Green Living: Face and body products that won’t make your skin crawl

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      Many of us have a skin-care regimen we follow unfailingly: cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and creams that we apply daily in pursuit of clearer, healthier, and younger-looking skin. Yet many of us are also unaware of the harmful ingredients lurking in the bulk of visage-related products: carcinogens, allergens, and hormone disrupters, among other toxins, that are enough to make our skin crawl.

      In fact, a widely distributed report completed by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2010 identifies 12 damaging ingredients most commonly found in skincare products, body-care items, and cosmetics. Among them: butylated hydroxyanisole or BHA, a possible human carcinogen; siloxanes, which may interfere with functions of the body’s endocrine system; and triclosan, the same stuff found in garbage bags, paint, and laundry detergent that has been seen to irritate skin and eyes.

      “I always tell people, ‘Look at the ingredients,’ ” Beata Kacy, local designer, organic skincare maker, and owner of Downtown Eastside studio and workshop Soigne (393 Powell Street), tells the Georgia Straight by phone. “There are all these weird numbers and letters and no one knows what they mean. If I ever see numbers, I would avoid that. It doesn’t sound natural to me.”

      A long-time craftswoman and founder of Railtown’s Octopus Studios, Kacy has been creating her own skin- and body-care products for the better part of two decades. Although there was a period where the local artist relied on mass-made moisturizers, she found that they exacerbated her dry skin. “Those creams never helped me,” she says, singling out the alcohol in the solutions. Alcohol is used in the majority of skincare items to help preserve them, Kacy explains, but it’s also known to cause bumps, enlarge pores, and dry out skin over time.

      For Kacy’s products, she uses natural ingredients like coconut oil, beeswax, vegetable glycerin, and jojoba oil. She’s also a big fan of aloe-vera gel, which helps soothe sores and acne, and apple-cider vinegar, which balances the skin’s pH levels. A selection of essential oils such as lavender, camomile, and geranium is also employed. In place of alcohol, Kacy uses witch hazel, a natural antiseptic that, according to her, functions like a skin freshener. “It doesn’t dry your skin like alcohol.”

      The maker sources the majority of her ingredients from Famous Foods (1595 Kingsway), a natural-food store, and runs a series of Skin Fitness workshops at Soigne, where she teaches Vancouverites how to concoct their own facial toners, creams, exfoliators, and hydrating body lotions at home. The three-hour course is on promotion for $65 a seat until the end of summer (register online) and includes the use of organic and easily identifiable ingredients such as shea butter and hemp oil.

      “It’s great for aged skin, wrinkles, and any scars or marks,” Kacy says of hemp oil in particular.

      Kacy acknowledges that the price of homemade skin- and body-care products may, at times, be slightly higher than that of store-bought options. But the benefits pay for themselves in the long run, she says. “If we can avoid being exposed to chemicals, why not, right?”