[Guest Post] What Happens When You Switch to Clean Cosmetics

So after Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt made me give up styling products, I figured the least they could do was come on over and tell us more about how ditching traditional, chemical-laden beauty products can be awesome and not as hard as that sounds. (Because it sounds hard.) And of course I’m excited because not only are they here to give us the play-by-play of what’s up in their bathroom cabinets these days, they’ve also got some interesting thoughts on how simplifying your beauty routine from an environmental perspective can help free you up from some of those impossible beauty industry-created standards too. Which is sweet.

Also, I’d like to put the phrase “stop chasing the beauty dragon” on a t-shirt. That is all.


photo of siobhan o'connor and alexandra spunt, summer hair challenge, no more dirty looks

Siobhan and Alexandra, sans styling products.


Hello! We’re the girls from No More Dirty Looks, the book and the blog that maybe some of you have heard of, thanks to the amazing Virginia. In case you haven’t, here’s the short version… Lots of really sketchy things are used in all of our trusted beauty products. Sketchy like unsafe, and sketchy like disgusting—it really runs the gamut. When we figured this out, and realized we were going to have to break up with all our favorite makeup and bodycare products, we were bummed to say the least.

To tackle this unthinkable task we devised a plan: We would start with what we cared about least (hello, body wash), then we’d tackle our hair, nails and salons visits—basically doing everything we could to delay swapping out our face products and our makeup. Then we’d take a few deep breaths and pray.

Big sighs all around, except that something kind of amazing happened. Rather quickly, we found that with very few exceptions, the natural, often organic products actually performed better than the crap we’d been using before. We also bought less stuff, multitasked with what we had and—la dee da—our skin and hair started behaving less like temperamental teenagers.

So we thought it would be fun to share a little tale of before and after—by body part, natch. 

Alexandra: This was a breeze for me. I already had the good sense to use Dr. Bronner’s and I wasn’t a huge body lotion girl. Now I barely lather in the shower and have introduced natural oils into my post-wash routine. We used to both experiment with things like Stri-Vectin now and then, but we’ve let that go. When you stop chasing the beauty dragon, things like stretch marks miraculously become much less of a big deal.

Siobhan: I sometimes used washes, which are loaded with fragrance, synthetic preservatives and foam boosters—none of which do anything for the skin. I also went through a Nivea Q10 body lotion phase because I thought it might… I’m actually not sure what I thought it would do, but it smelled weird and didn’t seem to do much. Now I use Bronner’s only where necessary, and I make my own scrubs with olive oil, salt, sugar and vanilla.

Alexandra: So much has changed here. For starters, I stopped shampooing altogether. I thought this was just a kooky experiment for the book, but I was so pleased with the result that I stuck with it. It’s been two years and counting now. This has eliminated my former need for handfuls of leave-ins. Now I use a clean, high-quality conditioner that leaves my natural oils alone. I have very dry, curly hair, so I need those oils.

Siobhan: I was a four-product-a-day girl, mostly to tame frizz in my thick wavy hair. I’d switch between pricey salon brands and pharmacy staples, and at some point learned that they contained basically the same ingredients, as well as silicone. Now I use only a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, and my hair has transformed. I actually like it air-dried now!

Alexandra: Like my hair, I’ve cut out all things foaming on my face. I sometimes indulge in creamy cleansers from my favorite organic, natural brands, and other days I wash with raw honey. Sometimes, I don’t even wash at all! I have a rotation of lovely serums, oils and creams. It’s hard to play favorites with these ones—they’re all so yummy.
Siobhan: I used to use pretty harsh cleansers to try to banish breakouts and stuff. They never worked but it was really hard to give them up anyway. Now I use gentle nonfoaming cleansers from my favorite natural lines, and I use pure oils on my face at night. The oils took some getting used to, but I love it now! Plus, it forces you to give yourself face massages, which I’d otherwise be way too lazy to do.

Alexandra: I love makeup. I love its transformative power and the way it can make you feel ready for the world. Besides waterproof mascara from mainstream brands—which I still indulge in sometimes—the products I use now perform better than the chemical ones of my past. They sit nicely on the skin, cover better, and come in rich pigments.
Siobhan: I haaaaated makeup but I had to try lots of things to review in the book, and turns out, I kind of love it now, too. I have sensitive skin, so I used to worry about trying new things for fear it might make me rashy. I’ve had very few skin issues with the natural lines, and have actually learned to love lipstick. I thought that day would never come.

Have you made any switches you love? Let us know in the comments?



Filed under Guest Post

10 responses to “[Guest Post] What Happens When You Switch to Clean Cosmetics

  1. I use plain sweet almond oil now after showering. That has been my biggest switch. My skin doesn’t seem that different than when I used to use lotions or smelly oils, except that I never get itchy like I used to now that I use an un-fragranced product. Oh, and it can be bought in bulk very cheaply, which is great. Besides washing my hair less (I was already using sulfate free shampoos), my greatest discovery has been creating bath bags of oatmeal and sunflower seeds. This combination heals the red bumps I get from dryness on my legs. I blogged about it here: http://www.theskindetective.com/2010/03/handmade-mondays-sunflower-and-oatmeal.html

  2. Annie

    I think my favorite part of switching to naturals is how I don’t dread bathing anymore! With chemical ridden products I almost always had itchy, uncomfortable rashes post shower time. Now with honey on my face, natural shampoo on my head and coconut oil all over, I actually enjoy the process. I haven’t had an allergic reaction after showering since! Hooray!

  3. Alexandra, would you be so kind as to share which high quality conditioner you use on your locks? This curly-headed lady would like to know. Thanks!

  4. I would LOVE to give up on shampoos, but I have very oily hair. By the end of day 2 without washing, it looks like I’ve dipped my head in grease and my hair is stringy and gross. Also, it causes breakouts on my forehead.

    Can anyone tell me more about the sulfate free shampoo? Or has anyone with oily hair had good luck with shampooing less often?

  5. Rachel

    Hi Anna, in an effort to ditch sulfates I first tried using diluted castille soap but my hair never felt clean. I then tried Avalon Organic and Kiss my face shampoos which don’t contain sulfates. These seem to work pretty well. I’m also trying to use cleaner cleansers and make-up removers. Can Alexandra tell us which creamy cleansers she uses? And can they recommend a good eye makeup remover? Thanks!

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