Locally made skin-care products and cosmetics find their niche
“You are what you eat” has long been a folksy tenet of good health.
Increasingly, people are coming around to the notion that you also are what you put on your body in the form of skin-care and beauty products.
Ovie Marshall, a medical and laser esthetician at The Spa at Aestique in Hempfield, says she would rather err on the side of caution when choosing what products go on her body.
“I got a wake-up call when I got breast cancer in 2005,” she says. “The skin is our biggest organ and 60% of what we smear on our bodies is absorbed into our tissues.”
While the American Cancer Society says products that go on the skin can cause irritations and allergic reactions, at this point there is “little evidence to suggest that using cosmetics, or being exposed to the ingredients in cosmetics during normal use of these products, increases cancer risk. Still, because there are no long-term studies, little is known about the health effects of long term exposure to many ingredients in cosmetics. This means that we cannot claim that these products will not cause health problems in some people.”
After her breast cancer treatment, Marshall says she started looking at what was in the products she used and decided to avoid products with chemical ingredients like lead, parabens and phthalates. She also has made it part of her personal and professional mission to educate other people, so they can make wise choices for themselves.
“I see a change with my clients that’s occurring with more education causing us to be more green-friendly,” she says. “We had the name brands that we trusted because there weren’t any other options, but now we’re becoming more aware of the toxins that might be in them.
“The average woman uses about a dozen products a day with about 168 chemical ingredients,” she says.
Clean and natural
Two area women are among those whose decision to avoid chemicals led them to create their own lines of natural products.
Bethany Schroder makes her Keep It Clean natural cosmetics and body care products in her Youngwood home. She sells online and at area fairs and markets, including the Ligonier Country Market. Jessica Wilson Graves of Ross likewise started making products like face lotion, lip balm and herbal healing salve at home in the late 1990s for her family and friends.
“One thing led to another and, next thing you know, we had a demand,” she says. In 2008, she founded Una Biologicals, now based in Lawrenceville and offering a wide array of handcrafted skin care products free of chemicals, additives and artificial fragrances.
“The first face lotion that I made, I still make that same recipe,” Graves says. “It’s one of our top products still.”
She grew the herbs and flowers for her first botanical products in her acre-plus home garden, which continues to supply the business — although demand nowadays also requires her to buy from other local growers.
Schroder says she became conscious of what she was ingesting while working for a chiropractor/nutritionist, and decided to be a “gatekeeper” on that front for her family.
“When I was breastfeeding my son, I became more aware of what I put on my body and not just what I was putting in,” she says.
A friend gave her a recipe for a natural deodorant that worked well and, like Graves, Schroder also began making sugar scrubs, body butters and foot soaks to sell “in church basements, yard sales and then craft shows.”
Along with adding items like moisturizers and cleansers, she’s recently launched a full line of cosmetics and nail polishes, all still prepared and packaged in her home.
“The nail polish is the only thing that’s not natural, but it is nontoxic,” Schroder says. “It has a 10-free base (free of 10 chemicals such as toluene and formaldehyde commonly found in nail polish) and it’s colored with nature-identical pigments with no artificial colorants or dyes.”
What it’s worth
“Cancer is a big thing that makes people consider what’s going into and onto their bodies,” Graves says.
Marshall says she encourages clients to consider the possible long-term effects of using chemical-based products, even if they haven’t had problems up to this point. Some say they are daunted by the higher costs of boutique products.
One thing to keep in mind, Graves says, is that many body lotions contain alcohol, which ultimately has a drying effect on the skin, so the user has to keep reapplying it.
“The economy comes from how little (of a non-chemical product) you need to use and the benefit you get out of it,” Graves says. “If (our customers) didn’t originally come for the natural products, 70 to 80% come back for that, and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, there really is a difference.’ You don’t need to use as much.
“We also try to keep our prices viable by offering different sizes,” she says.
“The skin is representative of what’s going on inside the body,” Marshall says. “You can’t put a price on your health, because if you lose it, you end up having to buy it back anyway. More companies are coming out all the time with natural products, so I think we’re moving in the right direction.
“The products you need depend on your lifestyle, so do your due diligence to see what’s out there and don’t be afraid to seek professional help,” she says. “It’s funny that women will buy expensive handbags and jewelry, but they won’t buy a more expensive skin care product.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .