an open letter to “green beauty”

whew. okay, i’ve had this written since july 2020 and never pressed “published” out of fear. here it goes.

disclaimer: this is my opinion, not fact. i am not perfect – i am or have been guilty of everything i discuss. this is vulnerability, and i am open to hearing different sides and learning.

dear green beauty –

i’m writing because i love you and care about you… and because i’m disappointed. disappointed not just in you, but in myself. the green beauty community of 10 years ago is nothing like it is now, and i see the good and the bad in that. change and flexibility are important, but i’m disappointed that we’re falling short of what i think we could be.

the good? the sense of community, the push to be educated consumers, the creativity explored, the knowledge shared, the acceptance and vulnerability.

the bad? the fear-mongering, the inaccessibility, the gate-keeping, the misleading and over-the-top marketing tactics.

how did we get here?

from many converging paths, surely. everything from fear-mongering bloggers, like me, to money-grubbing businesses who saw fear-based vulnerability as opportunity.

so let’s lay it out.

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  1. fear-mongering

    let me first say – i did this and i’m not proud. i started this very blog because i bought into the fear-mongering so hard that i actively pushed it out to literally thousands of others. it’s toxic and problematic. once upon a time, i really thought using dove was definitely going to increase my risk for cancer and i needed to stop shampooing my hair. before anyone gets upset or confused – please stop for a second and hear me out. i am not saying no-‘poo is wrong or less-than – i personally don’t use conventional shampoo and don’t see myself ever doing so, but let me be clear that it’s because my scalp does so much better now and i really enjoy herbal-infused products. it doesn’t mean that someone that doesn’t like herbal-infused products is the enemy or is wrong.

    plenty of people see true beneficial results from switching to “green” products, including myself. i personally don’t see myself returning to “conventional” products. but you? keep doing what is working for you and your family! know that “going green” doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. that being said, if anyone ever wants to try out a “crunchy” formula with me, i’ll be here.

    the other side of this is fear-mongering to the point you’re telling consumers untrue things that is putting their health at risk. my biggest complaint with the green beauty industry here is preservatives. preservatives are outright demonized to the point we have businesses formulating without them, resulting in consumers receiving nasty petri dish products. personally, i’ve seen two companies insist that they’ve “preserved” products containing water with *honey*. that’s not only false, it’s dangerous. i get on a soapbox about this topic HERE, if you’re interested.

  2. inaccessibility

    there are so many ways this impacts green beauty. for one, so much emphasis is put on “sexy” and trendy ingredient lists, which ultimately can drive prices sky-high. why has everything become a “luxury” item and experience? sure, luxury has always had a place and always will; that’s fine. but since when is that the standard? second, we have all seen the exorbitant price tags that don’t match sourcing, fair wages, or formulations. yes, there is a really nice-looking shea butter blue balm that’s been claimed as basically an entire life-changing experience, but i promise you it’s not worth $180 for 50 mL. again, luxury has a place, but why are we ignoring everyone we’ve excluded in doing this? this isn’t to shame those that have the privilege of enjoying luxury items – enjoy your products.

    my point here is green beauty has swung so far sideways from its original humble inception that it’s no longer widely accessible to the masses. is that fair? is this acceptable? i personally don’t think so. where are the accessible options? why is this now so exclusionary? speaking of being exclusionary, this tangentially leads me into my next point.

  3. inclusion (lack thereof)

    we can’t ignore the lack of BIPOC presence in the green beauty space. we can’t ignore the deep-rooted colonialism wearing a “unique ingredient” mask (at best). sure, many companies are finally taking action and many people are finally making space for those important voices to be heard, but we have a lot of work to do. green beauty has somehow become white women marketing to white women and we can absolutely do better. we need to do better. if you have no idea where to start, i’ve posted a non-exhaustive list of companies to support here. please add more in the comments and i’ll update as needed.

    another aspect of a lack of inclusion is gate-keeping of knowledge. this is more prolific in the herbalist community, but with so many overlaps between herbalism and green beauty, i thought it important to acknowledge. learning how to formulate and create safely isn’t some top classified secret to be kept. learning which herbs can help for certain things and which to avoid shouldn’t be an opportunity to money gouge and withhold valuable and helpful information. and this doesn’t even touch how this is yet another form of colonization, by the way. while i’ve tried to help by posting all my formulas and reference articles for free with 0 affiliates or sponsors, there’s more work to be done.

