Making the leap to eco-friendly skin care

I'll admit it. I used to be a fan of aerosol hair products, and my skin care routine was filled with products with ingredients I couldn't pronounce, let alone learn their potential effects on my body. But once I became a mom, I started to become a lot more cognizant of whether I was using clean or eco-friendly beauty products.

The reasons were twofold. First, I became extremely aware of the products and chemicals that were coming into contact with my skin and by extension, my son's, especially while I was breastfeeding. And two, I started to consider the effect my self-care habits might have on the Earth's environment – an Earth he'd one day inherit.

After all, putting a recycling bin out by the curb doesn't exactly make you eco-friendly. Here's how I switched up my beauty routine with the environment in mind.

Update your sunscreen

We live in Florida, so sunscreen is a daily part of our routine. But did you know that when you wear sunscreen in the ocean, chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate get into the water and can damage coral reefs?

Enter reef-friendly sunscreen. Marked by the absence of oxybenzone and octinoxate, these sunscreens are a greener sun protection option. And they're starting to become more popular. In fact, Hawaii has already banned the sale of sunscreen containing these two chemicals. And when you consider that half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016, this is one small lifestyle change that could make a big environmental impact.

Mineral sunscreens are also another great alternative. Regular sunscreens create a chemical blocker – in other words, a combination of chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate to create a chemical barrier between your skin and the sun's damaging UV rays. Some studies have shown that these chemicals can disrupt hormones, which can have a whole host of negative effects on your body.

Mineral sunscreen, however, uses zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, (and sometimes both), to form a physical barrier between your skin and the sun's rays. Usually, the ingredients in a mineral sunscreen are cleaner, but be sure to read the ingredients carefully, since they can still contain some harmful chemicals.

Clean up your beauty routine

You've probably heard of clean beauty product brands like Beautycounter, or at least scrolled past a sales pitch or two on your Facebook feed. While I don't sell these products, I am a huge fan of the clean beauty movement.

One study found that on average, women use 12 different products with 168 ingredients daily. It also found that one in every 13 women is exposed to likely human carcinogens daily through their personal care products.

I started using cleaner beauty products about six months ago when I was breastfeeding since a lot of the ingredients in regular anti-aging products are not recommended for this demographic. Today, my skin looks great. Plus, I also like the fact that I'm not slathering hundreds of chemicals on my face or exposing myself to carcinogens every day.

Use less plastic

Another green skin care habit to pick up? Don't wear makeup every day. My pre-baby self would have never done this. After all, I was working in an office five days a week and felt the need to look put-together at all times. But since becoming a work-from-home-mom, I don't feel the need to put on a full face of makeup every day. Plus, it doesn't last long in 90-degree Florida heat.

The benefits are cyclical. When I forgo makeup, my skin improves. Then I feel like I can go makeup-free more often. This decreases my monthly spend on beauty products. And since I'm using less product, I'm also contributing less to the plastic that makes its way into our landfills. Fun fact: 40% of plastic waste is made up of packaging, which is used only once then discarded.

You may not be ready to take the full clean beauty leap just yet. But try going greener in just one aspect of your self-care routine, whether it's using reef-friendly sunscreen or using a cleaner product. The Earth – and your face – will thank you.

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