How to

If you've been carefully reading nutrition labels and making an effort to put healthier, more natural foods into your body, it stands to reason that you also may be rethinking the things you apply to the outside of your body-namely, your makeup, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen and other cosmetics. While many products claim to be "all natural" or "organic," the truth is that cosmetics are not stringently regulated, as food products are. But with a little know-how, you can pick products that will do the most for your looks and well-being while doing the least harm your body or the environment.

  • Deodorant. While the jury's out on whether aluminum, found in many popular antiperspirants, is harmful, it can't hurt to buy aluminum-free. Or try a crystal stick, which contains mineral salts, found in natural-foods stores.
  • Toothpaste. Major brands of toothpaste rely on plenty of chemicals to give you that minty-fresh, whitened smile. Look for a natural brand, or try brushing with just baking soda.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and hair dye. These can contain petroleum products, coal tar, formaldehyde, phalates and synthetic fragrances. Find eco-friendly alternatives to salon and supermarket brands.
  • Sunscreen. While it's well-known that excess sun exposure can cause cancer and wrinkles, many sunscreens do not provide the sun protection they claim to. Not only that, they often contain harsh, irritating chemicals (ever gotten sunscreen in your eyes during an outdoor sweat session?). Your best bet, other than relying on natural sunscreen brands, is to stay out of the sun while it's strongest.
  • Makeup. Most major brands are loaded with synthetic fragrances and colors, some of which are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents.) Plus, they may have been tested on animals. Look for brands that are certified as cruelty-free.
  • Lotions and potions. Those pricey face and body creams may contain a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. A better choice? Make your own beauty treatments. Plenty of skin and hair nourishment can be concocted out of things such as banana, oatmeal, apricot, and avocado.
  • Sanitary products. Try to buy tampons that don't come encased in plastic applicators; cardboard or no applicator at all are better choices. If you're ready to make a more radical move away from disposable tampons and sanitary napkins, look into the menstrual cup. It's a small silicone or rubber cup that's tucked into the vagina, making for a much more economical, eco-friendly feminine-hygiene alternative.