What’s Hiding in YOUR Makeup Bag?

If you’re a regular around here, you’ve probably taken notice of my newfound affinity for natural beauty. Over the past few months, I have done research, turned to those with top knowledge on the subject, and overhauled both my skincare and makeup routines entirely. I am thrilled to share a post revealing, explaining, and creating a dialogue about this new passion of mine with all of you; Knowledge truly is power, and having the ability to make educated choices about the products you use and recommend is so valuable.

I am so very excited that Maralena Taube (my dearest friend and a regular mention on MK Lately) will be co-authoring this post. She is currently a second semester senior at The University of Illinois, majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She will be attending The University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall to pursue a Doctorate in Pharmacy (she’s amazing). Mara and I have shared beauty tips, product recommendations, etc. with each other for nearly 15 years, and when she approached me with her concerns about the skincare and beauty products we use everyday, we became very interested in understanding what was harmful, why it was harmful, and what we could do differently.

Together we have put together this post…detailing our introduction to the world of natural/organic beauty, the research we have done, decisions we have made, and more. Keep reading!! xx

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How did we get introduced to the world of natural beauty in the first place? //
Maralena: During my junior year of undergrad I worked as a research assistant for Illinois Kids Developmental Study (I-KIDS) lab. I-KIDS research focuses on how a baby’s development is affected by the mother’s exposure to chemicals found in everyday products. We were interested in the cognitive and developmental effects that chemicals in items and products have on the babies (and adults, too!) from birth and throughout their entire lives. 

While working in the lab, my eyes were opened to the overwhelming amount of harmful chemicals that we use every single day such as BPA, phthalates, and parabens. Right away, I began the process of switching out my daily beauty products for organic, chemical free products. I realized that we can make simple changes and better choices to take control of what we put on and into our bodies. I believe in being an educated consumer rather than blindly putting my trust (and health) in companies that only care about profit. Did you know that the EU’s standards for skincare/beauty products require safer ingredients and fewer chemicals? My hope is that the US will follow in the EU’s footsteps in implementing strict regulations on ingredients that are allowed to be used in our products. Until then, it is up to us to be active, well informed consumers. 

Macey: When Maralena approached me about what she had discovered in the lab, we were both exceptionally concerned – blindsided, really. How could all of the brands we love so much and have used for years hide such harmful ingredients in their products?? We were determined to take control of our daily practices. At the time, we were using dozens of products sporting labels that listed off harmful ingredients by the dozen. One by one, we looked through our skincare, makeup, and even personal care/toiletry type items to better understand where these chemicals were hiding and how they had completely taken over our beauty routines.

Harmful ingredients //
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WHY should we avoid these ingredients? //
Maralena: BPA, parabens, and phthalates are part of a group called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs affect our fertility and reproduction and researchers are currently studying their role in cancer. The problem with EDCs is that they mimic hormones in our body (think: estrogen and testosterone) and are able to bind to our cellular receptors. This is clearly problematic. Our bodies produce hormones at the right level and at the right time. If we are absorbing, inhaling, and ingesting EDCs every day, our hormone receptors will be flooded, which in turn disrupts the body’s natural balance. Scary stuff, but there are steps we can take to avoid this nightmare…

What it means to be “natural” or “organic” //
Macey: You’ve heard us mention “natural” beauty about a thousand times now, right? Upon learning about what ingredients to avoid, what makes them so harmful, and how common they are in products today…it was important for us to find alternatives on the market that would be both safe + effective. Enter natural and organic skincare and makeup.
01-content-organic-USDAIt’s important to understand what makes a product “natural” or “organic.” In truth, “natural” is not a regulated term. “Organic,” however, is. The NSF, USDA, and several other organizations work to regulate and certify products as organic…as long as they meet standards of safety and purity. When you’re on the hunt for organic products, look for the USDA label (it’s common!) and you can trust that the item you’re purchasing is, at minimum, 70% organic. For more information about organic labeling with both the USDA, NSF, and more, click here.

Changing your routine: Working with what you have //
Macey & Maralena: Our best piece of advice when it comes to working with the products you know and love (and are already right there in your makeup bag!) would be to double check the list of ingredients. Check for the ingredients that you know to be harmful, and take a minute to look into the ingredients you’re not familiar with (a quick Google search will do the trick). Doing this will help you weed out the products you use that contain harmful ingredients, and help you build a list of products you’d like to find an organic replacement for.

TIP!! Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database – It’s an awesome site that allows you to plug in your favorite products and learn about each ingredient and it’s level of toxicity. We use this website all the time. Confused about the scale they use to rate product safety? It’s all explained right here.

Changing your routine: New products //
Macey: Maralena and I searched and searched our regular line-up of beauty brands for products free of harmful ingredients, but the results were disappointing. We wanted products that we knew were free of all these chemicals as well as the hassle of looking deep into the ingredients list to find what was hidden, waiting to cause problems. We soon found that we were looking in the wrong place. Did you know that there are dozens of product lines and thousands of individual products out there that are natural and/or organic…AKA free of all the harmful substances we have discussed above and have sworn to avoid?!

When you’re browsing the beauty aisle at Target or scrolling through the endless amount of products available at Sephora.com, start by looking for products labeled “organic.” From there, be sure the product is FREE OF:
– Parabens (an organic item will usually say “paraben free” right on the front)
– Phalates (remember, this is hidden as “fragrance” or “parfum”!)
BONUS: If the bottle or jar your product comes in is labeled BPA free, you’re golden.

Remember, switching to an all natural, organic, SAFE beauty routine requires patience, understanding, and (our least favorite part) money. It’s not cheap to replace every item in your makeup bag or beauty cabinet all at once. Try adding in a few key items (like moisturizer – goes directly on your skin, under all of your makeup) at a time. Eventually, you’ll have a 100% safe line-up of products; don’t worry if you can’t make a 360 switch all at once.

**NOTE** I’m all about quality when it comes to skincare and beauty products, so making sure that I was still getting products that work, last, and are safe was a top priority. Let me assure you…you WILL find safe, organic products that work just as well as your chemical-ridden ones! At first I was skeptical, believing the myth that the chemicals in my favorite products were what made them work so well. However, organic products are often able to target problems more directly, more gentle, and SO MUCH SAFER.

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We are working on compiling a post of all the products we have found and fallen in love with. And yes…they are wonderful, effective, and best of all…SAFE! Keep an eye out for this post in the coming days.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We are so excited to open up this discussion, learn from you all, and continue to make our beauty routines healthier.

Thank you so much for reading!! x, Macey and Maralena