Eco Beauty: Three steps to a more sustainable beauty routine

Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to mash up oats and avocados and out them on your face. Who does that? Eat oats, yes. Paste them on my body? No thank you.

But after the exciting, or rather “exiting” news of the week, combined with a solo trip to the dump* I had to take a good hard look at my own footprint on this earth. What follows are ways to lesson the impact of our beauty routines on the environment, and put our money into local businesses rather than multinational corporations.

I’ve targeted three problems and come up with possible solutions. If you’re already a sustainability pro, sit back and read smugly, then please leave your best advice in the comments below. If you are still on the path to environmental enlightenment, like your blogger, choose one or two changes to make. Like any lifestyle change, small regular steps in the right direction reap more benefits than a huge leap you are unable to sustain.

Little Sam agrees, oats are for eating.

Problem #1: The waste produced in making and packaging beauty products is being dumped all over the earth in huge, nasty piles.

Solution: Local handmade products

So much waste comes from the packaging of shampoo, lotion, soaps and shaving creams. Who needs that garbage?

We can skip the trash by seeking out locally made products with minimal or reusable packaging. Find a shop (like Uncommon Scents in Eugene, http://www.uncommonscentsmeridian.com/index.php) that sells locally crafted soaps, shampoos and lotions. Not only can you reuse your containers, but these products haven’t traveled across the country, or even the world to make it to your neighborhood Target.

My favorite soaps are made by retired teacher Barbra Hascall. There is nothing more adorable than a retired teacher running around smiling and making soap. My guess is that wherever you live, you can find a similar lady, with fabulous products. Barbra’s soaps are made sustainably, with love and a minimum of packaging.

http://barbarasoaps.com/

Hello lovely handmade soap, basking in the sunlight on the window sill.

Problem #2: Beauty products are full of various chemicals that you don’t fully understand, but rub all over your body and send down the drain into our lakes and rivers.

Solution: Find natural alternatives that actually work.

We are all trying to limit the human-manipulated chemicals that we put into contact with our bodies. While it’s often easier to grab the same old BB cream and run, a little investigation can set you up with products that work. And the good news is that once a company starts down the rabbit hole of good practices, they often double and triple up. So a company that is certified cruelty free** will often go vegan, and maybe even plant based organic. The following link gives you a good place to start. The PETA website also has great information.

http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/18-natural-organic-makeup-brands-your-face-will-love-you-for

Deodorant is a special concern for a lot of women. Mainline antiperspirants contain aluminum, which some people think is linked to breast cancer and/or dementia,*** which nobody wants. Then again, nobody wants to smell bad either.

Recently, Reviews.com tested a bazillion natural deodorants. Working with a chemist, a dermatologist and professionals in the industry, they looked for “aluminum-free formulas with pleasant scents, goop-free application, and minimal residue.” Here is a link to their results. http://www.reviews.com/natural-deodorant/

Barbra (see smiling retired teacher, above) makes a nice deodorant, too.

All I want is to be able to climb all day in 80+ degree temperature and not smell bad. Is that too much to ask???

Problem #3: You want to look good, but have limited time to spend on beauty routines, and some lady is writing blog articles about how your favorite products are destroying the soul of the earth

Solution: Invest in beauty processes, rather than products

I have always been fantastically lazy about my beauty routine, no time more so than in the summer. In The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies I write about a few beauty processes that allow me to skip the daily use of any product, all summer long.**** You don’t need make up/hair gel/ eye cream if your skin and hair already look great. When I go to see my wonderful hairdresser and lovely esthetician, my money goes into the pockets of local business women rather than multinational corporations. When I eat vegetables straight out of my garden, my hair and skin reap the benefits. When I ride my bike rather than drive, I glow in a way that no foundation can mimic. Better for the earth, the local economy and my psyche.

The best sustainable beauty products. Also, I have ton of lettuce right now so hit me up if you need any.

My beauty routine is by no means perfectly, ethically, environmentally pure. There are things that come in packages (toothpaste) that I am not willing to give up right now. But if we all take one step towards a more humane and eco-friendly lifestyle, then another, and just keep walking, we can do this. We have to. And if that means supporting local business, having a house full of the most amazing soaps and not ever having to go to the dump again, I’m in.

What are your tips for sustainable beauty practices? Please share in the comments below.

 

Laughing with friends is another environmentally sound practice.

* Holy Cow! The dump!!! You should totally go. You will be so inspired to cut your consumption.

** I have trouble believing it’s 2017 and we still have to seek out cruelty free beauty products. Did Legally Blond II inspire no one?

