More than skin deep
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Date: 12 April, 2007
Photo: Cargo Cosmetics
'There are ways to be both kind to your skin and environmentally friendly.'
Suzanne Elvidge looks at ways to pamper the planet while pampering yourself
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Humanity has sought after beauty since… well, pretty much since forever, and has used some pretty toxic things in the process, from white lead to make skin look paler and mercury to hide blemishes, to arsenic and belladonna to brighten the eyes.
Fortunately modern cosmetics and other beauty products are generally a lot less harmful for us (just watch out for skin-lightening creams), but they aren’t always that good for the planet.
However, there are ways to be both kind to your skin and environmentally friendly.
Good enough to eat
There are a whole range of things you can use straight out of the kitchen cupboard:
Olive oil as moisturiser or hair conditioner
Tomato juice for taking green out of bleached hair or for deodorising (apparently it even works on the smell from a skunk!)
Lemon juice for brightening fingernails and hair and clearing spots (garlic apparently works too but may not be as sociable)
Pineapple for smoothing fines lines
Chamomile tea for a soothing bath and black tea for sunburn relief
Sugar or salt as a body scrub
Milk for a luxurious bath
Strawberries to whiten teeth
In the bath
Bubble baths (my own personal weakness) and shower gels are made using synthetic detergents. What are the alternatives?
There are biodegradable versions which you can buy in bulk and refill your own containers, and good old-fashioned soap biodegrades naturally (you can even make your own).
If you want a luxuriously scented bath, add essential oils (mixing them in a little milk first helps them disperse) or make your own bath salts and bath bombs, using ingredients like Epsom salts, sea salt and bicarbonate of soda.
Don’t fancy the faff? Try Lush’s bath ballistics (Tea & Sympathy is lovely for a stressed-out journalist) – the company avoids animal testing and uses minim um packaging, and the shops smell fantastic.
There are even eco-shampoos for your dog or cat (shampooing my cat? I value my skin too much…) And don’t forget to recycle your bath water.
On your face
Palm oil is a major ingredient of many cosmetics and moisturisers – however, the growth of palm oil plantations is associated with the loss of rain forest.
There are alternatives – lanolin is the fat extracted from sheep’s wool and is good for very dry skin. Shea butter is from the nut of an African tree. Cocoa butter comes from cocoa beans and smells a bit chocolaty, and may help reduce scars.
Many cosmetics contain petrochemicals. Cargo’s PlantLove lipstick (pictured above) contains no mineral oils or petrochemicals, and is in a biodegradable corn-based case, with a cardboard sleeve containing wild flower seeds.
Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be available in the UK yet. Honesty Cosmetics does not test on animals and uses biodegradable ingredients, avoiding mineral oils and petrochemicals. BuyOrganics and There Must Be a Better Way source organic and petrochemical-free cosmetics.
Rather than using and throwing away cotton wool, why not try something reusable?. And finally, to put your cosmetics in – a bag made out of recycled juice cartons or seatbelts.
Read some of our other Ethical Living articles
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