The Crunchy Cookie

Equal parts deliciousness and hippiness

This fall I’m headed back to school and for me, that means cutting expenses wherever possible (remember those $300 textbooks?  Eesh!).  So instead of heading to Whole Foods or another natural foods store to get my cosmetics, I’m headed to the drugstore in my building.  A quick survey of the products was pretty disheartening: so many chemicals in such small bottles!  But there are some good options out there at places like CVS and Walgreens.  They’re generally more expensive than generic or brand-name products like Pantene or Dove, but you get what you pay for in terms of the ingredients and company philosophies on animal testing and environmental responsibility.  Here are my drugstore favorites and be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post for some tips on “crunchy” drugstore shopping:

  • Organix Shampoos and Conditioners ($7): All Organix products contain active organic ingredients and are packaged in bottles made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin with compostable labels.  What they don’t contain is important, too: the products are paraben-free and sulfate-free and never contain ingredients tested on animals.  I like the Cherry Blossom Ginseng shampoo and conditioner for my fine, curly hair: it conditions nicely and smells delicious!
  • Burt’s Bees ($3-$25):  Burt’s Bees is one of the first national natural cosmetics companies.  Known for their distinctive yellow packaging and beeswax ingredients, all Burt’s Bees products are paraben-, sulfate-, phthalate-, chemical sunscreen-, and petrochemical-free.  The company is committed to charitable donations, environmentally friendly packaging and practices, and not using animal testing.  DG and I have the Beeswax Lip Balm ($3) in the car, in the bathroom, at our desks… pretty much everywhere and the Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream ($6) is easily portable, wonderfully moisturizing and smells absolutely amazing.
  • Almay Pure Blends ($7-$14): I love to see bigger companies like Almay provide healthier, natural alternatives.  The Pure Blends collection is talc-, paraben-, and fragrance-free and comes in less, more environmentally friendly packaging.  I’m a fan of the eye shadow in Lavender and the lipgloss in Petal.  The lipgloss stands out for its subtle color and smooth consistency.  (Though I haven’t tried it, the Organic wear line by Physician’s Formula is another makeup line found in drugstores that is paraben-, cruelty-, synthetic preservative-free and boasts that its ingredients are of 100% natural origins.)
  • Organic Cotton Balls and Cotton Swabs ($3-$4): Although these staples are a little more expensive than their generic counterparts, switching to organic cotton balls and swabs is an easy way to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly.  Conventional cotton is one of the most polluting crops in the world: it’s estimated that 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides are used in the production of cotton, which only makes up 2% of the planet’s agricultural land.  Though organic cotton clothing options like t-shirts and jeans can be pricey, making the switch to organic cotton balls fits into almost any budget.

Some do’s and don’t's for crunchy drugstore shopping:

  • DO prioritize your cosmetics.  Anything that stays on your body longer (like nail polish), covers lots of area (like body lotion), or is applied to vulnerable areas (like the skin around your eyes or on your lips) should be as safe as possible.  If you have to, compromise on things like soap and shampoo that are washed off and make sure that things like toothpaste and lip balm that are easily ingested aren’t harmful.
  • DON’T purchase nail polishes or nail treatments that contain toluene, DBP or formaldehyde.  Many drugstore brands contain these dangerous chemicals, but some, like Sally Hansen, don’t.
  • DO be sure to read your labels!  If you don’t know what an ingredient is or want more information on a product, check it out on the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
  • DON’T be fooled by the words “bio”, “natural”, or even “organic” in product or brand names.  These mean nothing.  Their use is often just a clever marketing gimmick, so be sure to examine the label for things like sulfates, petrochemicals, and parabens.
  • DO choose fragrance-free products or products that get their fragrances from essential oils whenever possible.
  • DO look for powder makeup that doesn’t include talc.  While not harmful when applied to the skin, the real danger is in inhaling it.  Stay away whenever possible.
  • DO buy products that come in bulk and environmentally-friendly packaging.
  • DO remember that less is more: buy products with fewer ingredients AND examine your routine to find products to eliminate.  Fewer ingredients and products mean fewer points of failure.
  • DO reflect on what’s important to you and prioritize your purchases accordingly.  Whether it’s organic ingredients, recycled packaging, local companies, or cruelty-free products you really care about, you can send a message through what you chose and chose not to buy.
  • DO experiment with everyday items you find in your kitchen or garden.  It’s amazing what things like olive oil and baking soda can do for your beauty routine.

Is this post missing your favorite drugstore brand, product, or conscious buying tip?  Post in the comments section below or email me at!

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