Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's In My Eye?

I've mentioned the potential dangers of sulfates and parabens in beauty products, but have you ever wondered what's in the stuff you use to remove your eye makeup? First, you'll notice that their are only a few eye makeup removers on the market, namely Almay and Andrea EyeQs (remember those oily things you used in junior high?), so options are limited. Since their active ingredients are similar, let's review Almay's Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads. Boasting a "botanical blend of aloe, cucumber and green tea to condition, hydrate and soothe skin," it also contains Phenoxyethanol, a bacteria-killing compound, and Methylparaben and Propylparaben, two chemical preservatives that are part of the controversial paraben family, which some studies have associated with breast tumors and endocrine disruption. The mainstream cosmetic industry argues that this stuff is absorbed (through the skin and into your intestines, mind you!) and excreted quickly, so your health risks are minimal, but come on people, let's not play with fire if we have some natural alternatives. Which brings me to...

Physicians Formula Organic Wear. When this line of chemical-free bronzers, makeup removers and mascaras was launched last summer, it was pretty much in every drug store, but I'm noticing the awesome eye makeup remover pads haven't been incorporated into the regular Physicians Formula section since those fancy displays sold out. I asked the company, and no, they haven't been discontinued. But you may find them at your local Target, or you can order them here. The good news is it works, and without harsh chemicals or preservatives. Its ingredient list includes orange fruit water, aloe juice, cucumber extract, soybean extract, olive oil, lemon peel oil, radish root and lavender oil. The only other indredient? Water. Brava! When you're having a tough time removing that sexy smoky eye, you can rest easy knowing you're not rubbing chemicals into your eye with these pads.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Sulfate-Free Life?

You've probably noticed that more and more hair care brands are advertising sulfate-free formulas. Why is that? Sodium lauryl sulfate, the ingredient that produces that foamy, sudsy, ultra "clean" sensation, is the same ingredient (albeit in a higher concentration) found in engine degreasers, floor cleaners and car wash soaps. Although it has not been proven to be carcinogenic (see the American Cancer Society's stance) it is a proven skin irritant and its use in toothpaste has been linked to the development of canker sores (ew!).

Moreover, stylists suggest that it strips your color, so if you just dropped $100 at the salon, it might be worth it to spend a little extra on a sulfate-free, gentler shampoo this month. However, some allegedly sulfate-free products do contain SLS's chemical relative sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Same deal? Possibly worse. When SLS is being converted to SLES, it is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. Obviously, the levels are low, but if you are a health freak, be sure to check the ingredients of your new shampoo thoroughly before buying. Let's review some of the sulfate-free options out there:

L'Oréal's Everpure line: I tried the Everpure Volume Shampoo, and while the scent is manageable and it does produce a fair amount of suds, volume is not the end result. Try dry, lifeless hair. Plus, the packaging is really hard to deal with. Mine is all mangled. But, this product does get points for color retention. After a month of use, my grays were still at bay. Yay! I give it two-and-a-half stars out of five.

Organix Awakening Mocha Espresso Shampoo: I love chocolate and I love espresso and I love waking up, so you got me, Organix. The scent of this is great, but the results are no better than L'Oreal's Everlifeless. In fact, my husband has complained of "scalp" smell after one day, and the conditioner — no matter how much I squeeze out — does not leave my hair feeling silky as promised. Two stars. (I give mega points to Organix for its Nourishing Coconut Milk Instant Repair Treatment, however. Used once a week in place of regular conditioner, my lustrous hair is back!)

Pureology: If I had more money to spend, I would try Pureology's Superstraight Shampoo with Anti-Fade Complex, which retails at $28. Not a trace of a sulfate, it's super luxurious with oat proteins and sunflower and avocado extracts. It does, however, contain two parabens, which have become beauty industry villains (That's a blog entry for another day). Now, I have tried the Superstraight Condition Revitalisant with Anti-Fade Complex, which is really awesome, but it goes for a whopping $29. Kinda hard to justify, but tends to have sales on it. Some people might find the bitter smell a bit off-putting, but trust me, the end result (especially in humid weather) is worth the few minutes you're rinsing it out. Minus two points for price and parabens, so three stars overall.

Needless to say, I am still on the search for the great sulfate-free shampoo. Post comments below with your success stories, please!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Dream In Colors

I am one of those people who remembers pretty much every detail in their dreams, and last night was no exception. I was on my way to a dinner with a bunch of girlfriends (fun!) but it involved a lot of walking in the rain on a road with no sidewalks (not fun!). On the way to the restaurant, which was some sort of Macaroni Grill-type joint in the middle of nowhere, I stumbled upon an amazing discount cosmetics market. Not the Cosmetics Market of midtown Manhattan fame, but a giant market full of discontinued and hard-to-find products. Glimmering eye shadows in rich peacock-inspired hues packaged in the perfect-sized combo compacts. I was standing on line to purchase when ... d'oh! The alarm went off. I never did get the names of those gorgeous shadows, but here are a few of my faves that fall into that color category and, in my opinion, are perfect for spring!

There's something about a wash of blue over a shimmery gold base. For a dramatic look, start with M.A.C's Nylon, the frostiest example of a little goes a long way, and brush mark's I-Mark Custom Pick Eye Shadow in Retro Peacock in from the outer corners. Line the eyes with mark's Eyemarker Color On Liner in Enchanted Forest. For something a little more daytime, try combining the I-Mark shadows in Magic (a slightly browner gold) and South Beach (a pale turquoise). Here's a tip: If you feel you put too much on, use a slightly wider brush to run the gold shadow along the lids, starting at the inner corners. I am a big fan of both these brands, and while M.A.C wins in the pigment department (higher price = more saturated color), their shadows do tend to break up, whereas the mark shadows stay put in their little cases and you can mix and match the shadows, putting anywhere from 2 to 8 in a case, depending on what size you buy. I've dropped mine in the sink MANY times and had no heartbreaking crack-ups.

That's all for now. I'll be brainstorming more posts in my dreams....

p.s. I wish I had the photo skills to take a photo of myself wearing said look, but my attempt was unsuccessful. So enjoy the above photo of a peacock for inspiration!