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May 16, 2008

No More Parabens!

The seal of petrochemical-free

by Mollie Chen

The beauty products cluttering up my desk promise to clear my skin, smooth my wrinkles, erase my sun damage, quiet my mind, and tone my butt. (Never mind that I never thought I had wrinkles until I started working at Conde Nast.) I find it all utterly baffling. Even more baffling, however, is that increasingly many of these very expensive, very packaged products bear cheery labels professing their all-natural, organic, and sustainable properties. With all the talk about toxic parabens and petrochemicals, I am slowly trading out my old-school products in favor of green alternatives. But it's not easy separating the good green stuff from the icky synthetic stuff--even the Whole Foods beauty section can be a bit overwhelming.

As Burt's Bees' Mike Indursky said at the recent Natural Products Association press conference, "There are a lot of products out there claiming to be natural and a lot of them have nice flowers on their labels. But that doesn't mean anything." Something I didn't realize is that the term "natural" is not regulated. Anyone, even a company testing its paraben-laden shampoos on animals and filling up landfills by the dozen, can claim to be green. The NPA, which is helmed by industry big wigs like Indursky, Aubrey Organics' Curt Valva, and Weleda's Erk Schuchhardt, recently launched a new seal that aims to help befuddled consumers like myself. They will only certify the products that meet four simple criteria: They must be nonsynthetic (95 percent all-natural ingredients); safe; not tested on animals; and sustainable (biodegradable and environmentally sensitive). The bottom line, Josh Dorfman, the Lazy Environmentalist, said, "Is that we want to stop putting crap into our bodies and stop putting crap into the environment." Consumers can expect to start seeing the seal as early as midsummer. Some of my tried-and-true favorites: Burt's Bees grapefruit and sugar beet shampoo and lip balms, Dr. Hauschka sunscreens, and Kiss My Face tinted moisturizer.


I hadn't heard of that brand of sunscreen. I wonder if it is the type of sunscreen that is coral-safe? (Did you know that most drugstore brands of sunscreen contain chemicals that harm coral?) I clicked on the link you provided. I didn't see them advertising that the sunscreen is coral-safe, but I would imagine it probably is.

I always try to encourage my readers to be responsible visitors when they visit Hawaii. Wearing coral-safe sunscreen when they snorkel is something I encourage, but finding the safe sunscreen can be difficult. I've only found two brands that are advertised as coral-safe.

I use Say Yes to Carrots, from Wallgreens. Great product...and no parabens!

thanks for the tips! there are so many great green brands out there. i ran across panpuri products when researching our spa insert and the body washes and creams are packaged beautifully and smell ridiculously good. i also just got preview samples of jurlique's biodynamic beauty line -- eye creams, serums, and night lotions. they focus on troubleshooting skin problems without scary chemical additives. they're made from herbs and plants from organic farms in south australia. i'd love to hear about more of your favorites too!

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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