How to Take Better Care of Our Largest Organ by Adopting a Healthier Grooming Routine
Did you know that the average adult uses at least 9 personal care products daily? Our grooming ritual easily includes facial cleanser, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, hand soap, deodorant, perfume, shaving products if you’re a man, and if you’re a woman, add in our makeup products (foundation, concealer, blush powder, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, nail polish) further increasing our risk of exposure to harmful ingredients. Even though our skin is supposed to work as a barrier and protect us, the ingredients and chemicals found in personal care products are designed to penetrate it and absorb into our body affecting us both internally and externally. Many of these ingredients are not present in trace amounts (parts per million or billion), but are significant components of the product, just like flour is the main ingredient in bread. Some of these ingredients are harsh chemicals known as skin penetrators and irritants, which can clog our pores and prevent our skin from working properly, deplete our skin’s natural protective oils and weaken its defense mechanism, and once inside our body they act as neuro toxins, endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
Unfortunately, the skin care and cosmetic industries are not regulated and the chemicals found in these products are so harmful that scientists have reported their impact going beyond the body on which it is applied. In fact, prenatal exposure has been shown to negatively affect the health and reproductive development of infants. Not to mention the two decades of research that have demonstrated the negative impact these ingredients have on the environment and wildlife; causing hormone disruption in dolphins and other marine wildlife, killing coral reefs worldwide, damaging DNA of freshwater snails, stopping phytoplankton from growing (which is responsible for two-thirds of the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen, if depleted marine wildlife, other animals AND us humans will find it more difficult to breathe), etc.
As we become more conscious of our lifestyle choices, being aware of what we put on our skin is the “natural” next step! Cosmetic and skin care products don’t have warning signs or labels on them like we find on tobacco products, consequently, much like when choosing the right foods to nurture and feed our body properly, we need to read and pay close attention to the ingredient lists found on these products in order to choose safe and healthier ones to put on our body! If it sounds complicated, luckily there are organisms out there working hard to help us protect our health and our planet, and of course I’m also here to give you a few useful and easy-to-follow tips!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database called Skin Deep where you can easily search and look up different skin care and cosmetic products or specific ingredients to see if they are considered safe and to help you make informed decisions. If you see this EWG-verified logo on a product, you know you are making the right choice!
Nowadays, there is no shortage of companies that have created cleaner and healthier personal care and beauty products which are as effective, if not more effective, than the conventional products we have been buying. Some brands are made with naturally-derived ingredients, others are also using mostly organically grown ingredients, and many are not only good for us, but also for the planet and animals and are eco-friendly and/or cruelty-free. Some brands are more luxurious and high-end, while others are more accessible and affordable. We can now easily find our own new favorite cleaner and greener brand online, in specialized natural products stores and surprisingly even in the stores we commonly shop at (Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart, etc.).
Here are a few brands I have tried and what I think of them, most of which are made in Canada and many from right here in Montreal. I love supporting a good local brand and company! You can click on the brand's name below each image and be redirected to their website to see what products they offer and where you can buy them.
Étymologie Skincare (Montreal, Canada)
Raquela Cheesmond, a McGill University graduate with a Masters in Science, decided to study the interaction between food, nutrition and botanical extracts on overall health and wellbeing, a girl after my own heart, but then took that knowledge and science to develop Étymologie Skincare. The ingredients she sources are not only natural and highly performing, but most of them are also certified organic, and no harsh or toxic ingredient is added. Raquela sums up her skincare line as “a scientific natural skincare line whose mission is to create effective, ethical and empowering products that visibly improve skin health over time, without irritation." Her line of skincare is also PETA certified cruelty-free and vegan.
Maison Jacynthe (Montreal, Canada)
Another personal care brand I truly loved testing is Maison Jacynthe, founded in 2014 by Jacynthe René, a French Canadian actress and producer. This high end brand offers skin care and makeup products that are made with high quality, 100% natural and active ingredients, meaning they actually offer health benefits by treating and nourishing your skin. Her serums are actually even edible, that is just how natural and real the ingredients are! They are also recognized by PETA to be cruelty-free and vegan. In 2017, she also launched a fine perfumes line made with 100% natural and organic ingredients.
