Green Beauty: Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products

"Green beauty" is no longer just a buzzword in the skincare world. In fact, natural organic skincare products have steadily found their way from the back alleys of Whole Foods to front and center in beauty retail aisles and in many beauty magazines. There's a good reason for this. A shift in consumer mindset toward healthy living has boosted the demand for natural organic skincare products. The green beauty lifestyle (that's right, it's now a lifestyle as it has passed fleeting trend status) has also sparked the interest of consumers to uncover the truth behind brands that claim to be "clean" and "toxic-free." 

But to those new to green beauty, finding the right natural organic skincare products could be daunting. How does one know which ingredients are good and which ones to cut from one's daily beauty routine? Which tools or websites offer reliable information as to which brands are truly certified natural organic? 

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

To help separate truth from myth when it comes to green beauty, Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care, strips it down to simple terms as she talks clean beauty.

The Gospel of Beauty: Why is it more important than ever for shoppers to be educated on clean beauty products?

Szilvia Hickman: The organic and natural segment of the personal care market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the cosmetics and toiletries industry, reflected in double-digit annual percentage growth in the U.S. year after year

There is concern that daily exposure to a combination of toxic ingredients found in many skin care, personal care and cosmetic products could result in detrimental long-term health effects. As a result, consumers are actively seeking out clean beauty products to use as part of their daily skincare routine. 

TGOB: With this growing demand, it has also become more confusing for consumers to know which brands are truly clean and green. What should consumers keep in mind when finding the right natural organic skincare products? 

Hickman: As the “green” consumer-driven market continues to gain momentum, more and more brands are popping up with the words “organic,” “natural,” “chemical-free,” and “clean,” in their names and marketing collateral. In addition, companies are increasingly displaying organic trade or consumer group logos and agricultural certifications to show their professional affiliations and earn the trust and confidence of the discerning consumer. 

With thousands of skincare products on the market, there’s a lot of confusion about what products and ingredients are truly “safe” and “clean.” In particular, consumers are confused about the differences between organic and natural. Although often used interchangeably, the differences can be quite significant. As more and more companies embrace the shift toward clean beauty products, it’s imperative to discern quality and authenticity from “green washing.” 

TGOB: What are the top five common ingredients in beauty products that consumers should avoid?

  1. Parabens: Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products and foods to prevent the growth of microbes. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.
  2. Synthetic Fragrance: According to the FDA, synthetic fragrance is defined as a combination of chemicals that gives perfumes, lotions, and other skincare products its distinctive scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives and dyes. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of those ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
  3. Hydroquinone: In the skincare category, Hydroquinone is found in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, and facial moisturizers, and is heavily marketed to treat and reduce hyperpigmentation, age and brown spots. One of the main health concerns of this ingredient is its link to cancer. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This increases the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer
  4. Phthalates: Phthalates can be found in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and hair care products, nail polish and treatment and can be labeled as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance. The National Toxicology Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that DEHP is reasonably to be anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity of animal studies.
  5. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products. These chemicals, which help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
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TGOB: What are the top five ingredients you would recommend that are safe in a beauty product?

  1. Plant-derived hyaluronic acid: Considered a superstar in the anti-aging skincare market because it immediately plumps, firms and moisturizes skin. Unlike other hyaluronic acid in the market, plant-derived hyaluronic acid is an ethically sourced, clean and cruelty-free product.  
  2. Plant stem cells: As we age, skin becomes thinner, dryer, age spots and wrinkles appear, we lose elasticity as collagen production declines and skin’s overall appearance is duller, lacking in that youthful vibrancy. Recently, science has zoomed in on a powerful new ally in the war against aging skin—plant-based stem cells. Why is there so much interest in plant stem cell technology? The answer may lie in the simple fact that it removes the ethical dilemma plaguing the scientific community. Plant stem cells allow us the opportunity to harness the power of stem cells without the controversy that surrounds human stem cell harvesting. Plant stem cells have a powerful regenerative effect on our skin, improving complexion and rejuvenate damaged tissue caused by age, environmental toxins and sun damage. 
  3. Natural hydroquinone alternatives: As I mentioned earlier hydroquinone—although it’s a hot topic in the skincare and beauty world – comes with some serious health concerns. For consumers looking for a clean, green alternative to hydroquinone, ilike organic skin care has discovered a powerful skin brightening ingredient called Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, a trademarked organic compound derived from Castor Seed that reduces the pigmentation process. Application of this natural hydroquinone alternative reduces age spots, hyperpigmentation due to sun exposure, hormonal disorders or irritation, and sun spots without the risk associated with its chemical counterpart. 
  4. Natural colors: Rather than questionable food dyes, consumers should seek out skincare products that are colorful only because of the botanical ingredients that make up the formulation. Beets, calendula, chlorophyll, and carrot give products an authentic look without any worrisome side effects. 
  5. Natural microbead alternatives: Enjoy the perks of exfoliation without the pollution. Today, there are many natural alternatives to plastic microbeads. Look for exfoliating ingredients such as cornmeal, ground grapeseed or other seeds. 

