I’ve always wanted to do good in the world, to advocate for those in need, so I originally saw my career path in public policy. But on my way there, my plans changed (as so often is the case). While preparing for law school, I started to become more vigilant about my health, thinking critically about fitness, the food I was eating and wellness overall. I came to the realization that while I knew what I was putting inside my body, I had no idea what was inside the products I was putting on it.
I created a blog in 2009 about where to find natural beauty products, and the response was overwhelming. So I decided to launch Follain, an online marketplace and store with brick-and-mortar locations in Boston and Nantucket, to showcase natural beauty products and support passionate independent makers.
“Clean” beauty products don’t use harsh chemicals found in most mainstream beauty products, opting instead for high-quality, organic ingredients. These products are especially important given the lack of regulation in the beauty industry. Beauty companies aren’t required to do “safety tests” — and the Food and Drug Administration only regulates 11 chemicals commonly found in such products. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine in August found the number of complaints to the FDA about adverse reactions to conventional beauty products are skyrocketing.
But “clean” beauty isn’t all that cut and dry either. There are no federal guidelines on which beauty products can be labelled as “natural,” “non-toxic,” “organic” or “clean.” So how can you know whether the products you’re using are actually good for you? It’s important to read your beauty ingredient labels and get a sense of what’s in these products. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is an incredible resource for those who want to research the products and ingredients they are using every day.
Instead, I encourage clients to look for products that contain powerful, nourishing ingredients found in nature, including rosehip seed oil to rejuvenate and brighten skin; Mānuka honey to calm redness and inflammation; seaweed to hydrate and firm your skin; and activate charcoal and clay to draw out toxins from your body. My favorite clean beauty brands include Josh Rosebrook, RMS, Ursa Major and Intelligent Nutrients.
Going clean with your beauty routine doesn’t need to be intimidating — or costly. All you need to do is just get started. Here’s an easily adaptable seven-day plan that will get you off and running.
Day 1: Purge your bathroom cabinets
Start on Saturday by taking a long, hard look at all the products in your bathroom. Push yourself to toss out any products that you haven’t used in a while or are long past their expiration date. (Here’s a handy guide on how long you should be keep your beauty products.) This will help you start your clean beauty routine with a clean slate.
Day 2: Go cold turkey
On Sunday, rip off the proverbial Band-Aid by not using any of your usual beauty products. Instead, treat yourself with a detoxifying salt and clay bath, which will help cleanse your skin. Bentonite Clay works perfectly for this.
After taking your bath, rinse off in a cool shower, washing your body and face with only water. If your skin is particularly dry, apply a light layer of moisturizer. Pick a brand that lists oil, aloe or shea butter as the first ingredient. The goal of today is to let your skin breathe as much as possible to allow the skin to “reset” before you introduce new products.
Day 3: Get your hair healthy
If you’re a daily shampooer, consider cutting back. It’s better for your hair — not to mention the environment — to wash less frequently. Buy a shower cap and a nontoxic dry shampoo to cover you between washes.
You can also add another essential back into your routine today: lip balm. It’s easy to ingest lip balm when you apply it (just think about how frequently you lick your lips), which means it’s extra critical to get a non-toxic version of this beloved beauty staple.
Day 4: Focus on your face
It’s now Tuesday, so you’re halfway there! Start today by layering in more essential skin products, including a clean foundation and concealer.
At the end of the day, give yourself a little treat — changing your routines can be hard. Wash the day away with a gentle, cleanser that’s based in aloe, honey or clay. Then, pamper your skin with a non-toxic mask. Since skin masks linger on the skin, it’s crucial to use a nontoxic formula.
Bonus points for making a DIY mask. Mix raw cacao, bentonite clay, Mānuka honey and water into a paste. Apply a thick layer onto your skin and let it sit for 20 minutes while you relax. Remove with warm water (and a dark washcloth — the cacao will stain white!) and apply that basic moisturizer afterwards. Your skin might be rosier than usual due to the cacao but it will calm down shortly.
Day 5: Go makeup free
Take a good look in the mirror this morning. How does your skin look the day after your mask? You’ve now gone three days without wearing a lot of makeup, so it’s the perfect time to see which products you’re missing most and start adding them back into the mix. Opt for a gentle mascara made from beeswax and a blush that contains minerals and oils.
But it’s key to keep your morning routine minimal. Think about your beauty regimen before you began this experiment and pick two products you can wholly eliminate. More products means more chemicals — and besides, a beautiful look can be achieved simply with just concealer, blush and mascara.
Day 6: Make your body beautiful
Now onto the biggest square footage: your body. Exfoliate your body with a gentle sugar scrub to slough off dead skin. Sugar melts into your skin, making it a better alternative than irritating salt-based scrubs. Then, apply a healthy body lotion or better yet, a body oil. A clean body oil doesn’t have any of the preservatives or unnecessary ingredients found in most lotions, including synthetic fragrances.
Day 7: Have fun
By this point, you deserve a treat. And maybe you’re hitting the town for a fun night out (you deserve it)! You’ve tossed the products that were standing in the way of your health. You’ve tried a day without makeup, and hopefully you realized how little you need to look and feel great.
Makeup should be fun, rather than a crutch or coverup. So try out colorful eyeshadows, lipsticks and more. Look for ingredients like mineral color, coconut oil and cocoa butter instead of the harsh, cheap chemicals found in many conventional options.
Try to stick with your products for at least two weeks to see how you look — and, more important, feel. And enjoy basking in a healthier glow!
Tara Foley is the founder and CEO of Follain.
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