Zorah Biocosmetics (Montreal, Canada)
Zorah Biocosmetics is yet another great Montreal-based high-end skincare and cosmetics company using organic, fair-trade Moroccan argan oil as the main ingredient, along with other organically grown (EcoCert certified) or GMO-free ingredients that are also vegan (doesn't contain any animal-derived ingredients) and cruelty-free, and don’t contain any mineral oils, fillers or irritating chemicals. They are also passionate about the environment and about protecting the planet by creating sustainably developed products without toxic or harmful chemicals, using recycled and recyclable containers and manufacturing locally so as to reduce unnecessary transport. In fact, even their sale representatives’ cars must be eco-powered! Their products also undergo rigorous efficiency tests and must receive a 95% score before being launched on the market!
Attitude Living (Montreal, Canada)
This is such an amazing and complete brand. They carry products to meet most of our needs, for our personal care, our baby’s or kid’s, our home’s and even our pet’s. I was already using this brand for over two years when I decided to slowly switch to less toxic household cleaners, but recently fell even more in love with the brand when I discovered they partnered with the Environmental Working Group and have a selection of body care products that are EWG verified and approved! Whenever you see that logo on a product, you no longer need to wonder, you KNOW you are buying a product that is good for you. Their products are not only made with worry-free, natural, plant or mineral-based ingredients, but also hypoallergenic, tested by an independent laboratory to ensure the absence of cancer-causing chemicals, are eco-friendly (recycled plastic bottles, using 100% renewable energy), PETA certified cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and vegan.
The Green Beaver Company (Hawkesbury, Ontario)
This family-owned husband and wife company was created in 2002 after their work in the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries as microbiologists and biochemists shaped their interest in developing natural, healthy products for their family and ours. They became EcoCert certified in 2009 and built their own production facility in Hawkesbury. This brand meets all your and your family’s body care needs, plus they offer another incredibly versatile and multi-functional product, Castile soap, made by converting Canadian-grown organic sunflower oil into a soap using Castilian (from Spanish region La Castilla) soap-making techniques. The Green Beaver’s Castile soap is a natural, vegan, biodegradable and environmentally safe soap that can be used to clean everything from your body, your laundry and your home. There are many types of Castile soaps out there, not all are non-toxic, some still contain synthetic chemical found in conventional products such as, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), triclosan and artificial fragrances and dyes. In 2011, they were also the first Canadian company to launch an organic mineral sunscreen. When I first decided to start switching to healthier, toxic-free personal care products two years ago, I started by using their deodorants and have never turned back!
Buck Naked (Cambridge, Ontario)
Buck Naked was born out of necessity. When baby Elias, son of Buck Naked founders Rina and John, developed skin irritations from traditional baby products, they soon realized they needed a truly natural alternative. As necessity is the mother of all invention, the Chamomile & Calendula Soap was invented to help soothe the little guy’s skin. With this creation, Rina discovered her passion of formulating skin care products using the purest of ingredients. Since inception, they have introduced a full line of all-natural, vegan, handcrafted skin care products and are committed to them being chemical-free, using only pure, natural ingredients. They have also cut their plastic footprint and keep their packaging minimal, compostable, recyclable or reusable. Another thing I love about them is that they are one of the few brands who also offer an all-natural shampoo in bar form!
K’pure Naturals (British Columbia, Canada)
I am totally obsessed with the yummy smells these products have. Seven years ago, after a naturopath appointment for her newborn breastfed son, creator Karen Johnson found out he had abnormally elevated aluminum and plastic levels in his body. She figured out that her deodorant and lotions were making their way into her breastmilk and her quest for natural skin and body care products began and five years later, a business was created. Her all-natural, non-toxic and cruelty-free products include deodorants, serums, face cleansers, body or room and linen sprays, lip balms, bath soaking salts, organic essential oils, everything you need to make your body and surroundings smell and feel so good. To top it all off, her products are Leaping Bunny certified, unlike PETA this certification organization actually commissions on-site audits to assess the validity of the company’s cruelty-free claims. Find out where you can buy these products under the website’s “Store Locations” section.