TGOB: How do you address some consumers' concern that green beauty products may not be as effective?

Hickman: First I would start with the list, as mentioned above, of the ingredients that are commonly found in "non-green" skincare products and would ask them: Is your health worth that risk? There is increasing evidence that certain ingredients that were once deemed “safe and effective” have been found to cause or be linked to a range of health issues. Since skin is our largest organ, it’s important to understand that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Secondly, if looked at closely, many of the synthetic ingredients are cheaper, lab-grown versions of natural ingredients. Lastly, in terms of effectiveness of ilike’s products, our brand is dedicated to using only safe and effective ingredients; many of which have been tested and peer -reviewed in controlled studies. It’s the extra step ilike takes to ensure formulations are of the highest quality with concentrated ingredients that are results-oriented and never marketed on baseless claims. 

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

TGOB: How is ilike organic skin care different from other clean beauty products?

Hickman: What makes ilike organic skin care so unique is that we strive to maintain the natural state of the herbal ingredients— using handmade pulps versus extracts. Our organic ingredients are formulated and processed in a way that maintains the vitality of the natural active ingredients resulting in an immediate experience of the deep, rich penetrating effects of the ingredients as well as their magnificent aromas, textures and colors.

We pride ourselves of using only whole, raw, real ingredients handpicked, cold-processed and made in small batches to retain their full concentration and power. Incorporating the latest in skincare research and biotechnological advancements, ilike continues to lead the way in the global raw skincare movement. This commitment has led to the development of some of the brand’s best-selling, award-winning lines including the Grape Stem Cell Solutions and Hyaluronic Time Erase Complex skincare products. 

TGOB: Who founded the brand?

Hickman: Dánielné Molnár (lovingly known as "Aunt Ilike") founded ilike organic skin care. This year, we mark our 60th anniversary. Aunt Ilike's life-long passion of advancing the natural remedies from ingredients provided by "Mother Nature" is embodied in the skin-care brand. All of our ingredients are grown on our certified organic fields in Hungary where we also manufacture all of our products. 

TGOB: What resources, apps or websites do you recommend to help women educate themselves on clean beauty products? 

Hickman: There are several prominent national and international certification agencies I rely on to learn more about their certification programs and organic standards: 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by ilike organic skincare. The clean beauty brand is available on buyilike.com and dermstore.com.

The Ultimate Makeup Brush Guide: Which Makeup Brush to Use?

After several makeup tests with different makeup brushes, I’ve come to a conclusion: In a woman’s beauty arsenal, the right makeup brush is her ultimate tool.
Mini-mini-minny-moo, which makeup brush should I use? There's a perfect match to every makeup brush.

Mini-mini-minny-moo, which makeup brush should I use? There's a perfect match to every makeup brush.

When putting makeup, sometimes I feel like an artist clueless as to which brush to use. Don't you sometimes feel the same way with all the makeup brush options around? I mean, you were probably just as baffled as I was when I first came across the stippling brush. And how about the fan brush? My first thought, who needs a fan brush when the good-old blush brush might work just fine, right? Oh, the paradox of choice!

But after more research on what each brush can do and personally testing each one out, I've come to realize every makeup brush has its own purpose. Have you ever tried contouring your face using a powder brush instead of an angled brush? It's like pulling a nail with a screw driver—it can get messy without the right tool!

After several makeup tests with different makeup brushes, I've come to a conclusion: In a woman's beauty arsenal, the right makeup brush is her ultimate tool. To decide which makeup brush is best for me, I narrowed down my choices by determining which type of makeup I normally use. As a general rule, powdered makeup is best applied using brushes with natural bristles while those made with synthetic bristles are ideal for liquid or cream beauty products.

