Posts tagged ‘Beauty Standards’

January 2, 2011

Part of My 2011 Beauty Manifesto – The Big List of Things That Suck

Credit: Earth Take

I feel like that at times: where life feels like a delicate balancing act.  In this case, I’m trying to balance out my product usage to get the most effective, non-toxic ingredients possible.  Along with my current obsession with essential oils,’s Beauty Counter has some surprisingly interesting posts on green beauty.  One of which led me to Alicia Silverstone’s lovely little blog.  Many remember her as the lovable Cher in Clueless, but she’s also a fantastic advocate for going vegan and living green–not that I’d personally go vegan. Sorry cute animals but you’re delicious–without giving up taste, style, or creature comforts.  A follower of her own advice and “The Kind Diet”, she looks fantastic at 34 years old (she totally looks like she’s in her early twenties).  And I thought it best to let her explain the premise behind her blog:

But that’s not what I really want to post about. On, I discovered EcoStiletto which is this lovely site by journalist Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff that embraces style and beauty without leaving a carbon footprint.  And it was there that I discovered this lovely little list: The Big List of Things That Suck.  It both informs the reader on common things we use everday and how to make it suck a little less :)  Here are a couple bits that I liked:


Forget vintage. These days it seems that newly minted cashmere is everywhere: Americans bought 10.5 million sweaters in 2005—15 times more than 10 years prior, according to the Seattle Times, which asserts that the increase in cashmere production, primarily in China, is wreaking environmental havoc. As the herds of cashmere-producing goats grow, the grasslands are disappearing, leading to dust storms and a “plume of pollution” that reaches as far as Washington state.

Where you find it: Everywhere from Sam’s Club to Club Monaco.

Suck less: Vintage, upcycled vintage by designers like Deborah Lindquist, or Mongolian cashmere cultivated by traditional nomadic herders who laugh in the face of over-production. Mongolian cashmere is ridiculously soft yet incredibly durable—which will become immeasurably important when you watch that cheap cashmere wrap from Target start to pill up and lose its shape after one washing. See WOOL.


Not to scare you or anything, but we absorb 60 percent of what we put onto our skin. And, according to the Organic Consumers Association, the average woman
absorbs five pounds of toxic chemicals each year just from her beauty products. With that in mind, flip over your favorite concealer and take a look at the laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients like DEA—also known as diethanolamine (say that five times fast)—which disrupts hormones and can lead to birth defects.

These chemicals enter your body where they interact with the hundreds of other chemicals contained in the plethora of beauty products that you slather on each day.

Where to find it: Conventional beauty products.

Suck less: Read your labels, and look for “USDA Certified Organic” and “ECOCERT,” which means a product is government certified as 95 percent food-grade organic—zero chemicals or synthetics in it manufacturing or ingredients—in America and Europe, respectively. See ORGANIC (NOT).


So-called “fast fashion” has outsourced our $3 trillion a year apparel industry to countries like China, which exports ridiculous amounts of pollution—along with “disposable” clothing—to the United States. According to the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, the United States has established a $35 billion trade deficit with China by buying goods despite the fact that the country undervalues its currency, underpays its workers and utilizes the least expensive (and most toxic) means of production in order to provide the American consumer cheap and disposable goods. Why does this matter? Economically, it’s bad business: U.S. government statistics show that since 2002, China’s textile and apparel imports to the U.S. have increased 263 percent while the textile sector in the U.S. lost 433,000 jobs.

Environmentally, it’s worse. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, when it comes to environmental pollutants in our air and water, the United States is directly in China’s line of fire. “Scientists estimate that thirty percent of California’s particulate air pollution comes from across the Pacific,” said Linda Greer, director of the Health Program at NRDC and creator of its Clean by Design program, in a recent video. “China’s textile industry’s contribution to this soot is more than three billion tons per year [causing] cities across America to be in violation of air quality standards. In addition, “more than half the mercury contaminating the fish that we catch off our shores and in our freshwater lakes comes from China,” she said. When it comes to the environmental impact of our biggest trade partner, “America is, unfortunately, downwind.”

Where to find it: Your closet.

Suck less: If you’re buying new, look for fair trade, sustainable frocks and frivolities that actually support the workers that make them—and don’t pollute the communities in which they were made. We also are interested to see what impact Clean by Design has on participating companies like Walmart, H&M, Gap, Levi and Nike. Clean by Design has set its sights on cleaning up the Chinese textile and apparel industry by establishing business practices that reduce water pollution and energy use to help plants run more efficiently. The logic behind this program, as well as the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, is that if multi-national companies like these won’t pull out, then manufacturing in China must become more like that which takes place in the United States, with accurate currency valuation, fair wages for workers and environmentally conscious manufacturing. By enforcing these practices, the cost of doing business in China becomes more competitive. And manufacturing starts to come home. Sounds good to us.


Chemical sunscreens like PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and oxybenzone are absorbed into the bloodstream, break down in the sun and offer far less protection than their labels declare, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Where to find them: On the beach; at the pool.

Suck less: Zinc (best) and titanium dioxide (better) provide a physical barrier to the sun, and no longer leave you with big white splotches on your nose. See NANO.

While the list is not enough to make me stop wearing leather or flushing toilets, it does make me think twice about where everything I use and wear comes from.  Moreover, I’m glad that she is calling attention to the state of our clothes and the materials used.  I have been seeing cashmere everywhere this season.  And it’s appalling because it is now scratchy cheap low quality shit that ruins easily as opposed to the luxurious durable material it used to represent (I had to search very hard for the Italian cashmere that I do own).  I do not like to the see the deterioration of clothes as well as food and beauty & cleaning products.  So now that my rant is over, check out the blogs and maybe it will make you reconsider things as well.

