Switching to safer beauty is, if nothing else, a journey. You don’t know how many products actually contain toxic ingredients, and then when you DO know you can’t unlearn that information. Sneaky things like fragrance (any combination of close to 4,000 ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed) make it even harder, and so it can feel close to impossible to ever find something that’s truly safer.
However, I am in the middle of that journey and have made it part of my job and my life’s mission to help get safer skincare into the hands of everyone. My hope is that over the coming weeks, months and years I can give you just a little more information so that you can learn how to make a more informed decision. Because when we know better we do better!
One more quick note: in the same vein as being overwhelming from a chemical standpoint, it can also be overwhelming to start from a cost standpoint. Fear not. One small change at a time leads to a lot of big change. Eat this elephant one bite at a time, and you’ll very soon find yourself shopping for safer products with confidence!
So here’s the thing with lip balm.
Lip balm, Chapstick, or whatever other names there are out there – I’m not talking about lipstick or gloss or anything that’s specifically makeup related (well, not today anyway). Today we’re talking the good old fashioned tube of lip balm we all grew up wearing. Sometimes it was cherry flavored (which makes me want to vomit now), sometimes it was sparkly, but at the heart of it all was made to help protect our lips and keep them soft.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? I mean the idea was good…just not the ingredients.
See, many (not all…but many) lip balms and Chapstick-type products are petroleum based, meaning they are made from a derivative of the oil refining process. This byproduct is used to try and keep lips and skin hydrated and flake-free; however, there’s hardly any regulation in place to make sure that the carcinogenic (read: potentially cancer-causing) components are completely removed. It also can clog pores, and while it may feel good when you initially apply it what’s really happening is that pores are being covered and clogged and not allowed to breath, which is in effect keeping them dehydrated. So the base of many cheap lip products is a byproduct of oil…but what about the ones that are “all natural”?
Well, let’s dive into that. Even when you read a label and see everything on it is plant-based and “natural”, often times you’ll see one word that should make you drop everything and run: fragrance. Fragrance in personal care products (or ever flavors for that matter) can be any combination of close to 4,000 ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed because they’re considered a trade secret. My thought process is that why would a company not disclose ingredients unless there was really something they were trying to hide? It seems like natural brands should be able to disclose with complete transparency what their fragrance is derived from…because otherwise who’s to say it’s natural at all? (Spoiler alert: it’s probably not natural and is likely not something you’d want on your lips if you knew what it was.)
Other things to look for? Parabens, synthetic colors and dyes, butylated hydroxytoluene (an endocrine disruptor), artificial fragrances/flavors, chemical sunscreens. Basically a host of endocrine disruptors, cancer-causing toxins, and unknown substances that have little to no health data, meaning it’s a crapshoot as to whether it’s really truly safe or not.
Like I said, once you learn this stuff you can’t unlearn it…but I’m not sure I’d want to. Because also like I said, when you know better you do better! And it’s not all doom and gloom; there are great companies out there making products we can trust that work well, too. Here’s a quick list of my favorites!
- Beautycounter’s lip conditioner in Peppermint
- Lowen’s Creamsicle Lip Balm
- Finally Pure Vegan Unscented Lip Balm
- Burt’s Bees Lip Balm in Peppermint
- Tom’s of Maine Organic Lip Balm in Peppermint
So how can you even know what you’re using in the first place? We’re not all chemists and the ingredients labels may as well be in Japanese sometimes. First, you can download EWG’s Healthy Living App or the Think Dirty App (I use both, but EWG’s is more well-rounded in my opinion) and scan the products you’re using or the ones you’re considering buying in to see how they rank. These apps will flag the questionable ingredients so that it takes some of the guess work out. Then (at least in the Healthy Living App) you can see some safer alternatives by simply searching for something like “lip balm!” Super simple and, more importantly, safer!
I would love to hear your thoughts, what kinds of products you’d like to learn more about, and how I can help you figure out how to clean up your bathroom cabinets, one product at a time! Leave comments below with questions!