Remember when the words “organic” and “natural” used to mean something when you saw them on a product label? We used to assume that when we saw those terms, what we were putting on or in our bodies was as pure and unaltered by chemicals as possible. Now, that’s not always the case. For one thing, the Food & Drug Administration has become very lax in the rules about what is allowed to be called “natural” in packaged foods. Now an ingredient that was derived from a natural source but has been processed to a fare-thee-well can be called “natural flavoring.” As for organic, it’s become such big business that huge corporate agriculture can gotten into the game. So-called “Big Organic” is competing with the mom-and-pop farms, driving down prices, and lobbying for weaker organic certification standards—all to get a piece of the booming $30 billion pie.
What does this have to do with beauty? Plenty, because there’s concern these days about the profusion of dangerous chemicals in cosmetics and skin care products, from parabens to phthalates. Certainly, we’re all looking for the products that will protect our skin and keep it healthy and attractive, but at the same time, we don’t want to slather ourselves in chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, immune system problems, hormone disruption or worse. But with the words “natural” and “organic” compromised and turned into marketing slogans, what can women trust to ensure that they’re getting the chemical-free products they seek?
There is a certification standard that can be relied on, called ECOCERT®. ECOCERT® is an internationally recognized organic certification managed by a French company. Its use guarantees that products bearing it have been formulated and manufactured with ecological responsibility, and that 100% of the ingredients are of a natural origin. Companies can only gain ECOCERT® certification if:
No pre-treatment is used in any of the raw materials found in organic products.
All suppliers pass an extensive quality and purity review before their raw materials are approved.
Manufacturing and packaging facilities pass a rigorous inspection.
All packaging is recyclable.
One of the best things about seeing the ECOCERT® certification is that it has nothing to do with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which certifies food products but has no jurisdiction over color cosmetics. Many women assume that the government oversees the content of such products, but that’s not the case. That’s why ECOCERT® provides such peace of mind: you know that a responsible testing body has determined that the contents of what you’re putting on your skin is completely natural. And if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to live greener this year, this is a great way to know that you’re spending your money on products that are gentle on natural resources, reduce pollution and help support small farmers and companies. That’s beautiful in many ways.
Stay beautiful (and look for our reports from the Obama Inauguration),
The economic news just seems to get worse and worse, doesn’t it? First the unemployment rate jumps, then the stock market drops, and the cycle starts again. And at the end of the day, we as consumers start getting more and more nervous about spending money on anything but the necessities. Luxuries become things to be deferred for another day, and apparently that includes beauty products. Usually one of the steadiest sectors of the marketplace, fragrance, makeup and skin care products are showing that they’re not recession-proof, either.
According to Women’s Wear Daily, spending on all major categories of beauty products is down 1% going into the all-important holiday season. No big deal? Well, consider that 1% of the total annual beauty spending in the U.S. equals about $70 million. That’s nothing to shake a lipstick at. Now, we’re doctors, not economists, so we’re not going to weigh in on the impact of the drop in beauty spending. But we are going to say a thing or two about the importance of investing a little bit, even during tough times, in keeping yourself looking great outside and feeling great inside.
Our basic advice is, if you’re in the habit of spending a certain amount on cosmetics, skin care products, “cosmeceuticals” or regular manicures, cut what you need to feel more secure, but don’t stop spending on your beauty completely. It’s too important. From a Beauty-Brain Loop perspective, you should always be doing what you can to keep yourself looking as good as possible, because that affects your Inner Beauty, your self-esteem and feeling of confidence. And since beauty is often a sign of good health, focusing on the essentials of beauty is also a good way to ensure that you’re taking the basic steps to maintain your health, something that’s vital for dealing with stressful times.
What are the “beauty essentials” you should not cut back on? Here’s our list:
Moisturizer with sunscreen. If you can afford only one beauty product, this is the one to get. Great brands include…
Hair care products. These include a shampoo that’s right for your type of hair and a conditioner with an SPF factor such as…
Lipstick or lip gloss with moisturizer and SPF. As we said in an earlier post, the lips are the doorway to your beauty, what attracts the eye and the interest. Take care of them. Good choices include…
Skin-healthy foods such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (which contain powerful antioxidants) and foods rich in anti-inflammatory fatty acids like walnuts, flax seed and salmon. You can also take omega-3 fish oil supplements to get a daily dose of important fatty acids.
Dental care. Flossing and brushing each day should always be part of your daily routine, and even if you don’t have dental insurance and can’t afford veneers or some other cosmetic procedure, get your teeth cleaned twice a year. It’s important for oral health…and for preventing halitosis that can render even the most beautiful face intolerable.
Exercise. Working out can be free, but even if you pay for a gym membership, keep going. Regular exercise helps control your weight, boosts your energy and reduces the effects of stress. It also helps fight osteoporosis as you age.
