Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Expert and author Alexandra Spunt talks best tips for green beauty

Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt (pictured right) are the co-authors of green beauty guide No More Dirty Looks.

I have covered the eco-friendly beauty beat in Southern California for over two years. This means I am inevitably asked two questions at cocktail parties. The first is usually “Where can I learn more about green beauty?” I point them to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which provides a tremendous amount of coverage on what’s in your shampoos, conditioners, eyeliners and more.

This usually satisfies the thoughtful questioner for about ten seconds, at which time I'm asked, “But how do I know what to buy in the first place?” So out comes the book suggestions, which almost always includes No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics. This green beauty tome, written by journalists Alexandra Spunt and Siobhan O’Connor, nicely sets out the green beauty scene for any newcomer.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Alexandra Spunt. She offered her thoughts on the state of chemicals in our cosmetics and shared why she’s so committed to green beauty.

What prompted you to dive into the green beauty industry?

Siobhan and I went for a Brazilian blowout three years ago as this thoughtless, fun girlie thing. This salon convinced that it would be so healthy for my hair. But as soon as the treatment started, we knew we were in trouble. We couldn’t breathe and they gave us goggles because our eyes were watering so badly. That was the beginning for us. This lead to a whole series of questions leading to some seriously unsatisfying answers about the chemicals in our cosmetics.

What do you think is most frustrating about the state of cosmetics today?

In general, consumers are so uninformed about their products. They don’t know what’s wrong with them and they don’t know what to look for. And big companies are starting to seriously greenwash. (The practice of claiming a product is organic or natural when it is not.) They will claim, “We’ve removed one bad ingredient!” while they’ve left in everything else that is still toxic. Companies can say anything at this point, and consumers just don’t know.

So what are your tips for someone interested in cleaning up their beauty regime?

Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. People criticize the EWG, but there’s no way we could have written our book without Skin Deep. It’s the only thing we have like this, so I really believe in supporting it.

Then start with the things you care the least about and use the most often. Fragrance can contain harmful chemicals. So if you use a fragranced body lotion from head to toe, get rid of it and add in an oil for your body. In the end, there’s really no easy answer, but you can build cleaner products into your beauty regime.

You can learn more about Alexandra and Siobhan’s quest for green beauty at their website, No More Dirty Looks. 

Finally, when you’re ready to invest in some eco-friendly beauty products, here are a couple great Los Angeles-local places to get you started. Evolue in Beverly Hills is a small, customer-friendly shop carrying some of the best brands in green beauty, such as Jane Iredale and RMS. On the east side of Hollywood, Primrose Organics Salon and Boutique in Los Feliz also offers up a solid supply of green beauty products. 

Photo courtesy of Alexandra Spunt.