  4. problematic marketing

    let’s keep this two-fold for now: one, misleading marketing; two, over-the-top marketing. let me explain.

    misleading marketing has many faces. it can be business owners parading as almighty sources of infinite knowledge and experience, of which in many cases they are not. it can also be businesses telling you that “clean” is better and then shaming you into redirecting your funds to them.

    secondly, the over-the-top marketing that has become the standard needs to go. the product descriptions dripping with superlatives that really mean nothing is, at best, smoke and mirrors. using a face mist can be lovely, sure; but it most certainly will not magically transport you to hawaii and cause you to hear the wind in the palm trees as the ocean laps in the distance. soap is freaking soap; it’s not a divine connection to the spiritual realm worth the price of weekly groceries.

  5. false sense of sustainability

    ok – this one is tricky since it’s intrinsically linked with current technologies, sourcing, climate conditions, etc., but my main issue is that green beauty is not inherently sustainable but it’s marketed as such. take for example that there are herbs that are not sustainable to harvest at the mass-production demand levels we have, like echinacea, chaga, or dragon’s blood resin. but it’s not just herbs – it’s product packaging and shipping, too. what, in my opinion, sucks the most is there are no real “sustainable” alternatives to cosmetic packaging that are widely available or accessible. with technological advances we can hold out confident hope there will be. so what can we and/or businesses do? reduce the impact. choose materials that are recycled and recyclable, for example. it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than inaction.

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so, my dear green beauty. i’ll leave this here. i’m keeping my butter balms and tinctures, but i’m walking away from the smoke and mirrors.

XO, ALEXRAYE

relaxing body balm

hi crunchies!

tonight let’s go over a super simple but effective DIY for a silky, relaxing, nighttime body balm.

this recipe only includes 3 ingredients and does not require heat. and guys – IT SMELLS SO GOOD. it’s a complex yet light floral scent, but does not linger long on the skin.

swoon-worthy. you need this waiting for you on your bedside table.

as this is anhydrous, feel free to store it at room temperature in an air-tight container. use 30 minutes to right before your bed time (on feet and body), and let the wonderful aroma help you unwind from the day.  i also love this because you wake up with silky smooth skin and feet!

please note the links provided are for your benefit only. they are not affiliate links nor do i benefit in any way – the companies are unaware of this post 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 ounces monoi de tahiti oil
    • this is coconut oil with macerated gardenias, so do not apply to face
    • the source linked is the only one i can find that properly macerates the gardenias. please let me know if you find another!
  • 2 mL cape chamomile (or german chamomile)
    • prized and touted as the rare and ultimate relaxant EO, as reflected in the steeper price
    • not related to german chamomile; not a suitable substitute, but you could try lavender EO
  • 4 dropper fulls of this magnesium oil
    • magnesium can help promote deeper sleep and muscle relaxation. however, check out a post i did here on the science of it.

HOW TO:

  • blend monoi de tahiti oil, chamomile EO, and magnesium until well incorporated in a small bowl
  • transfer to UV-blocking, airtight container
  • store at room temperature
  • use before bed

sweetdreams. xo, alexraye

Monoi Butter | Organic Monoi de Tahiti Body Butter - Nature in Bottle

diy formulation educational series – face oils

welcome back! today we’re formulating face oils! this is part one… part two coming next week, with a couple big hitters.

as always, NONE of the links provided are affiliates. i do not benefit in any way, i’m just trying to point you to reputable suppliers that i personally use if you want to try to DIY these.

there are some oils listed in the inspiration product formulations that i do not believe belong on your face, either due to comedogenic rating and/or high oleic acid content, but everyone’s skin is different. for that reason, the diys will be listed as close to the original as possible and i will note which ones i do not prefer.

last thing to note, which i always harp on – oils do NOT hydrate. they moisturize. if a company is advertising a “hydrating” anhydrous face oil, walk away.

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#1

product inspiration ingredients:

*Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, *Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, *Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Prunus Domestica (Plum Kernel) Oil, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, *Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, *Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Oil, *Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Seed Oil, *Borago Officinalis (Borage) Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccans (Kukui Nut) Oil, *Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, *Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium Rose) Oil, *Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, *Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil, *Citrus Limon (Lemon) Oil, *Rosa Centifolia Flower Extract, *Rosa Damascena (Bulgarian Rose) Oil, *Citrus Aurantium (Neroli) Oil, ***Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), +Limonene, +Citronellol, +Geraniol, +Linalool, +Citral, +Eugenol.

notes:

this oil blend is only suitable for skin that can tolerate occlusive oils that are high in oleic acid. if you have sensitive skin or blemish-prone skin, please steer clear.

avocado oil carries a comedogenic rating of 3, moderate likelihood to clog pores in most people. olive oil and plum kernel oil are both high in oleic acid and are not good for blemish-prone skin. tamanu oil is thick and sticky, and high in oleic acid. i would not suggest it for acne-prone skin, although it ironically helps with acne scarring.

lastly, grapefruit and lemon EOs are phototoxic and absolutely do not belong on your face. we’ll stick to just using rose EO (and before you worry about the price, we’ll opt for a sample size for $3).

