we are increasingly contaminated,” she comments, pointing out reports that traces of hundreds of chemicals have been found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. “If we can minimize the chemicals in our food by choosing minimally processed and organic food, why would we not do that in our skincare?” she remarks. All of Neal’s Yard Remedies products are also vegetarian and cruelty-free.

Fruits, Vegetables and Flowers Make Us Look Better
LUSH—a British company founded in the 1970s with local retail stores at the Danbury Fair Mall and Trumbull Mall, as well as a catalog ordering system—produces its makeup and skin care lines using fresh ingredients from farmers’ markets and flower shops. The products are not tested on animals.

“Freshness is at the core of LUSH. Using whole, fresh ingredients means you get the most effective product for your money,” indicates Erica Vega, the company’s North American product trainer for cosmetics. She advises three basic ways to keep the skin healthy: “Drink plenty of water, stay out of the sun and don’t smoke.” She adds, “As skin matures, the need for moisture becomes more and more prevalent. Keeping the skin conditioned from an early age will keep it elastic and will prevent it settling into wrinkles.”

The Never List
Concerned about the lack of ingredient testing and government oversight in cosmetics industry, Gregg Renfrew founded the California-based skin care company Beautycounter with the mission to create cosmetics that would be safe, effective and chic.

Beautycounter provides a Never List of cosmetic chemicals often found in conventional beauty products that it promises never to use because they have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and cell damage. The company instead uses natural botanicals including aloe, coconut oil and geranium, argan nut, grapeseed and marula oils. New products soon to be released include sunscreens, as well as a children’s line and a makeup line.

Cleanse, Tone and Moisturize
Debbie Miron is an authorized distributor of Shaklee products, a large natural nutrition company based in the United States. From her office and showroom in Greenwich, Miron suggests these three steps for everyone, regardless of age and gender: cleanse, tone and moisturize.

For young people, Miron recommends choosing a normal-to-oily skin cleanser and toner; for clients 40 and over, she suggests normal-to-dry. “In addition, the company recommends the patented AM Time Repair Moisturizer with sun protection factor (SPF) 15, and also offers moisturizers that are specifically designed for ultra-dry or oily skin—a hydrating moisturizer for those needing more moisturizing or a balancing moisturizer for those needing a lightweight, oil free moisturizer,” she explains. Shaklee’s vitamin-infused, anti-aging skin care line boasts seven patents and is hypoallergenic and free of parabens.

Beauty Comes from Nature
Ancient cultures seemed to understand what we are re-learning: Mother Nature has the resources we need for our health and beauty. Seacret products are made from essential oils and minerals from the Dead Sea, in Israel, and are distributed independently in the United States.

 Skincare needs to begin when we are young to avoid problems as we age,” says Aliza Freedman, agent of Seacret products in Fairfield County. “Regardless of age or gender, everyone should use a good cleanser, exfoliator, moisturizer and sunscreen. Depending upon age and whether your skin is dry, oily or combination, all regimens should be tweaked to balance and respond to the skin’s natural state,” she adds.

Seacret specializes in Dead Sea masks and soaps for oily skin, and moisturizing scrubs and body butters for dry skin. The company also produces treatments for eczema, psoriasis and acne that act without doing any harm.

Committed to Care of the Earth
Founded in 1975 in Switzerland by Petter Morck, Arbonne develops its skin, body and hair care lines, as well as cosmetics and nutritional products, from botanically based ingredients. The international company is independently distributed in Fairfield County.

Arbonne has an Ever Green Commitment, through which the company strives to be friendly to the Earth, from its selection of ingredients to its choices in packaging and delivery procedures.

Ana Mercedes Kranzlin is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings who resides in New Canaan, Connecticut.

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