I first met Aleigh Acerni about three or four years ago as a group of like minded women in our community gathered to talk about body image. At the time, Aleigh was the sassy, capable, spot-on editor of Skirt! Charlotte. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to get to know her, and she’s just the loveliest woman. Aleigh is brilliant and passionate and a thoughtful community member. I love her heart, I love her mind, and I am so excited to introduce you to her today and to let you know that there is more where this came from at her natural beauty blog, Indigo and Canary. Now, Aleigh…
I have very vivid memories of lying on my stomach as a young girl, watching my mom dab on foundation, blush, liner and eyeshadow, twirl on mascara, add color to her lips and press them together.
I was mesmerized by the transformative powers of makeup.
Fast-forward (many) years later, and I’m still captivated by the makeup counters’ promises of darker lashes, clearer complexions, disappearing blemishes and undereye circles, younger-looking skin. But it’s different for me now.
A few years ago, I read that lead had been discovered in 61 percent of lipsticks. (You can read the story for yourself, here: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=223).
I was shocked. I had assumed that if a beauty product was on the shelf, it was safe. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. In the U.S., testing of cosmetics is voluntary. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers the cosmetics industry to be self-regulating. Buyer beware, indeed.
Armed with this discovery, I started studying the ingredients in my favorite products. I realized that many of the items I’d used every day, for years, contained lots of unhealthy things that had been linked in some cases to cancer, hormonal imbalances, or other potential illnesses.
That changed things for me. I decided that what I put on my body is just as important as what I put in my body. Clear skin and shiny hair aren’t worth the potential risks of absorbing chemicals into my skin through products that promised to make me prettier. I started to seek out products that had natural ingredients and looked for recipes I could make at home.
The truly unexpected shift in my thinking came months later, when I realized that I’d stopped looking at the cosmetics counter as a place full of promise and started evaluating the products I used for their abilities to keep me healthy and feeling good about myself. In the process, I discovered that many of those products I’d used to “solve” my beauty woes had ended up actually making them worse. The smoothing shampoos I loved stripped my hair of its natural oils, making my scalp overproduce oil to compensate—so much so that if I went a day without washing my hair, it turned into a greasy mess. And the foundation I wore to even out my complexion was full of petroleum-derived ingredients that clogged my pores and made me break out.
Now I think of my beauty regimen as an extension of the things I do for my health, instead of looking at my makeup bag as a bunch of “fixes” for things I used to think of as problems. Sure, I still wear (organic) mascara to darken my lashes, but I’ve swapped my petroleum-laden foundation for a natural tinted moisturizer with SPF that protects my skin. It turns out my hair really isn’t that greasy. Even my yoga classes have a role to play in my “beauty” regimen—working out helps clear my pores (and my head).
To be fair, switching to natural products is no guarantee against illness or health issues. But one thing is for sure: Thinking about how to take care of myself instead of wishing for cosmetic fixes has made me a lot kinder and more grateful to my body than I ever was before.
And that is a gift I’m hoping to share.