Transitioning to Organic Cosmetics

The Real Deal: going nearly 100% chemical-free: I have worked arduously over the last 9 years to make my life nearly 100 percent organic and chemical-free. Yep, I said nine years. I have probably read somewhere near 1,500 articles related to what I call clean living, books galore, and chatted up numerous organic gurus nationwide. What I learned was thateveryone has an opinion (duh,) but so much of it needs to be based on what chemicals you want to avoid and what items work best for you. Certain dangers, like dermatitis or allergens, may not be of concern to you, but harsh chemicals that provide a danger to your overall health are absolutely avoidable.

The dangers of the most commonly used chemicals: It’s shocking how there is no monitoring or approval needed from the government for the cosmetic industry to shelf a product for us consumers to buy.  Nope. The FDA decided it had too much to worry about and passed on the responsibility to control dangerous chemicals to be in our popular self-care products.  Seems about right…So APL wants to introduce you to the top chemicals to avoid and how to find them on the label.  Don’t worry; we have a list of our fave products to help you out too.

  • Parabens: these can basically be summed up as stabilizers to increase the shelflife of products.  There are four common parabens used including: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.  They danger is that they are able to mimic or interfere with estrogen in the body, and exposure to estrogen is one of the primary influences on the development of breast cancer.
  • Sulfites/Sulfates: these can cause headaches, hives (if allergic,) joint pain, heart palpatations, and more. The most common sulfites are: Sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide.
  • Phtalates (Thay-Lates): you have no doubt heard of BPA, the chemical everyone is now swearing up and down is not in their plastics.  That is what phthalates do, they keep plastic soft so they don’t become brittle and crack. In personal care items, they’re used to help lubricate other substances, help lotions penetrate and soften the skin, and help fragrances last longer. We say boo to this. We absorb phthalates via our skin, ingest them from foods and drinks when the leach in from plastics, and inhale them via fumes from vinyl. Or vinyl production. The main issue behind this exposure to them is that they can lead to infertility and reproductive issues. It’s a mystery to me why they are banned in the EU, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries, but NOT in the U.S. Common phthalates to look for on labels:DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate), DiNP (diisononyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), BBzP (benzyl butyl phthalate), DEHP (di 2-ethylhexl phthalate), DiDP (diisodecyl phthalate), DnHP (di-n-hexyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate), DnOP (di-n-octylphthalate), BPA
  • EDTA (short for Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid): EDTA is a chemical salt used to separate heavy metals from dyes and other substances. The form found in our food and cosmetics is calcium disodium EDTA. Not only is EDTA really crappy for the environment,
  • Chemical-based sunscreens: such as oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Why this stinks? The endocrine system is composed of 8 major glands, which are groups of cells that produce and secret chemicals. The hormones that are secreting from these glands help with metabolism regulation, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep and mood, and so much more. So yes, disrupting this system can cause irreparable damage to the body in so many ways. Alternatives: Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.
  •  Synthetic Colors: which are used in many cosmetics, especially makeup, are made from coal tar. (Sounds yummy, right?) This coal tar is loaded with heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins all over your skin. Nearly all are carcinogenic and can lead to allergic reactions or irritation. Note: They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number.
  • Nanos: can cause cell damage. Ugh, we have enough cell damage from the sun and aging, we don’t need anymore!  Nanos are commonly found in products because they are used to diffuse light (disguising wrinkles), provide sun protection or for improved color.
  • 1,4-DIOXANE: is a common a chemical carcinogen. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). To avoid it, skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.
  • Petrochemicals: think Vaseline or anything with petroleum jelly in it. It actually does not allow the skin to breathe and can clog pores. Bottom line is that your skin needs air! Since it is a non-renewable resource, it is nasty for the environment AND your body. Did you know that rubbing it on your cracked nose can enable it to get into your lungs and cause lipid pneumonia? Considering it is a derivative of oil refining (gross, and we put it on our lips?) you may want to steer clear regardless of it’s benefits. Alternatives: look for products with the following on the label instead- beeswax, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and cocoa butter seal in moisture and don’t come with some of the risks of petroleum jelly.

