Using natural ingredients to soothe, treat and heal skin is nothing new, but in modern times, science has often trumped a more organic approach to beauty.
Women clamor for the latest in wrinkle reducers and anti-aging formulas that come in space-age packaging. Smaller cosmetics companies that focus on plant-based ingredients have found it hard to compete with larger name brands.
Recently, though, makeup has gone green. According to market researcher NPD Group, interest in natural or organic beauty items reaches across every demographic group, even if sales lag behind.
Megan Sherrill, a cosmetologist at shine(salon), formerly Red Jasper Spa, on Second Avenue Southeast in Decatur, isn't surprised by the shift.
"(Natural makeup) is becoming more readily available and it's more talked about," she said. "It's been around but it hasn't been mainstream. Now, though, it's starting to be perfected."
"Women love makeup, so everyone's always looking for the next best thing," said Sherrill, 25. "Even women who don't have problem skin wear makeup."
As in other areas, consumer vigilance is required, whether shopping in a discount store, department store, health store or salon. Some companies are now claiming to be organic and natural in order to market toward the new green trend.
Reading the Labels However, shoppers can research products and read labels to understand what they're buying. Understanding how certain chemicals affect skin is the first step in buying the right products for your skin. Sherrill said cheaper cosmetics use fillers that make the product more cost-effective, something companies like Aveda leave out in their plant-based products. The Food and Drug Administration does not have a term for natural skin care, stating that all ingredients in cosmetics are chemicals. Fillers can actually harm skin, adding chemicals like petroleum and animal byproducts, said Dee Meyer of Gloria's Good Health. The health store promotes a natural lifestyle with supplements and vitamins, and extends its services to cosmetics and skin care. Meyer is Gloria's expert on natural skin care products and uses them herself. "Sometimes makeup is 80 to 90 percent fillers," she said. "We may find that some of these chemicals might cause long-term harm later on." For example, Meyer was unaware that petroleum was causing skin irregularities. Meyer regularly used Carmex and other petroleum-based lip balms until a colleague pointed out that her skin had become addicted to the chemical. Most commonly found in lip balms, lotions and hair care, petroleum blocks moisture and suffocates the skin.
"It took four days of cracked and bleeding lips for my skin to get back to normal," she said, after she stopped using the petroleum-based products. The cost of specialty lines offered by the salon is not necessarily higher than at mall and other stores, Sherrill said. Aveda skin-care products range from $12 to $55. Sherrill said many women buy too many products at cheaper price. Instead, she said, they could just buy fewer, higher quality cosmetics for the same amount of money. With more concentrated products, you can use much less, she said. "I think it's a big misconception that you have to pay a lot of money to get good products," she said. Allergies Cost may not be an issue for customers with allergies, problem skin or sensitivity in search of relief, said Teresa Terrell, a cosmetics associate at Gloria's, which carries skin-care lines like NuSkin, Arbonne and Aubrey Organics, which can run from $20 to $80. "So many people are allergic to color in makeup and skin care," said Terrell. "A lot of people have allergies to preservatives in cosmetics and skin care, so you need something with a natural base." Marja Morris discovered natural skin care 15 years ago and uses NuSkin faithfully. "I think it gives you a healthy look and it's better for your skin," she said. "I used to wash my face with regular soap, and I just think there are a lot of benefits with using something that's natural. It keeps your skin soft and smoothes, tones and tightens your skin."
Morris renewed her driver license in November after using the natural beauty products, and compared it to an older picture of herself. "When I took my old license out, I was shocked at the difference," she said. "Everyone who's looked at that picture asks what happened -- they can't believe it's me." She said she looked years younger, and her brown spots, wrinkles and under-eye circles had faded. These natural lines aren't just for women, either. Derrick Shull has used NuSkin for seven years and was voted "Youngest Looking" at his 10-year high school reunion. "You want natural products on your face," he said. "Natural skin care heals," while some products just cover up. Terrell agreed. "You can cover up all day long, but if you don't have pretty skin underneath, you won't look as good," she said. Most natural practitioners have developed a way of life that goes beyond beauty. Many men and women who use natural lines are also interested in carrying that over to other areas. Sherrill said she has become more conscious about what she eats, in addition to what she puts on her skin. "You do adopt it as a lifestyle," she said. 10 Ingredients to Avoid Aubrey Organics, which has produced all-natural cosmetics since 1967, suggests checking products for these possibly harmful synthetic ingredients. Methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl paraben. Used to extend shelf life of products, but shown to be toxic. Can cause allergic reactions and skin rashes.Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) . Can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. Toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.Diaxolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea. Can cause dermatitis. Both release formaldehyde, which can be toxic.Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate. Cheap, harsh detergent and often derived from petroleum. Can cause eye irritation, skin rashes, and dandruff symptoms.Petrolatum. Has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dryness and chapping.Propylene glycol. Known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema.PVP/VA Copolymer. Used in hairsprays and styling aids. Can be considered toxic when inhaled.Stearalkonium chloride. Used in conditioners and considered toxic.Synthetic colors. Should be avoided, as many are carcinogenic.Synthetic fragrances. Can cause allergic reactions.