Vanity Planet Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection comes with 15 makeup brushes carefully stored in a chic roll-up pouch to cover all your daily beauty needs.

Vanity Planet Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection comes with 15 makeup brushes carefully stored in a chic roll-up pouch to cover all your daily beauty needs.

Because I prefer to use liquid primer and foundation, I tend to favor synthetic bristles, which is why I opted to sample Vanity Planet's Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection. It arrived in a chic all-black pouch, which conveniently rolls up for easy packing. Yay, I can see this makeup brush bag tagging along with me in all my future adventures and trips! The roll-out design also comes with a protective flap which helps to keep brushes clean and collected.

Inside are 15 makeup brushes carefully packaged with individual protective plastic covers that helps to maintain their shapes. Vanity Planet's brushes are made with premium synthetic bristles, which are ultra-soft and makes application smooth and streak-free. I am a fan of contouring, so its sturdy Birchwood handle has been handy in giving me better control upon application.

For the number of brushes you get, along with its easy-to-store artist's pouch, I personally think Vanity Planet's Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection is a great value for one's money. On top of this, the brand advocates cruelty-free products, so beauty-lovers like me are assured there are no animals harmed during productions of Vanity Planet makeup brushes. Now that's an all-around win in my book!

If you are like me, uncertain which brush to use at times, here's a quick guide to help you navigate the many brush options in beauty la-la-land:

Need a makeup brush cheat sheet? Here's a quick guide to help you find the right brush.

Need a makeup brush cheat sheet? Here's a quick guide to help you find the right brush.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Powder Brush

BEST FOR: Applying loose powder evenly across your face. A powder brush's long, fluffy and soft bristles ensure that your makeup won't look cakey. As long as the powder brush is not too large in size, you may also use it to apply blush and bronzer.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Blush Brush

BEST FOR: Applying blush on the cheeks. A blush brush usually has soft, long bristles with a dome shape which allows you to apply a blush color on a targeted area as well as blend and build your color.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Contour Brush

BEST FOR: Applying a bronzer or a contouring shade. With soft and dense bristles, it has an angled shape that allows you to contour correctly as it fits nicely under your cheekbone where you often would need it.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Kabuki Brush

BEST FOR: Multi-use. A kabuki brush usually has super soft and voluminous bristles as well as a short handle, but it is an ultra-versatile tool as it can be used to apply powder, bronzer or blend one's blush.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Foundation Brush

BEST FOR: Applying liquid or cream foundation. Angled and flat, a foundation brush is skinny with a dome shape on top, making it the ideal tool to achieve a seamless coverage.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Fan Brush

BEST FOR: Applying a highlighter. The fan brush comes with an ultra-light bristle, making it ideal for highlighter application wherein you only need a light dusting of the powder on your cheeks or nose bridge. It's also a great tool to remove excess powder.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Concealer Brush

BEST FOR: Applying a concealer. It's tiny bristles ensure that you can easily apply on targeted areas, such as under the eye to hide dark eye rings or on annoying pimples when you have a skin breakout.

Vanity Planet's eyeshadow brush and Silky Smooth eyeshadow Kit: a match made in beauty heaven.

Vanity Planet's eyeshadow brush and Silky Smooth eyeshadow Kit: a match made in beauty heaven.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Eyeshadow Brush

BEST FOR: Applying eyeshadow. Its slightfly fluffy brush makes it easy to apply colors on one's lid as well as blend out colors to achieve a smoky eye makeup.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Crease Brush

BEST FOR: Blending eyeshadow. The crease brush often has much shorter bristles to allow for better control when blending colors on the crease on the eye lids.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Eyeliner Brush

BEST FOR: Applying powder eyeliner. When attempting a Cleopatra or winged eye look, you can rely on the eyeliner brush to bring in the drama. Its slim design allows for thin and precise application.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Brow Brush

BEST FOR: Grooming the brows and blending brow pencil colors to create that full "Cara Delevigne-inspired" eyebrows.


THE RIGHT TOOL: Lip Brush

BEST FOR: Lipstick application. The pointed tip makes it ideal for outlining and filling the lips with your favorite lip color. 

