The Evolution of Green Beauty

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I remember working at the Catherine Malandrino show a few seasons back when I first moved to New York and was looking for a freelance job while studying. The backstage was an Intothegloss dream with every color of every MAC product. The first very model I worked with was a young 17 year old from Eastern Europe who had just come in from another show with her makeup on. I gently went over her face with some Bioderma Crealine and watched as the makeup melted off. To condition her skin before makeup artists from MAC got their hands on her, I massaged her skin with a mix of Bobbi Brown and Kiehls before priming her skin with MAC.

Just a year ago, I read that Catherine Malandrino had hired the services of Tata Harper to provide skincare for her shows. It garnered little fanfare, but for me, it was a sea change. When I first discovered these green beauty brands, there was already a sizable community on No More Dirty Looks but few people outside of this community recognized or accepted them. To see a brand like Tata Harper actually appear on calendar at New York Fashion Week was a huge moment because it meant acceptance and triumph in breaking the barrier. Since then Tata Harper has broken through more barriers, including launching at Neiman Marcus and most recently, in Sephora. Welcome to the mainstream!

This year, as I’m sure many of you green beauties have noticed, there is an event: A Night of Green Beauty that feature a lot of the brands we know and love including my personal favorites Kahina Giving Beauty, May Lindstrom, and Dr.Alkaitis. While many a fangirl will surely be excited at the prospect of meeting their favorite founders and testing products, I am excited for what this means. A year ago, these same brands held a night on Twitter, this year they’re actually in New York the day before fashion week.

While this might be seen as just a progression, I view it again as another sign that the movement is gaining traction and this has me very excited for the future of green beauty. And it’s not just the brands participating in this event who are helping to move green beauty forward, it’s the companies like Pressed Juicery who push this event onto publications like The Zoe Report and amazingly chic founders of our favorite luxury green shopping destinations like Spirit Beauty Lounge and Eco Diva Beauty. It’s also the beauty brands like YULI who from what I’ve seen are playing their own game and apparently doing well as they’re the only company besides Tata Harper to have landed on the actual New York Fashion Week calendar according to speculation from The Fetch Hunter.

All this is to say, I’m endlessly excited for the continued evolution of Green Beauty.

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5 Common Green Beauty Mistakes for Acne-Prone Skin

Having had the distinct experience of inheriting severely acne prone skin from my parents (and treating that) and working in the beauty dept for a high-end store, I’ve seen my fair share of common mistakes people make when buying products to treat their acne. At this point, before someone even walks away with a product, I can tell if they’ll be successful or not. That’s because the vast majority of consumers make some common mistakes. With that said, green beauty consumers – those who study and carefully read ingredients lists for only clean botanicals, are in general a little more aware of what they’re putting on their skin and what it will do. However, I’ve also noticed that there are common mistakes made. Consider this list a compilation of misconceptions along with my personal advice that is gathered from trial & error and working with others:

A clean product is always better

Many people think that by switching to natural skincare, their skin is automatically going to be better. If you’ve never had a problem with your skin and have pretty good non-sensitive skin, you might notice more benefits just because the ingredients tend to be fresher. However, for acne prone skin, this isn’t always the case. If you asked me for an SPF recommendation for oily blemish prone skin, Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer Moisture Defense SPF 30 & Ultra-Lite Oil-Free Sunblock 30 are both better options than any ‘clean’ sunscreen I have tried. It’s light, sheer, and non-greasy, as opposed to the ‘better for you’ ingredients in most clean sunscreens that are heavy, greasy, and chalky which is terrible for your pores. Yes, there are parabens in the formula and I don’t like that but guess what, parabens won’t make you break out.

Natural Ingredients are good for Acne Prone skin

So many people say “I want natural skincare to help treat my acne” and that really isn’t saying anything at all. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is right for your skin. The reason I can’t completely transition to natural skincare is because of something as simple as a moisturizing cream. If you look at the creams on natural retailer Spirit Beauty Lounge, every high-end moisturizer has at least one of the following: shea butter, plant/fruit butter, plant/fruit derived wax – these are not great for acne prone skin. Sure they’re natural, have great antioxidant properties, and truly moisturize the skin, but they’re also going to potentially clog your pores, increase your breakouts, and suffocate your skin. And that potential carcinogen in the non-clean moisturizer I like? It’s listed as the 4th last ingredient and provides just the right level of moisturizing without making my skin a mess, I think I’ll take my chances here. 

Less is always more

“I only wash my face with water in the morning because Linda Rodin (Rodin Olio Lusso) does that”, she’s also approaching her 70s and doesn’t have zits and cystic acne to worry about, you do! Just because someone you look up to in the beauty industry says one thing doesn’t mean it will work for you. Working at a retailer, I will tell you most of these ‘founders’ of brands have never really had a legitimate skincare concern in their life when compared to those of us who have been on rounds of antibiotics, accutane, etc. They don’t understand trouble skin or acne so don’t take advice about acne from them! Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser that won’t aggravate or strip your skin, deal?

