New Year, new you?
Merry, happy New Year, Adventurers! Hope everyone had a fabulous New Year’s Eve. Did you make any resolutions for 2018?
Perhaps, after dotting, rubbing, dusting and brushing on the 15 or more personal care products women use daily (up to nine for men) for your big night out, you resolved to find out what’s in them all and how they might affect your health. Maybe, if you’ve been thinking about saving money this year, you wondered if you really need all those expensive cremes, tints and potions. Or, like me, you realized after years of paying for, and then throwing away, endless little plastic bottles, pots, cases and brushes, that all of that “trash” is still right here with us and eventually returns to affect us in the form of chemicals leached into groundwater and microplastics in our water and sea life.
Well, we had a request to make this last #TOAWasteChallenge post about all that stuff we use in our daily routines, and we use a LOT of it: The cosmetics industry alone rakes in about $55 billion a year! The Adventurer wanted to know specifically about reducing waste from mascara and lipstick, so I’m going to offer some alternatives there, but I’m also adding lotion for the gents.
Before we start, though, I must say that I’m really passionate about the health implications of the fact that there are 84,000 chemicals on the market and only about one percent of them have been studied for safety. Many, many clients have wanted to know if a particular brand is safe or what a specific ingredient is and whether or not there is a safer alternative. Since this post is specifically about packaging and waste, I’ll try to control myself, but keep the following graphic in mind when choosing what to put on the largest organ of your body, your skin:
My consultations are individually tailored to a client’s need/desire, budget and what amount and type of personal effort he/she wants to put into it, among other things. So since you are many, and I’m not working one-on-one with each of you, I’m going to offer three scenarios for the items this Adventurer requested: buy, ditch and make.
Of all the cosmetics, mascara is the most wasteful, in terms of packaging, and the hardest to reduce waste from. The point of mascara is to define the eye by plumping and lengthening the lashes and providing some color to pale lashes. So you need a gooey agent (conventionally, in a long plastic tube) to do all that. Then, the area you’re targeting is so tiny and sensitive that you pretty much have to use a wand (conventionally, plastic bristles on the end of a plastic stick attached to a plastic holder/cap/place to grip) to get the necessary precision and control. THEN you’re supposed to throw the whole thing “away” every three months or so. Yikes. It ain’t easy, but I think we can do better.
- Buy: The nature of mascara (see above) means there really aren’t any good commercial alternatives out there. The best one can do right now is to buy mascara in recycled/recyclable packaging (check with your municipal recycler on the recyclability of the specific item you buy) or to buy from a company that accepts returns of the containers. I’m not going to recommend a specific product because there are so many factors and values that people look for – no nanoparticles, no animal products, etc. – not to mention individual preferences for performance. I will say, however, that Gabriel, 100% Pure and Kjaer Weiss are a few of the many good starting places for your search. They’re varying shades of expensive though, so contact TOA for a consultation if you need something that more specifically meets your needs.
- Ditch: Decide if you really need mascara. If you have long, reasonably dark lashes, just curl them and be done with it. If not, you probably already have some items in your pantry that might do the trick. Read on…
- Make: There are two levels of effort here (three, really, but I’m skipping one):
- The first is to get yourself (or reuse) a mascara wand, which can be washed after each use, smear it with softened coconut oil and apply the oil to your lashes just like you would apply mascara. Sounds too good to be true, I know, but the moisture in the coconut oil darkens the lashes and the fat (lipids) plumps and lengthens them. Plus, they get really conditioned by the oil, keeping them soft and thick.
- If that doesn’t wow you, the second level is to add some tint. There are tons of tutorials out there for making kohl, kajal, sürme – it’s an ancient process, and the name depends on the region the tutorial is coming from – so I’ll just hit the highlights. The basic idea is to create soot, so you need something to burn that has enough oil in it to burn until it consumes itself completely, and you need something to burn it against to collect the soot. Almonds work well to burn, and any kind of metal spoon or plate will collect the soot. Once you scrape the soot off the surface into a little container, you’ll have a super-fine powder tint to color the coconut oil (or most any carrier oil) with.