for formulation, we know the “1% line” is around the geranium EO, however, that EO is so incredibly strong that it’s most likely being used at much less than that. we also can see there are many EOs, and the combination of them should total up to be less than 2% (which is still a lot; i usually opt for 1%). i question this total % though, because this company makes a balm with a blue EO at a very high concentration for coloring. let’s just be kind and assume total EO blend is less than 1%, and i say 1% because of the sea buckthorn oil.

we know that sea buckthorn FRUIT oil (as compared to seed) is concentrated and extremely pigmented, so let’s use that as another formulation guideline, where no more than 1% can be used without staining light skin. as the rest of the oils are carriers, let’s apply the 1% to the rest of the list. additionally, we know that pomegranate oil and tamanu oils are pretty thick and sticky, so their concentrations, i would assume, would likely be low, for a better skin feel for the consumer.  to put this into perspective, for the 1 ounce bottle, you’re getting about 6 drops of the ingredient if it’s used at 1%.

as for the carrot seed oil and coq10, we know our total EOs are 1%, so divide that over 7 EOs and you get about 0.15% each. why is this important? because now we know what the total weight contribution is for the carrot seed oil and the coq10, since they’re listed after. let’s assume 0.15% each for math.

lastly for formulation, since we are working backwards from the 1% SBFO, we see that we have a very hefty over 90% of our formula left. let’s divide that relatively evenly over the remaining carrier oils, even though that’s likely not the true formula. while it would be safe to assume this formula is mostly avocado oil, we have no way of knowing what the actual percent contributions are.

adjustments:

exclude phototoxic citrus EOs.

diy formula:

 

#2

product inspiration ingredients:

Squalane, Jojoba Esters, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil*, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel oil*, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil*, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil*, Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Extract*, Borago Officinalis (Borage) Leaf Extract*, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract*, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Extract*, Spiraea Ulmaria (Meadowsweet) Extract*, Caprylic/Capric/Triglyceride, Alaria Esculenta Extract, Tocopherol, Aroma

notes:

there are a lot of plant extracts, so let’s assume they’re being infused in olive oil for 4 months.

having jojoba esters as the 2nd ingredient is perplexing to me, as this ingredient is more commonly found in ‘thicker’ products like balms. you can use it in a 0.5% concentration for lighter oils, but that means the infused olive oil is less than 1%. i’m going to assume this is a mislabeled product.

the caprylic/capric triglyceride and alaria esculenta extract is actually mislabeled. this is a pre-formulated product known as Juvenessence® AD and should be labeled like this – “Caprylic/Capric/Triglyceride (and) Alaria Esculenta Extract”

adjustments:

excluded jojoba esters. excluded Juvenessence® AD and substituted with another anti-aging oil. excluded “aroma.”

diy formula:

 

#3

product inspiration ingredients:

argan oil, marula oil, prickly pear seed oil, olive-derived squalane, white peony root

notes:

(ingredient list no longer listed on website as of publication of this post)

first off, this oil is marketed as “100% non-comedogenic” and that’s simply not true. please do not put marula oil on your face. it’s rated a 4/5 on the comedogenic scale, clogging most pores, and is high in oleic acid, which will break out those with blemish-prone skin. it’s a great body oil, though! in place of this rapidly absorbing oil, we can substitute with another rapidly absorbing oil that’s actually non-comedogenic – amaranth – or we can increase the expensive prickly pear seed oil. let’s use the amaranth as a substitute.

next, infusing white peony root into an oil wouldn’t yield any skin benefits. this root needs to be decocted or extracted in alcohol. since no alcohols or water are listed, we know it’s being infused in one of the oils listed, which is unfortunately a waste of a precious plant material and highly misleading marketing.

adjustments:

substituting marula oil for a non-comedogenic one. removing white peony root, because it’s not being used properly.

diy formula:

 

#4

product inspiration ingredients:

Squalane, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Aleurites Moluccanus Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Tanacetum Annuum Flower Oil, Jasminum Sambac (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Extract

olive-derived squalane, jojoba seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, kukui nut oil, tocopherol (vitamin e), blue tansy EO, jasmine EO, rose EO

notes:

caprylic/capric triglyceride is technically a fractionated coconut oil, but it’s been separated using chemical reactions, not manually with just heat. it’s probably used here as an emollient, but… why? most likely because it’s cheap (aka, it lowers their cost of production significantly, versus using another carrier), incredibly stable, and fast-absorbing.

tocopherols are usually used at 0.5%, which means everything after that is in small percent contributions. let’s use that as our line in the formula. the 3 ingredients listed after are EOs, so their total combined contribution will be 1%. because this formula is so blue, let’s assume a 0.5% just for the blue tansy.

as a side note, if you have very blemish-prone skin, kukui nut oil may be too high in oleic acid for you and cause breakouts.

adjustments:

increased the squalane to replace the caprylic/capric triglyceride. they’re both fast-absorbing.

diy formula:

 

 

whew. this was a long one, but i hope it inspires you.

leave your findings and formulations below for the community to learn even more!

