Do you remember when you first discovered the ugly side of beauty? I do, and it changed my life forever. It was early 2002, and I was the Spa Director at a luxury spa in downtown San Francisco, before the city - and the world - went tech. There was no social media. Googling wasn’t a thing. And ingredient transparency wasn’t in the collective conscience the way it is today. If you cared enough to look for it, you might have found little dribbles of information about parabens being bad for you, but conclusive research was sparse and evidence was dubious, leading brand founders, chemists, and other spa directors to various conclusions.
I was one of few who did care enough to look, and I eventually determined that parabens had a reasonable chance of being a legitimate hormone disruptor, posing a threat to myself, our team of therapists, and our guests. I made the decision to pull all paraben-containing products from our spa, leaving only a handful of pioneering, clean beauty brands to choose from.
Unbeknownst to me, this was only the beginning of what would become a career-long investigation for me. I sat pretty for a few years, but in 2007, with the whistle-blowing release of Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan, I found myself digging deeper into the questionable world of cosmetic ingredients. Coincidentally, this was also the year I was diagnosed with PCOS, a hormone imbalance that prevented me from getting pregnant. With my newfound knowledge about toxic ingredients, coupled with my own health crisis, it’s almost unimaginable that I didn’t immediately make the connection between my beauty routine and my hormone imbalance. It took me three desperate, infertile years of working with both Western and alternative doctors, gutting my cabinets of anything toxic, and tossing dozens of toothpastes, soaps, and detergents before I finally regained my health.
I can’t pinpoint precisely what allowed my successful pregnancy in 2009. I can only assume it was a combination of all my efforts. But what I do know for sure is this: we cannot wait for the mainstream beauty industry to change their ways, or trust that they ever will.
It is ultimately our responsibility to protect our own health.
After decades of research, I can condense my knowledge about healthy beauty into five key learnings. Hopefully, they will help you in your search for healthy living too.
It is much cheaper to manufacture products with synthetic ingredients and harmful chemicals that are prevalent in our products. This is the primary reason we still see them being used.
Just like everything we consume, once these ingredients are introduced into the environment, they don’t just wash down the drain and become invisible ether. They go into our waterways and can be bio-accumulative, making their way into our oceans, rivers, lakes, and the lifeforms within them.
Many healthy beauty brands are more than non-toxic, they’re actually good for you. Often, when you replace products that contain ingredients that are harmful, you discover new products with ingredients that contribute to your health. Making this one lifestyle change can have long-lasting effects on how well you age.
Toxic, villain ingredients cause a whole host of health problems, and there is nothing beautiful about that. Documentaries like Stink! or The Human Experiment further explore this if you want to see for yourself. But be warned, it will break your heart.
Healthy beauty is now widely available, and it’s better than ever. We’ve come a long way and there are now beauty brands that cater to all demographics and price points. I’ve made it my personal and professional mission to shine a spotlight on them so they are easy to find. Start searching! It’s fun to explore and discover the brands that are truly best for you.
I believe that once we fully comprehend the impacts of ingredients in our beauty products, the choice and power is ours. As one of my heroes said:
“When you know better, you do better.” - Maya Angelou
If this post has you itching to do a beauty cabinet detox, I designed this Ingredient Pocket Guide to help you simplify the transition to healthy beauty for good!
Photos by: Valerie Denise Photos