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Apr 07

Confessions of a (Former) Lancome Junkie

My pal over at CrunchyDomesticGoddess sent me a simple email last month that has been stuck in my craw every since. She just asked what natural cosmetics I had tried and liked, and I was so embarrassed to write back and say I didn’t have any to recommend. Not because they’re all bad, mind you, but because (*GASP*) I haven’t tried any.

You see, back in my care-free child-free conscience-free days (twenties, oh how I miss you!!!), I spent more than my fair share of time at Nordstrom’s Lancome counter. And the ridiculous thing about it is that I have never worn that much makeup. My friend Amanda had to show me how to apply eyeliner on my wedding day (no joke) and even when I’m wearing tons (for me at least), I’m almost always going for the natural look.

The funny thing about buying department store major-label makeup is that it’s addictive. They reel you in with the free gifts and, once you’ve started down that slippery slope, it’s hard to go back. In fact, I doubt I ever would have been able to give up the cute pink bags, perfect sample-sized mascaras, and unctuous face creams had I not, several years ago, discovered Skin Deep.

Skin Deep is the Environmental Working Group‘s database of cosmetic companies, their products and, most importantly, their ingredients. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Lancome (yes, they test on animals, no they won’t sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics) here. Once I discovered this site, and saw how quick my young children are to mimic my cosmetic-applying (Lily can already say lipstick and calls just about every other makeup “cream” and she’s not even two!), I knew I had to make a change.

I so rarely wear makeup that I’m not going to be trashing those mini-mascaras just yet, but I have made a few noteworthy purchases recently that I thought I’d share.

  • Burt’s Bees Radiance Day Creme – If you love the smell, as I do, of Lancome’s Primordiale line of ultra-expensive moisturizers, you’ll love this moisturizer. Keep in mind that I live in high-plains desert and tend toward dry skin–this is a heavy moisturizer, which is what I need. Unfortunately, although Burt’s Bees has signed the Compact and doesn’t test on animals, it does use a petroleum-based fragrance here, which makes sense if it smells like the Lancome stuff. Still, I think it’s better, and certainly cheaper!
  • Avalon Organics Vitamin C Moisture Plus Lotion – The Burt’s Bees stuff doesn’t have SPF, so I also use this one and I have to say I love it despite it’s rather mediocre rating from Skin Deep! I think I’m going to have to peruse their new review of Sunscreens (since this lotion’s octinoxate sunscreen is what really lowers its rating) and see if I can find another Compact-signer that makes a comparable product.
  • Avalon Organics Lavender Deodorant – Yes, I can admit it. I’ve made the switch to crunchy deodorant. In fact, I did so about six months ago, so if you didn’t notice a funny smell, you’ll have to admit that it works pretty well. It’s also inexpensive, and non-toxic.
  • Tom’s of Main Natural Care Deodorant Stick (Apricot) – This one doesn’t get great Skin Deep reviews due to propylene glycol and synthetic fragrances absent from Avalon Organics’ competing product, and Tom’s is not a Compact-signer (shame on you, Tom’s!), but it works well enough for my husband to use (OK, he doesn’t use the Apricot, but that’s what I have!). But considering that third down on the toxicity list is coriander oil, which is not only natural, but something I am exposed to intentionally in the kitchen and garden on a regular basis, and the list of ingredients in my old stand-by Degree is absolutely frightening, I think I can still safely give this one the thumbs-up.
  • Burt’s Bees Soap Bark& Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream – I remember my friend Leah & I slathering our sunburned faces with Noxema to take the sting out. Although I wouldn’t touch the stuff now, I use this Burt’s Bees product instead. I swear, it’s just as creamily-delicious and more natural too.
  • Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer – This is the closest I’ve come to natural cosmetics and I have to say it’s a favorite. Considering the number of times the kids pull this out of my purse and smear it on their faces or eat it, I’m feeling pretty good about its ingredient list. I couldn’t find a score for Lancome’s lipstick, but man does it have a funky odor, especially after using the natural stuff for a year or two.
  • Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm – If you want all the yummy essential oils without the tinting of the Lip Shimmer, try this, my all-time favorite lip balm. And it got a good Skin Deep score too!

