I asked on Instagram a while back about blog topics people would like me to write about, and quite a few people requested my recommendations of natural skin, hair and beauty products. After a bit of a blogging hiatus (Macbook troubles!) I am finally getting around to compiling what will be a series of posts on natural products, starting today with non-toxic makeup.
My real introduction to the importance of chemical-free products came six months after my Lyme Disease diagnosis, in the summer of 2017 when I started seeing a new Lyme practitioner in London, and I was presented with a whole new treatment plan. Alongside starting IV treatment and a revised medication, supplement and diet protocol, my practitioner also stressed that I would need to make some lifestyle changes, most importantly focusing on limiting my exposure to chemicals and toxins. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection which attacks the immune system, and as chemicals can be harmful and have a detrimental effect on immune function, it’s really important for patients to ensure that they avoid anything with high levels of toxins where possible. In addition to this, I also suffer from Mast Cell Activation Disorder, a condition which makes the body react inappropriately to certain triggers, causing the release of chemicals which have a negative effect on the body, in my case often causing allergic reaction and even anaphylaxis. With Mast Cell, certain foods, chemicals and fragrances can act as severe triggers, so limiting chemical exposure is critical to minimising painful and dangerous reactions.
I was instructed to go as ‘chemical-free’ as I could, changing everything from cleaning products, haircare, soap and shower products, skincare and makeup. It just so happened that we were moving apartments at the time, so once we got into our new place we started from scratch with all our home products and toiletries, switching to natural and toxin-free wherever possible. I went on recommendations from my practitioner, reviews from blogs online, and what the sales clerks in Whole Foods and Planet Organic advised, and discovered some really great alternative brands for cleaning, toiletries and shower products. However, haircare, beauty & cosmetics were a whole different ball game, and I quickly came to the realisation that decent replacements for my long-time favourites would be more difficult to find. Through some pretty tedious trial and error I slowly built up a solid collection of hair and skincare products which worked well for me, but I was still left with the most problematic shelves in my cabinet to replace; those containing my makeup.
I’ve always loved wearing makeup, and growing up with my mother working as a makeup artist I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different products and looks. When I got sick I inevitability stopped wearing as much makeup, a pretty unsurprising side effect of not leaving the house very often, but it also meant that when I did go somewhere or was able to attend a social event, it was even more important to me to try and cover up the tell-tale signs of my illness and fatigue with makeup, just making me feel a little better about myself and a little less self-conscious. So you can imagine that I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of finding new natural makeup items when I was already attached to the brands I loved and products that worked for me. At my practitioner’s urging I reluctantly purchased a few non-toxic makeup products to try out, and whilst I found some non-toxic items like mascaras were okay, I was somewhat less than impressed with the foundation, lip and eyeshadow offerings I found. They just didn’t work in the way I was used to, and I put them to the back of my cupboard, out of sight and out of mind, moving forwards focusing on the other ways in which I could lower my exposure to chemicals without compromising on my cosmetics.
Fast forward to May 2018 and I was in the US getting Stem Cell Treatment. As I’ve written about before, it was explained in detail by the doctors and practitioners at the clinic how critical the first 100 days post-Stem Cells would be to the healing and recovery process. During the 100 days my new cells would be replicating at a rate of up to ten times every ten days, and as my immune system would be shifting and starting up again, it was absolutely imperative that I did not do anything to sabotage this process or risk harming my new cells during this stage. I was quietly grateful that I had already made the shift to chemical-free in most aspects of my life and home, as there was so much to think about in terms of recovery it was good to not have to start from scratch learning about this aspect of protecting my immune system. However, hearing my doctor stress the importance of reducing exposure to chemicals as much as possible was the push I needed to overhaul my makeup bag. I bought some basic products in LA the day before my Stem Cell surgery, and over the 100 days slowly did more research and purchased bits when I found something that I felt would work well for me, slowly discovering which brands I preferred and what to look out for. By doing this I was able to avoid chemicals completely for my 100 days, using only natural products in all aspects of my life, and I am hopeful that this was helpful in allowing my new stem cells to get to work and do their job without interference.
