(Photo via moi)
Healing Balms for Ultra-Dry, Cracked, Sensitive Skin
After my Clean Beauty Swap for Beginners post I wanted to write up the best clean beauty swap for sensitive or post-treatment skin. I used Aquaphor on my face during the most painful resurfacing treatment of my life — round 1 of a Peel + IPL + PDT trio. Because of this, I can attest to the importance of keeping a multipurpose balm for the skin in your beauty cabinet.
The healing ointment serves the purpose of providing barrier-compromised skin with a form of protection from the air, from dryness, and from environmental pollutants, keeping wounds moist for a speedy recovery. Aquaphor in particular is used on everything from diaper rash and dry, cracked heels, to minor burns and abrasions. Think of it like an artificial suit of armor for your skin, one of the only OTC solutions standing between the proverbial "salt" and "wound." It has never worked on my particularly dry skin, and I generally dislike Aquaphor's goopy, non-absorptive texture; but some form of balm is necessary.
Whatever the cause of your skin's delicate state, this type of ointment should accompany you throughout your healing process from raw to resurfaced skin, as well as from Sahara-like dryness back to hydration.
Another way to use the products is on your lips. I suffer from chronically dry lips and try to chug as much water as possible, but will admit that these types of balms aren't my favorite for lip-care. I personally prefer oils like Marula or Plum.
Still, jet-setting models and celebs, who spend tons of time in dry, recycled plane air, adore beauty balms like the Aussie gem, Lucas' Pawpaw's Ointment ($24), which Nicole Richie considers the most underrated beauty product of all time.
A good friend of mine swears by Lanolin for skin that falls into the "reptile-dry" category, and they recently launched a cute line of fruity Lanolips that I featured on Brit + Co.
The fact is that these multi-purpose balms can be life-saving for those with extra-dry skin, skin with a compromised lipid-barrier layer, or sensitive AF post-treatment skin on its way to healing.
Scroll down to skip over the explanation and context to see the healthy swaps I've chosen!
(Photo via Instagram @goop)
Why Go Green?
There is a debate in beauty surrounding the use of petroleum-derivatives like petrolatum — Aquaphor's main active ingredient — and mineral oils in our products. While they've been regular go-to's in our beauty cabinets for years, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau shared on her blog that they suffocate the skin.
Another clue that they aren't all they're cracked up to be is that their use is regulated in the European Union. As in, it is illegal for European companies to include these in their beauty products. Dayle Breault Hagag, the Goddess of Skin and celebrity-beloved esthetician and skincare line founder, is another staunch opponent of these harmful toxins in our skincare.
Beauty Editor sums up the arguments against the use of mineral oil and petroleum-ingredients:
(1) They're carcinogenic! EWG published research that reveals petrochemicals derived from petroleum-based ingredients are linked to cancer and other health concerns. These health-sabotaging ingredients, like 1,4 dioxane, contaminate up to 80% of our OTC beauty products, totally unregulated.
(2) We can't metabolize them. The Journal of Women's Health published findings revealing that MOSH (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) accumulate in our bodies over time, fed to our babies via breast milk. It's a similar principle to why we were told not to swallow gum as kids.
(3) They block pores. The same barrier-forming quality that locks contaminants out makes these substances awful for other skin conditions. Think: clogged pores, worsened acne, etc. They are also detrimental for sun-burnt skin, trapping heat in, and studies show that they can lead to the development of candidiasis (yeast) infections in infants.
(4) They prevent further moisturization. This piggy-backs off of point 3. Basically, the barrier they form prevents other moisturizing and nourishing ingredients from absorption. They lock everything in and keep everything out.
(5) They are endocrine-disrupting and wreak hormonal hell. This is the worst news for someone like me! Those of us with hormonal imbalances, or underlying autoimmune susceptibility to hormonal disruption, should avoid these products as they can disrupt the delicate endocrine balance.
Why The U.S. government Hasn't Already Acted (but will)
The research exists to form the logical connection between petroleum-derived ingredients and petrochemicals with damaging health-consequences, hence why the E.U. has already forbidden the use of these substances in beauty products. So why haven't we?
Simply put, it is easier to pass pro-health legislation in the E.U. This is particularly evident in their food supply, the quality of which they take ultra-seriously. Produce you eat abroad won't be as likely to contain certain pesticides and chemicals in it, nor will the meat be riddled with added hormones and toxins like we consume here. These regulations to prioritize health can be as major as passing a "Sugar Tax," or as subtle as forcing companies to label products containing genetically modified ingredients.
(Photo via Instagram @goop)
To understand why, it takes a little bit of context. (Don't worry — I have an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a graduate-level degree that encompassed Policy!) First, know that European countries like France invest more funds in state-provided healthcare to their citizens, constituents, and even immigrants. Since they pay more for their inhabitants' health-care costs, it saves them money over the long-term to invest in constituent and resident health.
By taking responsibility for healthcare, positive health outcomes in the population becomes a shared objective. Their Sugar Tax came years earlier than ours — why? Because if you develop a lifelong condition like diabetes there, it becomes a costly problem for the government's state-funded healthcare system. Regulations that promote positive health outcomes — even while restricting businesses — work towards that shared goal.
