Living a healthy lifestyle has its challenges. There is much to consider when it comes to keeping our bodies properly nourished and protected from free radicals that often irritate our skin, eyes and respiratory systems. Over the past ten years, many people have embraced the slow food movement, switching to organic products that are locally and sustainably sourced, but there is still a lag in consumer interest in the natural skincare market, which lacks transparency and regulation.
I caught up with Terri and Marc Hall, owners of Integrity Botanicals, to find out more about the skincare industry and the misleading marketing tactics that so many brands use to make consumers believe they are buying a safe and healthy product. Terri encouraged me to try some of the natural products (most are organic, vegan, fair trade and sustainably packaged) she and Marc sell on their site just to get a sense of which brands are staying true to their claims.
I sampled skincare products from small lines operated mostly by artisans and, as Terri promised, all the ingredients were safe and nourishing. The essentials oils, natural fatty acids and fruit and herb extracts in many of the products produce almost instant results on skin that is dehydrated and constantly exposed to free-radicals. Many of the products have an earthy or fruity scent that is not overbearing, but rather something you would smell in nature.
Terri and Marc’s site has made it easy for consumers to shop in one place without having to worry that the products they are purchasing may be harmful or toxic to their body. I’ve listed some of my favorite skincare picks from Integrity Botanicals below my interview with the Halls, which sheds some light on the method behind their business and how they found some of the best and safest lines available.
Culture-ist: What inspired you to start Integrity Botanicals?
Integrity Botanicals: In January of 2011, I read a book called, “No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics“ by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt. It was an eye opening experience. Prior to reading this book, I had always been interested in nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, putting most of the emphasis on the food I was putting in my body, but never giving much consideration to the products I was using on my body. While reading the book, I was shocked to learn the lack of regulatory oversight in the beauty industry. I had always assumed that the FDA was protecting the safety of the consumer, but in the United States the industry is mostly self-regulated. The cosmetics industry has its own self-regulatory panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review(CIR), which thus far, has only evaluated 11 percent of the ingredients used in lipstick, deodorant and baby shampoo. Ninety-eight percent of all cosmetics sold today contain an ingredient that has not been evaluated for safety. So now you must be thinking, “Well, there must be must a huge list of banned substances in cosmetics, right?” Think again. As of June 2008, during its 30+-year history, the CIR had deemed only nine ingredients unsafe for use in cosmetics out of an estimated 12,500 currently in use. By comparison, Europe has banned over 1,000 ingredients.
Another issue highlighted in the book was the deceptive marketing practices employed by some companies in the beauty industry. A company can claim its particular products as being natural or organic even when all the ingredients listed on the label are not. Companies frequently highlight the most important or effective ingredients on the front of the label, but often times the ingredient list reveals that the star ingredient is at the bottom of the list, meaning there could be less than one percent of that ingredient added to the product.
As I continued to read and learn more about the potential health risks from chemicals found in conventional products, I put more thought into the impact of applying 15-20 beauty products on my skin daily. I began replacing my own conventional products with safer natural and organic alternatives. It was a daunting process, fraught with trial and error. I spent a lot of money trying out products that didn’t work or weren’t really natural. Needless to say, I had more than a few bad hair days trying out natural shampoos. And even more difficult was finding a natural deodorant that worked. Frustrated, I then turned to my husband (Marc) and said, There is a void in the market where someone can shop at one location and believe what they are buying is really natural and organic without having to take the time to read ingredients, look up what they are, where they come from and deem whether or not they are natural or filled with unsafe chemicals. We came up with the concept of having a store where every product is reviewed to ensure it is natural and is also evaluated for effectiveness. We personally test out every product we carry to make sure that it is a quality product that we like and would want to use ourselves. We select only the best products from the best natural brands. If you see something on our site, it is something that my husband and/or I have used and tested. Rather than overwhelming the consumer with a ton of options, we try to provide a focused selection of products that people can trust to be effective.
Integrity Botanicals: For one, the amount of research involved in evaluating product labels. For example, methylsulfonymethane is good for you, but methlyparaben is bad. A lot of natural ingredients are listed by either their Latin name or chemical name. We spent a lot of time cross-referencing ingredients against the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and other resources. A pleasant surprise for my husband was how much the appearance of his skin changed. He was always prone to breakouts, but his skin soon started to clear up, fine lines started to diminish and his skin had a really healthy glow. All of a sudden people were complimenting him on his skin, which never happened before. For me, my skin no longer felt itchy and dry after taking a shower. The natural goat’s milk soap made a huge difference in how moisturized my body felt. Secondly, my dry and itchy scalp issues cleared up after switching to natural shampoos and conditioners.
Culture-ist: What do you think is the most important thing for people to know when they are shopping for safe and healthy beauty products?
Integrity Botanicals: There are a lot of companies that market their products in a misleading way so you think they are natural and/or organic, but they often times contain parabens, petro-chemicals or other synthetics. Read ingredient labels and check for harmful ingredients and make sure the beneficial ingredients are towards the top of the ingredient list before buying a particular product.
Culture-ist: Out of all the fabulous products Integrity Botanicals sells, do you have any personal favorites?
Integrity Botanicals: Terri’s favorites: Indigo Wild- Zum (soap)Bar-Almond; 100% Blood Orange Nourishing Body Cream; In Love with Body Care (a new brand we just added); EST Soothe Greece Deodorant and Dark Chocolate Truffle Lip Balm; Healing Anthropology Rejuvenating Face Cream; Level Naturals Grapefruit Bergamot Body Butter; Naked Cosmetics Naturally Nude Single Eye Shadow in color #NN02
Marc’s favorites: Suki Exfoliate Foaming Face Cleanser; Suki Balancing Day Lotion; Indigo Wild – Zum (soap) Bar ““ Sea Salt; Weleda Pomegranate Firming Serum; Eco-Lips One World Coconut-Ginger Lip Balm; In Love with Body Care (Tough Love); EST Soothe Greece Deodorant; anything in Grapefruit Bergamot from Level Naturals (he’s obsessed!)
Culture-ist: Are there any organizations you work with that keep you abreast of the latest studies and policies having to do with safe and sustainable beauty products?
Integrity Botanicals: We are a part of the Green Business Network and donate every month to the Environmental Working Group’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Culture-ist: Are there any retail outlets or small markets where people can buy your products?
Integrity Botanicals: Currently, we do not have a brick and mortar location. It is definitely something we want to do down the road as we build our business. We also do not have a private label brand, but it is something we are interested in and are currently looking into. We do work with health advocate partners on special events to promote our e-boutique where we give out samples of products and educate people on our business and products we sell.
Eco-Lips: Organic Coconut-Ginger Lip Balm
Healing Anthropology: Rejuvenating Face Care Kit
Photos courtesy of Integrity Botanicals