How this translates to your products? Organic Beauty. Makeup and high-end self-care products have been an obsession of mine for however long I can remember. (I just got rid of 3, 6-drawer floor stands of NARS, MAC, Chanel, and more…) I love learning new techniques, trying out new looks and color palettes, working on perfecting skincare, and more. When I started to immerse myself into the truly natural world, I decided to switch up my entire cosmetic regimen.  HUGE TASK for this lady and a no-joke conversion. Why? The research I have found boiled down to a few points: chemicals can actually make you uglier (superficial statement, but the truth,) there are carcinogens galore amongst expensive care, you absorb 60% of what you put on your skin (oy!) and the concept that it isn’t ok for your baby, so why is ok for you? First step was shower/post-shower products. Organic “soap” products like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are such a different experience. They do not lather due to missing chemicals, so at first, you may feel “less than clean.” The body wash still works, trust me. The main issue for me was my hair…it just didn’t benefit AT ALL from a completely organic product. It was limp, lifeless, dry, and would not style at all. I did, however, eliminate EDTA, sulfites/sulfates, and parabens from my hair repertoire and it is kind of a negotiation, a meeting halfway health change. In addition to that, using organic treatments like anti-frizz and hairspray do actually work well. However, if you do some trial and error, testing as many brands and products as you can until you find what works for you, it is worth it!  Going sans sulfites and carcinogenic chemicals that can have long-term affects is never a bad idea. It’s having the patience to see what works for you.

Check out these websites for some additional and reliable information on your current products and some alternatives:

  • Rate your current products with the Skin Deep Cosmetic’s Database:
  • Visit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for chemical information:
  • Get some education with Dr. Mercola:

Get the APL Go-To’s-

Body Wash:  *Burt’s Bee’s ($8): Fresh Peppermint & Rosemary or Grapefruit Body Wash (comparative to Neutrogena) *Jason’s Tea Tree Oil Body Wash ($12): very moisturizing and a great value (comparative to Dove)

Body Lotions & Sunscreen *Origins ($31): Ginger Souffle Whipped Body Cream *Lavanila ($19): The Healthy Body Butter & Sunscreens *Aveeno Sunscreen

Deodorant this was a rough go…so many of them do not do the job! Many commercial deodorants have carcinogenic talc and BHT in them, triclosan that interrupts the endocrine and immune systems, Aluminum chlorohydrate that is difficult for your body to expel so it backs it up…these are all no bueno. I definitely found a friend, finally, in the following: *Crystal Essence Roll-On in Lavender & White Tea *Dr. Hauschka Fresh Roll-

On Shampoo & Conditioner: look for sulfite/sulfate-free shampoo without EDTA and Parabens.  Our faves… *Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo & Conditioner *Redken has natural products throughout their label, but you HAVE to read the label!

Hair Treatment Products: (hairspray, anti-frizz, etc.) *John Master’s Organics: green tea & calendula leave-in conditioning mist, sea mist sea salt spray with lavender (amazing for a beachy wave look,) and anti-frizz serum

The next step was my oral care routine. Taking care of your teeth is absolutely, SUPREMELY important. I did immediately switch to an electronic toothbrush in order to get a deeper, better clean.  I love my Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean ( toothbrush. It’s a splurge, but totally worth it for expert plaque removal and a deeper clean. For a budget-conscious option, head to the local drugstore and get an Oral B alternative. Dr. Mercola sites these as the tooth care MUSTS: Fluoride-free Toothpaste Fluoride and Alcohol-free Mouthwash Natural Breath Spray Fluoride-free Dental Floss:check out floss waxed with 100% vegetable waxes to help it glide more easily between your teeth BPA-free Toothbrush: it’s vitally important to find a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles and is BPA-free. Next up was switching my toothpaste to a fluoride-free version of my regularly used whitening paste. Fluoride, although said to be necessary for strengthening your teeth in order to prevent cavities, is also known to cause osteoporosis, endocrine problems, thyroid issues, and cancers. This was a tough transition.  I found Tom’s of Maine (now ironically owned by Colgate,) was my first go-to. Then, I realized they use SLS, which I won’t even go into…I have since switched to Jason’s. Flossing is essential as well, but floss has that “waxy” stuff on it, so steer clear!  I use a nylon-based, vegetable wax without any inorganic waxy substances or plastic chemicals. For a follow-up mouthwash, try the Natural Dentist alcohol-free washes or use Apple Cider Vinegar like me:)

APL’s Favorite Green & Clean Products: 


  • Physician’s Formula 100% Organic Wear: makeup on-the-cheap that works
  • BareMinerals: makeup (all of it ROCKS!)- I use the mineral makeup and the cream-based makeup from them (sometimes in the winter with dry skin, the loose mineral items for the face aren’t the best)
  • Smashbox
  • Tarte: eye products (shadows, liners, mascara, etc.)


  • Origins: face products, lotions, and scrubs are THE best!
  • All Josie Maran products
  • Jason: body washes are the best from this line
  • Yes To (look out for some hidden chemicals in particular items in this brand)
  • Kiss My Face
  • Dr. Hauschka


  • John Master’s Organics
  • Aveeno (sometimes, read the labels, some brands may be great in one area and sneak in chemicals in another product)
WellnessAshley Pettit