I started this blog to give an honest and realistic account of what it’s like to live with Lyme Disease, and part of that for me is acknowledging that sometimes I have to make sure being sick isn’t the only thing in my life, the only thing I think about and what I base my entire life around. For that reason, sometimes it just isn’t practical to do exactly what’s best for your body 100% of the time, and after a few years of being unwell I have come to realise that if I can do 90% and use the other 10% to keep mentally sane and happy then that is overall just as good for me, if not better. For me personally, that translates for example as sometimes pushing myself to go for a short walk outside, even if it means I will be extra sore and fatigued the next day, or eating a gluten-free donut occasionally, even if it’s not made with 100% organic and sugar free ingredients, because these things make me happy and allow me to have glimpses of moments in my life that aren’t wholly dictated by being sick. I’ve found for me this theory holds true for my approach to chemicals, and how I implement natural products in my day to day life. Whilst I do stick to chemical-free completely for cleaning products, shower gel and soaps, in terms of make-up I compromise. After the 100 days my doctor gave me the okay to relax a little and my Mast Cell has been greatly improved over the past eighteen months, so my compromise is that during the week I wear all natural makeup products, but on the weekend or for a special event or occasion, I allow myself to use ‘normal’ makeup items without obsessing over the ingredients, meaning I wear natural makeup approximately 80% of the time. Another thing that has helped me balance this was my discovery of the app ‘Think Dirty’. This is an amazing app that holds databases of beauty, hair and cosmetic products, lists their ingredients and identifies potentially harmful ones, whilst assigning each item a ‘toxic rating’. By using this app, it allows me to be in control of the products I’m using, and as there has been a real shift towards some of the bigger brands focusing on using more ethical and sustainable ingredients, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that a lot of my long-time favourites don’t score badly at all by this rating system. As with anything to do with chronic illness, this is just what I have found works for me, and it is always best to discuss making any changes to the products you use with your doctor or health practitioner first.
Throughout my journey of learning about and discovering natural cosmetics, I have built up a really good makeup collection of essential items I love and would recommend to others starting out in making some changes to their makeup bag. As I relied so heavily on online reviews when I was first experimenting, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my favourite products, so here goes!
NUI Cosmetics Natural Liquid Foundation £39.99
This is my current favourite non-toxic foundation, and the closest finish I have found to the more mainstream foundations that I have been used to wearing. I have naturally very dry skin, and whilst it means I rarely get spots or blemishes, it does mean that I need a foundation that is very moisturising in texture, and doesn’t dry out once applied to my face. The NUI Cosmetics formula is aloe vera based and also contains both shea butter and vitamin E, making it especially hydrating, and I find it to be very easily applied and blended. It is buildable, but still offers light to medium coverage, so if you prefer full coverage then this probably isn’t going to be right for you, but I personally love this foundation and find it superior to any other liquid foundation I’ve tried. (I wear the shade 4. Intense Taiao)
Inika Organic Liquid Foundation £33
I bought this foundation after being recommended it by a Lyme friend, and have heard lots of people raving about it, so I have included it here even though it isn’t a personal favourite of mine. It is fully organic with no nasty ingredients, and is especially recommended for those with very sensitive or easily inflamed skin. It is moisturising, but is extremely lightweight, and just doesn’t offer enough coverage for what I want from a foundation. However, if you are after a foundation that is closer a tinted moisturiser and gives a very natural finish, this is definitely worth trying (I have the shade nude but probably could have gone a shade darker)
Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Colour Correct CC Cream £15.99