XO, ALEXRAYE

 

tooth whitening powder+

happy tuesday, crunchies! i’m here tonight to share my favorite tooth whitening powder with you. and shocker (sarcasm) – it’s super simple to make, yet effective! i’ve already shared my loved of one ingredient for this purpose long ago, but this recipe has been updated with a buddy.

you’ll look like a pirate for a bit, but in the end you can show off your pearly whites. sounds worth it, right?

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this recipe uses only TWO ingredients, and will store on the shelf for up to a year (but you’ll use it up before then).

the ingredients work by removing stains from tannins (commonly from coffee, tea wine, etc.) over time.

what you need:

  • 2 tbsp activated charcoal
  • 1 tbsp turmeric

mix and store in a small container in your bathroom.

to use, cover the top of your wet toothbrush with the powder, brush gently just long enough to coat your teeth (should take less than 30-45 seconds), and let sit for 10-15 mins. you may need to use your tongue to keep slathering the mix over your teeth. you can do this 3x a week for initial whitening, then every week for maintenance. you might need to re-wet your toothbrush because this stuff will zap the spit right out of your mouth.

BONUS tip – if you choose to have some adult beverages, take a capsule or two of activated charcoal before you go to sleep that night. hangover = avoided. you’re welcome.

this is intended to be used minimally and to not replace flossing and brushing. if you have sensitive teeth, please use caution. and as always, consult your healthcare professional (aka dentist in this example) before use. white teeth does not equal a healthy mouth!

please be sure to share your results and tips below with the rest of our community.

note – this powder is very… powdery and puffy. it often clouds up when i use it, so just be cautious.

note II – the turmeric will stain your toothbrush and countertop yellow, but not your teeth.

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hydrosols for hair

happy monday, crunchies! ah, steam-distilled herbal and floral essences just sound dreamy to me. just me?

when it comes to hydrosols, their use in skincare might be a little more well-known than their use in hair care. stick around to learn more if you’re unfamiliar and, if you’re familiar, please leave your ideas and uses below for the rest of our crunchy community.

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hydrosols are made from a distillation process of plants, flowers, herbs, bark, nuts, etc. aka, it’s the clean condensation from plant-infused water. this gives a product that performs in accordance to the plants’ benefits, but isn’t strong/possibly irritating like an essential oil. you’ve probably heard of “rose water.” that’s a hydrosol!

i personally love them because they’re lighweight AND effective. you won’t have any greasy residue left in your hair or clay chunks that refuse to come out. and just like essential oils and carrier oils, there are a ton to choose from or mix & match.

safe to use on scalp, strands, and skin, i think they might be your new favorite go-to crunchy product. like many crunchy things, they are multi-use – hair rinses, scalp treatments, or simply for a light scent in your hair. cool, right?

there are a lot of hydrosols out there, so here are some examples and uses for a few (you’ll notice they fall in line with their EO uses, if applicable):

  • lavender – soothing, calming for scalp issues
  • witch hazel – astringent, cleansing, soothing for itchy scalps
  • cucumber – anti-inflammatory, helps soothe scalp issues
  • honeysuckle – astringent, antiseptic
  • helichrysum – healing
  • wild carrot seed – helps heal psoriasis
  • rose – antiseptic, toning
  • holy tulsi basil – anti-inflammatory, soothing
  • lemongrass – antibacterial, cleansing
  • clary sage – cleansing, detoxing
  • apple – astringent, best for oily scalps
  • rosemary – nourishing, promotes growth, shine

you can usually find these in your local health food store (i like to call them hippie stores) and in online shops, such as Mountain Rose Herbs. as always, make sure the plant source is organic.

do these sound like something you’d like to incorporate into your hair (or skin) care routine? do you already use them? please share below.

love to you,

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Q&A Video

happy Friday, crunchies!

in lieu of sunday’s weekly catch-up post, i’ll be posting a Q&A video. from now until noon this upcoming sunday (6/21), please ask me any question you may have!

you can post below here on the blog, tweet me (@_almostexactly), comment on instagram (@alexraye_ae), or comment on the AE blog’s facebook page. please use #askalexraye so i can find everything more easily! 🙂 if you have a question you’d like to ask anonymously, feel free to email me at almostexactlyblog@gmail.com ❤

i’m really looking forward to hearing from you guys and interacting with you more!

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