Looking gorgeous these days doesn’t have to hurt planet

You’ve heard the slogans. You’ve seen the ads. You’ve probably sat through an infomercial or two.

Environmental awareness is spreading like wildfire, and the cosmetics industry has caught on. Web sites and large health food chains such as Whole Foods are offering “natural” products.

Consumers are no longer limited to major drug and department store brands — those that are least likely to be kind on your skin and the environment. The products are good for the environment and even better for you — right?

The caveat is that the cosmetics industry is fairly unregulated. Instead of relying on independent sources to enforce standards, they are completely self-administered

“That’s a huge issue right now,” said Robyn Bloom, founder of Purelycosmetics.com and noted authority on the chemical make up of makeup products.

For the consumer, it means an uninformed eco-friendly dreamer can find herself in a beauty nightmare. Bloom and other industry pros suggest the best way to keep the environment and yourself beautiful is to arm yourself with a few facts, know the ingredients that shouldn’t be in a product and opt for those that use the least packaging or allow you to refill original packaging.

Natural refers to ingredients derived from nature — herbs, minerals and essential oils — that don’t use synthetics.

Organic refers to ingredients generally grown without pesticides, fertilizers and hormones. They generally don’t contain artificial ingredients or preservatives.

Lynn Johnson of Las Vegas learned how to make home spa products while she was studying to become an esthetician in the late 1990s. She found the process and result of using all-natural, fresh ingredients made more sense than using products that contained detergents, dyes and other unnatural substances. After all, she reasoned, women have been using olive oil, shea butter, sugar, salt and milk on their skin for more than a thousand years, so incorporating these ingredients in a natural skin care line seemed like the perfect way to get back to basics.

After much experimenting in her kitchen, blending her favorite ingredients and scents, she finalized her line, named Natural Beauty, in 2005. All of the products are sulfate free, paraben free, formaldehyde free and detergent free. In fact, the scrubs, milk bath and bath salts have no added preservatives at all. All of the products contain a combination of organic and natural ingredients and are 100 percent vegan (except for the milk bath which is vegetarian).

Johnson partnered with friends Carolyn Johnson and Francine Thomas after Whole Foods picked up the Natural Beauty line in 2006. The products are also available online at www.naturalbeautyoflasvegas.com.

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