A veteran magazine beauty editor/writer (and a member of the 40+ club), Genevieve Monsma created MediumBlonde to help Gen Xers and Baby Boomers age the way they want.


How Green Should You Go?

How Green Should You Go?

I was talking to a beauty industry executive the other day about clean/green/natural (insert your own earth-centric buzz word) beauty. She confessed that, while there is no single traditional skin, hair or makeup product that she views as particularly harmful, the quantity of beauty products laced with chemicals we use over a lifetime does give her pause. Like one pack of Twizzlers at the movies=not so bad. But eating sugary twists daily for the rest of your life=not so good.

So, to cope with her worries about the cumulative effects of chemicals, she opts for “cleaner” options whenever she doesn’t feel like she’s compromising on the result. For her, this means switching to a sulfate-free shampoo, a simple oil-based face cleanser, and a chemical-free (a.k.a. physical) sunblock with zinc oxide. What she won't give up: Retin-A, her Chanel perfume, and other traditional products she says have no “green” substitute. I'm generally in the same camp.

I do believe becoming more conscious of what we’re slathering on our bodies and faces makes some sense. And I’m certainly supportive of using and choosing ingredients and packaging that are more environmentally-friendly. However, I’m not convinced that all the supposed bad-guy ingredients (parabens, sulfates, oxybenzone) are as harmful to our health as some would have you believe. And having lived through the Nutrasweet, fat-free Snackwell, Atkins and juice-cleanse crazes, I’m averse to extreme…anything.

Thus, my approach to the green/clean movement is the old everything in moderation adage. I’ve switched my whole family to Schmidt’s Natural Deodorants (side note: If you opt to do this, now is the time. It takes the body about a week to adapt so I recommend transitioning at a time of the year when it’s drier and colder…and you don’t sweat as much.) I also regularly use GOOP’s Instant Exfoliating Facial (created by Juice Beauty, whose excellent acne line is helping to keep my son's skin clear); Vapour Beauty and RMS lip glosses and eyeshadows; Tata Harper Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint (pictured in Very Charming, above. I also love Very Naughty, a perfect cherry red, at left); Goe OilJohn Master’s Lavender Deep Conditioner; Coola Sunscreen; and the Grown Alchemist’s hand washes and creams. But I still use plenty of traditional products too. Like my executive friend, I’m not  parting with my Retin-A. Ditto for my Beauty Rx Glycolic Pads, mascara, and my expansive collection of eau de toilettes. But I figure balancing these formulas with some so-called greener options may do my body some good (or, at the very least, can’t hurt).

Which brings us to the obvious question: What does clean/green/natural even mean? From a regulatory standpoint, not much. Except for products that have an official USDA organic seal (which indicates that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic, a rarity in personal care products), the FDA, USDA (nor the CIA or FBI, hah) don’t oversee any of these terms or designations. Thus, it is largely up to us, as consumers, to become educated on reading ingredient labels (the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database can help guide you), to look for reputable certifications from international organizations (Europe is much stricter about formulations than the U.S.) such as Ecocert, and to find brands or retailers that we trust to curate clean/green/organic ingredients and products lines for us. If you opt to do the latter, I think Whole Body at Whole Foods offers a good, affordable, reputable selection of brands like Juice Beauty, Schmidt’s, and Dr. Hauschka. There are also a number of online retailers who have made finding effective, authentic clean beauty their specialty. A few I like:


The Detox Market



La Vert Beauty


A recent Harris Poll found that about 69 percent of women over the age of 35 are interested in going greener when it comes to their beauty regimens. Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you have any favorite green brands? How about traditional products that you'd never-ever give up? Email me at—or tell us all about it in the Comments below.

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