**This post is part of a 5-part series on healthy personal care products. If you missed the previous posts, Part 1 gives some background on the personal care product industry and healthy options for products used in the shower, and Part 2 details healthy dental care.
(Healthy face cleansers were mentioned before, but are elaborated here with more focus on skincare.)
First, an important note on skin cleansing: Sebaceous glands under the surface of the skin produce oil (sebum) to protect against inflammation and infection, and to keep skin moisturized and flexible. This oil is made up in part by fatty acids, which give skin a slightly acidic pH of 5.5.
Sudsy soap (a sign of high alkalinity) strips away these fatty acids, drying out skin. Over-drying of the skin via soap actually results in the glands producing more oil to make up for what’s being washed away (this is true for hair, too). So, it’s best to choose a cleanser with a pH close to skin’s, in order to cleanse away the dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria that can get trapped in pores and cause an infection (acne), while still leaving the natural sebum layer intact to continue doing its job protecting and moisturizing your skin.
Shaklee Meadow Blend (also recommended in Part 1 as a body cleanser) is gentle, soap-free, and pH-balanced. It’s good for all skin types and is particularly soothing for sensitive skin. Because it can be used for the body too, it’s a great option for those who want to cut down on the number of products you use.
If you’re more comfortable with a standard gel-type cleanser, evanhealy has several wonderful options for various skin types. The gentle Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk is especially soothing to sensitive, irritated, or sun damaged skin. The Tea Tree Gel Cleanser is great for acne-prone skin.
All of the evanhealy cleansers are soap-free, pH-balanced, and antioxidant rich. Because they’re part of a holistic approach to enhancing skin’s own ability to achieve balance, each of the cleansers is recommended to be followed with a hydrosol (a distillation of beneficial essential oils) and a serum, both of which work together with the cleanser. Explore the company’s website for more details on the specific product line geared for your skin type.
Although evanhealy is a more expensive artisan brand, you get what you pay for–the products are made in small batches from natural ingredients and the company sources from family-owned farms and women’s cooperatives. And, many of their products rank 0 (a perfect score) in the EWG database of cosmetic safety.
**Note: Your best bet for effective skincare products, especially if you have sensitive or “problematic” skin, is likely a full (or close to full) skintype-specific product line from a trusted, natural brand. Because the products are formulated to work together, you’ll get the most oomph from combining them. But, this is a generalization, not a rule–there are also some products that still work great on their own or combined with other brands.
Another healthy “product” option is oil cleansing (discussed in more detail in this post)–it’s soap-free, customizable based on skin type, and very hydrating. Some people like to alternate oil cleansing and another gentle soap-free cleanser.
And finally, one more face washing option to consider is a completely cleanser-free cleanse. Some people find that this works just fine for their skin. You’ll still need something more than water to wash away excess dirt/oil/bacteria (see below), but if you can get away without adding more products to your regimen, go for it!
The Konjac Activated Charcoal Facial Sponge is exfoliating and deep cleansing, and the activated charcoal (a favorite natural remedy for many purposes!) removes toxins and impurities while also balancing skin’s pH.
The sponge can be used with or without a cleanser. It’s paraben-, sulphate-, and phthalate-free. And it’s also biodegradable!
To use, simply run the sponge under water until soft (takes a few seconds) and massage it in circular motions on your face (with or without a cleanser, depending on your preference). When you’re finished, rinse the sponge, press all of the water out of it, and hang it to dry. (Heads up–the suction hook included with the product doesn’t work that well, so you may have to find another way to hang it.) The sponge should dry between uses and should be replaced about every three months. If desired, you can sanitize it every few weeks by boiling it for one minute.
Many of the drugstore toners available are astringents, making them drying and thus purportedly beneficial to acne-prone skin–but these are often alcohol-based, which is likely too drying for any skin type, even acne-prone, and actually hurts your skin’s own ability to repair itself. (Plus, they’ve usually got a strong presence of irritating artificial colors and fragrance to boot).
But natural-derived toners, in contrast to their “conventional” counterparts, can actually help hydrate skin.