Biossance (Berkeley, California)
Biossance is a transparent, No Compromise™ beauty brand that blacklists over 2,000 potentially harmful ingredients (to give you a little hint at how important this is, regulatory agencies in Canada ban 587 ingredients for use in cosmetics) and uses only the most trustworthy and powerful ingredients. The brand is driven to educate consumers and provide them with safe, non-toxic, effective and sustainable products formulated with biotechnology without harming the environment or animals. They started off in their Berkeley labs in 2003 by developing a patented technology that allowed them to create an accessible cure for malaria, today they focus on making a positive impact on the world through skincare. Furthermore, you can rest assured when choosing their cleansers, creams and moisturizers as they are EWG Verified; they meet rigorous standards and comply with strict ingredient restrictions. You can find their skincare products online or in Sephora stores.
Vapour Organic Beauty (Taos, New Mexico)
Vapour Organic Beauty is a high performance luxury makeup brand that also happens to be one of the cleanest and healthiest on the market. They use the purest, active, organic ingredients to create high performance, high quality and environmentally sensitive formulas that help enhance beauty regardless of age, race and gender. Vapour beauty products are cruelty-free, in fact they are also certified by Leaping Bunny, never contain toxic chemicals, parabens, phthalates or nanoparticles and no raw ingredient has been irradiated. Vapour Organic Beauty was launched in 2009 with 32 products and have evolved to a lineup of more than 110 products, all the formulation and manufacturing being done in their own USDA-certified organic cosmetics lab. They also have a selection of products that are carmine-free. Carmine is a bright red dye made from beetles that is used to color food, cosmetics and textiles. It’s a non-toxic ingredient, but for many one of the reasons they turn to greener and cleaner beauty products is because they want products that aren’t tested on animals, nor contain any animal-derived products, especially if the process can induce pain to the animal, or in this case the bug.
Nude by Nature (Sydney, Australia)
Nude by Nature was created in 2008 and is Australia's number one mineral makeup brand. In 2015 they launched internationally and I'm so excited to say they recently launched in Canada, and are available exclusively at Shoppers Drug Mart (Pharmaprix). The products are made with 100% naturally-derived ingredients, formulated without synthetic ingredients or preservatives, providing benefits that go beyond makeup - it's good for you. In fact the line of products contains ingredients that possess moisturizing, anti-ageing, anti-oxidizing and nourishing benefits for our skin. All their products are cruelty-free and PETA certified. They are all carmine-free and also don’t contain talc or bismuth oxychloride. The last two ingredients are often found in mineral makeup, but should be avoided. Talc has been linked to both ovarian and lung cancers and bismuth oxychloride, although less dangerous, is a skin irritant and can clog pores and may encourage the formation of blackheads, whiteheads and cystic acne.
Acure (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Acure is a family owned and operated company with a passion for offering products that support overall wellness. All their products are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, petroleum, mineral oils, silicones and artificial fragrance. They are also certified cruelty-free and vegan. They presently have a skincare and hair care line, and are working on reformulating their body care line for a relaunch in late fall.
Vita Liberata Advanced Organics (Northern Ireland)
This skincare and self-tanning brand started off as an anti-aging skincare like back in 2003 and in 2011 became the world’s first completely non-toxic tanning brand. Using these products could actually be the healthiest way to achieve evenly bronzed skin. Their solutions are suitable for all skin types and tones and are free of parabens, perfume, alcohol and all other harmful and toxic ingredients. They use natural, organic and EcoCert certified ingredients that condition your skin while tanning it. None of their products are tested on animals and all the raw material and ingredients that they use have to be cruelty-free as well. It is the self-tanner of choice in the world’s top spas.
Agent Nateur (Los Angeles, California)
In 2014 Jena Covello, the founder behind this brand was determined to use the highest quality, pure, non-GMO ingredients, sourced in Europe or from small suppliers that she trusts, to create the perfect odor-busting, natural deodorant in stick format, and she has definitely succeeded! Holi (Stick) No 3 was the first deodorant she ever created and today it has its own cult following! Her collection also includes other products, I got to try samples of her Holi (Oil) face serum which absorbs into the skin to brighten and hydrate it and it smells divine and feels so silky! It is a luxury skincare brand and although the prices seem high, a little amount definitely goes a long way.
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