By Barbara Kessler

After the Environmental Working Group released research on toxins in beauty products showing that teen girls could be especially vulnerable (see our blog), we took a closer look at alternative beauty supplies. These products opt for botanicals and other natural and organic ingredients over the suspect synthetic chemicals — phthalates, parabens and made-made fragrances — that can lurk in your body butter and play games with your hormone or immune system.

The happy news: Natural products are gaining ground in stores. We found everything listed below at Main Street outlets like Target, Walgreens, Ulta,,, and Whole Foods. And the labels are getting quite explicit, many note when they’re paraben- and phthalate-free. While we can’t scientifically endorse the samplings below, we can say we have used most of them and found them to be effective — and as pampering and great-smelling — as many of their conventional cousins.

Ready to transition to more natural stuff? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Jason brand shampoos and conditioners. This company was founded in 1959) giving the brand solid cred with natural product users. Jason’s scented hair products derive their fragrance from natural extracts. Want, or need, to skip the fragrance? Jason’s Fragrance Free Daily Shampoo and Conditioner are fresh-smelling (probably the aloe vera), certified organic and can each be had for under $10 for a 16 oz. bottle. Want a little more smell-good in the luscious locks? Jason’s offers some naturally scented shampoos.
  • Desert Essence Organics is another botanically infused line of body care goods with some strong contenders for your hair care. This relatively new line is owned by the 30-year-old company (Avalon Organics) that claims to have brought Tea Tree Oil products to the United States. The environmentally minded company pledges that the natural ingredients they use support sustainability around the world. We like the awesome smell of the Red Raspberry Shampoo and Conditioner, scented with raspberry leaf extract. Retail price: $8.99 per 8 oz. tube.
  • Yes to Carrots facial moisturizer. We’ve only sampled this, but it looks promising, feels great and is popping up on shelves everywhere. The moisturizers come in three varieties aimed at dry, normal and oil skin: Yes To Carrots with carrot seed oil and carrot juice; Yes To Tomatoes with, yeah, you guessed it, and Yes To Cucumbers. All three have vitamins and antioxidants. Yes to That.
  • Alba creams and moisturizers, such as the Aloe & Green Tea Moisturizer. This slinky light cream works for all skin types and all ages. Its perfect for teens needing a little relief from sun exposure or a daily skin protector. It comes with green tea to fight free radicals. You can feel good about Alba’s environmental attitude, which extends to how it runs its solar-powered shop, by recycling paper, planting trees and carbon counting. As for what’s inside the stuff, Alba follows the EU Safe Cosmetics guidelines, which are more stringent than those in the U.S., and has been transitioning over to become paraben-free this year.
  • Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm. Still a leader in its field after a couple decades, Burt’s keeps churning out new stuff and improving standbys, like their lip balms, tints and glosses. We like the lip balms made with honey, especially the one with Pomegrante Oil. It’s so smooth and not greasy. Lips seeking color will find it in Burt’s lip shimmers. Veteran (if not beautifically named) Burt’s also features a guide to buying natural products on its website. Their Herbal Blemish Stick with tea tree leaf oil is worth a look. We’re not absolutely sure it works as well as its conventional competitors, but we think it comes close. Our sales helper at Ulta says it flies off the shelf (testament either to teen-age blemish angst or it’s effectiveness?). The label shows that it contains Willowbark, a natural salicylic acid.

We’ll save war paint for another day. There are some problematic ingredients, like aluminum, in items that involve colorants, though they’re not the highest toxicity. We don’t want to travel too far into toxic-land on this one trip.

In the meantime, you can check out how your mascara, eyeliner, blush and foundation measures up by checking the toxicity scale on EWG’s Skin Deep.

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