 

It seems a lot to keep in mind, but like any other art form, makeup application requires knowing which tool to use. And hey, in case you are needing a new makeup brush collection soon, you are full of unicorn luck! This Vanity Planet Palette Professional Brush Collection can be yours at 70% off! Use BBPalette70 at checkout. Hurry, this exclusive discount code is offered only at a limited time! Happy beauty shopping, lovely peeps!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vanity Planet. I only work with brands I love, so even if this post is sponsored, this blog offers an honest review on the featured product. All opinions are my own.

Hair Hacks You Need to Know to De-Frizz Your Hair Right Now

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Every mama knows what's its like to have a bad hair day. Dry hair strands that look like they have been subjected to electrocution, curls that are more unruly than a three-year-old or, simply put, hair that refuses to stay in place.

In times of desperation, the messy bun or the 15-second ponytail is often the default hairstyle of mamas too tired to care. Do you see a raised hand? That was mine—and there are certainly days when smoothening out fly-aways is a near-impossible mission.

Thankfully, there are hair hacks I've learned along the way that has helped me deal with unruly hair, especially on summer days when high humidity leaves the hair frizzy and lifeless.

1. Look for moisturizing oils and extracts in hair-care products.

Growing up in the Philippines where coconut oil is a household staple, I have been introduced to the versatile uses of coconut oil at a young age, one of which is its ability to moisturize hair and scalp. To this day, I look for coconut oil in the ingredient list of my hair-care products, which I've found in Hask's Exotic Oil Collections.

If you follow my blog, you are probably aware that I have recently been obsessed with Hask hair-care products because it is formulated with natural ingredients, which include not only coconut oil, but also argan, blue chamomile and orchid extracts. Hold up, orchid extracts in hair-care products? You read that right. Extracts from the delicate flowers are long known in Asia  to have deep hydrating benefits to the hair. Orchid oil is lightweight so it doesn't weigh hair down, perfect for frizzy hair.

To put orchid oil's ability to control frizz to the test, I've recently sampled the Hask Orchid & White Truffle collection. On this particular day, the humidity levels were high, so my hair had been misbehaving. After using the full collection—shampoo, conditioner and hair mask—I saw a big difference. Annoying frizz and fly-aways were tamed!

2. Use only sulfate- and paraben-free hair-care products.

This is one thing I don't compromise, which is exactly the reason why I've since been using Hask because its products do not contain ingredients like sulfate, paraben and alcohol. When it comes to products I buy for the family, I try to be more aware and conscious of what we use on our bodies.

Despite conflicting information on whether sulfate is truly toxic or not, I prefer to err on the side of caution. My advice is to get yourself educated on toxic ingredients in personal care products and make informed decisions based on that. Feeling overwhelmed by all the information on the internet? Consider researching reliable websites like safecosmetics.org, ewg.org and mayoclinic.org which offer science-based information.

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3. Use a boar bristle brush.

Frizz happens when hair strands lack natural moisture. The scalp naturally produces oil, called sebum, which coats each hair strand and keeps it moisturized. The boar brush is an effective anti-frizz tool because the bristles help to carry the sebum from the scalp to the tips of the hair shaft. This, in the process, repairs dry hair, adds luster and decreases frizz.

4. Gently press, don't rub.

I used to make this mistake, but there's a proper hair-drying technique: Gently press excess water from the hair, don't rub strands together. When you wring out your hair or rub strands to dry, it can worsen split ends and damage the hair. Frizz is a symptom of a dry and damaged hair. I've read several beauty experts recommend switching to a microfiber towel as it absorbs water better as you gently press your hair to dry. 

5. When styling, don't overdo with heat.

I am one of those women who prefer to air-dry their hair more often than spending minutes blow drying it. My laziness to blow dry has actually been great for my hair as exposing the hair to regular heat can damage it, leaving it more susceptible to frizz. On the rare occasions I really need to blow dry, I use a heat-protectant serum to keep heat from damaging the strands.

What hair hacks have worked for you in keeping frizz at bay? Perhaps you can share your best tips in the comment box and we can exchange beauty hacks?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hask, but all opinions are my own because I only work with brands I love. Hask hair care products are also available at Ulta.

Pool Essentials: What to Pack for a Fun Pool Day with Kids

One of the many joys of living in the Sunshine State is that almost everyday is a pool day. Today was no different, at 80 degrees fahrenheit with a nice afternoon breeze, we spent the day grilling by the pool while the little one played with newfound friends. Summer is rolling in fast so siestas by the pool are quickly becoming a favorite weekend affair. 