I saw one post recently from a green beauty brand that taught you how to extract your own pimples, and no. Just no. Take it from someone whose self-confidence was an issue for years due to scars left over from picking at her cystic acne that lumped on top of each other. If I could go back in time, the single most important thing I’d do is slap myself silly and tie my hands behind my back so I’d never touch a single zit. Never, ever ever do it. Every time you feel the urge, just imagine me pleading with you. Also if you know what article I’m talking about, I take offense to the assertion that people who have ‘chronic acne’ have something ‘not quite right’ with their body, such a dumbass statement made by someone who truly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Acne prone skin is a skin type, while diet and lifestyle do play a part, the severity and ease of having a blemish is often genetic. You won’t tell someone with dry skin that their body is out of whack would you? While others may have headaches or high blood pressure, those with acne-prone skin may breakout, this doesn’t mean our body is messed up, this is just how our body responds. The most powerful acne medication, Accutane doesn’t work through “changing hormones”, decreasing stress, affecting mood, or changing your diet as that idiotic article says are the root causes of acne, in fact Accutane has been shown to cause depression and you’re encouraged to eat a high-fat diet for it to take effect. How does Accutane work? By essentially changing your entire genetic disposition (you can’t be pregnant, you need to have monthly blood tests, etc because it messes up your immune system, and even the composition of your blood) – so acne prone skin is innate and not a personal failing. 

I can’t use this because it has Essential Oils

You have acne prone skin, you’re not a burn victim. Essential Oils might aggravate the most sensitive skin, and even then not all essential oils will irritate all skin types. This is what is so frustrating, people read about others saying how rosemary (or insert whatever botanical) essential oil made their skin red, and all of a sudden rosemary is BAD for sensitive skin. No, rosemary was not suitable for that one person whose skin had a reaction, that doesn’t mean you will have these experiences. If you don’t want to use ingredients that anyone has had a bad reaction to, I will sell you a skincare product that is perfect for you, it’s made out of Water + Glycerin, enjoy. Essential Oils are powerful and active, a lot of them, such as thyme, tea tree, lavender have been shown to ward off acne and yes for some people you might get irritation or contact dermatitis if the concentration you use is too pure. Just don’t swear something off because someone who essentially has to live inside a plastic bubble environment on No More Dirty Looks said so.

First Impression is the most important

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Sometimes, especially if you’re just switching to a natural skincare regimen, your skin might start purging for a few weeks. So many people will give up right away because they think this is a “bad reaction” when really your skin just has to adjust. When you start on Accutane, the first 2 weeks are pretty much the worst your skin will ever look. The same for Retin-A, Differin, Antibiotics, etc. See the trend here? Sometimes skin needs to purge and adjust, give it time. 

On the flipside, sometimes you get a wonderful green beauty product that smells amazing and applies so well that it clouds your judgement of how good the product actually is for you. For instance, I would never use any facial oil that contained photosensitizing oils. Over time they really will give your skin brown spots and age spots. So I could never understand those people who swear up and down for something like May Lindstrom’s Youth Dew which smells AMAZING and feels AMAZING but has grapefruit oil, sweet orange oil, & lemon oil – why would you ever put this stuff on your face!? Similarly Dr.Alkaitis’ Nourishing Treatment Oil smells divine and has wonderful ingredients in there but have you seen the full ingredients list? St. Johns Wort, and various roots? It’s all good stuff for sure, but for acne prone skin it’s a little like feeding Ginseng or viagra to a college kid. Overload. If you don’t believe me, put a few drops into your mouth, you might feel a buzz – now imagine that on your skin every day and night. Our skin type already has a lot of “heat” energy, we don’t need more root herbs or energizing botanicals. Sure everything is medicinal, but even with medicine, you shouldn’t be taking it every day. 

Summary

The take away is this: listen to your own skin and not others. As ‘wholesome’ as the green beauty movement is, it is still commercial, meaning companies are still trying to sell you stuff and not everything is going to work for you. If you’re only oil cleansing every night and leaving the residue on for moisture, don’t be surprised that you keep getting breakouts. Also, have some perspective over ‘not clean’ ingredients versus automatically loving everything natural. Realize that not every natural line is going to be suitable for acne prone skin and that these two are not necessarily mutually inclusive ideas. 

I know this is a long post, but feel free to sound off in the comments!

Op-Ed The British Invasion: 4 Clean English Brands

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When it comes to the clean skincare game, the brands across the pond kind of have us Americans beat. This isn’t to say we’re not competitive, arguably Intelligent Nutrients is becoming a behemoth, while Tata Harper & Kahina are carving an established base for themselves atop the luxury green skincare game, and newcomers are building a solid identity that resonates with customers: i.e. May Lindstrom, the poster-child for artisanal beauties and YULI, the quiet storm of coolness for the modern crowd. But the movement kind of started across the pond, not only are the skincare requirements more stringent (thanks to a government that isn’t so tied to big-money corporations like ours), but the audience is also much more knowledgeable as well in general. I think the demand for these clean products definitely is the contributing factor for why these brands got the jump start, so without further ado, let’s look at what makes these brands great:

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Pai Skincare

What it is: A line started by Sarah Brown for those who have sensitive skin using the cleanest plant-based skincare. 