Annual physical. Deal with the co-pay and keep getting your annual checkup with your regular physician. There’s no better way to catch possible health problems early when they’re easy to treat, and to develop a positive, communicative relationship with your doctor and his or her staff. Hint: make sure a skin check is part of your physical.
This stuff is pretty basic, but when you have to tighten your belt and “extras” like Botox, fillers, peels and monthly highlighting treatments are out of the question, the basics are what keep you going. In fact, since too many women focus on the exterior trappings of beauty while going easy on the internal essentials like nutrition and fitness, look at the recession as the time to make sure the foundation of your beauty is strong. Things will get better eventually, and when you have the means to go back to expensive beauty products, who knows…maybe you won’t need them.
You may recall, a few weeks back, a political uproar over a certain “lipstick on a pig” comment. We’re not going to go into the political side of things because, frankly, that’s not what we’re about. Instead, we want to talk about the power of lipstick. This blend of many different kinds of oils—including a great deal of castor oil (one more good reason not to eat your lipstick)—along with pigments and moisturizers, vitamin E, aloe vera, collagen, amino acids, and sunscreen has its origins in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Women would decorate their lips with either crushed precious stones or (yuck) the red color from the crushed shells of carmine beetles and red ants. Later, in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I popularized the more recognizable form of lipstick, made in those days from animal tallow.
But it’s not the natural or social history of lipstick that interests us. It’s the effect. Why is lipstick above all other facial adornments associated with feminity and sex appeal? Why do we feel more attractive when we have shiny, deeply colored lips? In part, it’s because of the nature of how we perceive beauty. The smile is the banner of beauty, the only part of the face that’s constantly changing from moment to moment. We begin an encounter with someone by looking at their eyes, but the smile quickly takes over from there. The lips are the exquisite frame for teeth, laughter, and speech. The more alluring and sensual that frame, the more attracted people are to the face around it and the person that lies behind it.
Lipstick has power because it’s the most vibrant color on the face, pulling our attention to the mouth. When it’s richly colored and glossy, it stimulates the hard-wired male attraction to beauty. Evolution has designed men to be drawn to vivid color and shine in hair and skin because in ancient times they were signs of health, youth and fertility. So when you put on that deep ruby shade, you’re speaking in a sexual lingua franca that goes back thousands of years.
And because color also carries subtle messages about personality, you’re also broadcasting something about who you are. What does your lipstick color say about you? We’ll tell you:
Deep red—This one doesn’t take much figuring out. Red is the color of sexuality, passion and intense emotion. It’s no accident that red is the color of the power suit or power tie, and that red roses represent romance.
Pink—Pink (as well as coral, salmon, and fuschia) is a softer color that represents femininity, girlishness, or playfulness. It’s better suited for a casual affair than a formal dinner or social event, though if a pink shade works for your coloring, always go with what makes you look ravishing.
Purple—Purple seems bold and exotic, and indeed it can work best for women with dramatic coloring, but there’s no reason any woman can’t make it work for her. Purple suggests sophistication, regal bearing, and an independent spirit.
Yellow—Yellow? Not so fast. Yellow family colors include amber and orange, which are certainly colors you can try. In general, this family of colors speaks of energy, caution, warmth, cheer and friendliness.
Brown—Whether you’re talking about a russet or a leather hue, brown is the color of melanin, the body’s natural pigment, and so brown shades suggest a natural, earthy quality.
As makeup guru Bobbi Brown says, never choose a lipstick shade based on your skin or hair color. Base your choice on the natural color of your lips. Of course, there’s a lot more to this topic, from SPF protection to lip liners and glosses to the many variations within each color family based on the minerals the color was made with, and so on. If you really want to dig into the topic, we suggest talking with a professional, certified makeup artist. Then let the color of your lips do the talking.
The stock market drops by 1,000 points. Banks fail. Brokerage houses go belly up. Unemployment rises along with inflation. Economic hard times seem to be upon us, and when you’re worried about your job and making your mortgage payment, it seems crazy to pay $120 for a few ounces of moisturizer, no matter how miraculous the marketing claims happen to be. The fact is that for most of us, anything beyond the most basic beauty products—moisturizer, cleanser, makeup, shampoo and conditioner, etc.—are luxuries, and luxuries are the first things to go when we’re watching our 401(k) accounts go dry. But while you’re watching the NASDAQ shudder and waiting for the Federal Reserve Board to announce its latest desperate attempt to salvage the economy, there’s no need to completely abandon the idea of looking beautiful.
In these hard economic times, being and feeling beautiful is as important as ever. Studies show that attractive people earn more money, hold greater positions of power, and get special treatment from their employers. Generally, beautiful people feel better about themselves and their situation in the work place Beauty is currency. But how to afford beauty in these hard economic times? Try some of these ideas (some are even free!):
See your beauty. Realize from the very start you are at least 20% more beautiful than you give yourself credit for. Women tend to underestimate their beauty by 20%. Just giving yourselves that Beauty Boost is a great way to live with real self-confidence.
