5 Easy Tips to switching to Organic and Natural cosmetics and beauty products!

Lately, as the toxic chemicals in beauty products have been getting more and more attention in the media, I've had several friends approach me to get my recommendations on the products and brands that I've switched to now that I use primarily natural and organic lines (hi Melissa and Aynsley!). For many, the process of switching from beloved, well-known brands to smaller, more obscure (but healthier!) lines can be downright terrifying, and I consistently hear cries of, "But I don't even know where to start!" And that's where today's post comes in. Sure, there's a whole universe of clean, cruelty free, non-toxic beauty products out there to discover, but no one said you have to figure it all out overnight. So here are my top 5 easy tips to starting a non-toxic cosmetics lifestyle and getting on the road to better beauty health!

Tip #1: Choose a category to start with
If you're like most women, you probably have anywhere from 20-50 (or more) beauty and cosmetic products in your household -- everything from bath products to body lotions to hair products, makeup, perfumes, etc. (and we're not even touching the cleaning and household categories). This means the process can quickly get overwhelming if you try to tackle everything all at once.

That said, my number one recommendation is to start your transition slowly. Why do most people fail when they try to "give up" things or take on a new habit? Because they do it too fast and ultimately get frustrated. To prevent this from happening, I say choose a single category to convert -- maybe it's the things in your shower, like your soap, shampoo and body wash; or maybe it's your hair products. Whatever you choose, tackle a small sampling of products at first. You can ALWAYS go back and do more if you're feeling comfortable, but it's hard to rebound once you've exhausted yourself.

Tip #2: Do your research!
I never would have even started on this journey if it weren't for Bulgarian YouTuber Poli's (policosmetics82) video on parabens. Her story about scientists finding paraben particles in the tissue of breast tumors really resonated with me, and got me interested in learning more about that ingredient in particular. Of course, the more I researched parabens, the more I found articles about other harmful ingredients in cosmetics, and voila!, my eyes had been opened to the world of toxic beauty products. Believe it or not, before that fateful day two years ago, I had no idea that there were even harmful things in my cosmetics. Call it naive, but I believed that all of these big brands selling us things would be keeping our health and wellness in mind during product development. Clearly, I was WAY wrong!

So do some research, even if that's making random Google searches about toxicity. Read about different ingredients, their industrial uses, their levels of toxicology and figure out which of them sound the most scary or harmful to you. Remember that this is an individual process and you make the rules, so no one says you have to avoid everything that's even slightly harmful if you don't want to do so. But do figure out which ingredients you care most to avoid -- for me, things like parabens and SLS are absolute deal breakers, but I'll put up with fragrance/parfum. Once you've done your research, make a list and keep it in your wallet. This way when you're looking to buy a new product, you can whip out your list and cross-check against the product's ingredients. Many of the ingredient names are really long and hard to remember, so this will ease the burden on your brain!

Tip #3: Evaluate your collection
Find a span of 30 minutes that you can devote to pulling out all the items in your chosen category and giving the ingredients a good, thorough read. You may notice that some products are great about including all of the ingredients on the packaging, whereas other brands try to hide this information, either by including it only on the external box/plastic that you've probably thrown away by now, or by not listing things at all (this is particularly common on travel or sample sizes, or on products that use "active" ingredients, as those are the only ones they are required to list by law). If you don't see the full list of ingredients, sites like Sephora and Ulta often list the ingredients on their product pages, or you can visit the manufacturer's websites directly. I've even taken to calling some manufacturers who made it ridiculously hard to find their ingredients list to have them sent to me. A few who really wouldn't cooperate just lost my business by that alone. The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is another great resource. It assigns toxic ratings to more than 70K products and explains which ingredients they find harmful and why.

As you're reviewing the ingredients in your products, you should have your list of those to avoid handy. You may be surprised to see that some products that you already own are healthier than you may have thought, or you may find that some are much more harmful than you imagined. Take stock of what's good and bad in your current collection, and write out a list of product types that you may need to find healthier options for in the future.

Tip #4: Sort your stash
Now that you've got a good grasp of what in your collection is healthy and what is not, divide things into a keep, sell, toss and donate pile. Keep those things that are healthy and decide whether or not you'll keep or purge the unhealthy items. Give yourself some grace here -- if your favorite mascara happens to not be very healthy and you JUST bought it, it's ok to allow yourself to keep it and use it up. Just make the commitment to finding and buying a healthier alternative next time.

Any new, unused and sealed items can be donated to a local women's shelter (some will even take things that are very gently used) or sold on sites like eBay. You could also do a blog sale, sell them in a garage sale or re-gift them. (There's been some criticism of people saying selling or re-gifting these items is hypocritical since they are toxic. Although there is validity to that statement, that's like saying that because I'm a vegan, everyone in the world should or will stop eating animal products. Clearly that's not going to happen, nor would I push my lifestyle on anyone else. Likewise, not everyone is going to care about chemicals in beauty products. So understanding that these things have value to other people, and capitalizing on that, rather than flushing money down the toilet or sending things to a landfill, is just common sense.)

Anything that's almost used up, is old/expired or in just downright poor condition should just be thrown out.

Tip #5: Have fun finding new products!
This is the best part! There are so many amazing companies that sell healthy products, and now that you've got some empty space in your medicine cabinet or under-the-sink cupboard, it's time to replace what you've tossed! Do some Google or YouTube searches on organic and natural products in your category to see what other people have already tried and liked. Read blog reviews or join posting forums with others trying to make the switch. Take advantage of sampling programs and don't be afraid to ask different companies if they give free samples or offer trial kits. Don't be afraid to try a new brand or product just because the name doesn't seem familiar, or because the format is something you're unused to (like a powder foundation or mineral eyeshadow). And remember that most large retailers (Sephora, Ulta and even Whole Foods come to mind) have great return policies that let you try out a product and bring it back for a full refund if it's not something you like. Don't get discouraged if it takes a while to find something you truly love -- great products are out there for you to discover.

Most importantly, make sure you're reading the ingredient list for every product you buy before you fork over any cash. Just because something is labeled natural, organic, or cruelty free doesn't actually mean that it is.

Overall, remember that every baby step you make is a positive change that will contribute to your health and happiness. Have fun with it, and enjoy each step of the journey!

If you've recently switched over your cosmetics and have tips to add, feel free to share them in the comments below. Or, if you have any follow up questions, leave those here as well. Good luck!



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