I panic bought this foundation in Whole Foods in Beverly Hills the day before my Stem Cell surgery, not even knowing what a CC cream really was. I wanted something that would cover the redness I had developed from all the detox IVs, and also protect me from getting redder as a result of sunburn, and the sales assistant recommended me this to help with both. Although not technically a foundation, I actually found the coverage to be far higher and more easily buildable than other foundations I’ve tried (like the Inika one above for example), and the fact that it has SPF 30 is an added bonus. I’ve included it as a recommendation as it’s the best foundation I have found at a lower price point. (I have the shade sheer tan, which works for me in the summer but is a little dark for January)
Savvy Minerals Foundation £39.99
Whilst I almost always use liquid foundations because of my dry skin, I’ve included this powder foundation by Savvy Minerals as I was really pleasantly surprised by how well this applied and stayed put, and I wore it loads back in the summer as it feels so light and breathable on my skin. Like all the Savvy Minerals products the ingredients list is super-clean, and I’ve found that I only need a very small amount each time so you get a decent amount for your money
Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder £23.99
I am a big fan of the Mineral Fusion makeup ranges; Every product is paraben-free, contains no chemical dyes or unnecessary ingredients, and just about everything I have tried I have ended up loving. This powder is highly buildable, and can deliver anything from a light to full-coverage matte finish and is the only face powder I use on a daily basis. (I wear shade neutral 2)
Lavera Natural Concealer £6.60
I use this concealer mainly for under-eyes, and for a very affordable price it does a decent job at covering up my pretty serious dark circles. I tend to get very dry skin under my eyes and find some concealers can cake or settle into lines, but this avoids that and managed to keep the area looking moisterised. I don’t tend to get many spots or blemishes but for the odd one this seems to work to cover those as well. (I wear shade Ivory 01)
Pacifica DreamLit Illuminating Under-Eye Brightener £15.99
For days when I’m particularly fatigued of have serious discolouration under my eyes I use this concealer, and find if I apply a little both before and after foundation it really brightens up the whole under-eye area leaving a very natural finish (I wear shade Bare)
Lavera So Fresh Mineral Rouge Powder £12.99
This is my least favourite of the blushes featured in this post, but I’ve included it because for a very reasonable price it does what it says on the tin and is a pretty good product. I actually really like most of the shades in the range (especially this one – Plum Blossom 02), and the pigmentation is decent, but unfortunately I just don’t find it very blendable, so I don’t reach for it as often as some of the others in my makeup bag
Mineral Fusion Blonzer Duo £27.99
This was another Beverly Hills Whole Foods purchase, and one that I’ve been really pleased with. The compact contains a shimmery bronzer and matte light pink blush, both of which are easily blendable and have good colour pay-off. I would say the bronzer is probably a little warmer than my ideal, but as I don’t actually wear bronzer very often, for the rare occasion when I want to wear it, this works just fine
Savvy Minerals Blush – I do believe you’re blushin’ £21
This mineral based blush is absolutely beautiful – I’m obsessed with this shade (so much so that I can forgive the terrible name!), and is definitely my most worn. It’s paraben-free, with no synthetic fragrances, and lasts really well throughout the day
Mineral Fusion Eyeshadow Trio £18.99
As I still tend to use my existing makeup for special occasions or if I want to create more exciting looks, I only really need neutral eye shadows for my natural day-to-day wear and this trio works really well for that. It contains the shades, matte coffee, shimmering taupe and matte vanilla, and I use a combination of these almost every day. As I mentioned before the skin around my eyes is particularly sensitive and can be prone to cause makeup to crack or cake into lines, but these apply really smoothly and stay put. They are not extremely pigmented, but for creating neutral eyes the colour pay-off is more than adequate
Inika Pressed Mineral Eye Shadow Duo – Platinum Steel £22
If I’m not using the Mineral Fushion shadows, then I’m reaching for this duo for my other go-to everyday eye look. Both shades have a subtle shimmer, one is a metallic silver, and the other a darker charcoal colour. The pigmentation is really good on these shadows, and I use the combination of the two to make a pretty effective smoky eye (in combination with the Savvy Minerals Liner – see below!)