If you don’t use a pH-balanced cleanser, Aveda Botanical Kinetics Toning Mist helps to rebalance skin’s pH after washing, which allows moisturizer to soak in better. The toning mist is nice because you don’t need a cotton ball to apply it.
Another popular alcohol-free option is Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel. It balances skin’s pH, softening dry skin and reducing oiliness of acne-prone skin. Long-term users also swear that it reduces pore size and wrinkles.
A good face mask can be a really beneficial supplement to your skincare routine, especially if you’re acne prone. evanhealy’s Green Tea Clay is a weekly deep-cleaning mask that draws out impurities that cause infected skin. Because of the healing properties of mineral-rich clay, many people also find that this mask reduces the appearance of scarring or hyper-pigmentation and makes pores appear smaller.
Even if you follow a clean diet and great skincare routine, monthly hormone cycles or stress can still cause occasional acne flare-ups. If so, the evanhealy Blemish Purifying Serum comes in a roll-on applicator and is highly effective at spot-treating problem areas. Many users find that this serum noticeably cuts down the healing time of a blemish once it pops up.
There are plenty of chemical ingredients in conventional lotions that should be avoided and not proactively applied to skin and left to soak in and get absorbed into our bloodstream.
Look for a lotion that’s free of parabens (synthetic preservatives linked to endocrine disruption and breast cancer, as well as skin irritation and reproductive and developmental disorders), phthalates (“reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program and “in need of more research” by the CDC), synthetic fragrances (mystery concoctions linked to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory problems, and headaches), and petroleum byproducts (including propylene glycol and mineral oil, which are linked to endocrine disruption and liver and kidney problems).
For a manly line of healthy products, try Bulldog–they have a great Moisturiser.
As mentioned above, it’s especially important to choose wisely for products that you want to soak into your body. For body lotion, you’ll want to look for a product that’s free of parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and petroleum byproducts. There are a lot of great healthy products on the market, but since we’re on an evanhealy kick, try their Sweet Blossom Moisturizing Body Lotion.
For a more affordable option, go for Acure Organics Lemongrass + Moroccan Argan Oil Firming Body Lotion.
There are also tons of easy, tried-and-true recipes for making your own lotion. Not only is this one of the healthiest options, but you also have the most control over the product–the consistency, fragrance, and healthy add-ins you want. Try this 5-minute recipe.
(Or, if you really want to go back to basics, just use coconut oil!)
Despite the strict warnings to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside to prevent skin damage and skin cancer, health experts are still divided. They don’t tend to disagree that you should protect your skin from excessive sun exposure as needed, but rather that sunscreen, which contains a lot of nasty chemical ingredients, is not necessarily the best way to do that.
Most sunscreens on the market contain chemical filters, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to have negative impacts on endocrine and reproductive systems. (Oh, and they’ve been found in mothers’ breast milk, which isn’t great.)
If you’re going to wear sunscreen, the safest options are products that use mineral filters like titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide. Try Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen. It’s fragrance-free, non-irritating, and doesn’t leave the white residue mineral sunscreens are known for.
It’s definitely important to choose healthy products for your lips, because no matter how hard you try not to, you do end up licking and ingesting some of the product. Most lip balms on the market are made with parabens, petroleum-based products, and synthetic fragrances–not only are these unhealthy to put near/in your mouth, but they also dry out lips, leading you to reapply more frequently.
Burt’s Bees is usually the go-to “healthy” lip balm. It’s still a relatively good option, but ever since the company got bought out by Clorox (not exactly known for their healthy lip-care products) there has been some issue with the product formulations and complaints about filler ingredients that are cheap and designed for mass production, but not necessarily serving a healthy purpose. All in all, it’s still a reasonably healthy option, and the product line has now expanded to many new flavors, which is nice if you were never into the original peppermint flavor.
For something a little different, Evolution of Smooth (“eos”) lip spheres are super fun and certified organic to boot, and earn a ranking of 1 (high safety) by EWG.
SPF lip balm
As mentioned above, any product labeled as SPF warrants a little more attention to the ingredient list. Kiss My Face Sport Lip Balm SPF 30 achieves a high rating from EWG and protects lips from the sun without leaving odd chunky white residue like many natural lip balms with SPF.