Cut Down your Chemical Cocktail

Michelle Mountain (Lee Bruce) - Miss South Africa 1989. Credit: Ice Genetics
Michelle Mountain (Nee Bruce) – Miss South Africa 1989.
Credit: Ice Genetics

People have become walking chemical factories. Women apply roughly 13 cosmetic products per day, which amounts to over 500 unwanted chemicals layering their skin and hair. A switch to natural products is beneficial to both the body and the environment.

In an interview with Michelle Mountain (Nee Bruce), Miss South Africa 1989 and co-founder of eco-cosmetics companies Jane Iredale and Strawberry International, she talks about her environmentally aware lifestyle and maintaining the balance between wellness and toxic burden.

“The first rule is: do no harm. People are like walking chemical factories,” she starts. Her objective is to get through the day as naturally and environmentally aware as possible, keeping her impact in mind. Everything we do will affect people and the environment both locally and globally. We have to adopt a new and responsible lifestyle.

The trick is to go as natural and organic as possible. The ingredients in these products are both gentle on your skin and the environment. This lessens any negative impacts otherwise applied by other less environmentally conscious products.

Oil it Up

Michelle keeps her beauty routine natural by replacing the various lotions that usually stack the bathroom cupboard, with a few simple oils. This benefits both body and environment. A simple question, “Would you put your hand in petrol?” Michelle asked. Many lotions contain petrochemicals, artificial fragrances and other equally harmful ingredients.

Natural or Nothing! Credit: Scan Free
Natural or Nothing!

Instead, her bathroom holds organic rose-hip, coconut and jojoba oil. These oils have a wide range of applications. It can be used as hand and body lotion as well as face cream. It is even a healthy and natural hair treatment. She also recommends organic rose geranium essential oil to replace perfume. This is due to most perfumes containing a chemical concoction full of parabenspetrochemicalstalc and other harmful ingredients.

In a press release covering Cosmetic Awareness, Jane Houlihan, senior vice president of Environmental Working Group (EWG), said “Fragrance chemicals are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and many of them end up inside people’s bodies, including pregnant women and newborn babies.” This is just another point on the dichotomy of ‘Natural or Not’.

Make-Up your Mind

A Poison Kiss. Credit:

Did you know that us Girls eat 2kg of lipstick in our lifetime? That trendy red lipstick we desire contains lead, a toxic chemical that can cause learning, language and behavioural problems, according to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Enjoy your flashy reds by selecting from a more organic source instead. A great place you can start looking is Faithful to Nature.

My Red Lips‘ is a month long campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence and victim blaming. Girls, wear that lipstick but make sure its safe.

It is possible to switch up to healthier products and still enjoy feeling fabulous. In the end what goes on your face goes down the drain, into the waterways and comes back to you, in more ways than one.

“We need to live light – being conscious of our impact on the people around us,” emphasises Michelle.

A Hairy Situation

A great way to reduce your chemical footprint is by changing something as simple as your daily shampoo. Most shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate which strips moisture and oils from the hair and skin. It is associated with skin irritation and hair loss. Parabens are also present in shampoos and pose a strong link to breast cancer, according to Natural Society. The shampoo comes into contact with your scalp and the toxins are absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream. There are many organic and natural alternatives available. Also, only use shampoo when really necessary. “Rinsing and washing your hair with water works just as well,” Michelle assures. Too much abuse can lead to dry hair and split ends.

It is wise to be wary of hair dye, because the chemicals are also absorbed through the skin. Ask the hairdresser to use the foil method for dyeing hair, thus minimizing the contact between the scalp and the product.

Beauty is only Skin Deep

Download the Skin Deep mobile app developed by EWG which is designed to help you shop smarter. It allows the user to

Skin Deep App in Action! Credit: Soninke Combrinck
Skin Deep App in Action!
Credit: Soninke Combrinck

type in the name or scan the bar-code of the product, then provides them with a list of ingredients and a hazard rating to help the user make an informed decision before purchasing the cosmetic product.

Remember, stay informed and research products. Be wary of ‘green-washing’. Many labels like ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ require further reading because there are no legal standards for those terms yet. It is the responsibility of the consumer to empower themselves through knowledge.

Make the change to natural products where possible. If the consumer pressure reaches the critical mass it will push companies to manufacture more natural and environmentally friendly products.


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