Savvy Minerals Eyeshadow – Inspired £12
I bought this shadow for a wedding I attended during my 100-days post Stem Cells and I’ve actually ended up wearing it a lot. It’s a beautiful muted mauve colour, highly pigmented and blends beautifully. My only critique is that you need to wear a decent eye primer with it or it can fall, but applied properly with a primer it lasts well and doesn’t drop
Savvy Minerals Eyeliner – Jet Setter – £12
This is a beautiful eyeliner with really good colour pay off. I don’t wear black eye liner every day, but this works really well with the Inika Eyeshadow Duo for a really bold smoky eye
Lavera Soft Eyeliner Pencil – Grey £7.99
I use this eyeliner 90% of the time and for a really good price it does exactly what I need it too. Glides on really easily, highly pigmented and doesn’t bleed. I’m not a big eyeliner wearer so I’m sure there are better ones out there, but for my use it is perfect
Pacifica Stellar Gaze Length & Strength Mineral Mascara £12.99
This is definitely my favourite non-toxic mascara. It can be layered up to go from a very subtle effect to more volume, and the brush is really thick which enables it to be very easily applied. It’s long-lasting and helps even my super light eyelashes stand out
Lavera Intense Volumizing Mascara – Black £5.99
This is the other mascara I use, because although it is ‘Black’ it’s not as dark as the Pacifica one, I would describe it as half-way between black and brown, so it’s a good alternative for a more natural effect
Lavera Eyebrow Pencil – Blonde 02 £5.99
My eyebrow routine is extremely minimal, so I can’t offer much in terms of recommendations for many products, I simply use this eyebrow pencil every single day which works perfectly for my very blonde brows
Savvy Minerals Lip gloss -Embrace £21
I have to admit I don’t wear lip gloss very often so I’m definitely not the best judge, but for the rare occasion when I do find myself wanting to, this dark nude pink is perfect and not too sticky (the biggest reason why I don’t like lip gloss!)
Savvy Minerals Lipstick – Uptown Girl £17
This is another great Savvy Minerals lip product. The formula is creamy, without becoming so soft that it bleeds or melts off, and although the shade is very natural, the pigmentation and staying-power is really good. I picked this dusky rose shade as it’s a really good everyday wear that I’ve got lots of use out of
Inika Organic Lipstick – Orchid Fields £19.50
This was the first natural lip product I bought, and to be honest I haven’t really had to look much further because the Inika lipsticks suit me really well. They contain avocado and argan oils, ensuring they are really hydrating and don’t cause my lips to dry or crack, and this shade is subtle with the perfect amount of shimmer
GLOSSWORKS Nail Polish – Tanfastic Nude £12
This is by far my most worn nail polish, I probably wear it about 80% of the time, and I literally have no complaints with it. I picked it up in Planet Organic before a wedding, and still love this shade as much as when I first bought it. It goes on really easily, has a lovely smooth glossy finish, and doesn’t chip or fade as long as you put on the recommended two coats.
Benecos Nail Polish – French Lavender £6.95
I’ve included this nail polish because I think for the price it is brilliant value, and they have a wide range of shades which include some fun options like this light purple I picked out. It’s free from all harsh ingredients and doesn’t dry out, my only criticism is that the applicator is a little big and clumsy, although this could say more about my nail painting technique than anything else!
Little Ondine Nail Polish £9.99
I was immediately drawn to this beautiful deep teal shade, and purchased it after being intrigued by the package’s claim that this nail polish was both scentless and peelable. The shades are amazing considering all the ingredients are natural, and the lack of scent is really noticeable for anyone with sensitivity so that’s a definite plus, but I found the fact that the polish is peelable to be more of an inconvenience than anything else. It’s great if you want to paint your nails for a specific day or event, but I find that even by the second day it is peeling off unintentionally, which means your lovely painted nails just don’t last very long. I keep meaning to experiment with using a top coat to see if this helps, but I’m yet to find a decent chemical-free one – if anyone has any recommendations please send them my way!
I hope you find these reviews helpful, and if you have any recommendations of makeup products you love, I am always excited to hear about them! If you liked this post keep a lookout for my recommendations of hair, skincare and cleaning products that will be up soon.