*** I can feel that my scientist mom wants me to tell you that the aluminum/breast cancer/ Alzheimer’s link has not been conclusively proven, and you should not take a style blog written by a woman who once thought that frogs perform photosynthesis as gospel for the evils of antiperspirant.

**** By all summer long I mean the extent of our family’s camping / outdoor rock climbing season, which goes from March through October. In the winter my vanity battles with my laziness, and some sort of a brow pencil / lip stain peace accord is met but not without a lot of 6 a.m. skirmishes.

Why Reading Makes You Gorgeous: Truly Natural Practices for Timeless Beauty

“How long have you been using Botox?” the L.A. society lady asked my friend Ann.

Botox? Right. Ann barely wears make up on a regular basis.

I can understand the mistake. A few months shy of 50, Ann has great skin, a ready smile, and is in excellent shape. As I look around, I see a number of women with similar, simple, healthy beauty. Rather than the propped up and patched together appearance of a woman desperately trying to maintain her youth, these women make being gorgeous look easy.

And easy is always better.

As mentioned previously, I’m super lazy about beauty routines. If I’m in the middle of a good book there’s no way I’m going to get up out of bed to go put on eye cream, much less make an appointment to go get my skin peeled off. That said, I’m not interested in judging women who engage medical beauty processes. Women should do what they want to do. But if there are way cheap, painless ways to glean beauty out of our daily routines, I’m assuming Mud and Grace women want to know about them.

I’ve come to understand there are certain lifestyle investments in beauty that do far more than any expensive cream or treatment. Some digging has led me to identify the habits of the naturally beautiful. Some research has helped me to understand why these habits profoundly influence the way we look. Here are my findings.

Ann and Lynette, my health and beauty role models.

Beautiful habits

A quick study of the lifestyle choices that lead to beauty are as follows, in no particular order; sleep, read, go outside, eat well, enjoy what you eat, exercise, see your friends, be content.

That’s all doable, but why? What is going on in the pages of that book you’re reading that the most expensive skin creams just can’t deliver?

My research suggests that it all comes down to activities that manage our natural hormones and neurotransmitters. Bring on the oxytocin, the HGH and the endorphins, keep the cortisol at bay.

Natural maintenance

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is the stuff our body produces to build muscle, burn fat, keep our skin elastic, generally grow and repair our bodies. It’s not big shock to anyone to learn that this decreases as we age. You could roll down to California, have synthetic HGH injected illegally, and enjoy the resulting side effects like growing extra long toes.

Or, you can increase the amount of HGH your own body releases regularly. Your pituitary gland (a little pea-sized thing, nestled deep in the back of your brain) secrets it throughout the day. Here are the conditions it needs:

Sleep

The release of HGH peaks while you are sleeping. Getting your nightly 7-9 hours is essential for optimum HGH production. It’s called beauty sleep for a very real reason. The release of insulin can interfere with the production of HGH, so avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (i.e. a whole lot of sugar) right before bedtime can be helpful.

Exercise

Weight training and regular, short, intense workouts promote HGH release. Long walks in the woods are great (more on them later) but to release HGH you need to feel the burn. I like to run sprints a couple of times a week, or just run up our hill really fast. A HIIT or a true Tabata workout on the exercise bike can do the trick nicely. Go on your long runs if you are so inclined, but a couple of short, fast workouts will help release your HGH.

This climbing trip was more exciting than a spa, and significantly cheaper…

Managing stress

You know how you look when you are stressed out? The exhausted, pinched expression on you face, that fabulous little grimace you carry around with you, the way you clench your fists and slouch without even realizing it? Such a good look, right?

When we experience stress, our body pumps out cortisol to prepare us for fight or flight. This would be awesome if we were actually face to face with a bear, but more often than not we’re stuck in traffic, or sitting in a long meeting as someone describes the grueling amount of work that will be added to your already unmanageable job. Long term elevated levels of cortisol lead to a whole host of ugly: weakened immune system, weight gain around the middle, deterioration of muscles, the list goes on. Basically, when your body is dealing with stress, it shuts down everything else: skin repair, hair growth, muscle building, reproductive systems, everything. So how can we deal with this stress?

Go outside

Being outside in nature boosts your mood. Researchers have yet to discover exactly why or how a walk among the trees, sagebrush, or prairie grass affects us, but there is conclusive evidence that time outdoors reduces anxiety and depression. Anything that reduces anxiety and depression is something all of us should be doing. You don’t need to go all Cheryl Strayed and hike the PCT on your own, just ten minutes makes a difference. Go get yourself a season appropriate coat and mud boots, then go take a walk.