December 11, 2010

Life and Beauty

Not Washing Your Face at NightOverexfoliating

I’ve been on somewhat of a beauty cleanse lately.  I always thought that I was meticulous about the ingredients in my beauty products as I am about the fabric of my clothing.  Clearly I’ve been mistaken.  Products (of any sort) today are appalling.  And if boys think they are exempt, they have another thing coming.  They use soap, wash their hair, use moisturizer, etc. just like we do.  And guess what? None of it is good for you.  All these products are full of synthetics, petrochemicals, and carcinogens (synthetics have unknown long-term effects let alone the current short-term issues; petrochemicals are by-products of gasoline; and carcinogens directly cause cancer) among other things, but that’s the gist of it.  That may sound like a whole lot of gibberish to many people, but trust me, those aren’t things you want as they absorb into your body through your skin.  So better to address this now before I, along with everyone else, become set in my ways and use products that essentially are poisoning me.

No More Dirty Looks (by the lovely Siobhan O’Connor & Alexandra Spunt) has really opened my eyes to just how dirty the beauty industry actually is.  [Read their blog as well] I really shouldn’t be surprised considering it is a multi-billion dollar industry that operates under its own set of rules, its own product review panel, and its own testing process.  And to be blunt: FDA does jack shit.  It does not have the power (or budget) to regulate anything; not to mention, many of these companies will release these products at will.  They will go through cursory testing for rashes and whatnot, but could honestly care less if there is–say formaldehyde (nothing like a little embalming fluid to make one really feel good right?)–in it as long as it, I don’t know, goes on smoothly.  And most of the time, these products don’t even work.  They are so pumped of fillers to mask the heaviness of the toxins embedded in the product that the active ingredient does not work.  And about that ingredient list…; “fragrance” could mean absolutely anything.  For all you know, it could (and probably does) contain hundreds of chemicals in that one little word.  But worse, companies are not required to reveal the full ingredient list for the sake of trade secrets.  Bull shit.  Complete and utter bull shit.  Consumers have a right to know what they are putting on/in their bodies, and moreover, companies need to be held accountable.

Overloading on Products

[This is how I feel sometimes with the constant changing trends and advice]

I am a chemical engineer in the making that wants to work in the beauty industry.  This has distorted my entire world view.  I still want to work in the beauty industry, but more importantly, I want to change it.   I am extremely angry about the status quo when it comes to consumer products, particularly health and beauty products.  There is nothing remotely healthy about this.  I believe others should be angry as well.  These companies are deliberating taking advantage by catering to our vanity, and we’re buying into it for the sake of instant gratification.   We should ask for better.  We should know to ask for better.  This culture of instant gratification will lead to nowhere, but the deterioration of quality and safety standards.  I want to make better, more effective products.  But something needs to change.  People need to be made aware of the lack of regulation for everyday products we use and what happens because of it.

Now, I’m not the stereotypical crunchy eco-obsessed hippy who doesn’t wash her hair or shave her legs–because for one, I freely admit that I could care less about finding renewable energy and two, because I most certainly do those things–but I do not find it unreasonable to expect more of an industry I love.  To expect more of the FDA.  As in it actually does what it’s meant to.  And to expect products that aren’t willingly contaminated with poisonous chemicals.  To ask for products that are effective, relatively inexpensive, and moreover, safe for human consumption.  Is that really so hard to ask for?

But all is not lost.  There are some brands out there that are conscious of the mark they leave on consumers and on the earth.  REN, for one, is absolutely amazing.  It is a UK based company invented started by Robert Calcraft and Antony Buck ever since Antony’s wife had adverse reactions to practically every single skincare product while pregnant.  They operate under 5 principles:  Right Ingredients, Right Science, Right Product Experience, Right Environmental Impact, and Right Attitude.

Right Ingredients: To make Clean Products that don’t contain skin-unfriendly ingredients such a synthetic fragrance, petrochemicals, sulfate detergents, synthetic colours, animal ingredients, and parabens et al.


Right Science: To pioneer new ways of applying the latest discoveries in bio active technology to product skincare formulations that boost the skin’s natural processes of protection, repair, and renewal.


Right Product Experience: REN believes gorgeous products can make the world a slightly nicer place to be and make us feel just a little nicer being here.


Right Environmental Impact: They try to minimize their use of the world’s limited natural resources and donates a minimum of 2.5% of their profits to campaigns that promote better environment and a better life for those less fortunate


Right Attitude [This one I’m typing verbatim cuz it’s good]: We believe a principle is a principle even if it costs money.  We believe we reap what we sow.  We prefer goodwill to suspicion, humor to gravitas, informality to formality.  We welcome difference.

Moreover, their products work.  Beauty magazines have tested their wares for their annual best of “[year]” lists, and consumers have spoken immensely about them.  REN products keep appearing time and time again.  I personally use REN products; I will attest that they are the real deal.  They feel fantastic and keep my skin clear and well-balanced.  I will always endorse REN because of its transparency on what’s actually in the products, its premise of the creation effective clean gorgeous products that make a person feel good, its sophisticated cutting edge science, and its willingness to ask for more of itself as company.

Other approved brands include NUDE Skincare, Josie Maran, Dr. Hauschka, and John Masters (which you can find in your drugstore!).  My last advice is to always look at the ingredient list, be patient, and do take the time to fully explore your options and what you want for your lifestyle.  It can be intimidating to be hit with extensive ingredients lists and product choices, but hopefully I’ve shed some light on the topic.  And No More Dirty Looks should help as well.  Just remember to read up on company premises.  Knowing what they do and what ingredients are commonly used will go a long way in convincing you to trust them.

*All beauty images courtesy of Allure*