“…and your very flesh shall be a great poem” ~Walt Whitman
Cleopatra is legendary for her renowned beauty. Maybe she was just born with it, but she also had an extensive self-care regimen that involved milk baths, honey masks, sea salt exfoliation, rose water toners and castor oil hair treatments—no parabens, no phthalates, no sulfates and no nebulous catch-all “fragrance.”
Now that I’m in my thirties, I embrace Cleopatra’s natural approach; items like turmeric and Bragg’s apple cider vinegar are foregrounded in my skin care routine. However, this wasn’t always the case: I was a teen in the early aughts, so I religiously used chemically-based skin care items that vowed to clear up my hormonal skin. In college, I had a part-time gig at a natural soap shop in New York City, which gave me a crash course in clean beauty. I quickly swapped out chemical astringents for tea tree oil and witch hazel.
Even still, I find it difficult to interrogate the onslaught of advertisement campaigns promising beauty, so I was excited for the chance to sit down with a few of Denver’s clean beauty mavens: AILLEA’s Kathryn Murray Dickinson, MoonDance Botanicals’ Candice McClay and Olde Crone’s Bewitching Bath Soap’s Amy Kalinchuk, all of whom individually stressed the importance of clean beauty as it pertains to sustainable, clean lifestyles.
In each of my vibrant conversations, we spoke about food in one way or another. Most of the ingredients in products carried by AILLEA and made by MoonDance and Olde Crone’s sound like kitchen contents. For instance, Amy uses goat milk and avocado oil as lathering agents and Candice emphatically explained to me that pomegranate seed oil boosts the effects of sunscreen.
Kathryn’s journey to detoxing her skin care routine originated with health complications, which led her to avidly research ingredients that she put in her body and on her body. She pointed out that societally we’ve known about the risks of, for example, gluten intake for several years, but we’re only just starting to realize the pervasive dangers of applying toxic ingredients onto our skin. Sure, Victor Lindlahr was right: “You are what you eat”; but, all of that collagen from the bone broth you’re drinking won’t do much if you’re slathering toxins onto your skin—our largest organ that absorbs 60-70% of what we put on it.
It’s widely known that dermal absorption of chemicals is directly tied to illness; and since we live in Western society, our bodies endure cumulative toxicity, or as Kathryn clarifies, “chronic low-grade exposure” to pesticides, algicides and endocrine disruptors in plastics, among a slew of others. So, it seems counter-intuitive to beautify ourselves with additional chemicals. Kathryn and Candice both stressed that the FDA doesn’t regulate the cosmetic industry, and it takes very little for brands to claim “natural” and “organic.” The beauty industry is plagued with greenwashing, or the use of certain design choices to deceive the consumer into thinking they’re buying all-natural products.
All three women emphasized simplicity; as Amy put it, “People are starting to come around to living simply. Mass production has its place, but not with beauty.” Simple ingredients, simple products and even simple routines are spotlighted in today’s trend of ingredient-focused skincare; but simple doesn’t require a trade-off for luxury. Try Indie Lee’s Squalane Facial Oil from AILLEA, one of MoonDance’s decadent facials, and C-Stuff Mask from Olde Crone’s—you’ll see what I mean.
Detoxing your beauty routine no longer demands pouring over EWG’s Skin Deep site or the Think Dirty app (though I highly recommend using both). AILLEA, MoonDance Botanicals and Olde Crone’s Bewitching Bath Soap are all examples of sustainable companies that use simple, clean ingredients, which yield Cleopatra-esque results.
Lily Lolo Mascara | AILLEA
Hands down, the best all-natural, vegan mascara. It lengthens, defines and has a deep pigment that pumps your lashes up with volume. Oh, and it doesn’t melt down your face by midday like some other natural mascaras who shall remain nameless.
Maya Chia Highlight of the Day Illuminating Serum | AILLEA
Someone told me if you add a couple of drops of this to your moisturizer or foundation, you’ll look like an angel. She was right. This luminous illuminating highlighter serum spotlights Maya Chia’s patented chia seed oil, and it just glides onto your skin. Use as a highlighter—under your brows, above your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose and on the inner corners of your eyes—or just mix into your all-over-face choice for that angelic glow.
Josh Rosebrook Complete Moisture Cleanser | AILLEA
A pH balancing cleanser that’s infused with a laundry list of coveted botanicals, such as sea buckthorn oil, calendula and turmeric? Yes, please! It cleanses, moisturizes and helps fade dark spots? So much yes!
RMS Lip2Cheek | AILLEA
There’s a reason Rose Marie Swift’s Lip2Cheek has reached cult status—it’s a makeup bag staple, long-wearing and long-lasting. Lightly pat over lip balm or brush onto your cheeks as blush. All you need is the tiniest bit—it melts into your skin and looks gorgeously natural.
Apricot Rose Facial Cream | MoonDance Botanicals
This luscious cream goes on like a silky second skin and protects the skin from that Colorado air, which sucks out moisture. Confession: I’ve been wearing it day and night since I discovered its mighty existence.
Headache Relief | MoonDance Botanicals
Relieves headaches and muscle tension around the neck, and is good for energizing and even big bites. All that and it’s made with two simple powerhouse ingredients: lavender and peppermint. Lavender is an anti-inflammatory and incredibly calming. Peppermint simultaneously dilates and constricts, so that it has a cooling and heating effect.
Rose Lip Soother | MoonDance Botanicals
Hydrating, plumping and enhances your natural lip color, this lovely little lip stain empowers your lips’ own skin barrier to ensure maximum protection in even the harshest weather.