Maybe it’s just nature’s beauty, rubbing off on us?

Read

Reading is one of the most relaxing activities humans can do. For many women, reading lowers your heart rate and relaxes your muscles faster than yoga or even meditation. That’s because reading is relatively easy, and twisting your body all up like a pretzel and concentrating on nothingness is really hard. Relaxation is key for health and beauty.

The best news about beauty reading? Any reading material works! A good novel, a nice dense history textbook, an exhaustive Vanity Fair article, even this blog! You’re welcome.

I’m getting in a beauty read AND developing a better understanding on the influence of Mongol occupation on the trajectory of Russian history.

Be content

Psychology has placed a lot of emphasis on happiness recently, but happy is a specific mood. Contentment is a lifestyle. Accepting the life you have built for yourself as positive, the people in your life for who they are, and yourself as you are is a mindset that takes practice. But honestly, it’s got to be easier than applying liquid eyeliner. That stuff is ridiculous.

Happy afternoon with husband? Check. Eyeliner? Not on this date.

See your friends

One late December night amidst frenzied holiday preparations, my friend Julie stopped by. Her life was also crazy, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with various sides of her family and heading in for knee surgery right in the middle of all of it. But for the 45 minutes we sat together, time pooled around us. We laughed and talked, other family members joined in and we discussed everything from Rouge One to the best peanut butter cookies available.

The calm I felt during her visit and for hours afterwards wasn’t due to the glass of wine I consumed. Being with friends lowers our cortisol levels. Humans are hard-wired to connect with others. Our oxytocin begins to flow with a hug hello, and endorphins follow as we laugh and talk. You know how beautiful you look in the pictures taken of you and your friends? It’s because literally make you glow, and all that cortisol is cut short by a good laugh and the comfort of companionship.

Hiking with friends? Way better than a bee-venom facial.

The key to it all – Eating well

Eating a healthy, whole food diet is good for your mood, your body, and the planet. Eating slowly, and enjoying a good meal with family, friends or the pleasure of your own company lowers stress and feeds the soul. We’ve got to drop the American, puritanical approach to eating, and enjoy good food.

But these days, with 60 million food gurus sending us conflicting messages about what to eat, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some simple guidelines:

Eat food as close to whole as possible

Avoid ingesting any human-manipulated chemicals*

Eat plants, any plants**

Enjoy your food, and eat slowly

Don’t be weird about restricting food; just eat in moderation

For more on how crazy nutritionism has made us, check out Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food( http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/)

Blackberries, butter, whole grain flour? Sounds like chemical-free, mostly plant, whole food to me.

True natural beauty can be summed up in the French phrase bien dans sa peau, to feel good in ones skin. This is deep state of satisfaction and comfort in ones’ self. A woman who feels good in her own skin is confident in the life she has chosen. She has accepted her own, particular beauty and does not long to be someone she isn’t. It’s a state of contentment that allows her to be generous with others, and with herself.

When I think about the women whose beauty I most admire, Lauren Hutton, Michelle Obama, Cameron Diaz, my sister-in-law Erika, my grandma, they all have this sense of comfort and confidence in their own particular bodies and with their individual, lovely faces. Can I suffer through reading a good book, enjoying a nice meal and taking a walk in the woods to get there? I’ll try.

My goat, feeling good in his own fur. Me, trying to learn from his example.

*A quick note on human-manipulated chemicals: we don’t know what they do. When transfat and high fructose corn syrup first came out, the food industry celebrated these modern miracles, cramming them into every corner of our diet. Fast forward a few years and they are the pariah of the grocery store. Who knows what miracle chemicals we will discover are harming us next? Recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners are causing weight gain. http://time.com/3746047/diet-soda-weight-gain/ I figure, until we know more, I’m just going to skip as many human-manipulated chemicals as I can.

** OK, not poisonous plants or hallucinogenic plants, but all those other plants. Don’t be weird about carbs or nutrients or rainbows, just eat your veggies.

 

The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies

Truth be told, I’ve never been one of those women who loves make up and beauty products. I didn’t experiment with make up as a child, I never took the time to learn about skin care in my teens.

If fact, my lowest grade in college was Theater Make Up (Yes, that was required for my major.) I would have failed had the poor professor not taken pity on me and gave me some credit for effort.

