Australian Organic ambassador and former beauty editor, Elle Halliwell, gives the low-down on her go-to organic beauty routine.
I’ve got a hypothetical scenario for you. If I was to ask you to lather your skin every day with a bunch of synthetic chemicals – only 10% of which has been tested for safety – would you do it? You may not like the sound of it, but for many Australian women, this is an everyday reality – all in the name of beauty.
Our daily chemical cocktail
This routine is something millions of people do every day, blissfully unaware of the potential hidden dangers in their morning beauty routine. It’s been estimated that the average woman applies about 12 beauty and skincare products on her skin every day, containing up to 515 different synthetic chemicals.
I was that girl, once. The ingredients of my shampoo didn’t matter, as long as my locks shone like the model in the brand’s latest marketing campaign! And if that moisturiser made my skin glow, a little sodium laureth sulfate or methylparaben was no big deal.
Overloading your skin does you no favours
Three years ago, I had a big wake-up call after being diagnosed with cancer. As a former beauty editor, one of the biggest realisations was the complete, unwarranted trust I had placed in so many major cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies, whose mission was to make money and sell products. I blindly slathered on anything and everything that came my way and never bothered to really analyse any of the mysterious ingredients.
I can’t be sure what caused my cancer but overloading my body’s largest organ – my skin – with endocrine disrupting toxins, known carcinogens and artificial preservatives for more than a decade I’m sure didn’t do my system any favours.
As I wasn’t able to begin chemotherapy whilst pregnant, I decided to take drastic steps to change my lifestyle and prepare my body as best I could in the lead up to treatment beginning after the birth and rid myself of all synthetic chemicals and going strictly organic with all products I used – including skincare and make-up.
Synthetic chemicals and commercial makeup
One tool I found really useful at the start of my beauty overhaul was the Think Dirty app, which lists the ingredients of thousands of products and rates them out of 10 for safety. One of the first things I noticed after using the app was that most products listing unspecified “parfum” or “fragrance” automatically received a poor rating.
I looked into it further and discovered The International Fragrance Association’s list of the industry’s most commonly used ingredients. It’s 96 pages long and contains almost 4,000 chemicals. You won’t find these listed on your average bottle of au de toilette though, as the ingredients of a perfume are considered a ‘trade secret’. The only fragrances I now use, both on my body and around my home – are essential oils.
My natural beauty routine
I celebrate my three-year cancer-versary this month, and here’s what my current beauty routine looks like:
I have a very basic body care regimen, which involves a certified organic bar of Eco Botanicals castile soap and a nut oil to finish (coconut or almond), which I like to buy from my local bulk foods store. My theory is if you are making the choice to reduce your synthetic chemical load, you may as well avoid plastic packaging where possible and save the planet at the same time.
For cuts, blemishes and bruises I use calendula cream, for deodorant I use an aluminium-free deodorant paste, and in the sun I use a zinc-based sunscreen such as Harmony Harvest and a wide-brimmed hat. I rarely paint my nails, and if I do, I will use an 8 or 10 Free polish from brands free of synthetic chemicals like camphor, formaldehyde resin, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and fragrance.
I use a MicroGlo at home microdermabrasion device every two weeks, as it leaves my skin feeling super smooth and it’s a physical exfoliant, so no nasties. I also make my own exfoliator regularly (see recipe below) but as I write about beauty, I’m also often trialling various natural and organic skincare products. I’m currently using Sanctum’s soothing cream cleanser which has supported my skin during the seasonal transition and kept it nicely hydrated. My skincare regimen does vary from week-to-week, but I always check the ingredients and company ethos before trialling a product.
For toning I’m using Divine Company’s soothing rose toner, but I also like a basic witch hazel extract (So Saba Organics has a great one with Aloe).
For removing makeup I’m a big fan of Clear Organics and I will finish with a lightweight oil or serum, like Endota Organics radiance boost serum. I also use Endota Organics’ Charcoal Detox Mask, which I apply when my skin is feeling congested.
I’m a big believer in the idea that everything we interact with has an energy, and if a product is made ethically, organically and with care it’s going to radiate that good energy. There are a few brands out there that I think really give off good vibes like Miessence, Mukti and Endota Spa. Ethical practices, holistic philosophies and natural ingredients are really important elements to consider when buying beauty and skincare products.
I recently started using Miessence honey translucent foundation which gives my skin a really healthy glow. I’ve also been using Inika Organic for years, and I love their brow products, long lash mascara and baked contour duo.
Even in the three years since my lifestyle overhaul I’ve noticed a huge shift in the direction of the beauty industry towards a more earth, animal and human friendly focus. We deserve a safe beauty cabinet which is gentle on the planet, and I think by making sustainable, ethical and organic shopping choices we can make a difference.
Health coach, media personality and author Elle Halliwell is one of this year’s Australian Organic 2019 media ambassadors and will MC the Australian Organic Annual Awards in November.