Whenever I have lists of recommendations, I feel like I ought to be honest about stuff I’ve tried that has, well, sucked. My search for a natural shampoo conditioner combination lead to a several-month husband-imposed moratorium on shampoo purchases as the line of partly-used bottles threatened to take up all available space in our shower. As much as I love Burt’s Bees, their shampoo did awful things to my hair and their conditioner wasn’t moist enough to combat the elements and the effects of hair dye. And the Aubrey Organics stuff I tried had ingredients like horsetail root, which I’m sure is wonderful, but smells like a horse’s tail ;)

At last, however, I can report that I’ve found a natural haircare regime that works for me: Giovanni Organic Hair Care. Matt has tried the tea-tree oil version and liked it fairly well and I love the Smooth as Silk conditioner and the 50:50 Balanced shampoo.

I guess I’ve tried more natural stuff than I thought. I still have a small stash of Lancome that I pull out for the special occasions, but listing out all the natural products I’ve been able to swap out without any noticeable damage to my skin and hair leads me to believe that there are good natural cosmetics out there, I just need to go find them!

9 comments

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  1. Julie

    Thanks for all the comments, folks! There’s so much out there to try. I’ve used a couple of JASON products (and they have signed the Compact), but they also still use petroleum-based fragrances & ingredients according to Skin Deep, which is something we’re trying hard to avoid (and not succeeding in all cases, so that’s not meant to be judgmental at all!!)…I really liked JASON’s vitamin C toner when I was pregnant and a little more oily than my usual dry-skin self ;)

  2. Suzann

    The JASON hair products are good – my fave is their Natural Sea Kelp Shampoo. The Sea Kelp conditioner is nice, but nothing can top Terax Crema. It’s a rinse-out conditioner that leaves my otherwise damaged hair soooo silky. None of these are tested on animals.

  3. Green SAHM

    Great list. I’ve been steadily working the chemical beauty supplies out of my life too. Shampoo’s been quite the sticking point, since my hair is very long, but I love using jojoba oil just on the ends of my hair for a little extra softness.

  4. Crunchy Domestic Goddess

    thanks for this post. i have yet to buy any natural makeup yet, but i have plans to in the semi-near future. ava already wants to put on my makeup (i let her use the blush) and i’d prefer if she’s not getting exposed to all the chemicals when she does.
    i use JASON shampoo/conditioner, but i haven’t checked them out on skin deep yet. perhaps i should.

  5. Irene

    I was intrigued by your title because my mom has been using Lancome all her life (flawless skin at 60).
    I have been using Clinique, but I had my ups and downs with some spots now and then that have made me look at alternatives. A very interesting company is Fresh Line who makes all natural, no preservatives,fresh, home, aka shop made cosmetics. I began using their solid shampoo for dry skin two weeks ago and it’s just a miracle. And I also love their soaps. I have taken photos of the shop which I am going to post soon with links, if you’re interested to follow on this.

  6. Hatchet

    I’ve got an award for you (I feel like such a nerd! As if admitting to playing D&D, video games and watching sci-fi movies weren’t nerdy enough already….) on my blog, if you would be so kind as to drop by!

  7. Lisa

    I found a 1000-ml (33.5 oz.) pump bottle of Giovanni 50:50 shampoo at COSTCO.

  8. Julie

    I know!!! The Shampoo is the worst because it’s in a bottle so small that it only lasts me about a month (and I only wash my hair every other day and sometimes every third day!). I want to buy big bulk bottles or, better yet, do a refillable soft-pack like Method does for its hand soap. I think I’ll write some letters and request bulk sizing for some of these items.

  9. Hatchet

    I keep thinking about writing on this topic, too! Although not from the makeup perspective so much as the personal care one, which you’ve covered.

    It kinda freaks me out to look at those ingredient lists on the un-natural stuff. I wonder how many cases of cancer could be linked to long term use of this stuff.

    My biggest complaint is this: why can’t I get larger sized bottles of the organic stuff?

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