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tips for eco-friendly bath and beauty shopping

I am one of those super crunchy granola type girls. I went a long time doing the whole no shampoo thing. I’ve dabbled with essential oils. I switched to Tom's of Maine deodorant. And, after reading Adina Grigore’s Skin Cleanse, I ditched almost all of my go-to skin care products and converted to a combination of organic products with very few ingredients and homemade concoctions.

If your eyes are wide and you think I’m straight up crazy, you wouldn’t be the first.

For me, my switch to a more eco-friendly beauty and personal care routine came for a couple of reasons. First, I hate the idea of slathering unknown chemicals all over my super sensitive skin. Second, I’m more than a little concerned about the health of our planet and how the choices I make effect it.

Luckily for me (and other concerned beauty junkies), beauty companies are becoming more and more attentive to the ways both ingredient sourcing and manufacturing can affect the Earth and our health. Beauty companies are no longer just talking about whether a product is “natural” or “organic,” but focusing on a wider range of environmental concerns. Since some of this information can be confusing (especially because a lot of it is sort of new), we’ve got a few tips on eco-friendly shopping in the beauty aisle, with help from our friends at Women’s Health.

Avoid Microbeads

Those teeny plastic balls in face and body scrubs may seem like a non-abrasive way to exfoliate, but they travel down your drain and find their way into water. They’re eventually eaten by fish—which means they find their way into our bodies after a nice seafood dinner. Fortunately it won’t be a concern for too much longer. Congress recently passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act which will ban the manufacturing of the ingredient by next year. Still, it’s in a lot of the products on shelves right now.

Instead of reaching for microbeads, opt for natural ingredients like jojoba wax (a biodegradable plant-based ingredient) or ground nut shells, which are great alternative exfoliators.

Try: Alba Natural AcneDote Face and Body Scrub ($8), Mario Badescu Almond and Honey Face Scrub ($15), or Yes to Grapefruit Daily Facial Scrub ($10)

Choose Concentrates and Biodegradable Products

Carefully inspect ingredient labels and avoid purchasing skin care products with water listed as the first ingredient. The United Nations estimates that 1.8 billion people will live in regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025. That is insane.

Why waste water when balms and serums can deliver ingredients into your skin without it? Cleansing wipes are another great way to help eliminate the need for water—just be sure they’re biodegradable.

Try: Badger Unscented Beauty Balm ($13), ACURE Seriously Glowing Facial Serum ($13), Yes to Cucumbers Facial Wipes ($9)

Recycle Through the Brand or Look for Refillable Containers

Some beauty companies have programs for bringing in empty containers to be recycled. You can mail back Burt’s Bees lip-care product containers (for free). LUSH, Kiehl’s, and MAC even offer freebie programs for recycling. Other companies, like L’Occitane and Jane Iredale offer refill pouches to avoid wasting the energy it takes to recycle. And Pangea Organics is doing something really cool: they have fiber-based, plantable packaging that’s embedded with herb or wildflower seeds that can be soaked and planted right into the earth.

Try: Burt’s Bees lip crayon ($8), LUSH Jersey Bounce shampoo ($10), Pangea Organics Italian White Sage, Geranium & Yarrow bar soap ($9)

Check the Seal

Products with labels that say Ecocert, Cradle to Cradle, Fair Trade Certified, or Rainforest Alliance have all gone through a third-party to prove to consumer that they meet sustainability guidelines. They’re not just slapping words on their packaging because they sound good. These companies have gone out of their way to prove they’re taking major eco-conscious steps.

Try: Mrs. Meyer’s bar soap ($3.99), RMS Beauty lip shine ($25), Sheer Miracle Wide Awake Pink Dark Circle Concealer ($17)

JENNIFER GARRY is a writer and the mom of two girls who talk as much and laugh as loud as she does (just ask her husband). She writes about motherhood with humor and brutal honesty on her personal blog, Cuddles and Chaos. Read all of Jennifer's posts.