On my Mud and Grace style journey I’ve learned that a little really can go a long way. I’ve adopted a minimal beauty routine I can maintain for most of the year. But in the summer? Seriously? I just can’t be bothered with creams and powders and straightening agents. And even when I do make the effort, I find myself with lovely straight hair and fabulous make-up, confronted by a river I really want to jump into but can’t because I don’t want to ruin all that work.

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Me, being super lazy about my beauty routine. Lip gloss, no hair product, no make up; ready to jump in any river that comes flowing my way.

I’m motivated to find any treatments that allow me to spring out of bed looking good enough for all normal purposes. These cost a little upfront, but ultimately save money as I wear no make up, and never feel like I have to run out and buy something to look right at the last minute. Here is a collection of my findings for minimal effort summer beauty routines won’t slow you down or hold you back.

Number One: Get you eyelashes tinted

My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.
My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.

Yes, that can happen. Rather than mess around with mascara that runs and clumps no matter how water-proof it claims to be, tinted eyelashes allow you to pop out of a sleeping bag looking fantastic with absolutely no effort at all. For years I would look at summertime pictures of myself and think, “Why do my eyes look so small?” It was an eyelash thing. Tinted lashes frame my eyes but look natural. And while you are at the salon…

Number Two: Go for professionally shaped brows

IMG_4550
Me, not worrying about my eyebrows at Yosemite.

Finding a good wax treatment is golden. Stop in once a month for 15 minutes, then don’t waste one moment thinking about your brows in between treatments. If you’ve tried professional waxing before and didn’t like the results, find an esthetician with good reviews, and bring in several pictures of the brow shape you are looking for. A well-groomed brow polishes your look instantly and effortlessly.

Number Three: Eat your sunscreen

“Um… ew,” you’re thinking. But hang with me.

We live in an age of extreme sunscreen application, and for the very fair skinned among us this will save lives. But humans have existed on this earth for centuries with no sunscreen at all. Louis XIV lived to be 76, had no major sun damage, and he was The Sun King.

As is turns out, nature had a way of protecting us all along. Vegetables.

Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.
Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.

We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies is great for out skin,  but did you know the carotenoids and antioxidants found in veggies improve our sun tolerance, helping to both prevent and repair sun damage?

Here’s what the Wellness Mamma has to say on the topic http://wellnessmama.com/2619/avoid-sunburn-tan-better/

All that said, if you live in a sun-intense climate and are fair skinned, keep on applying protection, just add veggies into your sun screen arsenal. Your skin will thank you!

Number Four: Pick between the two hairstyles of summer

Hair Style A: Short enough that you have no responsibility to do anything to it.

Hair style B: Long enough to pull up in a pony tail, or wear in braids.

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It’s hot, muggy and my hair is being funky. Braids!

Stay away from the bob and complicated layered cuts, unless your hair falls perfectly on its own. Mix up your look with a bandana, Buff or ball cap.

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Can I think of a lazier hairstyle than a ponytail?
IMG_6105
Yes. Yes, I can.
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A Buff says, “You don’t know how many days I’ve slept in my van with no access to a shower.”

Number Five: Keratin treatments

Being of the frizzy hair persuasion, keratin makes everything easier. I used to hesitated to swim, or even sweat, for fear of not wanting to go back and take another 45 minutes to wash, dry and straighten my hair. Keratin is, essentially, hair (or rather the chemicals that make up hair) that the stylist applies. It strengthens, thickens and smooths, moving you from fizzy lumps to smooth waves, depending on your natural hair texture. Check with a stylist about how keratin would affect your hair. After 40 years of fighting with my hair, we are now at peace. Thank you Keratin!

Number Six: Remove all non-summer clothes from your closet

Wouldn’t it be great if every piece of clothing in your closet was something you can, and want to wear right now?

IMG_6162
Whose turn is it today?

Clearing your drawers of winter’s sweaters and wool pants will allow your summer wardrobe to breath and expand. Hanging in your closet, and filling your drawers, should only be clothes you will wear over the next two months. Box up your ball gowns, off season clothes and ski parkas, and allow yourself a sparse and simple wardrobe for summer. (Here’s mine; Mud and Grace Summer Essentials)

Hang everything so you can see it. (Yes, I know Marie Kondo suggests folding, but there’s something so wonderful about being able to see everything!) Dressing is a snap when you don’t have to wade through three sizes of out-dated, out-of-season clothing.

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Goodbye friend! I’ll see you in late September.

So there you have it, six lazy girl summer beauty strategies. Do you have a summer beauty strategy you’d like to share with Mud and Grace readers? Send it in, along with a picture, for our Inspiration section. mudandgrace@gmail.com