Expectedly, I've started to pack the pool or beach bag, aka the "island life survival kit." After all, for any mama, nothing could be worse than pool time with the little one with a few missing essentials. Where is the hydrating mist when you desperately need one? Or the leak-proof bags to pack wet toys back home?  

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Believe me, you are in a no-judgment zone here, I've been in your shoes multiple times. Even when I pride myself of being the "Girl Scout" mama when it comes to packing, I still sometimes end up with a few missing essentials in my pool bag. The worse, of course, is to forget the towels! Laugh but don't judge.  

To ensure you have all the essentials in your pool bag, I suggest you create a checklist. Here are a few things I always have in my own pool or beach bag because, if there's one thing this mama learned the hard way when it comes to packing with kids, it's better to over pack than not have what you need when you need it most. 

1. Sunblock

Most important rule for pool time: Never leave home without a sunblock. The risk of skin cancer is real, and most especially with kids who still have very sensitive skin. The best prevention, of course, is to stay away from the sun during the peak times of the day (10 am through 4 pm). But even when we head out past 4 pm to go the pool or beach, I still lather every inch of the little one's skin with sunblock. The hubby thinks I turn into a crazy-paranoid mama when it comes to sunblock application, but my rule is simple: Better safe than sorry.  

With more people getting skin cancer than all other cancers combined and about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (data from skincancer.org), there's no underestimating the importance of proper sunscreen application. 

2. evian Facial Spray

Here's another staple in my pool bag. When it gets too hot and the skin feels like it a parched desert, I rely on my bottle of evian Facial Spray to help me and the little one cool down.

A little fun trivia: evian contains mineral water from The French Alps. Pure safe nitrogen propels each spray of evian into a fine mist. With every spray, millions of micro-droplets are released to instantly penetrate the skin, leaving it more hydrated and feeling refreshed.

I have long been a fan of evian before I became a mom as I love using it to prep my skin before applying makeup. When the little one was still a baby, evian is a regular in our diaper bag. With its gentle formulation, I used it a lot to clean the little one's sticky hands and messy face after eating or playing. Because it is free from any toxic chemicals, it is safe to use during diaper change and even good to soothe irritated bottoms with a diaper rash.   

I usually purchase the 10 oz. evian Facial Spray as it is the most economical size, but there are portable options (5 oz. and TSA-approved 1.7 oz.) for those wanting to pack light.

The versatile evian Facial Spray is a staple in this mama's pool bag because it can be used to clean sticky hands or hydrate the skin.

The versatile evian Facial Spray is a staple in this mama's pool bag because it can be used to clean sticky hands or hydrate the skin.

3. Towels and googles

No need to say more about towels, but unless your little one doesn't mind swimming without one, pack some swimming googles. The little one is still particular about water getting into her eyes, so we always bring with us googles to the pool so she may enjoy swimming longer under water.

4. Water toys, swim vests and inflatables

Make pool time extra fun by bringing water-safe toys to play. The little one loves to share her toys with friends, so we make it a point to bring toys in the pool to help her build her social skills. Don't forget to bring the swim vests or inflatables to help keep your little one safe as they try to enjoy the pool on their own and build their confidence being in the water.   

5. Snacks and bottled water

Kids are notorious to snack a lot while in the pool or beach, so keep snacks and bottled drinks on hand just in case they start to get hungry but don't want to completely leave the pool yet.

6. Wipes

Have handy wipes ready—you'll never know when and what you'll need cleaning while out and about.

7. First-Aid Kit

Bring the basic essentials for minor cuts and scrapes. Accidents are bound to happen while playing by the pool or beach. We had an incident where the little one tripped and scraped her knee while playing by the pool, so the first-aid kit came in handy.

8. Extra plastic bags

Toss in extra plastic bags for wet swimsuits and towels. Remember to also bring resealable and water-proof bags to store away wet toys or anything you don't want leaking in your pool bag.  

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WIN A GIVEAWAY!

** In case you are feeling lucky, enter to win this awesome giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive a Skip Hop Duo Signature diaper bag, in Heather Grey filled with a 10 oz., 5 oz., and a trio of travel-sized evian Facial Spray! Enter today and sending you unicorn luck, lovely mamas!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by evian Facial Spray and is part of their #coolbaby campaign. All opinions are my own.