My Impression
: This is the line I’d point you to if you love Ren (a fellow British born line, see the trend here?) but wanted something even cleaner. Their aesthetic is similar down to the pastel labeling for the products. While they have a full line that is continually expanding, they’re most known for their oils and creams with audiences here.

Products to try: Pai’s Bioregenerate face oil is a pure rosehip complex that regards itself as an all-natural retinol treatment. The Chamomile & Rosehip Organic Sensitive skin cream is a good product to try for those with ultra-sensitive skin, it is a light cream that I consider one of the best made comparable to Tata Harper’s Rebuilding Moisturizer.

Price: Similar to Ren, might be slightly more expensive on a product by product basis, but the cleaner ingredients and higher quality formulation justifies that. 

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SUTI

What it is: A line created by Suzannah Jenkins & Tina Steadman, who are collectively homeopaths, aromatherapists, and medicine practitioners. The concept was to develop a line that was pure enough to eat.

My Impression: Suti’s products focus as much on the senses as it does on the skin benefits so even products like facial oils are aromatically scented to provide the emotional response the founders intended. This artisanal quality reminds me a little of our very own May Lindstrom. Similar to May Lindstrom, this line is very edited: three balms (one is a cleanser, one is a moisturizer, and the last one is for feet), two toners, two facial oils.

Products to try: The facial cleansing balm is a wonderfully scented cleanser + moisturizer that cleans off makeup and leaves skin soft. A wonderful alternative for those looking for a natural version of Eve Lom’s (another British brand) Cleansing balm. The Rejuvenating Facial Oil smells glorious with citrus notes in a rich golden hue, kept in a gorgeous bottle. However, it did break me out after 3 days of continuous use, the base oils were too heavy for me and while the scents were lovely, the over reliance on citrus oils made me hesitant to use this during the day for photosensitivity. 

Price: Very reasonable. DIYers will probably not buy this, but those who love high end clean beauty will not break the bank trying their stuff. 

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Ila

What it is: A spa grade line that uses only plant or mineral ingredients. Their focus is on creating an ‘experience’ to restore, nurture, and balance. 

My Impression: Probably the most premium brand on this list, Ila’s focus is on the spa experience so its advertising and message is a little less commercial than the other brands. Unlike other skincare lines, the majority of Ila’s products are geared toward body care, with lots of products for baths, body washes, body lotions, body oils, etc. The facial products they do have are still a complete line. Branding wise, I love the feminine, minimalist aesthetic and everything is in a neat dual-color plastic cylinder which looks so chic when you have a row of their products together.

Products to try: Spirit Demerson raves about their Glowing Radiance treatment oil but it is too heavy for me (though I acknowledge that it is lovely). My favorite product from them is the Body Balm for Glowing Skin which smells of Rose and Tuberose, and is perfect for the driest winter months. Although scent plays a strong part in the products formation, I have to say that they all smelled so strong that you absolutely have to make sure you enjoy the scent before buying because some are just HORRIBLE.

Price: This is the confusing part, their products are either incredibly high or surprising cheap, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. For instance, at $109, their facial oil will set you back a bit, and their daytime and nighttime lotions each cost over $100 as well. But the body wash and body lotion comes in at $12.80. It almost feels like two lines with different intended audiences merged into one.

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The Organic Pharmacy

What it is: started by a homeopathic pharmacist and her husband, the line has now spawned a seriously massive collection featuring several lines: skincare, body, bath, hair, sun care, baby, health, supplements, men, makeup, candles, etc. This isn’t just a skincare brand, it truly is its own empire.

My Impressions: The Organic Pharmacy is most similar to our Origins stores. They’re massive in their own right and feature a plethora of various products. The difference is that they’re cleaner formulated and the ingredient quality is top notch. There are so many products that it might be intimidating to figure out what to get, so it’s a good thing they have experts to help you decide. 

Products to try: The Rose & Bilberry Toning Gel reminds me of the Dr.Alkaitis Soothing Gel but is more about healing whereas the soothing gel is more about anti-bacterial action. The Blemish gel isn’t powerful or strong but it is good at alleviating breakouts through gentle repair without the use of anything too harmful which is something most American brands haven’t been hip to yet.

Price: This line isn’t as expensive as some others on this list but for what it is- a larger scale company, the prices are a little more expensive than I am used to. I’m fine paying the prices for the products I picked because the formulation is good but don’t expect $20-$30 products as you might at Origins. The Rose & Bilberry toning Gel set me back almost $100 after shipping while the Dr.Alkaitis Gel is only $60 for more product. So you really have to do your homework to figure out if what they have is worth the price compared to other higher end brands.