Who’d have thought that trying to do the right thing would be so hard…
Flora finally had the hair she’d always wanted.
Every two to three months I encounter a mildly bizarre phenomenon: nearly all of my beauty and skincare products run out at Exactly. The. Same. Time.
SPF moisturiser? Nighttime moisturiser? Cleanser? Shampoo? Conditioner? Spot gel? BB cream? Mask? Scrub? ALL OF IT. Dammit.
The subsequent result is that my beauty spending will have been flat-lining and then there will be a spike somewhat reminiscent of yours truly on a sugar high after having devoured a
piece slab of Lindt.
But that’s not the issue. The issue is that when all of my products run out I then remember that I am trying to be virtuous. (Emphasis on the “trying”.) And by “virtuous” I mean more organic/environmentally friendly/cruelty-free/toxin-free/paraben-free. But what the hell are parabens?
And thus begins my quarterly attempt at natural beauty.
It all begins with sunshine, sugar-free lollypops and rainbows without any artificial colours. I set out on my little adventure skipping off towards the fountain of all modern knowledge: Google. Because if you’re going to be green, research is pretty damn important.
Except research is boring. But more so, it’s OVERWHELMING. How green is green enough?
Is it made of all plant-derived ingredients? Are those plants organic? But, HOW organic? Is it free of toxins? Is it in biodegradable packaging? Does it have carbon credits?
Here are some fun things I’ve learnt along the way:
- Miranda Kerr’s KORA Organics? Fun fact: only a small percentage (approximately 10%) of the ingredients in her products are organic.
- Organic Care by Nature’s Organics, the supermarket option for environmentally-conscious consumers? Yeah, it’s mainly marketing. For one, their products are not organic so don’t let the parent brand name fool you. They proudly specify that they don’t have certain ingredients in their shampoos and conditioners (how wonderful!) but when you read the fine print they just have very similar ingredients with a different name (like “sugar”, “sucrose” and “glucose”). Ugh.
- Botanical names are an utter b!tch. I feel like I need to do some post-grad study just to decode the list of ingredients. And then after you’ve decoded the flipping ingredients you then have to evaluate whether you would like to use them on your skin or not. Fun fact: every brand has a different cocktail of natural ingredients, which they can tell you without hesitation is better than everyone else’s. And it’s more organic than everyone else’s too. More organic. If you turn down something which is more organic then what kind of bad human are you?
- A lot of the packaging is UGLY. Lots of it is either tacky and naff or really boring and dated. (Some notable exceptions include: Sodashi, Aesop and Grown Alchemist. You do good stuff, guys.) It seems like because they are au naturel that they assume that aesthetics are in conflict with their ethos. And while this probably reflects the values of some of their consumers, I am not one of them. I am superficial and I want to be WOOED by the packaging. I like marketing and visual communication. This is something that excites me. And thus, I want the packaging to be at least somewhat attractive. (NB: I find that this generally applies to gents, too. Attractive packaging goes a long way.)
- Researching natural/organic/etc skincare is seriously like base jumping down into Wonderland. It is a whole new world down here. Think of all the fun you can have researching whether any of the benefits a product markets is actually of concern to you. For example, is natural better than organic? Are no parabens better than no toxins? Is vegan better than gluten free? (Yes, gluten free skincare). Cos if you’re going to bother to buy one of these green living products then you may as well make a conscious, informed decision, right?
- And then you remember to ask yourself, “So, does the fact that this moisturiser is only made of natural ingredients mean that it will actually work?” And don’t think that you can stop to ask whether preservative free products are actually better for the environment. Don’t be stupid. You’re not meant to ask tricky questions! Also, something to keep in mind: it generally takes a month until you can really garner whether a product is working for you. Which means you’re kinda limited to properly testing 12 products a year. Have fun with that!
- This is also not the time to remember that there is a strong correlation between gorgeous, glowing skin and drinking water, eating healthily and exercising regularly. That’s kind of irrelevant right now! I’m in the middle of trying to decide which preservative-free soap to buy!
- Perhaps you want to sashay your way into organic/natural makeup. Enjoy! Also, have fun with the fact that as there are very few bricks & mortar stores which stock said products that you have to make your decision on which colour foundation is going to match your skin based on swatches on your computer screen. Cos that’s not fraught with danger at all.
- On that note, is mineral makeup good for you? I heard that minerals were good, but then I heard that they were bad for you… But the brand has the word “Nature” in its name, so that must mean that it’s good, right? Right?
- Then, darlings, you will get to the checkout and you will want gasp as you double check that you didn’t accidentally order three cleansers rather than one. No, don’t worry – no typos here! That’s right: you are about to pay an extortionate amount of money for products which you a) have not tried because you are unable to access any testers b) have comparatively few reviews on them because they are less-popular brands c) are expensive and d) which you have no idea will work for your skin! But it’s organic so input credit card details here!
Then you remember that you’re a student who is leaving her current job in three weeks time and that your bank account has seen better days. And so you close the twelve tabs that you have open. But, what to do now? You’ve already endured two days without a cleanser, telling yourself to hold out for your imminent purchase of a natural alternative.
But I still haven’t figured out what that obscure ingredient is. So, f*#& it.
Neutrogena? Garnier? MAC? Covergirl? Clinique?
My old faithfuls. I’m coming for you.