In the United States, however, regulations that will hinder the growth of a major market actor are kept at bay with the help of lobbyists.
The politics of the Beauty Lobby
Lobbyists are kind of like "Congressional Influencers" mixed with "Corporate Mercenaries." The major market actors hire firms and individuals to protect and advocate on behalf of their business interests. They are endowed with the funds, goods, and access to policy-makers to help protect their clients' market interests — which are linked to the business’ profits and the strengths of the U.S. economy, but not directly linked to long-term health outcomes.
Meanwhile, activists who would like to bring change face an uphill battle. Social causes need to raise awareness, beginning with outreach to constituents at the grass-roots levels, and then they have to raise funds to push their angle behind-the-scenes in Congress. It's no easy feat for "younger" causes, which lack funds, lack precedence, and can even be ridiculed in the beginning.
(Photo via Formula Botanica)
There is a lobby behind virtually ever sector of our economy, from milk and dairy farms, to gasoline, to corn. You've undoubtedly heard of the "Pro-Gun Lobby" or the "Anti-Gun Lobby" lately. In order to play a role in policy-making, our present political climate requires a powerful lobbyist presence to really get into the game. But the good news is that the organic beauty market is flourishing, include the luxury sector. In other words, the funds are there for green business to start getting in on the beauty policy game. Woo-hoo!
Just remember that as long as health-prioritizing regulations will cost the most powerful market actors money and profits — including beauty industry moguls — these regulations won't be easy to get passed. The good news is that the demand for clean, green beauty is definitely on the rise. So even if money talks, there's hope! It just takes time and effort.
(Photo via Instagram @hereandnowcreative.co)
The Clean-er, Green-er, Health-Conscious Swap
I don't want to take a stance on whether or not I support government-funded healthcare or not in this article. Really, the point I am trying to make is that the political context can create either "value-congruent" and "value-disparate" policy-goals between constituents and their value systems, pitting us for or against those policy aims of big business.
To me, it's all about the analysis and learning how to work within the existing system to make empowered choices that are pro-health, pro-wellness, pro-environment, and pro-market. I believe in compromise and that all of these differing values can exist together, not that we have to totally sacrifice one aim for the other. That's why I love reminding people that at the end of the day, big businesses answer to us — the consumers. If we make it known that we want petroleum-free beauty products, they will make those changes in order to protect their profits.
Here are two green, non-toxic alternatives to Aquaphor that I've tried and trust:
(Photo via Instagram)
(1) LOLI Beauty Date Nut Brûlée ($68)
I adore this product! Not only did it help restore it to optimal health as a part of my post-treatment skin regimen, but it honestly soothes the skin like no other. I am a huge fan of using ceramides in skincare to restore barrier-compromised skin, which is part of why Epionce's and First Aid Beauty's lines are so great for sensitive skin. However, of all the products I've tried, and the Date Nut Brûlée was the gentlest and most healing for my skin.
It uses food-grade ingredients, sending date nut oil, olive oil, Tamanu oil, and sunflower wax onto the roughest, driest, most-compromised areas of your body. It was inspired by an ancient Egyptian miracle salve, and uses the most natural ingredients you can find to create its nourishing, skin-plumping, protective effects. It feels like velvet!
Rather than using empty fillers like Aquaphor, you're applying healing ingredients like fatty acids, vitamin E, and minerals like calcium, copper, and Zinc to the skin. Not only are you making it feel better and keeping the skin moist to promote healing, but you're also giving your skin the ingredients it needs to grow healthy over the long-term.
Tip: You can also use it as a makeup remover!
(Photo via Instagram)
(2) One Love Organics Skin Savior Multi-Tasking Wonder Balm ($49)
This fabulous product is an ECOCERT Organic Cosmetic award-winner! It uses coconut oil, mango butter, jojoba, and chia seed to bring balance to your skin morning and night. I actually wrote about chia — and this product in particular — in my post on Superfoods in Skincare for Brit + Co. The owner, Suzanne LeRoux, shared that chia was an omega 3-rich, food-grade ingredient she benefited so much from that she wanted to create a skincare product to spotlight it, which lead to the balm — the first product she ever made!
Tip: Combine it with a mineral powder to create a DIY foundation! I am totally going to try this with my loose mineral powder foundation by Lily Lolo ($22).
(Photo via Instagram @kourtneykardash)
Kourtney Kardashian recently went to D.C. with the EWG to put her star-power behind the cause of non-toxic beauty, but even the Kardashians can't solve this problem alone.
Similarly to the way I re-prioritized my lifestyle to make health + wellness a priority — sacrificing my salary and benefits to do so — I value the passage of pro-health legislation and believe in subtly tweaking the status quo to put citizens' health first. But since it takes a while for change to get picked up by the mainstream, it's important to educate yourself and to take matters into your own hands.
Have you checked your beauty products contain mineral oil or petroleum-derivatives? Tell me in the comments below!
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