If it’s too smudgy with just coconut oil, you can add a wax, like candelilla, to stiffen it up a bit. As a bonus, the kohl/oil mixture works great as a liquid eyeliner! The kohl will be black; if you prefer a brown mascara, play around with cocoa powder and a carrier oil. IMPORTANT NOTE: You may find some recipes/tutorials that suggest using activated charcoal in body care/makeup recipes. This has become popular with the recent charcoal tooth whitening craze. Be aware that some activated charcoals are made with bone char, which those who don’t wish to use animal products will want to avoid, and some charcoals are fossil fuel products, which you obviously don’t want to put on or in your body. So for these experiments, make sure you’re getting food-grade activated charcoal made from a plant source like coconut shells.
There are more options with lip color since it can be put into a variety of containers and you don’t need anything more than the stick itself or your finger to apply it.
- Buy: Again, there are tons of personal preferences with lip color, so rather than recommend a specific product, I’ll just say that paper-wrapped sticks are a good option and anything in a reusable/refillable pot (preferably not plastic) works well for reducing waste…as long as you actually do reuse or refill it. Urb Apothecary will ship its paper-tube lip and cheek tint without the label, making it recyclable or, I believe, compostable. There are also countless Etsy stores that sell lip color in ridiculously cute glass and metal pots. Again, if you’d like a recommendation tailored to your specific needs, just contact TOA for a consultation!
- Ditch: Do you want color or just moisturization? If it’s the latter, stick your finger in the coconut oil jar and rub on your lips. Done. If it’s the former, read on…
- Make: Making lip color is fun, fun, fun! Many people don’t know this, but I lived in Turkey for several years. Turkish women are famously beautiful and consider skin care and beauty as essential as any other hygiene element, but it’s also something that they take great joy in doing for themselves and is often a social affair. Combine that with the availability of luxurious raw ingredients like rose petals, real perfume oils and all the other wonders associated with being an ancient center of trade and how could it not be a fun time?!
To make authentic Turkish tint for rouge, lip color, etc. you’d want to make an alkanet root infusion. I know…no one’s ever heard of alkanet, but you can get the root from Mountain Rose Herbs. Beet (or pomegranate) juice can be substituted though. All you need is coconut oil, a butter like shea or coconut, a wax like candelilla, and tint. Gently melt one-part oil, one-part butter and a half-part wax together. Use small quantities at first and play with the tint, adding it until you’re happy with the color. Then you can strain the mixture into a little glass pot or tin, or let it set up a little and reuse a lipstick tube. Tinting with juice tends to work better if you reduce the juice by half before using. But do you want to hear a little confession? I love pickled beets and pretty much always have a jar in the fridge. When I’m in a hurry and haven’t made any lip tint, I just stick my finger in there and dab it on my lips and cheeks.
The more layers you dab on, the more color, and the vinegar and natural sugars help set the color, which you may remember from tie-dying T-shirts. It’s a bit sticky, so I swipe on a little coconut oil for glide and shine.
These pictures are terrible, taken in great haste with my phone’s camera and bathroom lighting, but hopefully you can see the pink tint from the beet juice here:
For fun, and to show the variety your pantry can provide, I quickly mixed some cocoa powder and apricot oil for a browner color:
Lastly, as you’ve probably figured out, coconut oil is one of the most versatile and helpful items you could possibly have in your pantry. I counted 10 personal care products I’ve replaced with coconut oil, and that’s just the solo uses of coconut oil; it doesn’t begin to count what coconut oil can be used for when mixed with other things! One of my favorite uses for it is as a body lotion.
Rather than use a commercial lotion that contains petroleum products, endocrine-disrupting synthetic perfumes and all manner of nasty stuff, I keep a little pot jar on my bathroom counter into which I transfer coconut oil from the big kitchen jar. After a shower, I scoop a little out, warm it in my hands and work it into my skin. Sure, I could use shea butter or cocoa butter or blend the coconut oil with one of those, but simplicity is the name of the game for me. If I can accomplish a task with one product, why would I use two or three? P.S. My “lotion” jar is the same jar I dip into for makeup remover and oil pulling. I do love a good multi-use story!
Well, Adventurers, that wraps up the Stuff Season #TOAWasteChallenge! How did your challenge go? I’m dying to hear how you reduced waste. What habits did you change? Do you think you’ll stick with them? Anybody want to do a lip color-making class?!
I’ll be going back to our usual schedule of (more or less) monthly posts as I work on new and exciting things to come. Let your friends in on the Adventure by sharing this post with them and, if this post has been shared with you, scroll back up to the “Get 10 Tips for Green Living!” box, enter your email address, and I’ll send you The Organic Adventurer’s “Top 10 Ways to Lead a Healthier, Greener Life” right away!
Cheers to 2018!