Try drugstore brands. Drug store brands are as effective as the department store brands. It’s the ingredients that count, not the packaging. As a matter of fact, many drugstore brands have sister products in the department stores (i.e. Lancome and L’oreal).
Smile and wear bright lipstick. A smile with the shimmer of bright lips is like a welcome sign for people to feel attracted to your beauty. Eyes are the first things people notice about you but a warm beautiful smile seals the deal.
Get a Beauty Buddy. Studies show that having close female friends is not only helpful as a support system in hard times, but it is also an amazing beauty booster. Having a Beauty Buddy is associated with a release of the hormone oxytocin, which gives you that feeling of calm, makes your skin glow and helps you feel more beautiful about yourself.
Keep it simple. You don’t need 10 products to have beautiful skin. As matter of fact, you only need 3-4 daily skin care products: an exfoliative cleanser, a sunscreen, and a therapeutic night cream.
Look in your kitchen. It’s a great source of free beauty products. Green tea bags soaked and frozen make great eye de-puffers, thanks to the cold and the antioxidants found in green tea. For youthful lips, mix granular sugar with cherry jello and do a light scrub of your lips. You will be left with a smooth, pink tinted pout.
Grab the free samples. Visit any cosmetic counter or even go to your dermatologist for your annual skin care exam and free skin care samples are yours. Many of the big cosmetic companies want you to try their products and they are yours for free.
Try natural alternatives. Scrubs and masks made completely from plants like papaya and pumpkin are very common at high-end spas and provide real benefits, but you don’t have to pay spa prices. Just get your hands on the fresh fruit or vegetables and make your own products. The Budget Ecoist is a wonderful source of information on how to make your own safe and effective home beauty products.
Take care of your health. The Health stage of the Beauty-Brain Loop dictates that when your whole body is healthy, you feel and look better inside and out. One of the first steps you should take when trying to stay gorgeous through belt-tightening times is to make sure you’re in the best health possible. Exercise regularly; 30 minutes of exercise five days a week releases pleasurable hormones, makes your skin glow, improves muscle tone, and enhances attitude. Eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and fish, which gives you important fatty acids. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Don’t smoke. Keep the alcohol, which can dehydrate you, to a minimum. Get enough sleep.
Find smart ways to manage stress. Some stress in your life is normal and even healthy. But the chronic stress that can come with tough financial straits can wreak havoc with your skin. The release of “stress hormones” like cortisol stimulates your sebaceous glands to produce extra oil, which can lead to breakouts and acne, not to mention what stress does to your heart and blood pressure. Whether you rely on long walks in nature or a daily yoga or meditation regimen, come up with tricks to help you let go of stress and relax your body and mind.
Do your research. Often, the most costly cosmetics and skin care products are not necessarily any better than the cheaper department store brands. In 2006 the beauty industry was rocked when Olay Regenerist Night Cream, which runs about $20, was voted best anti-aging product by a consumer panel, beating out products that cost four or five times more. Cetaphil makes great cleansers and moisturizers at reasonable prices.
Shop online. If you care more about price than you do about sampling a product at a department store beauty counter, then do your shopping on the Internet. Sites like Cosmetic Times offer all the major brands at savings of 40% and more (of course, you have to pay for shipping, but if you place a big order the shipping becomes insignificant compared to the savings.
Protect yourself from the sun. The sun is still the major culprit in skin damage. What about Vitamin D? You get all you need walking to and from your car each week. Every morning, put on a moisturizer that contains a broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Wear a hat and UV protective clothing if you’re going to be out in the sun for a long time, and be prepared to reapply sunscreen every two hours or so. If you can, avoid being outdoors during the hours when the sun is most intense, typically about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That’s usually not a problem on weekdays, because most of us are working. But on weekends (or if this recession costs you your job and you have lots of time on your hands), you’ve got to be careful. This applies to your hair as well; use a conditioner that contains an SPF.
Take care of your teeth. Your smile is an important part of your appearance, and as long as you have dental insurance, there’s no excuse for not taking care of your oral health even if you can’t afford expensive products. Visit your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings and if your teeth are dingy, look into inexpensive home whitening kits. Even if you don’t have dental coverage, you can still floss, brush and rinse at least twice a day and use whitening toothpaste. A great smile is a terrific accessory to beautiful skin and hair.
These steps may not be as glamorous as spending a small fortune on skin cremes, night cremes, home microdermabrasion scrubs and so on, but they’re good medicine for tight financial times. Keep in mind that prevention is always the best medicine for your beauty, so stay clear of the sun, eat and drink smart, sleep, and try to keep from getting too stressed out. Better times will return…so they tell us.