Your Beauty Questions Answered

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David Suzuki’s Queen of Green on healthy deodorant, organic skincare and the safety of Vaseline and sunscreens

Get answers to your questions about beauty and personal care products from Lindsay Coulter, The David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green. 

Beauty Questions 

  1. Can you recommend recipes for cologne and deodorant? 
  2. Which body wash and shampoo do not contain sodium laureth sulfate? 
  3. What does it mean if a beauty question is organic? 
  4. Is there a pocket guide to healthy products in Canada? 
  5. How do I find out what ingredients are in my favourite toothpaste? 
  6. Do natural beauty products really work?
  7. I get headaches from fragrances. How can I get my office to go scent-free?
  8. What is Cocomide MEA? 
  9. How can I safely dispose of medications?
  10. What’s the safest sunscreen?
  11. Is Vaseline safe for my kids?

1. We make most of our own cleaning products and some body care products (thanks to you!), but have been unable to find recipes for men's cologne and deodorant/anti-perspirant. Do you have any recipes or can you recommend any all-natural, organic brands? 

One of my favourite online resources to find great homemade cosmetic recipes is www.makeyourcosmetics.com/. Click here to learn about ingredients with this resource from David Suzuki. 

Men’s Cologne 

30 ml jojoba oil
5 drops grapefruit essential oil
5 drops lime essential oil
3 drops peppermint essential oil
Mix together. Let mellow for a few days. Shake and then apply a small amount to the neck. Jojoba acts as your carrier oil. You can also make this into a body spray by adding the same combination of essential oils into a spray bottle with 30 ml vodka and 60 ml of spring, sparkling or distilled water. 

Deodorant Balm 

My favourite recipe takes about 15 minutes to make, yields approximately 60 ml and has a shelf life of 6 months.
15 ml 1 tablespoon shea butter or cocoa butter
15 ml 1 tablespoon coconut oil
15 ml 1 tablespoon baking soda
15 ml 1 tablespoon cornstarch
30 ml 1 1/2 tablespoons grated beeswax
10 drops of an essential oil such as lemon (optional).

Measure first five ingredients into small metal bowl. Add ¼ cup of water to a small pot. Create a double boiler by placing metal bowl on top. On medium heat, stir ingredients until melted. Remove from heat and add essential oils. Stir. Let cool before storing in airtight container.

2. I am having a very difficult time finding body wash and shampoo that doesn't contain sodium laureth sulfate. If you can provide a list of brands to look for, that would make my hunt a lot easier!

You’re right: anything that makes suds will often have SLS as an ingredient. My blog post covers some shopping tips to help. Because the David Suzuki Foundation is a charitable organization, we cannot endorse companies or products. However, there are a few resources that can help: 

3. What exactly does it mean if a beauty product is "organic" anyway? For example, one 'organic' face cream has a long list of botanicals and essential oils with cyclopentasiloxane in the middle of the list. One shampoo contained sodium hydroxymethylglycinate in the ingredients. If the organic products can have one or two of the nasty 12 in them, what about all the other manufacturers?

To ensure you are getting a truly organic product, you want to make sure it has a certified label. The most common of which would be the USDA organic label, but check out Ecolabelling. It’s a great resource that lists all certified organic labels and those labels you’ll find on cosmetic products too.

To avoid the Dirty Dozen chemical ingredients we’ve identified, definitely download our brand new wallet-sized shopper’s guide.

4. What would be helpful is a pocket guide of the healthy products we can buy in Canada. It’s very frustrating for me to take the time to research products and then find out no one here carries them. Do you have any suggestions?

The David Suzuki Foundation has developed a wallet-sized shopper’s guide based on the Dirty Dozen most toxic ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics. It doesn’t list brands or where to get them, but provides some general guidelines for what to look for that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

Leaping Bunny also has a wallet-sized shopper’s guide, which deals with products not tested on animals. They identify companies, brands and even specify those made in Canada.

Ask your local store to carry a particular product. As a consumer, you can vote with your dollar at your neighborhood grocery or health food store. Best of luck with your next stroll down the aisle. 

5. If I want to know what is in Colgate's "Total" toothpaste, it says on the tube that I can phone a 1-800 number. There’s not even a website for contact. I was very surprised to know that the ingredients are not listed on the tube itself. How many people will really take the time to phone a 1-800 number?

You’re right. Not all ingredient lists appear on the product itself. Sometimes you need to look on the box, packaging or the sheet of information that may be tucked inside — if you haven’t already recycled those.

Another way to find out what’s in your toothpaste is to visit the Skin Deep database. Skin Deep tests and ranks products and when you search by a product name you can also find the full list of ingredients, along with all their list of health concerns.

Like you, the David Suzuki Foundation would also like to see better labeling of personal care products, here’s how you can help. Send an on-line letter to our Minister of Health, then pass it on! 

Click here for Part 2 of Your Beauty Questions Answered.